Fat.

Spandex

 

Winter is turning into Spring, the little buds of blossom are peaking out of their winter shells and here and there Daffodils and primroses are adding a lovely little dash of colour to the bleakness of the winter landscape.

Added to these natural shocks of colour the bikers have also started appearing to brighten up the start of the year. Unfortunately 6 months of woolly jumpers and winter warming grub have filled out those Spandex outfits. I never thought lycra could shrink in the wash but mine has definitely got a little tight across the shoulders .

So the mission is afoot, I’m planning 1000 km of cycling and at least a dozen days of ski mountaineering between now and the 8th of May. Diet? Porridge, cabbage and carrots. If I am not devastatingly sexy by May I’ll be amazed!

Curry, best of!

curry

 

 

10 years I trained as a classical French chef, I never did manage to get my C.A.P   but I can still take 3 days to make a nice gravy. I’ve forgotten how to bone a quail but I’m sure it would come back to me pretty quick, Risotto? I make the best dam wild mushroom Risotto in the Balkans! 

So what is it about the Avalon and Curry! We feed about 50 people a week, all pre-booked sometimes months in advance 90% of whom are repeat guests. All of whom are here because they have heard through the grapevine about our curry nights.

I never properly learnt how to cook a curry. I don’t really count sitting in a smoky canteen watching some crone knock up some subji and rice in India, Dal and rice in Nepal, or some old badger of a chef slapping Naan into a tandor and deep frying samosa in gee in Pakistan. But weirdly it looks like it rubbed off! People like what I call curry!

So what is this dish called curry ? Most Brits will have a pretty good image in their heads of the standard fair and will think of it as Indian food. However Indians aren’t really into what we call curry first off they are all vegi so spiced vegitables, lentils rice and if you are lucky naan is their bag second off they are poor as poor can be so it is more about the rice than anything else. The classic Indian Thali is loads of rice some watery bland lentil soup and if you are lucky a spicy little dab of chutney. Mmmmmm fuel but not really anything to write home about.

So British Curry that imperial hangover that just wont go away, rich mans curry, rich carnivores curry! Now that is what we are talking about in the U.K. no holding back, no religious qualms do taboos! Just Spice, Meat and chillies! Our Curries are Mughal curries, the food of those nouveau riche barbarians that came charging down the passes from the Hindu Kush led by Babur the personification of Nouveau the personification of barbarian but what a poet, what a man! If ever you find the time read his autobiography it is called the Baburnama and is not only one of the great pieces of self promotion but also a cracking  rags to riches read.

So a bunch of British pirates with pockets full of cash meld with a bunch who used to be land based pirates with pockets full of cash and the child that is born is what we call curry. The word means nothing to any one in Asia but means everything to everyone who was touched by the empire. From Jamaica to New Zealand via Bristol and South Africa everyone has their own version of curry.

So what is it we serve at the Avalon, well I am sporn of that empire, touched by the wilds of the Himalayas, enraptured by the Hindu Kush enlightened by the thin air of Nepal and just a little twisted by the illicit spices of the subcontinent! Below is a list of my favourite dishes we serve and from the looks of the empty bowls our guests love it as well!

The last curry of the season will be this Thursday the 27th of March. We’ll be showcasing some of the favourites of the winter.

Kashmiri Pork, hot and aromatic with lots of different pepper flavours, from Hot Hot Chillies to mild tones of smoked paprika. 4 hours this bad boy sits in the slowest of slow ovens to the point where the meat just melts and the gravy is black!

Chicken Tikka, but not as you know it, boneless chicken thighs marinaded in a bright red mix of hot spices from Lahore and then baked in yoghurt for a sour creamy finish. Watch out it isn’t that mild androgynous sandwich filler of UK petrol station fame, hot and sour.

Chicken Balti, prime chicken breast in a classic Balti sauce, red peppers and a hint of Tamarind. Straight out of Birmingham nothing I saw in Baltistan looked anything like this but it tastes good and Brits recognise it!

