La Sala Sensations!

LaSala

Have we mentioned lately how much we love eating at La Sala? Well, yes – probably a few thousand times by now, but the food there is too good to resist and if we didn't pass on the latest news we wouldn't be doing our job properly, would we?

One of the marks of a great café/restaurant is its willingness to ring the changes, so the La Sala team now offers three great new main courses that are certain to become favourites.

The succulent shredded Braised Lamb Shank in a Red Wine Jus is served with fresh Asparagus Tips, Roasted Vine Tomatoes and Creamed Mashed Potatoes and, apart from being totally delicious, is a real visual treat. If you're one of those people who loves to post pictures of meals on Instagram then you will be in heaven, because this looks like a food bouquet. Is there such a thing? Well, there is now.

Thai cuisine has become something of a foodie phenomenon over the past decade or two and, with more and more holidaymakers travelling to this beautiful country, the demand for Thai dishes has increased. La Sala's Pad Thai is a classic: pieces of Chicken or Vegetables cooked with Noodles and imbued with all the wonderful Thai flavours that you would expect from such a dish.

There are burgers - and then there are La Sala burgers. These are always a popular choice, so the challenge for the team was to create something that not only met expectations but exceeded them; not so easy. Have they delivered? Of course they have! The La Sala Fillet Steak Burger is a burger, Jim – but not as we know it. A gorgeous chunk of Beef served with Grilled Bacon, Melted Cheese and half a Lobster Thermidor (did we mention that it's worth forgoing breakfast to enjoy this treat?) Oh, and don't forget to make room for the Hand Cut Fries, Coleslaw, Crispy Onion Rings and Smoked Jalapeño Mayonnaise.

La Sala is busy at all times of the year but you can guarantee that these new dishes will ensure that the tables are filled to capacity throughout the seasons. If you haven't yet enjoyed the La Sala experience, then this provides the perfect opportunity.

Come on – what are you waiting for?

 
Sugar is the hot topic of this year

Sugar

With Jamie Oliver pioneering with his informative documentary last year. Sugar has been the subject of many discussions.

Lets try and debunk some of the claims and get to the core of wether to sugar or not to sugar.

There are many natural forms of sugar out there some ‘sugar free’ baking recipes could lead you to believe these options are 100% healthy just because they are natural. However, until the last few hundred years, sweet foods were a luxury and our access to them was usually dictated by the seasons, as we didn’t have refrigeration or preserving techniques now available to us. The fruiting season was short and honey was rare. It is estimated that by the time a child is 8 years old today, they will have consumed as much sugar as an adult did in their entire lifetime 100 years ago.
All forms of natural sugar (honey, maple syrup, fruit, coconut nectar, date puree, raw sugar), impact blood glucose levels to some extent and lead to the release of insulin. The hormone insulin instructs the body to move glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells where it is either used for energy or converted into fat for storage. No matter how natural or nutrient rich a sugar may be, the body responds in much the same way. For this reason, all sugars should be used in moderation, regardless of their source.

Low calorie ‘natural’ sweeteners (such as stevia or wood alcohols such as xylitol sometimes made out of birch) are a bit of a cop off – they aren’t quite as harmless as you might think. By all means, use them now and then for a treat but regular use of these sweeteners will continue to encourage your taste buds to want more sugar. To beat sugar cravings and take control of your blood sugars, you really want to take a break from all sweeteners, to allow your taste buds, and brain, to adjust.

Also, recent research has demonstrated if the taste buds and mind are receiving signals to suggest sweet food is being eaten, the body prepares for an influx of glucose. This means that the body does in fact trigger a range of hormonal and metabolic responses ready to manage a blood sugar increase, even though with low calorie sweeteners, the sugar never comes. So you still end up with some of the metabolic consequences of eating sugar anyhow. This may go some way to explain why low calorie drinks and products don’t seem to have the positive impact on obesity that people had expected.

