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.

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.

Happy Valentine’s in Winchester

Well it’s been an absolute age since I’ve written a blog post, sadly when you work for yourself you can end up working ALL the time! But enough of that, I’m showing my blog some love with a love-themed post all about ways to spend this Valentine’s weekend in Winchester. Read on if you’ve not made any plans as yet, these are all ideas you can hopefully still do this weekend, some are even free too.

So you haven’t been organised and booked a table at one of Britain’s top three most romantic restaurants, The Chesil Rectory, don’t panic! Winchester is full of romance, tradition and wonderful places – there are plenty of ways to impress your other half with what the city has to offer.

St. Giles Hill 

St Giles Hill Winchesterb40b02d0c62711e2868f22000a1f97ea_7Okay so these photos were taken in summer time, however it’s still as beautiful and peaceful as ever up there. It’s definitely worth the climb. The viewpoint is a magical spot, where you can look over the whole of Winchester and reminisce about memories and places in the city. I’ve even heard of someone who actually got married up there! It’s so lovely you can see why. If you’re looking for free romance in the city, St. Giles Hill is top of the list.

The Screen Cinema

Screen Winchester

A trip to the cinema might not sound like the most original idea for Valentine’s Day, however The Screen really is a little bit special. It couldn’t really be more different to some of the big chain cinemas in my opinion! I highly recommend walking there and getting a nice bottle of wine to share with your film. Alternatively, if you have to drive they have some lovely coffees too. Choose of a few of the gourmet nibbles on offer as well and it’s a perfect occasion. There’s a few films to choose from this weekend… ’50 Shades of Grey’ is on of course but my choice would be ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ – a cracking film that will definitely be enjoyed by both men and women.

The Black Bottle 

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Whether you’ve booked an evening meal and are looking for something fun afterwards or you just a fancy a cosy evening with some great wines, The Black Bottle can’t be beaten for something a little bit different. Discovering the different rooms and the special wines within each one is fun and finding a comfy spot to pass a few hours sampling the different varieties is just lovely. Order one of their platters to nibble on or bring a board game and while away the evening, it’s a must-do when in Winchester.

Chococo

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Nothing quite says Valentine’s like chocolate does it?! Chococo is the perfect spot for a daytime date. The locally-roasted coffee is great and of course the hot chocolate menu is amazing. I particularly love the DIY Hot Chocolate, where you melt solid chocolate into hot milk, heavenly. There are plenty of yummy savoury treats on offer for anyone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth too. You can also pick up lovely locally-made Valentines gifts in Chococo – a bespoke box of chocolates featuring only your loved one’s favourites makes a very special gift.

French Fantasy

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They say no-one does romance like the French and while a trip to Paris might not be on the cards, you’re certainly not short of French cuisine in Winchester! The Bridge Patisserie is lovely for foodie gifts and a day time date, Froggies/La Place is enjoyable any time of day and don’t forget Maison Blanc and Brasserie Blanc! On Saturday’s you’ll also usually find a lovely crepes and galette food stall in the High Street too. So whether it’s croissants, brie, macarons or French wines you fancy, you’ll find it in Winchester. There is of course Hotel du Vin, but I dare say you’d struggle to get in this weekend.

St. Catherine’s Hill

St Catherine's Hill Winchester

Another free way to enjoy Winchester this weekend and ideal if you’ve got a dog to walk too. The views and vast areas of green are well worth the hike up the hill. Whether you choose to take the steps or climb up the other side, you can’t beat it for a romantic stroll. Wrap up warm as it can get windy up there! The tree swing is fun too, I’m not sure adults are really supposed to go on it, but I have in the past and it’s still standing! Why not extend your walk along the water meadows too? Then you’ll really work up an appetite and will have to stop for a hearty pub lunch somewhere.

Kingsgate Village

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This lovely little tucked away part of Winchester is just a delight to wander around and take in some of its historical charm. It’s all a little bit Hogwarts around there and features some great independent shops. I particularly like Kingsgate Books & Prints, which has some wonderful artwork depicting Winchester scenery. These make perfect gifts, especially if you met your partner in Winchester or spent your courting years there! I always like to pass the spot of the house where Jane Austen died too, she is after all, a wise woman who wrote a great deal about love and relationships. And while you’re in the area the Wykeham Arms is a nice spot for a drink too…and, fun fact: Canon Street next to the pub, was once the red light district of Winchester!

So there you have it, just a few ways to enjoy Winchester this Valentine’s Weekend. There are so many more I could recommend but I think I’ll end it here – hopefully I’ve inspired you all to get romantic and take your loved ones out this weekend! How would you spend Valentine’s Day in Winchester?

Whatever your plans, have a Happy Valentine’s Day xXx