Eating well in St Malo is entirely possible

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This one is for my mum, and possibly her partner as he was the one trying to find somewhere she was happy with inside the walls. They ended up outside the walls, and the one place I probably wouldn’t have eaten! And I don’t think they’d eat there again!

 

St Malo

 

I love St Malo, even one night there at the end of my trips to France is a real treat. I love to wander around inside the walls, having a drink, watching the world go by. There’s normally music of all kinds and to me, you are never far from a good dinner. Yes, there are some awful tourist traps, but there is some great cooking going on. Here’s a few to consider:

MGG and I had dinner at La Ptite Rotisserie on rue de la corne de cerf. Good cooking, lacking in a website. MGG had a great goats cheese terrine to start, followed by a sort of hot coronation chicken. I had a great piece of ham cooked on the bone, with great chips, and then there was room for the gourmet dessert platter. It was a lovely atmosphere, great staff, and a good wine list by the glass or carafe. They could just do to lose the roasted spaghetti garnish on each dish.

 

The right street for the Chinese

 

We have often been for Chinese, as it’s been the end of the holiday and had lots of great French food. Being France of course it’s not really Chinese as we know it, but has a lot more Vietnamese influences. Au Palais D’Asie has changed hands since we were last there, and it looked a great menu, but we only had one night, so will have to try another day.

I would have loved to have gone to Autour du Beurre, which is connected to La Maison du Beurre. I also wish I had  had a coolbox cold enough to have brought back some of their butter. The menu sounded amazing, definitely one for another day. I could have spent a lot in the shope, even without dinner!

 

La Maison du Beurre

 

I made a bad mistake in not noting down a restaurant that sounded really interesting, and I would want to try and book for.  It had an intriguing menu without being too poncey. Next time!

And no doubt will still find us staying at the Ibis, on the beach. When the view is this good, why not?

 

A room with a view

 

It also benefits from its own car park which is a huge advantage in St Malo. Ok, it’s €10 a night but the car is secure, and it’s one less thing to think about. More time for wandering and eating!

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Bringing Venice closer to home

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I’ve been sent a beautiful book to review, called Cicchetti, which are the Venetian version of tapas. And it certainly has plenty of recipes that I’d love to get making, or eating. I mean, cocoa dusted baby onions? There is no other recipe in any of my books for that!

 

Cicchetti

 

There are just so many beautiful things to make, especially if using great seasonal ingredients. Broad bean tartines would definitely be on my list at this time of year. In fact the whole section on veg is gorgeous, including aubergine patties and radicchio and Gorgonzola bake. And then there’s the all important aperitifs, everything from the Bellini to Vov.

If you don’t want to cook it yourself, then you have to get yourself to Polpo, definitely my favourite place to have the Venetian experience in the UK. I love it here, and it’s a great place for every kind of lunch. Except if you want a nice quiet one, as it’s all about hustle and bustle, and I love it.

There is no lovely small bar downstairs, I would never ever use it, it’s not a great place to retreat from the madness of Oxford and Regent Street and the drinks are awful. Don’t go there. Please. There’s no room. And there are certainly no decent cocktails. So give it a miss…please.

If you do get to Venice, then I’m reliably informed by the two couples I’ve recommended it to, that a dinner at La Zucca is an amazing experience. I have a feeling that originally this recommendation came from Edd Kimber’s parents, and he’s never eaten there either, so it feels like we have both missed out! BFF certainly describes it as amazing food and met really interesting people there too. Not a bar, and not really about cicchetti but definitely about great seasonal vegetable dishes. The meat eaters needn’t feel worried though, everyone is catered for

Personally, I’m going to grab a bottle of Aperol, a bottle or two of prosecco and make a few cocktails, with a few plates of cicchetti to hand around whilst the sun shines. I can imagine that the air is possibly fresher here in the heat than Venice might be in this kind of heat!

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The end of the challenge

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Gold Challenge 2012

 

It’s hard to believe but it is a year today since I signed up to do the Gold Challenge, egged on by a few good friends. And as I write this I have just 2 out of the 2012 km left to do. Which seems incredible to me. I was always determined to do it, though there were days when it was tough. And then I thought of those people who had been so incredibly generous in their sponsorship, to help me raise over £2,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society. And so I carried on.

As you’d expect, quite a few of the miles have involved food at some point, or some other great memories, and some great locations. These are a few of my highlights:

* My first 10km covered walking to The Wheel Inn at Branston. I seem to remember it involved cheesy chips and a good burger. Possibly not the healthiest start, but great burger!

* I covered 10km at Champneys at Tring, and followed it up with dinner at the Akeman in Tring for a farewell dinner with some of the Champneys team. I don’t remember it being a healthy dinner. Good wine was consumed.