My preference is always to eat real food so no surprise that my recommendation is to use ‘natural sugar´s, but in moderation. Below is a list of natural sugars and sweeteners roughly ranked in my order of preference but different recipes or situations may lead me to use a sweetener that might not be suited to another occasion.

Palmyra Jaggery:
Palmyra Jaggery is the crystallised nectar collected from the flower of the Palmyra palm, grown in Sri Lanka and India

Coconut Nectar/Coconut Sugar:
What is it: is the crystallised nectar collected from the flower of the coconut palm or crystallised in the form of brown small granules.

Fruit Purees:
What is it: use fruit instead of sugar in recipes. A mashed ripe banana, a few dates or apple sauce or pears for example.

Maple Syrup:
What is it: maple syrup is the concentrated sap of the Canadian maple tree. It is lower calorie and fructose content than honey and a GI rating of 54.

Honey:
What is it: honey is made from bees out of nectar gathered from flowers to feed the hive. Raw honey has more nutrition and health benefits than more highly processed products. GI of 50, and is roughly 50% fructose (a 50:50 ratio of fructose to glucose is easier for the body to metabolise than a higher fructose content product).

Brown Rice Syrup:
What is it: high glucose syrup derived from fermented cooked rice.

Xylitol / Sorbitol / Mannitol:
What is it: wood alcohols which can be derived from the fibre of many types of plants such as oats, mushrooms, corn and raspberries. They aren’t a sweetener that I use or recommend but it may be a useful option for some people, including diabetics who may only be able to use natural sugar options sparingly.

Stevia:
What is it: is a protein found naturally in the stevia plant grown in Peru, which stimulates the sweet receptors on the tongue. Product varies from whole leaf (green) powders through to highly processed white sugar replacements which are mixed with other excipients so that 1tsp stevia – 1 tsp of sugar (such as Truvia).

Agave Syrup:
What is it: Agave is a cactus which grows in Latin America and the syrup is made from the pulp of the cactus leaf. Although agave syrup was used traditionally by native Americans, that ingredient bears little resemblance to the agave syrup we find on the shelves today.

Recipe:

O-MEGA CHIA PUDDING

Mayans prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy… in fact, “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They are loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain. Protein, fibre, omega 3's amongst other things!

METHOD

This is a super easy recipe that can be made in bigger batches and made the day before! It is a fantastic travel food that keeps you fuller for longer. Here is one of many versions that I love.

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, except the fruits used to top it off. Set aside or store in the fridge. You need to give the seeds time to absorb all the liquids and get a rice pudding like texture, leave for about 20-30 minutes.

Portion out in cups, glasses or mason jars (that are so chic right now). If you make more than one portion store in fridge until you want to eat and enjoy.

Lots of Love

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of Nut milk (240 grams)

2 tbs of chia seeds

1 tbs of flax

Pinch of cinnamon/cardamon & clove (spice mix see basics)

Splash of agave

1 tbs of almond flakes

1 tbs of raisins

Fruit of choice to top off

 
The Many Pleasures of Restaurante La Parrilla

I wonder how many times you have travelled past Restaurante La Parrilla on Bulevar Alfonso von Hohenlohe (more or less opposite the Marbella Club) and thought, “That looks like an interesting place, but I’ve never heard of anyone going here and it looks kind of old-fashioned as well.” I’ve certainly had all those thoughts, so it was a fabulous surprise to discover that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

La Parrilla has been on this spot for 26 years, so yes, it is a mature restaurant, but that certainly doesn’t make it old-fashioned, although its owner would admit that for many years it had a classic approach to Spanish cuisine and that contemporary diners may have felt put off by its style. But, it’s 2016 and owner, Jesus is bringing his restaurant into the 21st century and is taking great strides forward in turning La Parrilla into a more casual and modern dining experience that fits with the times. Take a look at the restaurant’s new website www.laparrillagourmet.com for an impression of the interior design and the quality of the food and wine.

