Oliver’s twist…..on Italian!

honeycombcanelloniXxJamie Oliver’s Italian. So you take a trip to Oxford and wander for a few hours around the beautiful grounds of its prestigious University.  Downtown, you’ll find George street chock full of restaurants and of course Jamie Oliver’s is one of them. No choices need to be made, it’s a given that this guy’s food is bound to be good so off we went to Jamie’s Italian.

High ceilings and rustic brick walls surround a maze of “farmhouse” looking wooden tables that are, of course, packed to the max! We waited a  bit for one to open and soon enough we were granted access to the upstairs area. Right away,  we were seated by a  friendly tie-wearing waitress who explained Oliver’s concept of focusing mainly on fresh locally grown food.

arancinixThe menu was rather large featuring Italian classics but also a lot of interesting sides  served in Oliver’s famous fashion: bold and inventive.  For instance, as an appetizer we ordered the  crispy arancini: risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella and sweet red chillies served over  arrabbiata sauce and Parmesan for £4.95.  Crispy on the outside and bursting with  spicy flavor inside.  For the main course, we had the  honeycomb canelloni 3 ways: aubergine & sundried tomato, pumpkin and ricotta with spinach.  Creamy fillings inside several upright pasta tubes nestled in the shape of a honeycomb with cheesy edges  over  a rich béchamel and tomato sauce for £10.95.

polentachipsxAs a side, I had to try the famous polenta chips with rosemary salt and Parmesan.  Large chunks of polenta crunchy on the outside yet very tender inside, absolutely delightful £3.45.  On the other hand,   the baked chestnut and mushrooms on “music” bread for £5.25, made with smoked mozzarella, was a little disappointing simply because the chestnuts were nowhere to be tasted. The penne carbonara was a nice surprise looking as  good as it tasted. Served with crispy pancetta and wilted leeks with a lemon cream Parmesan sauce, zesty and silky for £10.75.

The wine list consisted mostly of Italian reds and whites, as well as a few Spumantis.  The house wine –Jamie’s Italian wines– are  made with grapes from Sicily and are delivered in eco-friendly Tetra Paks that are decanted at the time of serving. The  Bianco offers a hint of peach, the Rosso a touch of plum and cherry  and the Rossato traces of raspberry and strawberry.  All nicely priced between £4.90 a glass and £17.95 for a bottle.

Another trademark at Oliver’s restaurants are his creative cocktails like the expresso martini, a mix of vodka, Kahlua and expresso for £7.25 or the Rossini made with prosecco and red berry purée for £6.60.  For dessert, the homemade yogurt ice-cream, made with seasonal fruit, was light and refreshing for  £4.90.  The autumn rippled Pavlova  served with cream , limoncello soaked fruit and hazelnut praline for £4.95 was way more creative and, of course, a nice  end to our  delicious” Oliver Twisted” meal.



Jamie’s Italian Oxford

24-26 George Street



Tel 01865 83 83 83

Hours of operation


12 noon to 11pm


12 noon to 10:30 pm





Ensalada de quinoa y col rizada

kalesaladUna ensalada  hecha con col rizada rica en antioxidantes, vitamina A y C . Las nueces añaden vitamina E y ácidos grasos omega 3. La quinoa es alta en proteina, magnesio y folato.


2 tazas de col rizada cortada en tiras

1/4 taza de quinoa

1 diente de ajo

1/4 taza de cebolla picada

1 taza de nueces picadas

1/4 taza de arándanos rojos


2 cucharadas de miel

El  jugo de una naranja

El  jugo de un limón

4 cucharadas de aceite de oliva 

sal y pimienta


Saltea la cebolla en un poco de aceite de oliva. Sala y deja caramelizar – unos 20 minutos. Mientras, pica el ajo y saltea en un poco de aceite de oliva, añade la quinoa y tuéstala un poco. Añade 1/4 taza de agua, deja hervir. Tapa y cocina a fuego lento durante 15 minutos.  Cuando esté lista, retírala del fuego y déjala tapada unos cinco minutos. Destapa y remueve con un tenedor para soltarla.

Lava la col rizada y sécala bien. Corta en tiras y ponla en un cuenco grande.  Haz el aderezo mezclando el zumo de la naranja con el de limón, la miel y el aceite de oliva. Sazona con sal y pimienta y emulsifica bien con una varilla. Cubre la col rizada con el aderezo. Añade la quinoa, las nueces y los arándanos mezclando todo bien.  Buen provecho!

