Author: Laurie Vaquer

How I made chocolate candy for the Day of the Dead in Mexico City How I made chocolate candy for the Day of the Dead in Mexico City

I first met José by email while I was planning my trip to Mexico a few weeks ago. When I plan a trip, the first thing I do research on is potential hosts for Take Me Cooking! The truth is, I am very grateful for the cooking community I met thanks to this venture, they are amazing and I’m so happy to share about them on this blog.

The story behind Totokin

José created a chocolate studio called Totokin in Condesa, Mexico City.

After a few exchanges by email and WhatsApp, we arranged to meet. That day, José explained to me the imaginary tale behind the name Totokin.

Totokin is a penguin who lived with his family and friends on the Glacier, but he felt that there was something different about him, something magical. Suddenly, he magically turned into a Golden Penguin, with a wonderful power: everything he touched could turn into Chocolate. This is how Totokin touched the Glacier and turned it into a Chocolate Glacier. With his powers he was able to melt it and transformed it into a river of refreshing chocolate in which he dived and heated it into a lake of hot chocolate. In the same way, he built a magical world made of chocolate in all its forms, including cookies, ice cream and cakes. Totokin also discovered that the source of his magic came from nothing more and nothing less than his heart because he was born with a chocolate heart.

TOTOKIN actually comes from the word Nahuatl TOTOXOLOTL which means PENGUIN and the word Maya TAAK’IN which means GOLD. KIN also means GOLD in Japanese. With what TOTOKIN means GOLDEN PENGUIN.

The word TOTOKIN has another meaning in Japanese: THE FINAL IS THE BEST. This reminds me of this quote by Jacques Torres:

“Life is short. Eat dessert first. ”

Making Bite Size Skull Chocolate Candy

The day of my visit to Totokin studio, José had received a personalized order for a local business: Skull chocolate Candy! I was in Mexico City just before the Day of the Dead, so this order made total sense.

Totokin is a company dedicated to the manufacture of Chocolate and Chocolate Products with a focus on the healthy market: sugar free, vegan, organic. All their ingredients are local!

José also organizes in their cooking studio a few workshops around the different uses of their delicious chocolate. That day in Mexico, I was lucky enough to have a personalized workshop with José and the Chef, making those bite size skull chocolate! We used white and dark chocolate and a passion fruit syrup that brought a beautiful color to it.

I had a lot of fun, it was super original, not the typical cooking workshop, but definitely worth it if you like chocolate!

How I learned to cook Indian Food in the UK – Recipe included How I learned to cook Indian Food in the UK – Recipe included

A few months ago, I went to the UK and visited Gemma and Matt to have a Take Me Cooking’s team reunion. I stayed for a week and I had the best time talking business but also getting to know them better! We work together as a team on Take Me Cooking remotely: I’m based in Argentina and Gemma and Matt live in the East Midlands, a beautiful region as I got to see for myself that week.

One of my favourite moments during my stay was sharing recipes and cooking together with Gemma who’s also passionate about cooking. She’s previously wrote about how she discovered the Tarte Tatin, one of my favourite French desserts.

Today, I want to tell you about the day she shared with me her passion of Indian food. We cooked a whole Indian meal and I was impressed by the flavours and originality of the dishes! We made Onion Bhaji’s, Chicken Korma and a salad called ‘Chaat’.

I loved it all, but the best and most original to me was the salad: it is a cold salad inspired from Indian Street Food. The recipe was so delicious that I’m going to give it to you here, as Gemma sent it to me (Thanks!).

Continue reading “How I learned to cook Indian Food in the UK – Recipe included”

Flavours from Argentina : 3 Exclusive Empanadas Recipes Flavours from Argentina : 3 Exclusive Empanadas Recipes

Empanadas are one of the most typical food in Argentina, you can find it in every corner in Buenos Aires! Nella is a host at takemecooking.com and offers a delicious cooking workshop where you’ll be cooking empanadas from scratch while drinking Argentine wine, a must when visiting Buenos Aires. Nella hosts this experience with the collaboration of Tour F, a travel company specialized in authentic experiences with locals in Argentina.

I’ll let you discover Nella’s recipe below. It is divided in 3 parts, the dough, the fillings (3 options of fillings here!) and the assembling. As you can see, beef fat is a main ingredient for the dough. It is the traditional way of cooking in Argentina, a country that produces and consumes many different beef products. It is still very much used today. It can be replaced by butter or oil if you don’t find beef fat in your local store!

