Learning to cook vegan food in Mallorca

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Eat / Vegetarian/Vegan

Did you know that Mallorca was named the ‘number one vegan holiday destination’ by The Vegan Society UK (back in 2015)?

When we first moved here in 2004, even finding good vegetarian cuisine in restaurants (other than in a few places) was a head-scratching challenge. Today most good restaurants offer some vegetarian dishes – a far cry from the time some visiting UK friends of ours were presented with a plate of grey overcooked cauliflower as ‘the vegetarian option’! On ordering a vegetarian burger elsewhere here, the same friends received a burger bun full of lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Nada más.

In Mallorca, anyone avoiding all animal products will find vegan places to stay, stores selling vegan food and ingredients, the fab Bagel café in Palma (where the two owners are vegans), and a growing number of restaurants and other eateries offering alternatives for vegans. The Kitchen in Palma, for example, offers a separate vegan menu.

Cooking at home

Although I’m not a vegan and often enjoy meat or fish dishes when eating out, I am reducing the amount of animal products I use in my own cooking because scientific evidence points to the health benefits of doing so. I’ve seen and tasted dishes in restaurants in Palma and elsewhere in Mallorca proving that ‘tempting’, ‘creative’, and ‘delicious’ aren’t adjectives reserved only for dishes containing meat, fish, or dairy products. I wanted to learn more about vegan cooking at home and what better place for that than Mallorca? It’s the location of the impressive Vegan Culinary Academy in Palma – which attracts people from around the world.

The Academy offers a range of different courses at their premises but I attended their recent ‘Introduction to Vegan Cuisine’ at EHIB (the Balearic Islands’ hotel school) with my friend Sandra who, with her partner, owns and operates the yacht charter business Captain Cook. Sandra cooks the delicious cuisine their guests enjoy and had told me of a number of requests for vegan food; she wanted to be able to offer something more creative for any vegan guests. Hey, we’re a couple of gals who love anything to do with food and cooking, so why wouldn’t we sign up? The affordable event cost just 15€ a head (5€ for students), including the dishes we ate and the recipe details which were sent to us afterwards.

Nutritional yeast?

Stephanie Prather and assistants Natasha and Lupe from the Academy led the event, which began with some interesting information about veganism, before three different dishes were created in front of us. Some of the students volunteered for a hands-on role in the preparation and we all had the chance to try the three dishes at the end of the evening. I was pleasantly surprised at the delicious flavours that could be achieved with the aid of those mysterious vegan ingredients – such as BAYXN and nutritional yeast (I had no idea what either was before this event).

Stephanie Prather and Manuel Lynch moved from the States to Mallorca, founding their Vegan Culinary Academy here; my impression is that they have been the driving force in spreading awareness of veganism on the island. As Stephanie mentioned in her introductory talk, one of their goals is to see vegan dishes available in every restaurant on the island and many of the students who attended this event will eventually play a part in achieving that.

The verdict

I’ll admit that I had expected Stephanie to be a bit earnest in her delivery but, although on a serious mission, she’s a fun instructor who knows how to hold the attention of her audience. No wonder she has been so influential on the island. I really liked her and can only admire what she and the Academy have achieved on this beautiful island in the Mediterranean.

The good news – if you don’t happen to be in Mallorca or planning a visit – is that some of their various courses are now offered online. Check out the Vegan Culinary Academy website or their Facebook page for details. It could just be the start of something life-changing…

FOOTNOTE: I drafted this post yesterday and, last night, we met the above-mentioned veggie friends from the UK in Puerto Pollensa, where they’re staying in a rented villa for a holiday. We had dinner in a restaurant called Centric, on the recommendation of one of their friends. And this modest little eatery – which serves pretty decent Mediterranean food – has a vegan section on its menu! Stephanie would be proud of you, Centric.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Manacor’s artisan beer fair: Tast Cervesa Artesana

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Drink / Eat / tapas

Fans of Mallorcan craft beers may be interested to learn that the third edition of the Tast Cervesa Artesana takes place in the centre of Manacor this Saturday, October 21st, 2017. The event has a new venue this year: Plaça Sant Jaume, with a start time of 19:00h.