Korma, my korma! None of this sweetened rubbish you find in the U.K. a rich onion and spice gravy thickened and sweetened with tons of coconut milk and coconut cream! In Baltit at the snout of the Baltoro Glacier in the shadow of so much vertical rock I found a fantastic coconut curry! WTF the nearest coconut tree must be a thousand miles from Baltit but hey this is the first bit of civilisation a bunch of minted mountaineers arrive at after months in the hills! You want coconut Sahib coconut it is!

Aromatic Kashmiri Chicken. Another Kashmiri classic but this time from Azad Kashmir, Chicken, spinach, bay, coriander, cumin and cardamom all lifted with a little lemon. Proper peasant fair, simple spices, some greens, lemons if they are in season and a pile of bread! Yum!

Chana Dal, proper northern Indian Dal, rich nutty with a hint of chick pea, thickened with split orange lentils and lightly spiced. I could live off Dal !

Palak Gohbi (Saag Gohbi) you can argue about the wording all day long! Spinach and cauliflower in a rich dark spice gravy . Again straight out of the north, subji, subzi, sabzai, call it what you like veg, flavourings in a wet-ish sauce, a true Himalayan staple

Samosa, Bargi, Papad, chutney, raita, lime pickle and lassie!

25lv a head!
Book on hotelavalonbansko@gmail.com or 00359 74988399

 

 

 

Be Free!

free mountains logo_3

Spring has sprung, and most people are thinking this is the end of the winter but strange things are happening up in those there hills! Yesterday was the first glimmer of a transformation happening to the snow pack. As the day time weather warms up but the night time temps keep low the snow starts to change from ethereal shards of “flake” into melted, refrozen, melted again and refrozen again balls of mini sweetcorn and the spring season starts.  

The first hint we had was when I was cycling out on a variation of the Perfect Day trail and it looked as if the east facing slopes of Pirin had been turned into polished marble. This is normally a good sign that the snow is changing into something fun! I have had a couple of runs off the side of the pistes recently and on south facing slopes the transformation has already happened, with bucket loads of wet corn to play in, a sort of powder like experience but a slower and more relaxed version!

So why are we not seeing a influx of mad mountain hounds to ski what is one of my favourite types of snow?

Firstly and as always Ulen are really not very good at marketing what they have, so even though the on piste conditions are good and the back country is having a final fling of fun Ulen are pretending we are still in February! Errr no, we’re not we are in spring now! So people are getting mixed messages, is there 2m of snow on the hill? If so why are there no tourists? Is the ski road open? It looks grassy to me! But my feeling about Ulens inability to run a ski resort professionally have already been voiced over and over again. So no need to go there now!

Secondly, “THE SLOG” there is the small matter of earning your turns. And spring corn is a premium product, none of this leaping off the lift into chest deep powder February style, oh no Corn demands a little up front payment and god do you have to pay. I reckon I am about twice as fast in the summer as I am in the winter so what is a lazy trot up Bez Bog in July about 90 mins at a gentle potter. In March, April and May becomes 2 hours if not 3 hours of ball ache!  O.K. it’s pretty cool playing at being Scott of the Antarctic but I’m sure Scott wasn’t carrying 20kg of fat!

Thirdly safety, spring skiing can be a little fickle. The snow pack is changing not weekly not daily but hour by hour. What was rock hard concrete welded to mother earth at 9am soon turns into a surly pile of sludge that is thinking more about heading down to warmer climes than sitting still. Add to this migratory inclination 100kg of tired fat bloke jumping up and down on it and you get some truly splendid spring avalanche action, slow rumbly numbers that are going to tear you to pieces or grind you to pulp. These aren’t the fast fluffy avalanches of ski movies these beasts move super slow, weigh mega tons and really don’t notice what is in front of them.