The Empanadas Dough

Ingredients: 250g beef fat – 1 kg plain flour – Water – Salt

Build a crown with the flour. Put in the middle salt, beef fat and water. Knead everything together. Spread dough with the help of a rolling pin. Cut it in circle. Left the dough to stand in the fridge for at least 30min.

Empanadas dough

The Fillings

BEEF

Ingredients: 300g tenderloin steak – 250g onions – 1 spring onion – 1 red capsicum – 250g pureed tomatoes – 1 hard-boiled egg – Condiments (Origan, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper) – Sunflower oil

Warm up the oil in a pan. Add the onions finely chopped and cook until a nice light brown, then add the red capsicum. Cook until golden brown. Season. Add the finely chopped pieces of meat, stir, add the pureed tomatoes and cook at medium fire until the meat get completely cooked.

Add the hard-boiled egg.

CHICKEN

Ingredients: 300g breast chicken – 250g onions – 1 spring onion – 1 red capsicum – Condiments (Origan, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper) – Oil

Boil the chicken. Warm up the oil in a pan. Add the onions finely chopped and cook until a nice light brown, then add the red capsicum. Season. Add the finely chopped pieces of chicken, stir and cook at medium fire until golden brown.

CORN

1 small corn tin – 1 big onion – 1 spring onion – 1 red capsicum –  20g butter – 20g plain flour – 100mL milk – 100g grated cheese – Ground nutmeg – Salt and pepper – Sunflower oil

Warm up the oil in a pan. Add the onions finely chopped and cook until a nice light brown, then add the red capsicum. Add the butter and stir until it melts, add the flour and cook a bit at medium fire without letting the roux getting too brown. Add the milk at once and stir constantly so it doesn’t ́t go lumpy. Then add salt, pepper, ground nutmeg and corn.

Let it cool down and add the grated cheese.

Assembling – Repulgue in Spanish

Fill up the empanada, close and twist it (repulgar). Paint it with an egg. Cook it in the oven for approximately 20 min.

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Did you know that, in Argentina, each filling calls for a different repulgue (folding technique)? This way, you can easily differentiate which is which once it’s time to eat them. Every shop I’ve ever seen follows the same rules as everybody else! The art of the repulgue takes years of practice. It might seem easy like in this video, but it’s not. Send us pictures of your empanadas and tag us on Social Media @takemecooking

Buen provecho!

Image credit: https://www.taringa.net/+imagenes/empanadas-que-empanada-te-gusta-mas_uos5n

 

10 Things You Must Do and Eat in Patagonia 10 Things You Must Do and Eat in Patagonia

When my family came to visit me, I wanted to go and visit Patagonia with them. I had heard so much about it that I was dying to go and see it for myself. But we only had about 10 days there and Patagonia is huge, so we had to make some choices. After some researching we decided to go and explore 2 sub regions, in the southern part of Patagonia:

  • El Calafate and El Chalten,  where is located the famous Perito Moreno glacier,
  • Ushuaia, the “End of the World”, at the southernmost tip of South America.

We went there at the end of April, which is still Autumn time in the Southern Hemisphere. But the temperatures we experienced there were actually closer to Winter time! So I’d recommend not to go much after those dates except if you like cold temperatures.

In practice, we took a plane from Buenos Aires to El Calafate and then another plane to Ushuaia and then one last domestic flight to go back to Buenos Aires, from where my dad and brother had their flight back to France.

Let’s dive into my favorite parts of the trip! All the pictures are mine.

Around El Calafate

1. Perito Moreno Glacier

As one can read in Wikipedia, this glacier is unusual in that it is advancing, while most glaciers worldwide are retreating. The reason remains debated by glaciologists.The terminus of the Perito Moreno Glacier is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide, with an average height of 74 m (240 ft) above the surface of the water of Argentino Lake. It has a total ice depth of 170 metres (558 ft).

We spent the day around the glacier, first we did a boat trip to get close to the ice and then we went on a hike which gives you a great view of the whole thing. The clouds were hiding the top of the glacier as you can see in the following picture, but I was amazed by the beautiful ice. We could hear the birth of icebergs from times to times when big chunks of ice were falling in the water, absolutely magical.

Perito Moreno

2. Fitz Roy Hike

From El Calafate, we also spent one day in El Chalten, a small village where a lot of hikes depart from, the ultimate trekking destination in Patagonia due to the wide variety of trekking routes accessible to all fitness and experience levels. We chose an easy hike (8 km) to get a chance to see the Fitz Roy peak, located at the border of Argentina and Chile.

