Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Craft Sunday: Art 4 Fun

My "real life" is not particularly creative - I actually work in the City so weekdays consist of phone calls, emails, documents - y'know, grown-up work stuff. Some of my fellow City worker friends and I were feeling the need to use our creative sides which definitely get neglected when you don't work in a creative industry. We headed to Art 4 Fun in West Hampstead on Sunday for an afternoon of pottery painting. It turns out that three hours of painting a mug is not only a good outlet for creativity but is also strangely relaxing despite the amount of concentration required not to make a complete mess or end up wearing the paint.

Art 4 Fun has a really relaxed vibe - you pay a studio fee of £5.95 and then just pay for the item you paint. Drinks and snacks are available to buy or you can bring your own, even a bottle of wine if you fancy (I was far too serious about creating something half decent to let alcohol ruin it). There are lots of helpers on hand to answer painting questions and explain different techniques.You can keep it simple with stamps and stencils or be more adventurous with paint-flicking techniques and arty brushwork.

I kept my design simple because I find these things always are harder then they look. My design actually turned out very geometric - I'm sure that says something about my personality but I'm not sure quite what. The shop will put our finished artwork in the kiln and the end result will be much brighter and shinier. I can't wait to see it in a weeks' time!

How do you use your creative side?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Breakfast Club

Breakfast, you are my favourite of all the meals. As much as I look forward to lunch and enjoy the time I spend with dinner, you, breakfast will always have a special place in my heart. I'm sorry that I sometimes skip you, rush you or, even worse, eat you at my desk with one eye on my emails while trying not to spill you over my to do list.

To make up for the many "crimes against breakfast", The Breakfast Club serves it all day long (and shares a name with one of my favourite teen films). Now, I know it isn't a new thing to get excited over but tales of long queues had previously put me off giving breakfast the attention and appreciation it deserves. It turns out that 2.30pm on a Saturday is an ideal time to enjoy the most important of meals - no queues, enough time to work up an appetite and its past midday so you can have a cocktail!

 My friend P and I visited the Hoxton Square branch - the decor and staff were satisfyingly "Shoreditch cool" and the food definitely lived up to the hype and numerous pictures I've seen of it on Instagram. We sat on a long shared table - great for seeing what other diners were eating, less good for conversation although the slightly-too-loud music (abandoning all pretense of "Shoreditch cool" here) meant that we didn't linger long after we'd finished our afternoon breakfasts. All the same, I'll be back for the veggie breakfast burrito!
The menu has all the usual breakfast suspects - whether you fancy sweet or savory, or both in the same meal its covered. There are some "healthy" granolas and porridges which would be great if I ever come at actual breakfast time and plenty of veggie options too.
I started with an Americano with soya milk on the side (I want to drink everything out of little milk bottles)
P had the American pancakes - pancakes, bacon, sausage, potatoes, eggs of your choosing and maple syrup

I had the poached egg and avocado on multigrain toast - the egg was perfect, not too runny, not too hard
Breakfast was accompanied by this giant dog running around - I can't guarantee he'll be there next time though!
 Have you visited The Breakfast Club?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Gordon's With A Spot Of Elderflower

Everyone who knows me knows that my drink of choice is a G&T so I was intrigued to try Gordon's new "With A Spot of Elderflower" gin for the first time last week. With spring in the air, the launch is perfectly timed for alfresco gin drinking - elderflower makes me think of the English countryside so its perfect for adding a springlike touch to a G&T. 

At the very cool but very dark Worship Street Whistling Shop, Sophie and I started off our evening with an elderflower gin and tonic - I love how it is paired with strawberries rather than the usual lemon / lime / cucumber:

We were then treated to a history of Gordon's, complete with vintage bottles - I couldn't believe that this one was from the 1920s. The branding of the product hasn't changed much over the years and this cocktail-inspired bottle wouldn't look out of place at a party nowadays. Unfortunately the gin inside is long past its best (gin should only be kept for 5 years) but the bottle is still lovely!

