Tag Archives: recommended

RECOMMENDED: Pasta & Sauces by Seriously Italian

24 Oct

One of the best lunches I’ve had in recent months was not in a Michelin-starred restaurant or within the welcoming decor of a much-lauded new café, it was devoured outdoors, quayside at St Katharine’s Dock.

This wonderful meal took the form of three flavoursome pasta dishes from Seriously Italian‘s market stall. A regular fixture at The Good Food Market at Marble Quay (close to The Tower of London), the stall is run by a married couple from Italy and offers a selection of mouth-watering lunch dishes.

Cooked on site, each carefully prepared dish features the couple’s handmade, award-winning, fresh pasta and homemade sauces (also available to buy should you wish to recreate similar meals at home).

image

Giovanni cooks parpadelle in green pesto

It was a pleasure to meet one half of the Seriously Italian duo, Giovanni, during my visit to The Good Food Market last Friday. His passion for cooking was evident and his approach towards his produce was inspiring: Seriously Italian is the only UK outlet producing pasta made from 100% British durum wheat. Even the gnocchi is made with British potatoes!

image

The Seriously Italian stall at The Good Food Market

Being artisan chefs, the provenance of their ingredients is key, sourcing the finest quality stoneground flour, organic certified produce and fresh vegetables to create not only hot dishes, but also packets of ready-to-cook pasta and jars of accompanying sauces.

The stall offers three hot dishes each week, and I was lucky enough to sample all three available options during my visit, beginning with a combination of two types of plump, Organic Gnocchi – beetroot, and a spinach and ricotta.

Tossed in a richly flavoured vegetarian red pesto, which looked deceptively like meat ragu, the gnocchi were perfectly cooked, with soft, fluffy centres melting against a mild heat of chilli in the sauce.

Organic Parpadelle with Courgettes, Speck and Homemade Green Pesto was bolder and equally enjoyable. The vibrant sauce looked fresh and inviting and just one bite confirmed its superior quality. Fragrant with basil, the flavour was nicely balanced by bites of salty ham and al dente pasta.

image

Organic Gnocchi and Parpadelle

Whilst my first two pasta dishes were outstanding, it has to be said that Seriously Italian‘s Lasagne – made with pumpkin, sage and almonds – was nothing short of INCREDIBLE.

image

Lasagne by Seriously Italian

The creaminess of the bechamel was worthy of a standing ovation for perfection, even without the addition of delicious sage-spiced pumpkin and fresh pasta.

Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of my box of assorted pastas – I was too busy shovelling enthusiastic forkfuls into my mouth! Whilst I chewed and sighed with pleasure (it was a bit When Harry Met Sally but I really couldn’t help myself), I wasn’t surprised to learn from Giovanni that Seriously Italian‘s pasta was honoured with a Great Taste Award earlier this year. Well deserved, believe me!

Unable to wait an entire seven days until The Good Food Market‘s return to Marble Quay the following week, Giovanni kindly gave me a jar of his homemade Pistachio Pesto to continue my Italian adventure at home – an outstanding concoction which transformed an otherwise bland bowl of Sainsbury’s penne into a gourmet meal.

Overall verdict? Seriously Italian could easily be renamed ‘Seriously Good’! It’s a five star lunch in a five star location – a beautiful marina, brought to life with authentic Italian food, hospitality and warmth.

Visit Seriously Italian at The Good Food Market, every Friday from 11.30am (Marble Quay, St Katharine’s Dock, London, E1W 1UH)

Advertisements

Salon du Chocolat in London: The Gala Evening Review

23 Oct

As Brits rejoiced in celebrating National Chocolate Week, partaking in a range of cocoa-themed events in honour of our nation’s favourite confection, an indulgent finale was unveiled to the media on Friday 18th October: Salon du Chocolat. The world’s largest chocolate show opened its doors at the Kensington Olympia National Hall – its first London outing, despite gracing no less than 23 locations across the globe since its launch in 1994.

image

Pralus' amazing praline bars

Attending the exclusive Gala evening, the exhibitor list encompassed esteemed UK and international brands, led by Rococo, Prestat, Demarquette, Lindt, Divine and Vahlrona. High expectations and greedy appetites were fulfilled within minutes of arrival: an assortment of Chocololo treats at the stall for Peckham-based chocolate shop, Melange; Château Vert truffles with citrus and caramel undertones at Chocbox; and Fudge Kitchen’s creamy Caramel Swirl. A sighting of chocolatier Paul A. Young in the crowd raised hopes that he was also exhibiting, but sadly not.

