1 October 2017

Abergavenny Food Festival 2017

The end of summer can only mean one thing for me; The Abergavenny Food Festival. Every year foodies flock to the market town and we eat. There are food vendors, market stalls and demonstrations. It's enough to keep you inspired for the next season, at least. I bring my camera and take as many photos as I can, and find some of my favourite memories here. It's the perfect way to embrace the start of autumn.

Don't these tomatoes look incredible? I did that unforgiveable thing of saying I'd go back later and get some, but ended up in a vegan cookery class that overran so I never got the chance. I can only dream about the bruschetta, salsa and ketchups I could have made with the above.

Crispy squid – something I love but often overlook in favour of something more substantial. This was so delicious, I could have eaten five times as much.

Jessica Seaton's sourdough toast event was the highlight of my weekend. She talked about starter methods, shared her tips and treated us to her favourite toast toppings on her freshly made sourdough.

Every year Mr Todiwala steals the show with his dosa and onion bhajis. I've written about his food before – back in 2015 I ate at his restaurant in London. There is something so simple and special about this food, it puts all other Indian restaurants to shame. I can't recommend it enough. 

Full of my favourite food, new recipes in my pocket and fresh photos on my camera, I took the arduous journey back to Bristol (delayed trains, cancelled trains, etc etc) and counted my blessings. Until next year, AFF.


20 September 2017

The Angel Bakery – Abergavenny

It's no real surprise, but recently my taste for the mass-produced, plastic-covered, soft-sliced bread found in supermarkets has dissipated, allowing my love for handmade, stretchy, crunchy sourdough to soar. Homely bakeries seem to be popping up just about everywhere right now, but only a few get it 100% right. The Angel Bakery fits in this category, and it just so happens to be in Abergavenny, my little teenage town in Wales.

Tucked just behind Abergavenny's main road, The Angel Bakery is an extension of its big sister, The Angel Hotel. If you're a long-time reader of my blog, you might remember one of my very first posts was a review of the afternoon tea at The Angel. Four years later and my love for what they do hasn't wavered.

Rivalling the likes of Harts and Bakery 47, The Angel Bakery covers all fronts: fresh bread (about a hundred varieties), pastries, brioche buns, brownies, truffles and coffee. I am sure that, depending on what day you visit, there will be a new treasure to devour, and this is one of the reasons The Angel Bakery is so special.

Being so used to the busy people of Bristol eating my favourite bakery out of its incredible pain au chocolat, I got up early on Saturday to get first dibs at The Angel Bakery. My fellow bread lover, Emily, came with me and we perched on the stalls inside, nibbling pastries (an almond croissant and raspberry danish), while the girls made our coffee. 

Everything – from the friendly service to the golden coffee machine – was perfect. I took a loaf of the fennel, raisin & hazelnut sourdough home and ate the whole thing in two days. When so much passion, love and hard work goes into something as delightful as The Angel Bakery, it's impossible to leave without a bit of that magic lingering in you. Just go and see for yourself.

13 September 2017

Bakers & Co – Bristol

I can take or leave a lie in. Mornings are sacred – the hours slip by and with them disappears the fresh calm I love so much. I have always been an early bird, and as summer draws to a close, I am desperate to make the most of the bright starts that are now, inevitably, numbered.

Emily and I wandered down to Bakers & Co a few weeks ago for an early morning brunch. Em's willingness to get up early for food is one of the reasons we are friends. We got there just after it had opened. It was quiet, golden and crisp – the perfect Saturday morning.

We sat outside and I ordered the smashed avocado on toast with a side of two poached eggs. Bakers & Co does the best smashed avo in Bristol, by the way. Emily got the pork belly with potatoes and egg, with a side stack of sourdough. I've realised that any dish can be elevated, or salvaged, with the addition of sourdough – it is just the best.

The coffee was strong, the flavours were fresh and vibrant and we were justifiably stuffed once we'd cleaned our plates. Bakers & Co is deceptively different. On the outside it looks like just another cafe, but step inside and you're greeted with fresh loaves of bread, friendly staff and an ever-changing menu. I only wish it were a little closer to home.

6 September 2017

Where is Your Identity?

Do you ever bury your words? I began writing this in May but my anxious nature left it in the drafts. I worry about who will read this. What will you think? But, sometimes, a moment of bravery brings you back – both in writing and in life. 

