2017: A food filled year

2017 has been a food filled year, packed with celebrations, with three weddings (including my own), and several special birthdays. It’s hard to pick the best foodie moments of 2017 but here are just a few in no particular order…

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

This was the most wonderful wedding gift from the Digital Blonde team, what an experience it was. The drinks and delicious little canapes to try as soon as we arrived were fabulous. We enjoyed a lovely long lunch with wine and a cheese course too. I loved hearing detailed descriptions of all the cheeses (local ones and classic French ones) and of course, they were all heaven to eat. The food was exceptional, if you get the chance Raymond Blanc’s restaurant is so worth it – just make sure neither of you drives there! We made this mistake and really regretted it. The team at Le Manoir also sent me a beautiful signed book too – the icing on the cake for this amazing foodie memory.

Our Wedding Day

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This is made up of quite a few little foodie moments that combined to make a very memorable occasion. The first of these was being presented with a new gin to try by the Cabinet Rooms after emerging from the registry office as a newly married couple. I guess that’s what happens when you book your wedding on World Gin Day, next door to Winchester’s first festival of gin!

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A huge shout out has to go to Hotel du Vin in Winchester, where we held our wedding reception, the food they dished up was incredible! We had an indulgent afternoon tea, complete with candy floss and enormous warm scones. The canapes received high praise from everyone, especially bacon wrapped prawns. The cheese trolley was spectacular too and the mini fish and chip cones were a hit. Our guests certainly were well fed!

We had a delicious cake baked by a family friend too – can’t wait to get the little bit I have left out of the freezer to tuck into at Christmas!

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All wedding pics by Maddie Waters Photography

Avocados everywhere in California

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m an avocado obsessive. I’ve loved them since before they were cool. So I was very happy with the abundance of gorgeous green avo-centred dishes out in California! I think my highlight was avocados on toast for breakfast in the penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Santa Monica, looking over views of LA.

Sky high dining at Hutong (The Shard)

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This was a fab foodie moment enjoyed with the Digital Blonde team, right at the very start of 2017 as combination Christmas and leaving do. Enjoying delicious Chinese food, with a glass of Champagne and spectacular night time views of the city was pretty magical.

Switzerland 2017

I don’t think I could pick a favourite moment from this trip as the food and drink in the alpine town of Zermatt is just so good. It’s definitely my happy place, fresh air, gluhwein and hearty (cheesy!) dishes that you actually feel you like you semi-deserve after a day of skiing. There was the gluhwein on our last day after coming down quite a scary slope successfully, a perfect lunch time Rosti or some of the best chocolate ever from the little chocolate shop opposite the station. Going here is always a treat for all the senses.

Kyoto Kitchen

I do love the food at Kyoto Kitchen, it’s fresh, delicate and delicious. We’ve had some fabulous meals here this year, with amazing recommendations from the owner Miff,  plus beautifully made gin and tonics or Sake to pair with. It’s always a fun and memorable experience dining here.

The Afternoon Tea Awards

What a brilliant occasion celebrating all things afternoon tea! I was lucky enough to be invited to these amazing awards by sponsor Newby Teas. It was great to see the winners unveiled and of course to sample the afternoon tea offering from the Grosvenor Hotel. I met some lovely journalists and fellow bloggers too, all whilst sipping bubbles and enjoying the full range of teas from Newby.

Thank you 2017, here’s to 2018…

2017 really has been a bumper year of food, fun and (alcohol-fuelled!) celebrations, it’s a wonder I can get into any of my clothes. I loved almost every minute of 2017, it’s going to be a tough year to top. So I’ll just say that I’m hoping for a slightly healthier 2018!

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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?

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

 

I’m alive!

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^ This is a pretty accurate picture to represent FoodTeaLife of late – but exciting things are a foot and I do plan to post soon!

My last post saw me talking about my clean eating vs. calorie counting dilemma, after receiving comments and messages in response to this I decided to make a go of clean eating. So over the last few weeks have been busy trying out and coming up with my own recipes for cleaner eating, all whilst staying within the 5:2 diet where possible (not easy!). Of course, Easter and bit of a chocolate-feast has got in the way of things a little – but I hope to have recipes and updates to share soon.

I’m also expecting to have a few exciting foodie adventures to talk about this month too…watch this space.

xXx

 

Clean eating, fasting and fear

Maybe it’s just the January effect but I really have been making more of an effort to eat clean. By that I mean, real, whole food and ingredients and eating less processed products.

The scary headlines around sugar have contributed to me wanting to consume less processed goods too. I knew sugar was in everything but I hadn’t realised just how bad for me it was.

The right thing to do…eat clean

Ultimately, I know eating cleaner is the right thing to do. Of course it’s best for my body
and my health to be eating natural products rather than foods with crazy ingredients that have been through all kinds or processes to make them low fat or ‘healthy’. I actually quite enjoy clean eating too. Plus, working from home means it’s not too difficult for me to adopt either, as I don’t need to eat ‘on the go’ and always have a fridge full of fresh ingredients nearby. So, why I haven’t I fully embraced clean eating? Why do I struggle to do it when it should be so straightforward for me? Why am I still reaching for the diet snacks on a regular basis?

I’ll tell you why. It’s the calories – which I know is a ridiculous thing to say but I’ll try to explain how I feel. Many of you will know I’m a 5:2 diet convert (perhaps evangelist might be a better word!), it’s flexible, it fits my lifestyle and I have had great results with it.  5:2 is way of life rather than a diet, it’s something you stick to for life (where possible) and I certainly see it that way…My Fitness Pal is probably the most used app on my phone. This means that calorie counting is frequently at the forefront of my mind.