* Rutland Water provides good walking and cycling options, and is just a short hop to the Lord Nelson in Oakham.

 

Za Za Bazaar

 

* In February we covered a lot of kilometres around Bristol, mainly chasing around MGG and my nephew. And then there was all the walking around Za Za Bazaar in order to get dinner. One of my memorable meals of the year, not necessarily in a good way! It also was part of what made me reflect on how to age well.

 

Who can that be?

 

* In April, there was the 100metres I covered in the Olympic stadium (I was there first, Mr Bolt). Then I added a few more kilometres to it, making the most of being in the Olympic park, followed by a retreat into the Westfield centre and great Lebanese food at Comptoir Libanais.

* May saw the total going up thanks to some great walking in and around Hong Kong. I particularly enjoyed the distance I covered on Lantau, finally getting to see the Buddha, and then getting some great vegetarian food. Perfect.

 

View from the High Line - a beautiful place and some great stopping off points for food lovers

 

* June really saw the total move, thanks to lots of sightseeing and eating around New York City. Probably my favourite kilometres are those I did walking the High Line for the second time, but for the first time with MGG. And then heading for great BBQ food at Rub. And then there was the walk along Grand Street, with the huge variety of food that can involve.

 

Beach food - perfect Norfolk days and nights for food lovers

 

* July seemed fairly normal, but August had fabulous Norfolk kilometres to remember. With some memorable picnics and meals out included, and a bit of pie selling.

* September through to now has been eventful only on the home front, but saw the total climbing bit by small bit. The significant part was passing my fundraising target of £2012, which made it all worthwhile.

So my final 2km will be a walk along the Paphos seafront out to the castle, and then back to Vienna for a coffee. Or possibly a glass of fizz. And possibly time to ponder my next challenge. Thank you to all those who encouraged me, as well as those who sponsored me. It was the motivation I needed to keep going, to think of additional funds going to what is an underfunded area of research, even today.

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Sailing away to Weymouth

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Sunshine and rainbows over Weymouth beach - plan a trip for the food lover in your life

 

I’ve watched more sport in the past week and a bit than probably the last couple of years put together, and interested to see Weymouth’s moment of Olympic glory. I spent a couple of years living in Weymouth in my twenties, not my happiest time but the location had some benefits, although 20 years ago it was a place in need of something.

Boy, did it get something! I loved Weymouth best on a late Spring evening, when what tourists there were had gone home, and that perfect crescent moon of a beach belonged just to me and my dogs. If you can get there at similar times, then it’s worth it for the scenery, both the beach and the Old Harbour. The rest in my day was worth skipping, but who knows these days?

If I was going to stay, I’d book in at Harbour House, because it looks lovely, they’re big on local sourcing and the location is great. If you turn up in Weymouth on public transport, they’ll even give you a discount on your first night’s bill. Breakfast is sorted, I have no idea where you would eat out, as I cannot recall ever eating out in Weymouth (Dorchester used to be my night out of choice).

For something informal then I’d try the Crab House Cafe, described by Jamie Oliver as a funky little shack. Great menu, great location, definitely would be on my list. Oysters can’t come much fresher, as they have their own beds just yards from the door.

Okay, Weymouth is not Lyme Regis, or Swanage, but it won’t come at their prices either, and it leaves you based in the middle of the Dorset coast, so able to get anywhere along that glorious coastline. It’s obviously a bit old school, but with some good signs of moving forward. And you won’t be able to argue with the beauty of the natural environment. For a few days, I would give it a go. Sailing is entirely optional!

Image by Mark Connell on Flickr.

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Why I have low expectations of Nottingham Food & Drink Festival

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Getting ready for the Nottingham Food Festival

 

I’ve lived and worked in the Nottingham area for very nearly a decade now. I’ve had more than a few lunches and dinners in the areas, and there are some places to eat and shop for food that I really love and admire. Lunch at World Service is still one of my favourite things, and the fish finger sandwich at Homemade is my favourite comfort food for a casual lunch.

There should be a basis for a great food and drink festival. So why am I in two minds about going? Simple. The list of participants is only one stop away from having Mcdonalds and Burger King taking part. I mean, great to see Chai Yo Thai and the Lace Market Hotel on the exhibitor list, but less so to have Subway, Frankie & Bennys and Harvester taking part.

And you wouldn’t think that the area had great food producers surrounding it. Okay, The Pickled Village is Northamptonshire, but good produce. Johnny Pusztai is definitely one of Nottingham’s own, and a great at that, but they appear to be the only two producers involved.

