Foodie Finds #13 with Karen Harvey

I’ve got an interesting selection of Foodie Finds to share with you this month, but if I’m perfectly honest, I’ve been mostly eating watermelons and mars ice-creams.

A few weeks ago I was in Croatia, glamping by the side of the Adriatic Sea, eating rice pudding and plum filled potato dumplings for breakfast. It’s a wonder I actually came home. At the Park Plaza Arena on the terrace by the sea, the breakfast buffet was hands-down the best I’ve ever seen. And, if you know me, you’ll know I am a breakfast buffet obsessive. I don’t necessarily want to eat it all (I am rubbish at breakfast) but I love to see what’s served, and I equally enjoy seeing what people select.

Croatia is known for its truffles, extra virgin olive oil, wine and honey, along with the fresh seafood, fish and meats. For lovers of quality, unadulterated food, this is the place. The extra virgin olive oil is like nothing I’ve ever tasted – a peppery hit in the back of the throat, strong and rich, and apparently suggested (for the health benefits) as the first thing you consume in the day.

It’s a think to dip truffle cheese in honey, and I’m alright with that. Also it’s a thing to drink Medica grappa, a sweet honey liqueur. Strong, but deliciously easy to drink (something to note, before you get carried away!)

Pizza Express updated their menu for summer, and I was invited along to give it a go. Never known to turn down pizza, I was there in a shot. When Pizza Express was launched back in 1965 it caused a real stir of excitement. I love that idea, just as people used to drive to motorway services as destination for a day out, people used to eat pizza as an exotic treat. I’ve also got a soft spot for Peter Boizot, the restaurants founder, who gave me lots of time for chats about sculpture, back in the day.

Anyway, the pizza. I’m a create of habit, I’d normally just order a Pollo ad Astra, but, in the spirit of trying the new menu I opted for the Barbacoa Romana.

Pulled beef, spicy chipotle salsa, garlic oil, mozzarella and tomato, loads of red onion. I think it’s my new favourite.

The man at the table beside us called out to the waitress, with a sound of weakened desperation, ‘I’ve got a voucher, I’ve got a voucher!’ As he got up to leave I read the words on his t-shirt, ‘Billionaire Boys Club’.

This summer Bonne Maman, makers of my favourite jam (raspberry, in case you wondered) added a new product to their range – compote. Apricot compote, rhubarb compote, cherry compote, peach compote. That’s a whole lot of compote. Actually, I think they’ve been doing the peach compote for some time. Anyway, I found it a great way to add some fruitiness to plain yoghurt. It works out as much more affordable, and you can use it in many other ways. With granola or porridge, in puddings, on a spoon.

Cartwright & Butler have created some limited-edition summer biscuits, including these strawberry clotted cream shortbread. For £8.99 it’s a lovely tin, and they are very pleasant biscuits, but I can’t help but wonder, who buys these? Who can afford a quid a biscuit, and if they can, what do they do with all the tins?

Several weeks ago we had a weekend break in the beautiful Belgian city of Leuven. On the  Saturday evening we went for dinner at Zarza. A long established restaurant in the city, aiming to reinvent themselves as a gastronomic destination, they’ve a lovely bright garden room at the back of the building, and a great selection of beers, which they pair with the menu.

It was quite the menu (but for €150 for the two of us, you’d hope it would be) – an amuse bouche of quinoa and cucumber, and radish, pimento and black olive crumble. Paletta ham, tomato, puffed black quinoa, fine frisee & marinated tomato. Delicious stew of white asparagus and sea lavender with a plump poached egg and croutons. Normandie beef with polenta croquettes, asparagus and mushrooms. Belgian strawberries with elderflower and yuzu, and a strawberry ice-cream pop.

Also in Leuven, if you’re ever visiting (and you should, because it’s a beautiful place – you can read about our trip here) don’t miss stopping off for an excellent ice-cream treat at ‘T Galetje.

Heck chicken sausages. Personal opinion: don’t do it! If you’re going to eat meat, you might as well be able to taste it. I was attracted to these (if it’s appropriate to say you’ve been attracted to sausages) because they sounded like a good alternative to pork, and I’d rather not pork. I should have bought vegetarian sausages instead. The texture of these was all wrong, and the flavour – what flavour?!

When the Squirrel Sisters got in touch I let out a little squeal. I imagined them scurrying around, big bushy tails sticking out from beneath their floral print aprons, eyes bulging as they turned hazelnuts over in their little hands, tiny nails all clean and sharp. Turns out they are two human sisters who want you to ‘Treat Your Health’.

The packaging is pretty, I guess the carboard tray is to stop them from being squashed, but I would always prefer less packaging. The bars are very small, but they are very filling. Dense and datey, the Coconut Cashew was most true to its flavour. Raspberry Ripple had a sharpness to it, and Cacao Brownie and Cacao Orange were both choccy tasting, underneath the date. Not something I could eat every day, but they’re definitely the sort of snack I’d carry in case of a hunger emergency.

Cute branding, great name.

If you’re from the Cambridge area you will have heard of the Tamburlaine. It’s a bloggers paradise and an instagrammers dream. People flock in their droves to get a selfie in the palm papered toilets or sip a cocktail in the garden room. I’m a bit of a Z-lister in these parts, so after all the trendy ‘influencers’ got an invite to try the place out, it was my turn.

I went for lunch, with my friend Judith. The restaurant was empty, apart from a couple of guys with laptops. I’ve read a lot of varied things about the Tamburlaine, and I really want them to get it right, but I was just not feeling it. The service took a long time, and the main courses were not good. We didn’t get to try their ‘famous’ desserts, because of time – not many people are able to take more than two hours for lunch. However, had I just stuck with my starter (which was big enough to be my whole lunch) I would have gone away happy. It was really delicious – Forestiere mushrooms, with a creamy sauce, brioche toast and a perfect poached egg. I will go back, but maybe just for mushrooms.

Sometimes people send me new foodie things to try. Sometimes people send me things that look like food but are actually toys disguised as food. Meet the Sweet Pups. I don’t know what it is either, but it smells funny, and from a distance it looks like a real pastry. I have no idea who comes up with these things, but they do. Croissant dog. Dog food. Puppy pastries.

I’ll be back soon with some more Foodie Finds to share, until then, if you’ve got something you think we should know about, please get in touch… send biscuits!