I was looking for a place to have lunch in Sofia and I recieved some recommendations for Hamachi. It is owned by a group that runs quite a few notable restaurant that such as Cine Cita, Piccolo Casa and Sushi Bar. I had dinned their quite a few years ago and after reviewing my blog post, my experience was somewhat the same.

I drove past the place a few times as the enterance is back a bit off the street and sidewalk. The interior is bright and zen… very Asian. I got better photos this time around since I was there for lunch.

Once again I sat in the room with the tree, which was looking much healthier since my last visit. I no longer felt the need to give it a sip.

I again ordered the miso soup which, was quite good. The only flaw was that the tofu was a bit cold on the inside. I assume that the broth is made and the toss ins are added to order.

The presentation of the sushi has improved and I enjoyed my selections. I steered clear of the pre-made sushi served by the slice and ordered full rolls. The shrimp tempura was really nice, crispy and tender. Since I was the only customer, I had a chance to pick my server’s brain. I asked him about the sauce on the shrimp tempura rolls, I detected a hint of star anise, which he couldn’t confirm since it was not made in house, but in a bottle that you could purchase at the ubiquitous Alex shop. The issue about the chunks of veggies still remain. I believe that vegetables should be thinly sliced (avocado) and the carrots and cucumbers julienned… it is obviously more work, but the prices are high enough for the effort. 
The ingredients were fresh and authentic, but the menu lacked creativity. It was a bit boring, but on the bright side no cream cheese, at least I didn’t see any on the menu. The service was attentive and they seemed quite knowledgeable about offerings. I am not in a hurry to return, but my server recommended I visit the other Japanese restaurant in their portfolio Sushi Bar. Judge for yourself.

3 Orfey St. (Lozenetz) 
Sofia, Bulgaria
Hours Mon – Sun: 11:30 am – 12:00 am 
 Phone +359 (0) 88 4262244, +359 (0)89 4262244
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Honestly, if someone hadn’t arranged a meeting at the Photosynthesis café, I would have never known it existed. I always associate this place as a store for photography, but upstairs on the second floor is a beautiful gallery cum café.

The space is open and bright. Plenty of room to sit without bumping into your neighbor.

The walls are adorn with amazing photographs. I am not sure if it is a rotating exhibit or permanent installation. I was really taken with the beautiful and inspiring nature scenes.

They also have a menu for food. You can order a sandwich or other light bites. Judging from what my friend ordered the portions seem healthy and by healthy I mean sizable. 

57 Vasil Levski Blvd./бул. “Васил Левски” 57
Hours: Mon. – Fri. 09:30-20:30, Sat. 10:00-20:30, Sun. 10:00-19:00 
Tel: 02/980 73 71; 0888 024 999 
E-mail: center@photosynthesis.bg, photo@photosynthesis.bg
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Elephant Bookstore II

The newest Elephant Bookstore is a proper shop located on Tzar Shishman Street. The first time I had the chance to peruse some of their books was when they opened a small book corner at the Теа House in the Factory (Чай в Фабриката) on Benkovski. Most of the second hand books are imported from the UK, but the selection was decent and if you couldn’t find what you were looking for in the shop, then you could check out their website, which delivers.

The walls are completely lined, almost to the ceiling with books.
Separated in the categories for easy browsing, you can find something for all reading preferences. I was interested in the gardening books, which were located under the cashier’s counter.

What differs from this location, besides the size is the awesome selection of unique toy and gift items. I was like a kid in a candy shop with the whimsical designs and vibrant colors. Antique toys and book marks, stationary etc…

The interior aisles were filled with these fun goodies.
One of my favorites was the funky floral garden tools, not practical for the scale which we are working but still pretty.

But by far the coolest was the seed sticks! I got a package of the herbs for the girls and I think we sprouted a parsley plant… We will see.

An extremely cool shop for only English language books and very fun knick knacks!

Tsar Shishman 31, 
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria 
Hours Mon – Sun: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm  
Phone 088 642 0954 

Basic Whole Wheat Bread

I try to use the winter months to learn something new, a skill that I am usually too busy to undertake during the summer, when the garden is in bloom and the kids are home from school. Last year, I taught myself how to make some excellent soap, which we are still using… but this year, I wanted to learn more about the art of leaven bread. Without getting fancy, I wanted to understand how to make a basic bread that could be used for sandwiches, toast, dinner rolls, etc….

I drew my inspiration for this recipe from the CIA’s Basic Lean Loaf, which is the standard at our school. I scaled it down and made it 50/50 all-purpose (universal) flour and whole-wheat (I use one that has wheat germ flakes in it).  After many tweaks to the exact grams, I don’t even have to sprinkle my work surface with dough. The water/flour ratio is spot on! Since you will probably using a different brand of flour your results should vary only slightly, but please share with me your experiences.

