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 Côtes du Rhône Touch Exhibition

Last night, Ciaran and I headed over to the Côtes du Rhône Wines summer festival of art, food and drink in the heart of King’s Cross. It was a beautiful summer evening and the King’s Cross area was alive with music and people eating and drinking outside, making for a really fun vibe. When we got to the festival, we were certainly in for a lovely wine surprise.

cote du rhonesThe Rhône Touch is an immersive wine-inspired art exhibition, where we had the chance to sample more than 60 red, white and rosés from the Rhône region in France as well as gaze at some incredibly impressive works of art created by the students from UAL.

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_R015005Everybody mingled and compared tasting notes of the wines that we had been sampling. I tried this exceptional red wine called SM,NM, based on wine expert, Douglas Bylde’s, advice. It is made with grapes from the North and South of the Meridian. It’s 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache. Grenache is an unlikely hero of grape and until recently it had been ignored by much of the world. It’s the grape that is responsible for many celebrated reds and is grown in the South of France. The combination of Syrah and Grenache make the SM & NM wine one of the best and unique in the in the Côtes Du Rhône arsenal. If you come across it, I highly recommend buying a bottle as it has medium body and it very delicious to drink. I love coming to events like this as you can discover some brand new wines you would have never thought to try! Anyways, on to the very interesting wine art.

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_R014973This piece of art was very special in that when you hovered your hand over the bottles, each produced the sound of a popping cork that came through the speaker. Everybody was having fun trying to create a tune out of hovering over the bottles.

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_R014933This piece of art was by far my favourite. You placed your wine glass on a sensor, which swirled your glass around (as you would after pouring a glass of wine) and as the glass spun, the lanterns changed colour to reflect the colours of your wine. It was incredible and super innovative. What’s even more interesting is that the artist said he had created it all in less than two months! He laser cut the box out of plywood and had to wire the lanterns together for it to all work. There is some serious talent there. I think something as innovative as this could be seen in a major art gallery one day – it was definitely a sight to see!

_R014958One student had recreated stomping on grapes in a vineyard with silicone balls that lit up as you stepped on them, which was quite interesting. I’d love to do traditional grape stomping at a vineyard one day!

All of the wine-inspired art was really spectacular and the students had to submit their ideas to Côtes du Rhône, who then chose a handful of the best submissions to exhibit. They were challenged to bring to life the unique aspects of the Rhône region’s high quality and enjoyable wine in an immersive way. I am no expert in the world of art, however, I did think there was some genuine talent there and I really enjoyed experiencing all of it. If you love wine, then you’ll love this exhibition.

Some delicious tasting dishes were floating around the room as we came out of the exhibition, made by award-winning British chef, Adam Rawson, who previously worked at Pachamama, White Rabbit and burger bar Lucky Chip.

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_R015011The stars that stole the show were these delicious 60 day aged beef txulton burger sliders. They were so juicy, tender and full of flavour, everybody was running outside to grab one. Topped with crunchy onions and cheese, nobody could get enough of how amazing they tasted. We grabbed three and enjoyed them outside in the sun before finishing our wine and heading on home.

_R014999It’s not often that fantastic wine, great food and immersive art all come together in one space, and if you are a fan of all three, then I highly recommend checking out the Rhône Touch Event, which is taking place in the Platform Theatre Foyer and Bar until the 31st of July. It’s the ideal event to enjoy a glass of wine, sample some new ones and immerse yourself in some incredible works of art. It’s definitely one of the more unique events in the capital at the moment, so head on down and check it out for yourself over the next couple weeks!

Platform Theatre Foyer and Bar, UAL | Central Saint Martins| Handyside Street | King’s Cross | London | N1C 4AA | Tickets 

 

Transatlantic Tables Dinner at The Grain Store

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This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the Transatlantic Tables Open Table dinner at The Grain Store in King’s Cross. This dinner was special in that on the very same day, a blogger dinner took place at Hundred Acres restaurant in New York City, as a way to celebrate the phenomenal food scenes in both cities and for new and old friends to come together and bond over a mutual appreciation of great food.

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_R014834The Grain Store is a beautiful restaurant in King’s Cross headed up by the talented Chef Bruno Loubet, who has created an eclectic menu inspired by his travels around the world with a focus on sustainability. The decor is rustic and features one of the biggest open plan kitchens I’ve ever seen. I find it fascinating to be able to take a peek inside the kitchen to see what they’re making.

