Pumpkin Picking in London

 Pumpkin pickin’ season is upon us ya’ll! Growing up in the US, there wasn’t a year that went by that we didn’t go pumpkin picking in October. It signifies the start of Autumn and is such a fun activity to do on the weekend. When I was little, we used to go to this farm in Kansas with a huge field all full of pumpkins and pick out our own to bring home and carve for Halloween to put out on the door step. As we got older, I’d go to the pumpkin patch with friends when that snap of cold air hit, drink apple cider, enjoy apple cider donuts and pick out pumpkins to decorate our house with.

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Vivek Singh’s Guest Chef Series

“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like few on the tip of a leaf.” – Rabindranath Tagore

The last few months have been hectic but great. Between work, events and wedding planning, it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind but fantastic nonetheless. I have been fortunate enough to attend some really cool events, one of which was Vivek Singh’s Guest Chef Series kick off collaboration dinner with Adam Handling of the critically acclaimed, The Frog E1.

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VINtwined Presents Champanois

This past weekend, my older sister Chrissie was in town visiting. In fact, this has become a routine occurrence, for which I feel incredibly thankful for! We have our little traditions every time she comes to London – we always go to see a play and indulge in quite a bit of champagne. When I was invited to come along to Vintwined’s Champanois event, I couldn’t think of anybody else I’d rather experience it with than my sister!

Now, for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with VINtwined, it is a fantastic new venture founded by ex-pharmaceutical strategy consultant Neil Deacon.

Neil’s philosophy is one I can definitely get on bored with – “Life’s too short, so why wait?”

Despite an established career, Neil took his passion for phenomenal wine and started VINtwined – a company that takes unique wines and uses them for culinary inspiration. Instead of the typical food with wine pairing, Neil uses the wine as inspiration for the dishes.

Neil, along with Head Chef James Welch, have been showcasing their passion for great wine and food with a series of supper clubs and we got to experience the very special four-course wine-led dining experience featuring exquisite grower champagnes this past weekend. To say it was superb is an understatement.

Taking place in Clerkenwell Kitchen, we were greeted with smiles and a glass of Gounel Lasalle Prestige Brut paired with Comte and Brioche rarebit fingers. A delicious combination as the flavours of the brioche in the canapé distinctively mirrored the creamy buttery notes of our champagne. We met Neil, who told us some hilarious stories about travelling throughout France, knocking on wine-makers door to discover the next big thing.

I have a real appreciation for smaller, lesser known wineries and prefer to drink wine from small production companies when possible as opposed to mass produced wines. I find the stories behind them to be quite fascinating and like to support smaller companies as much as I can. I also find that a lot of the times, the wine is much better quality!

Neil told us all about how he wasn’t having much luck going door to door when he was in France. He was about to give up on the expedition and head home when a surfer-looking dude walked up to him and asked him if he was looking to try some different wine. Neil said yes, and the surfer took him to a shed, where he kept several barrels of wine on reserve. The surfer happened to be the owner of a small production winery that had been in his family for years and Neil ended up bringing some of the wine back to serve at his Vintwined dinners.

We sipped on our lovely first glass of champagne and chatted with the rest of the group before sitting down for the main event…

The first-course was a Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Vintage 2005 paired with a Salmon tart fine, chestnut mushrooms, watercress and creme fraiche. The champagne itself is fresh and palatable, with hints of honey and spices that paired incredibly well with the salmon tart. The champagne itself wasn’t heavy and didn’t leave an acidic taste in your mouth like many champagnes can. It was lovely and light – one that is perfect to drink at the beginning of the evening. The Salmon Tart was delicious, with the pastry underneath adding a rich buttery texture to the overall flavourful fish. Lovely indeed.

The next course was my absolute favourite of the evening, and very well may have inspired my wedding menu!

Duck breast served with potato terrine, turnips, red cabbage and a rich blackberry jus. The inspiration for this dish comes from the Louis Casters Cuvee Superiore Brut, one of the most special champagnes I’ve had the pleasure of sampling. The champagne itself is crisp and decadent, with notes of blackberry, apricot, brioche and lemon zest. It paired exquisitely with the duck and the blackberry jus that accompanied it. It is a very distinctive champagne and one I would love to try again soon.

The duck itself was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouths. I really liked the freshness that the blackberries brought to the dish – it was fantastic! Hat’s off to the chef.

Unlike a lot of wine tastings I have been to in the past, the dinner is formatted perfectly in that Neil talked briefly about the champagne and how it inspired the dish that we were about to eat. It wasn’t overwhelming or too complicated. His outlook on wine is that is is supposed to be fun, not daunting and while I can’t speak for everyone, I know that I walked away feeling a lot more knowledgeable than when I came!