This year’s beers on offer will be from the following local artisan breweries:

Toutatis, Sulleric, Cas Cerveser, Beer Lovers, and Forastera.

Glasses of beer

Craft brews to try from Cas Cerveser

The event also includes the sale of tasty tapas, created by these Manacor businesses:

  • Apolo
  • Ca’n Florit
  • Sa Clova
  • Es Claustre
  • El Palau
El Palau owner ready to serve tapas

Nofre, the owner of El Palau

Read about last year’s Tast Cervesa Artesana here.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Review of Spot restaurant in Palma

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Drink / Eat

EatDrinkSleepMallorca was recently invited to try a new eating-out spot in the Santa Catalina district of Mallorca’s capital, Palma. Or perhaps that should be the new eating-out Spot – since that is the name of the restaurant.

Spot is located in premises previously occupied by the business BConnected, which had a showroom for trendy furniture and interior accessories here. Now the spacious building is home to this informal restaurant serving freshly made Mediterranean cuisine with some international touches. It’s a place where you can come for a coffee in the morning, a drink at any time of day, lunch, or dinner.

Spot is part of the restaurant group En Compañía de Lobos (Spanish for ‘in the company of wolves’) which also has seven restaurants in Barcelona and two in Madrid. This is their first in Mallorca. It’s not a chain: the restaurants are individually named and different from each other in both setting, style, and cuisine; the menus are all devised by the group’s executive chef Marcelino Jiménez.

We went for lunch. Spot is easy to find as it’s on one side of the Sant Magí church. Street parking is usually possible in the area (but buy a parking ticket from a meter if you’re there during the payment period).

The place

A black-iron wood-burning oven and a pile of logs beneath it were the first thing we noticed: they’re in a small foyer to the right of the restaurant entrance.  With the doors open, as they were, we could see the chefs working in the kitchen beyond the foyer. Wood smoke is one of my favourite aromas, so Spot almost had me before I’d even gone in!

Entering Spot, you’re in an area of tables where you can sit and just have a drink. The open front (when the weather is fine) gives the feel of being outdoors. Beyond this is the eating area and a large bar and counter (with high chairs for those who like to see a bit of prep-action while they’re eating or drinking).

Tables are a mix of round and rectangular and are well spaced, thanks to the size of the premises. We chose a rectangular table at the rear of the restaurant – where the large windows offer views of a small verdant courtyard with a couple of citrus trees (no al fresco eating though).

Mallorca is reflected in the Mediterranean décor, which includes fabrics, tiles, and ceramics from the island – although the interior design team was the Barcelona-based Tarruella Trenchs Studio. The result is informal, contemporary, and comfortable.

The food

The menu (also available in English, if you don’t speak Spanish) is split into the following sections: To share; pastas; greens, soups, & salads; pizza (from that wood-fired oven), and del mund (from the world). The menu is marked with different-coloured spots to indicate dishes that contain meat, fish, or neither. Vegetarians have a choice of four sharing dishes, two pastas, six from the greens, soups, & salads, and three pizzas.

Alex, the manager, recommended that we try the sharing dish tortita with tuna sashimi, avocado and chipotle mayonnaise (three pieces for 9€). This is the only dish that appears on all the group’s restaurant menus and we felt we had to try it.

We also shared some other dishes, including something I hadn’t seen before on the island: black pizza made in the wood-fired oven (14€, but large enough to share if you’re having something else too). The base was made from the trendy gastro-ingredient activated charcoal (food grade, of course), and topped with fresh fig, the French cheese Morbier, local black sausage, and rocket. OK, it may look as though the wood-fired oven got a little overheated, but it doesn’t taste burnt!

The bread was another noteworthy item here: made with olive oil, it had a good crunchy crust (baked in the wood-fired oven). If you want to dip it in olive oil, be sure to ask for the oil, as no condiments were on the tables during our visit. If they sold the loaves to take home, I’d have bought one.