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IMG_4394When we arrived, we all mingled over delicious canapés and Death in Venice cocktails, made with Campari, grapefruit bitters topped with prosecco and orange twists. It was great to finally meet some bloggers who I feel like I’ve known for ages just through talking over twitter, Instagram and email. It was so nice to be able to put faces to the names and properly catch up.

IMG_4593Before sitting down for dinner, we listened to Chef Loubet discuss what inspires him to cook and he walked us through a bit about the menu for the evening, which combined various elements that Hundred Acres restaurant in New York City uses (I saw on Instagram that at their dinner, they incorporated black pudding as an ode to England in their menu).

_R014858Placed along the the tables were cards with little quotes about what makes the New York dining scene special from bloggers across the pond. It was quite cool to read what inspires New Yorker’s about the food scene over there, and I found that there were quite a few similarities to London. Having been to New York quite a few times, I’d say the diversity of cuisine in both cities is fantastic and while I may be in the minority on this viewpoint, I feel as though London has caught up with if not surpassed New York in many ways, but i’m up for debate!

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_R014869Our first course was Atlantic Kitchen Seaside toast with seaweed butter, oyster leaves, borage leaves, flower, pickled samphire and cucumber served on potato bread. A light and delicious starter that whet our appetites for what was to come. I really enjoyed the noodles as they were quite an unexpected pairing with the toast and I thought worked really well together.

_R014876 Our second course included Organic Vegetables Ravioli in a delicious tomato consume with herbs oil. Each individual ravioli was made with a different vegetable including beet, butternut squash, spinach and herb, tomato carrots and peppers. My favourite were the peppers, but I though the entire dish was warming and hearty without being overly heavy. The tomato consume was aromatic and full of flavour, I finished it off with a spoon.

_R014884For our final course before dessert, we indulged in Raspberry Vinegar Pickled Red Vegetables, Grilled Squash, Seared Venison Filet with fermented corn brioche, paired perfectly with Au Bon Climat Pinor Noir from Santa Maria California. (California wines are my favourite). The dish was full of flavour and the venison was cooked to perfection. Venison is one of my favourite meats (especially Mac & Wild’s in Fitzrovia), and this dish had me going back bite after bite.

_R014904The star of the evening was this incredible Urban Honey Roasted Peach Melba dessert that was both sweet and tart. It had a beautiful, intricate layer of sugar lattice on top that you had to break through to get to the ice cream. It was almost too pretty to eat (almost). I broke apart the melba and swirled it into the ice cream and took a bite. We all had a laugh digging out the peach, but it was worth it in the end for such a great tasting dessert.

IMG_4610It was a really lovely evening and so nice to meet some new friends and get to know each other better over a stand out meal around the table. I love how eclectic the London food scene is and it’s always awesome when you meet people who share the same enthusiasm for the industry, and equally as cool to share the experience with fellow foodies across the pond.

I was a guest on behalf of Open Table for the #ConnectedbyOT dinner. 

The Grain Store | Granary Square | 1-3 Stable St | London | N1C 4AB | Book Now via OpenTable

The Wimbledon Time Portal with Stella Artois

Stella Artois Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and it’s no surprise that it is one of the most anticipated events in England each summer. Having lived over here now for nearly two years, I’ve become more and more into the tournament and although we didn’t get to go this year we are definitely going to get tickets to experience it next year. I have a lot of friends who absolutely LOVE Wimbledon and are lucky enough to attend every year and for those of you with an affinity for the event – Stella Artois has teamed up with Wimbledon to send you back in time to the first-ever Wimbledon match in 1877!

The event takes place this week from the 7th – 10th July at MC Motors in Dalston, where a time portal will be awaiting you. You’ll be able to step into the time portal and travel back in time to Victorian London, where your mission is to find your way to the famed tennis tournament with the help of Her Majesty the Queen and a host of quirky Victorian friends, of course. A barman will be on hand to top you up with a Stella Artois, which was also brought to London in 1877, whilst on your sojourn adventure through time. Once you’re ready to head back to the future, the main bar will be screening Wimbledon 2016 so you can see how far the world’s biggest tennis tourney has come since the beginning!

Olivier nominated theatre troupe Les Enfantes Terribles will be performing and it will definitely be an immersive event not to be missed by Wimbledon’s most discerning admirers!

So go on then, give this immersive experience a go – what could be better than traveling back in time and seeing Wimbledon and Stella Artois when they were still little knowns in the world? Tickets are just £13.50 and includes two complimentary libations. Book now by clicking this link here.

Are you ready to step back in time to 1877? 