Kale salad with quinoa


This is a highly nutritious and delicious salad.  Kale, loaded with antioxidants,  is high in vitamin A and C. Walnuts add vitamin E and omega 3s. Quinoa is a power food high in protein, magnesium and folate.

2 cups of chopped organic kale

1/4 cup quinoa 

1 garlic clove

1/4 cup  chopped onion

1 cup chopped  walnuts

1/4 cranberries

1 orange (squeezed)

1/2 lemon (squeezed)

2 tbsp honey

4 tbsp of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Sautée the chopped onion, add salt  and let it caramelize- about 20 minutes. Set aside. In the meantime, sautée minced garlic in a tbsp of olive oil, add quinoa and toast for a bit.  Add  1/4  cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Once done, remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes covered. Uncover and fluff with a fork.

Wash kale and dry well. Chop in ribbons and place in a large bowl. Make dressing by mixing orange juice, lemon juice, 2 tbsp of  honey, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Emulsify with a whisk. Cover kale with the dressing, mix well. Toss in quinoa, walnuts and cranberries. Enjoy!


Toscana – Lisbon, Portugal

toscana codThe ultimate Portuguese Grill

Right outside the city center, in the district of Alcantara hides a small eatery with some of the most traditional fare in town. Toscana, a quaint and small space, crowded with tables in every nook possible, serves an assortment of eighteen types of fresh fish and  various cuts of meat. You can pick the fish you want to eat and they’ll grill it right in front of you.

A big hit among those who worship anything char-grilled, Toscana has been whetting local’s appetites for over thirty years. It was originally owned by brothers Emídio and Carlos Pereira who ran the restaurant for over thirty years until  they sold it  to present owner Vitor Franco, who  also  has ensured that both tradition and standards remain, making it a favorite among many famous musicians, actors and  politicians.

No matter who’s been in charge, it has continuously been a labor of dedication that is clearly reflected in its wonderful food, impeccable service and inviting ambience. As you walk in, a warm welcome from the friendly and attentive staff will make you feel at ease. The menu is rather simple and most dishes are served with  the usual side of salad, rice or french fries. But make no mistake, for the main offerings are anything but ordinary.

I picked the bacalhau á Toscana which was in order for cod is the most popular fish choice in Portugal and my absolute favorite. A nice portion of chargrilled cod and small potatoes drizzled with garlic and warm olive oil, a unique experience for those who can appreciate the mild flavor of this fish and its divine simplicity. Other great choices  were sole, swordfish and bass. As for the meats, there were various  sausages and several cuts of beef and pork like the  secreto de porco preto,  made with acorn-fed Iberian pig,  famous for its tenderness and rich flavor. Another great hit were the lulas á mordomo, tender squid grilled to perfection served with potatoes.  Again, another simple but delicious dish.

lulastoscanoAs far as wines go, Toscana’s house one is served in jugs, both red and white, from two barrels placed on the wall. Portugal, a country of great vines, never fails to please no matter how simple the restaurant and  this one couldn’t be any different. House wine, whenever ordered is usually pretty good and  Toscana’s was outstanding!


Rua do Sacramento a Alcantara
1350-280, Lisboa
Telefone: 213 968 633
Reservations are not accepted
E-mail: geral@toscanacasadepasto.com

Vinoteca Moratín – Madrid, Spain

restaurante moratin Okay, so one night  you’re walking around Madrid “tapeando” , standing in bars, drinking and sampling small plates of food until you realize that you’d  like a break from the crowds, and would rather sit down somewhere more quiet and be served. Then, you  stumble upon Vinoteca Moratin.

Right in the heart of  bustling Barrio de las Letras, hides this small and intimate restaurant. Even though its name: Vinoteca- wine cellar -evokes a fine wine list,  its food is by no means compromised. Quite the contrary, for  the menu is a true offering of the  best local in-season produce  as well as the finest meats and fish in the city. Yes, even though Madrid is landlocked, the freshest fish caught off the coasts of Spain is immediately shipped here, so wherever you eat, you’re bound to find  a fresh catch.

Chef and owner Marcos Gil opened this small eatery in 2012 following his passion for “buen vino” and great food. Here you’ll find a long list of over forty  white wines, from Albariños to Ruedas and Rieslings to over 50 different red ones from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Jumilla. Also on the list, are  some French offerings from Loire and Burgundy, as well as some Portuguese from  Alentejo.

