Artnewscafe

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 

Sombrero

When I first asked for eating recommendations in Plovdiv, the biggest fan fare came in support of Sombrero, a Mexican restaurant in Plovdiv, yes… Plovdiv. It is located a bit of the main drag, a 30 minute walk from the center. It might be a tad quicker for most, but we were carrying Gabriel in a baby carrier. When we walked up to the restaurant it was a bit surreal, because it is not often you find a place with a large Mexican hat on the roof in Bulgaria.

The owners have done their homework and really seemed to grasp the Southwest style… lots of color and light, plus fun decorations that adorn the walls. The distressed wood tables, most likely not hand painted, were an interesting component.
In the back, off the main room, there were some really cool murals and this mariachi musician and the dancer was my favorite. I am a sucker for bold and bright colors and there is something whimsical about the painting that  makes me want to drink a margarita!

I did drink a margarita or two… and it was quite tasty. A proper salt rimmed glass and a lime… I was surprised… cocktails are not exectured well in Bulgaria, but this was really fantastic.

My husband is a huge nachos fan. On of the things he misses from the States food wise is the nachos in New York, from the fast food Tex-Mex places that are run by Chinese people; I call them “Ch-exican”. Torn by which nacho dish to order, I settled for the Nachos Machos, which was pretty good, except for the chips, which were more to the Doritos category with the saltiness and seasoning than the Tostitos, which are a bit more neutral. 

For mains, we ordered Chorizos Yucatan, which had some sort of sausage and bacon, but it was not chorizo. It was served in an open tortilla, filled with veggies and topped with cheese. The standard accompaniment seems to be rice, fries, guacamole, sour cream and some spicy salsa, with chunks of chili peppers! This was probably one of the spiciest thing I have eaten in Bulgaria, but it would have been nice if they offered a milder salsa for those that can’t handle spice.

And Enchiladas Pancho Villa featured corn and flour tortillas filled with a variety of meat veggies and topped with cheese. It was good, but the similarities to the Chorizo Yucatan was apparent.

If I were to describe Sombrero, I would say it is typical for the Tex-Mex food you would find in the US, rather than Mexican. There were a few places in my neighborhood in New York. It was a hole in the wall join, but it was filled with Latin Americans and the menu wasn’t even available in English. It was unlike any Mexican I had ever eaten because it was authentic. It was what Mexican’s ate, as it was a Mexican restaurant for Mexicans… The logic for finding authentic ethnic food is to find the enclaves in which these communities live and eat there. So, as a New Yorker, I am luck to have such a diverse selection, which to enjoy. I have not been to Mexico or South America, I am not an expert, but an appreciator of the culinary offerings South of the Border…
I think Sombrero is a great place for Bulgaria and even Americans and other foreigners will be quite satisfied with the food. If you live in or plan on visiting Plovdiv, make a treck to this Tex-Mex establishment and share with me your opinion.

5 Dynev Blvd./Булевард Дунав 5 
Plovdiv/Пловдив 
Mon – Sun: 9:00 am – 12:00 am 
T: 032/336179, 0882 354 394 
E: sombrero_2011@abv.bg 

Philippolis, Plovdiv

On Monday, I found out about Agra 2012, the annual agricultural expo in Plovdiv.  The fact that Angel and I are about to embark on a journey in sustainable farming, it would be very beneficial for us to find out about resources available in Bulgaria. For anyone doing internet research about companies in Bulgaria, you end up rather disappointed.
  
We were planning on spending a day in Plovdiv, so I thought we could visit a restaurant, which I could review.  It was incredibly difficult to find anything reliable about good places to eat in Plovdiv.  I even wrote on the EGL’s Facebook page asking for advice or recommendation, which lead to nowhere.  So, I turned to Бакхус (Bacchus), Bulgaria’s gourmet food and wine magazine that also hands out awards annually to chefs and restaurants in Bulgaria. There I found 14 restaurant options.  I scrolled through them and found a place with a lovely garden Restaurant-Garden Philippopolis, which I hoped would be open, since the weather was supposed to be pleasant and warm-ish.

The restaurant is located in the Old Town of Plovdiv, which is quite charming with it’s narrow cobble stone streets and National Revivalist architecture juxtaposed with Roman ruins.  The building is adjacent to the Art Gallery & Museum Philippopolis.

The entrance is rather mundane and cheesy, complete with a menu that includes pictures on the façade.  The unadorned yellow and red sign welcomes the visitors through the archway into a side courtyard, which leads you to a door with an Art Nouveau stain glass motif in the shape of a butterfly, which was rather pretty. An army of bored and waiters greet you at the door with menus and show you to your seat.  Their attire was rather upscale and trying to give the impression of the professional French garçon.

The interior was tasteful but extremely pretentious.  The white table cloth vibe, complete with the paper napkin holder and oil and vinegar dispenser on the table.  The menu was ambitious, but the fare was standard among restaurants in Bulgaria offering “international cuisine”; I already wanted to leave.  The prices were horrendous and the place was empty, so it was too late to walk out.  The horde of waiters mulling about would be difficult to dodge.
The wine list was heavily Bulgarian, with many names that I am familiar with and enjoy because they are readily available in any supermarket, so the extravagant mark-up of 100% or more, was a huge turn off.  Angel and I had a beer to start, which just set the tone for the rest of the meal.  It tasted off, which was not surprising since it had expired a week ago… Real classy!
Angel was inspired to get a salad, the one that I wanted with cabbage and raisins was not available… I guess because cabbage is not in season at the end of winter/beginning of spring.  He ordered the salad of the house with grilled eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, topped with tuna and a garlic dressing. When it arrived I though he was extremely daring for thinking something like that would be good in the winter.
I opted to try an olive, which was truly an unfortunate experience.  It tasted rancid and took a bit of time to get the sour/fermented chemical taste out of my mouth. I then tried a piece of the zucchini with a bit of the garlic dressing, which was blah as the olive taste still festered. What did we expect.
I ordered Pork Tenderloin with Porchini’s for my main.  It tasted OK, but the meat was overcooked, the vegetables were frozen and the mushrooms tasted like they came from a jar.  All in all, it satisfied my hunger, but was nothing worth remembering. The presentation was classic and the entire dish was something you would eat at your parent’s house or at home for a weekend dinner.  At almost 20 lv, you would be better off to make it at home.
Despite the restaurant and the meal being an overall disappointment, the garden had potential although it’s close proximity to the tunnel under Old Town, leaves me to believe you won’t be listening to the birds chirp as you enjoy your meal.
I am not through with Plovdiv.  I know there are culinary gems waiting to be be discovered.  I will visit the town again in search of another delectable meal… recommendation welcome!  Plus the day was a success.  We received some good information from the Agra Expo. I even found a blueberry plant and wisteria for my home.  The only downside to the expo was the presence of one of the most evil companies in the world MONSANTO.  Bulgarians should be raising hell and protesting their presence in Bulgaria.  

Their booth all colored with green to give the illusion of nature was a huge farce. Considering Bulgaria has banned GMO’s what the hell were they doing there?  If someone knows.. please tell me!  

Restaurant-Garden Philippopolis
29 Saborna str.
Plovdiv 4000 Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 32 624 851
http://www.philippopolis.com

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