Next up was a tasting with The Robin Collective - Brandy and Robin treated us to some taste experiments using Gordon's Elderflower. Did you know that some of us are "supertasters" and have very perceptive tastebuds which make for fussier eaters. Mild tasters, on the other hand, are less perceptive in the taste department but will have fewer dislikes! It turns out that gin tastes sweeter and nicer when drinking it while feeling something smooth textured and while listening to sweet tinkling piano music rather than the trombone? (One to bear in mind if you're looking for a soundtrack to a romantic evening!)

After all the gin themed activities, it was finally time for some cocktail making! Sophie and I tried our hand at being barmaids. It's harder than it looks!

We made a "Southwark Sour" which made a nice change from a G&T - the ingredients are a little harder to come across than tonic water but it's worth the effort as the end result is just so good:

50ml Gordon's With A Spot of Elderflower
25ml Lemon Juice
50ml Citrus Honey Water (make your own!)
15ml Raspberry Vinegar (Waitrose!)

Just shake the above up with some ice, strain into a glass and garnish with a raspberry!

Making the perfect G&T is much easier - Gordon's With A Spot of Elderflower is available in a pre-mixed can (perfect for summer picnics) and in a bottle for summer parties, just add tonic, garnish with a strawberry and you're done!

Are you a gin fan?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Kerb - An Eater's Guide

Continuing with the "summer of street food" theme from the last post... Despite the weather being a bit less than summery on Friday due to the smog (us Londoners are a lucky bunch, eh?) I was still excited to head along to Kerb for some street food offerings.

For the indecisive foodie, Kerb is a nightmare - there are so many stalls to choose from and everything looks amazing! For veggies / vegans / gluten free folk there are options if you look around (despite the prevalence of meat on most of the stalls). 

Starting with the mains...

Capish? serves Italo-American sandwiches and meatballs
What The Dickens! serves traditional English dishes which seem almost novel now that burritos and sliders are regular fare
Luardos serves up a range of burritos
Tongue 'n Cheek is one for the brave - the Heartbreaker Burger actually contains heart...
Vinn Goute serves up Seychelles food - something I had never tried before, the fish wrap was delicious and appropriately messy for street food
Drinks to wash it all down with - the Grapefruit and Green Tea Punch definitely has my name on it...
 If you still have room for dessert then Kerb has you covered:

Moto Yogo definitely had the cutest stall!

Batch Bakery specialises in unusual brownies - from raspberry to beetroot and they come with a variety of toppings

The best-named stall, You Doughnut, serves up mini doughnuts (spelled the proper English way) available in a variety of quantities
 Kerb is back from 6 - 8 June. See you there (bring some napkins)!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Bleecker St. Burger

London's street food scene is serving up (sorrynotsorry) some pretty tasty offerings at the moment. I'm hoping that the coming summer is another hot one and that meals are eaten outside, without cutlery or any concerns of making a big old mess.

Bleecker St. Burger has parked its van on the Southbank opposite the skatepark  for the time being. Hannah and I popped along for a quick bite before seeing King Lear at the National Theatre (burger followed by Shakespeare being the cultural equivalent of combining Prada and Primark in the same outfit). We placed our orders and sat outside on the red and black striped tables, munching to the backdrop of classical music and skateboards skidding along the railings of the skatepark.

The menu is short and sweet - FYI, angry fries are fries with buffalo sauce and blue cheese. I opted for the veggie burger, swapping the blue cheese for American cheese, and a side of sweet potato fries. I'm in two minds whether I like that these are becoming more popular - I'm not a fan of normal potato fries but maybe need to start curbing my addiction to the sweet potato variety a bit and not ordering them every time I spot them on a menu!

The prices are not burger van cheap but this isn't the average burger van experience, everything is cooked to order and top notch quality. My veggie burger was on the spicy side but super tasty, brioche buns might be fashionable in the burger world but you can't beat an old school sesame bun. The burger held together at first but became a bit old sloppy mess by the end - just how they should be! The sweet potato fries were perfectly salty and crunchy. Hannah gave the thumbs up to her double cheeseburger and mixed fries. I'm planning on going back to try a cheeseburger when I'm in a meat-eating mood.