image

Comptoir du Cacao at Salon du Chocolat

Samples of velvety truffles, crunchy pralines, chewy nougat, and decadent sauces were flaunted on every stand and it was difficult to move more than three paces without succumbing to a new temptation.

image

Chocolate Treats at Salon du Chocolat

Notable discoveries ranged from a salted caramel chocolate slab from Au Palais des Gourmets to nougat made with lavender honey by La Maison du Nougat. A pistachio praline bar by French chocolatier François Pralus was superb, rivalled by Comptoir du Cacao’s Croustines (chocolate-coated crystal pieces with fruit and caramel) and Sparkling Chocolate Spread from Charles Chocolartisan.

image

Delicious nougat by La Maison du Nougat

The media frenzy at event sponsor Hotel Chocolat’s stand was entirely justified – the sighting of a bath tub filled with molten chocolate heralded a provocative display. A bikini-clad blonde slid into the tub and proceeded to bathe seductively in the warm liquid, much to the delight of mesmerised photographers. The pheromones released from within the excited crowd were palpable, emphasising the aphrodisiac properties of the confection.

image

Chocolate Spa Bath at Salon du Chocolat

Almost as awesome as the spectacle itself was the restraint of the model, who somehow refrained from insatiably slurping handfuls of the intoxicating, vanilla-scented river (willpower of which Rosemary Conley would heartily approve).

image

Hotel Chocolat’s Chocolate Spa Bath

The evening’s highlight was a much-publicised Catwalk Show, hosted by pastry chef Will Torrent, where stunning female models, clad in chocolate couture, paraded innovative collaborations between esteemed chocolatiers and fashion designers. Whilst the addition of handsome men in praline loin-cloths or nougat waistcoats would have perhaps balanced the evening’s titillation, the beautiful dresses were clever and inspired.

Favourites included: a cupcake-studded head-turner by French chocolatier and pâtisssier Madame Trignon (it took six months to perfect); a Macaron-encrusted slinky number from baker Loretta Liu of On Cafe, made using Original Beans’ rainforest collection; an earthy, feather-themed gown from Demarquette, featuring a show-stopping headpiece by Vivien Sheriff; and a funky steampunk dress from bridal wear designer Hannah Wilkins-Webb and award-winning Shropshire-based chocolatier Julia Wenlock (owner of Toot Sweets).

image

Cupcake Dress at Salon du Chocolat

image

Cupcake Dress


image

Demarquette's Chocolate Dress

image

Real Choc Leaves on Demarquette's Dress


image

Steampunk Dress - Bodice Front

image

Steampunk Dress at Salon du Chocolat

A playful night of fashion, flavour, borderline eroticism and humour, the Salon du Chocolat Gala was a feast for all the senses … and a heavenly, if fattening, excursion for chocolate lovers!

Verdict: ★★★★★

RECOMMENDED: Cakes by KupKase

11 Oct

Cupcakes. Hmmm. I’m a fussy person to please, particularly when it comes to the ubiquitous Red Velvet variety, but KupKase‘s Red Velvet was one of the best I have ever tried. From the first bite to the last, the rich flavour of red-tinted chocolate sponge coupled with smooth, not-too-sweet icing, was nothing short of euphoric.

There are so many cupcake makers and sellers at every food event – from markets to church fêtes – it’s easy to dismiss them all as being much the same. Lately, I’ve been feeling exactly that: cupcakes are boring and look better than they taste. That is, until I came across KupKase at Startisans, the Saturday food market at One New Change near St Pauls in London, showcasing artisan products from the latest start-ups.

image

The KupKase stall was beautiful: gold-dusted cakes topped with fresh fruits, regally perched upon cake-stand chandeliers! Kasey, the vivacious baker behind KupKase, was icing different flavoured cakes as I paused at her stall, mesmerised by the heavenly smell and twinkling colours.

image

image

image

Striking up a conversation, Kasey kindly gave me a Red Velvet cupcake to take home – a gift that I was intrigued to receive.

Red Velvet is my least favourite cake variety, thanks to most amateur bakers’ highly unappetising penchant for obliterating the chocolate sponge flavour with copious amounts of food colouring, before topping with lashings of sugar-packed frosting, rigidly set into hurricane-defying peaks. Sickly, excessively sweet and adorned with icing stiffer than a stick of chilled butter, a Red Velvet cupcake usually makes my stomach churn with dread.