The wines

The list includes Mallorcan wines, as well as labels from the Peninsula, some of which are available by the glass. Prices seemed reasonable, for example, a bottle of the Mallorcan Obac from Bodega Binigrau, was listed as 24€. The Boss opted for an alcohol-free beer (he was driving) and I had a glass of Bodegas Angel’s Atac (white), at a fair price of 3,50€.

Would we return?

Yes, most definitely. We enjoyed the tasty food, which seemed to be made from good-quality ingredients, and the ambience of the place. My only small criticism was that the music (clearly from a decent sound system through ceiling-mounted Bose speakers around the place) was a little too loud for easy conversation. Great choice of  tunes though!

Spot has the vibe of a place to be enjoyed with a group of friends, sharing several dishes in that lovely convivial way that’s part of the lifestyle when eating out on the island of Mallorca.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Foraged fruits in Mallorca

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Eat

Earlier this week we went hiking with our Dutch friends in the Orient valley – a truly beautiful part of rural Mallorca. As we kicked our way through fallen leaves on a forested path, we spotted several varieties of fungus – including a few that looked like something you’d find in a greengrocer’s.

Know what you’re doing

I love the idea of foraging: the searching, the gathering, and then using nature’s free gifts at home in the kitchen. But it’s vital to know what’s edible and what’s likely to land you in hospital (or worse still, the mortuary). As we spotted various different types of fungus, our friends told us a truly horrific story about someone they knew who had eaten some innocent-looking wild mushrooms they had gathered. No. Don’t be tempted by any wild fungi if you’re not 100% sure that they’re edible.

A wild fruit you can eat

Further along the forest path we saw an arbutus or, to give it its common name in English, a strawberry tree. This tree’s pretty little fruits – known in Spain as madroños – are edible, although I hear they don’t have much flavour. Still shaken from the horrors of the mushroom story, I chickened out of trying one.

Back at home, wondering how these abundant autumn fruits could be used in the kitchen, I did a little research. I found a photograph of a dessert Chocolate con madroños, which was on the menu at Tomeu Restaurant at the Hotel Sant Jaume in Palma earlier this week. Not sure if it’s still on offer, but the photo on Tomeu Restaurant’s Instagram page makes it look very appealing. Could be time for another visit to this relatively new (and excellent) restaurant…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Experience Andreu Genestra’s cuisine at Bistro Senzill

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Drink / Eat

If you like to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants on your travels and have visited Mallorca, chances are you’ve eaten at the excellent Andreu Genestra, named after its chef and proprietor. This restaurant has held one Michelin star since 2015 and much of the delicious creative cuisine is based on produce grown on the land adjoining the rural Hotel Predi de Son Jaumell (Capdepera), where it’s located under Andreu’s arrangement with the hotel owners.

But if your funds won’t stretch to a Michelin-starred splurge, I’d like to recommend the hotel’s other restaurant – also under Andreu’s control. After enjoying dinner there with friends visiting from the UK, we made a return visit recently for an al fresco dinner at Bistro Senzill. Again, we sat on the wisteria-covered terrace, which must look stunning when the climbing plant is in flower (a good excuse to return – not that one is needed!). The bistro is also open for lunch and some dishes are available throughout the afternoon from 12:30-18:30h.

The food

The menu has various sections: ‘Senzill Moment’, ‘Sharing Platters’ (available from 12:30-18:30h), ‘Our Specialities’,  ‘Josper Section’,  ‘Senzill’s Garden’ and ‘Sweet Sighs’. If that’s not enough choice, check out the ‘Suggestions’ menu and the four-course tasting menu.  The varied cuisine should offer something to suit most people, including vegetarians – as you would expect in a hotel that clearly has international appeal.

We started our dinner by sharing a portion of the Lebanese fattoush with marinated red tuna and Mallorcan cheese (15€) and samosas of red shrimp from Cala Rajada with sweet-and-sour yogurt (12€). We had already tucked into a selection of delicious home-made bread, which came with flavoured butter. The fresh-tasting fattoush was a generous portion and we had three well-filled samosas.

