Afternoon Tea Delights at The Vineyard

It’s well documented that I do like to partake in a spot of afternoon tea and so my mum’s recent birthday provided a great excuse to get the family together for some tea and cake. As a surprise for my mum, my sister and I booked the afternoon tea experience at The Vineyard at Stockcross, which turned out to be just lovely.

The-Vineyard

For those of you who don’t know it the Vineyard at Stockcross is in Berkshire (not Hampshire I know, but worth the drive!), it’s fairly near Newbury and just off the A34 so very easy for Winchester folk to get to. It’s a beautiful, grand looking place, known for its fine dining, so we knew we were in for a treat with their afternoon tea.

We were seated by the fireplace on comfy sofas as it was a special occasion, where we sipped cups of lovely earl grey tea. When the afternoon tea came, it certainly was a feast…

Vineyard Afternoon Tea

Small, perfectly formed sandwiches with crusts cut off to start, followed by hearty fruit scones with cream and jam.

Vineyard Scones

 

Although I don’t have a photo I must say that the choice of homemade jams was lovely…it’s always nice to have an alternative to the traditional strawberry I think.

Last of all, we enjoyed a beautifully presented top tier of delightful little petit four style treats, including macarons and peanut éclairs…

Vineyard Petit Fours

All in all, it was a fabulously indulgent treat and we all left feeling rather full! It was perfect for a birthday celebration though. I’d definitely recommend the Vineyard for its afternoon tea, they do it properly! If you plan to book with them make sure you tell them if it’s a special occasion too. Visit their website for more www.the-vineyard.co.uk.

…Hopefully one day I’ll have had enough afternoon teas to be able to compile an amazing top ten best list…

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…

mountains1

mountains2

moutains3

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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empty1

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.

saasfee

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!

Feeling a bit like Santa…

This week has been so epically full of food…this must be how Santa feels on Christmas morning after gorging himself on a million mince pies the night before!

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It all started on Wednesday at an award ceremony in London’s The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel. After a nightmare journey and arriving 45 minutes late, the evening wasn’t off to a great start but somehow we were still able to consume all three courses of the meal on offer (oh the wonders of mass catering)…wait make that four courses if you count the lovely little Petit Fours at the end…

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I thought the Petit Fours might turn out to be the best bit of the evening, but no…Sue Perkins was hosting! She was witty and amusing as always and certainly made my evening – meeting her more than made up for not winning the award! A large wine afterwards helped too.

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The real tremendous day of eating came on Thursday when I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner out. I began the day with a fabulous girly breakfast at Paul’s – a lovely french patisserie  in London and followed this with a ladies lunch also in London (I will add that I only ate a salad…), finally I rounded the day off with a dinner at Winchester’s Number 5 Bridge Street. Thankfully Number 5’s menu features a whole range of smaller dishes to enjoy, so I didn’t quite have to be rolled home!

And this weekend…well…I’ve shamefully had not one but two Subway sandwiches (dam it’s close proximity to my new home!), but also a lovely dinner at The Bugle Twyford and some hearty bread and mince pies from Winchester City Market.

I guess I’m just preparing my stomach for the indulgences of Christmas….? My tree’s up already, bring on the festivities!

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The Pleasures of Petit Fours

So you’ve enjoyed a lovely meal out, starters and main course, you’re feeling too full for dessert, the over indulgence has made you sleepy…but you know you don’t want the experience to end…ever felt this way? Petit Fours and a coffee are perfection in these situations. Light little sweet treats that you can take your time over with a strong coffee to revive and ready you for the rest of the night.

Petit Fours are nearly always a visual treat too, temptingly presented in a whole host of creative styles – here are two such examples I recently enjoyed…

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Petit Fours enjoyed at the Wykeham Arms in Winchester

I loved the little lollipop, it was coated with popping candy which made for a fun surprise.

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Scrumptious Petit Fours enjoyed at a beautiful restaurant in Lake Garda, Italy

These adorable treats arrived in their own little tree – like a work of art, they were almost too pretty to eat (I said almost…)

Well, that’s actually all I have for now (you know my track record for remembering to photograph my food!) – if I enjoy any more lovely little Petit Fours I’ll be sure to add to this post.

La Dolce Vita…Lakeside!

There has been a little lapse in FoodTeaLife entries of late and it’s because of a wonderful holiday to Italy – the beautiful area of Lake Garda to be precise. We soaked up the sunshine, took in the stunning views, swam in the crystal clear lake, ambled through the medieval streets and generally enjoyed all of the nation’s famous foodie delights. From gelato, to pizza, pasta, tiramisu, grappa and limoncello – we indulged in all of Italy’s classics! The region’s local wines had to be sampled too – all of which proved to be delightful and left us wondering why you never find these wonderful wines back home?

Probably the best summary I can give of the trip is a visual one…so feast your eyes….

The 16th century castle at the entrance to the medieval town

The castle even has its own moat filled with lake water

A proper olden days castle with battlements and it’s own moat, does it get much more fairytale-esque? Well I think it does, take a look at these photos of the castle at it’s most magical…

The castle in the dead of night…mysterious and mythical

Waiting for Rapunzel to appear…

Not only was the castle lovely to gaze upon from the outside, but once inside it provided some breathtaking views of the lake and the old town of Sermione…

There were spectacular views to take in everywhere you looked from the old fashioned streets to the lake itself….

Looking out over the lake

Sirmione is made up of quaint little streets like this one

And now of course on to the foodie highlights of the trip…

A classic Italian stone baked Margarita pizza

Spaghetti with clams – delicious!

Another pasta classic…carbonara

Grilled shellfish with garlic

Soup of mussels and clams

On to the desserts…

Duo of desserts – the one on the left is a miniature tiramisu!

A table tree of petit fours!

And to wash it all down with…

Limoncello for the ladies

Grappa for the gentlemen

And an interesting local cocktail…I can’t be a 100% sure of its ingredients, but I believe Campari and Presseco are two major components!

Colourful cocktail

All in all a most fabulous foodie adventure and very relaxing trip – a huge thank you to my second family for a wonderful time xxx