Thursday, 21 February 2013

It's time to eat!

And the blog posts continue! Look at me go! 2013, the year of being organised.

This time it's all about my favourite subject. FOOD! I'm kind of combining it with travel cos much of the tastiness has come from our trips away. So let me start where we last left off... Back from the honeymoon. Back to work, back to winter, back to reality. Sigh!

But reality does have its perks. Like lovely Toulouse and Bordeaux in France. I was told by my new husband to stop being such a princess when it came to our accommodation in Toulouse. I'm sorry but when the last time you travelled, you stayed in height of luxury and were then faced with the most basic of basic hotel rooms which smelt like stale cigarettes and had a dismal view, I think you're allowed to be a little bit precious! But Toulouse was all about the food for me. Incredible steak, duck and quite possibly the BEST dauphinois potatoes (oh, that's 'potato bake' for those of you who like me, had to google it the first time you heard it) I've ever tasted in my life. I'm sure it contained my entire days worth of calories in just half a serve but it was totally worth it. 

Just some of the French wine, bread and
cheeses we ate. Not all in one day though...
France - October 2012

House wine - amazing!
Toulouse, France - October 2012
From Toulouse to Bordeaux and probably one of my favourite train rides of all time. Fresh French bread, delicious cheese and local wine and I think you'll agree. Bordeaux we did what you do in wine region. Tasted wine. Lots of wine. Oh so cheap! What a place it was - beautiful food and cheap as chips wine. Sigh! Happy days!

Best train ride ever - wine, bread and
cheese. What more could you want?
Toulouse to Bordeaux - October 2012
Next up was a trip to Belgium - Brussels and Brugge - to take in the lovely Christmas markets with B,J & L. It was filled with frites and mayo, Belgian chocolate, beer, waffles - well, this was just what J ate! Then of course there was the delight that was the bicky burger. None of us knew what it was so we googled it. We shouldn't have. It's a mixture of pork, beef and... horse meat. Mmm... tasty... or something we wish we could wipe from our memories and never speak of again.

Bicky burger. Never EVER again
Brussels, Belgium. December 2012
Kwak Belgian beer in Brussels, Belgium
December 2012
Following Belgium was an epic Christmas feast in London at J&L's place. Two types of ham, an epic turkey (lovingly known as Keith), bread pudding, two types of stuffing, roasted vege, goose fat potatoes. And that wasn't even half of it. Merry Christmas!

Two baked Christmas hams
Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas fruit and vege, 'Keith' the
turkey, Christmas cheese and a London
Christmas tree - happy days!
Christmas Eve 2012

Christmas morning champagne. Cos that's
just how we roll
December 2012
Moving on to new years and my husband and I (hehe!! Still feels weird saying that!) took a trip down to beautiful Cornwall. We were treated to delightful English weather (grey skies, rain, rain and more rain) but the food was awesome. Clotted cream tea, Cornish pasties, fish and chips and proper English ales and ciders. And then I got to get my food geek on.

Cream tea in Penzance, Cornwall
December 2012

Giant cornish pasties, St. Albans, Cornwall
December 2012
In the delightful Plymouth and after a trip to the gin distillery (complete with a tasting of course) we went for lunch at Canteen, River Canteen, owned by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Everything was from local farms, with organic produce that tasted incredible. Salted cod fish cakes; cured venison; crispy pigs cheeks; chorizo in tomato sauce with coriander and homemade pita, just to name a few. Mmmm!!

My second food geek moment was in pretty Padstow at Rick Stein's The Seafood Restaurant. Crab and scallop saccotash; fish pie; grilled seabass with mushroom, swede and crispy kale; local cheeses. Just yum. For the rest of the trip, I'm not going to mention how many different ales and ciders we tried cos it would just be embarrassing.

Entrees - The Seafood Restaurant
December 2012

Mains - fish pie and deliciously crispy
sea bass. Padstow, December 2012

Dessert - cheese! Complete with personalised
biscuits - how posh. The Seafood Restaurant
Padstow, December 2012
This brings us into 2013 and the foodiness started in Vienna, Austria. Pork knuckle for two (I didn't know pigs could get that big) roast pork, Austrian sausages, sauerkraut and by far the biggest schnitzel I'd ever seen in my life. It came just on its own, deep fried, no greens just one hell of a slab of meat. B devoured it all, I don't reckon it even touched the sides. We'd been to Austria before so weren't in the market for a new magnet but decided if a schnitzel magnet existed, that would be a purchase too good to pass up. Our dreams came true when we found one... in full schnitzel-glory, complete with a minute lemon wedge. Bravo Austria... Bravo...

Before and after
Vienna, Austria - January 2012
January blues were not going to get to me this year. How could it when it was my birthday and there were new foods to be had? My surprise birthday dinner was in the ever so cool Meat Mission. Dirty great burgers (mine was topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and crispy pastrami - oh yeah) chicken wings served in plastic baskets, deep fried pickles with blue cheese dressing and rolls of kitchen towel to mop up the mess. Epically delicious, I'd go back in a second if I could.