As the restaurant’s home page announces, the mission of La Parrilla is to offer “Meat and fish from the grill with good wines and excellent service.” The understated simplicity of that statement captures the owner’s drive to provide food that is filled with class and quality and which doesn’t require a lot of loud shouting about because it speaks for itself in a quietly authoritative manner. For example, Jesus explained to us that only fresh food is prepared and served at the restaurant, plus all the white fish is sourced from the best Spanish waters and it is all marinated before cooking. This attention to detail and the search for top quality suppliers ensures an exceptional eating experience, as the Society team discovered.

Wise wine choices

Before I start to describe the food and relive the moments of heaven that will undoubtedly set me off salivating again, let me tell you a little about the excellent wine choices at La Parrilla. The restaurant has always made its wine list a cornerstone of its offering and the wine cellar is constantly updated by experts. The choice ranges over hundreds of Denominación de Origen and the sommeliers here are delighted to help you find a wine that suits your taste preferences.

With help we chose a bright and refreshing Albariño. This is a white wine that hails from the Rías Baixas region of Galicia in the northwest of Spain. It’s a distinctly Spanish white that is fast finding fans among white wine drinkers. If you’re more familiar with Spanish Rueda and Verdejo, then do try the sophisticated fruitiness of an Albariño, especially if you’re eating fish.

Amazing appetisers

The Society team love appetisers, partly because we love large selections of small platters so that we can all share. The appetiser menu at La Parrilla is extensive and it took some quite extensive debate to come to a final decision about what to order. In the end we decided on Crujentes con Panceta, because a little bacon always brings a heart-warming aroma with it. Some ‘famous’ Patatas Bravas accompanied these, and perhaps they do indeed deserve celebrity status. Then we launched into the fish. The marinated boquerones from Málaga and the cod fish salad were the epitome of freshness and certainly couldn’t have been very long out of the sea. We also enjoyed the salmon marinated in dill – very Scandinavian and modern – and our photographer Julia swore that the earth moved when she ate the grilled baby cuttlefish. So, that’s definitely a dish to try!
The wood oven roasted red pepper salad finished with olive oil, salt and spring onion was a wonderful accompaniment to the fish and for me, and all mussel lovers, the small wild mussels from Cataluña cooked in cherry wine, olive oil and garlic made me want to return for more…and more. Of course, we had to have some meat as well and the Confit of Crunchy Suckling Pig with apple puree and a reduction of balsamic vinegar syrup won over the “Irresistible Steak Tartar,” but I shall come back for that one. I have long been a fan of this dish, and after it went out of fashion in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find it on a menu, but it seems to be making a comeback and I’ve spotted it on a small selection of classy restaurant menus around Marbella.

Divine desserts

We were feeling pleasantly full and reluctant to leave the tastes of the wonderful appetisers behind, but it would not be a complete food review if there were no ‘postres’. We plumped (and by this time I’m definitely feeling plumper) for the Warm Apple Pie in Pastry. As you may know, the British, Irish and Americans have an exceptional fondness for apple pie, so we’re pretty hard to please. So, the fact that this was a success with me says a lot for the quality of the dessert and the pastry chef. The rest of the Society team were impressed with it as well, so top marks for the warm apple pie. We also ordered a dessert that I personally haven’t seen anywhere else; a Spanish French Toast with Raspberry Sauce. Well, who doesn’t love French toast and with the fresh raspberry sauce, it was extremely comforting on a wet and windy day. Other temptations included sorbets made with vodka and a Crème Brûlée that I have no doubt would have been perfection if I had still had anywhere left to fit it in. Still, it is best to leave some things for another time!

So, next time you’re looking for somewhere modern and sophisticated with top quality fresh food and an intelligent wine list, don’t drive past La Parrilla – book a table!

 
Springtime at D-Wine

DWine

Vibrant Verdejo & Wild Fish

Verdejo is a native grape of Rueda, north-west Spain, in the province of Valladolid; the grape is cultivated in high altitude vineyards where the soils are calcareous and well drained. Barrel fermented Verdejo wines are crisp with soft, creamy, nutty overtones and, sometimes, accompanied by citrus notes and smoke. This ancient grape is arguably Spain's finest white grape variety along with Albarino from Galicia.