Fitz Roy Hike

It was an easy and beautiful hike but we were unlucky because the clouds were surrounding the peak. It’s quite usual to have clouds around the Fitz Roy peak. Do not hesitate to go anyways since the whole hike is worth it and you might even be lucky and see the Fitz Roy when you go!

Fitz Roy peak hidden

3. Fly Fishing

While we were in El Calafate, my dad wanted to go fishing and we passed by a shop called El Calafate Fishing, so we asked if we could go fishing for a day and they recommended us to try the Fly Fishing technique which is a famous sport here! We were curious to try, so we went fly fishing in Roca Lake, nearby.

Fly fishing in Patagonia

So yes, we had to wear those crazy outfits to go in the (cold) water! I have to confess we weren’t lucky and did not catch any fish but I loved the process. Fly Fishing is an art and I really appreciated the sport and the challenge.

Roca Lake in Patagonia

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Around Ushuaia…

4. Tierra del Fuego 

The name Tierra del Fuego was given by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan while sailing for the Spanish Crown in 1520; he was the first European to visit these lands.

The archipelago consists of the main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of many islands, including Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands. Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina.

End of the World Train

Following the establishment of a prison in Ushuaia, in late 1909 and early 1910 the railway line called the End of the World train was established. The steam engine driven railway was built over a length of 25 km (16 mi) into the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The line connected the prison camp with the forestry camp. The primary purpose of the railway was as a freight line to serve the prison of Ushuaia, and hence was known as the “Prison train,” and was used specifically to transport prisoners to the camps and transport the logged timber from forests.

Now the steam engine is still working but transports tourists only! It’s a fun way to visit the National Park and get to know more about its history.

5. Esmeralda Lake Hike

This one is one of my favorites. We were lucky enough to be there for the first snow! The lake was even starting to freeze at its edge. I loved the colors: the emerald from the water and the white snow were unforgettable. You can go on your own but I recommend to go with a guide because the path is not always clear and it can get tricky.

Laguna Esmeralda

6. Boat trip to Les Eclaireurs

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse (the French name “Les Éclaireurs” means “the Scouts”) is a lighthouse standing in the Beagle Channel, a strait separating the main island of Tierra del Fuego from various other small islands.

Lighthouse Les Eclaireurs

We went on a boat trip in the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia port. It was a nice boat ride and we got to witness sea lions near the lighthouse, they are quite cute animals.

Sea Lions

7. The Prison at the End of the World

In the City Center of Ushuaia, we went to visit a Museum called Museo Maritimo y del Presidio. This museum stands inside an old prison. Here’s an extract from this interesting news article which explains why a prison was built at the End of the World.

At the turn of the 20th century, Argentina and Chile were both pursuing southern expansion and several battles had already been fought over territorial claims. Control over Tierra del Fuego was considered especially important because the Magellan strait was an important strategic passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

For these reasons the government in Buenos Aires decided it was necessary to establish a population in this far-flung territory.  When the construction of the national penitentiary began in 1902, there were already a dozen prisoners living in wood and tin huts. The convicts sentenced to the penitentiary in Ushuaia were dangerous repeat offenders and political prisoners sent down from jails in Buenos Aires province.

The prisoners themselves were forced to construct the penitentiary. When the building was finally completed in 1920 it included a central hall and five pavilions, each with 76 individual cells. The prison, however, was habitually overcrowded and often crammed over 600 prisoners into its 380 single cells.

Many were serving life sentences, and they were forced into tough manual labour. Projects included the construction of Ushuaia’s first electricity generator and grid, roads, bridges, printing press, telephone wires, sewage system and fire department. As compensation for their labour prisoners received a tiny salary and a primary school education. The prisoners were also compelled to venture out on the infamous “prisoner’s train” to retrieve lumber from the forest which today makes up Tierra del Fuego National Park.

Though a couple of escapes were attempted, each time the runaways returned to the prison begging for shelter and forgiveness.

In 1947, with Argentine territory in Tierra del Fuego firmly established and Ushuaia a functioning city, president Juan Domingo Perón closed the national penitentiary for humanitarian reasons.

Some areas of the building were not renovated and you can feel how sinister this prison must have been. Visiting this museum is a must to understand the history of the City and the region.

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The Seafood in Patagonia is amazing, so I couldn’t end this list without a couple recommendations for what to eat…

8. Merluza Negra

The Patagonian toothfish is a species of cod icefish found in cold waters between depths of 45 and 3,850 m. My dad is big on fish but he had never heard of this one and he was amazed by it. This species is far from the fish we are used to eat in France. Its average weight is 7–10 kg (15–22 lb), with large adults occasionally exceeding 100 kilograms (220 lb).