A Royal Day Out at Ascot

Royal Ascot is Britain’s most revered annual horse race that attracts some of the world’s best race horses to compete for more than £6.58 million in prize money. It dates back to 1711, when Queen Anne saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot and a few months later, the first-ever horse race was held in August. Over the past 300 years since it’s inception, Royal Ascot has become a national institution and one of the most esteemed summer events to attend. I was absolutely thrilled when I was invited to go and couldn’t wait to experience one of the most anticipated events of the season.

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I must note, that a part of Royal Ascot that I loved the most, was the preparation before hand. There is a strict dress code and all ladies must wear hats, dresses wth 1 inch thick straps and must fall at the knee or below. As an American, the hats are by far, the most exciting part! Occasion hats aren’t typically a huge part of our culture, but over here in the UK, they are worn to several events and weddings and I love how unique each one is. The only event Americans typically wear occasion hats to is the Kentucky Derby, which in my mind, is the US’s version of Ascot.

I had the pleasure of attending Royal Ascot with my lovely dear friend Lauren and we had a blast sorting out our hats – hers is from House of Fraser and mine is from Debenhams, both of which have great options at affordable prices. There is however, some incredible milliners in London that make the most beautiful occasion hats that would be perfect for the races or weddings.

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Lauren and I jumped on the train from Waterloo and on our way to Ascot! The train ride down was a  most glamourous affair, as all the ladies were in their hats and the men were dressed up in suits and ties. Once we arrived in Ascot, we followed the crowd to the pub nearby and popped a bottle of bubbly on the terrace, toasting to our first day at the races!

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Luckily, at this point, the sun was shining and the weather was glorious, making it the ideal day for a day at the races. After finishing our champagne, we headed over to the racecourse to have a few more tipples before the races began!

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Pardon my many pictures of British flags, but from the moment we step foot into Ascot, I could feel the British patriotism and I loved it. As an American, we wave our flags 24/7, but over here in England, I have noticed that patriotism is a bit more reserved and kept to oneself. It was really special to be part of such a wonderful long-standing British tradition and to experience it first hand.

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We grabbed a jug of crisp Pimms and some fish & chips to indulge in and enjoyed the summer sun as much as we could. Everybody around us looked fabulous in their ornate hats and good times were definitely being had by all! Once it started to rain, we moved inside to the Queen Anne Enclosure. There are three tiers of enclosures at Ascot, The Windsor Enclosure, the Queen Anne Enclosure, and the Royal Enclosure, which is for members only.

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We were fortunate enough to grab a few seats and watch the Queen’s Royal Procession, which is a tradition that dates back to 1825 and continues to this day on every day of Royal Ascot. I must say, it was incredible to see the Queen and Prince Phillip as well as William and Kate.

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After the Queen’s Royal Procession, the races began! The horses were all stunning and we had a great time cheering them on! We didn’t bet at this year’s Ascot, but I definitely recommend placing a few bets and seeing where it takes you! It’s all in good fun.

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The day went by so quickly and before we knew it, the races were over and it was time to head back to London. Royal Ascot is definitely one events that you anticipate so much and by the time it rolls around it’s over in the blink of an eye. I guess it’s true what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Lauren and I had an absolute blast and are going to make it an annual tradition. It was one of the most memorable outings I’ve had all year!

What’s your favourite part about Royal Asccot? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Taste of London 2016 Recommendations

Taste of London is my all-time favourite food and drink festival in London. Every June, Regent’s Park transforms itself into food and drink wonderland for five days, featuring several of London’s top notch restaurants and bars. There is also masterclasses, cooking classes, craft beer tastings, wine pairings, tons of food sampling and it’s an ideal place to shop for your most discerning foodie friends or for yourself! More than 200 food and drink purveyors, artisan producers and manufacturers set up shop to sell their exclusive and unique products. It’s a food and drink haven and a must-do attraction if you’re in London in June!

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With the plethora of exhibitors at the festival, it can be difficult to pin-point which ones to try out, so I have come up with a list of my recommendations from this year’s Taste! My best advice is to try as much as you possibly can, but these were some of my favourite spots from this year’s Taste of London.

