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.
avo toast

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.

burger

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).

sub

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

 

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?!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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

A week of Cretan cuisine

It’s been a month now since I boarded an incredibly early easyJet flight and landed in beautiful sunny Crete, Greece’s biggest island. It was wonderfully hot, relaxed and scenic…a truly blissful week! Naturally, I was also very excited to immerse myself in Crete’s famous cuisine and resolved to eat as many local dishes and delicacies as possible. I certainly did, I came back about half a stone heavier, but that’s what holidays are all about for me, relaxing with amazing food and wine and getting to wear all the (loose) summery dresses that are never practical in the UK.

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Posing in one of my many loose fitting summer dresses!

We stayed in the gorgeous Minos Beach Hotel, found for us by the lovely people at Winchester’s Independent Holiday Shop. The hotel consisted of several traditional-looking white bungalows, dotted around the lush grounds, which were also filled with many different, interesting artworks. And, this is really important….THERE WAS A KETTLE IN THE ROOM! You never see that in European hotels, to the point where I pack my own travel kettle these days (the need for tea grows stronger the older you get!). So I was delighted with there being a kettle and wide variety of teas to choose from every day (it’s the simple things!). The hotel was situated in a perfect location, right by the sea and a lovely leisurely stroll from the nearby town of Agios Nikolaos.

Minos beach art hotel Crete

Obligatory sun lounger view shot – it does show the hotel’s proximity to the ocean though!

Minos beach art hotel Crete

One more of the hotel’s location….

Agios Nikolaos Crete

The nearby town of Agios Nikolaos

I’m a huge fan of swimming, especially in the sea and it was so warm! I swam most mornings before breakfast. Even when it was tough to get out of bed, I thought of how rare the opportunity for a morning swim in such beautiful water was, and it got me out there!

Crete

I think I’d suit being a mermaid!

Crete, Agios Nikolaos

My swimming companions (less like mermaids)

On to the food! I tucked into fresh Cretan yoghurt with honey, nuts and seeds every morning at breakfast which was delicious and tasted so much better than Greek Yoghurt at home (and definitely better than the diet ‘Greek Style’ Yoghurt I tend to buy!). I also enjoyed halloumi, Greek salad and feta at every possible opportunity! And of course, baklava for dessert too.

baklava crete

Just some of the delicious baklava I consumed!

We did pay a special visit to one restaurant called Migomis, famous for its food and its stunning views over the marina.

Migomis Restaurant Crete

The views from Migomis Restaurant

Migomis Restaurant Crete

Another from Migomis Restaurant

The food was equally as fabulous. My starter of Migomis House Salad was so full of flavour, possibly the best salad I’ve eaten (and I eat a lot of salad!)…

Migomis restaurant Crete

House Salad

There was plenty of fish and seafood on the menu too, here are two further courses…

Migomis Restaurant Crete Seafood Risottio

Seafood Risotto at Migomis Restaurant

Linguine with smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and roe

Linguine with smoked salmon, wild mushrooms and roe

I can also highly recommend a restaurant called Piato, where we shared a starter of mixed local specialities and enjoyed the best wine of the whole trip.

Every meal also featured a complementary glass of Raki to finish with, which is a kind of Cretan brandy, strong stuff but we all certainly got into it! Of course there were cocktails (our hotel bartender made some great cocktails) and even a Shisha bar visit or two…

Holiday fun times!

Holiday fun times!

After a crazy busy September at work, it all seems much longer than a month ago now, a distant but happy memory! What is clear in my mind though, is what a wonderful place Crete was, the weather, the people, the food and the wine were all amazing – I’d highly recommend it!

Ultimate Relaxation in Mallorca

I’m pleased to report that the FoodTealife holiday diet (consisting of doing as many fast days a week as you can!) was all worthwhile. I’m recently back from magical Mallorca and feeling rejuvenated (or I was at least).

We stayed in beautiful Port de Soller, right on the cliffs over looking the ocean. The views were sensational…

Our room right on the cliff tops

Our room right on the cliff tops!