So this is how it goes, crack of dawn (probably before that) up you hop 1/2 a kg of salty porridge down your neck as much water as you can drink and off we go. Drive drive drive walk walk walk, Hopefully by lunch time you’ve got to the top of something fun and the snow is still feeling docile. Eat and drink everything you’ve got, skins off skis on, weeeeeeee down to the pub for beer! 6 hours of graft for one little run! Heaven!

and the best people to do it with … www.freemountains.com

Negative equity?

property

I used to think the slump in the Bansko property market was a natural rebalancing after the Bansko property bubble burst. However the regular complaints of estate agents this winter seem to indicate otherwise. A more sinister force is at work. The fixed price commission. As prices for Bansko Apartments plummeted in 2008 and 2009 agents managed to convince desperate sellers that percentage commission was no longer acceptable and thus fixed commissions. No longer was the main driving force the price of the property but now it just came down to VOLUME! The more apartments we can sell the better, and the easiest way to shift a lot of product? You guessed it, sell ’em cheap!  So the sales pitch now is double edged, to the seller “the market is very depressed, we are only getting sales for property around the 300 euro/m2 range” to the buyer “Buy now properties are at record low prices”  and the only winner? Yup you guessed right again, the agent.

 

O brave new world,

Propaganda

O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

William Shakespeare

 

When I look around Bansko the irony of Miranda’s words are not lost on me,  the hope and wonder that Bulgaria would be opening a new chapter in 2007 brought similar thoughts and emotions to Bulgarians as they did to Miranda when she saw the drunken sailors staggering off their wrecked ship.
The poverty of Bulgaria both financial and political, the naivety, lack of world or business experience all added up to a wave of euphoria that has carried us through the last 10 years. The building of Bansko as a ski resort  and the huge wealth that generated, our entry into that exclusive club of European nations, added to the massive up swell of optimism, a crashing tsunami of blind hope. As the wave pulls back we start to see the detritus that has been left on the beach, the flotsam and jetsam of a flawed society.
Bulgaria has never had a revolution, the clans that ran the country under Stalin are still around their children are still in power, influencing Bulgaria’s journey. Now that Putin is invading the Crimea and his propaganda machine is churning out the lies, smoke and mirrors that all dictators live by it is easier to see the same lies and propaganda being churned out in Bansko.

sf-logo

Snow forecast .com and Banskoski.com are two such propaganda machines, 145cm of snow is supposedly on the top of the mountain at the moment. 135cm at the bottom! Avalanche risk? It’s not very dangerous.  The reality is far from this, there is no chance I would go into the back country today, I am pretty certain I would die! But the propaganda machine rolls out the same lies that had the children of Belarus manifesting their loyalty to the party with out door parades under a shower of atomic fallout.  145cm have these idiots even seen a ruler, 145cm is over my moobs the (generous) reality is snow up to my crotch(75cm) at the deepest point and more like to the top of my boot on average (40cm) o.k in some wind blown gully you might just about see 145cm of snow built up but really….!

Ulen AD recently published a press release of such a magnificent nature that it is hard to believe that it was written by anyone other than Goebbels himself. A fountain of tripe would be the best description, deviations from the truth that would be considered delusional if you were feeling kind, mad if you were feeling honest. So why in the 21st century in Europe  would anyone bother to employ people like this, why would anyone bother to spout such rubbish?

Well the sad truth is that these guys were brought up in a world where the power of the party was so absolute that it was impossible to doubt it. If the party said day was night people would stumble around at night trying to work. Putin’s guff about there being no russian troops in the Crimea is the same as Ulens guff about there being no avalanche risk. Conditions today were “fair” according to Ulen, you couldn’t see your feet but conditions were fair!

This childish approach might have worked 60 years ago when loyal party members would have stood in a grassy field skis and goggles on chatting about how great it was to ski under communism but I would like to think our average tourist would not be so stupid.

 

Daddy and Dylan

Father-and-Son-skiing

 

What a great week, Dylan has had 6 full days of ski lessons, going up the hill with daddy skiing with George from skimania  and then coming down the ski road hand in hand with daddy. 6 very happy days for both of us. Olympic gold medalist 2022?

We had a little bit of snow yesterday and last night and loads more is coming!