The ceiling and bar at Meat Mission
MY BIRTHDAY! January 2013

Burgers, fries, chicken wings, blue cheese
dip, beer... it certainly was a very
happy birthday! January 2013

Well thank goodness for that!
Meat Mission - my birthday 2013
The very next day we jetted off to Marrakech, Morocco. Another country (and continent!) ticked off my list. What a place! Beautiful weather, lovely people, incredible shopping and delicious food. Tagine with beef, almonds and prunes was my absolute highlight. I know what you're thinking... old people eat prunes. But I've created a new rule. Prunes are only considered old people food if you a) eat them for breakfast b) eat them instead of sweets or c) drink it as your juice of choice. 

We visited a traditional Moroccan house with no electricity and 22 people living under the one roof. They welcomed us with open arms, serving us traditional mint tea, bread, butter, honey and oil. Everything they served was made by them and made with ingredients from their garden and animals. Incredible. Best butter of my life. Take that France.

See, I do take photos of other stuff every
once in a while! Atlas Mountains,
Morocco - January 2013

Lamb, almond and prune tagine as well
as the view over the lovely main
square - Marrakech, Morocco
January 2013

Beautiful skies in the Atlas Mountains
Morocco, January 2013

In case you're interested, our Moroccan magnet featured a basket of bread and a mini tagine among other things. Nice one! Morocco was also probably our most sober EVER holiday because it is a Muslim country. The drinks we did have (when we were able to track some down) were ever so sweet! I have never drunk so much mint tea in all my life.

Next up was the highly anticipated trip to Gordon Ramsay' s Maze. Our thoughtful former housemates gave us a gift voucher to spend at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant of our choice as a wedding present. What an awesome present hey?! We dressed up all posh and were treated to some incredible food and the most over the top service I've ever received.
It all seemed very fake and almost a little uncomfortable. We had the seven course tasting menu which included celeriac, squid and apple soup; rare tuna on smoked salmon with horseradish; lobster and salmon dumplings; fois gras terrine with pear; venison with sweet potato; Spanish cheese with candied walnuts; and chocolate mousse fondant pudding with mango and star anise ice cream. I was told by a friend that I was NOT to take photos of every course and be that person everyone rolls their eyes at. And I obeyed... pretty much. They were super quick pics and we totally judged those who got out their cameras to take photos. I mean, as IF you would... how tacky ;-) 

Dessert course number one - Spanish
cheese with candied walnuts
Maze, Mayfair - February 2013

Dessert course two - chocolate mousse
fondant pudding with mango and star
anise icecream. Maze, Mayfair
February 2013
Next was the slightly less posh trip to yet another all you can eat Brazilian meat place. It was B's idea to go here cos we had a voucher (do you know how many times I've said that in the past ten years?!) The food wasn't bad but it wasn't good either. A man walks around the restaurant with swords filled with different meats. It sounds a lot cooler than it is. All you can eat includes salads, most of which are stocked with potatoes, rice and pasta so you fill up on this unknowingly and feel sick every time the man presents another sword.
To quote Jeff Bingham from the tv show 'Rules of engagement' (and also the character B claims as his idol) "That's how they getcha."

Ok one last restaurant and I'll make it quick. I'm sure you're all wondering how I'm not the side of a house after all this eating and drinking and I often wonder if my body will ever just give up on me and shame me for being such a piggy! I prefer the word foodie to piggy, just so you know. 

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack! It was like a trip to the posh seaside right in the heart of London. Razor clams; potato pancakes with smoked trout, creme fraiche, horseradish and beetroot; beer battered haddock, homemade ketchup and chunky chips; cod with parsnip puree, quinoa and roasted cauliflower; dory with blood orange and pine nuts; Neil's Yard cheese board; rhubarb crumble; chocolate brownie... that was between four people in case you're wondering. Such a yum night!

It was all definitely fresh and local
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, London
February 2013

Entrees - Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack
London, February 2013
And in amongst all this, there's been home cooking and baking all of which are a little bit sweeter now I have a kitchen all to myself! Baking has included lemon drizzle cake with lemon cream icing, vanilla cupcakes with my best ever chocolate frosting and sticky date muffins. My dinners have been inspired by my ever growing collection of celeb cookbooks. Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 15 minute meals (all of which have taken a minimum of 45 minutes to cook), Gwyneth Paltrow's Notes from my kitchen table, Gok Wan's Gok cooks Chinese and Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem. Next time I blog about food, I’ll be sure to report back on any winners (and any failures) from this lot.

Lemon drizzle cake with lemon frosting.
Made using my new mix master

Dan Dan noodles from Gok Cooks Chinese

Just some of my London collection

Cupcakes with the best ever chocolate icing
So many amazing things to cook, so many more amazing restaurants to try. What a wonderful foodie life!

Friday, 1 February 2013

The honeymooners do Greece

From 'Love' we move on to 'Travel'. I'm sure most people close to me are probably very sick of hearing about the wedding so let's leave that one behind us and move on to the next best thing about getting married... the honeymoon!