Chef and owner Marcos Gil
Chef and owner Marcos Gil

We were warmly welcomed by  a waiter named Chema who sat us at a cozy table by the window. He offered us some wine to start with and we picked a bottle of Juan Gil from Jumilla in Murcia, a region that lately has gained a lot of attention for its fine crops. This particular one is made with the Monastrell  grapes which gives it  a smoky combination of violets and berries, full bodied yet smooth . For a moment, I just wanted to sit in the dim lit ambience and savor my glass slowly as I admired the beautiful and serene decor . Old candle lit wooden tables surrounded by soothing earth toned walls add comfort and warmth to this lovely bistro. The attention to detail was evident, even in the acoustics where no matter how busy it was, it was never too loud. I was ready for another glass of wine and a look at the menu.

A simple  “carta”  offering the best in season: Puerros con romesco.  A  generous appetizer of six mouth watering braised leeks served with tangy  Romesco sauce made with almonds, hazelnuts and red peppers. Absolutely delicious!

puerros moratin

For my entrée, I had to have the pulpo de Santoña con aceite de pimentón y cilantro sobre parmentier de patata, small  slices of the most tender octopus, seasoned with smoked paprika from Béjar and coriander, nestled over fluffy mashed potatoes.    I could have easily ordered seconds but decided to take over my brother’s merluza al cava en papillote instead: hake  steamed in Spanish sparkling wine,  far too tempting! He wasn’t happy but he knew it was part of my job and  begrudgingly obliged. Moist, flaky and “en su punto”.  Another great example of what Spaniards  can do with this delicate  white fish.pulpo moratin

For dessert the suggestions are changed daily and the options are few. We split the tarta de manzana, an individual  tart made with golden delicious apples garnished with a dollop of  fresh Greek yogurt. As we dug into this decadent yet healthy dessert,   we were offered a glass of Dow’s 10 year old tawny Port wine, a sweet mellow touch to the end of a delectable meal. The whole dining  experience was almost spa-like, so relaxing I didn’t want to leave. Can’t wait to go back!

Price range between 7 and 17 euros.

Vinoteca Moratín

Calle Moratín 36

28014 Madrid

Tel. 911 276 085

Tel. 695 194 555

Open every day except Sunday evenings and Monday

Oak Tavern, Miami’s Design District




The latest craze in the Miami restaurant scene is to serve locally grown produce and that is what  chef David Braca does best at  Oak Tavern. As you walk through the vine arch of this ever so quaint eatery, you’ll stumble upon an open area reminiscent of a mediterranean patio surrounding a large old oak tree. Indoors,  stands  an open kitchen to your left and a  nicely stocked bar to your right. In the center, reclaimed wooden tables and soft lighting surround a large communal slab in case you’re in the mood to make new friends.

oak tomatoes

A nicely selected wine list offers glasses between $9 and $12 and bottles priced between $30 and $150.  We opted for one of the more modest offerings: a bottle of Lagar de Cervera Albariño for $34, one of my favorite Spanish whites, fruity yet dry. The menu was also extensive consisting  mostly of  tapas, pizzas, seafood and house made charcuterie as well as several main courses.oak lamp

Even though the place wasn’t very busy, the service was a little slow. While waiting, I asked another server for some bread who kindly brought us some amazing homemade buttermilk biscuits with a side of butter, warm, flaky and absolutely divine!

oak biscuitXAs soon as we got to order, we picked the local beet salad for $9, sweet roasted beets covered with arugula and a whipped goat cheese cream. The ever so light dressing was a smooth vinaigrette made with tiny bits of pistachios. The perfect starter: chunky, creamy and crunchy.

The grilled octopus with smoked potato salad for $14 was a a little less exciting. The serving was very small and although it was very tender, a little too much “pimentón picante” (hot paprika) overpowered its flavor. Another choice we made was the roasted artichokes for $10. A large artichoke split in half with a side of citrus aioli, very delicate and sweet, barely needing any dressing. Unfortunately, being all women who shared a bottle of wine, we had to skip dessert this time! I will be back if only for the beet salad!



Oak Tavern

35 NE 40th Street

Miami, FL 33137

(786) 391-1818

Open Monday thru Friday:

12pm-3pm (Lunch)

4;30pm-10;30[m (Dinner)

Friday and Saturday until Midnight


11 am-3pm (Brunch)

4:30pm-9:30pm (Dinner)

Happy  Hour: Monday through Sunday