Bistro Senzill has a tandoor oven and, as a fan of good Indian cuisine, I couldn’t resist the tandoori sea bass with biryani rice (26€), which deliciously surpassed my expectations. (Andreu Genestra loves spices and, during his last visit to India, must have boosted the country’s spice trade before returning to Mallorca). Our very good dinner ended with us sharing the goat’s cheese ice cream with spicy honey and carrot cake (6€).

Wines & spirits

If you’re not driving, I’d recommend a pre-meal G&T, made from the cleverly named gin Ginestra (12€). It’s made by the Mallorcan drinks company Tunel (which makes the famous green liqueur known as ‘hierbas’) to the recipe created by Andreu and his knowledgeable restaurant maître d’ David.

The wine list at Bistro Senzill features wines from Mallorca and the Peninsula, with organic and biodynamic wines marked as such.  Helpfully, the white wines are divided into categories: fruity, light, & dry; intense & perfumed, and structured & aged in oak barrels. The reds are categorised as: young, fruit, & fresh; medium body, and powerful, rich & aged in oak barrels.

You may not be surprised to learn that the enterprising Andreu also has his own wines (and vines). The four wines on the list when we visited were Genestral Blanc, Genestral Rosé, Genestral Negre Jove, and Genestral Negre Criança. With the exception of the latter, these are also available by the glass (5€). If you eat at Andreu’s excellent-value Palma restaurant Aromata, you’ll find his wines there too.  (By the way, a three-course lunch at Aromata costs 15,50 euros – which includes bread and a glass of wine, beer, or water. For the quality, it is a genuine bargain).

Worth a return (or first) visit

As well as the relaxing ambience, attractive setting, and good food and drink, we had pleasant efficient service at Bistro Senzill; it all added up to one of those evenings that stick in the memory for all the right reasons. The hotel (including its two restaurants) is due to close mid-November for the winter break, so there’s still time to try Andreu Genestra‘s Bistro Senzill this season in Mallorca.

Prices correct at time of writing.

©Jan Edwards 2017

A third location for Palma’s Can Joan de s’Aigo

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Bakeries / Cafes and bars / Drink / Eat

Mallorca’s capital Palma has lost quite a few well-established businesses in recent months – many of them traditional cafés, bars, or bakeries. We said goodbye to Café Lírico in spring and, just a few weeks ago, Bar Cristal in Plaça d’Espanya closed; the latter had been founded in 1930 and managed by the same family since 1955. Over the past decade, more than 30 bakeries in Palma have shut their doors for good. This year’s closures have included El Forn (mallorquín for oven) des Paners, Pasteleria Llull, and Forn d’es Teatre (probably one of the most-photographed shop fronts in the city).

Old bakery in Palma

One of many bakeries to close its doors

Palma’s changing commercial centre

Reasons for the closure of these family-owned businesses include retirement (with no younger members of the family willing to continue the business), growth in supermarket shopping (impacting on traditional bakeries), and – the biggie – increased commercial property rents. International chains including Starbucks and McDonald’s have opened in the city (sadly, IMHO) and, recognizing that the Big Boys are prepared to pay top dollar (or euro) for a presence in Palma, some commercial property owners have hiked up rents to the extent that it’s no longer viable for some local traders to continue in business.

Can Joan de s'Aigo interior

Traditional details in Can Joan de s’Aigo’s C/ de Sans premises

Local business bucking the trend

People saddened by the increasing loss of traditional local businesses in Mallorca’s capital have welcomed recent news from Can Joan de s’Aigo (founded here in the 18th century). The café/bakery/ice-cream parlour is to open a third branch in Palma, in an architecturally interesting building that once housed the emblematic El Triquet bar but, more recently, a fashion store.  Its prime location on the corner of the Avenidas (inner ring road) and C/ Sindicat will make it more visible to passing visitors and locals than its existing branches in C/ de Sans and Baró de Santa Maria del Sepulcre.

The new Can Joan de s’Aigo is expected to open after Christmas 2017. Read more about the business and its branch in C/ de Sans here.

