Category Archives: traditional

Manos Small World – a wonderful small world in Santorini

It may seem very difficult to decide on where to book your hotel on Santorini, especially if you are looking for one that combines it all – perfect location, breathtaking views, quality accommodations, and the spirit or heart of the island.

After we landed on Santorini and collected our luggage, we were taken by taxi (arranged in advance by the hotel) to Manos Small World, where we were surprised to be greeted by name.  My first reaction was “Ahem, do I know you?” Imagine my embarrassment when I realized that the person who had walked up to greet us was the owner of the hotel, Thanasis. Like a modern day Hercules, he schlepped our two heavy pieces of luggage down the steps to the hotel.  Hard to imagine that he has been greeting his guests and carrying their luggage this way for over 20 years since he opened the hotel in July, 1990 at the age of 24. Today, almost 50 years of age and the father of two grown up children, he is still full of positive vibes for his small world and guests.

If you were disappointed by the drive from the airport towards Fira and the other villages, you will be very happily surprised or relieved when you arrive at the Manos Small World. This is the Santorini you have seen in pictures or heard of from descriptions of the island. It is complete with white washed cave houses decorated with blue window shades and almost blinding bright bougainvillea flowers.

Manos Small World reflects the personality of Thanasis himself – calm, warmhearted, attentive and full of positive emotions for his guests or friends, as he likes to call them. I had the privilege and honor to take a look the pictures and memos he has collected since the first day he opened his small world for business. It was very touching to read the messages left by guests who came for single visits or returned time and again. The memories include the pictures he has received from all over the world thanking Thanasis for his hospitality and the wonderful stay at his charming place.

Today, Manos Small World offers 11 rooms on three different floors, all facing the Caldera, with views of Firostefani and Fira, as well as Imerovigli and in the far north- west Oìa. The rooms are all plenty large, with a small kitchenette, a sitting area complete with a small welcome bottle of white wine, and a relaxing sofa area. The bathrooms are close to the sleeping area, equipped with hair drier, and basic amenities. Breakfast is served at your dedicated table, in front of the room, from 8am until 11am or even later. The breakfast is simple but of high quality, much better than any buffet breakfast at large hotel chains, prepared from traditional Greek dishes with care and lots of love.

Book your vacation on Santorini directly with Thanasis on www.manos-santorini.com

Thanasis is happy to help with any recommendations for lunch or dinner in any town on the island, information about which beach is good to visit (depending on the wind direction) and organization of sailing trips, rental of car or bikes or anything else you can possible imagine. If you ever think of getting married on Santorini, I am sure that Thanasis will make your dreams come true in his little world.

Tips:

  • 3-5 days on Santorini is enough time to explore the whole island, best by scooter or four-wheel bike.
  • Oìa is famous for the sunset, but beware that the whole island will be squeezing into the tight passages around the areas with a view.  Either you get there early in plenty of time to get a nice drink on one of the many terraces or prepare yourself for a mad rush that feels like “this is the last sunset we will ever get to see” situation.
  • Driving on the island is ok, although you shouldn’t trust too much on the driving rules. As long as you are safe and watch out for the other crazy drivers, you’ll be fine.
  • Santorini compared to other islands may not really offer the best Greek food.  Prices are quite high and quality is average as we found out on the three nights. Fresh fish of the day is always a good choice just beware as many of the seafood options may be frozen.
  • Ask Thanasis for restaurant recommendations to make sure you do not step into the bad tourist food trap and mistakenly take that for traditional Greek food.
  • Recommendations: Mama Thira, Remvi, Aktaion.
  • Room 8 is on the top floor at the end so you have your silence and people are not walking by your door or table. But as guests seemed to be a little like Thanos himself, calm and respectful, any other room is perfectly fine.
  • Rooms 8 – 11 are all on the top floor with the added benefit of no noise from moving chairs in the rooms above.

