Mala Fabrika

When I travel I always make a point to roam around the city and get lost. But this time, we decided to walk across the city on foot with a purpose. We wanted to visit Mala Fabrika. It’s ranked the number 5 restaurant in Beograd on TripAdvisor. I was surprised to find that the restaurant scene in Beograd to be very sophisticated. The restaurant was quaint, well decorated, and service was excellent. They spoke perfect English and was very courteous in answering all our questions. 

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First course was a procini mushroom soup. It was very flavourful, creamy but not heavy. If you like mushroom, you would be delighted with this soup.

 

 

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We then ordered a traditional Serbian dish. It was a little like jelly with meat inside. Savoury. Reminds me of this Chinese dish from northern China called cold meat (“凍肉”).

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The main course was a bread pork chop with pickled veggie and baked potato. The pork chop was not very catchy, it tasted like any other pork chop. But the potato was delicious. We couldn’t stop eating it. It was very flavourful, and crispy on the outside.

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Though it was getting to a point where we were having too much food, we couldn’t pass up for this opportunity to try a traditional Serbian meatball. It was served in a clay plate, hot and sizzling. Topped with Serbian cheese that was mild and resembled mozzarella.

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Last but not least, and thank goodness we were 2 starving kids from the day before, we managed to find room for dessert. A creamy custard cold soup with meringue on top. It was simply delicious and not too heavy even after such a big meal.

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I also indulged in wine. I had a glass of fume blanc. It had a nutty oaky bouquet. Citrus and grapefuit clung to my nose. There was a strong smell of alcohol. Medium viscosity, most likely due to the alcohol. It was a dry wine with good acid making you salivate.

After a delicious meal, we slowly made our way across town again. We stopped by the fortress for some night photos of the bridge and the river. It was a breath taking view up at the top. I took in as much as I could of the view knowing that tonight was our last night in Beograd. Goodbye Beograd. Until next time.

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Onward to Beograd

I’ve been intending to continue documenting my travels to the Balkans and Turkey, but life has been busy. In my last post we were at Sofia, Bulgaria, and we were heading to Beograd (Belgrade), Serbia. We took an overnight train that was very old. We managed to get a private coach so that we could catch some shut eyes during the night. There were a few things that I had to prepare myself for the ride. I didn’t drink any water, to avoid having to use the bathroom. Bring food, because food is not offered on the train even though it’s a good 7 hour ride. If you are considering taking the train from Sofia to Beograd, you also have to be aware that at the boarders between Bulgaria and Serbia, the train operators change from Bulgarian to Serbians. At which point, they will come knocking on your door to verify your passport. I was very nervous when the Serbian boarder police took my passport and left with it. I wasn’t sure who he was, and why he needed to walk away with my passport. As I began to panic he returned with my passport.

Arriving at Beograd, we found ourselves on an old train platform. It was half past six, and we were exhausted. There was a weak wifi signal at the station (thankfully), and I was able to map out our airbnb location.

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I didn’t realize the walk was going to be very long with our heavy backpacks. We walked well over 45 mins on empty stomachs (because we didn’t eat the night before), barely any liquid, and lack of sleep.

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We made our way as quickly as we could to pick up the keys, and headed over to our apartment. We went through the front gate only to realize that I don’t know which apartment and which floor we are on! I walked up and down the building to no avail. The next best thing to do was try to call the landlady. I didn’t know how to use the pay phones in Serbia, so I walked into a convenient store to borrow a phone. The store owner wanted to charge us $5 USD for the phone call. I shocked that she would take advantage of lost travelers like that, but decided that we should pay her anyways because we were exhausted and there was no other way. The phone number didn’t go through. We were officially homeless.

We sat outside on the streets in front of a hotel, hoping that we could get a wifi connection so we can email the lady and hope that she would email back. We sat there and waited. The city was starting to stir and people were out walking their dogs. For a few people, I’m pretty sure we were their amusement for the day. Two foreign girls looking completely lost, sitting on the street with their backpacks. There were a few moments where I was convinced that we would be homeless for the next few days. Just as I started to panic, she emailed us back. We headed back to the building and finally found our apartment.