 And so we relive the delights of our honeymooning-bliss in the spectacular country of Greece. We started in Athens, checking into our hotel with a room upgrade, fresh fruit platter and bottle of wine, complimentary to the honeymooners. Sweet! Day one saw us sample our first of many (... so, so many!) gyros - a kebab with fresh tzatziki, salad and chips - as well as Greek salad, local wine and moussaka (kinda like lasagne but with aubergine/eggplant in place of the pasta). Yum, yum and YUM! 

Mmmm... gyros and beer
For our first full day, we spent it exploring the gorgeous city of Athens. The acropolis, museums, shopping, changing of the guards, the gardens, the history... brilliant! We bought our Greek magnet (for those of you who are interested, our magnet isn't that exciting but it does include a decoration of olives!) olive soaps, cute little shoes, olives and lots and lots of herbs. 

Greek wine overlooking Zeus's
temple - heaven!
Royal Olympic Hotel, Athens

Olive trees

 The Acropolis

Enjoying some Greek heat
The Acropolis, Athens
From Athens, we flew to the island of Crete. We picked up our hire car from the tiny airport and headed off in search of our resort. It was so well hidden, we almost missed the turnoff. Hidden and exclusive - MY kinda place! 

It was perfection. I will try not to boast but in an exclusive villa, with our own private pool, rose petal path, sparkling wine and love-towel-swans on the bed... well, it was pretty amazing. The staff were some of the nicest people I've ever come across, nothing was too much trouble for them and we lapped it up!

I've always wanted towel love swans
Diaos cove resort

Our own private pool
Diaos cove resort

The resort - perfection
Diaos cove resort
The resort was designed for laziness. Don't worry about walking anywhere, take a chauffeured golf-buggy. One set of steps too much for you? Take the funicular. Soooo laaaaazy!

Being lazy by taking the funicular
I swear we walked most of
the time...
Diaos cove resort

Oh, and then there was the food! Breakfasts were just delicious. A daily buffet with so much selection it took me a few days to sample it all. Lunches, if we had room to actually eat them, were local delights - grilled meats, gyros, moussaka (still none beat the original from Athens though) and local beers and wines. 

But dinners... oh the dinners! It became almost a challenge for us to guess what cuisine would be served at the daily dinner buffet. Seafood night. Greek night. Crete night. BBQ night. "You ask what tonight's buffet will be..." "No YOU ask, I asked yesterday, I don't want them to think I'm a piggy!" That was our daily conversation over breakfast after we tried to guess what that night would entail.

Another advantage of being on our honeymoon meant we were treated to a delicious meal in their fancy Greek Tavern. I had my third helping of moussaka in three days that night after we ate our body weight in local dips, breads and olives. When dessert came out - a traditional Greek pastry soaked in honey - I literally couldn't even taste it, I was that full. Just looking at it was making me feel ill to the point that I had to put my serviette over the top of it to get it out of my sight. 

And just one more reference to food - local Greek wine was surprisingly good! Seriously good! I would never have taken the Greeks for wine makers and don't think I had ever even tasted Greek wine but all the ones we tried were from Crete and they were all amazing. Well, apart from one bottle of sparkling wine that neither of us could finish. And those of you who know B and I well you understand that wine NEVER goes to waste.

But I promise our honeymoon wasn't all about food. Our days were also spent exploring the island, visiting tiny fishing towns and taking photos of the incredible water. It was some of the clearest I'd ever seen - the colours were to die for. 

No filter. It really did look that incredible
Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos

When we weren't exploring the island, we spent a lot of time in the resort spa. Another gift from the resort to us as honeymooners, was our own private sauna, steam room and massage bath accompanied with fresh fruit and bubbly. Love is sweet and we sure enjoyed the freebies! That didn't seem to cut it though so we booked in another day for a couples hour and a half massage. Ahhhhhh, best massage of my life! 

When we'd had enough of the spa, we spent hour upon hour sunbathing on the beach in the sunshine sometimes with a cocktail in hand, getting a tan and living the life of luxury. My pasty-white London body appreciated every minute of the sun and my wedding-stressed mind could not get enough of the hours of just lying on a sun lounger, reading. Doing nothing was bliss and for quite possibly the of the first times in our nine year relationship, B actually enjoyed doing nothing. Amazing!

Our daily beach view
Diaos cove resort

Wine in our pool
Diaos cove resort


Wandering the resort
Diaos cove resort

Infinity pool
Diaos cove resort

And so eventually, it all had to come to an end. As much as I'm trying to make everyone jealous, you need to remember that as I write this, it's freezing cold, windy and disgustingly grey outside so perhaps I should stop bragging because I'm only depressing myself.

In a nutshell, it was everything I wanted in a honeymoon. We shopped, explored, relaxed, had endless sunshine, got a tan, ate incredible food, we LOVED it. We were very, VERY sad to come back to sad old London-town. Back to work,  back to reality, back to winter... sigh!

To cheer myself up, next post... FOOD!

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