If you like fish, this is a must since you are in the right region to try it, surrounded by the cold waters of Ushuaia. The best one we had was at the Cauquenes Hotel Restaurant, from where the picture below was taken!

Merluza Negra fish

9. Centolla (King Crab)

King Crab is another of the region’s seafood specialty and you can try it in different dishes, from an entree like the picture below or as a main course, such a treat!

King Crab

This picture was taken at the Cauquenes Hotel Restaurante, during a cooking experience. That day, the Chef showed us how he made some of the dishes served at the restaurant.

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Last but not least, I think you deserve a treat after all of these activities!

10. Los Cauquenes Spa

Lps Cauquenes Spa

This spa is amazing, with beautiful views to a lake overlooking the Andes Mountains! Perfect after a day of hiking in the snow.

Off the Beaten Path: Uncovering the Beautiful Region of Cordoba in Argentina Off the Beaten Path: Uncovering the Beautiful Region of Cordoba in Argentina

Cordoba Region is not the typical destination when visiting Argentina. But it actually is a well known destination for Porteños, inhabitants of the port and capital, Buenos Aires. It is not far, a couple hours by plane or an overnight bus trip from Buenos Aires. It is the second largest city of Argentina, but Porteños actually like to spend their holiday out of the city of Cordoba, in the beautiful mountains surrounding the city.

I went to Cordoba a couple months ago on my way back to Argentina from Chile. Cordoba is located close to the border between the 2 countries. I decided to stop there because I was curious of this region and also because a friend was celebrating her birthday there that weekend, 2 very good reasons to go!

The first few days, I stayed in the city to explore it and I worked in a few very nice cafés with good wifi. I particularly recommend the Club de Café (in the street Duarte Quiros). I always look for good places to spend a few hours with my computer and a nice coffee, wherever I go. I felt comfortable and safe wandering around in Cordoba, it actually looks a little bit like Buenos Aires, but more relaxed!

As a coincidence, I had received a message from Mati a few days before the trip. Mati got in touch with me because he heard about Take Me Cooking and he loved the idea! He had traveled a lot himself and was now based in the Cordoba region with his family. Since I was planning to go to Cordoba, we planned to meet. Mati has studied cooking and he’s recently opened a restaurant, so he told me he would love to host a cooking experience himself and it sounded amazing.

The following day, he offered to take us to visit an interesting spot near his restaurant and show us around, it was so kind of him! Mati was born in the region and he knows it well, so it was an absolute treat to have him as a guide for a day. We began that day by a 2-hours drive to La Cumbrecita. This village is beautiful but surreal, it’s actually a Swiss-German village that was meticulously recreated by a German family from Berlin who bought the land in the 1930s. It’s true that the vegetation reminded me of the Swiss mountains, but we were also bluffed by the wooden cabins, the street signs in German and the restaurants that served schnitzel and goulash and Bavarian-style beer! You can read more about the origin of La Cumbrecita in this interesting article by The Telegraph.

So we wandered around the tracks and stopped to have a German lunch in one of the many wooden cabins (there are many hotels and restaurants since the spot is unique and a great nature getaway).

After lunch, time to hit the road again, next stop: Tertulia Bar. Mati and his mother run this bar/restaurant in a small village between Cordoba and La Cumbrecita. It’s located in a beautiful green neighborhood and they make you feel at home! Literally, the bar used to be a house and the kitchen is at the center of it, completely open so you can see Mati at work. In the back garden, the traditional barbecue is ready for some yummy cooking as well!

We had some delicious craft been and a beautiful platter of picadas, a typical food similar to finger food. Cordoba region is famous in Argentina to have some of the best fresh dry sausages, cured meat and cheese.

Although Cordoba region is not in most touristy itineraries, I absolutely recommend to stop there, at least for a couple days, to explore this amazing region off the beaten path and taste delicious local food!

If you stop in Cordoba, don’t miss the occasion to meet Mati and learn more about the Argentine plow disc cooking style! It looks like a wok, but it’s actually much more, learn more about this barbecue cooking technique in this Los Angeles Times article.

3 Delicious Argentinian Pastries and my Experience Learning to Make Them 3 Delicious Argentinian Pastries and my Experience Learning to Make Them

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get to be part of an amazing hands-on baking workshop in Buenos Aires, organized by my friend Séverine, the founder of Tour F, a travel agency offering a wide range of authentic experiences in Argentina.

