Monday, 2 May 2016

Bristol Food Connections 2016

The organisation that must be involved to bring us Bristol Food Connections is nothing short of phenomenal, so a big THANK YOU to all who make it happen. From the workshops, demos and banquets, to the street food village, the restaurants included in the Bristol Food Trail (new to this year, loads of restaurants offering discounts for all of those showing a Bristol Food Card throughout the duration of the 10-day event); there is so much going on, you'd be very sensible to plan an itinerary with sticky notes and highlighters. Believe me, I was tempted.  This is mostly a free event, with the option to book tickets to various sessions, for a small cost (I paid £5).

Today I attended 'Talking Heads: What makes a great restaurant', to listen to a panel share their personal experiences and expertise on a topic I could talk about for hours and so basically loved every minute. Tim Hayward (food columnist, broadcaster and restauranteur), Xanthe Clay (food and cookery writer for The Telegraph) and three Bristol restauranteurs; Kate Hawkings (Bellita), Freddie Bird (The Lido) and Nathan Lee (Hyde & Co.), each had something interesting to bring to the table, with some very opposing opinions and so it was an hour well spent.

Now I had a programme covered in notes, with everything from how starchy tablecloth dining has it's place but is, let's face it, so over, to the great Tipping Debate. However, probably the most valuable thing I can share is a question they were asked from the audience and one that everybody wants to know, 'What are your favourite restaurants in Bristol?' Some I have been to, others not, but this has definitely provided me with some additions for the wishlist to further fuel my recent love affair with this wonderful city, which has an incredibly exciting food scene that is only getting more influential. Not to go off on one, but as it was rightly pointed out, it's great that Bristol isn't a derivative of London, but is sticking two fingers up and totally doing it's own thing. It's rebellious, bold and innovative. And I like it. 

The List

Wallfish Bistro (the site of Keith Floyd's first restaurant) 
The Mayflower (finally a recommendation for a decent Chinese)
Bell's Diner
The Ox (obviously)
Flour & Ash 

A little curveball was also Sky Kong Kong, which is an unassuming Korean cafe described as being hidden down the grimiest of backstreets, housed in an old pie shop, with a woman in charge who's worked for the likes of Hakkasan and Nobu. I mean (forgive the language), holy shit. I'll get my coat right now. You wanna go? 

There were also some notable places mentioned in London, so ones to remember for my next visit were:

Andrew Edmunds
The Palomar
J. Sheekey

Also, thanks to Tim Hayward for renaming the well-known reviewing site as TitAdvisor. Here, here.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Short but oh so sweet

Easily the best coffee in town, if not the best coffee I've had in a long while and would quite happily make a special trip for. Bakers and Co. on Bristol's Gloucester Road, also delight with a unique brunch menu, homemade cakes and a soundtrack to make even the dullest of Sunday's feel like a Californian vaca-getaway. Even just for a few hours.

Morning toast - Orange & cinnamon Torrijas, grilled banana, creme fraiche, toasted almonds & maple syrup

Sunday, 20 March 2016

I'll have what she's having

I get lots of travel inspiration from films and have a Pinterest board full of locations I want to visit, usually because I have seen it in a film; top of my bucket list being The Safari Inn in California (from True Romance).  And there's a reason countless film studios and set location tours exist (and make a ton of money doing so); because other people, too, want to immerse themselves in that moment, share those same experiences as their favourite characters, from scenes in their favourite films and generally just play pretend. Because let's face it, real life just isn't as poetic. Sometimes the establishments themselves are fictional, but when you learn they actually exist, it sparks an excitement and you can't shake the idea that someday, somehow, you're going to stand on that exact spot and relive it. Just for fun.

Come on, who wouldn't want to joke around with that scene from When Harry Met Sally in Katz's Deli in New York?  And although a TV series, and much to bar owners delight, Sex and The City ignited a popularity of the Cosmopolitan amongst 20-something women on girls nights out across the entire globe.  For years, ordering one with a cheeky smile obviously meant you were advanced in all the positions in the Kama Sutra.
But my point is, films stimulate our senses and provide so much possibility visually, so it's no surprise that soon we would start to take note of how we can relive those moments through taste. But even better, we can actually create the same food and feel like it really is as good as the original thing.  Plus it's more much achievable, whereby we don't have to board a flight or spend money getting somewhere, but we create these delights in our very own kitchens. (Better yet, if you can't be bothered to do any of it yourself, you might want to check out my post on Cannoli & Gun and it's not hard to see why I'm a huge fan). The term 'movie dinner' now means so much more than it ever used to.

