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

chococco

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

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Coffee Festivities

Life is pretty busy as a freelancer, so my FoodTeaLife posts have become a little sporadic but I still find time to get out and about doing foodie things (mostly eating!). There just seems to be less time to write about it all. However one thing I am making the time to write about is the recent London Coffee Festival.

The smell on arrival was heavenly! The fresh coffee scent just surrounded us and it wasn’t long before we purchased our first caffeine-filled beverage. The bright and early start meant a cappuccino to kick off the day was an absolute must. My first coffee of the day was accompanied by a slice of toast spread with avocado and vegemite, a strangely good combination.  Wandering around I saw coffee demonstrations, plenty of quirky things to buy and try and something which turned out to be a real highlight, a Kalhua coffee cocktails bar!

kahlua coffee bar

Mixologists or baristas? The busy Kahlua bar staff creating coffee cocktails

 

We started off with a couple of White Russians, who doesn’t love their creamy coffee goodness?

White Russians

Delicious White Russians!

 

There was one cocktail on the menu we simply had to sample…Espresso Martinis! I’ve always wanted to try one since I saw Nigella Lawson make them and what better place to try my first one than at a coffee festival?

Espresso Martini complete with three coffee beans on top

Espresso Martini complete with three coffee beans on top

 

These were certainly strong, rocket fuel in fact! But it was great to finally try an Espresso Martini.

My first Espresso Martini

My first Espresso Martini (photo courtesy of Aminah Khan)

 

I certainly left the festival buzzing and on a high fuelled by caffeine and fun times!

Coffee fun! Thanks to Aminah for the brilliant photos

Coffee fun! Thanks to Aminah for the brilliant photos

 

The festival goody bags were pretty good too – loved my sachet of Drink Me Chai’s Earl Grey Latte and the free Fox’s Caffe Thins have been going down a treat (since discovered they are great topped with a molten marshmallow!).

These yummy biscuts were a fab London Coffee Festival Freebie

These yummy biscuts were a fab London Coffee Festival Freebie

Earl Grey Latte from Drink Me Chai, another lovely festival freebie!

Earl Grey Latte from Drink Me Chai, another lovely festival freebie!

 

All in all it was a lovely, foodie day out – I’d definitely go again next year.

xXx

A moment of gelato joy…

A moment of gelato joy...

I’ve been meaning to try out Moments Gelato in Winchester for so long but never quite managed to make it. Today however, the sun was shining and I’d been on beautiful walk around the water meadows and St. Catherine’s Hill so it seemed the perfect time to pop in!

I had a gorgeous coffee sundae, very decadent but just the treat I was looking for.

I’m sure I’ll be back to try the waffles and crepes they have on offer too! Check out the scrumptious menu at http://www.momentsgelato.com.

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Belated Black White Red Post

Black White Red is new(ish) to Winchester, however I can’t pretend I’m bringing you brand new exciting news here as every time I set foot in the place I see someone I know! So word has definitely already spread about how good it is. I have always said that FoodTeaLife is my place to talk about the things I love though, so Black White Red is getting a brief blog post anyway!

Even before eating there I’d heard rave reviews about the food… ‘best brownie ever’, great for lunch, lovely brunch, ‘amazing eggs’.

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Happily I wasn’t disappointed when I tried a flapjack on my second visit…lovely gooey deliciousness…

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Tea fans will be pleased with the loose leaf tea offering and the coffee was good too. Nice selection of wines as well, I hope to be able to sample some more soon!
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What can I say, if you haven’t already been…go! It’s perfect for pre-dinner or theatre drinks but it’s also a great coffee and catch up kind of place. It’s good to have somewhere that caters nicely to both of these occasions.

I’m sure I’ll be visiting again soon, so perhaps I’ll see you there!

xXx

5:2 Favourites

Like many other people I’m following the 5:2 way of life, eating only 500 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. It’s flexible, achievable and seems to be working out well. You can actually feel relatively satisfied on 500 calories, you just need to pick the right things to eat – in fact it’s amazing how many pleasant things you can consume really. In this post I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to eat on a fast day.

There are some mega low-cal recipes and meals you can prepare for dinner but for now I’m focusing on satisfying snacks and the type of things you might eat at your desk.

It’s no secret that I love popcorn, so a bag of sea-salted Proper Corn at 87 calories makes me so happy! It’s a decent sized bag too (not like those healthy crisps you get in tiny bags!)

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My love of cheese is also well documented, so these little Cathedral City Minis at 50 calories per piece are a deliciously creamy treat on a fast day.

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Okay, so it’s maybe not the freshest foodstuff but at 96 calories Ainsley Harriot’s Thai Chicken & Lemongrass soup is perfect for keeping in your desk drawer. I’ve tried many an instant soup and this definitely the most flavorful and tasty. Warm and fragrant, it really hits the spot sometimes.

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Fage Total strained 0% Greek Yoghurts are a yummy fast day win. They have about 140 calories, so a few more than some of the other fat free yoghurts out there – but the pot is bigger! The thick consistency makes me feel like I’m enjoying a full fat cream-like dessert. The plain variety is excellent with a few berries for breakfast.

