Time for Tapas! (Spanish Tapas competition)

In Pittsburgh there is a group of Spanish people losdepatanegra who meet up every Thursday, the majority of which are living here permanently and every year they hold an annual tapas contest.I would definitely reccomend any Spanish people moving to Pittsburgh to visit this group. Although my Spanish friends and I don´t usually meet with them, we were lucky enough to be invited to come and participate in this event.

I have never taken part in any cooking competitions so I was very excited and nervous at being involved.However, this is not your usual "serious" Blue Ribbon Cookoff (there are many cooking competitions held by various companies such as Pillsbury or Crisco or food magazines throughout the USA )this competition is more about friends getting together and having a bit of fun. And of course the TAPAS! There were four categories: Best Tapa, Second Best Tapa, Best Presentation and the best dessert or sweet tapa. I decided to do a dessert due to the complications of a hot tapa and the logistics of getting it to the event warm and as a true British person chose to make something that reflected my culture and background: Delia Smith´s Traditional Trifle. I doubled most of the ingredients though as I made quite a large one (apparently it´s quite strategic as the bigger your tapa/dessert is, the more people will be able to try it and hopefully vote for you) apart from the raspberries (it was a little short on them) and I left the banana out as I don´t like bananas. I decorated the trifle with grated Galaxy chocolate as you can see in the photo although maybe my presentation could have been better.

The contest was held at someone´s house and garden. Luckily, it was a beautiful day otherwise it might have been a bit crowded and even though most people were in the garden, it was pretty packed. There were about 120 people at least! I didn´t realise there were so many Spanish people in Pittsburgh!There were lots of beer, coke, lemonade etc which you could help yourself to. As you arrived you had to write down your name and the name of your tapa and then you had to pose for a picture with your tapa. There was plenty of competition as you can see in the following photo.

There were many tapas I didn´t even try because many of them contained fish or seafood. Some I wanted to try, such as the Pinchos Morunos (a type of kebab), I didn´t even see before they were all gone in the stampede to try all the tapas (and the crowd!) However, I managed to sample a fair few including our friend´s, Zarangollo, typical from Murcia,a scrambled egg type of affair with onion, courgette and peppers, Bob´s Polenta, spinach meatballs and my personal favourite, El Logroñes, toast topped with goats cheese, apricot jam and pine nuts.

I went more to town on the desserts and sampled almost all of them including my trifle. Tarte tatin, strawberries in a cream, tiramasu, mini cupcakes with poppy seeds and cherry were just some of the competitors hoping to win. I voted for the tarte tatin although I secretly thought my trifle was a pretty close second (even if I do say so myself)! The standard was very high and everything I had was delicious....there are definitely some very talented cooks out there! Some of the dishes were presented beautifully especially a chocolate flan which was decorated with forest fruits and another dessert, tocino de cielo, which even had the Spanish flag on it.

Finally, after a slideshow recap to cast our votes and the counting of the votes which seemed to take forever, the winners were announced and the prizes were given. Silvia La Cabra won the best tapa (think it was toast with ham, blue cheese and a bit of olive oil on top)won Best Tapa, Second Best Tapa was Montaditos de Bacalao (toast with a cod spread). Best Presentation was won by the Coctél Castellano (lentils) mainly because the guy was wearing a women´s top or something (I didn´t even notice or see him!) and the tapa that won best dessert was Crema Catalana, which is similar to Creme Bruleé, I think. Apparently, it wasn´t even that good someone told me, they just voted for it because it´s quite elaborate to prepare. I didn´t try any of the tapas that won as I didn´t like them because they had blue cheese, lentils, fish so it just shows that one man´s heaven is another man´s hell!

As for not winning, well I was a little disappointed but you win some, you lose some.Maybe if I ever get to enter another cooking competition, I´ll do better next time! All the winners were from the Patanegra group (surprizingly enough).None of our group of friends were among the winners. It was definitely a lot of fun and as the old saying goes, it´s not winning that´s important, it´s taking part that counts.


The Strip District, Pittsburgh

If you ever visit Pittsburgh, one place you have to see before you leave is the Strip District, especially if you are a foodie as it´s a paradise for foodies! It is one of my favourite parts of Pittsburgh and I never get tired of going there. The Strip District is a street in Downtown Pittsburgh which is full of restaurants, bars and specialist food shops from Asian grocery shops, Italian bakeries and delicatessens, to a Mexican specialist food shop and specialist butcher selling all types of meat from the typical to the more exotic, such as rabbit, buffalo etc. You name it, you can probably find it in the Strip District!