View from the shower!

View from the shower!

Certainly a room with a view

Ocean views

And then there’s the relaxation factor…endless swimming, the comfy beds, the lazy days, late breakfasts and long lunches…heaven!

Got to love an infinity pool!

Got to love an infinity pool with a view

I made sure to enjoy some traditional dishes too, including of course paella, sangria and a local vegetable dish called tumbet (a little like a Spanish ratatouille). There was plenty of fresh fish to try including scorpion fish which I’d never had before but thoroughly enjoyed. I would describe it as meaty but light, somewhere between swordfish and monkfish you might say. Let’s not forget about the seafood either…

Sumptuous seafood packed soup at Kingfisher in Port de Soller

Sumptuous seafood-packed soup at Kingfisher in Port de Soller

One thing the locals prided themselves on was their oranges, with the area being known as ‘orange valley’. And there certainly was a delicious and plentiful supply of sweet, fresh orange juice brought out at every breakfast.

Gin was the other big hit out there – with one bar having a gin menu over two pages long! It was popular everywhere and I took a real liking to a fragrant local variety which came with rosemary and juniper berries…and a huge fish bowl of a glass! I’m a fairly recent convert to gin I have to say, but if all gin tasted like it did out there I would definitely have started drinking it long ago…

Enjoying a small gin

Enjoying a small gin

A whole two pages of gin varieties at Cava in Port de Soller

A whole two pages of gin varieties at Cava in Port de Soller

...post gin

…post gin

A big shout out to the hotel and the cheery staff at the Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel who helped make our stay so relaxing.

So relaxed I went full on boho... (shameless balcony selfie)

So relaxed I went full on boho… (shameless balcony selfie)

And an even bigger thank you to my extended family for the great times, good company and  just such a wonderful weekend of absolutely blissful ultimate relaxation. What a heavenly week xXx

Holiday gang

Holiday crew!

In Anticipation of Austria…

Feeling very lucky right now, although things are busy and at times hectic (hence the lack of updates), I have a lot to look forward to. There are lots of little things I’m excited about but possibly the biggest is a ski trip to Austria in a few weeks time. It’s fair to say I can’t wait! I’ve been to Austria a few times before and it’s a beautiful country, especially up in the mountains. From stunning tyrolean scenery to the breathtaking alpine views, there’s a lot to love but here’s a round-up of what I’m most looking forward too on the foodie front…

Almdudler!

This soft drinks seems to be specific to Austria, as I’ve never seen it anywhere else, but if you ever go there this is an absolute must try! It’s a carbonated soft drink, I’m not even entirely sure what it’s supposed to taste of, but it’s very refreshing! It’s a sort of grape juice type taste, maybe with a hint of ginger ale and elderflower flavours mixed in, at least that’s how I remember it. It’s a lovely ski slope refresher and I can’t wait to guzzle some again.

The mysteriously delicious Almdudler

The mysteriously delicious Almdudler

Glϋhwein!

Glϋhwein…it’s just like mulled wine, so what’s not to love? It’s the warmth of Christmas in a cup, and with snowy scenes all around and cool mountain air nipping at your cheeks, it’s absolute perfection!

Ahh, gluhwein...I can almost taste it!

Ahh, gluhwein…I can almost taste it!

Mozart Balls!

Sounds odd but Mozart Chocolate Balls are literally in all the shops over in Austria I find, well imitations of the original ones are anyway.  Named after the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the original Mozart Balls are still produced by hand according to the original recipe and only sold in specialist shops and online, however there are many similar imitation balls (try to keep a straight face) which bear the composer’s face and you find these everywhere in Austria.

Chocolatey goodness with a famous composer's face emblazoned on them...what more could you want?

Chocolatey goodness with a famous composer’s face emblazoned on them…what more could you want?

Fondue!

A must on any ski trip is a fondue, in my book cheese is the best sort of fondue. However my meat loving travel companions often opt for a meat fondue which often leaves this as my only option. These are still good, often you dip small pieces raw beef or venison into hot oil or red wine and slowly cook them. It is pretty tasty I have to admit but cheese is my winner every time I’m afraid.

