Planning a French Escape

I’m shaking off the food blues with a road trip to France!

Not too long ago, I wrote about how easy it is to get bored with the food you’re eating and how I needed to travel more, in order to broaden my foodie boundaries.

Luckily for me, I had some time booked off work coming up and the perfect destination to travel to.

Many people consider France to be the birthplace of fine dining. It’s certainly true to say that many of the classic restaurant dishes on Modern British menus have their roots in the rich heritage of cooking that this country has become famous for, but I tend to avoid putting French food on such a high pedestal for the sole reason that it’s proven to be influential. Although I’m aware of the impact that legendary chefs such as Jacques Torres and Hubert Keller have had on the way that we eat today, I still struggle to see the soul in some of these ‘French classics‘ especially when they’re served on HUGE white plates in a humourless, modern fashion.

Yes – I understand to work and live in the food industry and not like French food is a bit wonky, but does it help my case if I admit that I’m aware of my condition? That is, after all, pretty much the entire reason why I’m going for a week to stay in a villa in France – I’m going to banish my prejudices of French food.

Credit: @forever39

Now, I’m well aware that France is a rather large place (in fact it’s nearly three-times larger than the UK), so the food that I’ll be eating will be indicative of the local cuisine, rather than the whole country. Still, I’m hoping that if I go with an open mind (and wallet) I’ll be able to return enlightened and free of all anti-Franc snobbishness.

I’ve always been a bit shit at going on holidays. I’m impatient, so I don’t like sunbathing. I like looking at old buildings, but I’ve got no real passion for architecture. For me, it’s all about the atmosphere and the company. I’ll be going with a group of friends who are always good value and I’m hoping that we’ve chosen the villa wisely – only time will tell.

As the resident foodie in the group, I’ve been tasked with finding the restaurants that we’re going to be eating at. Luckily for us, price isn’t an option, which is a good thing because I want nothing short of the best. Here are the places that I’m most excited about visiting:

La Bouillabaisse , Saint Tropez

Credit: @forever39

Hotel Restaurant Les Pins, Haguenau

Credit: @hotelrestaurantlespins

Bistro Du’O, Vaison La Romaine

Credit: @celia_mtl

La Verdoyante, Gassin

Credit: @milanasm

Le Petit Nice, Marseille

Credit: @pac_sam

New Year Food Goals: 2018

If you’ve not clocked it yet, 2018 is here – time to make some goals!

Credit: Anna Morais

For some people eating is simply a necessity, it can even be a chore for others.

I don’t fall into either of those categories.

I’m passionate about the food I eat: where it comes from, what it looks like – everything. So it makes sense that someone like me will be pretty regimented when it comes to making a list of goals for the New Year.

Now I know – making lists, especially concerning something so subjective and personal as ‘goals’, is such a typical girl-blogger thing to do. I can almost hear your eyeballs rolling in to the back of their head. Well before you lose your sight altogether, just wait a minute and hear me out.

This post is not just an excuse for me to nostalgically reflect on how amazing my 2017 was. It’s certainly not an excuse for me to obsess over how much weight I need to lose and I will personally promise you right now that there will be no desperate wishes for my life as a singleton to end – this is a food blog first and foremost, no drama, no bragging: I promise.

So, here we go – my FIVE FOODIE GOALS FOR 2018:

Prepare and cook a Beef Wellington

Credit: @elliotjamessmith

The Beef Wellington is one of my all-time favourite British meals, but it’s one of those things that I’ve always been told is so much better if you make it yourself. Now, I don’t spend much time at home, so much so that I probably cook for myself 5 times a month – tops. So, you might be able to guess that my cooking skills are somewhat lacking now…so the prospect of preparing a Beef Wellington from scratch is more than a little intimidating. Fingers crossed Jamie and YouTube will see me through it!