 

To Beef or Not to Beef

The Officina della Bistecca and Dario Cecchini’s
philosophy of butchering

To meet Dario Cecchini, the owner of the Antica Macelleria in Panzano in Chianti, is worth every kilometer on the windiest road in Tuscany. Following in the footsteps of 8 generations of Cecchini butchers, the Ulysses of meat, how he likes to call himself is the personification of the “divina cucina di carne”. Anyone who thought the Argentinians or Americans cook the best steaks, has never had a taste of Dario’s heavenly Florentine steaks.

The recommendation to get a seat at Dario Cecchini’s table came from a Florentine friend, but it also came with an expectation warning to not be disappointed if nothing is available since tables are booked weeks in advance. So, one day before our only chance to stop at this Tuscany institution our luck ran true in the form of a forecast for rain that turned into a sunny day and available seats on the outdoor terrace.

Not really knowing what to expect (except for the best meat in the region) what we received exceeded anything we could have imagined. To call a meal at the Officina della Bistecca lunch or dinner would be an insult to the “foodtainment” we experienced. I am not sure we will ever be able to replicate the conditions of our first visit. The date was April 25th, which in Italy is their WWII Liberation Day. All two of the main streets of Panzano were packed with cars and people. If it wasn’t for all the Hells Angels of Chianti, we might have missed the Antica Macelleria Cecchini.

outsideThe simple entrance of the Macelleria on the street level is split into a small dinning area and a full service meat counter with it’s own bar playing heavy metal music. At first, we didn’t know where to enter past the bustling crowd or even who to ask about our miracle reservation. We finally settled on asking the butcher at the counter who directed us to the back of the shop where we could only see a door to the meat locker. Squeezing past more of the Chianti Chapter Angels rocking out to Guns n’ Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine while eating and drinking some Chianti red, we noticed a plain sliding door tucked in the back left corner of the room. The gatekeeper behind the door checked us off the list, admitted us up a narrow flight of stairs past the indoor dinning area to the outdoor terrace. Yeah!

Set up like an Italian wedding from the 50’s were two long tables that would have been at home in any beer hall complete with place mats describing the table setvarious cuts of meat on a cow and not one-centimeter spare distance between you and your neighbor – this was our final destination.

Being a bit early to the feast, we had our choice of where to sit and choose a comfortable place at the far end of the table. There were bowls filled with carrots, celery and red onion rings, a simple bean soup, baked potatoes and bread for sides. Even the salt was special consisting of Cecchini’s own mix of salt and herbs perfect for everything on the table. With the table menuset, we were about to begin.

The opening act was a Chianti crudo, apparently one of Dario’s signature dishes. Even if you don’t like raw meat, I can guarantee you, it’s the best beef tartar you will ever try. Next up was the Carpaccio di culo (bum cut) quickly followed by the third course of Costata alla Fiorentina (Bone-in Rib eye or Strip steak). This was followed by my personal favorite, the Bistecca Panzanese.

“Ladies and gentleman, I gave you the Chianti Tuna, not sushi of the fish, but the sushi del Chianti, and now…. I am presenting to you… her majesty, the Biiiiistecca alla Fiorentinaaaaaa!”

Just when you think it cannot get any better, Angelo, the master of grill, stepped out onto the terrace and lifted his hands, holding two big chucks of meat in serviettes, yelling to the crowed:

DSC00213… and that is the moment, when you can feel the never ending wine, the comfortable and friendly atmosphere, that the friends (strangers no more) who with you share this unforgettable meal go absolutely ballistic! It somehow manages to get even louder when Dario Cecchini comes out to take his bow, blowing a loud horn, giving hugs, kisses, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

The meat seems to be never ending, but when it finally stops coming to the table, the meal is finished off with an extraordinary olive oil cake (sounds much stranger than it is – a real must try), coffee and grappa. All of this you get for 50 Euro a person – a simply unbeatable value for the price.