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Jimmy’s Skinny Iced Coffee is a lovely fast day pick-me-up, it feels just like drinking some kind of full-fat frappe from a coffee shop but is only 36 calories per 100ml.

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Lastly, you can’t beat a boiled egg for simplicity and keeping you feeling full! If you can just bear to go without the soldiers, a boiled egg only sets you back about 70 calories.

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These are just a few of my go-to fast day foods that are quick to grab and enjoy during busy days and in the office. If you’re a 5:2 dieter I’d love to know what yours are…do tell.

I do have a few light and low calorie dinner suggestions to share as well but I’ll save these for a future post.

Right, time to get fasting after a bit of bank holiday excess! xXx

Exciting New Tea Range: Emeyu

I was lucky enough to be given some beautiful tea from Emeyu to try by the people at Mozzo Coffee. You know how much trying new teas excites me so this was quite a treat, especially as I was given so many different blends to try, including tea bags and loose leaf. In fact there was so much tea I had to get everyone in the office involved in some tea tasting!

A beautiful set of drawers containing Emeyu loose leaf tea and a silver tin of hand-stitched tea bags

Yes that’s right…hand-stiched tea bags! How wonderful. There were so many lovely blends it’s hard to know where to begin talking about them, but I’ll give you a little run through of some my favourites.

One beautiful little hand-stitched bag of green tea

I’m a huge Earl Grey fan and Emeyu’s Organic Earl Grey didn’t disappoint, light and delicate – it was delightful to drink black from a china cup. Likewise the Organic Assam had a nice, not too strong flavour and was ideal to start the day off with.

Always enjoy my Assam tea with a little milk

The fragrant fruit and herbal blends were very pleasant too, the wonderfully named ‘Eight Butterflies’ was a lovely afternoon treat, like a sweet, floral green tea is the best description I can give. The Organic Red Fruits tea was also very refreshing, as was the Rooibos Tea (which I don’t usually drink, but now think I might revisit…).

Very few of these lovely tea bags left

I could go on and on here, as there was also White Teas, Jasmine, the intriguingly named ‘Dragon’s Dew’ and so many more but I’m going to recommend you explore the Emeyu Tea website and treat yourself to trying some of this high quality Chinese tea…I’ve just been browsing and am feeling all a bit kid-in-a-candy-store right now. The tea is just packaged and presented so beautifully – so good for gifting!…Mother’s Day or Valentine’s – if you’re stuck, one of the Emeyu Tea Libraries  would make a perfect pressie.

Emeyu White Tea with Jasmine Pearls

So it’s top review from me for this stylish range of teas, with its excitingly named blends, pretty packaging and refreshing flavours…indeed even my little pet bird’s taken a fancy to Emeyu tea.

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Iago takes a liking to the Emeyu Tea range

And now, because I’ve become one of those people who looks for any excuse to post photos of their pets…here’s one last picture of Iago enjoying Emeyu tea to finish this post…

We’re a tea loving household

All that’s left to say is a big thank you to Mozzo for introducing me to the Emeyu range – thanks! 🙂

My weekend in food

It occurred to me that I do my most interesting eating at the weekends, whether I’m out and about or attempting to create a little of my own kitchen magic. So I thought I’d start to report of my weekend nourishments, foodie moments and culinary catastrophes…and as it’s a Sunday, I’m starting now …

Friday’s used to be all about going out for me, but now I long for the opportunity to stay in and cook something lovely, possibly watch a film and wash it all down with a glass (or bottle!) of something equally lovely. So this Friday saw me and Tom creating that most indulgent of comfort meals, home-made burgers. The nearby shop stocks local minced beef, which I blended together with finely diced red onion and a few herbs and spices. Isle of Wight cherry tomatoes helped me make a salsa to spread on a lovely wholemeal bun, with salad and cheese…oh and a little extra indulgence, garlic mushrooms! I wish the film we watched had been as good as the burgers…

The Saturday was more of a wishful, food wanting day. As I wandered into Winchester, with the Christmas lights on the famous Christmas market now open, the city was absolutely crammed, with everyone of its eating establishments packed out with people – but I did manage to squeeze a quick visit to the newly opened Caracoli – an excellent coffee shop with amazing foods. I am big fan of it’s well-established Alresford branch, so popped into to the new Winchester to store to pick up one of their artisan scotch eggs as a treat for Tom.

Saturday night saw us catching up with a few friends in The Bridge at Shawford, where the boys enjoyed a rich winter special of pheasant with sweet potato mash and I had a rather nice piece of salmon. What was also great was the interesting selection of beverages behind the bar including Kopperberg fruit ciders and Liefmans fruit beer – just right for the walk between The Bridge and The Bugle Inn!

I’d like to say that night ended quietly there, and not that we ended walking home at 5.30am…but, we did, and that about brings me up to date on weekend food, aside from this morning’s bacon and mushroom sandwich (hangover heaven).

What’s next…well Tom’s pushing for a Rimjhim’s King Prawn Coconut Curry – we’ll see.

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-Update, he’s just brought me a cup of Earl Grey – love him.