As you can see on my picture below, we were given an apron with a Spanish expression written on it: Las manos en la masa… which could be translated to getting your hands dirty, but with a focus on pastries since la masa means dough in Spanish.

The pastries chef is Angie, she’s passionate about baking and she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Chefs School, she’s a pro at this and learning from her was an absolute pleasure. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this class because I don’t usually have a sweet tooth, but the quality of those 3 pastries were exceptional and they had nothing to do with what you can buy already made.

2. Making Alfajores de maizena

Alfajores are the most famous Argentine treat and it’s mainly made of Dulce de leche, this local caramel made of milk and sugar. For those who didn’t know, Argentina is full of cows, (like Normandy, but bigger) and you can find here the best meat. Dairy products are huge as well and Dulce de leche is one of them. I’ve never met an Argentine not liking Dulce de leche!

But we did not make our own Dulce de leche this time, Angie explained to us that it was a long process and it’s much more convenient to buy it already made which is what everyone does.

There are many types of Alfajores. The one we made is one of the most common, it’s called Alfajor de maizena. Apart from Dulce de leche, the ingredients include white flour, baking powder, maizena, sugar, egg yolk and lemon zest. Final touch, we dipped them into some coconut powder and they looked and tasted delicious!

2. Fried Argentinian pastry: Torta Frita

Then, we made Torta Frita which is quite similar to doughnuts, with one difference, we used beef fat, which is very local!

As explained by Angie in the picture above, it’s important to make a small hole in the middle of the dough in order to facilitate the frying process; this way, the frying oil will cook both sides without having to turn them over.

3. My absolute fav: Pasta Frola

Last but not least, I fell in love with Pasta Frola. I had seen this typical pastry in cafés and tasted it, but these were so much better. Making the dough makes all the difference!

This pastry has a singular look, with the typical grid pattern. The tart is filled with quince paste and it goes very well with this dough.

As you can see in the picture below, we ended up with a huge platter and we ate it with some delicious tea. There were some leftovers and we all took some home!

Such a great moment learning about one big part of the local gastronomy! I’m even more grateful by the fact that I got to share this experience with a dear friend I met here, Sushmita (you can call her Sush or Sushi!). Sush loves baking and she really appreciated this workshop, she learned a lot from Angie. You can read her full review here!

Angie is not currently available, she’s on maternity leave! But if you visit Buenos Aires in the next months, do not miss this opportunity, sweet tooth or not, this is the best and most typical  pastries you can taste in Argentina.

My experience cooking Chilean in Valparaiso My experience cooking Chilean in Valparaiso

When I moved to Buenos Aires one year ago, the idea in the back of my mind was to get to know Argentina, but also the rest of South America. Being based in Argentina gives me a great opportunity to travel to the countries all around.

At the beginning of this year, I realised that I hadn’t really travelled much in South America so far. As a matter of fact, I had travelled to many places in 2017, but not in South America apart from a couple places in Argentina. It was time to change that!

One of the things I don’t like about Argentina is the price of flying. The high tax policies make it more expensive to travel from Buenos Aires than from other cities nearby. I really wanted to go to Colombia after hearing so many good things about it,but Colombia is not too close from Argentina and therefore quite expensive. I believe it’s cheaper to fly from Europe to Colombia than from Argentina to Colombia, how sad (for me)!

I discovered that travelling from Chile to Colombia was much cheaper. Eureka, I had found a solution: I’d travel to Chile and then to Colombia. Chile was also high on my travel list, so this solution made a lot of sense to me.

I will have to tell you more about Colombia but, first things first, here is a few words about my trip to Chile, with a focus on the city of Valparaiso my coup de coeur.

First impressions

I arrived in Santiago de Chile. I had planned to go to Valparaiso for almost a week and it was a great decision. I love big cities, but I also love to get away from them from time to time.

Valparaiso is only an hour and a half away from the capitol Santiago; it’s a very easy commute, and so cheap! I was amazed by how nice and easy it was to get to this beautiful port. I wish there was a way to get to the ocean so easily from Buenos Aires!

What’s great about Valpo (this is how locals refer to Valparaiso, I would have thought Valpa, but no), as well as the ocean views it has culture and history. I had the pleasure to go on a Street Art tour and I totally recommend it, understanding this art always gives a better idea of a place.