D- Wine Choice of the Month

Wild Fish Grilled, Oven-Baked or Salted

When it comes to fish, we try to maintain the highest standards possible and therefore source only the finest wild fish available. Fresh Turbot, Seabass, Gilthead Bream, Snapper and others from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts arrive at D-Wine to be part of the specials we offer in our weekly menu.

Each fish is hand-selected to our specifications, expertly prepared by being simply grilled, oven-baked or elegantly salted, according to the client´s preference by our executive chef. At D-Wine delectable fresh dishes can be enjoyed in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere and our superb wild fish specials make every meal a spectacular dining experience.

D-Wine Advice

The combination of barrel fermented Verdejos and wild fish will please the most discerning gourmand. The freshness and balance of the wine, the creaminess and fruity nuances of green apple, citrus and tropical fruit notes teamed with white blossom, aromatic herbs and fennel, plus a final hint of orange peel will perfectly complement the succulence of the baked Turbot or Snapper, the classicism of the salt-coated Seabass or mellowness of the grilled Gilthead Sea Bream we served every week at D-Wine.

Top 5 Verdejos for wild fish at D-Wine

Belondrade y Lurton
Ossian Verdejo
Shaya Habis
Naiades Verdejo
José Pariente Cuvee Special

 
Down Under at D-Wine

Down Under at D-Wine

Kiwi Pinot Noir and Eco-Friendly Lamb

New Zealand wine is distinctive and known for its purity, vibrancy and intensity. Besides producing the zestiest Sauvignon Blanc that is already famous worldwide, Ne Zealand’s signature red grape is the Pinto Noir. The cooler southern islands of New Zealand are one of the few places beyond the sacred home of Burgundy where this grape really performs well. Among the best Kiwi wine sub-regions producing the Pinot Noir today are: Marlborough, Waipara, Martinborough, Nelson and top of them all, the world’s most southerly wine producing region – central Otago. These are all a source of rich Pinots with soaring blackberry fruit and spice, kept fresh by a good lick of acidity, and gloriously perfumed, silky and complex.

D-Wine Dish of the Month - Rack of Lamb from New Zealand

New Zealand lamb is grass-fed throughout its life and tends to have a more pronounced natural flavour. It is slaughtered at a younger age than in some other lamb-producing regions, so despite the lack of grain feeding and the lesser amount of marbling, it is still top of the range and rightly famed for its flavour, its succulence and its nutrition value. Tender, fresh New Zealand lamb is a seasonal product available from January to June.

D-Wine Advice

Pinot Noir is a classic match for lamb. At D-Wine the New Zealand Rack of Lamb is presented with a honey mustard glaze and accompanied with green pea and mint puree and pomegranate sauce, resulting in a glorious concoction of flavours. For the perfect pairing we suggest a sweetly scented, smooth and fruity Kiwi Pinot Noir with raspberry tones and layers of red fruits followed by blackberry black cherry, some spicy notes and a hint of mint at the finish. It’s a real treat for wine lovers and a not-to-be-missed experience that combines a rich texture with everlasting pleasure.

 
The Utterly Urban Bistro

The Utterly Urban BistroThe opening of the fabulous and long awaited boulevard in San Pedro de Alcántara has paved the way for the establishment of a new “Food Quarter” on the beach side of the town. Only a matter of yards from the wonderful wavy bridge you’ll find a strip of restaurants, each with something so different to offer that it really doesn’t matter that they are sitting side by side.

It has certainly added a new vibrancy to the usually quiet beachside residential area that for so long had a limited choice of places to eat and drink. Residents and guests either had to cross the N340 (before the tunnel and boulevard were completed) and head into the main part of the town, or walk down to the paseo maritímo. There are many lovely places there, but most of them are better suited to light evenings and sunny weather; they are less appealing in the dark days of winter. Plus, none of them has a pool table.