Host regular dinner parties

You didn’t think I was planning on eating the whole Wellington myself did you? I’m hoping to spend more time at home this year and that means I’ll be able to invite people round more often. I’m always mercilessly ripped into for never hosting parties, so I’m going to chance that this year and try to do dinner at mine at least once a month. It might take me a while to build up to the Beef Wellington, but I can always fall back on a few classics from my student days if needs be. Spag bol’ anyone?

Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant

Credit: @countingmichelinstars

My first (and only) trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes to how a simple meal could be transformed into something other worldly and led me to starting my career in the industry. To my great shame, that was years ago and I’ve not been back to a Michelin recognised establishment yet. I’ll still be zipping all around the UK this year, so I’m hoping to get a last minute reservation at a first-class restaurant at some point – I just hope my bank account will be ready for it…

Hit up a Summer-time Food Festival

Credit: @singerfood

Food festivals are all the rage now for families, young people and old folks alike. Last year I was lucky enough to get invited to a couple of Festivals, unfortunately I was working at the time, so I spent most of my time schmoozing instead of stuffing my face. This year I’m going to get a group of girls together, find a perfect sunny weekend and hit up one of the big ones. Although there are some great events being planned every year, the one I’ve got my eye on is the Great Indian Food Feast in London – watch this space!

Become a BBQ Queen

I’ve got a fantastic back garden which is slowly but surely starting to resemble a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the centre piece of all this chaos is a rater forlorn red-brick barbecue which my Father built for me nearly a decade ago. I’d like to say that I made great use of it when I first moved in, but the truth is that I’ve not even used it once. In truth, fire does scare me just a little bit, so the notion of digging out the barbecue and then filling it with coals just doesn’t appeal to me. Still – I’m going to fight my fear and do what I can do become a true BBQ Queen come the end of this Summer.

I’ll make sure to keep you guys updated if I manage to cross any of these off my list!

Why I Love Food and Why I Need to Travel

Work doesn’t often take me out of the country, which is a shame.

Credit: Pixabay

For the last few weeks, I’ve been scouting out locations all over the UK and tasting some laaavely food in the proces

However, as much as I’ve been tucking into a huge range of food, from all sorts of different establishments and from all corners of the globe, I don’t feel like I’ve eaten anything that’s really worth writing home about – let alone writing on this blog about.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, or a case of over-exposure to restaurants (if that’s even possible), but I feel like I’ve been wading through a rather dull swamp of eateries and restaurants in the last few months. Now I don’t like to toot my horn too much, but I’ve eaten my fair share of foods from around the world. My love of food was the main reason for me taking a year out to travel, after graduating from university, spending every night cooking or going out to eat, I’d become a hopeless eating addict. Although my skills had increased year-on-year whilst I was at university, I craved that buzz that you get from eating a new, exciting food for the first time.

It’s that leap-of-faith moment, where you see something looking so alien on your plate and you decide that there’s nothing to do but go for it.

Credit: Pixabay

The best example I can give of this is the first time that I ate Pad Thai.

Like many kids fresh out of college in the 00s, I went on a travelling gap year to Thailand and like many more kids heading out by themselves for the first time, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I knew that I was landing in Bangkok and that I had 12 weeks to make it back in one piece to the airport. Other than that, I was woefully unprepared. I had no idea where I was going to stay, who I was going to meet or how I was going to get places. A more pressing issue that presented itself to upon my exit from the Arrivals lounge was my all consuming hunger.

There was no time to think, there was no time to look at my smart phone (which had died on the flight over anyway). All I could do was surrender myself to the mercies of Bangkok. Before I knew it, I was sat in front of a steaming place of noodles, with strange smells entering my nose and the gabbling of Thai in my ears. The only thing I could do was eat and it was one of the best decisions of my lives.

Credit: Pixabay

That first mouthful was a true watershed moment for me. Turning me from the picky, nervous eater I had been before, into the voraciously adventurous eater that I am today. Of course, it’s much easier to take culinary risks when you’re younger. That’s why this task gets more tricky when you’ve got a few more years under your belt.

