Dry-ish January – can it be done?

Last year as 2016 began my partner and his brother decided to do ‘Dry January’ – oh how I scoffed at the idea and made my lack of faith in them very apparent. But now that we’re in January 2017, I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t give it a go this year?

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It can’t be a completely dry 31 days, we’re going skiing at the end of the month and I don’t plan to miss out on the après-ski drinks…but can I last until the day before the holiday?

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No way am I missing out on the apres-ski action!

Incidentally, last January the boys only lasted two weeks (so I was justified in my lack of faith!). That said, we didn’t really go about it in the right way last year. With them off the booze, but me still on it, I made the excellent suggestion that we should drive to some out of town restaurants on the weekends (always looking at what’s in it for me!). The kinds of places that are near and you’ve always wanted to go but would be rather extortionate in a taxi…The Pig, Limewood, The Crab at Chieveley and the like. It was an amazing idea in theory, it meant we all got to experience the wonderful food at these places (and I still got to drink the wine). However, in practice it was total temptation of the highest order for the teetotallers! And it was the stunning bar out at The Pig in the New Forest that broke their will and saw them succumbing to a fabulous gin & tonic. It was a wonder that two dry weekends were managed with this approach really. In hindsight, going to lovely restaurants with amazing cocktails and wine lists was a terrible idea for those avoiding the booze (it worked well for me though!)…I’m surprised they agreed to it really!

So, after a very indulgent festive season and with a ski holiday coming up, I could certainly do with shaping up, losing a few pounds and generally getting back on track – and this is why I find myself contemplating a dry-ish January. I’ve never been tempted before, the closest I’ve come is giving up drinking on Fridays whilst on a pre-holiday diet and I found it incredibly boring! Never the less, I’m still feeling like giving it a go.

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I’m not sure how well I’d fare out in a restaurant and it’s the weekends I’ll struggle most with. Wine or a drop of gin, certainly makes you feel like it’s time to relax after a hard week of working. Lucky that I love tea really I suppose. This year we both got an abundance of board games, Lego, books and activity themed Christmas presents to keep us occupied, so perhaps this is the way to fill the weekends instead?

Have you ever done a month off the booze? What are your tips for staying away from the wine? I welcome any advice!

 

Chocolate, Cocktails and Christmas

Christmas seems to have crept up on me this year – but it’s a little like the Tesco Christmas advert…what starts off as a panic soon turns into excitement. I think we can all agree we need a little Christmas magic more than ever this year!

So, the Christmas lights switch on in Winchester came at just the right time. Winchester is always a beautiful sight but the high street really does look extra special in the build up to Christmas with the lights twinkling away.

After taking in the lights, my sister and I were lucky enough to have tickets to the perfect event to keep the festive feeling alive. We came in out of the cold to Winchester’s cosy little chocolate shop, Chococo, for an evening of special cocktails and sweet treats.

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Chococo-Late was a joint adventure from the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo and what a collaboration it was! Cocktail expertise and chocolate flavours were combined, with just a hint of Christmas thrown too.

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A warm mulled pear & ginger cocktail made with Gosling’s rum was my first tipple of the evening and it truly was Christmas in a cup! I also enjoyed the Chococo Russian and the Sublime Moment – both were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.

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We tucked into Chococo’s milk, dark and white chocolate buttons as well as a warm chocolate brownie with cappuccino ice cream.  A decadent deluxe hot chocolate featuring cream, marshmallows and chocolate malt balls, also went down well on our table. We didn’t quite have room for the chocolate fondue on the menu but saw another table enjoying this and thought it looked amazing.

We left feeling warm, cosy and full of chocolate…but best of all, brimming with festive cheer. The countdown to Christmas has begun!

Thank you to the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo Winchester for a lovely evening. You can find out more about the brilliant foodie events from the Cabinet Rooms on their website.

Recent finds

I’ve been up in London for both work and play recently and made lots of exciting foodie discoveries, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here.

The Restaurant Show + The Bar & Pub Show

I was lucky enough to be working at this fantastic event and had a great time visiting different exhibitors and hearing their stories. Here are a few things I found…

Twisted Halo

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Health conscious but enjoy a drink? This is for you! Twisted Halo is a gently sparkling blend of coconut water twisted with ginger and muddled with premium vodka. At 90 calories per 275ml bottle, it’s light, fresh and very drinkable. I hope to see pubs and bars stocking it soon!

Curio Spirits

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Yes more booze – but I loved the Curio Spirits collection of gin and vodka. Made in small batches all the way down in Cornwall they were full of fragrant botanicals and natural ingredients. I liked their Rock Samphire Gin, made with Cornish spring water and quadrupled distilled with 15 fragrant botanicals, including Kombu seaweed.

