Month: December 2011

Restaurant Disappointments and Successes

Do you ever get tired?

I’m tired. In fact, frankly, I’m completely and utterly exhausted.

But I don’t feel like complaining so instead I’m just going to detail my evening at the restaurant with my parents.

Because of a long day for everyone we decided on the spur of the moment to go out for a meal. We picked a restaurant we used to go to occasionally but haven’t really been to in a while called Brasserie Gerard. I was worried that at this point in the day we might struggle to get a table but it turns out I needn’t have worried, all of the restaurants we passed on the way were almost empty! Perhaps it is because tomorrow is New Year’s Eve so anyone who has plans for a meal is going out then? Either way it made for a rather unusual Friday evening restaurant experience.

To start I decided to go with a simple classic: king prawns in butter and parsley sauce with peppers, lemon and baguette. It was pretty good, the prawns tasted fairly fresh and the butter sauce was surprisingly light.

For my main course I went for what the menu described as “Ratatouille wrapped in brick pastry served with roasted sweet potato”. It was… interesting. The spinach and pesto was great. The sweet potato averagely tasty. But that is were the okay part of the dish ended. Normally I love ratatouille but this was unfortunately lacking salt which is, lets face it, vital for veg. And it could have done with something extra like garlic. And the “brick pastry”? Well correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t it supposed to be like filo pastry? This was more like a pancake and a slightly burnt and soggy pancake at that.

Now I don’t want to put anyone off the restaurant, the food is normally really good and both of my parents’ main courses were nice. I just think that the issue was the lack of customers. There were only two other tables in the restaurant! And we were there from 7.30pm till 9.30pm so I can’t imagine there were many, if any, others. The lack of people to cook for must have meant that the staff spent a lot of time standing around with little to do and I’m sure this impacted their cooking. Anyway the experience was made up for by dessert:

Tarte Tatin. It’s pretty much my favourite dessert. If it’s on the menu I’m 99% guaranteed to order it. It’s gooey, sugary goodness is enough to make me drool (well, almost). I just adore the soft-centred caramelized apples. And even if this one was almost definitely brought in it was delicious. I must learn to make them myself! When I perfect my own I’ll have to share the recipe because it really is one of the yummiest desserts ever. No exaggeration.

Anyway, now that I’ve babbled on about my absolute favourite dessert I think it’s time I said goodnight, I really need to get some more sleep!

What is your absolute favourite dessert?
Have you tried any new restaurants lately? Success or Disappointment?

Sophie x

What I Ate Wednesday No.21 – Christmas Edition

Okay first of all I’m sorry for disappearing for three days (I know it’s not like a job or anything but I don’t like not writing to some kind of schedule!). The Christmas period has been a) pretty busy and more importantly b) absolutely lovely so I’ve not really had the time to read many blogs, let alone write a post myself.

Now I promised I would show you all the wonderful things I indulged in over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and so I thought, what better way to do it than by a What I Ate Wednesday Christmas Day post!

Thank you yet again to the lovely Jenn for bringing us WIAW 🙂

So here it is merry Christmas…

Christmas Eve:

Dressed crab with an avocado salad for starter. Light, fresh and delicious. I adore crab, it’s one of my absolute favourites when it comes to seafood. It has such a lovely subtle flavour and a rather light and tender texture. It is perfectly complimented by the avocado which was dressed with spring onion, chili and lemon juice. You’ll notice that rather large blog of mayonnaise on the side of the plate, call me unsophisticated but I love mayo with crab, it’s somewhat retro but I just think it works!

The main course was crowned by a deliciously tender piece of guinea fowl served alongside of roast potatoes, honey roasted root vegetables (turnip, parsnip and carrots), steamed Brussels sprouts and a generous lug of gravy poured over the lot. It’s one of my favourite meals, honestly I can’t really think of a meal I look forward to more. The food is superb, the anticipation and excitement for Christmas is mounting and the company is wonderful. Here’s what the evening is really about:

Family.

