Friday, April 29, 2016

#100daysoffresh update 2, days 6-10

The #100daysoffresh fun continues over on my instagram, with each day presenting new ways to make delicious and nutritious goodies.  It's inspiring me to create and try new flavours - I'm eating so well!  Here's some recent goodness.

Day 6: 

Love a good, slightly geometric, salad.  Courgette, cucumber, tomatoes and pepper.  Perfect crunchiness!

Day 7:

Freshness for breakfast - what a way to start a week!  Spinach, tomatoes, scrambled egg, guacamole and salsa.

Day 8:

Pan-fried courgette and peppers, with a honey and balsalmic glaze - perfect for an April day with snow.

Day 9:

Loved this creation, a new one for me.  Shaved pieces of sweet potato, roasted in a little olive oil.  Quartered slices of courgette, roasted in olive oil and chilli & garlic flakes.  Halfway through the roasting time add some pieces of feta to the courgette roasting dish.  Complete roasting, plate up, and drizzle with a little honey.  Devour with such gusto that you end up with small spatters on your teeshirt.  Regret nothing.*

*Last two steps optional.

Day 10:

Some days, you just need a sandwich....soft wholemeal bread, homemade basil butter, then loaded up with thick slices of deli chicken, halved miniature plum tomatoes, and loads of spinach.

So good.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Theatre: Funny Girl: A Sort of Review

On Monday, I was excited to go to the theatre to see Funny Girl.  As both a Barbra Streisand fan-girl and a huge admirer of Sheridan Smith I was hugely excited to see the show - the tickets for the run at the Menier Chocolate Factory had all sold out so quickly that I missed out, and I was delighted to snap up a ticket fairly soon after the transfer to the West End.

Funny Girl is playing at the Savoy.  I like this theatre, it's big without being soulless, welcoming and warm.  I love turning left past the topiary of Kaspar outside the hotel to filter down to the theatre doors, I even enjoy the complex pas de deux this can involve with impatient drivers of Rollers, Bentleys and Mercs as they deposit their well-heeled passangers at the Savoy for dinner or a show.  I've seen many shows here, from Guys and Dolls, to Gypsy, to Guys and Dolls, and have sat in many of the areas - from front row centre for Imelda Staunton's star turn to the very back of the gods.  Acoustically I think it's quite blessed - even in the nosebleeds I've never hear badly.

As I was going solo to the theatre on Monday I decided to sit in the cheap(er) seats, up in the Grand Circle (I don't think we can call them properly cheap - this is theatre in London after all!).  I try to do this if I'm reviewing too - I think if people are going to the theatre the show should play to every level.  I arrived on time, found my seat and settled in for the show.

I was sat in row H, in the grand circle.  It's pretty high up, but you get a good view of the stage.  That is, until the rude lady sitting in seat F26 arrived.  In front of row F there is a handrail, as it's the front row of the back section.  When you buy tickets there you know this, and you also know not to lean forward on the handrail, lest the rows behind you have their view obstructed.  Seat F26 didn't seem to care about this though, and perched forward, meaning that for the first act everything that happened front and centre (so, much of the acting, many of the solos, plenty of the comedy) was entirely blocked by her head.  A person behind me raised it with the usher who asked the lady to sit back.  She did for all of thirty seconds before relocating herself to the position of wall, blocking the view.  Hemmed in by other theatregoers and oh-so-Britishly too polite to cause further disturbance, I stewed for the rest of the act.

At the interval I went to request a refund (I genuinely couldn't see between a third and a half of the stage).  As the box office was closed I was instead given another seat, after twenty minutes of standing in a cold corridor and being offered the chance to watch the action on a 'sort of fuzzy screen' for the second half.  This time I was steated down in the stalls, which was kind, but not particularly helpful to the others in my section.  As lovely as it was to have a comfy seat and a clear view for the second half, I was still disappointed at the rudeness of F26, and also by the lack of action taken to prevent her rudeness (there was an usher less than seven feet from where she was leaning forward and causing an issue).

