Alpine Eating

A few weeks ago myself and a few companions set off on our annual pilgrimage to The Alps, shaking things up a bit this year and choosing France over Switzerland. Thank goodness we did make this change as our usual destination of Zermatt was pretty much snowed-in. Val D’isere was experiencing heavy snowfall too – but thankfully we managed to get out there most days.

Skiing was limited though thanks to lift closures and high avalanche risks. This naturally meant more time for eating and drinking. Being in the French Alps I was quick to tuck into a tartiflette, my favourite treat of mostly potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese.

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I also managed to tuck into crepes, chocolat vinnois and vin chaud. But the main agenda was cheese, cheese and more cheese…I actually had so much I’m sort of off it right now (can you OD on cheese?!). An individual (but still very large) raclette all to myself was quite a feat of cheese consumption, even for me! I also indulged in cheese fondue and cheesy croissants for breakfast, so definitely on a break from dairy right now.

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Our hotel Aigle des Neiges was a lovely cosy place with a roaring fire and delicious cocktails on the menu. It’s a good thing too, some nights while we were away a curfew was imposed so the streets could be cleared of snow safely at night, meaning we were glad of such cosy, boozy surroundings!

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Our favourite spots for food while out there were La Casserole, Restaurant les Tufs and Chez Paolo for pizza.

I hadn’t been to Val D’isere for 10 years, so it was like new with a few hazy memories of places here and there. And while my heart is most definitely in Switzerland, there’s something to be said for France and French cuisine. Plus it’s great being able to understand everything a little better (I have a good basic grip of French, but struggle with the Swiss-German spoken in Swiss ski resorts). The amazing convenience of the Eurostar ski train to Bourg Saint Maurice is a huge bonus too (just don’t expect to get any sleep on the overnight train!).

On the left above is Val D’isere in 2018 and right is Val D’isere in 2008. The big difference is helmets – why didn’t we have them 10 years ago?!

Anyway, farewell for now France, can I suggest you get more heated ski lift seats please?

 

 

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16 Thoughts I had about food in America

FoodTeaLife has been more than a little quiet lately, I could blame wedding planning, career changes and time abroad but it’s mainly that I’ve also been busy researching and thinking a lot more about nutrition lately…but that’s a whole other blog post.

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For now, I’ve just got back from America (a Californian road trip with a stop in Las Vegas) and of course, I thought about food a lot. The differences both positive and negative amused and intrigued me, so here goes…my thoughts about food while in America:-

  1. Coffee with cream in it?! What? That sounds SO ridiculously indulgent, yet it seems so everyday in the US. It seemed wrong but I have to say I soon got into it and kind of enjoyed it. Also, good coffee seems much more widespread over there. The UK has some catching up to to do on the good coffee front.
  2. On the other hand…the tea situation is pretty dire. No-one drinks it at breakfast like the Brits do and when you ask for milk you sometimes get hot milk, SO WRONG! Plus, why is it called ‘hot tea’, surely it’s just Tea or it’s iced tea? Tea is always hot unless otherwise stated isn’t it? I’m a tea fiend so this probably got me to me more than it should.tea solves
  3. Avocados, Avocados…Avocados everywhere! Woohoo! I LOVE avocados and ate one virtually every day whilst in the US, they’re grown in California so that may explain their abundance on menus. While avocados are pretty popular in the UK too, there are plenty of cafes that don’t offer some kind avo-centred dish, but happily this was not the case in the US.
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Breakfast of my dreams in LA, beautiful avocado toast!

4. Damn…the pies! Talk about pie porn! Sweet dessert pies, like Key Lime Pie were epic looking. The one slice I did have while out there was delicious.

5. Oooh so much amazing Mexican cuisine, so delicious and I’m in guacamole heaven…uh-oh, ate too many black beans, my tummy will not thank me for this.

6. Is In-N-Out Burger really that different to McDonald’s? I don’t get it.

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7. What exactly is a pound cake?

8. Wow sourdough is popular out here! Is that because all the other bread is sooo sweet? Either way I’m happy it’s an option.

9. The cheese situation is not great…what’s with all the liquid orange ‘cheese’? Yet the butter here is delicious…how does that work? Sort it out America. It made me realise just how spoilt for cheese choice we are in Europe.