Yet, there was something about Kasey’s stall that made me think I wouldn’t be disappointed. Watching her deftly ice and decorate her pretty cakes was genuinely mesmerising – and it was clear that her frosting was the perfect consistency.

image

image

Taking my cupcake home on the tube, I couldn’t wait to get indoors to eat it. Cutting it into quarters to share with loved ones, we each devoured our piece with a cup of tea, lamenting the fact that I hadn’t come home with a box of the delicious cakes rather than just one: a schoolgirl error that shall never be repeated.

KupKase‘s Red Velvet was exceptionally good – tasty, pretty and deeply gratifying. Add it to your list of cupcakes to sample before you die: KupKase is a little bite of heaven on Earth so don’t wait to kick the bucket before you try it!

You can find KUPKASE at Startisans, the weekly Saturday Food Market run by Shepherds Markets at One New Change (1 New Change, London, EC4M 9AF).

Startisans runs from 11am to 3.30pm every Saturday. The nearest tube station is St Pauls.

REVIEW: Kusmi Tea Party

27 Sep

I confess that tea has always been my drug of choice; I cannot function without it. Having once sacrificed my habbit for Lent, I proceeded to look ill and diseased for the entire 40 days of withdrawal. So epic was my decline, my work colleagues celebrated when my fast ended, proclaiming: “You have never looked so terrible, thank God it’s over.” Tea, it seems, is both my drug and my beauty therapist.

Thus, when I spotted a competition on Twitter, run by Sauce Communications, to win an exclusive invitation to Kusmi‘s Tea Party, I knew I had to enter! To say I was excited when I won would only scratch the surface of my elation!

Stepping into the Kusmi Tea store in Marylebone was like stepping into a Pirate’s treasure trove. Wherever I looked, there was a rich bounty of exquisite tea blends, in all different flavours. Coloured boxes lined the shelves like twinkling jewels, pulling me towards them like a magpie to shiny trinkets. For a tea addict such as myself, Kusmi’s shop was a Wonka-esque utopia of colour, flavour and charm.

image

The tea party was the perfect soiree: hot and iced Kusmi teas, organic cakes by Marlette, makeover and beauty treatments courtesy of Michael John and Laura Mercier, beautiful artworks from YellowKorner and lovely, welcoming staff with a genuine passion for their products!

image

I loved hearing about Kusmi’s origins; the esteemed tea company is steeped in history! Having begun life in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1867 – where customers included Tsar Nicholas II – the company, founded by Pavel Kousmichoff, had already launched a subsidiary in London before settling permanently in Paris, France, during 1916 (just ahead of the revolution in which the Tsar and his family were assasinated).

There were two teas available to sample at the party: BB DETOX from a new Wellness range and ANASTASIA, a signature Russian blend. Poured into the most gorgeous, branded cups, the Iced Grapefruit-infused BB Detox tea was served with an old-fashioned paper straw, adding to the evening’s party vibe. Refreshing, light and packed with health-boosting antioxidents, the tea smelt as fruity as it tasted!

Anastasia, served warm, was a comforting blend of Earl Grey, lemon and orange blossom. In truth, I have never been a fan of Earl Grey, hating its floral and bergamot notes, but this tea was beautiful. Named in honour of Tsar Nicholas’ most famous daughter (in the decades following the revolution, claims persisted that she was still alive), it was so addictive, I bought a box to take home – making use of the great discounts available on the night for party guests!

image

Offered alongside the teas were a fantastic array of cakes, courtesy of home-baking brand Marlette. The French company offers a range of HOME-BAKE CAKE & BREAD MIXES – all organic and free from nasty additives.

I’ve never admired home-bake mixes, particularly as many seem to produce a cardboard crust or a chewy centre, but Marlette’s products had no such problems and I was impressed by the quality of their cakes.

Pairing Kusmi’s Anastasia tea with slices of Marlette’s moreish almond Financiers and squares of gooey Fondant au Chocolat (brownie), I was in sugar-high heaven. There was even a Cereal Bar Cake – a fragrant slab packed with figs and apricot – which nicely complimented Kusmi’s iced BB Detox.

I’ve since spotted the chocolate fondant mix in my local M&S store, priced around £7. I’ll be stocking up on these, along with tins of Kusmi teas, throughout December – for inclusion in homemade Christmas hampers for family and friends.