The place was a studio room with just a bed, a small kitchenette, a small bathroom with a shower. It was simple, well decorated and clean. We were pleased. At last, a hot shower and some food would be nice. R jumped into the shower and low and behold, the water was freezing. She was soaked in freezing water from head to toe. I emailed the landlady and she said that we had to turn on the heat in the apartment and wait half hour before the water warms up. Unfortunately, it was too late for R. We napped for what seemed like just a little while, and when we woke up it was 1pm already. I was starving. We set out to look for food. Having not eaten for at least 36 hours we were determined to feast. We walked around and realized that we were staying in a very quiet neighborhood, a bit away from city centre. Some nice bakeries and restaurants lined the street.

We decided on a retro looking restaurant called “Ime Restorana”. The decor felt like we were stepping back into an old Serbian home. There was little debate as to what we wanted to have, because we were so hungry we wanted to have everything.

We started with fresh corn bread. It was warm and tasty. The bread was a little dense and a little savoury. Very different from the typical french bread that we get in Toronto.

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We then had a mushroom with stuffed cheese and some sort of pork ham. It’s almost like bacon, but not as fatty. When we ordered this, we thought that the portions were going to be a lot smaller, and we didn’t realize that it would be served with rice. the mushrooms were essentially baked with the Serbian cheese (which resembles feta cheese in taste and texture). The mushroom was very juicy and the juice was absorbed into the rice. I’m assuming that the mushroom was made on the bed of rice so that the rice would pick up the flavour. The rice was like a balsamic rice. It’s a little harder than what I’m use to which is more along the lines of soft chewy Japanese rice.
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Next we had a Serbian pie. It was layers of pastry cheese. The pastry layers were crispy on the outside and soft and chewy with the cheese on the inside. Could you tell by now that we’ve over ordered?

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Next we had a simple tomato sauce pasta. There was a generous splash of olive oil. The tomato sauce was very light, and as you can see there were no bits of tomatoes in the pasta. It was just the tomato juice and olive oil. Very tasty and comforting after a long day.

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The protein came next. Chicken breast with herbs in a cream sauce. I personally wasn’t a fan of the cream sauce. I though that there was too much sauce on the chicken and the sauce was better served on the side. The cream sauce was savoury with generous amounts of herbs to balance off the creaminess.

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And did you know that Serbia actually grew it’s own grapes? I was delighted to find out that Serbia made it’s own wine. This wine had a dry finish to it. It had a grapefruit and citrus bouquet. It was pale straw in color with a slight green tinge. What you would expect from the cold climates of Serbia. After I got home, I read a bit more about Serbian wine, and learned that Serbia used to produce a lot more grapes. But during the war, people abandoned the vineyards and went to war. (War is bad, wine is good!) Before the war, in the 1970s Serbia had named 7 main wine regions with further sub region classifications. But now the industry is picking up again. You don’t get Serbian wine in Canada because it’s too expensive to ship. But if you ever get a chance to go to Serbia make sure you try out their wine.

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So now your probably wondering what the total damage is? Well it cost $3,240 Serbian dinar which is approximately $40 canadian! Isn’t that amazing? For such a delicious meal. The staff members spoke a bit of English and was extremely friendly. A lot of smiles, and came to check on the food. They did their best to explain what each dish was. Overall, a fabulous dining experience!

Good food, great company!

I always feel so lucky when I go somewhere, and I get to meet up with friends. Lucky for me, Heidi lives in CPH! Her and her boyfriend (TB) are so sweet for showing me around. Here is the super fun couple!

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We went to Dyrehaven for lunch. It’s a cozy restaurant frequented by locals. The place use to be a bar and then it was purchased by someone else and now they serve smorrebrod as their specialty. The place is easy going, relaxing -very Danish.

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It was a smorrebrod feast. My first was a fried fish smorrebrod with dill, this creamy mayo-like sauce, and some pickles. The second one was a potato with this creamy sauce and fried onions. Both extremely tasty and very filling.

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TB ordered a roast beef and a bacon one.

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Heidi went with a goat cheese salad.

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They also had a very good selection of beer on tap. Being extremely satisfied, we went for coffee and sat outside to enjoy the nice weather.

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Thank you Heidi and TB for being such wonderful hosts.

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So Danish

After much tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep last night at 3am.  When I woke up it was already 12 noon.  I must have been super exhausted.  Realizing that I already lost the morning, I headed out for Torvehallerne.  It’s one of the biggest markets in Copenhagen featuring the best meat cuts, fresh fish, and small food stalls for people to eat in at the bars or take out.  The market looks very posh and so Danish.  The whole building is class to allow for ample amount of sunlight in and allows those outside to see all the happenings inside the market.