The Snaffling Pig Co. – Pork Crackling

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If you watch Dragons Den you may remember this company, who had reinvented pork crackling as a high end pub snack. I had to try some and I wasn’t alone in doing so, their stand was very busy with people sampling the tasty flavours. Expect to see these in good pubs soon!

This is just a little snapshot from the show, there were so many other great things to see and try and talks to learn from too.

Stylist Live 

A week or so later I was back in London for a fun day out at Stylist Live. This is a truly amazing event, with so much going on. I could have gone to all the talks and bought so many lovely things! There are foodie stalls, gins, clothes, jewellery, interiors, make up – just everything. It’s fair to say I was a little over excited. So here’s just two fun foodie finds…

Crosstown Doughnuts – Matcha Tea Doughnut

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I have had the pleasure of sampling Crosstown Doughnuts before (they’re amazing!) but I’d never tried their Matcha Tea Doughnut before. With Match Tea being all the rage at the moment I had to give it a try and it didn’t disappoint. These sourdough doughnuts are on another level! Seriously indulgent but seriously worth it.

Rebel Kitchen – Raw Coconut Water

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From indulgence to innocence…this refreshing coconut water has no additives so it naturally turns pink in the bottle. I’d never seen coconut water with this pink glow before but apparently they’re the result of naturally occurring phenols (anti-oxidants to you and me). It tasted different to other coconut water brands and was lovely and refreshing. I’ll be stocking up on it!

xXx

 

New Look for Alresford PizzaExpress

There was a time when I was in Alresford five days a week for work – but since I started working from home, I haven’t been back many times. It’s a shame really as Alresford is a lovely place with some great restaurants, cafes and tea rooms.

So imagine my delight when the team at PizzaExpress wrote to me to tell me about their Alfresford restaurant’s brand new look. Naturally, I went along to see it for myself (and enjoy some delicious pizza of course!).

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PizzaExpress in Alresford’s Broad Street has been totally transformed and features new artwork based on Mid Hants Railway’s famous Watercress Line.

Did you know each PizzaExpress restaurant is individually designed – often using well known places, people or historical events from the area as a basis? With the Watercress Line being one of Alresford’s most well-known attractions, the interior takes inspiration from the railway’s history. Posters in the restaurant portray steam trains and details of their design form the basis for graphic abstracts.

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Back in its day, the Watercress Line used to transport locally grown plants to Covent Garden and I think it’s lovely to see this history reflected in the decor at PizzaExpress. Further along the Watercress Line, Alton’s PizzaExpress has also had a makeover featuring different artwork that plays tribute to the railway.

The new look Alresford PizzaExpress also has two new bars, feature chairs, settles and light fittings. There’s even a new garden area to enjoy.

I loved the smart new look and it made for a relaxing setting to enjoy a fabulous Fiorentina Pizza, with a perfectly cooked egg!

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I couldn’t resist a little something from the Dolcetti menu of mini desserts, served alongside tea and coffee…

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If you’re not already feeling tempted by a trip to Alresford’s newly made over PizzaExpress, the transformation coincides with the launch of a delicious new autumn menu. The autumnal menu includes a Basilicata Romana lamb meatball pizza and the welcome return of the Rustichella Romana pizza, as well as a vegetarian Al Forno Cannelloni. New on the dessert menu is a rich and intense warm Chocolate Fondant. Who’s hungry now?!

Thanks to the team at PizzaExpress Alresford for a lovely meal! x

 

Crete Revisited

I’ve recently returned from a sunny week in Crete, my second ever visit to the island and it was as welcoming and beautiful as ever. The post-holiday blues are hitting hard as I write this, can’t I go back for a few more days?!

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Beautiful views of Crete from Spinalonga

We stayed at the fabulous Blue Palace Resort & Spa, a large hotel that somehow still felt intimate and friendly. Built on a hillside, it had its own funicular to take you down to the beach, where the water was just beautiful.

Foodie highlights were not short supply, the hotel had numerous restaurants, my favourite was the Blue Door, which sat right on the waterfront and offered a feast of traditional Cretan and Greek dishes. I enjoyed feta, halloumi,vine leaves and plenty of tzatziki. In addition to some lovely local wines, the cocktails from the hotel bar were heaven too…

The hotel even had its own Shisha menu and an expert to recommend different blends. It had to be done!

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Total relaxation

The nearby towns of Plaka and Elounda were full of fantastic food too. Plaka is a very short walk away and we enjoyed a delicious meal at Thalassa, tucking into a traditional Moussaka and some fresh fish. Venturing a little further afield into Elounda we enjoyed the food at restaurants including Kanali, Olondi and Lotus Eaters. Here’s just a selection of the delicious dishes we tucked into during our stay…

Sometimes on holiday, you can’t beat a lazy day with a good book and a spot of sunbathing on the balcony, on one such day we did just that and ordered room service. It certainly was lunch with a view!

