Trends, tastings & tipples at The Restaurant Show

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Each year in early October the The Restaurant Show takes place, with The Bar & Pub Show running alongside it (as well as Conscious Hospitality and the Catering Equipment Expo). These are trade events for the hospitality sector and I’m lucky enough to get to work on them. I say lucky, because although it’s hard work, it’s also amazing seeing and trying some of the latest food & drink trends. It’s a full on few days but I always come away excited about what I’ve seen and tasted. Here are a few of my favourite finds…

Poetic License Distillery

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Only 1000 bottles of the Elderflower & Gooseberry Gin are made, so it was a treat to try a little sip at The Bar & Pub Show. I tried it neat at 10.30 in the morning – that’s how committed I am to the cause! A lovely gin that I hope to see in pubs and bars soon.

Masons Yorkshire Gin

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Sticking with the Gin, I was also thrilled to discover one which combined my other passion in life…tea! Yes, Masons Gin add loose leaf Yorkshire Tea (around 4KG of it!) during the production process to get this uniquely refreshing gin. I was a little bit more sensible and sampled this with some Fever Tree tonic – I can’t wait try some again soon!

Sorvinesse – The Wine Sorbet Company

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Savignon Blanc Sorbet anyone? Yes that’s right a sorbet made with real wine, just a little so that it can still freeze. A little wine is all that’s needed, these taste just like wine but a fraction sweeter. Available in both red and white wine – these wine sorbets are a UK first! I highly recommend Sorvinesse to restaurant owners, wine sorbets would make a lovely light way to end a meal.

Botonique

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It’s not all about booze, I absolutely loved Botinique – a soft drink for wine lovers. It’s fair to say I’m not a soft drinks fan, I tend to see them as just pointless sugar…If I’m not drinking I’ll just have water. However, Botonique has totally changed my opinion here. It was complex and refreshing and serving it in champagne flutes, has sophisticated, enjoyable feel. I could see myself switching to it during a night out. It was created by a wine connoisseur, who didn’t enjoy soft drinks either but knew she needed to cut down a little on the wine. It’s been described ‘a soft drink with all the pleasure of wine’. I really hope pubs and restaurants start stocking up on this, it’s a great concept and very enjoyable.

Isigny Sainte-Mere

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I always love the stand from Isigny Sainte-Mère, a French brand consisting of two complementary dairy cooperatives. It’s absolute cheese heaven and I was delighted to come across a fondue cheese, which is actually a blend of three different cheeses! It’s sure to make the perfect fondue! I am certainly fond of fondue, it’s not something you see much of in UK restaurants but it’s firm favourite on a ski trip.

Y3K

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I sampled Y3K’s delicious Cookie Mousse Cake, a real American indulgence! It’s made with America’s two favourite cookies – chocolate chip and Oreo – I can see this being a hit in casual dining chains and family friendly restaurants. Yum!

Pel Waste – Baby Jaws Glass Crusher

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This is an ingenious, compact glass crusher that can reduce glass waste by up to 80%. This is obviously meant for the bars and pubs – but with the amount of wine we get through in my household I could really do with this at home!

Aperol Spritz – by Campari

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Aperol has obviously been around for a while, but it certainly seems to be enjoying a moment right now. On my recent trip to Sardinia, literally everyone was drinking it every night it the hotel bar. I’m seeing Aperol Spritz on more and more UK drinks menus too. Their stand at The Bar & Pub Show was a bright bold orange display, that you just couldn’t miss. Cheers to them for their amazing stand and fab free samples!

These were just a few of the brilliant finds and foodie brands I got the chance to chat to at the show – for more check out the shows’ Twitter feeds @barpubshow and @restaurantshow or browse exhibitors on the show websites. If you’re in the industry, I highly recommend a visit next year!

 

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Sunny Sardinia

I’m not long back from a week in Sunny Sardinia, where in all honesty, eating, sunbathing and sleeping where my main activities. I’m not even joking. Although our hotel did have some wonderful free yoga classes, which I managed to find time in my packed schedule for a visit to.

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While hotels in the region (and often Italy generally) aren’t always mega luxurious, this doesn’t really matter when it’s this beautiful…

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Stunning views were everywhere in Sardinia and even a terrible photographer like me took some lovely shots capturing the island’s beauty. The beaches in particular were perfect and with temperatures in the 30s, we were very glad of the sea breeze and the cooling waves.