Cheesy goodness!

Cheesy goodness!

Strudel!

I love a bit of traditional Austrian strudel. Once on a ski trip the family who’s apartment we were renting baked us a traditional apple strudel dropped it off as a treat, it was lovely surprise that I’ll always remember.  Who could fail to enjoy a few fluffy layers of pastry with a sweet filling? I’m definitely having some strudel for pudding (so long as I don’t overdue the fondue before hand!).

Can't wait to get me some strudel!

Can’t wait to get me some strudel!

So there you have it, some foodie things I’m super excited about in Austria. Of course I am excited about the snow, the skiing, the scenery and showcasing my many hats too but food always seems to occupy my mind the most! There is one other thing I’m ridiculously, deliriously far too excited about…using this (my new Christmas pressie)…

My gorgeous new suitcase will make it's maiden voyage on this trip!

My gorgeous new suitcase will make it’s maiden voyage on this trip!

All in all, I’m feeling very lucky, loved and full of excitement. Just a few more weeks of busy working until I can jet off to the mountains xXx

Magnificent Meze and More in Cyprus

It’s been a little quiet lately on FoodTeaLife and it’s in part due to a wonderful trip to Cyprus, lucky me! The other contributing factor was the dieting in the lead up to my time away, which left me with few yummy foodie things to write about (any one see my post on fast day foods?!). Thankfully the foodie drought is well and truly over now and this post is packed with delicious highlights from Cyprus.

Okay, apologies in advance for some of the terrible photography in this post – clearly I enjoyed a little too much of the lovely local wine every night!

On the subject of the local wine, here they are…

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Both from the Vasilikon Winery in Pathos, Cyprus – it’s fair to say many many bottles of both the white Vasilikon and the red Methy (a Cabernet Sauvignonwere consumed! It left us all wondering why don’t we get more lovely wines like this over in the UK?! I’m not going to get all wine notes here but they were both so very pleasant and very reasonably priced for being so enjoyable.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel, right by the coast, so naturally plenty of fish and seafood featured in the holiday diet, including two separate fish meze nights! Meze (as anyone who’s seen Come Dine With Me will know) is a selection of small dishes often including pitta and salad, what I didn’t realise was that it doesn’t all come together (like it does on Come Dine With Me!) but continuously, course after course! The word literally means ‘small dishes’ and it’s a style of eating that features many different courses, but each course contains just a little of each item, enough to have a taste. Well, even though they are ‘small dishes’ – it soon gets pretty filling, especially if you gorge on salad and pitta bread in between courses! Here’s just a small selection of the dishes included in our fish meze…

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

King Prawns

Terribly out of focus but delicious king prawns

Sardines

Sardines

white fish mezze

White fish

As you can imagine as all of these dishes (and more) kept coming our table got pretty chaotic…

Messy meze!

Messy meze!

Every inch of the table was packed with plates of fish, seafood, salad and pitta…which of course meant you just had to keep on eating to free up some space! Heavenly though it all was, it has certainly not done my waistline any favours – so worth it though! The fish was cooked so well, with just a little olive oil and lemon, simple but lovely.

I couldn’t let the week pass without indulging in a little traditional moussaka either…

mmm...moussaka

mmm…moussaka

Of course I had to sample one of the local desserts too…

Baklava

Baklava!

I do love Baklava! It’s little rolls of filo pastry with a deliciously sweet, cinnamony, nutty filling – so good with ice cream!

Our hotel (the Amathus Beach) was lovely too – check out these little delights left in our room most days…

free fizz, petit fours and canapes!

free fizz, petit fours and canapés!

The cocktails served at the hotel were absolutely delightful – we sampled many of these too of course…

Holiday classic - a pina colada

Pina Colada, a holiday classic!

All in all it was one beautiful, delicious, laughter-filled week in sunshine. A huge thank you to my extended family for the magical trip!

