Category Archives: Breakfast
Porto Rotondo is a place of fantasy: an artificial port and marina filled with luxe and super-boats. The one below is charming instead of the usual gin palace that’s the size of a house on water.
The sad thing is that these super-vessels only get used for a few weeks each summer. The rest of the time they sit idle, waiting for their pop star/ movie mogul/ politician/ Swiss banker owners to arrive for a bit of show-off time with their loaded friends; a sure case of ‘my boat’s bigger than your boat’. Some, like this one, are real whoppers.
Regardless, Porto Rotondo is a beautiful place to visit, an easy drive from the big Sardinian town of Olbia. Bougainvillaea blooms in all directions, the main pedestrian drag of Via del Molo is paved with fish and shark mosaics, crew in matching polo shirts bustle about preparing yachts for visitors and real Pucci maxi-dresses float casually by in the warm sea breeze. You get the picture. There’s another magnet to the lush sanctuary of Porto Rotondo, though: The Bar-Gelateria Del Molo.
Monsieur and I first found the Del Molo when we visited Sardinia three years ago. We loved their breakfasts so much that we decided to fly our new Lear jet over for lunch. (Okay, okay, I lie. We were there again on holiday and found ourselves in the area…No Lear jets at our disposal. Easyjet works perfectly well for us. )We just wanted something quick and light, but ended up going the whole hog with three courses each. Monsieur kicked off with prosciutto and cantaloupe, the melon perfectly ripe and oozing with juice, the ham deep with flavour. This was no supermarket-shelf ham, but slim cuts with little fat, ever so slightly thicker than parchment.
In the mood for cool, fresh, raw food, I chose the mozzarella and tomato salad. Sprinkled with oregano and fresh basil, I splashed some extra virgin olive oil onto the plate and tucked in. Admittedly, the tomatoes were a tad hard – a couple more days on the vine would have done them no harm, but the mozzarella was superb – rich dairy goodness with a consistency part-way to burrata, it stole the show.
Monsieur does enjoy a good club sandwich from time to time. Here’s how the Del Molo does it:
Once more, only the freshest ingredients were used, including the egg mayonnaise, salad and tender chunks of Sardinian chook. Even the bread was toasted to just the right shade of gold, but it was my main that will go down in the Epic book of all-time favourite dishes: tuna carpaccio with artichoke. I’m a carpaccio queen and I swear to the gods of all things culinary that this was the best tuna carpaccio I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.
I think the trick was in lightly smoking the fish, for there was the vaguest hint of smokiness in the flavour. Sliced paper thin, dotted with fresh tomato salsa and preserved artichokes, all of it posing prettily in that same peppery extra virgin olive oil, each tiny mouthful contained a fishlover’s fireworks. At once fine yet unexpectedly fulsome, I ate slowly, allowing it all to seep into my cheeks so that I could hold the flavour for as long as possible. In the greatest gesture of generosity, I forked a bite’s worth onto Monsieur’s plate, keen to share the experience. It will be a long time before I forget such a wonderful culinary treat.
Our waiter was a proper character – tri-lingual at least, generally displaying his trio of international skills in the same sentence: “Monsieur, your order, per favore,” or “tutto a posto, Missus, oui? C’est bon?”. Cleverly, this covered all the bases. Now he suggested “un’ gelato, ice cream, glace?” It would have been rude not to, although at €10.00 per three scoop sundae, stabbed with a branded wafer and squirt of whipped cream, the cost was excessive in a country where you can buy decent gelato at a euro a scoop. Still, we bore it with a smile, as the lunch had been fantastic, we were looking out at a stunning marine-lover’s vista, and it seemed sad to leave without something sweet on the tongue. The Sicilian cassata ice cream was excellent. Don’t leave Porto Rotondo without trying it. Homemade glacé fruit makes such a difference. NB If you don’t want to fork out €10.00 for a sit-down sundae, you can always opt for the take-away option for about half that.
A clue to the excellence of our Porto Rotondo lunch lay just inside this doorway:
That’s where I spotted a shelf absolutely groaning with well-thumbed, sauce-flecked cook books.
Certainly, this was an expensive visit at around €90.00 for just the two of us, including diet cokes and bottled water but no wine or alcohol, yet for the memory, it was definitely worth it. As for the tuna carpaccio – it’s the stuff my dreams are made of.