Makes one loaf in a 30cm x 10cm (12″ x 4″) tin

330 g flour ( 50% all-purpose/ 50% whole wheat)
3 – 5 g dry yeast
10g salt
220g warm water

  • Weigh flours and yeast, combine in a bowl. Pour mixture on a clean work surface, create a well in the center.
  • Measure water and salt, combine. Swish the water and salt together to speed dissolution. 
  • Pour water mixture in the well. Pull the flour into the center from the walls of flour well. You want to combine it quickly, so the water is still warm when it touches the yeast.
  • Bring the dough together and knead for a few minutes 3 – 5, till it is smooth and a bit sticky to the touch.
  • Put dough in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic or a dish cloth (tea towel) and let rise till doubled about 2 hours.
  • After two hours, turn the dough over lightly a few times, while inside the bowl and return to rest till doubled again about 2 hours.
  • Take the dough out of the bowl, knead and shape till it will either fit in your tin or in the shape of your free-form loaf or loaves.
  • Final rise, not that it is shaped let it rise again till about doubled or it is over the rim of your baking tin. Pre-heat oven to 425C
  • Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. The exterior of the loaf should be firm and crusty, yet when you knock on the exterior it should give off a hollow sound.
  • Once you remove it from the oven, remove the tin, if you are using one, so that the steam can escape and not make your bread soggy. Let cool on a wire rack.
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Honestly, finding cool places to visit outside Sofia requires a bit more research. So, I found out about artnewscafe in Plovdiv through some events that they organized with Gaillot Chocolate, whose workshop is also located in Plovdiv. The cafe can be found at the end of the hip Otets Paisiy street.

The exterior uses the popular look of natural pine and glass, which is seen quite often in Sofia in designs by Funkt. The graffiti adds a nice touch.

The small interior houses a bar stocked with spirits and lots of books on shelfs, some design items for sale and other bric a brac…
To the right of the entrance is a small room with a few tables and chairs, plus more shelves with books.
From our hotel room at the Art Hotel Dali, which is also on Otets Paisiy, we could see this from our window. I figured it was some sort of public art installation, but it wasn’t till I saw that the artnewscafe was selling  PLOVEDIV tee shirts (15lv) and canvas tote bags (10lv) that the bartender told me about the “All We Need Is PLOVEDIV” campaign… I got a shirt for me and some Gaillot Chocolates for the girls.

Otets Paisiy 38, 
Plovdiv, Bulgaria 
Mon – Sat: 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Sun: 10:30 am – 11:00 pm 
Phone 032 623 895 
e: news@artnewscafe.com 

Gimel Organic

Driving by CCS off Cherni Vrah, I noticed this interesting little shop with a wooden facade and what seemed to be the word “organic” written on the side. I made a mental note of Gimel Organic and visited the shop on my next visit to Sofia, what I found was rather impressive, not because of the assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged goods and wine, but they had two parking spaces outside reserved for customers.

The Gimel brand is quite recognizeable. You will find most if not all of the bio/organic shops that sell fresh fruits and vegetables carry Gimel’s brand. The offer a huge assortment of fruits, vegetables and herbs. According to their website they are the largest produce of greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes in Bulgaria. Their products are also available throughout Europe.
This shop is the first for the brand and it features the entire spectrum of what an organic shopper wants, except meat. Unlike most shops they focus on the fresh more so than the non-perishable.
They also have freshly made food items on hand like these cream soups, which are prepared daily and freshly squeezed juices.
I think the location will really cement this shop with organic shoppers that live on the outskirts of the city and Lozenetz. It is a unique shop, but I have some questions about the source of the food, which are primarily grown abroad. This fact raises a larger debate, what is more important to you local, clean and seasonal or year-round availability and certified organic? I personally subscribe to the former rather than the latter, but regardless this rising level of consciousness is trend that I see continuing into the foreseeable future.

23 Arsenalski Blvd./бул. Арсеналски 23
Sofia, Bulgaria 
понеделник до петък (Mon – Fri) – 8:30 – 20:30 
събота (Sat) – 10:00 – 20:30 неделя (Sun) – 10:00 – 19:00

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Moulin de Plovdiv

Plovdiv is a lovely town. I had a great visit there and look forward to returning soon, especially after visiting Moulin de Plovdiv! They have a boulangerie/patisserie or bakery right in the center of town. The folks at Gaillot Chocolate told us about their French friend that was a baker, so I knew immediately that is where I would be having breakfast.

The first think that caught my eye were the Galettes, a buttery cookie that has just the right amount of sweetness… got some of those!

The assortment of delights was unreal. I couldn’t resist the croissants, so got a few of those, a pain chocolate, and a Breton galette with apricots…

And of course the bread… didn’t really need a loaf, but should have brought some home.

Everything was amazing. Angel, Gabriel and I sat in our hotel room covered in crumbs savoring every bite. Finding a good croissant is hard, but they aced all that we tried. Wonder if I can persuade them to open a shop in Kyustendil.

UPDATE – March 8th 2014: While in AGRA again this year, I followed the advice of my own post from last March to Moulin de Plovdiv, only to find out that they moved, almost immediately after the post was published.  I have updated the photos to include those of the new shop, but I have to add that I was deeply disappointed with the quality. I was there bright and early on a Friday morning and ordered a few croissants, but they were not fresh, not in the least, it was as if they were leftovers from the night before. I ordered three different varieties, original/butter, ham and kashkaval. All of them were deeply unsatisfying. I expect that a bakery, a French bakery, should have fresh croissants! I hope this was a fluke. Please share your thoughts.

Ul. Leonardo Da Vinci, 21
4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria 
Hours Mon – Sat: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm 
Phone +359 87 886 7720

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