I cannot abide bad manners at the theatre. Live theatre is such fun, and rather uniquely when enjoying an artform your fellow audience members become part of the experience.  This can be wonderful - I've been handed napkins by kind American tourists as I've wept at Billy Elliot; I've booed and hissed villains at the Hackney panto on many occasions; I've joined in enthusiastic dancealongs during encores, been nonplussed and bemused by many an experimental piece, and shared a standing ovation with fellow theatregoers many a time.  This part of the experience can also be a pain in the rear - from noisy wrappers to phones going off to taking pictures or filming during shows (this seems to be on the rise, hideously).  On Monday, it simply meant that I cannot review the first half of the show.  Because effectively I was listening to the soundtrack.  The soundtrack in this case was very good; but I hadn't ventured out across town and paid good money for a listening party. Thanks, F26, you (insert rude word of suitable vehemence - tastes may vary).

Onwards, then, to my 'sort of' review.  Sheridan Smith was delightful - her richness of tone soared beautifully in her solos and she imbued the part of Fanny Brice with exactly the perfect balance of moxie, pathos, and realness. What a gift to the London stage she is.  In the parts where she had to react to the wider company or the audience she really came alive, bringing real verve and charm to the role. As the trio of older ladies Valda Aviks, Marilyn Cutts & Gay Soper were wonderful - you really believed the friendship (and gentle competition!) between them.  Joel Montague is delightful as the long-suffering Eddie, and Bruce Montague shines as the impresario Ziegfeld.

The company are great, and the dancing and chorus pieces are really nice.  The use of props, scenery and lighting is charming - I loved the changes in perspective, taking us behind the scenes one minute and having us in the audience position the next.  Everyone sounds in fine voice - at least I could hear the whole thing clearly!

In conclusion, I think Funny Girl is a good show, and another triumphant turn for Sheridan Smith.  I just hope if I ever get to see it again, it won't be with someone's head taking up most of the stage.  I'd love to return and review it properly at some point!

PS I'm aware this is all very 'first world problems', but manners get me, man.

Food: Discovering Brazilian Wine with Cabana

I've been lucky enough to attend two events in the last two weeks with the lovely folks at Cabana.  I love good fresh produce, grilled meats and a cheeky cocktail or two, so this can only be an excellent thing.  I think it's so nice that here in London there are so many spots to enjoy different cuisines, from Vietnamese to Argentinian; Japanese to South African.  What a place to be a foodie!

One cuisine I haven't had as much of is Brazilian*, so this past month, with the two great Cabana events and the awesome brunch at Carioca has well and truly whetted my appetite.  There are lots of familiar elements from other Latin American cuisines (the heat of chillies, the marinaded and grilled meats), but also many things which mark out Brasilian cuisine as something different.  Last week I went to the Brixton branch of Cabana for a yummy meal with some of the Bangarang lovelies, and that will feature here soon.  Today, however, I'm turning my attention to the Islington branch, where I attended a fun wine tasting.

Now before we begin....I didn't actually know a tonne about Brazilian wine before I attended.  I like New World wines (favourites being Chilean Malbec - so good with steak; and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough), but I hadn't encountered Brazilian wines before.  That was about to change.  In a big way.  I was so impressed with the different flavours and tastes on show; Brazil's sheer size and location means it can cultivate such a wide range of grapes, and the flavours on display were really exciting.

We were given such a comprehensive tour of the regions and geography of Brazil - I regretted not getting my notepad out to take notes.  What really stuck with me were the parallels between to wine-making traditions of the pampas regions and how closely they mirrored those you might find in regions of France.

We began with two lovely fizzes to try, and they were delicious.  Light and fruity, with the gentle acidity of a prosecco - perhaps something to try as an alternative if the forecasted global prosecco shortage does happen?

Love me a good wine pour shot!

After the sparkling wine we progressed to white, then on to the reds.  Even Erica, who doesn't usually like red wine, got on board!