10. Is bacon always crispy here? Would American’s be disgusted by the classic British Bacon Butty?

11. Ahh the international language of Subway, the same across the continents. I’m fluent in Subway and got a lovely fresh salad bowl whilst out on the road, on our way to Vegas. Although, American subway has banana peppers and fresh coriander in the salad options, we need these in UK (pretty sure my local branch doesn’t offer these).

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12. California’s got good wine.

13. Actual molten butter on popcorn….what?! I am a huge fan of popcorn (the lightly salted kind). It’s a cinema must for me. So when we went to ‘the movies’ in LA and I was offered buttered popcorn, it seemed like a classic American thing to try! It was good at first, but soon became not good (shouldn’t have got a large). What’s wrong with just sweet or salted?

14. Ooh Fever Tree mixers are out here too, how great (although there did not seem to be any in Vegas though). I always judge a bar or pub if it doesn’t have a good tonic like Fever Tree.

15. Dam nachos are epic out here!

16. Loving all the free and regular water top ups in restaurants, I can never get enough water, so this is amazing! The ‘soda’ tops ups are not so good though, have seen people drink two or three cokes with a lunch because of this…nobody needs that much sugar!

As you can see, I thought about food rather a lot. We had an absolutely amazing trip, full of adventures but right now I’m happy to be home in the land of good cups of tea and smaller portions.

I’m sure there’s plenty of things US visitors would find weird and wonderful about eating and drinking in the UK too (probably our tea obsession would factor highly!).

xXx

 

Anticipating Alpine Adventures

It’s that time of year again when I’m looking forward to heading off to The Alps for some skiing and some good eating and drinking too! This year I’m excited to be visiting to Switzerland, here’s what I’m looking forward too the most…

Cheese for Breakfast!

Why is this only a thing in Europe? We just don’t do cheese for breakfast over here do we? So I’m looking forward to hotel breakfasts featuring cheese and croissants.

Fondue

fondue

There I go with the cheese again (although more often than not I’m out voted and end up with a meat fondue). This year, I’m insistent that a delicious pot of molten cheese is happening!

Rösti

rosti

A traditional Swiss Rösti is top of my list for lunch. It’s carb-a-licious, being made mostly from potatoes, it’s hearty and delicious too though and I can’t wait for my first plateful this year.

Gluhwein

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Christmas may be over, but the hot spiced wine drinking doesn’t have to be. I actually feel like I didn’t drink enough mulled wine this Christmas (very poor effort!) – so I’ll be making up for lost time and enjoying a traditional Guhwein or two when I can.

Hot Chocolate

It just tastes better out in the cold, surrounded by snowy mountains. Comforting sweetness, the smell of cocoa and breathtaking views…a hot chocolate on the slopes is high on the list of simple pleasures on a ski holiday.

Tartiflette

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Possibly more French than Swiss, I’m not 100% sure on its origins but am sure it’s 100% divine. This cheesy, potato filled dish is pure heaven and I hope to tuck into some soon.

Have I made you hungry? The cold conditions in England right now make all of the above dishes totally appropriate to enjoy at home too I think…

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5 Reasons I’m looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester

Winchester and Wine…two things I love! So, naturally I am very much looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester in a few weeks time and here are just a few of the reasons why…

The brilliant ‘Follow Your Taste’ system

Follow Your Taste at Wine Festival Winchester

Trying to articulate which wines you like isn’t always easy, so Wine Festival Winchester has something a little different to assist with this. In order to help you find wines you like at the festival, organisers Susie and Peter have devised a colour-coded system called ‘Follow Your Taste’. Wine is broken down into six flavour styles and bottles at the event will have coloured neck tags to indicate their style.

English Sparkling Wine

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I think it’s just fantastic to have our very own wine producers creating bubbly that tastes as good, if not better than Champagne. It’s even better that so many great producers are local to the area too. I’m delighted to see that Hattingley Valley, Hambledon Vineyard and Cottonworth are all exhibiting, along with many others. I can’t wait to stock up!

Listening and Learning

I don’t claim to know an awful lot about wine but I do love learning about it and hearing from passionate producers, tasters and sommeliers. Last year I heard some great stories about the production process, how certain wines got their names and even the inspiration for different wine labels.

Trying New Things

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Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

The wine festival is great place to step outside of your usual wine comfort zone and try something different. In a restaurant you so often just stick with what you know or make a snap decision when buying wines from a shop. How often do you get the chance to really think about different wines and trying something you wouldn’t usually go for? The festival is the perfect place for this.