Bar-Gelateria Del Molo - Walk all the way down the Via Del Molo until you reach the water. The Del Molo is tucked just around the corner on the right hand side. Local phone number: 0789 34338.
Click here to see my last post about the Del Molo, where I talk about breakfast.
There’s nothing quite like a quality Continental breakfast, especially the way the Italians do it. The Maleti Bar on Venice’s Lido island knows exactly how to get the day off to a good start with just a few, simple ingredients:
Excellent coffee with a proper Italian kick, just the way I like it. Freshly squeezed orange juice. Warm brioches, the Northern name for croissants, one hiding a soft chocolate filling. My waistline didn’t thank me for that particular indulgence, but my tastebuds rose in a standing ovation.
One of my favourite lunchtime bites is the Venetian take on a sandwich: the tramezzino. The Maleti Bar tempted us via its counters filled with snacking potential. The tramezzini sit in fattened white triangles on the bottom shelf. If you ask me, a tuna and onion sandwich made Venetian-style is the world champ of its species.
If you’re more of a wrap-enthusiast, check out the top shelf here. Have you ever seen anything so artfully appetising? These wraps are colourful, stylish and huge; the Pavarottis of the wrap world.
Ah, Italy. Repeatedly, you win my heart, and always through my stomach.
*To find the Bar Maleti, take a vaporetto to the Lido. Get off at Lido Santa Maria Elisabetta. The Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta is the long road in front of you, moving away from the water. The Bar Maleti, a favourite with Lido locals, is about halfway down on the left hand side.
Last April, Monsieur and I visited Rome and were completely robbed at one establishment where the €20.00 menu served the sort of lifeless food that I wouldn’t give to my dead grandmother. A man, claiming to be a patron of the restaurant, then started harassing me online, stating that I was mistaken about said establishment and should retract the review. I ignored him. Later, the same man, now purporting to be the restaurant owner, threatened me with legal action if I didn’t remove the blog post concerned. He kindly pointed out that I shouldn’t expect much for €20.00 a head (without drinks) anywhere in Europe. I beg to differ.
Living in London means that I’m well-accustomed to the price of everything, especially as my salary has been frozen for what seems like forever, whilst prices in England’s capital continue to rise. Anyone who knows me knows that I was born with The Thrifty Gene, meaning that I seek out a bargain wherever I can and that approach to life extends to food and all manner of things culinary.
Certainly, for birthdays and anniversaries and holidays and the like Monsieur and I like to spend a bit more than usual. However, we also watch both sides of every coin, as a rule, allowing us to afford those treats; the fact that they don’t fall on every single day of the calendar year means that we only appreciate them more. The rest of the time, we remain careful about how much we spend and where, and most of the time we have great success at getting the most out of a €20.00 per head meal. Brunching last summer in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we did incredibly well out of an €18.00 set menu, which then set us up for the entire day. Bargain. Check out what was included:
- 1 hot drink – either tea or coffee or hot chocolate
- 1 fresh fruit juice – orange or grapefruit
- Fresh pastries – a selection
- Bread, butter and jams
- Pancakes with maple syrup
- Muesli, fromage blanc and fruit
So far, so good, right? Right.
But wait, Mesdames et Messieurs, there’s more.
Then you could order an egg – either boiled, fried, fried with bac0n, scrambled or scrambled with bacon.
And we’re not finished yet. Lastly, you could add your choice from the ‘French Touch’ menu, listing items that would cost you €6 to €8.00 if you ordered à la carte. Here’s the selection:
Plate of cooked meats OR foie gras terrine OR beef carpaccio OR chipolatas and what they call ‘sits frizzles’ (whatever that is) OR tart of the day OR plate of cheese OR smoked salmon.
Trust me, Saint-Rémy isn’t cheap but this brunch menu, available at weekends year-round and every day during July and August, provided excellent value. Who says you can’t eat well for €20.00 a head in Europe? Here are some photos of what we had:
Here we have the muesli with fromage blanc, topped with fresh fruit salad, a smart little tray of nutella, maple syrup and a honey (for the pancakes), a delicious mixed-fruit smoothie that magically appeared in addition to our hot drinks and juices, smoked salmon tartare topped with a delicious but superfluous mint chantilly and the classic boiled egg with soldiers.