About four years ago, I woke up one day with an enormous weight of sadness hanging over me. I was a final year creative writing student in Cheltenham, and that was my life. I could pinpoint exactly what it was that triggered it, the beginning of it all, but there were so many other things to come. It was a snowball effect. There was no single reason. Not one I can pinpoint. If there was someone or something I could blame it would be easy.

My 21st Birthday was one I would rather have forgotten, had it not been for my family. You don't realise how fortunate you are, how much worse it could be, how much love there is in the world, until it all goes to shit and your family is there to see you through. Had it not been for the smallest gestures, the constant love, the every-day smiles, I might not be here.

Mental illness isn't a choice, but the way you deal with it is. And you always have a choice. I chose to find a way, and now, four years later, I am still struggling, but I can say with great boldness that I am 100% myself.

It is now, when I look back, that I see what God did. He brought me back to Him.

When I went to university I turned my back on God. I couldn't wait to do whatever I wanted after living in a Christian household my whole life, and while it was fun to begin with, the inevitable downfall was not worth it. Not even a tiny bit.

Now I know who I am, I know where I am and, even though I don't know where I am going, I know where my identity lies. My purpose is in something much bigger than me or anyone on this earth. It isn't spread around in a random scattering, on anyone or anything. It doesn't land on whoever captures my attention for longer than a minute, or two. It lies solely in Him.

When I put my identity in other things I allowed a part of myself to be lost. Whatever it was... it couldn't keep me safe. Nothing is forever or as constant as the love of God. He was the only thing that stayed the same in the darkest moments of my life, and for that I thank Him every day.

I have lost love, friendships, time, experiences, a piece of myself... but what I lost was found ten times over when I put my identity back in Him. My life is richer now. I have a purpose. My identity is in Him and I am protected. And, when I feel like I'm beginning to falter – when I feel like I am losing a part of myself again – I re-centre my focus onto Him, and it is well with my soul.

30 July 2017

Bread Meats Bread – Glasgow

It is a truth universally known that when visiting Scotland the diet goes down the drain. And a universally known truth I am happy to embrace once, maybe twice a year, because Scotland is the place where food is served with no second thoughts. It offers the kind of food that makes me sleep all afternoon, and in today's work-obsessed world, I can't resist a treat like that.

The whole family was up in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago for my cousin's wedding and a few of us went to Bread Meats Bread for a little post-wedding treat. Nothing can cure those end-of-holiday blues better than a burger, am I right?

But it was the poutine that stole the show. There was a bit of a Canadian theme running in my trip to Glasgow; Tim Hortons recently opened in Argyle Street and I was all over that. But back to the poutine:

I mean, it's not the best-looking dish but it tasted bloody great. Those squeaky cheese curds are where it's at. My brother had the raspoutine – the healer, an even bigger bowl of poutine with bacon and extra cheese. He barely made a dent in it – the portions here are generous. 

What makes Bread Meats Bread different is its rather extensive menu. Not only do they offer a lot – for meat eaters, veggies and vegans – they do it all very well. I first came here last year with my sister, Sarah, and we fell in love with the bacon fries. Everything else I've tried since has been spot on.

If you're in Glasgow (or Edinburgh) then Bread Meats Bread is definitely one to add to your list. I'll be going back to try some of their fried chicken, or even something from the vegan menu. Now that I'm back in Bristol, though, I'm readjusting to my regular, healthy (ish) diet – and my snug jeans. A treat is a treat, after all. 

12 July 2017

The Avocado Show – Amsterdam

I couldn't go to Amsterdam without visiting The Avocado Show. I mean, a cafe dedicated to the fruit (nut?) of our generation, where the colour scheme is pink and green, where Instagram dreams come true? I would have kicked myself til the end of time had I not gone.

On our last morning in the city we got up early and jogged down to The Avocado Show from our Airbnb. That's right, we went for a run on holiday, and I have to say it was my highlight of the trip. Exploring a new city by foot and tram was great, but to see it at the pace of a leisurely jog, while getting that rush of endorphins, was even better. 

The Avocado Show was everything I expected and more. The decor was absolute goals – greenery on the walls and pink velvet seating lining one entire side of the cafe – dreeeamy.