_R014392Mr Fogg’s Safari Camp is hands down, the best bar exhibiting at Taste of London! I may be a bit biased, but the colonial-style pop-up is truly spectacular. The spacious Safari tent is filled with eclectic and colourful decor lining every inch of the walls and features comfy colonial-inspired deck chairs that provide refuge from the drizzly rain outside. Mr Fogg has brought his love of crisp G+Ts to Taste of London and they have set up a separate G+T bar, where you’ll be given a lesson in the fine art of concocting the perfect Gin and Tonic, with your choice of Tanqueray or London Dry Gin, several botanicals and your choice of flavoured tonic water. Aside from the interactive G+T bar element, they have several other incredible cocktails on tap. Tip: Try the Spirit of Savannah, made with Zacapa rum, apple liqueur, blackberry puree, Tessiere Oregeat syrup, fresh lime juice, and passion fruit juice. Perfectly refreshing._R014417

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The Cinnamon Club – My method for deciding where to eat at Taste of London is to simply visit  all of the exhibitors and pick out what strikes me to be quite unique. We walked over to The Cinnamon Club and I was quite intrigued by their offering. One of the dishes was seared pigeon breast, pumpkin chutney and masala peanut sauce, which was delectable. I had never tried pigeon before and thought Taste of London is the ideal place to give it a-go. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was and the pumpkin chutney was one for the books.
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Chai Wu – The moment I saw duck and truffle in the same sentence, I made a B-line for Chai Wu, a contemporary Chinese restaurant that is normally located on the 5th floor of Harrods. The Roast Duck Mantou bun with garlic truffle oil was incredible. Both duck and truffle are very rich and I thought it would be overwhelming when combined, but truth be told, it was sublime.

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Basque Country – Hailing from Spain, the Basque Country exhibit showcased the best tapas from the region and they didn’t disappoint. They were handing out samples of their delectable white fish (apologies, I didn’t get a chance to ask what kind), on top of grilled french bread alongside red peppers and a deliciously salty aioli. I had wished that they had a restaurant in London, as I would definitely be visiting after trying their food. A must go at Taste of London.

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The Lindt Experience – A chocolate lovers paradise. If you love good chocolate, then head over to the Lindt World exhibition to taste test their famous silky chocolates. This year, they walked you through the “Lindt Experience,” where we got a chance to try the strawberry and orange chocolates, followed by the dark chocolate, key lime chocolate and orange dark chocolate varieties (all for free).

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The Meringue Girls – I was drawn to this stand by the colour alone! The meringues are some of the most vibrant and gorgeous sweets I’ve ever seen (and delicious too).

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Hook – Our last stop of the evening was Hook Seafood and Grille, where we ordered the Lemon and basil tempura, sea bream with basil and chili sauce, seaweed salted chips and cucumber and samphire salad. It was delicious and the fish was perfectly crispy.

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Shana – Simply Authentic Food – I wanted to throw this one in too as they exhibit every year at Taste and they are awesome! They hand out free samples of their DELICIOUS Paratha bread with cinnamon sugar as well as samples of their chilli and coriander naan bread. I am a huge fan of Indian food and we’re going to order some of these to make at home. Normally, I am not a fan of anything frozen, but these are an exception! Shana uses only the finest ingredients that give the food an authentic Indian taste.

Other notable exhibits to visit: 

Champor Champor – known for its delicious Thai Cuisine, Ciaran made a b-line for this stand and ordered the salt and pepper soft shell crab taco with 5 spice, spring onions and chilli. Before I could snap a photo, he took a bite and the rest was history. I will say that it was incredible and would have even tasted great without the taco. Try one out – worth the wait!

Duck & Waffle – If you can’t get a booking at this famous restaurant with a view, then Taste of London is the perfect opportunity to try their iconic Duck & Waffle. Brave the queues, again, it’s worth it.

Shotgun BBQ – Brave the queues for their salted custard donuts and the oak smoked brisket and pickle. Shotgun is my all-time favourite BBQ restaurant in London and if you haven’t been before, Taste of London is an awesome opportunity to see what these guys are all about!

All-in-all, Taste of London is a fantastic day out with friends and family and gives you the opportunity to try some great food from some wonderful restaurants that you may not get a chance to try otherwise. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us, and one that I enjoy year after year.

What’s your favourite part of Taste of London? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Taste of London | Regent’s Park | 15-19th June | Tickets

Wine Tasting at Bedales of Borough

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to a wine tasting at Bedales in Borough Market in partnership with Loire Valley Wines. My friend Sarah and I were in need of a catch up and what better way to catch up than over a few glasses of quality French wine?
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_R013915The wine tasting took place in the gorgeous upstairs area of Bedales and was hosted by Helen McGinn of the award-winning “The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club,” book and blog. Helen’s motto is life’s too short to drink bad wine, which is a sentiment I am definitely on board with! I’m excited to read her book – which is all about finding the right type of wine for every occasion.