To be fair, there are good offers and demos from some of the independent restaurants which would be where I would want to spend my money. But I wonder how long it has to run, particularly given some of the city’s key restaurants are not participating. Anyone else going? Be interested to compare experiences!

Robin Hood photo by janetmck on Flickr.

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Rub BBQ – doing bbq the right way

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The sun is not showing much sign of appearing for very long this year, which means the bbq is not getting much use. So we took the opportunity on our trip to NYC to experience some great bbq, without the charred/raw offerings or waiting for the coals to heat up.

Rub BBQ, or Righteous Urban Barbeque to give it its full name, was opened in 2005, with chef Paul Kirk looking after the kitchen. According to the website he was the Baron of BBQ, and has won over 425 cooking awards, and has been inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame (who knew?) so sounds like he knows what he’s doing.

 

Settling down for beer and BBQ at Rub

 

Now, this is not the place to come if you want fancy, schmancy dining. There were no plates, only paper trays, and the beer came in plastic glasses. But my word, did the barbecued meat hit the spot after a day of pounding the streets of the city. We opted for a barbecue meat platter, which included pulled pork, chicken and brisket, as well as some ribs.

 

BBQ Meat Platter at Rub BBQ

 

I have to say, we loved it. Smoky, flavoursome, tender, tasty…what more could you ask for? Well, then there was the slow baked proper baked beans and good coleslaw, not to forget really good chips. You couldn’t really go for anything other than beer to accompany this, and they have a great beer list to choose from, picking the best of smaller, artisanal brewers.

 

Deep fried oreos. So wrong, but so good

 

Just don’t fill up too much on beer, you need to leave room for the deep fried Oreos. Yes, I know it sounds all wrong, but my word it was good!

 

Update

I am sorry to hear that Rub has closed, as it was a truly memorable eating experience, and I’d recommended it to a few people over the years. Sounds like they had a run of bad luck from Hurricane Sandy through to a stolen Hummer crashing the front window. Hope all involved went on to find other great ventures.

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Please help! Where to eat in NYC?

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Where to eat in NYC when there's 100s of choices

 

You may know that I live in the middle of the countryside, love village life, not really big on cities.

Except I love New York City. Absolutely, and passionately. And next month sees me make probably my eigth or ninth trip. But in many ways it’s my first trip. First as a family. First as a tourist. First that I’m not there for work.

Which means catering for a different set of tastes, even though MGG is still very adventurous. It also probably means no meals like last year’s at WD-50. Although we could run to Freemans. If they are happy to have cool kids dine with them. So, you see, my repertoire of places is looking a little thin on the ground, so who can suggest somewhere that we really need to try out?

We’re staying in the Lower East Side, but will be ranging from as far uptown as the Guggenheim, and downtown out to Ellis Island. We’re taking a taxi to Brooklyn and walking back across the bridge. We’re doing the High Line from the furthest point uptown to finish in Chelsea. Surely great eating is never far away?

Kitchenette was one of my faves from last year, and I’m always sorry I’m not able to find who tweeted me that suggestion, as it was brilliant. It’s definitely worth another visit, and I’d probably take them to the Carnegie Deli just to experience it. Grandma J has requested tea at The Russian Tea Room, and we’re booked to do that. Other than that, where should we go that’s memorable for all the right reasons? I’d like it to be about the food, but accept that sometimes, just sometimes, it’s also all about the experience.

Yes, Ellen’s Stardust Diner, I’m probably looking at you.

Tell me, in the nicest possible way, where should we go?

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No more sinning at Burger King

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What’s your food sin, your dirty little secret? Mine is usually fuelled by a) two glasses of wine on an empty stomach and b) missing the train and being stuck at King’s Cross. Which up until recently was a decent food wasteland. Hence the drunken appeal of a Big Whopper. Which really only left me feeling dirty.

 

The renaissance of King's Cross Station, no longer a wasteland for a food lover

 

But now? Oh boy, get over yourself St Pancras, there’s decent food this side of the tracks too now! Not to mention some very snazzy design work going on (you can’t help but look up at the roof). And then go find something to eat. I honestly don’t know where to start.

 

This is my other office. The coffee is better, and the food.

 

I know and love Leon. I was one of those complaining when they took the sweet potato falafel off the menu, which dates how long I’ve been eating there. So, that’s always going to be a good fall back. I’m going to be highly tempted by Yalla Yalla and its Beirut street food. I mean, what’s not to love? Glass of wine first then stop by here for a Chicken Shawarma. It’s like an upmarket version of a kebab on the way home.

But then I could have gone for a burrito at Benito’s Hat. Although the temptation of a pomegranate margarita to go with it could be disastrous (though beneficial for the taxi firms of Grantham when I finally get off the train). Then there’s Giraffe or Prezzo, or could go healthy with sushi and bento at Wasabi.