Spot the difference? On this occasion, Monsieur chose the fried egg with bacon.
There was a generous basket of soft, warm pastries to share, with wonderful bread and breadsticks.
The coffee came in generous boules, the grapefruit juice tasted freshly-squeezed, and in case Nutella, syrup and honey didn’t provide enough choice with which to slather your morning pancakes and tartines, also provided were two jams and a marmalade in a trio of glass verrines.
Besides the excellent food that Monsieur and I had the pleasure to enjoy at le Grain de Sel, the staff were warm, the location central and the presentation of everything showed the seriousness with which food was treated by all who worked here. We returned three mornings in a row and highly recommend it to anyone having the fortune to visit Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
FYI – I just checked the prices on the Grain de Sel website and they haven’t risen a sou since last July. Bonus! See for yourself here - Le Grain de Sel.
One of our favourite weekend brunches consists of eggs Benedict. Monsieur positively demolishes them and insists on eating eggs Benedict when we’re out of town, just to compare and contrast with what he gets at home. Most of the time my eggs win the draw, however I cheat 100% when I make them; it’s more of a combination of heat and assembly than true cooking. I don’t make my own muffins, nor do I make my own hollandaise sauce from scratch. I just source the best components possible, most of which can dangerously be found within our postcode.
First up – choosing the muffins. To avoid confusion, these must be English muffins, as fat as you can find. The supermarket variety tend not to have a particularly good consistency for the support of a poached egg. Use them with your eggs Benny and I promise you, you will regret it. Here speaks the voice of experience. Seek out a good artisan baker instead and buy their English muffins. The best ones are about 2 inches thick. Slice in half and toast until just golden brown.
Eggs may well be eggs but happy chooks make tastier ones. Go for large free range organic everything. You will definitely taste the difference.
I admit to being a messy poached egg maker on the best of days. No matter that I use white wine vinegar in the water or make a whirlpool before dropping the egg into the water, I get stringy whites everywhere, so I use Kitchen Cheat devices to make my eggs presentable. There are various kinds. Don’t go for the non-stick black metal ones; I’ve found that over time their non-stick coating comes off with the heat of the water and colours the eggs an unappetising grey. No one wants to eat grey eggs, even if they are hidden by fish and sauce. Try something like these silicon Poach Pods, which I found at Lakeland:
At £4.99 each, they’re worth it for the perfect egg shape to fit atop the toasted muffin. Zero skill required apart from knowing how to boil the water and crack an egg.
Smoked salmon is central to the success of eggs Benedict. Spending a little more than your average supermarket price on this key ingredient will pay dividends. Go for the best Scottish smoked salmon that you can afford (or Norwegian, if available). Stick to the traditional type – no fancy beetroot marinades or similar varieties because they’ll interfere with the flavours.
Have you ever tried to make home-made Hollandaise sauce? It’s an exercise in patience, trial and error. Personally, I don’t have time to make my own. Cheating once more I’ve tried various Hollandaise sauces and find that although the Maille brand is good, Mary Berry’s version is much better in both flavour and consistency, and if you happen to be in a good deli where they make their own, try theirs. No need to worry about curdling.
Have the oven on so that you can pop the eggs and muffins inside to keep them warm on their plates while you heat the sauce, which should only be done at the very last minute because it cools quickly, ruining the consistency. When it’s loose and ready to pour, whip out the plates, top the eggs with a neat criss cross of smoked salmon and pour the sauce across the smoked salmon. A sprig of dill popped on top completes the picture. Eat immediately.
I quite like a dollop of creme fraiche on the side to help cut through some of the vinegary tang of the Hollandaise, and to make it look less anaemic sitting there on its lonesome, I might add a spoonful of salmon ‘caviar’. Monsieur, being a traditionalist, thinks this is unnecessary and declines the additions. It’s a question of taste, I suppose.
Some trivia for you: you probably already know that Eggs Benedict is traditionally served with ham. When smoked salmon is substituted for the ham this dish becomes Eggs Royale, and across the pond it may be called Eggs Atlantic or Eggs Hemingway. I quite like that. Eggs Hemingway.