_R013912We started off the tasting with some bubbles – the Domaine Cahmpalou from the Vouvray region of the Loire Valley in France. This sparkling wine was mouth-wateringly good. Helen had us take a sip and breathe some air in, which really enhanced the flavours of the wine. It was a great sparkling wine to enjoy before dinner.

_R013926Out came some lovely cheeses, meats and spreads locally sourced from artisan traders at Borough Market. We began to pair the next few wines with the different cheeses, paying extra attention to how the flavours of the cheeses enhanced and altered the taste of the wine. Some tasted so much better with different cheeses and others were better without.

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_R013935The Domaine Hureau Tuffle above was one of my favourite wines we tasted. It is a Cabaret Franc and is made with the skin of grapes. It was crisp, delicious and juicy and paired really well with the blue cheese.

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_R013971We moved on to tasting a few red wines and the Domaine Olga Raffault Cabernet Franc 2003, which was incredible. It’s aged really y well in oak and had a lovely smokey flavour to it. We got to try the 2nd to last bottle of this lovely wine and we savoured every last drop.

_R013954We also sampled a couple dessert wines, which were a bit too sweet for my taste, but would pair really well with pecan pie or a dark chocolate. The Domaine des Petits Quarts Chenin Blanc was my favourite of the two. We learned that the colour of these wines tells us a lot about the age. This one in particular is from 1994!

_R013980Helen was super knowledgable about all of the wines we sampled and a really fun host! I love learning more about wines and the tasting notes of each one. Wines from the Loire Valley are some of the best in my opinion and many of them do go unnoticed, so if you do have a chance to try one – I highly recommend it! They were all very great quality. A wine tasting trip in the Loire Valley is definitely on my bucket list!

Bedales holds regular wine workshops fortnightly for just £30, so I am definitely going to try and go to the next one as well as bring my mom when she comes to visit. What are some of your favourite wine workshops in London?

Bedales | 5 Bedale Street | London | SE1 9AL 

Campo Viejo’s Lake of Colour Pops Up at Clapham Common

One of the things I love the most about London, is that there is never a dull moment. There is always a fun pop-up happening or a unique event to go to. I was super excited when I got the invitation to attend the Campo Viejo Lake of Colour in Clapham Common. I had seen the beautiful and vibrant floating wine bar splashed across the internet and newsletters, and couldn’t wait to go and check it out!

_R014043The famous Spanish wine maker, Campo Viejo, has created London’s first-ever floating wine bar with the aim to bring Londoners and visitors together to create good memories. And that it did! I brought my friend Lizz along with me as she was really intrigued to check it out too. _R014045The colourful pop-up features wine blending masterclasses, upbeat live music and delicious tapas for guests to kick back and relax.

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After being greeted with crisp glasses of refreshing champagne, we took our seats to try out a blending class, in which we had the opportunity to taste a range of red Rioja wines and eventually create our own! Campo Viejo has become synonymous with Rioja wines. Just a bit of background for you – Rioja is Spain’s premier wine-growing region and Campo Viejo harvests the Tempernillo grape under three different climates. The warm conditions in Rioja Alta create light flavours of wine, fruit from the harsher environment found in Rioja Alavesa produces a more full-bodied flavour and the warm, dry atmosphere creates rich, deep flavours. When all three are combined, they create the impeccable taste of Rioja!

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We had the opportunity to try a range of red Rioja wines that reflected the different climates that the tempernillo grapes are harvested in including the Tempernillo, Graciano and the Mazeulo. All three had distinct tasting notes – some being lighter and others being a bit more bold. My favourite was the Tempernillo! It was crisp, light and on the fruitier side.

_R014073After sampling the three contrasting red wines, we had the chance to create three of our own wines by blending different amounts of each together to create our perfect custom wine creation!

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_R014078I think it’s safe to say this is the only science class Lizz and I have passed with flying colours! We experimented a bit and taste tested all three before deciding on a Tempernillo-based bottle of wine that we had bottled and corked!

_R014083Our Best Friend wine creations, which now has a permanent home on my bar cart!

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_R014096Lizz and I enjoyed a few more glasses of Rijoa and listened to the awesome Spanish-inspired tunes from The Fontanas as the sunset and the event came to a close.

Campo Viejo’s Lake of Colour is one of the best pop-ups I’ve been to this year and I highly recommend visiting with a few friends – It’ll definitely brighten your day!

Entry is free and the wine blending class is £15 or you can buy a few glasses of wine from the vibrant bar area.

The Lake of Colour will be at Mount Pond in Clapham Common from 9-12 June 2016.