Update: When I wrote this post, little did I know that Palma was about to lose another traditional café/bar. Bar Cristal’s neighbour, Cafe 1916 – where we have had many coffees over the years – closed down at the end of September. The nature of Plaça d’Espanya continues to change…and sadly not for the better.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Cute coffee stop in Porto Cristo

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Cafes and bars / Drink

This summer we again regularly went down to Porto Cristo for an early morning swim before the holidaymakers hit the beach. We rewarded our efforts with a visit to La Magrana, a cute little café/restaurant which faces the side of the church (Plaça del Carme). The name of the place is mallorquín for ‘pomegranate’; you’ll spot a few of the fruits in the décor…

Parking is easy (pay at the meter if it’s after 10am) and it’s then just a few steps up the road to the traditional Mallorcan townhouse that’s home to La Magrana, where you can sit on the front terrace looking at the church, indoors (there are also a couple of cosy side rooms), or in the charming enclosed garden at the back.

Coffee…and more

Although we’ve never had more than a post-swim coffee, juice, and a pastry here, the homely La Magrana does offer cooked food (including a Sunday breakfast) and alcoholic drinks and is probably a popular spot for an evening drink in that pretty candlelit garden. We particularly like the woman who owns the place: she’s friendly and her creative artistry is evident in the décor. We also discovered that she speaks English (which may be useful if you don’t speak Spanish), when we overheard her talking to some Scottish customers on the next table during our last visit.

If you fancy a coffee in Porto Cristo and don’t mind being without the sea view, check out La Magrana.  And if you try the food, I’d love to know what you think of it.

La Magrana is closed on Mondays.

©Jan Edwards 2017

On the ball at Rafa Nadal’s Sport Cafe

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Drink / Eat

Taking my coeliac father out to eat during his visits to Mallorca used to feel as though we were playing Russian Roulette. Would he or wouldn’t he unintentionally ingest some gluten and end up in agony? Thankfully, following the changes made to the EU Food Allergen Laws in December 2014, I’m much more confident about him eating out in Mallorca.

Last week, during his late-summer visit, we went for lunch at Rafa Nadal’s Sport Café in Manacor, where a nutritionist is involved in devising the cuisine. The rain was bucketing down that day and our choice of eatery for lunch was determined by the availability of car parking right alongside the venue.

The café itself is within the complex housing the Rafa Nadal Sports Centre and his Museum Xperience – and you don’t have to be visiting either of those to eat (or have a drink) here. The café is spacious, furnished in minimalist style, and bright – with views onto a terraced area (for al fresco eating) and down over the tennis courts where the Academy’s international students play. It’s a friendly informal place for lunch or drinks and the bar end of the venue has several large wall-mounted TVs screening sporting events.

The lunch menu on the day of our visit:

Starters

Mediterranean salad (with tinned tuna and boiled egg)

Vegetable soup

Pasta with puttanesca sauce

Mains

Roasted chicken with oven potatoes

Grilled sea bream with vegetables

Timbal of quinoa and vegetables (vegetarian)

Desserts

Seasonal fruits

Almond cake with ice cream

Vanilla flan

Between us, we tried all of the starters, two of the main courses, and all the desserts. No complaints from anyone.

An à la carte menu (untried so far) is also available at lunchtime (13:00-16:00h) and in the evenings. As a price guide, main course dishes range between 15,90€ (vegetable timbale with smoked-cheese sauce) and 20,50€ (sirloin steak in truffle sauce with chips and baked apple).

Gluten-free bread

We ordered drinks (wine by the glass and water) and a basket of warm bread rolls was swiftly brought to the table. Several minutes later, having been told that my dad was a coeliac, our server brought him a mini-baguette of gluten-free bread (fresh from the oven and inside a special sealed bag). He hadn’t even asked about the availability of suitable bread, so top marks to them.

The Boss and I have eaten lunch at the Sport Café on quite a few occasions – including with vegetarian friends. In the week you pay 10€ for a daily changing three-course set lunch (with choices, but drinks not included at that price!). At weekends the price is a little higher at 15€.

Rafa Nadal’s Sport Café is one of my top recommendations for a great-value lunch in the Manacor area, with a free adjacent car park. The service is efficient and swift – thankfully not as fast as Rafa’s on a tennis court – and the food is well prepared and presented. And you never know who may be there: we’ve seen Carlos Moya in the bar area but, so far, no sighting of Rafa. We’ll just have to keep visiting…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Prices correct at time of writing.

