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Accommodation and villas in Costa Brava
With all the treasures Catalonia has to offer, there is an abundance of unique and comfortable accommodation. Be sure to choose the best for your budget and consider renting an apartment or a villa in Costa Brava, Costa Dorada, Costa de Maresme or Costa de Garraf.
When booking an apartment or a villa in Costa Brava short-term, you are guaranteed to save when you consider the amount of living space you get. Apartment rentals in Costa Brava are much more suitable for comfortable living and active vacations, and luxury accommodation in Costa Brava offers even more freedom and comfort.
If you are travelling with a group, renting a villa in Costa Brava may be optimal for your vacation. Villa rentals in Costa Brava offer the unique opportunity to socialize in the complete privacy of the Catalan countryside. Rental villas in Spain have numerous living areas, bedrooms and bathrooms, a garden and a swimming pool, a fully equipped kitchen, a mountain or a sea view. No neighbours, no city bustle or noise, just relaxation. Many villas that we offer in Costa Brava and Costa Dorada are ancient monuments.
You may also rent a villa in Spain for a beach vacation on the Balearic Islands - Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca. The capital of the Balearic Achipelago, Palma, offers visitors a wide selection of short-term apartment rentals.
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Unexpectedly Delicious: Chocolate Cake with Salt and Olive Oil Recipe

Katya R
Posted December 22, 2015

Giuseppe Benesta, our favourite Italian chef and the owner of Acqua e Sale in Barcelona, is a busy man intent on writing the most comprehensive cook book dedicated to the Mediterranean cuisine, of which he is the master (at least on this side of the Pyrenees). The writing generally occurs alongside parenting three adorably energetic daughters and running a restaurant, so the process is taking a while even by the Italian standards. Close friends of the chef have stopped holding their breaths for the book to ever see the light of day, but the more cunning of the sort go after Giuseppe's secret recipes with the combination of coaxing and trickery. We have slowly but surely been collecting recipes from Giuseppe's secret stash, eventually hoping to be able to cook a whole meal out of them. For now though, with Christmas festivities coming up, Giuseppe has kindly agreed to demonstrate the process of making of one of his most popular desserts - Chocolate Pear Cake with Salt and Olive Oil!


500 g of coarse whole wheat flour
250 g of white sugar
15 g of cane sugar
250 g butter for the cake base and 20 g for the filling
2 eggs
Amaretto di Saronno (aromatic Italian liquor)
300 g of 70% cocoa dark chocolate
70 ml of milk
3 Conference pears
150 g of pecans
1 orange
1 lemon

The Process:

Combine the flour with the white sugar, add eggs, softened butter and liquor. Make orange zest by grating the peel and add it to the mix.

Blend until smooth.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for an hour.

Put some flour on the working surface and roll out the dough aiming for 2-3 mm thickness.

Put the dough into a baking dish, covering its insides entirely.

To avoid the cake base deforming during baking, prick all of its surface with a fork.

Into the oven it goes! (For 30 minutes.)

While the cake base is in the oven, start making the filling. Break the chocolate into pieces, heat up the milk until it boils and add the chocolate pieces, stirring till smooth. Add a bit of orange zest to the mix too. The chocolate part of the cake filling is ready.

Put some butter (20 g) and the cane sugar (15 g) on a cold frying pan, pour in the Amaretto liquor (40 g) and arrange cut pears over the ingredients. Cooking on high heat, stir the contents of the pan for 5-6 minutes, moving the pan itself back and forth. If you are using a gas oven, the back and forth motion will ignite the liquor - don't be scared, just don't lean too low over the pan. If the oven is electric, you will need to set fire to the liquor yourself. If you do not want to risk expensive kitchen furniture for some pears flambe, stir the contents without moving the pan.

Take the cake base out of the oven, put it onto your favourite plate and let it cool.

Arrange the pears over the cake base.

Grind the pecans and put them on top.

Pour the chocolate filling over the cake, spreading it evenly and covering pears and pecans completely. Let the cake cool once again.

Now it is time to turn the cake into an Italian offering. Drop several sea salt crystals on the cake, sprinkle it with extra virgin olive oil, add lemon zest and garnish with rosemary.

Buon appetito and merry Christmas!

All That Culinary Jazz

Katya R
Posted April 21, 2015

Recommending an Italian restaurant to those vacationing in Barcelona is slightly strange: a visitor even of two weeks would barely have enough time to get to know the local (Catalan) cuisine let alone other regional specialties like Galician or Basque offerings. Pizza and pasta are hardly difficult to find outside of Spain, right?

Yet what the ingredients are in an Italian restaurant is a bigger question. The pillars of Italian cuisine are fresh Mediterranean vegetables and greens, cheeses, fish and shellfish, meat and poultry, olive oil, rice, flour. If these have to be imported from Italy to make it into your pizza, its price would equal the cost of a three-course meal with wine. Substituting ingredients and adapting recipes to local realities is unavoidable in northern Europe.

The question of “with what” is not as pressing in Barcelona, since locally available vegetables, fish and meat are of the highest quality. The question remaining is “how”. Despite the seeming simplicity of Italian specialties, a successful authentic Italian establishment requires not only a world-class chef, but a person who has internalized the smells, the scents and the tastes of Italian cooking throughout her life.

So if a rare bird like that flew into your city and opened a restaurant there, you'd be amiss not to pay it a visit.

Giuseppe Benestà conforms to all the rigid standards outlined above: he spent his childhood in a restaurant owned by his parents in Armento (Basilicata) – an osteria on the ground floor of their family home. He graduated from the highly regarded culinary schools in Potenza and Florence and gathered experience in a lengthy trip around the world (London, Milan, Los Angeles). In 2007 señor Benestà settled in Barcelona, where three years later he opened a restaurant in Poblenou. ACQUA & SALE is located on Carrer Joncar 17.