One of the many Street Art pieces I visited on the tour

Valparaiso is much more than just another touristy city. The port and the fishermen have made the city the way it is today and it is still a huge part of its economy. This is also visible in many graffiti pieces illustrating, for example, the opposition of many inhabitants to a controversial new fishing law. In 2012, this governmental decision provoked strong protests in Chile.

Meeting the right person at the right time

After some research about cooking opportunities in Valpo, I had the chance to meet Martin who created the Chilean Cuisine Cooking Class. The following day (my last day!) I participated in a cooking class with Ines.

Martin comes from Australia and has been living in Chile for a long while now. Before Valparaiso became such a popular place to visit, Martin managed a hostel and he often listened to guests complain about the lack of possibilities to cook while in the city. This is where the idea for the Chilean Cooking Class comes from!

I can certainly identify with this story since I always look for cooking experiences while travelling, feels great to know I’m not the only one.

Market tour

Colourful vegetables

On my last day, as planned, I met Ines in a café in the centre of the city where two other guests joined us, a French couple travelling the world together.

We started by going to the main market to buy the ingredients, the best way to start a cooking class! Since Valparaiso is a port and we were going to cook some Chilean ceviche, we went to buy some fresh fish, reineta specifically. Chile also produces delicious fruits and vegetables and it was a pleasure to hear Ines tell us more about them. The country has the advantage of being long, this means that it has different climates and you can find strawberries, lemon and more tropical fruits, very yummy!

At the market in Valparaiso

Cooking time

We then went straight to the kitchen and started cooking, beginning with the dessert: leche asada, which is a delicious flan.

Next, we prepared the fish for the ceviche ,we mixed onions, tomatoes, olive oil, cilantro and chili which are the ingredients for the pebre, a condiment that basically goes with everything, very fresh and tasty.

Ines preparing the fish

We then prepared the pastel de choclo, a sort of corn gratin that I was very excited about as I really like recipes with corn! I wasn’t disappointed with that one, it’s very creamy, not light but so good!

Cutting the corn for the Pastel de Choclo

Finally, we made some empanadas! Yes, it was quite a feast. I had made empanadas in Argentina but in Chile, the recipe is a bit different. Ines’ recipe used wine instead of milk for the dough and the empanadas are bigger than the ones you usually see in Argentina.

Concentration for the empanadas

The drinks

The food was quite amazing but we were not disappointed with the drinks either. While we were tasting the food, we had just made, we were drinking different Chilean wines, the famous Carmenière, a cépage almost exclusively produced in Chile.

Ines serving the Pisco Sour

At the end of the feast, we also drank some delicious pisco sour, the typical cocktail made in Chile. You could also drink Pisco in Peru. Very interesting to see that Chile and Peru compete in terms of Pisco and ceviche as well. I don’t want to take sides but I can tell you that this experience is worth it if you get the chance to visit beautiful Valpo.


You can book for this experience in a few minutes on www.takemecooking.com.

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Eating is the best part
The Sunday I went to the Delta Tigre The Sunday I went to the Delta Tigre
A few weeks ago, I was invited to spend the day in a blue house by the Tigre river, just outside of Buenos Aires. I woke up early and took the train to a small town called Tigre. After a few difficulties (even speaking Spanish, things can be complicated here!), I was on a boat to la Casa Azul aka the Blue House. Each house here has a number, as if the rivers were streets, as well as a name, but people only know the house’s names. Numbers are just for decoration it seems!

Hugo’s house was indeed blue, and beautiful. Like any other house on the Delta, the place is only reachable by boat, this is because the Delta is a series of islands and swamps where there are no roads whatsoever.

About Tigre

The NY Times wrote a beautiful article about Tigre and the Museo de Arte de Tigre:

“Tigre is named for the jaguars — which were called tigers — that once roamed here, before the islands became important agriculturally for wicker and fruit in the mid-1800. After an 1877 yellow fever epidemic in Buenos Aires, Tigre was seen as a healthful retreat, 45 minutes by train from Buenos Aires.”

A quiet day by the Tigre river
A quiet day by the Tigre river

Hugo and Séverine became friends through their passion of Tango. Séverine arrived in Buenos Aires from France around the same time as I did last year. She explains why Tigre holds a special place in her heart:

“What fascinates me about Tigre is how the colours and landscapes change all the time. You have blossoms all year long since migrants came with their plants. Right now, we have the bay trees and in spring, there’s wisteria everywhere. Tigre also changes from one day to the next. You have crowds during the weekend and the water is totally quiet during the week. We are never bored here, there’s always something to do!”

