Dry-ish January – can it be done?

Last year as 2016 began my partner and his brother decided to do ‘Dry January’ – oh how I scoffed at the idea and made my lack of faith in them very apparent. But now that we’re in January 2017, I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t give it a go this year?

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It can’t be a completely dry 31 days, we’re going skiing at the end of the month and I don’t plan to miss out on the après-ski drinks…but can I last until the day before the holiday?

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No way am I missing out on the apres-ski action!

Incidentally, last January the boys only lasted two weeks (so I was justified in my lack of faith!). That said, we didn’t really go about it in the right way last year. With them off the booze, but me still on it, I made the excellent suggestion that we should drive to some out of town restaurants on the weekends (always looking at what’s in it for me!). The kinds of places that are near and you’ve always wanted to go but would be rather extortionate in a taxi…The Pig, Limewood, The Crab at Chieveley and the like. It was an amazing idea in theory, it meant we all got to experience the wonderful food at these places (and I still got to drink the wine). However, in practice it was total temptation of the highest order for the teetotallers! And it was the stunning bar out at The Pig in the New Forest that broke their will and saw them succumbing to a fabulous gin & tonic. It was a wonder that two dry weekends were managed with this approach really. In hindsight, going to lovely restaurants with amazing cocktails and wine lists was a terrible idea for those avoiding the booze (it worked well for me though!)…I’m surprised they agreed to it really!

So, after a very indulgent festive season and with a ski holiday coming up, I could certainly do with shaping up, losing a few pounds and generally getting back on track – and this is why I find myself contemplating a dry-ish January. I’ve never been tempted before, the closest I’ve come is giving up drinking on Fridays whilst on a pre-holiday diet and I found it incredibly boring! Never the less, I’m still feeling like giving it a go.

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I’m not sure how well I’d fare out in a restaurant and it’s the weekends I’ll struggle most with. Wine or a drop of gin, certainly makes you feel like it’s time to relax after a hard week of working. Lucky that I love tea really I suppose. This year we both got an abundance of board games, Lego, books and activity themed Christmas presents to keep us occupied, so perhaps this is the way to fill the weekends instead?

Have you ever done a month off the booze? What are your tips for staying away from the wine? I welcome any advice!

 

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10 Amazing Dishes To Try In Winchester

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I’ve certainly been lucky enough to eat some absolutely amazing meals in Winchester. We have some brilliant restaurants serving exciting, original food made with wonderful ingredients…but enough about how much I love Winchester! If I had to pick my top dishes to enjoy in this great city, this list is where I’d start.

Of course many menus change seasonally and there are always daily specials in certain restaurants – so I can’t promise you’ll definitely be able to find all of these dishes but I know some are still very much menu mainstays. So here’s my top ten in no particular order…

(also sorry, I was too busy enjoying each dish to take photos of all of them!)

1)  Kyoto Kitchen – Winchester Roll

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This is apparently the world’s first sushi roll made with wasabi leaf rather than seaweed and uses locally grown wasabi from Europe’s only wasabi farm, right here in Winchester! So it’s a dish with a great story that’s gained it plenty of attention. It’s also absolutely delicious! The wasabi leaf is perfect addition to this fresh, light and delicate sushi roll.

2) Bugle Inn (Twyford) – Beetroot Cured Salmon

This comes a homemade with smoked mackerel, horseradish & crab pate, crispy whitebait, shallot & beetroot salad, sauce tartar, Parmesan toasts and an aioli dip. It’s just a perfect platter for anyone who loves fish, simply delicious with lots of different things to pick and try. I can’t get enough of it! I should add that many of the Bugle’s other dishes are equally as fabulous, the food is always great.

3) Rimjhim Winchester – Modu Murg

I don’t really do hugely spicy curries so this dish from Rimjhim is just heavenly. If you’re someone who would normally have korma, you must try the modu murg. It’s a creamy coconut and honey chicken dish and comes with crispy parsnip strips on top. Even if you prefer something hotter, I highly recommend trying this dish – everyone I know who likes a spicy curry also enjoys this dish.