Foodie Favourites

Chococo at Wine Festival Wincester

Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

Cheese and chatting with the team from Chesil Rectory was lovely last year and I’m happy to see that they will be exhibiting again. Chocolate enthusiasts will be delighted to see Chococo has a stand too. It’s also great to see that some of my farmers market favourites like Devese Farm Animals will be there too. So there’s plenty of foodie experiences to discover as well as wine ones.

These five choices are a mere snapshot of the reasons why Wine Festival Winchester is going to be a fabulous event – I plan to write more about the festival as we get closer to the date (27th – 29th November). Until then, you can find out more at www.thewinefestival.co.uk.

A week of Cretan cuisine

It’s been a month now since I boarded an incredibly early easyJet flight and landed in beautiful sunny Crete, Greece’s biggest island. It was wonderfully hot, relaxed and scenic…a truly blissful week! Naturally, I was also very excited to immerse myself in Crete’s famous cuisine and resolved to eat as many local dishes and delicacies as possible. I certainly did, I came back about half a stone heavier, but that’s what holidays are all about for me, relaxing with amazing food and wine and getting to wear all the (loose) summery dresses that are never practical in the UK.

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Posing in one of my many loose fitting summer dresses!

We stayed in the gorgeous Minos Beach Hotel, found for us by the lovely people at Winchester’s Independent Holiday Shop. The hotel consisted of several traditional-looking white bungalows, dotted around the lush grounds, which were also filled with many different, interesting artworks. And, this is really important….THERE WAS A KETTLE IN THE ROOM! You never see that in European hotels, to the point where I pack my own travel kettle these days (the need for tea grows stronger the older you get!). So I was delighted with there being a kettle and wide variety of teas to choose from every day (it’s the simple things!). The hotel was situated in a perfect location, right by the sea and a lovely leisurely stroll from the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos.

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Obligatory sun lounger view shot – it does show the hotel’s proximity to the ocean though!

Minos beach art hotel Crete

One more of the hotel’s location….

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The nearby town of Agios Nikolaos

I’m a huge fan of swimming, especially in the sea and it was so warm! I swam most mornings before breakfast. Even when it was tough to get out of bed, I thought of how rare the opportunity for a morning swim in such beautiful water was, and it got me out there!

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I think I’d suit being a mermaid!

Crete, Agios Nikolaos

My swimming companions (less like mermaids)

On to the food! I tucked into fresh Cretan yoghurt with honey, nuts and seeds every morning at breakfast which was delicious and tasted so much better than Greek Yoghurt at home (and definitely better than the diet ‘Greek Style’ Yoghurt I tend to buy!). I also enjoyed halloumi, Greek salad and feta at every possible opportunity! And of course, baklava for dessert too.

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Just some of the delicious baklava I consumed!

We did pay a special visit to one restaurant called Migomis, famous for its food and its stunning views over the marina.

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The views from Migomis Restaurant

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Another from Migomis Restaurant

The food was equally as fabulous. My starter of Migomis House Salad was so full of flavour, possibly the best salad I’ve eaten (and I eat a lot of salad!)…

Migomis restaurant Crete

House Salad

There was plenty of fish and seafood on the menu too, here are two further courses…

Migomis Restaurant Crete Seafood Risottio

Seafood Risotto at Migomis Restaurant

Linguine with smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and roe

Linguine with smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and roe

I can also highly recommend a restaurant called Piato, where we shared a starter of mixed local specialities and enjoyed the best wine of the whole trip.

Every meal also featured a complementary glass of Raki to finish with, which is a kind of Cretan brandy, strong stuff but we all certainly got into it! Of course there were cocktails (our hotel bartender made some great cocktails) and even a Shisha bar visit or two…

Holiday fun times!

Holiday fun times!

After a crazy busy September at work, it all seems much longer than a month ago now, a distant but happy memory! What is clear in my mind though, is what a wonderful place Crete was, the weather, the people, the food and the wine were all amazing – I’d highly recommend it!

6 Things no-one tells you about weight loss

I never had all that much weight to lose, just a stone or so…easily acquired when you’re eating out a lot and partial to cheese and wine! However, last year I did manage to shift it with a switch to the 5:2 diet, intensified for the first few months.