In order to continue growing and enjoying food, I’m going to have to expand my horizons even more, if that means literally flying into the sunset, then that’s what’s going to happen.

Three Not-So-Square Meals in Cardiff

The absolute best thing about my job is that I get to travel (and eat) all over the UK.

The brand I work for sent me out to Cardiff to check up on a few potential locations for new restaurants, which was the perfect opportunity for me to book a hotel room and get three utterly filthy meals out – all on the company’s money of course…I ain’t no sucker.

Cardiff’s one of those towns that I’ve visited many times but have never quite got to grips with. Whether that’s because of the confusing* nature of the streets (*they’re really not confusing at all), or because I’ve always left the place in a half-drunk post-hen do stupor will forever be a mystery to me. Regardless, I was more than keen to head back once more to Wales’ capital, especially after I heard from a pal that there were a whole raft of new, hip places to eat there.

So without further ado – here are the 3 Not-So-Square Meals that fuelled my very productive day of company funded research:

Breakfast @ Anna Loka

Credit: @lunnonjhl

When I roll out of bed there are only two things on my mind: Food and Coffee. I found both of those things in abundance at Anna Loka, probably one of the most typically hipster places in Wales, if not the world. Roll up, roll up! We got your rough-hewn tables, we got your battered-to-shit uncomfortable chairs, we’ve even got an open plan kitchen with white-tiles and tattooed chefs. And top of the bill – what you’ve all been waiting to see for the thousandth time…EXPOSED RED BRICK WORK!

Decor snobbery aside the *cough* vegan *cough* menu is drop dead gorgeous. I eat Banana & Blueberry Pancakes – I then forget myself and order a Scrambled Tofu Bap which is silly-tasty. As I leave I promise to myself not to take the piss out of vegans for at least a month (the can’t even eat bacon!…damnit).

Lunch @ Katiwok

Credit: Wriggle

I had to go just a little bit out of my way to find KatiWok, a cornershop shack serving possibly the best kati rolls I’ve ever tasted. I’m sorry – what’s that? You don’t know what a kati roll is? Oh, I’m sorry. I am so sorry. Kati rolls are basically are as fashionable as burritos were last year, about as cool as gourmet burgers were 5 years ago and 10-times tastier than both combined. I understand that’s not a very helpful answer…

The team at KatiWok have been serving up quality pan-asian food (kati rolls, noodles and the like) for the last 3 years. They offer fresh, fun twists on great Asian classics and have easily made my Top Eats list of the year. Their katis (a gorgeous kebab wrapped in doughy, stretchy paratha bread) are the reason to go there, but I was also surprised and elated by their spicy masala fries and excellent ‘bhajees’ (why isn’t there a standardised spelling for these things?!).

Dinner @ The Clink Restaurant

Credit: @Kelsey Reanne Lewis

The Clink’s premise is akin to a shitty new, BBC soap-drama that only your Dad watches because ‘that guy from Spooks is in it’: a group of convicted prisoners in a Welsh prison are given a chance of redemption by cooking in a restaurant. “Yes Dad, it sounds…cool – yes, I’ll make sure to watch it on iPlayer so we can talk about it next time.”

Fortunately for humanity, this concept has not been green-lit through The Writer’s Room – it’s the basis of a whole charitable organisation that runs four restaurants across the UK. All the chefs are serving time and are also working towards their NVQs in Food Preparation, Food Service and Customer Service. I order a pigeon salad with lardon salad, quails egg and black pudding – they’re classic ingredients, well pre-prepared and cooked. The main is a roast supreme of hake with potato rosti and pickled griolles – this surprises me. It looks like a £30 dish, tastes amazing and costs half the price.

Although I’m tempted by the Trio of cherry, I can literally feel my waistline expanding by the second – so I demurely decline and donate a fiver to The Clink – a truly tasty, worthwhile cause.