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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Trends, tastings & tipples at The Restaurant Show

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Each year in early October the The Restaurant Show takes place, with The Bar & Pub Show running alongside it (as well as Conscious Hospitality and the Catering Equipment Expo). These are trade events for the hospitality sector and I’m lucky enough to get to work on them. I say lucky, because although it’s hard work, it’s also amazing seeing and trying some of the latest food & drink trends. It’s a full on few days but I always come away excited about what I’ve seen and tasted. Here are a few of my favourite finds…

Poetic License Distillery

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Only 1000 bottles of the Elderflower & Gooseberry Gin are made, so it was a treat to try a little sip at The Bar & Pub Show. I tried it neat at 10.30 in the morning – that’s how committed I am to the cause! A lovely gin that I hope to see in pubs and bars soon.

Masons Yorkshire Gin

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Sticking with the Gin, I was also thrilled to discover one which combined my other passion in life…tea! Yes, Masons Gin add loose leaf Yorkshire Tea (around 4KG of it!) during the production process to get this uniquely refreshing gin. I was a little bit more sensible and sampled this with some Fever Tree tonic – I can’t wait try some again soon!

Sorvinesse – The Wine Sorbet Company

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Savignon Blanc Sorbet anyone? Yes that’s right a sorbet made with real wine, just a little so that it can still freeze. A little wine is all that’s needed, these taste just like wine but a fraction sweeter. Available in both red and white wine – these wine sorbets are a UK first! I highly recommend Sorvinesse to restaurant owners, wine sorbets would make a lovely light way to end a meal.

Botonique

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It’s not all about booze, I absolutely loved Botinique – a soft drink for wine lovers. It’s fair to say I’m not a soft drinks fan, I tend to see them as just pointless sugar…If I’m not drinking I’ll just have water. However, Botonique has totally changed my opinion here. It was complex and refreshing and serving it in champagne flutes, has sophisticated, enjoyable feel. I could see myself switching to it during a night out. It was created by a wine connoisseur, who didn’t enjoy soft drinks either but knew she needed to cut down a little on the wine. It’s been described ‘a soft drink with all the pleasure of wine’. I really hope pubs and restaurants start stocking up on this, it’s a great concept and very enjoyable.

Isigny Sainte-Mere

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I always love the stand from Isigny Sainte-Mère, a French brand consisting of two complementary dairy cooperatives. It’s absolute cheese heaven and I was delighted to come across a fondue cheese, which is actually a blend of three different cheeses! It’s sure to make the perfect fondue! I am certainly fond of fondue, it’s not something you see much of in UK restaurants but it’s firm favourite on a ski trip.

Y3K

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I sampled Y3K’s delicious Cookie Mousse Cake, a real American indulgence! It’s made with America’s two favourite cookies – chocolate chip and Oreo – I can see this being a hit in casual dining chains and family friendly restaurants. Yum!

Pel Waste – Baby Jaws Glass Crusher

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This is an ingenious, compact glass crusher that can reduce glass waste by up to 80%. This is obviously meant for the bars and pubs – but with the amount of wine we get through in my household I could really do with this at home!

Aperol Spritz – by Campari

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Aperol has obviously been around for a while, but it certainly seems to be enjoying a moment right now. On my recent trip to Sardinia, literally everyone was drinking it every night it the hotel bar. I’m seeing Aperol Spritz on more and more UK drinks menus too. Their stand at The Bar & Pub Show was a bright bold orange display, that you just couldn’t miss. Cheers to them for their amazing stand and fab free samples!

These were just a few of the brilliant finds and foodie brands I got the chance to chat to at the show – for more check out the shows’ Twitter feeds @barpubshow and @restaurantshow or browse exhibitors on the show websites. If you’re in the industry, I highly recommend a visit next year!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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

 

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.

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?

5 Confessions of someone who REALLY loves food – is it just me?

Everyone likes food and everyone loves certain foods but some of us just get more excited about food than others…am I right? I just love food, whether I’m snacking on ingredients as I cook or filling up on bread in a restaurant before my meal comes – food just makes me happy. If you’re one of those people (some might use the word greedy!) you’ll relate to the situations and statements on this list…

1) You always forget to photograph your food

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When something really delicious arrives in front of me at a restaurant my first instinctive reaction is to put a little bit of it in my mouth rather than snap a photo. I usually remember just as it’s too late and I’ve taken my first bite, that’s why some of the photos on my blog usually feature a dish with a little bit missing! Not good for a food blogger. Does anyone else just dive straight in?

2) A restaurant menu is REALLY exciting

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The possibilities, the choices – all those dishes that talented chefs are just waiting to make you! Browsing a restaurant menu makes me very happy indeed. The excitement when you spot your favourite dish or ingredient, the umming and erring between two seemingly perfect choices – is there anything better than choosing food at a restaurant?

3) You have to eat some of your food shopping right away

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I tend to get mine delivered and have usually been looking forward to what I’ve ordered. So when the weekly food shop arrives I just have to snack on some of it as I’m putting it all away. And if I’ve been to a supermarket then I’ll usually have to have a nibble of something in the car. Anyone else?

4) Eating whilst cooking

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Whatever the dish, you have to test out the ingredients as you go…or at least I certainly do! Even if it’s just raw veg as I prep a salad or stir fry. Of course it’s much worse if I’m cooking anything with cheese!

5) Things can get out of control at farmers markets and farm shops 

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I have to limit myself because I always end up spending a fortune at the farmers market or farm shop. Local cheese, pies, bread, chutneys, cake…I need it all in my life and buying it feels so good. Getting home and eating it all feels even better!

Am I alone in my food excitement? Let me know if you can identify with any of these food loving statements too!

xXx

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