So when my friend bought me a book about lots of films and their famous food, I had a lot of fun reading it and it lead me to researching other memorable food and drink moments taken from our screens.  I also came up with one or two of my own.

Film: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Food/Drink: The Giant Cookie (aka Oatmeal Cream Pies)
Top Quote: 'They're never going to believe this at school'

Film: Sideways (2004)
Food/Drink: A selection of wine
Top Quote: 'If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving'

Film: Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Food/Drink: Tiramisu
Top Quote: 'Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!'

Film: Matilda (1996)
Food/Drink: Bruce Bogtrotter's Chocolate Cake
Top Quote: 'Miss Trunchbull kept the whole school late because this boy ate some chocolate cake'

Film: The Green Mile (1999)
Food/Drink: Cornbread
Top Quote: 'It's from my mises. She wanted to thank you'

Film: Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Food/Drink: Chocolate Mousse
Top Quote: 'As long as she ate the mousse, she can't see nor hear. Now sing'

Film: Grease (1978)
Food/Drink: Cherryade Chocolate Float
Top Quote: 'Uh, I'm not very hungry; just give me a double Polar Burger with everything and a cherry soda with chocolate ice cream'

Film: Bend it like Beckham (2002)
Food/Drink: Bhajis and Pakora
Top Quote: 'The offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt'

And I hate to say it..

Film: American Pie (1999)
Food/Drink: Apple Pie
Top Quote: 'McDonald's or homemade?'

Sunday, 13 March 2016

YUCCIE Vegetables

I've been eating a lot of vegetable dishes lately. Don't get me wrong, I'm not planning on hanging up the meat cleaver just yet but it's just something I wanted to explore more and put to the test; the preconception that a meal without meat, quite frankly, sucks.

I also wanted to try and incorporate more vegetable-based dishes into my weekday meals because let’s face it, all this meat-eating is having a tremendous impact on the planet (stay with me) and all too often do we hide away from any given thought about how it ends up on our plate. Shame on us.  Anyway, I’m not about to enter into that debate, but I will tell you that after one too many TED talks and a very regrettable viewing of Earthlings (don’t ever watch it), I did actually eat no meat.  At all.  For 3 months. It was only when my very dear friend told me I was just a well-groomed beard away from fitting right in with the East London breed of yuppie hipsters, aka yuccies, that I realised I needed to address this issue or get a grip.  But the truth is, it all kind of messed me up for a bit.

So in that time, I did a fair amount of recipe trawling to find something to cook with vegetables that didn’t taste like sawdust - and this was coming from a serious chickpea-phobe. I was also absolutely, in no-way, open to 'vegetarian substitutes' because this was not at all what it was about. Oh yes, Anna Jones, Ella Woodward and good old Hugh F.W became my go-to's in the hopeful search and as it turns out, cookery writers and chef's are edging away from meat more than I thought.

Yes, I cooked some (for want of a better word) wrong'ens, but for the most part this experiment turned out some pretty tasty dishes where I've put in the leg work, so you don't have to.

As for my outlook on the whole dilemma, I'm still eating meat when I want to (and when I do, it tastes really really good) but mostly this exercise has made me more of an adventurous cook; I use spices and chillies more than I ever did with meat, I'm more open-minded about cooking with vegetables - like roasting cauliflower (oh so sweet, actually sweet) and using it as a substitute for meat - and ultimately, I'm eating so many more vegetables than I ever have, which can only be a good thing.

Here are my Top 5 vegetable recipes online, which are so simple and really delicious:

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Lucky with My Local

One of the main reasons I chose the house I rent is because on the day of viewing it, I stumbled upon The Methuen Arms for lunch which, as luck has it, is precisely 3 minutes walking distance from the house. Now we're talking.

Nestled in the old market town of Corsham, twenty minutes outside of Bath, The Methuen Arms is a fantastic pub, serving seriously tasty nosh.  Always local beer on tap, an ever-changing seasonal menu, very lengthy wine list and clearly very talented chefs at the helm, it's perfect for an informal Sunday lunch and even better for a Friday night relax with a bottle of red.  They also have 14 very tasteful and modern B&B rooms (handy for visiting family & quieter location than central Bath) and a breakfast to die for. I can't recommend enough.