The Blue House aka La Casa Azul

I arrived around 12pm and was very pleased by the positive vibes around the house and its garden. The house itself is great but the garden by the river is an absolute gem. Apart from the fact that it has a private deck and kayaks, it has a slackline and even a couple hammocks! It really is a paradise just 40 minutes by train from Buenos Aires city centre.

La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul

Shortly after I arrived, we started getting everything ready for lunch. We prepared a tomato sauce and the dough for the pizza that we were going to cook on the parrilla (aka grill) as well as the provolone cheese, the meat and the vegetables we were going to grill.

Hugo the asador (grill master)
Hugo the asador (grill master)

The pizza was my favourite part of lunch and the way it was cooked was a first for me. This technique is widely used in Argentina, since it is the country where cooking on the fire and Italian roots are magically combined and it is so yummy!

Final touch: some roquette on the grilled pizza
Final touch: some roquette on the grilled pizza

Tango music

I had a great time in Hugo’s house with the other guests, enjoying a great lunch, but the best moment that day was when, after lunch, Hugo started playing his bandoneon, which is an essential instrument in most tango ensembles. Tigre is such a quiet place that I could really enjoy the sound of Hugo’s music. The green surroundings made it even more beautiful.

Questions

  • Want to join Hugo and Séverine next time? Check the dates and book this experience here.
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I went to LA for a wedding and ended up fruit picking with strangers I went to LA for a wedding and ended up fruit picking with strangers
In 2017, I was lucky enough to be invited to, not one, but two weddings and one of them was taking place in Palm Springs, California. A few years ago, I visited San Francisco and I enjoyed it, but, to my surprise I enjoyed Southern California even more! Let me tell you why.

Discovering Los Angeles and my first Airbnb experience

Los Angeles has the reputation of being a city where you can’t go anywhere without a car and this is definitely the case, but with apps like Uber, owning a car is not the only option anymore. Another transportation option I wasn’t expecting to be convenient in LA was the bike. I had booked my first Airbnb experience (ever) and it was a Beverly Hills Bike Tour.

When I arrived at the bike shop, they told me I was the only one who had booked that tour and they offered for me to join another group instead for a much bigger tour that would take me all around LA county. It sounded like a lot of cycling (around 30 miles!) but it also was an upgrade that would allow me to visit all the different neighbourhoods and not just Beverly Hills. So, I saw an opportunity there and I said yes! I think I did well because this tour completely shifted my perspective and I discovered that LA was not all about the cars, but could also be very enjoyable by bike. The variety of urban and natural landscapes is astonishing. We started with a glamourous tour of the famous mansions in Beverly Hills and Bel Air and then we went all the way until the ocean, from Santa Monica to Venice and back to West Hollywood. I absolutely loved it. The weather was incredible, the guide was really nice and I met great people who were doing the tour with me and with whom I’m still in touch today.

My bike and I in front of Santa Monica Beach
My bike and I in front of Santa Monica Beach

It made me realise that the fact that Los Angeles is so spread out can be a good thing and allowed us to have a long and enjoyable bike ride from the mountains to the beachside. I also recognise that the guide, Dan, helped us really enjoy this ride as he knew exactly where to go and made everything so smooth. When we were in Venice beach, someone mentioned a Netflix show that was all about this neighbourhood, Flaked, and I had a lot of fun watching it afterwards! Booking a bike tour is now on my list anywhere I go.

Meeting Army

A few days after, I was on my way to my second Airbnb experience which was located in the South of LA. I booked it because its originality appealed to me and it seemed in touch with the local community which is everything I’m looking for when I travel. The experience was called Harvest Trade & Lemonade. When I arrived, I was the only one who signed up that day, a private experience, great news! Just in time to meet my host, Army, and we were already on our way to explore the neighbour’s trees in her Jeep.

Picking pomegranate
Picking pomegranate

We started with a beautiful pomegranate tree and we started picking them up with a special tool I had never seen before (I guess I’m an urban person): a fruit picker basket! It was quite a challenge but I managed to pick up some fruits and it felt amazing.

We then went to pick up lemons and oranges in the back yard of a friend of a friend of Army’s a few more blocks away. I thought this experience was such a great idea since so many people don’t have time to pick fruit in their own garden, it would be a shame if no one picked them. What’s more, each time, Army offered to give some fruit to the tree owners, so it’s a win-win situation.

While we were hopping from garden to garden, Army was also giving me a tour of the area. It was gorgeous, with a beautiful sunset over the ocean. Upon our return to her house, we used the fruits we had just picked to make lemonade and a gigantic fruit salad to go. I had such a great time and I enjoyed getting to know Army, she’s a beautiful person!