Elly and I had the avocado flower on toast with hummus and Rhi had eggs benedict. Everything was presented beautifully, which is obviously half the charm of this place, but it also tasted bloody delicious.

How the heck do they get all their avocados so perfectly ripe? Top marks from me. At €9.5 it ain't cheap but the whole experience was worth it, in my opinion. Also, our coffees came with mini avocado brownies!

And to top off a yummy brunch, the bill came with STICKERS.

This was one of the best brunches I've had in a long time, perhaps ever, and I will definitely be going back. But maybe they could open one a little closer to home? Say, Bristol? 

3 July 2017

Apple Pie at Winkel 43 – Amsterdam

I'm not long home from a long weekend in Amsterdam. In fact, I got back this morning, just as the working day began. I love having a day to chill after a holiday – it gives me time to think about where I've been and what I've done. This weekend I spent four fun days with my school friends, Elly and Rhi. We walked, wandered, and ate and drank a lot

One place I knew I had to write about as soon as we found it was Winkel 43, a cafe famous for its apple pie. Situated in Noordermarkt, Winkel 43 was a charming spot for regulars and visitors alike, serving up plates of warm, crisp, apple pie. With a constant queue and battle for a table – even outside in the rain – this is one cafe you need to visit if you're going to Amsterdam.
I still don't understand why some coffee is served in cups and some in glasses, but Winkel 43 pulled it off. Everything was fun yet simple – and the effort paid off. Imagine apple pie, tart and cake combined to make one uniquely delicious concoction – that's what Winkel apple pie was like. Buttery, sweet, salty, cinnamony, soft, crispy... I could go on, but you really must taste it for yourself.
As with everywhere else we went in this city, the service was friendly and quick, and everyone spoke English, of course. I'm always so grateful for that.

How can I attempt to recreate this traditional Dutch dessert? I don't think I'll stop thinking about it until I find out. I bet it tastes even better when it's cold out, so I aim to have it down by autumn.

Have you been to Winkel 43? What's your favourite Dutch delicacy? I have so much more of my trip to Amsterdam to share with you and I'd love to know if you have any favourites to share. Let me know in the comments below!

11 June 2017

25th Birthday Food

It wouldn't be right to celebrate my 25th birthday without an abundance of fantastic food. So, naturally, when 24th May came around, I ate my way around Bristol. I should probably mention now that actually, birthday celebrations begin at least one week before, and can last up to one week after, the day itself. Because why the heck not?

Souk Kitchen - Clifton

First up was Souk Kitchen. I invited my closest, bestest friends to eat my favourite meal (brunch) at one of my favourite restaurants, Souk Kitchen. I should definitely eat here more often; it's like Comptoir Libanais but 10000x better (not a chain) but for some reason I forget about it. I won't from now on, though, that's for sure.

I stuffed my face with the garlic and coriander field mushrooms on sourdough, wilted spinach, fried duck egg, pumpkin seed dukkah, tarragon and preserved lemon butter. It was pretty much the best thing I've ever eaten.

Lido – Clifton

On my birthday I booked the morning off work. The weather was beautiful; I really couldn't have asked for anything more than a slow start at home followed by breakfast at the Lido. Here I enjoyed a Portuguese tart to start (yes, starters are for breakfast, too), followed by smoked salmon and cream cheese on sourdough and a black coffee. I watched regular swimmers retreat to the bar after their morning dip for eggs and coffee, and I daydreamed about the day when I too would do the same. 

Cupp – Central

Best thing to drink on a hot (birth)day? Cupp bubble tea, obvs. I always have the peach iced green tea with passionfruit bubbles and it never disappoints. I sat in the park and soaked up the last hour of my morning before heading to work for cake and presents.

Chomp – St Nick's

This is the year of steak discovery. I've toyed with the idea of veganism but after visiting Chomp it's safe to say it's just never going to happen. I'm making my way around the cuts – fillet has been my favourite so far, but the flat iron at Chomp was delectable. Cooked medium rare and served with fries and peppercorn sauce, this was an outstanding birthday meal. Would recommend.

Swoon – Park St

The best ice cream in all the land! Even my Italian housemates say so. I love Swoon's unique flavours – chocolate sorbet is a firm favourite – but on my birthday I had an extra large helping of their peach variety. Soooo good, even when you think you can't eat another bite after dinner.