This 2012 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon was my favourite of the evening.  It had a real velvetty mouthfeel, and a deep, fruity flavour.  Smooth and dangerously easy to drink!

I'll write more on the food in my piece on Brixton (spoiler alert: we ate very, very well and I had to hit the salad hard in the days afterwards), but I did take a few snaps when I wasn't thoroughly enjoying the wines.

I enjoyed leafing through this cookbook - lots of great recipes you can make at home.  There's a new one being released soon I believe, and I'll be looking forward to trying some dishes at home.  Not sure where I'll find palm hearts though....

A lot of the starters and puddings are spherical, and also amazing.  The cheese filled rolls above are devilishly moreish, flavoursome and tangy.  And the chocolate dipping balls below?  Should simply not be allowed.  Far, far too good.

If you're looking for a delicious meal, some tasty wine, and lovely service, definitely give Cabana a visit next time you're in Islington!

* Brazilian or Brasilian?  I'm still not sure!

 Disclaimer like whoa: I was invited to attend this event and filled with delicious wines and food.  All opinions, as ever, are my own.  If something was not *hashtag* opinions would be shared.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book review: We'll Always Have Paris

I am a sucker for a good memoir.  I love the glimpse into a life of another, the stepping into their shoes for a few hundred pages, the moments of high drama mixed in with the quirky minutiae of the day-to-day.  Whether it's the lives of the great and good or a meandering tale of travels or toils, if it's well written I am totally on board.

I've followed Emma Beddington on twitter for a good long while, which took me in turn to her super blog, Belgian Waffling.  I love her writing, full of heart, and humour, and pop culture / culture culture references which are exactly  where I like them to be - a little low, a little high, a little in the middle.  I write as someone who enjoys The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills, books on Platagenet history and Austen in equal measure.  I like to mix it up, and Emma's blog has much to enjoy if you like to learn, while also enjoying plenty of cultural touchstones you know well.

And lots of cake.

As a fan of Emma's blog, I was delighted, then, when she tweeted that she'd be writing a book.  When some bloggers make similar proclamations I'm chuffed for them, but I know I won't be reading the finished article, because their blog seems to be their outlet, with not so much left to say.  No bad thing, but a definite stopping point for purchasing a book.  With Emma the opposite was true and as soon as pre-orders opened I bagsied myself a copy. It was released last week and I read it as soon as I could.  Remarkably quickly.

This is a great book.  Funny, witty, wry; but also silly and touching and clever and emotional.  Emma is a spectacular writer and the joie de vivre and piquant observations and humour of her blog translate beautifully to the pages of a book.  In much the same way that Jenny Lawson's books match her personality and the tone of her blog, Emma Beddington's book is unmistakably her - the same authorial voice and cultural timbre is at work here.  It's lovely to have a longer time to spend with Emma as she leads her readers through the ups and downs of her teens, twenties and thirties.

From a teenage obsession with French Elle magazine, Emma is full of ambitions to become French and to fully embrace the many quirks and ways of la vie Francaise. As the book unfolds we see some of those dreams realized and others dashed as Emma navigates the milestones and millstones of life.  I really enjoyed the honesty of the book - in some memoirs there's a huge knack for glossing over or sugarcoating situations, but here Beddington shares honestly, even when situations or occurrences were unpleasant or difficult.

The passages dealing with loss were genuinely moving and summed up for me quite brilliantly the sorrow and emptiness that these seasons of grief can give us.  I loved as well the vivid pictures she painted of her cast of characters; from her loving and able descriptions I really feel I have a sense of her loved ones.  I also adored how Emma made you really feel like you knew the places she visited - the areas in London she visits I know well, and she evokes them beautifully - the sounds, smells and sights of the city are beautifully realised.  She has a real eye for details and descriptions....and plenty of passion for baked goods too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and devoured it like an excellent flan or a choice pain au chocolat.  If you like books which take you away to different climes, tales of redemption and self-discovery, or just a good, fun read, I'd highly recommend We'll Always Have Paris.
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About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

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  • September 2016 - New York
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