4) Bangkok Brasserie – Colin Firth’s Thai Mango Chicken (Gaeng Kari Mamuang) 

While we’re on the subject of curries, this Thai delight from Bangkok Brasserie needs a mention. It’s a a traditional mild yellow curry with added mango that was apparently created especially created for actor and Winchester man Colin Firth. Well, Colin’s got great taste is all I can say. It’s a truly delicious dish, the sauce will have you wanting to dip everything in it. What’s more it’s a sponsored dish with 85p from each dish sold going to charity – so you feel even better about ordering it!

5) Gandhi – Gandhi Special

I promise this is the last curry dish on the list! I don’t think the top ten would be complete without a mention for the flavoursome yet deliciously mild Gandhi Special. This dish is chicken cooked with almond, coconut, sultana and cashew nuts in a special sauce with spices and yoghurt and it comes served with an omelette. It’s a must try if you haven’t had it!

6) Pi Woodfired – Smoked bacon, goats cheese, caramelised onion & asparagus

A relatively new restaurant for Winchester but undeniably good! I haven’t had a chance to work my way through the menu yet but I have to say the bacon and goats cheese pizza was divine. All their dishes look fantastic and I can’t wait to try more!

7) Fish Tale Bar & Grill – Lobster Burger (or the Lobster Surf and Turf)

The lobsimag0903ter burger is amazing, what an invention! It features a brioche bun and tempura lobster, it’s a real feast. I love the varied menu at Fish Tale and try to order something different each time I go but the burger is incredibly tempting I must admit. The surf and turf gets a mention too as my dining companion loves this dish and very often goes for it.

8) Sakura Japanese Restaurant – Teppanyaki Lobster

Sticking with the subject of lobster, here’s another great way to enjoy it, fresh from the teppanyaki grill and cooked in a delicious sauce. You can sit around the grill and watch (and take part) in the cooking fun and theatrics or sit quietly at a separate table – either way it’s a lovely dish.

9) Rick Stein Winchester – Fish and Shellfish Soup with Rouille and Parmesan 

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This is a heavenly dish (which I have reviewed previously) – it’s a taste of Mediterranean summer holidays and I love adding the cheese and garlicky rouille to the soup. I love the whole menu (and the cocktails!) at Rick Stein’s but this starter is probably my absolute favourite.

10) The Avenue Restaurant at Lainston House – Coconut Parfait

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Aha, a delcious dessert makes it’s way on the list. I’m sure desserts of Winchester could be a whole other post – but this one is so good it deserves a mention in the overall top ten I think! I do love coconut, so this is a real winner with me – it comes with a chocolate mousse, caramel, banana and passion fruit – full of flavour! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

So there you have it, some of my favourite meals in Winchester. There are many more I could have mentioned and many other restaurants serving amazing dishes – but ten felt like a good place to stop. Have you tried any of these dishes? I would absolutely love to hear some recommendations from any FoodTeaLife readers for dishes I should try. Leave a comment or tweet me @franini_daze with your suggestions!

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Dining at WestQuay – The Opening

If you’ve done your Christmas shopping already and paid a visit to WestQuay then you might have noticed some of it’s new eateries, including Pizza Express, Wagamama and Cafe Rouge, all ideal for a bit of retail relief and refuelling! The official opening of the new dining experience at WestQuay took place last Thursday, I went along to check out all the action (and free food!).

Nice bit of free blueberry cupcake from Delightful Cupcakes!

The highlight was front row seats to see Aldo Zilli cook up a three course meal…I never knew how simple it was to make pasta without a machine! I’ll definitely be giving homemade pasta more of a go after watching Aldo’s demonstration. He also highlighted just how much pasta is enough and how most of us use way too much! So that was a little bit of an eye opener! It was amazing to watch though, the dessert was my favourite…a yummy panettone with fruits and dessert wine – something I hope to dish up soon.

Aldo Zilli cooking up a storm!

The free samples from Millie’s Cookies, Dream Cupcakes and more were also fab, along with the chance to win a gorgeous retro fridge and year’s worth of lunches at WestQuay.

Thanks to the folks at WestQuay for the invite!

Hidden Gems Part One

There are lots of restaurants that you might call hidden gems nestled around Hampshire, some you drive past and always wonder about going in, some you’ve heard about and never been to, maybe you went once years ago and haven’t been back…whether they’re in a rural location or simply a tucked away part of town, it’s time to start thinking about our local hidden gems!