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A lovely lunch on the balcony

The views from the hotel were simply stunning, our room looked right out on to the uninhabited island of Spinalonga. The island is full of history, going back to Byzantine and Venetian times and more recently in the 1900s as a place for people with leprosy to live.

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Beautiful views of Spinalonga from our room

We took a boat across to Spinalonga to explore. It’s always quite busy with tourists taking in the sights and history of the island – but we went a little off the beaten track, taking an unconventional (and rocky!) route, which turned out to be well worth it. We found a few quiet, peaceful spots to stop and admire the views and consider the history around us.

All in all it was a fabulously relaxing week, full of food and wine, absolute heaven! I highly recommend Crete for a holiday,  I’m sure this won’t be my last visit. Thanks to the lovely staff at the Blue Palace who helped make our week a really memorable one and to Winchester’s Independent Holiday Shop who organised everything for us.

Post holiday diet starts next week!

xXx

Deliveroo launches in Winchester

I’m always saying how lucky we are to have so many amazing restaurants here in Winchester, so I was beyond excited to hear that Deliveroo was launching in the area. If you’re not familiar with Deliveroo, it’s an on-demand delivery service, bringing you food from local restaurants. This even includes some of the city’s restaurants that don’t usually deliver or offer a takeaway service.

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Deliveroo launches in Winchester!

I first came across the Deliveroo team years ago at a trade show I was working at back when the service was first launched in London. I remember thinking it was a great idea but never imagined it would one day come to us here in Hampshire. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to try out the app and what better time than the recent bank holiday weekend?

Currently, there are over 20 local restaurants signed up to Deliveroo including Sakura, Gandhi, Ruby Reds, Loch Fyne, Pi and Zizzi. Initially, I was most excited about being able to get sushi delivered from Sakura. However, with the bank holiday fun, came a bit of a bank holiday hangover – leading me to opt for something a little more in the classic comfort food family! So my first Deliveroo order was for a feast of nachos, sweet potato fries and a burrito from Ruby Reds. I have to say I was impressed at how seamless the whole process was. The app is straightforward and easy-to-use and the tracking facility was accurate and really handy, letting me know when the food was just about to arrive (useful when you have a parrot on the loose at home!). The indulgent order from Ruby Reds was delicious and definitely hit the spot!

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A Deliveroo rider in front of one of the city’s most well known landmarks

I was also impressed by the option to schedule orders via the Deliveroo app up to one day in advance as well as the normal asap delivery. All in all, I’d have to say it’s a brilliant service and one I know I’ll be using again – next time I’ll hopefully opt for something a little healthier!

There’s great news that more restaurants may be added as the service expands and grows in Winchester. Plus, the Deliveroo team tell me that around 50 jobs will be created for local people too.

I can certainly see Deliveroo being a part of my life, adding another great way to enjoy some of the fantastic food we have here in Winchester. You can try out Deliveroo for yourself by visiting the website or downloading the app, which is available on iPhone and Android.  Happy eating!

Foodie fun this weekend at Chequers Fest

If you’re looking for a fun, foodie event this weekend you can’t go far wrong with Chequers Fest, at The Chequers in Eversley Cross,  this Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st August.

Okay, so this is a little outside of Winchester but I have reason to believe it’s going to be great, so thought I’d share the news. The whole of the lovely village pub The Chequers will be given over to two days of fantastic live music, bars and artisan food and drink.

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I’m told that the focus for this year’s festival is Great British Produce, with a wonderful array of great home produced things to eat and drink on offer, as well as plenty of opportunities to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

The pub’s invited some great producers to be there for the festival, with plenty of delicious things to nibble and quaff and lots of free tasters on offer (who doesn’t love free tasters!?). There’s a chance to try some fabulous oysters from the Oyster Bar and some delicious regional cheeses.

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You can get creative and make your own sausages and fairy cakes in a series of foodie workshops for all the family. Then relax over a glass or two of local ale or something chilled from the bar. There will be live music from Off The Record from 2pm to 4pm on the day as well. Sunday is the day for dancing, cocktails and more delectable food. There’ll be a tasty hog roast available as well as the pub’s usual summer menu.

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“Once again we’ll be having some great British produce on offer at the festival and putting on an amazing day dedicated to the good stuff,” says Jordan Marr, general manager of The Chequers.

“We love serving the good stuff here in the pub and this is our way of sharing the best of it with you as well as bringing great live entertainment and fun for everyone over the weekend. Come along and enjoy it all and of course have a brilliant day out,” he adds.

Tickets for Chequers Fest cost £10 for adults and are valid for both days. Under 12’s go free.  As the festival takes over the entire pub for the weekend, entry to The Chequers is only possible with a ticket. Chequers Fest takes place from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday 20th August and from 12pm to 8pm on Sunday 21st August. The Chequers, Eversley Cross, Hampshire, RG27 0NS. To book tickets or find out more  go to www.thechequerseversleycross.co.uk or call 01184 027065.

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