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.

img_20161118_093751_resized_20161118_093818351

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.

menu

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.

buttons

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.

Advertisements

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?!

img_20160926_213946

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!

img-20161002-wa0000

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!

dav

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.

dav

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

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.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 5 low res

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.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 6 low res

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.

The Chequers Festival of Food & Drink 1 low res

“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.

An Evening of Noughties Nostalgia

For a change, this post is about an occasion that took place outside of Hampshire (gasp!). I recently attended a super fun, charitable evening in London to celebrate the launch of new book ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday’. It’s a great book, perfect summer reading – you can read my review of it here.

The Event: Ruby Tuesday presents Feeling Noughties

The book is set in that period of time affectionately known as ‘the noughties’, a simpler time when we didn’t have smartphones and everyone wasn’t on Facebook. I’m nostalgic for the era already, so I loved that the evening had a bit of a noughties theme to it.

The fantastic compere for the evening, Scottee invited us all to reminisce about 2006 and what we got up to that year. For me personally, that was the year I graduated and got my first ‘proper’ job in PR. It is astounding that this was 10 years ago, it just can’t be!

IMG-20160721-WA0000

Host Scottee talking noughties (credit for this image and all others in the post goes to Joy Veal – thank you!)

There was more noughties-era fun with glittery cupcakes and a special selection of themed raffle prizes including signed Imogen Heap albums and classic teenage beverage Blue WKD! The star prize, not so noughties themed, was tickets to Wicked. Sadly I didn’t win this or the noughties goodies but that’s okay, I don’t really need any help re-living the past!

IMG-20160721-WA0002

There was glitter everywhere, including the cakes!

The evening’s entertainment didn’t disappoint with musical comedy (and lettuce!) from comedian Katie Pritchard, a dazzling burlesque performance from Ruby Deshabille and some amazing hula-hoop action from Amelia Sparkles. There was more but of course, I had to get back to Hampshire, wish I could have stayed until the end.

IMG-20160721-WA0003

The noughties themed raffle goodies

The venue, Drink Shop & Do, was fabulous too with a brilliant cocktail list and some gorgeous glittery drinks! It’s somewhere I’d definitely like to visit again.

All the fun and merriment was in aid of a good cause, supporting Core Arts, a mental health Day Care Service dedicated to the healing power of creativity.

A huge thanks for the invite and congratulations on an amazing event go to Sara of Huhbub, who organised the whole thing. Find out more about Huhbub at Huhbub.com

 

Bring and Mix comes to Winchester

As much as I love Winchester’s night life, I’ve always said that it’s just missing a secret underground cocktail bar!

Well, maybe I haven’t always said that, but now that Bring and Mix has come to our fair city, it feels like what we’ve all been waiting for.

Tucked away underground in a rather mysterious location, Bring and Mix offers the perfect amount of prohibition era escapism for the evening. With gramophone music, low lighting and vintage styling you can’t help but get into the spirit of things!

2016-07-06 18.02.22

A sneaky snap of Winchester’s new pop-up underground cocktail bar, Bring and Mix

Speaking of spirits, this is where Bring and Mix is a little different to other cocktail bars – you bring along your own selection of alcohol. Simply take along your favourite spirits and the Bring and Mix team have all the skills and special ingredients to turn them into a delicious round of cocktails. This video explains it all…


I attended the Winchester launch of Bring and Mix (which conveniently happened to fall over my own and a friend’s birthday weekend), so I can tell you it’s great fun!

After a month which has seen my drinks cabinet hit quite hard, we were a little unsure of which spirits to bring. Of course I did have some gin handy (there’s always gin!) so we brought along Juniper Green Organic Gin but thought we better leave the amaretto, whisky, Pimms and sloe gin behind. That really would have been a recipe for a nasty hangover. So we stopped along the way for some vodka and white rum… if in doubt, it’s always best to stick to the classic clear liquids I find.

CmHO-hEWAAA1nH1

Unexpected contents lurking in my drinks cabinet!

The talented Bring and Mix team turned our spirit choices into some fabulous cocktails, taking the time to ask what we liked and didn’t like and to talk us through the flavours we could expect. We even had a non-gin-drinker (they do exist) enjoying a gin based cocktail!

I dare say what with a double birthday celebration, we were all in rather high spirits to begin with but our two hours at Bring and Mix absolutely flew by in a whirlwind of fun, laughter and cocktail magic. I can highly recommend popping along to try out the experience – you can book tickets and find out more here. I’d be tempted to go again myself and perhaps put a bit more thought into my spirit selection. Who wants to join me next time?

Thanks to the team behind Bring and Mix for the invite, it certainly helped make it a birthday weekend to remember!

Birthday Bliss

So the other day/month I turned *not-quite-30* and was treated to a day of pure loveliness by the people I love best. The sun was shining as headed to my parents house and we all set off for a brisk country walk with the family pack of labs (okay only two of them). It felt so luxurious to take a little bit of time off and be free of phone signal in the middle of the week! And spending time with my family in the fresh air means so much to me, it was just all round joyous.

Of course what birthday walk in the country would be complete without a pub lunch pit-stop? Tasty fish cakes were followed by this delicious little dessert…

Eaton Mess in a delightful little cup with strawberry ice cream

Eaton Mess in a delightful little cup with strawberry ice cream

Back at the family pad I was treated to cake, cards and presents! So lucky to have such an amazing family who know me very well, I received some simply wonderful things. Seriously, it mists my eyes now thinking about how awesome my family are.

I actually received many fabulous foodie presents from everyone including some seriously special cocktail making kit, a recipe book, champagne and lots of tea. All of which I plan to show off in several blog posts to follow.

 

As I headed home there were more treats, with fabulous things to open and dinner at the Black Rat – my favourite. Sitting outside at the Black Rat is so magical, you’re cosied up in your own little hut drinking wine and feeling happy. And that’s before you’ve even eaten anything, the food is always an exciting culinary experience…and well, just very tasty. The allotment bread to begin with was so good and then this came…

A beautiful crab and avocado

A beautiful crab and avocado

This was followed by a fabulous fish main course…

Delicious!

Delicious!

I am one very very lucky lady, this was such a special birthday – how will I ever top it when I turn 30 next year? An enormous thank you goes out to my lovely family and friends for making my birthday so magical, food filled and fantastic.

THANK YOU XXXXXXXXXXX

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

Previous Older Entries