Best street food you've had?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ping Pong Dim Sum Masterclass

I love dim sum so when I was invited to a dim sum making class I was beyond excited. I am an enthusiastic but very unskilled cook due to not really having my own kitchen to practice in so, worries of setting the restaurant on fire aside, I joined Elodie at Ping Pong for a dim sum masterclass. It was a lot of fun although after a few cocktails I'm not sure if we really mastered anything aside from actually eating the dim sum... I'll definitely appreciate the effort that goes into making the little dumplings next time I'm eating them!

The first step to dim sum mastery is obviously to don your chef's hat and look the part (and take a selfie).

Spicy crackers to fuel us through the class. We learned how dim sum is made - from making the pasty and filling to the steaming process. A dim sum chef trains for years to learn the skills of making the perfect dumpling...we had about half an hour but were up for the challenge.

A jasmine guava cocktail to aid the creative process and my very own dim sum basket for my creations.

I volunteered to have a go at rolling the dim sum pasty so invoked my inner Nigella - it is so much harder than it looks to get it in a perfect circle!

how to make a gif

Me making the slightly easier triangle-shaped parcel. The chef demonstrating for the sixth time how to make the much harder har gau shape. The art of the perfect dim sum is in the folding of the pastry -it needs to be neatly pleated and pinched tight to stop it exploding mid-steam.

My very own creations ready for the steamer. They may not have looked perfect but they tasted pretty good once cooked.

We feasted on a selection of Ping Pong's menu after making it through the masterclass - this honey chili chicken rice pot was delicious and a great compliment to the dim sum.

A selection of spring rolls and fish cake with hoisin sauce came next. We also had steamed dumplings made with the professional touch (the chicken and cashew dumpling is amazing - definitely my favourite), ribs and fish dumplings with a flowering tea to finish (sadly un-pictured as they were just too good and demanded to be eaten straight away).

The lychee and roses cocktail was a favourite from past visits to Ping Pong - almost too pretty to drink.

Have you tried dim sum?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

March Empties

Another month over, another empties post...

1. Head & Shoulders Apple Fresh shampoo and conditioner - I got these to try as part of the Glamour reader panel, I love all things apple-y so predictably loved the scent of these. They're not the most glamorous products in the haircare world but they left my hair feeling squeaky clean and were a great gym bag addition.

2. John Frieda Go Blonder shampoo and conditioner - I'm always looking for ways to brighten up my dark blonde hair without resorting to bleach. I'm not sure if these actually made a difference to the colour of my hair but as a shampoo and conditioner they were great and I'd definitely re-purchase them next time Boots has them on offer.

3. Quitaesmalte Instantaneo Manos - Basically Spanish for nail polish remover (I think). This is a similar concept to the Bourjois quick polish remover that everyone went crazy a few months ago, bought on a Spanish holiday.

4. Radox Eastern-Inspired shower gel - standard "on offer in Boots" purchase!

5. Rituals Fortune Scrub - This came free with Marie Claire (I think) - it smelled really citrus-y and fresh - great for morning showers.

6.Panda blotting paper - Definitely bought this for the packaging but I love blotting paper for getting rid of shine without having to apply more make-up.

7. 24 Hour Lasting Eyeliner - A purchase from my trip to Hong Kong last year, this is my favourite eyeliner - it has a perfect fine line and lasts all day (and occasionally into the next day) without smudging or wearing off. So glad I purchased two on my visit.

8. Topshop False Lash Mascara - I'm a big fan of the Topshop make-up range and the mascara didn't disappoint. A good sized brush and left my lashes dark and full-looking, amazing for around £8.

9. Espa Hydrating Cleansing Milk - I'm not usually a fan of cleansing milks but this little bottle smelled so good and did a great job of taking off my make-up without drying my skin (which has been predictably dry in our recent unpredictable is-it-winter-is-it-spring weather).

10. YSL Youth Liberator Serum - This felt so luxurious, possibly a placebo effect from me knowing that it was YSL but I loved how this was light yet super hydrating and left my skin feeling silky soft. Waiting for an "oh sod it" impulse buy moment to re-purchase.

11. Benefit Benetint -  This now rather sad looking bottle was a Glamour magazine freebie. Great for an on-the-go cheek or lip stain, I was scared of this product for ages but its actually so easy to use and looks really natural - just blend it super quickly!

Which products have you used up this month?