Mallorcan olive oil wins British ‘Great Taste’ Award

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Eat / Mallorca extra virgin olive oil

An extra virgin olive oil producer in Mallorca is celebrating a prestigious food award from Britain. Judges in the British ‘Great Taste’ 2017 Awards – organised by the Guild of Fine Food – awarded two stars to L’AMO Aubocassa, which is produced on Aubocassa’s 12th-century country estate, in the municipality of Manacor.

L’AMO Aubocassa was named for L’amo en Sebastiá – which means Sebastiá the owner; Sebastiá lived at Aubocassa for 40 years. In naming this oil after him, the producers wanted to pay homage to all the ‘amos‘ who have maintained the agricultural heritage of Mallorca over the centuries.

DO Oli de Mallorca

This rural estate produces two extra virgin olive oils: Aubocassa and L’AMO Aubocassa – both of which have the (Denomination of Origin) DO Oli de Mallorca. L’AMO Aubocassa is made from Arbequina and Picual olives; Aubocassa from 100% Arbequina olives. Both oils have now won awards.

‘Great Taste’ 2017 Facts

  • The ‘Great Taste’ Awards scheme is the benchmark for fine artisan and speciality foods. It has been called the ‘Oscars’ of the food world.
  • A record number of 12,366 products were entered this year.
  • More than 500 experienced palates – those of chefs, food critics, restaurateurs, cooks, food writers, and journalists – blind-tasted each product.
  • 3,171 products were awarded one star
  • 1,011 were awarded two stars
  • 165 were awarded three stars

According to the Guild of Fine Food, the judges are looking for truly great taste. “Yes, they take into account texture, appearance and of course quality ingredients; they like a good aroma, a decent bite to a sausage, a smooth lemon curd, crunchy rich pastry, but everything comes back to the taste. Is it really, truly great?”

In the case of L’AMO Aubocassa, clearly, yes!

Where to buy L’AMO Aubocassa in the UK

If you’re in Britain, you can buy L’AMO Aubocassa and the original Aubocassa extra virgin olive oils from the Spanish food company Brindisa (established in 1988). Brindisa has shops in London’s Borough Market and in Balham (London borough of Wandsworth), and an online store too.

©Jan Edwards 2017                   Photos courtesy of Aubocassa.

Where Diana, Princess of Wales, stayed in Mallorca

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Sleep

Twenty years ago today. I will never forget the day that Princess Diana died.  The radio station where I was a presenter had arranged a huge roadshow event at Silverstone, with top bands and singers due to perform. Because I made an early start from home I didn’t catch any news before I left and it wasn’t until I was en route that I switched on the car radio and heard about Diana’s death. Obviously, the station cancelled the event.

I had met ‘the People’s Princess’ twice. Once, at the end of a sponsored wheelchair push from Edinburgh to London by three young paraplegics raising money for the International Spinal Research Trust. Diana was the patron of the charity and greeted the three wheelchair users on arrival at their final destination.  I was there as PR executive for the chain Crest Hotels, having arranged free hotel accommodation along the route for the three wheelchair users.

To my surprise, Princess Diana subsequently invited me to a special reception at Kensington Palace for all those who had been involved. She chatted to everyone there and we also saw her being a normal mum: at one stage Diana had to chide the two young princes for being boisterous. On both occasions, Diana charmed everyone she met.

Escaping the world

The Princess of Wales lived her life under a spotlight – sometimes of her own making. But in the spring of 1996 she found sanctuary during a weekend’s stay at the Mallorca hotel known today as Belmond La Residencia in Deià, where her framed letter of thanks to the hotel still hangs on the wall in the reception area.

Quite a few changes have happened at the hotel since Diana stayed and she’d probably love it even more now; especially as the hotel added some new suites this year – with a high degree of privacy.

Here are some of my photos of this beautiful hotel – a place where any girl can feel like a princess.

©Jan Edwards 2017

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