At the weekend, The Strip usually comes alive especially on a nice,sunny day and is a hustle and bustle of people. You can find a lot of street stalls selling food from the shops,like this one of Wholey´s Fish Market cooking Alaskan salmon etc and also others selling Steelers merchandise, soap, sunglasses etc. Usually you find more of these stalls on a Saturday than on a Sunday. I don´t even like fish and used to hate walking through the fish market when I was a child due to the smell but most of the photos are taken in Wholey´s Fish market, which has a wide range of fresh fish. So fresh in fact that you can even choose your own (see photos below)

Wholey´s is not only a fish market it is also a normal supermarket. There are a couple of Asian supermarkets, the largest and probably the best in my opinion being Lotus, where you can find everything from tofu to burdock sticks, noodles to water chesnuts and many things I´ve never even seen before,never mind tasted.

There is also a chocolate shop, Mon Amiee Chocolat, which I discovered to my delight, sells a lot of Cadbury´s chocolate and some other British goodies such as shortbread etc as well as selling many other famous international brands of chocolate. The problem was choosing which Cadbury´s chocolate bar to choose.In the end, I opted for a Wispa and another favourite of mine, German "Dominosteine"-Christmas chocolates made of three layers, one layer of biscuit( like Lebkuchen), an orange jelly type layer similar to the middle of a Jaffa cake and topped with marzipan, then covered in chocolate! After a hard day of shopping, you can treat yourself to a well-deserved rest and lunch/brunch at one of the many restaurants or food stalls although you might end up having to queue for the most popular places, some of which have appeared on the Food Network or the Travel channel. We chose a typical American diner, Pamela´s, decorated in bright pinks and greens and with all the typical black and white photos, Betty Boop etc memorabilia. The food although cheap is very good although if you´re looking for something healthy,I wouldn´t recommend it. All in all, the Strip is definitely an experience and a must for all foodies!


Honey chicken drumsticks

Spring finally appears to be here, the daffodils and other flowers are blooming and the trees are blossoming. Everything looks beautiful especially the magnolia trees-there are some photos below . The weather is a little crazy though....it was snowing a couple of days ago!

I´ve been pretty busy these past few weeks which is why I haven´t been blogging too much although I have been trying out lots of recipes from other blogs and trying to come up with some of my own creations...so keep an eye out! Meanwhile, I thought I´d share this recipe for Honey chicken drumsticks from BBC Food with you as it´s really easy to follow, tastes really good , almost tastes like it´s from a restaurant and is also fairly economical and at the same time healthy. I used the breadcrumbs as didn´t have any sesame seeds and I also left out the chives but apart from that followed the recipe to the letter. I didn´t make the Waldorf salad as me and my boyfriend aren´t too keen on celery and as I had other leftover salad ingredients, I threw together a salad comprising of lettuce, cucumber, pear, goats cheese and walnuts with a little ready-made bottled ranch dressing to accompany the drumsticks, which made for a healthy,light but delicious meal!


Roald Dahl & Food: Memories with Food at Gipsy House

ve always been a bit of a bookworm and enjoyed flicking through cookbooks and as I don´t have my cookbooks at hand and there is a large collection of cookbooks at the Carnegie Library(there´s even a foodie bookclub!)I decided to browse some of their collection. As I´ve been a big fan of Roald Dahl since I was a child,when I came across this book, I just had to read it!

This book is more than just a cookbook. It is full of anecdotes and memories contributed by Roald Dahl´s family and friends about their times at Gipsy House and you learn a lot about the famous author and his family. One of the most interesting facts in the book is that Roald Dahl is related to William Wallace as William Wallace´s family fled to Norway(Roald Dahl´s parents are Norwegian). The book is illustrated with beautiful colour photographs by Jan Baldwin and some drawings by Quentin Blake, who illustrated Roald Dahl´s books. The recipes themselves sound delicious and some are very innovative and unusual such as the Rose Petal Sherbet or the Krokaan Ice Cream while at the same time including some of the traditional and popular recipes of all cookbooks eg. Onion Soup, Thai Chicken or Oxtail Stew. Unfortunately, I haven´t got around to trying any of the recipes out yet so don´t know how successful it´d be when following them! The book is divided into the usual catergories: First Courses, Main courses, Vegetables and Salads, Puddings, Preserves and Cordials, Scones and Biscuits but also includes other sections such as Wine at Gipsy House and one very interesting section is The Hangman´s Suppers in which famous people state what they´d eat as a last supper if they were to be hanged the following day.

This is a delightful and interesting book and a must for any Roald Dahl fan and I´d definitely recommend it.
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