And the pool table is one of the main attractions that draws people to this rather funky, and yes, ‘urbane’ restaurant. Sunday afternoons seems to be especially popular with groups of lads of all ages, enjoying a game and watching football at the same time. Meanwhile, if wives and girlfriends have been brought along, they can enjoy a drink in the soft-seated lounge area that surrounds the pool table.

It has to be said that one of Urban’s great advantages is that it can be both bar and restaurant. You can come here just for a drink and feel comfortable, unlike those restaurants that would prefer it if you didn’t put a foot through the door unless you’re going to eat. You can choose to order a drink and a bar-style snack – I’ll get to the food in a moment – or you can sit down in the dining area and have a meal. There is a feeling of sufficient separation between the different functions that Urban wants to cater for to make each customer feel that they’ve come to the right place.

Urban’s other great strength is its friendly staff who are attentive without being in your face all the time, and as most of them are young, the whole place has the energy of youth.  This youthfulness is reflected in a menu that, whilst not being intentionally age specific, has an array of dishes that may appeal more to a younger clientele looking for some ‘informal’ food to eat. Actually, the key here is the informality, so whatever age you are, if you’re looking for something satisfying, uncomplicated and nicely presented but without all the frills of a more formal restaurant, then, if you’re in San Pedro, Urban is the perfect choice.

I’d suggest that if you’re simply looking for a snack to accompany a couple of glasses of wine then the appetizers on the menu would tick the box nicely. There’s an excellent choice, including quesadillas, which have been a long time favourite of mine. Another favourite is Chicken Satay and yummy Tempura Prawns, which make for some very tasty morsels with a nice bottle of white. Crispy Camembert with a cranberry dip is a must for the cheese lover and if you’re as devoted to Gambas Pil-Pil as one member of my family is, then it’s a relief to see that this Spanish staple is on the menu.

I will admit that my eyes tend to glaze over when I see the word ‘Salad’ on a menu. However, on our visit to Urban I decided to be brave and try the Thai Beef Salad. This turned out to be a very tasty combo of beef sirloin strips with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber, carrots, mint and a delicious homemade Thai dressing. It’s a testament to the chef that I enjoyed the lettuce, which has never been one of my favourite bits of greenery.

And, if you are a salad fan then you can go retro with Prawn Cocktail (OK, I confess to loving this) a Goat’s Cheese salad with lots of yummy bacon and crouton crunchy bits.  There is also a Chicken Caesar salad and a Caprese, which is mozzarella with vine tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and honey dressing. At around the 10€ mark, the salads are excellent value, and indeed, the menu is well-priced all round with no item more than 20€, and it’s only the steaks that get close to this price point, everything else is less than 12€. Even the mighty beef burgers!

The reputation of Urban’s beef burgers had preceded our visit since a friendly teenager had assured me they were “awesome” and “the best ever!” Although the Society office is body conscious, an awesome beef burger cannot be ignored. And really, it was very good. From a snack perspective, the sandwich is always something handy to order, so we tried the Club Sandwich. Succulent sliced chicken with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise served with fries. Those fries are good and we’d already had another helping with the beef burger.

The menu also includes an excellent Pad Thai and Thai Green curry - one of the best things about going out with a crowd is that you can order what you like and then sample everyone else’s dish. At least, that’s my view!

No meal in my opinion is complete without something sweet to finish it off and there was a big show of hands for the sumptuous Cheesecake. Tiramisu, Crème Brulée and Apple Tart were also on offer. Overall, it’s a shortish menu that has a wide enough variety to please most people, and I haven’t even mentioned the wraps and the Chilli con Carne!

Urban is a great place to drop into for a light snack or something more substantial, and it’s a great venue for meeting mates for a drink and a game of pool after work. It’s a destination you can make your local, and you may save yourself a lot of cooking at the same time.

 
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