Dario is indeed a butcher extraordinaire, a theatrical host and an artist who butchers animals to the sound of heavy metal rock music (maybe this helps to explain the Hells Angels on the day of our visit), and has developed a stage act where he butchers an entire carcass while quoting from the works of Dante. Dario is a true example of how a career with a heart, passion for ones work, for food and for the animals can result in tastes and flavors that are not only authentic, but truly poetic.

Tips:
Dario Cecchini has three restaurants in Panzano.

Make your reservation long enough in advance.

Seek and hide truffles in Siena – Taverna San Giuseppe

The choice of restaurants in Siena is just as large at the hotel choice. Some of the restaurants you can find on TripAdvisor or other sites catering to frequent travelers. Luckily we had recommendations from a friend’s wife (with support from her local colleagues) presenting us with an exclusive list of local favorites to choose from. We trusted our friends’ direct and especially authentic, Italian suggestions and were rewarded with a special experience at the Taverna di San Giuseppe. This is how fromfriendsforfriends.ch works.

The Taverna di San Giuseppe is a short walk up an inclined street leading away from the Piazza del Campo. It is somewhat hidden and a nice surprise when you find it as you are in an area where you don’t expect a restaurant anymore.

The interior is warm and inviting and really feels as though you are in a Cantina with its wooden tables and rustic walls. The owner’s son Matteo told us that the current building dates back to the year 1100 and older still, the wine cellar housed in the tufa rock of an old Etruscan house dates back to 200 BC. Opened in 1998 by Marco Neri and Lorella, a Sienese family, the restaurant used to be an auto garage and a carpenters’ workshop. Matteo could still remember the cars lined up for repair and mechanic parts hanging off the walls.

The San Giuseppe menu features several classics such a Ribolita (a hearty potage made with bread and vegetables), Brasato (braised beef or stewed with vegetables), and Bistecca Fiorentina, but the recommendation we selected was the fileto with truffels and Prunetti olive oil and the cinghiale (wild boar). Of course you will also find a great variety of homemade pasta including Gnudi, Pici, and Tagliatelle, choices of meats such as prosciutto, salumni, sausages, and finally a great choice of cheeses from the wine cellar.

When you order your food, ask Matteo for a recommendation on the wine in combination with the meals and then take a walk down to see the wine cellar while the food is being prepared.

The cellar is indeed tremendous with more than 500 labels of national and local wines, of course mostly Tuscan ones. The wine cellar can be reserved for private parties and events as well as private wine tastings and wine classes.

La Taverna di San Giuseppe is indeed a restaurant worthy of a recommendation in Siena. While the choices on the menu are vast, it is the small things that matter in the end, and for me it was the attention of the service (one waiter even brought me a little stool for my handbag), the excellent quality of food and the comfortable environment.

Tipp: Book a table after 9 pm and you will get the local environment, rather than the non-Italian visitors.

Address:
La Taverna di San Giuseppe
Via G. Dupré, 132, 53100 Siena
Tel +39 0577 42286
www.tavernasangiuseppe.it

 

Lots of love from the …liebes Rot-Flüh

The …liebes Rot-Flüh 5-star hotel, not even 3 hours away from Zürich, located by the small Haldensee, offers plenty for a romantic, relaxing weekend get-away. The wellness and spa area of the …liebes Rot-Flüh is 3000m², including different sauna, Turkish steam bath, outdoor swimming pool, relaxation area with waterbeds, Ayurveda temples, as well as an indoor pool provides enough variety for a whole weekend.

Shut the world out for some time…

The 101 rooms and suites are either very traditional Tyrolese with floor carpets, wood and colourful curtains, kitschy but high quality decoration or modern, wooden floor rooms, glass walls and classy arrangements. The rooms ranging from double comfort, double bio, comfort suite, nobel and rural suite, Cinderella junior or luxury suite, Spa luxury and Penthouse suite are either in the main house or in the attached houses, some of them offering space for up to 12 people. You will find bathrobes, slippers and even a spa bag for your things to back when going to the wellness area. You can also test Samina beds and accessories in certain rooms. When asked for Samina pillows, they were provided at no additional costs. Great service.