I also want to note that the thought and effort that went into choosing the specific champagnes we tried on the evening as well as the pairing of the dishes was so evident and Neil’s passion for what he does shined throughout the entire evening.

For our final course, we were surprised with a sweet dessert wine called Pierre Morlet, Rattafia paired with a Cherry Bakewell Tart, almond crumble and vanilla cream. I am not always a huge fan of dessert wines as I find the consistency can be a bit too syrupy, but this sweet wine was delightful and the soft cherry notes mirrored those in the Bakewell Tart. There was a bit of acidity to the wine, which balanced out the sweetness of the overall dessert. It was a wonderful way to end our superb evening.

For a digestif, my sister and I ordered one more glass of the incredible Louis Casters champagne and chatted along with Neil about his future plans. This was one of the last of the Champanois dinners, but he is hosting a new series called “This is English,” celebrating English wines just in time for English Wine Week coming up in London.

The four-course event will take place at Stepney City Farm on 18th March, 15th April and 27th May. Tickets are £65 and can be purchased here. The Champanois event was truly spectacular and I would expect nothing less at his next series! If you are a big wine fan or just want to meet some new people and learn more about it, I can’t recommend Neil’s relaxed Vintwined series enough. The wines are outstanding and the food is divine – a truly winning combination.

*I was a guest of Neil’s, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and I am really excited to see what VINtwined has in store for the future and really looking forward to the next event. Thank you Vintwined for a most memorable of evenings!

Play HOLI at Cinnamon Kitchen

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colour, is a traditional Hindu festival that celebrates the arrival of spring, friendship and fun! The good news is, you don’t have to travel all the way to India to take part. Renowned Indian chef, Vivek Singh, has brought the vibrant celebrations over to London and set up camp right outside Cinnamon Kitchen in Devonshire Square. You can officially leave the dull, grey City at the door and step into the white party pods on the terrace for 30 minutes of paint pelting madness. Trust me, it is as fun as it looks.

Last week, I had a chance to paint the town red and yellow and orange, let loose and have some fun at the kick off of HOLI, taking place NOW at Cinnamon Kitchen until the 18th March (snag your tickets here).

As you arrive to HOLI, you’ll be greeted with a super chic  protective white onesie to throw on before the madness begins. Be sure to wear clothes you don’t care too much about anyways – it gets messy but that’s the fun of it all!

You then get your own packets of colourful powder and it’s GO TIME!

Things start off pretty tame – gently throwing paint at each other, but after about 5 minutes everyone is friends and the madness ensues…

I love what HOLI symbolises – meeting new friends, celebrating existing friendships, laughing, repairing broken relationships and forgiveness. It breaks down a lot of barriers and for 30 minutes your mind is focussed entirely on fun – it is an absolute blast. If you book anything this year, I can’t recommend HOLI enough – it is a brilliant day out and it’s the only time you can get away with looking like a little rainbow in public.

After all the paint pelting, you’ll have definitely worked up an appetite – head into Cinnamon Kitchen and tuck into their 5 course HOLI festival feast and some cocktails or Kingfisher beer.

Spiced seabream with green mango and coconut chutney.

The best ‘Jhinga Malai’ King Prawns in a coconut and cardamom sauce. I highly recommend trying this dish off the menu – succulent prawns in a perfectly seasoned sauce with rice. Mop it all up with some garlic naan and you’ll be a happy camper.

House of HOLI at Cinnamon Kitchen is on NOW until 18th March. Tickets are priced at £8 per person, or £15 per person including authentic Holi bites and either a signature Holi cocktail, a Kingfisher beer or a mocktail. £38 per person including a five course tasting menu and a Play Holi Session. The whole pod can be hired for groups of up to 30 for £400, which will include arrival drinks and nibbles. I already can’t wait until next year! Grab your tickets for this week here. HAPPY HOLI!

Photo Credits: Johnny S Photography.

 

The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience

For those of you Americans reading this, you may be wondering what exactly Fawlty Towers is? Well, it’s one of the most hilarious British sitcoms from the 70s. If you’re a fan of British humour – go watch it, and even if you’re not – still go watch it. The show takes place in a hotel and features Basil, the inept hotel manager, his bossy wife Sybil and Manuel, the funniest Spanish water that has a knack for ruining everything Basil tries to do right.

Well, I was so intrigued by the show and after spending 2.5 years here in the UK, I decided it was time to experience the Fawlty Towers Dining experience for myself! Currently playing at the Amba Hotel in Charring Cross and the Kingsway Hotel in Covent Garden, the show is literally everything you will remember from the hit BBC sitcom rolled into a two hour sit down meal, where the audience are used as props and the food is too…

The performance features the three main characters, Basil, Sybil and the hilarious Manuel – all of whom were spectacular and looked so similar to the original cast.