During the party, I paused for a sojourn in the rectangular store’s ‘Chill Out Corner’, created especially for the event with gallery chain YellowKorner. I was blown away by some of the dazzling prints on display, which included limited edition exclusives, vowing to visit the gallery’s Westfield and Mayfair outlets very soon to check out more show-stopping artworks!

I spent the rest of my evening chatting to fellow guests and admiring the amazing skills of Sara Chatterton, from luxury salon chain Michael John – who was blow-drying curls and ringlets with finesse – and the nimble fingers of a beautician from Laura Mercier, who was expertly transforming guests into goddesses with eyeshadows, liners, skin products, blusher and plenty of lippy!

Upon leaving, I was presented with a stunning goody bag, containing over £50 worth of treats! Items included a tin of Kusmi’s Anastasia loose leaf tea, a Laura Mercier Foundation Primer, a packet of Marlette’s Organic Fondant au Chocolat mix, a 50% off voucher for a cut and blow-dry at any Michael John salon, a discount coupon for YellowKorner and lots of fantastic information about the brands.

The Kusmi Tea Party was a fabulous affair – stylish and entertaining, with plenty of delicious treats. The store was a grotto of delights – parading everything from funky tea pots to exclusive, Russian tea blends! A brilliant event with top-notch food, entertainment and staff, I walked away with loads of Christmas gift ideas and a range of new favourite tea flavours.

Kusmi Tea, 15 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4NU

Top 3 Things of the Week (August 26th – September 1st)

1 Sep

With my recent bout of ill health continuing for much of the week, I was unable to partake in as many events or food trips. Compiling a Top 5 was unrealistic but I’ve managed to up my game from last week – when I was so ill I could only list one measly item! It is with great pleasure that I write: behold this week’s Top 3 Things of the Week!

#1 Proud Cabaret in the City

image

The 1920s themed Speakeasy proved to be one of the most entertaining nights in London! With waitresses clad in basques, exquisite martinis and an awesome burlesque murder-mystery, called The Silencing of Miss Scarlett it was a fun-filled night of glamour and naughtiness. Read my full review for The Upcoming here.

#2 Palmers Green Festival

image

Held within the lush beauty of Broomfield Park in North London’s cultural and culinary capital, Palmers Green, this annual festival was the perfect Sunday escapade.

The community event was a celebration of all the borough has to offer, from food and entertainment to shopping and education.

It was difficult to resist the delicious international cuisine – delicacies hailed from a global trail spanning the Caribbean to Asia! Added to mouth-watering cakes from local tearooms such as Baskervilles, the sights and smells were beyond intoxicating.

Arts and craft stalls offered everything from ceramics to jewellery and, if not content to buy, both parents and kids were encouraged to try their hand at making their own from porcelain, under the instruction of Doodle Designs.

A children’s fun fair and separate activity and games stalls proved highly popular, while a local dance studio took eager volunteers through their paces, creating Palmers Green’s very own Strictly Come Dancing masterclass.

The park’s pavilion area, hosted by Tropical FM, was used to introduce a range of performances from local school children. Singing and dancing with equal passion and nerves, the kids excelled themselves. The entire afternoon was an endearing hybrid of The X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent – amazing!

Festivals like this are what community is all about: congregating, celebrating and appreciating. Witnessing the multicultural residents of Palmers Green coming together to interweave their many cultures into a gigantic tapestry of fun and colour for all to enjoy was truly magical. Roll on next year so we can do it all again!

#3 McDonalds

image

Left thirsty and famished after attending the launch party for new Soho restaurant and bar, Coal Vaults, there was little choice but to seek sustenance elsewhere.

Luckily, McDonalds on Oxford Street was still open for business. Never before has a “Mickey-Ds” hit the spot to this extent. Delicious, filling and a huge relief.

Top Thing of the Week (August 19th – 25th)

25 Aug

Due to ill health, I was stuck at home for most of this week and can’t produce a Top 5 selection of weekly highlights.

That said, I was forced to venture out on Saturday to attend a one day course that had been pre-paid months earlier. It was a Hand Reflexology class at The Central London College of Reflexology on Drury Lane.

A full review of my experience will follow soon but, in the meantime, I confirm that aside from learning a fantastic new skill, I came home feeling a lot better than when I left. All hail alternative therapy!

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Tinello

28 Jul

image

I had my first experience of a traditional Tuscan Tinello after The Upcoming sent to me to experience the Sali brothers’ delicious eaterie of the same name. Read about my adventure here.