The spa is one of my favorite spots in the …liebes Rot Flüh. With an area over 700 m² and a wonderful water garden, the offer of massages, beauty treatments, and Hawaiian or Ayurveda rituals you will have a though choice to make. Definitely a different style than the opulent exterior and interior of the hotel, with clear lines, water, slate stone, canopy beds and water wall…

The 4 restaurants offering traditional and international cuisine are all worth visiting. The breakfast is served in the panoramic breakfast room, overlooking the Haldensee and the surrounding mountains. The oldest son of the family Huber, Christoph heads the restaurants and bars and will always make sure you have everything you need. Breakfast is incredible, fresh fruit, local cheeses, breads you can only dream of, eggs, pancakes, sausages, cold cuts, muesli… anything your heart longs for. The coffee is not ideal, but the Cappuccino at the Loch Ness Restaurant in the house will definitely make up for it. You will not want to eat any lunch after the delicious and wonderfully prepared breakfast. Even though you might skip lunch at the Loch Ness (so strange but actually pretty nice, you can have lunch in your bath robe), which includes either a soup, salad buffet or a fantastic roast beef, the Austrian afternoon coffee culture and the choices of fantastically looking cakes won’t help walking away from it.

Dinner is served at either of the three restaurants Via Mala, La Cascata Nobile or the Loch Ness. The La Cascata is rather classy, the food exceptionally good, and the selection of wines is vast. The Via Mala invites you to dive into tradition and past, a main room, beer garden like, small cosy side rooms, all in their special, lovely decorated style. It feels like you are walking into a small Tyrolese village. Also here, the food is exceptional, the Wiener Schnitzel probably even better than the one at Figlmüller in Vienna.

…the Wiener Schnitzel probably even better than the one at Figlmüller in Vienna

You will find yourself sitting at dinner, when all of a sudden the room darkens, lightning and thunderstorm noise fills the air, the waterfall from the first floor turns into a wild river… it is really something you need to experience.

After dinner the cigar and whiskey lounge invites for a smooth fade out of the day, the only downside of it is though, that the doors to the cigar lounge are open, which means the smoke doesn’t stop from going into other rooms as well.

Last but not least… you might be a little shocked by the pink outside of the hotel, amazed by the kitsch and old, and not at all shabby feel (walls painted, colors, decoration) but it is definitely very special and it will grow on you by the time you experienced everything.

Highlights: Service and friendliness or staff and Huber sons Christoph and Alexander, nails done by Rita, massage by Denis, food in all restaurants, surrounding and location for great cross country skiing, skiing and walks…

Romantic get-away in the water castle Hagenwil

If you are into castles, history and romantic sleep overs, then you might like the Water Castle Hagenwil, one of Switzerland’s best-preserved water castles.

The castle is bedded into a landscape with rolling hills in the village of Hagenwil close to Amriswil and Arbon as well as Lake Constance. It is indeed very well preserved, some of the castle parts over 800 years old, offering the possibility to spend a romantic night, visit the castle festival showing Romeo+Juliette, getting married or just have dinner at the restaurant.

The a la Carte menu includes unconventional dishes, mostly regional and seasonal, and wine from the own win yards. If you book a romantic overnight, you will be served a candle light dinner at the grandma’s parlor, all private and beautifully decorated with fresh roses petals right next to your room, with a four-poster bed and a modern bathroom attached.

Breakfast is served at the Biedermeier-parlor of the castle restaurant until 12:00 o’clock, so lots of time to sleep in; except in case you don’t get woken up by the ducks and birds in the water ditch around the castle.

The lady and lord of the castle live in it and also run it and will pay great attention to details to accommodate their guests. The service is lovely, very attentive and discrete, not even bothered by all the steps they need to walk from the restaurant to the private quarters during the candle light dinner. The area is lovely, animals and birds are being kept around the castle, the pheasant is also a specialty on the menu. You will always remember the castle, once you’ve stayed there, promise.