My lovely father and sister, Christmas Eve is all about the four of us being together as a family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My beautiful mother 🙂

We had my parents to thank for this delicious meal and it was finished with a fresh and festive flair (I love alliterations :-P)

Fruit salad made up of mango, lychees, passion fruit and pomegranate. It was the perfect way to end a simply perfect meal.

Christmas Day:

Toasted brioche with blackberry jelly. Rather tasty.

Christmas crackers: an essential part of Christmas lunch.

Our less than conventional Christmas lunch: luxurious smoked salmon on brown bread, spicy spring rolls, prawn filo parcels, tasty bread-crumbed chicken, and incredibly moreish tomato vol-au-vents. It was tasty and quite a treat, I find it difficult to believe that anyone would say no to some party food! But the best part of this meal had to be the dessert:

Ice cream Christmas pudding! Isn’t it a fabulous idea? It had three layers: chocolate, vanilla and praline. It was really yummy, there is no other word for it, and it was quite exciting to cut through it. I particularly liked our incredibly tasteful decorations 😉

So there you have it, my Christmas food from this year’s wonderful celebrations. I had a really amazing time and the food certainly contributed to that!

I hope you all had a really fantastic time this Christmas period 🙂

Happy Wednesday!

What was the best thing you had to eat during the Christmas period?
Which foods do you simply have to eat each year to get into the Christmas spirit?

Sophie x

P.s. Don’t forget to check out my new Facebook page (and like it)!

Just a Quick One

Hey everyone,

I’m really sorry for my prolonged absence, things around here have been really busy over Christmas and I’ve just been taking the time to relax and de-stress a little. But I promise I will be back later with a fabulous What I Ate Wednesday Christmas edition! And it will be full of glorious Christmas food and merriment 🙂

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Sophie x

Christmas Our Way

Hey everyone!

I can’t believe today is actually Christmas Eve – where did all the time go?
I have now been home for a whole week and it’s gone so quickly, I guess the saying time flies when you’re having fun is true!

Today’s post is one I was planning on writing yesterday but my parents were having a Christmas party and I had a couple of friends round so I got completely sidetracked… It was a lovely evening though.

I’ve been planning on writing this post for  a while now but haven’t had the time so today I will finally share my family’s Christmas traditions with you 🙂

My mother is French. My father is English. And so my sister are half and half (obviously).

Our Christmas traditions are an amalgamation so to speak.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For us Christmas isn’t about the big lunch on Christmas day. Our Christmas dinner is in fact on Christmas Eve, as is done in a lot of Europe, this is when the magic really begins. All of that anticipation, that planning and this excitement finally comes to a realisation. This is when I want time to come to a stop, I want to stay there, just waiting for it all to really start. We spend the afternoon baking mince pies, decorating the Christmas cake, listening to Carols at Kings on the radio, wrapping presents and cooking up a delicious feast before Midnight Mass and more carols.

Tonight the feast is going to be fresh, dressed crab with avocado and rocket; proceeded by a roasted guinea fowl surrounded by roast potatoes, roasted root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and gravy; and the whole thing coming to a close with a gorgeous fruit salad.

It may sound like a lot, and it does leave you pretty full, but it’s just one of the most wonderful meals of the year. Everyone is relaxed and happy because there is just something special about enjoying a Christmas meal together as a family. And you know, I think there is really something to be said about the special meal being before presents and things like that come into the picture. I just love it all.

Christmas day is no less special for us though! When we wake up, my sister and I still rush into my parents’ bedroom and we still open our stockings together. We’ve done it since we were tiny and to this day I’m pretty sure that I still get as excited. After stockings comes a lovely breakfast and then for next moment of excitement: the presents. We each make our pile and we unwrap them one by one. I love seeing the reactions people give when opening the gifts I chose so carefully for them. And I have to admit, I love getting presents too! The next tradition on the list: the Christmas day walk. Some of my oldest childhood friends still live on the same street as me and all the families go on a lovely walk together before lunchtime. It’s a nice way of sharing the day with others. Obviously I can’t walk very far anymore but I still make one field just to keep the tradition going!