 

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There’s definitely something for everyone.  Cheese shop…

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Bottled juice goodness…

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Danish baked goodies filled the air, tempting all by-passers.

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An abundance of fresh vegetables. Perfectly arranged, grown in a nice shape. The Danes approve.

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Here, I also had my first Mikkeller beer. And let me tell you, it’s so good!! SO GOOD! They were recently featured in the NY Times.  I’m not a big beer drinker, but boy did the beer go down easily with a smoked salmon asparagus smorrebord.  I’m going to make sure I have a few more pints of Mikkeller before I go home.

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And if only I had more room in my tummy..

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I also tried an avocado, citrus, ginger juice from the juice bar. Their tag line? Look good naked! (So Danish) Great message, hits home, sticks with you. Bravo once again to the Danes.

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..and as for my juice? Delicious!! You can barely taste the avocado, but the consistency is there. You can taste the ginger, and citrus.

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And as always, there is a focus on relaxing, comfort and enjoying life. Like these girls..

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And this couple, stealing a kiss behind the lemon tree.

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La Vinia

On Saturday night I was sweped away by an elaborate plan orchestrated by Ru and made possible by R.  I was taken to a surprise birthday dinner with a promise that the food will wow me.

We arrived at a small homey restaurant called La Vinia.  The waiters and waitresses were pleasant.  They were very helpful with the menu and gave some really good recommendations too.  Everything looked so delicious, I’m pretty sure we ended up ordering half the menu.

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Gambas al Ajillo: Sautéed Shrimp with Garlic and Olive Oil.  The shrimp was very fresh. It came out in a cast iron pan that was still sizzling hot.  The shrimp was perfectly done.  I would imagine it would be slight under cooked before it was served, and as the food is being served it continues to cook so that when it arrives on my plate, it was perfect.  Very tasty and fresh.  The garlic does not over power the fresh shrimp flavour.

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Sweetbread:  Sweetbreads or ris are  the thymus  (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) of the calf or lamb.  This was slightly gamey. The sauce was heaven.  It was creamy, with lots of spices, and a bit of carrots.  Perfect for dipping fresh bread with.

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Pimientos del Piquill: Piquilo Peppers Stuffed with a Seafood Mouse and an Anisete cream.  The pepper was cooked until it was soft and tender. The seafood mousse was a light cream, with a bit of a salty seafood taste to it.  There was pieces of crab meat in it as well.  This was added to another personal favourite.

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Calamares a la Plancha:  Grilled Calamari with Chilli oil.  The calamari had a slightly charred flavour to it.  It has that crispy savory taste to it.  It was served with a generous drizzle of chili oil which gave the squid a very aromatic flavour.  It was grilled perfectly, not to raw so that it was slimy  but not too cooked either to make it take like rubber.

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Pulpo a la Gallega: Poached Octopus Marinated in Olive Oil and Pimentón. The octopus was so soft, and so flavourful.  We had to ask the waiter how it was prepared. The waiter said that the octopus was tenderized before being cooked by beating.  Then it was poached for in broth.  I’ve never tasted octopus so soft before.  The chewy elastic texture is completely gone.

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Jamón Ibérico: Spanish Ibérico Ham.  I could seriously eat this all day.  Ibérico is the Spanish’s version of prosciutto.  It was slightly salty, the a similar texture as prosciutto.  Excellent with wine and fresh bread. Writing about this post makes me want to go back from some more ibérico.

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Seafood: We also had this seafood dish which had scallop, mussles, shrimp served with a light tomato based sauce. The flavour was light, not over powering the seafood.  This dish compared to all the other ones was good, but not as outstanding.

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Fideuá: Spanish Catalonia Style Spaghetti Pasta with Shrimp, Calamari, Scallops, Monkfish.  This is a pasta version of paellas.  We ordered it because we though the concept was very unique.  The flavouring used such as safforn, and other spice is like the traditional paella, except it is made with pasta and not rice.  The pasta was thick, perfectly al dante to my taste.  First bite, and this reminded me of chinese noodles. Haha.. I know it sounds weird, but it’s good noodle, with a nice broth and seafood.  Very tasty, and I’m glad we tried it.