For those of you that know Fawlty Towers well, expect to see the funniest scenes played out from the original show, including Manuel and Basil the Rat, Basil trying to get Manuel to bet on a horse, the scene where the Americans come to town with the Waldorf Salad, and the inevitable build up to that German scene where Basil goes insane….

Having not watched the show loads before we went to the experience, I still found it to be incredibly humorous and a great laugh all throughout dinner, even when Manuel accidentally chucked me on the floor in front of everyone!

You can’t help but laugh throughout the entire show…

On to the food… Well, truth be told, the food wasn’t as great as the performance was but you don’t come for the mind-blowing food, you come for a really fun evening out. Bread rolls used as props were flung across the room by Manuel, pumpkin soup that arrived later than expected…

Roast Chicken with veggies and a potato..

And Black Forest Gateaux Cake …. I think we were all a little disappointed to see no Waldorf salad but that’s neither here no there!

I personally loved all the jokes and how they got the crowd really involved and immersed in the entire experience. It was a really fun evening full of surprises and the script (they say) is different each time. The characters were all so spot on and overall, it was a very unique night out and something a little bit different! The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience would make for an excellent gift for a relative and would also be great fun to do as a group.

Have you been to the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience yet? What did you think?

Book now! 

I was a guest of the Fawlty Towers Dining Experience, but all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t trade this exceptionally funny night for anything.

 

Where to Watch the NFL in London

nfl-in-londonIt’s that time of year again and American football season is back in full swing! Sometimes, there’s nothing better than having a lazy Sunday with some beers, burgers and football streaming on the TV, all day long. For those of us Americans living in London, we don’t always have that luxury and we’ve got to head out of our flats and houses to catch the action elsewhere. It can be really hard to pinpoint which bars and pubs will be streaming the games, so I’ve come up with a list of where to watch the NFL games in London.

Greenwood in Victoria – Located in the heart of Victoria, Greenwood is an upscale pub and restaurant that has a Sports Lounge of dreams – including six screens (two mega screens), showing all the NFL action! They’ve also got an American 8-ball pool table and two shuffle board tables. They’ve also got an awesome bar menu with delicious croquettes, pizza strips, burgers, and more served all day. This is my ideal spot to spend a Sunday afternoon watching football!

Greenwood | 170 Victoria St |  Westminster | London | SW1E 5LB

The Hippodrome Casino – Located in Leicester Square, The Hippodrome Casino is the ultimate spot to cheer on your favourite team. Every game has it’s own screen, they’ve got an awesome all-American food and drink menu and everyone comes in their team’s jerseys so you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the USA.

The Hippodrome Casino | Cranbourn St | Leicester Square | London | WC2H 7JH

Bodean’s – Known for it’s awesome Kansas City-style BBQ, Bodean’s has multiple locations throughout London AND shows several of the games every Sunday. Locations include: Balham, Clapham, Fulham, Old Street, Soho, Tower Hill, Covent Garden and Muswell Hill. Beers, BBQ and football – sounds pretty good to me. Call your local branch ahead of time and ask what games they’re showing for that day.

Frankie’s Sports Diner – An American-inspired sports bar in Fulham, Frankie’s has 12 HD screens to catch the action of the games every Sunday. When you buy a bucket of Bud, you’ll get a basket of buffalo wings for free – game on.

Frankie’s Sports Diner | Stamford Bridge | Fulham Rd | London | SW6 1HS

Belushi’s – Another awesome American-style sports bar with multiple locations across London. Belushi’s has backstage access to regular season and playoffs and replays with a Season Plus Game Pass. Any game you want to watch – they are able to screen it for you. Even better, if there’s a big group, you can reserve a spot for a front row spot, pay £10 each and get a bucket of 5 Bud Lights and a Tex Mex platter. Sounds ideal.

Showing games in: Camden, Greenwich, Hammersmith, London Bridge and Shepherd’s Bush.

Riley’s Sports Bar – Haymarket – This place is one of the ultimate sports bars in London. There’s 34 screens showing 70 sports channels, so you’re guaranteed to catch the game you want. They also have pool and ping pong tables, 4 different bars, and a great beer list. In addition to NFL, they also show college games and basketball! Check out their schedule online to see what games they’ll be showing every Sunday and get there early to snag a seat.

Riley’s Sports Bar | 80 Haymarket | London | SW1Y 4TE

Wembley Stadium – And of course, the best place to watch a game is at Wembley Stadium! The International Series kicks off tomorrow with the Colts vs the Jaguars. We went last year to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and had a blast. It was definitely a highlight of my year and if you get the chance to go you definitely should!

NFL

If you prefer to watch the games at home, you can buy Sky Sports, which shows some of the games, Game Pass, which will give you access to 256 regular season games, and you can watch highlights on BBC iPlayer.

If there’s any other sports bars to watch the NFL in London, please let me know!

Go Chiefs!