Calories, health and fear…

Essentially after doing 5:2 for more than a year, I equate being ‘healthy’ with not going over 500ww calories in a day. I feel positive, pleased and even proud when I do a 500 calorie day successfully – knowing I’m keeping my body balanced for when I go out at the weekend for dinner and wine. And the truth is, until recently, I haven’t much cared how I got my 500 calories – as long as I didn’t go over this number. So a typical fast day would involve foods such as Weight Watchers chocolate wafers, fat free yoghurt, sandwich thins, reduced fat cheese, Birds Eye vegetable fingers or fish fingers…and other processed foods that offer a low calorific value.

So imagine how disheartening and hard I find it when a homemade smoothie of fresh fruits and greens has 250+ calories in it! On a fast day that would be a massive indulgence and half my calorific food allowance. Likewise with snacking on nuts and seeds – they pack a whole load of calories. So often I end up opting for a diet cereal bar instead because it’s easy, it tastes good and has less calories – and what’s not to like about that?! You see my problem with clean eating now…for a calorie counter it’s hard to get your head around how eating more calories could be good for you. Quite frankly, it scares me and makes me feel like I’ll put weight on because I’m consuming more calories. Is this just me? I don’t think I can be alone in this fear can I?

Can I re-train myself?

Seeing those calories tot up on My Fitness Pal is very off-putting – even if the calories come from healthy, clean choices. For so long, weight loss and maintaining this was my goal, soMFP all I cared about was cutting calories, without a thinking about nutrition. I have ignored how much sugar or sweetner is in my diet snacks or what the effect on my mood or performance might be of eating processed foods. I really need to address this – but how do I re-train my mind and the way I think about food and health? Perhaps if I really gave clean eating ago and felt the health and wellbeing benefits of this, I’d be converted? It’s a good idea but the truth is, it’s a big step I’m too scared about putting weight on to embrace this wholeheartedly, which is awful to admit. It’s just hard to change when I know the low fat, processed, diet snacks route has worked for me from a weight loss point of view.

So for now, I’m trying to be a bit more balanced and go for a gradual approach. My fast days will still inevitably feature some diet snacks to help me stick to my target calorie allowance – but I will try to incorporate ‘cleaner’ snacks and on my more relaxed days I’ll try and fully embrace clean eating without thinking about the calories.

At least, that’s the plan. Does anyone share my thoughts and fears? I’d love to hear from anyone with an opinion on cleaning eating, fasting or any of the issues above!

Wanted: Briton Willing to Go Without Solid Food for Entire Year for £35K

I’ve just received some interesting news from Huel, the makers of a powdered food product, which launched in June of this year. It’s quite an interesting concept, a nutritionally complete, powdered food providing everything your body needs – could it be that this is the future of food? It certainly feels futuristic, I can see that there are clear logical benefits. I can also understand how many people would feel this isn’t the right direction for food and nutrition.

Whilst I’m unsure of where I stand, I’m intrigued by their latest announcement and thought some of you may be too. Huel Powdered FoodHuel are on the hunt to find someone who is prepared to go without solid food for an entire year. The company is open for applications from any members of the British public who are willing to try out a powdered food-only diet for a year-long period in order to gauge the effects of forgoing traditional food altogether.

The inventors behind a nutritionally-complete powdered food solution, which launched earlier this year, are seeking a candidate prepared to go without any solid food for one year, in exchange for £35,000. Quite an experiment! Could you do it?

The powdered food product, www.huel.me, has been a huge hit on the UK market, selling out three times in the first month of trading in spite of meeting with some controversy and criticism. The powder has been rigorously tested during development and delivers 100% of the government-recommended nutrition that the human body needs, all the while being vegan-friendly with no added sugar. The flavour has been compared to vanilla porridge, purposely designed not to be too flavoursome to minimise the risk of users overeating.

The successful candidate will be required to undertake daily video calls with the monitoring team to report their progress, via Skype, and agree to weekly visits to the Huel headquarters in order to maintain regular medical assessments. Although they will be free to continue all usual daily duties, including work and family responsibilities, they will be required to perform no less and no more than 30 minutes of physical activity per day, which will be dictated by the team at Huel, in order to clearly show the effects of the Huel diet. Applicants must have a healthy BMI in order to be considered.

Here’s a comment from Julian Hearn, Founder of http://www.Huel.me:

“We completely understand that this is no easy feat; not many of our customer are on Huel 100% of the time, the norm is probably about 50% Huel and 50% traditional meals. Having said that, we are intrigued to understand more about the role of eating in our culture. What would life be like with no solid food? Huel provides everything the human body needs, in a healthy and sustainable way, so we know that it is a perfectly nutritious way to consume what we need – but what will happen if this really is the future of all food? What will life be like when we have so much more time in our day and so much less to think about? We are keen to get a better insight into the longer-term effects on our behaviour, health and social lives.”

He continued:

“Our search is certainly on to find the right person. We need to be able to trust them to tell the truth; cheaters need not apply! We will be undertaking regular monitoring, but it’s important that there is complete honesty there. For the right person, this challenge could actually be very liberating. There was a lot of scepticism when we first launched and no doubt many people will find this an unbearable thought, but clearly Britons are far more interested in changing their lifestyles and habits than many initially expected.”

It’s interesting isn’t it? I’m not sure I could so it with my restaurant-frequenting habit but do you know someone who could?

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