Time for fruit cooking!

When Army heard about Take Me Cooking, she got curious and thought it would be nice to cook the fruits in whole recipes and host a cooking experience. So, I am happy to announce today that you can now book a fruity cooking experience with Army on www.takemecooking.com (and it includes fruit picking!).

Army in her beautiful kitchen
Army in her beautiful kitchen
Which dishes should you cook with your guests? Which dishes should you cook with your guests?
I often have people asking me this question and there’s not one answer that suits all. I believe the best dishes are your own, the ones that best tell your story.

However, the following factors are key:

  • Dishes related to your culture: we want your guests to learn more about your culture through the food you’ll be cooking together.
  • Your family stories: if you add a personal touch to the experience, your guests will be grateful to experience a real and authentic moment with you. Do you often cook a dish your grandma (or grandpa) used to cook?
  • Cook something you’re familiar with: you want to be able to cook without a recipe, so that you can show the cooking process while talking to your guests. It does not have to be a fancy dish; your guests will be happier to learn some tips to master a simple and delicious recipe than to cook a complicated dish they would most likely be unable to make again back home.

Potatoes from the Andean region, Argentina
Potatoes from the Andean region, Argentina
  • Use locally sourced ingredients: your guests are most likely interested in the local ingredients that are grown or produced in the area. If they have arrived a few days prior to the experience, they might have visited local markets and grocery stores and wondered about a product they’ve seen but not known about.

You might still be unsure about what to offer during your experience. Read on if that’s the case!

Cooking or baking

Photo by Gaelle Marcel — Unsplash
Photo by Gaelle Marcel — Unsplash

Our name (Take Me Cooking) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer baking experiences. On the contrary, you should! Baking is so much fun and I’m sure some of you have a baking recipe you love: the best cookies, cheesecake, alfajores or crepes for example. Baking is part of a lot of family traditions and your guests would I’m sure love to hear more about it!

Whole menu or single dish

It all depends how long you can allow for each experience. You should also allow time for guests to enjoy what they have made. For example to learn one dish you may wish to allow around 2 hours, whereas an entire menu may take around 4–5 hours dependant on the complexity of your dishes. You can also have a look at the experiences we already offer, it’s always good to offer something new.

Around cooking

Cooking experiences can sometimes go hand in hand with a lot of other fun activities. In addition to the cooking, you could offer:

  • A market tour: this is a great idea if the experience takes place within walking distance of a nice local market with fresh fruit and vegetables you can use in your recipes.

Hong Kong — Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Hong Kong — Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
  • A quick tour of the neighbourhood: if you don’t live close to a nice market, you could show your guests your favourite spots and give them some historical or interesting facts about the area.
  • A street art tour: some cities are particularly street art friendly and you might live (or be holding the experience) in a neighbourhood where it’s possible to observe some nice urban art pieces. You can also easily combine a neighbourhood visit (or market tour) with a street art tour.
  • Live music: some live music is a great way to boost the experience. Maybe you can play an instrument and could offer to play a song at the end. If you can’t play an instrument nor sing, some hand-picked songs played during the event will do the trick!
  • Poem reading: if you are a poetry fan or if you have a poem in mind and would like to read it to your guest (maybe in the original language with a translation), I know this is something I would appreciate myself as a guest.
  • Language informal lesson: the cooking experience is a good opportunity for your guests to learn some key words. You might want to tell them about the local slang, how Spanish is not spoken the same in all Spanish speaking countries for example.
  • Improv’: how about some improv’ games during the experience? They are a great ice-breaker and will allow everyone to get to know each other a bit better.

An experience with a theme

You might wonder what I mean by having a theme. Your experience could be quite specific and follow a theme of some sort. For example, If you are from Mexico maybe you could revisit the recipes from the book ‘Like Water from Chocolate’. Other examples may be offering an inspired experience such as an experience inspired by Pop Culture (Gilmore Girls, Star Wars, Harry Potter… etc) How about setting up an experience about cooking ‘like old times’?

About the food itself, you can focus on organic food if you know where to find the ingredients, or have a vegan experience if you believe in this lifestyle.

From an experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina
From an experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I think I’ve shared with you all that I could think of when it comes to starting an experience. This is an important part of becoming a host and I hope this article inspires you to come up with your own and that you’ll get in touch so that we can soon list your awesome cooking experience on www.takemecooking.com.