Brozen – St Nick's

More ice cream, because it's my bday! I'm a sucker for a good gimmick, and my first experience with liquid nitrogen ice cream was great – check out my review of Cardiff's Science Cream. I was SO excited, then, when I found out about Brozen in St Nick's market. A very friendly man made me a chocolate orange baby right in front of my eyes; from the little milk bottle in the fridge to the kitchen aid with a few magical puffs of liquid nitrogen, ice cream was presented in a cone to me, and it was delicious.

Anna – Clifton

If you follow me on Instagram you'll already know how much I harp on about Anna, but it's justified. Anna is such a treasure and even more so when there's something to celebrate. From left to right – passionfruit & coconut, red velvet cheesecake, chocolate, orange & carrot and another passionfruit & coconut because that's the best best best one.

Bar Buvette – St Nick's

Cheese board, charcuterie, asparagus and a grilled cheese sandwich in a peaceful French restaurant on a Saturday afternoon. It was so quiet, but I preferred it that way. Everything was excellent; the waiter with his tiny glasses and striped top, the presentation and taste of the food. I can't say any more – just go and see for yourself.

In between all of the above I ate Rococo rose and violet creams, pink cupcakes and chocolate and violet birthday cake. Decadent? Yes, but you only turn 25 once.


5 April 2017

Crumbs & Doilies – Cupcake Extraordinaire

Cupcakes are still a thing, apparently. What was once deemed a noughties phase is here to stay, and who am I to complain? Miniature – and miniature miniature – cakes topped with perfectly piped buttercream are still as appealing as they were in 2003, and when flavours extend beyond vanilla and chocolate I am so there.

Outside of my kitchen (and a few friends') there isn't a single cupcake worth eating in Bristol, but wander a little further – London, to be exact – and there are delectable offerings on every street corner. 

Crumbs & Doilies has cracked the cupcake industry. I found them on Instagram, of course, where anything sparkly, bright and uniform goes. C&D's Insta following stands at 197,000 at the time of writing, and it's not hard to see why.

A post shared by Crumbs and Doilies Cupcakes (@crumbsanddoilies) on

With shades of unicorn and cute childhood favourites like bourbon biscuit and my personal fave, maple and bacon, the guys at C&D know how to grab your attention. But, more importantly, they know how to keep hold of it. Their variations are constantly changing, and it's a treat for the tastebuds (and eyeballs) of anyone taking a trip to their bakery in central London. Get your iPhone ready for a series of snaps worthy of the most beautiful Insta feeds – you're gonna get a lot of likes on this one.

A post shared by Crumbs and Doilies Cupcakes (@crumbsanddoilies) on

And who doesn't want to see rows of identical peaks of pastel rainbow puffs? It's magical, it's edible and it's 100% accessible. But the question I'm asking is why only in London? It can't just be the capital, and its tourists, that want cupcakes. We've got Millie's Cookies, Ben's Cookies, Krispy Kreme and so many others dotted around the rest of the UK, so where are all the good cupcake shops at?

Maybe it's just me, and I'm being totally ignorant (likely), but I can't be travelling all the way to London every time I want a perfectly formed red velvet cupcake, can I? If there are some in Bristol that I have just totally overlooked, where are they? Show me your beautiful sponges! Or, dear Instagram, sort your algorithm out, yeah?

5 March 2017

Italian Brunch at Rosemarino – Bristol

Nothing beats a brunch-fuelled morning in Bristol. After a busy week I love waking up on Saturdays and spending my morning catching up with friends, indulging in something yummy for breakfast and sipping my coffee a little slower than usual.

Hidden among the idyllic Clifton houses is a little Italian restaurant called Rosemarino. It's unpretentious, homely and contemporary, and it's the perfect place to begin a slow, happy Saturday.

Jess was visiting a couple of weekends ago and we had a lot to catch up on. It was so nice to see her – the last time was when we were in New York! – exchange stories and reflect on the changes in our lives over the past year. Food and friends = perfect Saturday. 

Eggs benedict is a firm favourite of mine, but I often avoid it as most places serve it with ham and I prefer bacon. Rosemarino's take on this classic dish, however, involved speck, which is utterly delicious, so I had to have it.

Jess had the mushrooms on focaccia – would you just look at that sauce? Even if you hate mushrooms, let's just pretend for a minute that you don't because DAMN.

