Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Beautiful Home

A little German christmas tradition: Light three candles. Today, it's the third advent (Sunday) and only one week to go before Christmas Eve.
I am once again amazed how this year has just flown by. A good hearted soul always tells me: you just see the time going by so quickly because life is not dull and you are constantly doing something. If you had a boring life, one minute would feel like an hour, an hour like a month, a month like forever, and a year like eternity. Looking back at all the events that happened throughout this year this saying holds some definite truth.
So how do you get in the christmas spirit when you are caught up in way too much work? The answer came by a phone call. Our great friends Mark and Ruth invited us for a christmas dinner at their house. We have been going to so many great places these past few months that I was curious what Ruth was up to. I don't want to gossip about my friends but at least I can brag a bit. Mark and Ruth have a beautiful home. In fact, it is one of the most beautiful homes I have ever been to, here in Malta and abroad. It is not primarily the interior or decor or the size of the place but the feeling of home and warmth that the two of them have accomplished perfectly, making it such a wonderful place to be. One of the reason for it is Ruth and her absolute perfection for love and attention to detail. If you ever have the chance to receive one of her sought after dinner invitation you will know what I'm talking about. She has a God given gift of filling a room with life and food with love. I have been trying to persuade her to take things on a professional level, but she is all humble and happy when she can spoil her dearest ones, seeing them happy and content.

While I haven't had decorated my home at all, Ruth and Mark's home was radiating with christmas atmosphere. This evening was the first time I was realising, hey it's December and only a few weeks to go before the ultimate feast of the year.
We started the night off with Moet & Chandon. After the delicious champagne of Ta Frenc Restaurant you just cannot go back to sparkling wine, right?!
Mark had a wonderful surprise gift for us: his own home made white and red wine. I love surprises and gifts (who doesn't actually?). We had a try from his new Muscato white wine. I was literally amazed how good it came. It has a very rare and flowery/fruity bouquet, mild scents and a taste ranging from pear, vanilla and strawberry. Actually this wine turned out so well, I am sure it is something that everybody would enjoy drinking.

Another surprise and great idea were the appetizers and the dessert. They came in form of a cheese and chocolate fondue. I always wanted to try one of these.

I always have a highlight of the evening. Most of the time it's the dessert, especially if it is something chocolatly. This time, it was a difficult decision to make between the yummy dessert and the main course. But I have to say, Ruth blew me away with her main course. Oh my, this is serious stuff!!! Mark picked fresh fish form the market and Ruth worked her magic. She filled the fish with salmon and a herb paste, cooking it in the oven where all the flavours blended with each other. It was so tender, topped with rosemary and tasting nothing like the usual fish dish. Complimentary, it was served with the most delicious vegetables. The carrots were naturally sweet and Ruth has a little secret herb she uses for this special sweet infusion. My grandfather who loves potatoes and insists every proper meal to be served with them, would have become obsessed with her oven baked pomme de terre. I couldn't tell anymore what tasted better. I was immersed in all the flavours and it was out of this world!

I truly had one of the best evenings since moving to Malta. The personal atmosphere just added to my well being. I think we ate at talked for five hours, surrounded by candle lights.
I had to take a picture of Ruth fridge after seeing her arranging the left overs of the dinner. Have you ever seen such a well staked and perfectly organised refigerator? This is acutually a photo from Mark's camera, mine started to suffer from serious camera shake... mind you it was late!
Another photo from Mark and a small sneak peak of their home and their christmas spirit.
Thank you Ruth and Mark for a wonderful evening and your hospitality. It was the crowning of a great year!
A wonderful christmas to all of you out there from Marco, I, Ruth and Mark! (from left to right)
Look out for a crib episode, coming next year!

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I can't believe it's been already a week again since we've returned from our trip to magical island. I am talking about my birthday party trip to Gozo. I really love Malta's little sister island. It holds many dear memories of my childhood and everytime I return, I try to sipp in the atmosphere as much as I can. Well, and since this year has been quite a heap of change for me, we thought we are going to celebrate my day in a very special way. And what would not be better than to linger a bit in luxury... even if it's just for a day or an evening? Sometimes you need to spoil yourself with something that is out of the ordinary, right?! So my special treat for this coming year was a well deserved weekend break in Gozo and a dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant in the WORLD!!! MMmmmmhhh which one would that be??? Of course it was at the one and only Ta' Frenc Restaurant! And I can already tell you this much, it was an experience in many senses.. culinary, visual... and sensual...

The excitement is always building up before we explore new places and this time it was really buidling up to this special evening and all the sensations that came with. I was also looking foward to seeing the new things that have been happening around the restaurant. Apart from being literally the most stylish posh restaurant on the Maltese Islands, Ta' Frenc has recently launched their own label house champagne. That is truly unique.

An evening at Ta' Frenc always starts in an elegant way. As soon as you'll enter you are greeted by restaurant manager Joseph. True to tradition, we seated ourselves at the newly refurbished lounge area to have a drink before dinner. It hasn't changed too much over the years but I love how they fused the old farmhouse structures with elegant modern interior.

Our evening began with a bang - tasting Ta' Frenc's Medi Sec Champagne. Those little bubbles were teasing me... tingling first one my toungue and then in my tummy... what a delicious and delightful feeling! After a few sipps we felt happy and mellow.

The restaurant is full of surprises and art. Right by the entrance is one of the beautiful Maltese clocks by Horace, Mdina's famous artist.

As we emptied our bottle of champagne and ordered our dinners, we were being invited into the main dining room of the restaurant. Since we still had a few minutes, we asked Joseph if we could see the new wine cellar. We were being led to a small door and winding stairs took us suddenly down to a haven for wine. And how beautiful it turned out! You have to see it with your own eyes to be able to appreciate all the fine details, from the incredible candle holders, to the cuttlery and the painting on the wall, to the 500 different wines and many stone arches, you don't know what to feast your eyes on first! You can actually book the wine cellar for small functions or weddings... what a lovely idea!

Mario, the executive chef and his team take great care in giving you a special culinary experience that is also visually very appealing (have a look at the plate with the quail). All vegetables are enhanced with thinly sliced and roasted almonds. I also like the little extras and teasers (appetizers) that are part of the menu, such as a mushroom soup and the rasberry sorbet (that neutralizes your tastebuds before you continue with dessert). Mario also uses fresh herbs that come from the restaurants own garden.
As a starter I ordered the house salad and as a main I had tender fresh fish of the day.

My personal culinary highlight of the evening was the dessert, triple chocolat: white, medium and dark chocolat! Seriously, every little piece I took, I let it melt on my tongue and closed my eyes in pure ecstasy! If you love chocalat, you'll devour it. Absolutly divine!

The sweetest surprise of the evening came at the end of the dinner: a mousse au chocolat birthday cake by Ta' Frenc. I couldn't believe my eyes, I didn't expect it at all... isn't that so sweet?!

Ahhhh, you made me smile... you know who you are! Thank you!

After dinner we were invited to some charob and herbal tea. It is prepared and brewed right there. Of course I tried both.. highly recommended to round up a great dinner.

Ta' Frenc Restaurant is not a simple place to go out and dine, it is an experience. It is as beautiful in summer with their beautiful terraces and lush gardens as it is in winter time when it is so cozy and elegant. They have a great menu for the festive season, have a look and check it out on their website.

For the ultimate dining experience, treat your special one and yourself to something divine at Ta' Frenc.