These restaurants usually have longevity, outlasting some of the more prominently positioned establishments – relying on reputations built over the years and loyal customers. I’m hoping to publish a series of posts celebrating some great local hidden gems (suggestions welcome!)…I’ll start with one of my favourites, Keats in Ampfield.

Keats is a wonderfully traditional Italian restaurant located between Wincheser and Romsey, so it probably falls into the ‘driven past it and always wondered…’ category of hidden gems – but it is most certainly worth a visit. Run by the same very friendly team for something like 20 plus years, I cannot praise this place enough, I’ve genuinely never had a bad meal there. The freshness of the food is always excellent, the fish and seafood in particular – the staff are only to happy to tell you what they’ve got in fresh that day and recommend a good wine to go with it too.

Bear in mind when I say Italian, I don’t mean Zizzi, Prezzo or Pizza Express. Keats is all about traditional Italian classic dishes done well. The specialities would certainly have to be the fish, but also the chateaubriand for two – a firm favourite of my boyfriend and his brother, who enjoy it every time. The desserts are excellent too, my favourite is the crepe suzettes, which are always prepared in front of you in the traditional way.

I’m hoping to update this post with some foodie photos when I next pay a visit to Keats, but for now I hope this short entry has served to whet your appetite for some good old fashioned Italian food…

Visit http://www.keatsrestaurant.co.uk for a flavour of the place and book a table if you haven’t been!

 

Exciting News for South Coast Seafood lovers!

A while back I said I’d have some exciting local foodie news to share…well here it is, brace yourself seafood lovers this is really cool!

Love fish? Then read on…

If like me you love the sound of fresh locally caught fish and seafood, but aren’t quite sure how or where to get it…well get ready because that’s about to change  thanks to South East Seafood! Working in partnership with the south coast’s fishing community, South East Seafood has launched Local Catch, a revolutionary new smart phone app and website designed to connect you direct to your local fisherman’s catch of the day.

Local Catch – the brand new app for local seafood fans

The launch of Local Catch means anyone on the south coast (that’s Winchester folks too!) can register to receive alerts about their local catch of the day direct to their smart phone, tablet or computer. Whether it’s crab, lobster, bream or bass, the south coast’s fishermen and the fishmongers, restaurants and cafes they supply will all be uploading details of their freshest catches, along with their exact location every day. All you have to do is pop along to your local fishmonger, or meet your local fishermen directly and you’ll be guaranteed fresh local fish and seafood, the day it’s caught.

A Hamble fisherman uploads his catch of the day

To ensure you really make the most of your fish, Local Catch gives you access to a whole range of recipes, inspiration and ideas, as well as cooking tips and videos on the preparation of various fish and seafood dishes. So whether you’re making bouillabaisse, bisque, crab cakes or chowder you can be sure your fish supper will be the freshest around!

Lobster Linguine, just one of the great recipes you’ll find on the Local Catch app

In addition to guaranteeing you fresh fish that’s 100% local, the launch of Local Catch also means a fairer price for the fishermen of the south coast – it’s really a win win, lovely fresh fish and a better detail for the local fishing community. All in all it’s fantastic news for seafood lovers around the Hampshire/West Sussex areas…I’m personally encouraging all my South Coast friends to download Local Catch – let’s get behind it and start to revolutionise the way we get our fish!

A Hayling Island Fisherman uploads his catch of the day

It’s not just local residents who can benefit from the app either,  local chefs can get involved too. The South Coast’s chefs, restaurants, pubs, cafes, delis and fishmongers can all use Local Catch too – they simply need to register in the same way as members of the public would, but once they’ve purchased from their local fishermen they are then able to send out an alert that lets people in the local area know they’ve got fresh, locally caught seafood on the menu.

Fresh fish on the menu – always a winner with me!

Local Catch is really simple to use and free to download now for Android devices (iPhone version coming soon!). It’s  just as easy to use Local Catch on your computer too. Simply log on to www.localcatch.co.uk to sign up and find out the catch of the day.

What are you waiting for fellow Hampshire folks? Get downloading!