Slow cooked lamb meatballs, with parmesan polenta & winter greens

Pear & almond tart, homemade pistachio ice cream

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Burger & Lobster Bath – Soft Launch

I’m a huge fan of B&L (you can read more about how it all works in a previous post from last year) and it’s always high on my go-to list for lunch when I’m in Soho because it’s consistently excellent in both food and service.  I like that it’s no-booking and open all day (that means from 12) because you can rock up whenever you like and it adds to the relaxed feel of the place – which is not usually something associated in an establishment where lobster is available, as messing about with it is historically intimidating and all-round awkward. Oh no, there’s not a snooty waiter judging your lobster-annihilating technique in sight so you can just get on and do your thing and no-one bats an eyelid.  It’s only a crustacean! Ah yes, let go of any old-fashioned preconceptions and embrace the new way to enjoy lobster in your Converse - the novelty lobster-bibs are a bit of a laugh (or ice-breaker if you’re on a first date) first time round too!

I was thrilled to hear that I’ll finally have a B&L local to me in Bath and even more so that they were holding a soft launch to showcase all they had to offer.  Being a big fan already, I knew what to expect but they demonstrated perfect hosting skills, where the Prosecco was flowing and the tastings were being weaved round the place all night long.  The staff were really great too; very friendly but still attentive and so they well and truly won me over.  I can only imagine that the night was a roaring success.

As with a lot of my favourite places to eat in Bath, B&L is housed in an absolute hidden-gem of a location – a Grade II listed building (that you honestly wouldn’t know existed through those doors) called Octagon Chapel.  It’s completely unassuming but absolutely huge inside with a central circular bar under an enormous contemporary chandelier and 1st floor gallery table seating – it really is a lovely looking place.  Only half way through the evening did it dawn on me that I had actually been inside the building before though, but because I had gone in through  a completely different street entrance and it obviously had undergone a huge transformation (whilst retaining all of its original features of course),  I didn’t realise at first. I thought it felt familiar! Ah yes, it was back in my student days when I was a waitress and serving canap├ęs at an art exhibition held there. I had to serve John Cleese his own special board of gluten free tasters that night! That was a blast from the past.

Anyway, I shared a photo from the event on the night and I had lots of people asking me what this place was and whereabouts it is located so wanted to share my insight on the topic with you beautiful people. In short – head to Milsom place and figure it out because it’s a little bit of a maze in there if you don’t know it. Hopefully you’ll be convinced to go and give it a try if you haven’t already – it’s perfect for any size group, be it a romantic night for 2 (the lighting is….can I say *mwah*) or larger groups of friends who wish to enjoy a beautiful setting and fantastically simple but delicious food.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Cannoli & Gun

Last night I was delighted to spend an evening combining my love for both food and film, attending the 2nd event hosted by Bristol based film club with-a-twist Cannoli & Gun (the clever name taken from a famous line in The Godfather  “Leave the gun. Take the Cannolis”).  Brought to you by the co-founder of the Bristol Bad Film Club, this is essentially an opportunity to enjoy a cult classic film among like-minded people, whilst celebrating a particular food that features in the film. For example, the inaugural event last month saw The Stock Exchange Bakery welcome 50 movie buffs to view Inglourious Basterds whilst devouring Apple Strudel with cream, inspired by the unforgettably chilling yet sublime scene at the table with the exquisitely repugnant Colonel Hans Landa played by Christopher Waltz.  (FYI – in my research for this post, you would not believe how many interesting articles I came across analysing the cultural significance that food and drink plays in that film when it comes to assertion of power – from the milk in the farmhouse to the basement bar shoot-out. Anyway, that’s just a tad heavy and I digress).

Sweet Fruit Pie

Also held at The Stock Exchange Bakery, was the event last night where I saw the 1986 coming-of-age masterpiece that is Stand By Me (oh River Phoenix you were such a talent and we lost you too soon). We were handed a delicious sweet fruit pie to enjoy with the film, which is of course thanks to the wonderful story-telling skills of Gordie and his fictional friend Lardass.  That particular scene also bares the most fantastic description of the results of Lardass's revenge plan to all those who had mocked him and the most hilarious word in the film; Barf-o-rama. Placed on every seat when we arrived was the one food Vern would have for the rest of his life; a packet of Cherry flavoured Pez. Nice touch.

The next event for June is sold out, not just because it is to see the hugely influential Pulp Fiction, but it’s also being held at one of Bristol’s best burger joints  Chomp. The good news is that last night it was announced that the July event is to show When Harry Met Sally whilst eating New York style deli sandwiches and a slice of pecan pie at City Deli in Bristol on 23rd July. Ticket prices vary, understandably depending on the food offering; I paid £9 for Stand By Me and When Harry Met Sally is £14 but that includes your food which is more than reasonable for the film ticket too.  

I would absolutely recommend attending a Cannoli and Gun event as a great, unique evening for those who love food, film and altogether something just a bit different.