The restaurant's name, “Water and Salt”, references the first song of the album recorded in 1998 by Mina and Adriano Celentano. Naturally, the song is about love, not the proper way to boil pasta. You wouldn't hear any Italian pop songs inside the restaurant though – the owner is partial to jazz. Regulars will learn to like it too, since after the second or the third visit it becomes evident that jazz is the ideal music for the restaurant's atmosphere.

Secrets are not kept from guests: freshness and quality of ingredients is the point of pride here. Everything that will eventually make it onto your plate can be examined, touched, sniffed beforehand. The natural answer to any food-related question, like the fattiness of lamb in a dish, for example, is to show you the cut of meat to help you decide if you want to order it.

The menu offers non-residents of Italy an exciting opportunity to broaden their pasta horizons. Not many would know the sight and the taste of fish-stuffed mezzelune with putanesca sauce or buckwheat orecchiette with broccoli and salchicha.

All pasta, desserts and even Limoncello are home- and hand-made by Giuseppe and Co.

Every Sunday, the restaurant invites guests to have brunch accompanied by live music. It is, of course, jazz. Food-wise, you can order from the regular menu or choose a moderately priced prix-fixe option.

To claim that ACQUA & SALE is a cheap restaurant would be incorrect. An average bill here is higher than in most neighbouring places on Rambla del Poblenou. However, the personal presence of the chef in the fully open kitchen, creative plates that he cooks from the freshest ingredients, a cozy and welcoming vibe of the restaurant can't cost peanuts. Certainly, you can appease your post-beach hunger with a hamburger, a pack of chips and a bottle of beer, but aren't we a bit more romantic than this? Giuseppe will attest that the food you eat should not be taken for granted.

Outdoor Art in the Beaches, Toronto

Katya R
Posted February 25, 2015

Toronto has been having a hell of a winter. Snowstorms, high winds, and a cold spell bitter enough to write home about have kept a lot of Torontonians indoors. There are, however, plenty of outdoor activities in the city waiting for those who decide to venture outside still!

Take The Beaches, for instance. It is one of the most iconic Toronto neighbourhoods and a summer visitor magnet, but it, too, becomes desolate in winter, especially in winter as harsh as this one. So to lure people out of their homes, the City of Toronto had decided to inject some warmth onto the snow-covered shore, brighten the Beaches landscape and attract more visitors to the area in the process.

How? By putting up an outdoor art installation, of course! Planned around the no less iconic lifeguard stations (in use only by the bravest souls in winter), four pieces of interactive art are united by the theme "Warmth". The idea is to bring people together on the beach again, be it around a bonfire or a set of colourful fabric swings.

Exploring the installations is a lot of fun, even on a sunny, -30В°C with windchill, kind of day. There are quite a few people hanging around despite the cold, so the exhibit can definitely be called a success. Here is hoping that this mini-art showcase will come back next winter.

FC Barcelona Camp Nou VIP Experience

Katya R
Posted December 9, 2014

On Sunday, December 7th, we were invited to see a game of football. It was, of course, a match of FC Barcelona, played at the famous Camp Nou stadium against their city rivals, RCD Espanyol, whose home base is located in CornellГ  de Llobregat (a suburban town bordering Barcelona).

The invitation was to the VIP lounge of Camp Nou that forms part of FCB Hospitality program. In our case the tickets we had were the actual stadium seats outside (not the box ones) with a splendid view of the stadium. "These are damn good seats," - remarked my companion, and boy was he right!

Besides the prime view in the house, we also had access to Sala Gol, a comfortable lounge not unlike an airport business class lounge with coat check, catering service before, during and after the game, and open bar before and after the match (not during the intermission, as serving alcohol s prohibited there during football games).

We were given wrist bands for easy access and were left to enjoy the facilities.

The game started right before dusk.

Free drinks and canapé food was great, of course, but even better was the fact that we got to witness some great football by Barça stars. To see Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué, and Pedro score: priceless!

FCB 5-1 Espanyol

Amazing evening at Camp Nou, all in all. It has to be noted, though, that prices for the VIP tickets are exorbitant and are probably not worth it for the majority of football fans. You can eat just as well, if not better, in many restaurants in Barcelona, enjoy amazing wine before the game, and get good seats for a Barça game for much cheaper. But, if you are after luxury, of course, the experience is a fitting one.

Photos of Moscow in November

Katya R
Posted November 12, 2014

The last week of October the team of Sweethomeabroad.com packed our bags, put on the warmest coats we could find and left the sunny Barcelona to visit Moscow, Russia. As many of you know, our website is fully bilingual (English and Russian, with some German pages thrown in), and a large part of our Internet audience comes from Russian territories and neighbouring countries. We visit Moscow regularly to meet clients interested in purchasing property in Spain, and this time was no exception. Although business was the main purpose of the trip, it was also a leisure pursuit, as Moscow is a beautiful and vibrant city, albeit rather cold already in November! Here are some photos we took while walking the streets of Moscow on our trip.

The view of the Kremlin towers

Muzeon, the park by the river Moskva that houses a sculpture garden and quite a few statues of the Soviet era.

The old chocolate factory Red October

The controversial statue of Peter the Great overlooking the river. Controversies were mainly of the aesthetic nature of this work, and there was much talk of its removal. As you can see, it is still there.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Krymskaya embankment at night

A beautifully lit facade at night

One of the city's loveliest boulevards, Chistye Prudy (literally, Clean Ponds), already decorated for the festive season.

And last but not least, some delicious Russian food! ;)

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