I’m unlikely to want to go into a pub, but there is the Parcel Yard for those seeking ale. If I needed a strong coffee then there’s a Pret. If you don’t like coffee, then there’s a Starbucks. But even that is better than falling into the grip of Burger King. Although there is always the potential of the siren lure of the Pasty Shop, although I’d be somewhat worried about wandering into Cabinet ministers trying to prove they have the common touch.

Leave them to it, I’ll see you at Benito’s with a margarita!

 

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Gold Challenge March round up: the Olympic prep

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The Olympic stadiums taking shape ahead of my sprint

 

Another month gone by, and still trekking on. However, lousy weather in February and early March meant I was falling too far behind my total for comfort. So now I have a new best friend for the challenge: an exercise bike. That, and the fact that the wi-fi stretches to the garage. I am not sure that Saturday Kitchen is the best thing to cycle to, but it makes those miles disappear quick!

I covered quite a few miles at airport terminals, and a few in Monza. It was about the third time I’d stayed at Hotel de la Ville in Monza, and I do love it there. Very few places can beat their welcome and service. Ignore what it looks like from the outside, inside is like some bonkers 19th century explorer’s house. The single rooms are tiny, but serviceable, the breakfast is great, and the bartender mixes some mean cocktails.

My month, though, was really about heading towards the Olympic Stadium. Which is why I was exploring Westfield Stratford on 31 March. Whilst I can’t imagine you’d get in during the Olympics or Paralympics, can highly recommend the Premier Inn there at the moment.

As I imagine all good athletes do, the night before my big race  it was key to ensure that I ate right. Given the great choices, it was a tough call, but we ended up at Wahaca. There appears to be some doubt though on whether or not Usain Bolt prepares with fish tacos and 2 mojitos. Did it help? That’s another story.

 

Preparing for my race at Wahaca

 

Thanks to the generous souls my total raised for the Alzheimer’s Society went up by £185 in the month. Thanks to all of them!

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Za Za Bazaar quite a bizarre experience

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What’s it like to eat in the UK’s current largest restaurant? Well, we had a range of reactions to dinner at Za Za Bazaar in Bristol. MGG said amazing and cool, others said it was like a scene from Bladerunner and my mum declared it an experience.

 

Za Za Bazaar - a Bristol eating experience that a food lover may want to do just once

 

And I guess it was a lot of those things. It could also resemble a scene from hell for many, as this is not the place for a nice quiet night out, but I would hope most people would do their research before they pitched up here. It’s like dining in an aircraft hangar full of neon, with nearly 1000 people eating at any one time.

Never before have I eaten at a place that needed a map, or where you had to pick out a landmark to navigate by. And outside of food courts in Hong Kong, nor have I eaten anywhere with so many different cuisines to hand. Unlike Hong Kong though, this was an all you can eat buffet which, in a student city like Bristol, is obviously hugely popular.

 

Sushi counter at Za Za Bazaar in Bristol - a food experience for a food lover to do just once

 

I had gone with very low expectations on the food front, and I have to admit that it was both better than I expected and as bad as I expected. I mean, the sushi was more Yo Sushi than Roka, but wasn’t as bad as an M&S pre-pack. The Indian went down well with everyone, particularly the dosas made in front of you, and by the look of the skewers going in, the tandoori chicken would have been good too.

 

Tandoori skewers ready to go at Za Za Bazaar

 

Now, if you were fool enough to order risotto whilst you wait, then I think you’d get what you deserved. I mean, I can’t see they were going to have you stand there for 16 minutes whilst they lovingly stirred it. The dish of ready cooked rice was probably a giveaway too. We didn’t eat a lot of the Italian as the two dishes tried (lasagne and pizza) were disappointing. Lets face it, there are plenty of places on the high street doing that pretty well.

 

A quiet night at Za Za Bazaar. No, seriously, this is a quiet night!

 

You know what? It was loud, brash and busy, but we had a great time, if only because it was all the first three things and we’d never eaten anywhere quite like it. Kids love it, but then kids tend to love buffets in my experience. MGG tried sushi for the first time, which whilst not the best version of the dish would encourage her to try more.

It was £15 for the adults, half price for MGG, and I don’t think the wine was badly priced. We also had a great guy waiting our table, which definitely helped. I hope they manage to keep good staff, as the last thing you’d need would be surly staff in with all that noise. I wouldn’t go again, but it was most definitely an experience! I certainly wouldn’t go on a Saturday night, as I can imagine it descending further into hell as hen parties, stag do’s and office parties take over. A living hell, with neon. And a chocolate fountain.

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