Sticking to this straightforward way of life and eating only 500 calories for two days of the week means I have kept my excess stone off for over a year. Where am I going with this rather uninteresting tale? Well, successfully losing weight does feel great but there are a few surprises no-one tells you about…

1) You miss your appetite

A large pizza at Pi Woodfired in Winchester!

The 5:2 way of life and eating a little less does rather seem to shrink your your stomach and your eating capabilities! Bizarrely, I miss being able to eats lots of food. I used to be a massive fan of grazing, I still am, but it really fills me up! When you know you’re going to get full pretty quickly you really have to pick your food carefully.

2) You can’t choose where you lose weight from

It’s true, you might just want to shift a little from around the middle but you end up losing it from everywhere, even places you didn’t want to slim down! If you’re a woman, you can expect to lose hips and bust, not something I was prepared for!

3) Some of your favourite outfits won’t look so good on any more

Partly due to point number 2 and a changing shape, dresses, favourite jeans and tops can all not fit as they once did. Some clothes will look better on but some you’ll have to say goodbye to. It is an excuse to go shopping though!

4) Your shopping habits increase!

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Yes point number 3 brings you every excuse you’ll ever need to go clothes shopping. Whether it’s buying old favourites in smaller sizes or embracing bold new trends now that you feel more confident. You may have lost weight but your credit card bills will be getting fatter!

5) The fear of re-gaining weight is ever present

weighing yourself on the bathroom scales

While it feels great to be slimmer, there’s always a faint glimmer of worry that you might gain the weight back. One too many takeaways and you could be back where you started, ruining all your hard work. If you’re being healthy it probably won’t happen (beyond a couple of easily shed-able pounds), but the fear lingers in a way you never expected. I guess maybe it’s the motivation to stay healthy?

6) You become a bit boring

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Yes, like people who give up drinking or get really serious about the gym, you’ll lose a little bit of your fun self. Maybe it’s not true for everyone but having to be sensible about what you eat does make you a little dull and even annoying, in my opinion. Loving food and being adventurous with it is part of who I am…I like farmers markets, day time drinking, brunch and cheese on everything! So to have to reign these elements of my character in, sometimes doesn’t feel quite right. Like everything though, I suppose it’s all about balance. It’s important to get the calorie counting Vs living life balance right and I guess I’m still adjusting…and slightly mourning those carefree, eat-anything days!

So there you have it – some of the unexpected results of weight loss! This isn’t intended to put anyone off their weight loss goals, it’s just a one year on reflection from me I suppose. Would love to hear your thoughts on losing weight too…

xXx

Festive Foodie Highlights

Well, Christmas is over but we’re still in that cosy in-between bit where it’s perfectly acceptable to eat above average levels of chocolate and/or cheese each day until New Year. I love it really, it’s like a final chance to consume all the Christmas goodies as well as enjoy any foodie gifts.

I was blessed with some beautiful gifts…many of them centred on food and tea of course! From beautiful flowering green tea to cheese accessories, gorgeous glassware, a soup set, a huge panettone and a super stocking full of all my favourite foods, I was one lucky girl this Christmas!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

I did something a little different this year and spent Christmas day at the lovely Lainston House Hotel in Sparsholt, which was a lot of fun and saw plenty of food and wine consumed! Here are some of the highlights…

Lainstone House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

The driveway of Lainston House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

A starter of Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

A few festive tipples later

A few festive tipples later

There were five courses of festive food in total, and whilst nothing will ever quite compare to my dad’s good old roast dinner, I have to say that Lainston House did a pretty great job of everything! We were even lucky enough to get a visit from Santa Clause himself, who gave us all a little present…

My gift from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

My gift of Hampshire Chutneys from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

After a quick cocktail in the beautiful wood-panelled cocktail lounge at Lainston House we were off to join family and friends for more food and drink! Laughter, festive viewing, turkey sandwiches and bubbles filled the rest of the day.

Boxing Day saw me heading to my family home for our traditional post Christmas meal of cold meats, pickles and homemade chips. You can’t beat it! I indulged in my usual ‘everything sandwich’ – consisting of chips, cold meat, stuffing and other leftovers, accompanied by various chutneys and pickles.

Later that day there were more bubbles and a traditional boxing day get together to attend. We were certainly all a little slow to start but as usual we soon got into the festive spirit of things with peach bellinis, champagne and lots of nibbles!

Festive fun!

Festive fun!

Now I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve (and fitting into my clothes again!).

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, wishing you all the best for the New Year! xXx

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