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Paella de Marisco: Spanish Saffron Rice with Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels, Scallops, Monkfish and Clams.  Paella, the chef’s pride.  The paella was traditionally made with fine safforn spice, infused with flavours of the seafood.  The rice was soft, but not overly cooked.  The flavour was fantastic, with lots of seafood flavour from the shrimp, mussels and calamari. This has got to be the best paella I’ve had since Barcelona. A+++

An assortment of desserts to finish off the night.

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Mango cheese cake

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Lemon Sorbet

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Raspberry Sorbet

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Chocolate Tartufo

Where: La Vinia
Location: Toronto, Ontario
What: Almost half the menu. Too many dishes to list. See above.
Verdict: Highly recommended. Would definitely go back.
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Balkan Bites

We were ecstatic about joining the Balkan Bites food tour.  The tour is free, and runs everyday at 2PM.  The meeting point is always the same:

There was about 15 people on the tour.  A bunch of people from New Zealand studying in England was there, and also a Belgium woman and her Canadian boyfriend was there.  The boyfriend is living in Sofia as of now, and they purchased a rose farm in Bulgaria.  How awesome is that?!!  And we had a camera following us as we were going to be featured in the news that night!!

Watch Video for the News!

Our first stop is Supa Star.  It is a traditional Balkan soup shop.  The decor in the shop was very cute.  It was colourful, fun, and very cozy.

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They serve a variety of cold and hot soup.  We tasted a soup made out of yogurt.  Balkans is known for their yogurt, as they were the original inventors of yogurt.  In fact, Bulgaria is one of the largest exporters of bacterial cultures for yogurt fermentation.  This cold yogurt soup is made simply out of water, dill, cucumber, walnuts, garlic and salt to taste.  It was delicious, and very refreshing.  I think I would try to make this again in the summer.

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Our next stop was at a placed called Lubimoto.  They are a traditional family restaurants tucked away in the corner of a building.  Here we tried the Shopska salata.  It is a traditional salad that is commonly served at dinners.  Usually consist of white cheese, salad, olives, and tomato.

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We also tried Bulgaria’s national drink: Rakia.  A clear alcohol similar to brandy, made by the distillation of fermented fruits (grapes, plums, apricots, pears, apples, cherries, figs, quinces).  The alcohol content is approximately 60% which makes it the drink of choice during the winter season, and summer parties.  It is meant to be sipped slowly, but our New Zealand tour-mates decided that bottoms up was the way to go.

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Feeling all warm and fuzzy from the Rakia we had, our next destination was Sun Moon.  It is a bakery/ soup and sandwich shop.  We tried various homemade jams with bread.  The soup looked very tasty, and Ru and I actually came back here for dinner.  She ordered a bean soup and I had a latte.  So that was the end of our free food tour and we gave a generous tip to our guide as the tour was very fun and informative.

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Other tasties in my tummy from Sofia included:

This Chinese hot dog bun looking thing.  It tasted like one, except the sausage was Bulgarian style and so was the bread.  The bread was so soft and chewy.  Very fresh.

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We had a fish crepe. The crepe was very thin, and it was served with a side of tomatoes and cucumbers.  The sauce in the middle was made of potatoes.  It was slightly sour, tasted a bit like sour cream.  The crepe itself was fresh, chewy.  The mouth feel is a bit different from the ones you get in Paris (which is the standard used when assessing crepes).

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And elder flower fermented tea.  Slightly sweet carbonated tea.

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Dineen

I’ve been in downtown training for the past week, and I fully took advantage of that.  I met up with a few SGI friends who are super pro photographers to go over details for the Oct 12 concert.  We went to Dineen Coffee for the meet.  I was super excited because I always wanted to try out this place.  I’ve walked by it many times and the interior is so trendy and nice.  Perfect for a get together with friends.
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The Baristas were super nice, and we had a quick chat while they were making my latte.  My latte was okay.  The esspresso shot was very good.  It had a very earthy, woody taste to it, which I enjoyed.  The foam was slightly below par, which is why I said my latte was only okay.  The foam consistency was a bit coarser than I liked.  The temperature was done properly -which is hot to the touch at approximately just under 70 degrees Celsius.  Overall, my experience here was good.  I said the latte was okay because I’m holding it to a higher standard -but if you want to know it’s definitely better than your chain coffee shops like Starbucks or Aroma.

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Where: Dineen Coffee
Location: Toronto, Ontario

What: Latte
Verdict: Great hangout place.

Dineen Coffee on Urbanspoon