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Sleep came easily in a canopied bed that made me feel like a princess! Obviously, it’s a mosquito net to keep those nasty little bugs out (of which Sardinia has plenty!) – but it does look rather pretty doesn’t it?

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Seafood, pizza and pasta made up much of our diet on this trip, well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? I had a few salads for good measure, but when in Italy, this is what it’s all about…

Tiramisu…had to be done!

A special thanks to Colin & Olatz for this treat of some local bubbles on our first night!

There’s nothing like a late August/early September holiday to make you really feel the difference in seasons on your return. Now we’re back in England, the tan’s fading and the weather’s turning. It’s easy to give into the blues but secretly I’m rather looking forward to winter (and Christmas!!!)…bring it on! 

A diet of documentaries

These days there are plenty of food documentaries out there that are easy to consume thanks to the rise of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix. And I certainly have an appetite for them! I feel that there’s so much we don’t understand about the food we eat and its effect on our bodies (and the planet). So personally, I can’t get enough of food documentaries in my mission to educate myself a little better.

Here’s a few films (and a book) that I’ve devoured recently that have helped me…

That Sugar Film

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It came recommended to me from a trusted personal trainer and when I eventually got around to watching this, it changed the way I thought about calories. As many people will know I have been enthusiastic about low fat/low calorie snacks in the past and have eaten plenty of processed diet snacks to keep myself under a certain calorie limit. And no matter how much I heard about clean eating and healthy fats, I would often still choose a low calorie snack bar or fat free yogurt over something like a whole avocado or scrambled egg. ‘That Sugar Film’ taught me that sugar and sweeteners are the real enemy and that my low calorie snacks are packed full of it. I knew that they were, I just didn’t believe that sugar was actually that bad. Throughout the documentary, filmmaker Damon Gameau eats a high sugar diet without ever reaching for chocolate or sweet treats. He gets his sugar from supermarket cooking sauces, frozen yoghurt, fruit juices and breakfast cereals…all things we tend to think of as ‘not too bad’. It did shock me to realise the damage I could be doing to my body on what I kidded myself was a healthy-ish diet. If you’re looking to cut sugar (or just to understand a bit more about it), this film is enlightening, easy to understand and best of all, it’s actually pretty funny too.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

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Okay, this film is not funny at all, and it is heavy going but it’s also eye-opening. It essentially concerns farming’s impact on the planet, which I really had no idea about. I thought as long as I was buying organic meat, eggs and fish that I was doing right by the earth and animals…but in short it seems no farming is sustainable. This is a much bigger story than animal welfare, it is about our future as a planet. It’s truly a staggering documentary. I have never wanted to give up dairy before, but I pretty much have now after seeing this. I would love to try and go veggie too but having recently adopted a paleo-approach to eating, it would be incredibly hard! I have to admit, the film has left me feeling really uncomfortable about eating meat and unsure of the way forward. I don’t regret watching it though, it’s better to be informed.

Book binge: It Starts with Food

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Whilst in America I read ‘It Starts with Food’ after being lent it by my friends at Studio Twenty3. It was a much needed read, building on what I’d learnt in That Sugar Film and really spelling out the ill effects of eating foods not found in nature. It also helps you to understand why we crave and love some of the things we do (cheese and crisps in my case!) and shows how little chance we have against some of the foods out there. They are specifically designed to be irresistible! The recommendations are pretty extreme…no dairy (except clarified butter), no grains (that’s no rice or wheat) and no legumes (like beans or chickpeas) and of course no added sugars or sweeteners. However, it does claim that a lot of the conditions and negative effects of eating a bad diet can be reversed, so it seems a fair price to pay.
The science is all there in the book, it makes a lot of sense really. I’ve been sticking strictly to this (it’s called the ‘Whole30’ if you’re interested) wherever possible and I’ve already felt better and lost a little weight too.

Bursting with food facts…
I’m trying my hardest not to be an annoying person quoting food facts but I do feel happier being a little better educated on everything. I’m always up for learning more though, so let me know if there are any food documentaries or books you recommend?

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

 

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