Rosemarino has the answer to all life's problems, I'm sure of it. Or maybe that's just how I feel after eating their food. Either way, I love the place. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed and the food delicious and affordable. It's also pretty photogenic. What more could a girl ask for?


14 February 2017

A Five-Year-Old's Valentine's Day

Flowers, chocolates, Krispy Kremes and a cheesy card… it’s 100% my thing. Even when I’m single, even when I don’t feel anything for anyone in particular, I love Valentine’s Day. I’ll tell you why.

My story begins on the 14th February 1998. It was a Saturday and I was in my parents’ bedroom when a card was delivered – a card for me! It was from my neighbour and school friend. I was besotted with him and even though he didn’t sign his name I knew it was from him. He had sellotaped a red-foiled chocolate heart to the inside of the card.

“It’s from him. It’s definitely from him,” I said.
“How do you know?” my mum said.
“Because he gave our teacher the same chocolate heart yesterday!”

I had observed that, and even been slightly jealous of our teacher. Now I was beaming.

He had signed it with a big question mark. Guess who?

Then, my sister, Emily, took me to the shop to buy a card and bag of white mice. I hid behind a nearby wall while she posted it through his letterbox, we ran home and it was never spoken of again.

All Valentine’s days since that one in 1998 have been like Christmas. I get an exciting, unexpected, magical feeling of the unknown.

What is the point in Valentine’s Day? Growing up I believed it to be a chance to tell the person you like that you like them without revealing your identity. That was the most exciting part of my first Valentine – the gamble of sending my reply to the right person. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to receive an anonymous love note through your letterbox today?

There are more upfront ways of telling someone you like them, but where’s the fun in that? Even after 36 years of marriage my left-handed dad writes his card to my mum with his right hand, and leaves it by the front door as if delivered by a secret admirer.

There are many other Valentine’s days I could recall, but this was the best, and the precedent for all the rest. I sound like a total dreamer, but it makes me glad I’ll never be someone who doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. Aren’t there worse things to be cynical about?


31 January 2017

The Ox - Clifton, Bristol

Listen up guys and gals – I have some serious news to share. Ok, not serious serious, but seriously good. I have legit just had the best steak of my life. So great it was, that instead of lying down on my sofa with my yuyu and fluffy blanket to soothe the food baby that's growing inside of me, I'm writing this, hot off the press. I am having utterly ridiculous, out-of-this-world, best-steak-ever kind of feels right now. I don't think I'll enjoy any other food ever again.

You might have heard of The Ox if you're from my neck of the woods. If not, it's basically a top notch steak restaurant that opened in Clifton late 2015 (correct me if I'm wrong!) They also serve the "best Sunday roast in Clifton" so, naturally, it's been on my list of places to eat since it opened. A severe case of January blues forced me to get my bum into gear and down to the Clifton restaurant, and, I have to say, it cured my sadness. So, I guess you could say I'll never go vegan.

From start to finish I could not fault my visit to The Ox. The staff were exceptionally welcoming, friendly, professionally trained and knowledgeable about the menu. They recommended what wine to have with which steak, and how best each steak is cooked and served. And, as you can see, the decor was divine, so that made my time there even more enjoyable.

Like every time I visit a restaurant for the first time, I spent most of the day eyeing up the menu. In the end I always go back to what catches my eye first, and this time it was the fillet steak.
Our waitress recommended this to be cooked medium-rare, and it was utter perfection. I had it with their green peppercorn sauce which was incredible, but even on its own the steak was unreal.

I got coerced into ordering dessert, too. I chose the PX rum & raisin affogato, expecting it to come with a shot of espresso (as standard, right?) but it was just the sherry. This turned out to be extraordinarily delicious. Dispersed in the ice cream were these huge raisins, and, with each spoonful, came the warming aftertaste of the sherry. YUM.

Before my visit to The Ox I hadn't been much of a steak person, but now I totally get it. Good quality, responsibly-sourced meat served to this standard is something I wholeheartedly believe in. I felt full and happy – and isn't that exactly how you should at the end of a meal? 

A little on the pricier side, The Ox is a special treat kind of restaurant - for me, anyway! Still, I can't wait to go back again and try some of their other dishes (maybe on my birthday?). Have you been to The Ox? What would you recommend?

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