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Fun in sun

Amathus

And relax…

xXx

Alpine Adventures in Saas Fee

In my last post I excitedly explained I was heading off to the Swiss Alps for a spot of skiing, gluhwein and excessive cheese consumption…and what a wonderful week it was. I’m now back in the UK now and very much missing the Swiss scenery and mountain air, so naturally this post is all about the alpine adventures and foodie delights I enjoyed whilst in Saas Fee.

I’m actually not that much of a skier – not a proper one anyway. You probably won’t find me elegantly gliding down a black run, but I do enjoy a lovely run through the trees where you can stop to take in the views and get a few photos…

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mountains2

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Saas Fee was lovely resort with excellent skiing for those like me who prefer a more gentle pace! And as you can see the mountain scenery was simply stunning and the conditions were virtually perfect! We were so lucky, we even timed it right too – a lot of the time the slopes were empty…

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empty slope 1

The town it’s self was lovely too, with some great restaurants (more on them later) and incredibly friendly, helpful people. When you’re not going to be skiing all-day-every-day, having a nice town to explore (and souvenir shop!) is really important.

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Of course there’s the all important Apres Ski to consider too…I’m not so into some of the euro music type bars you tend to find in ski resorts, this is more my scene…

hot choc

swiss beer

Luckily our hotel had cosy sofas and a fireplace to sit around and relax with a hot chocolate…and possibly a few alcoholic beverages too.

I can’t believe I’ve actually got this far into the entry without talking about the food! Obviously you’ve got to enjoy a fondue or two whilst you’re in the Alps…rather than the classic cheese, here’s a meat fondue we enjoyed…

fondue meat

You cook your meat in hot oil, or hot red wine stock and then dip it into one of the many accompanying sauces, yummy, although I’ll always prefer a cheese fondue. Luckily I got my fill of cheese at our hotel’s raclette night, where portion after portion of heavenly, gooey, molten cheese was consumed! There was also a cheese course every night in the hotel and of course, when in Europe, there’s cheese for breakfast too!

Not content with that I also enjoyed a traditional Swiss rösti, a national dish made mainly with potatoes…this one in particular also had cheese, onions and cured meats…

rosti

A major foodie highlight of the trip has to be out visit to Fletschhorn, a Michelin star restaurant and hotel up in the Alpine forest, it was an amazing experience from start to finish. The place is totally isolated up in the trees and is a little way outside of the main part of Saas Fee, so a driver comes to pick you up (in an electro buggy as Saas Fee is totally car free) and you head deeper and deeper into the forest, anticipation building as you gaze out of the window wondering what awaits you. It all feels very mysterious as you arrive and step inside, it’s a fairly small but really cosy and you just get a feeling that you’re somewhere special.

The food was fabulous, the menu was in French and German so I only understood the basics but the staff were able to explain everything perfectly, there were some really interesting dishes on the menu and a lot that I wished I could have tried. After much deliberation I opted for a winter vegetable quiche with goats cheese to start and some red mullet for my main and I have to say both were absolutely delicious, as were the lovely extras that came compliments of the chef…

To the best of my memory this little extra was a tempura prawn with a kind of curried, pumpkin seed velouté - it was heavenly!

To the best of my memory this little extra was a tempura prawn with a kind of curried, pumpkin seed velouté – it was heavenly!

quiche

The winter vegetable quiche with goats cheese

My main course of red mullet

My main course of red mullet

There was also an amazing tea menu - I opted for 'Casablanca Tea'

There was also an amazing tea menu – I opted for ‘Casablanca Tea’

 

Delightful little petit fours, compliments of the chef

Delightful little petit fours, compliments of the chef

At the end of the experience I was even given a little surprise gift to take home too!

Inside was a yummy little cake!

Inside the mysterious box was a yummy little cake!

All in all it was a just a fabulous trip, with fantastic food and wine, lovely people and lots of fun, I feel very lucky – if you’ve been at all tempted to consider a last minute ski trip at all then I’d definitely recommend Saas Fee.

Thanks to my travelling companions Tom and Joe for a great time!

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