Then lunch. You might be wondering what we have? Party food! Nibbles essentially, little pieces of delicious food. It’s great fun and just what you need after a heavier meal the night before. Crackers are pulled, jokes told, and I always insist paper hats are compulsory for at least the first ten minutes of the meal. And then the afternoon is just a time for relaxation. We used to play with our toys from lunch until it was time for bed and I have a feeling this year with my present it might be the same (not telling what it is yet :-P).

So there you have our Christmas traditions!

Christmas really is a time of giving, of generosity, of good-will and of happiness and every year I always take a moment to reflect and spare a moments thought for all of those whose experience of Christmas is not so special. Those for who Christmas just means another on the streets, for who Christmas has to be spent in hospital, for who a happy Christmas seems a distant memory or has never even happened at all. It may sound a little trite but maybe it’s because I love Christmas so much, I really can’t bear the thought of all those without, so at Christmas I always make a donation to a charity, just as much as I can give. It might not be much but I know it will help at least a little. This year I haven’t chosen a charity yet so if anyone feels particularly strongly about a certain charity, or knows of a small, less well-known charity, then I’d love to hear from you!

I hope you all have an absolutely wonderful Christmas and enjoy the next few days!

Sophie x

Facebook Finally!

Hey my lovely readers,

Sorry for the lack of post last night, I was having a lovely evening with Tom and I just didn’t find the time to post!

I will be back later with a post I’ve had planned about Christmas but for now I just wanted to tell you all that thanks to Tom nagging reminding me I have finally created myself a Facebook page…

It is pretty empty at the moment but I’m sure I will soon be posting endless statuses and photos and it’ll be another way to keep up with my posts if you’re not a fan of twitter or you don’t like getting tons of emails!

So here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/loveliveandlearn

Have fun and spread the  word, I’m always up for new readers 😉

Love you all!

Sophie x

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas + a What I Ate Wednesday Special!

I can’t believe it’s already the 21st.

How did it arrive so quickly?

Everything feels so magical now!

Only one more day till my dad is on holiday;I’ve spent days with my mum getting things ready; I’ve spent days curled up with my gorgeous boyfriend, Tom; I’ve met friends; I’ve put up Christmas decorations; I’ve cooked Christmas treats; I’ve eaten delicious and comforting food…

All in all my time at home so far has been simply wonderful.

Yesterday Tom was round nice and early and we started the day together by curling up on the sofa together (I was still half asleep anyway!) and just enjoying the fact that we are together again and have a whole month in which to see each other. It’s crazy how much I miss him during the term and some how the Christmas holidays just feel even more special than our normal reunions.

But the best bit of the day? Taking a trip down memory lane when we decided to go to a little group of farm shops that we used to go to at Christmas every year as a family. And they always have a Christmas marquee: AMAZING. It is just the loveliest place and for me it is a very important part of Christmas so it was lovely to share it with Tom 🙂

Doesn’t it look lovely?

We also enjoyed some delicious milkshakes in the cute little cafe:

I had the most wonderful day with Tom, I really couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s so amazing to be able to share the Christmas build up together, nothing really feels better than being surrounded by your loved ones at this time of year. I’ve gone from being homesick and frankly sometimes downright miserable to full of happiness at everything around me, I really am blessed with my family and with Tom.

Sorry to be so mushy on you all, if you don’t like Christmas then I suggest you come back to my blog after the 26th!

So now it’s time to join in another sort of party…

So thank you once again for this Jenn, your WIAW is one of my favourite ways to find new bloggers and connect with everyone else posting their food for my slightly voyeristic I mean purely nosy tendencies at this time of the week!

Today’s WIAW is less of what I ate today but more an amalgamation of meals I’ve been eating lately which are particularly wintery, comforting, and of course delicious:

A raspberry and almond bake I had (along with a latte – of course) when in town meeting with two of the loveliest girls in existence :-).

Dinner the other night which was divine: mustard and tarragon chicken, hand-cut homemade chips and fresh salad. It was a perfectly balanced meal in flavours and in healthiness.

Definitely a comforting meal. Pasta bake with roast ham, cheddar and peas. There is nothing like some simple, home cooked, almost child-like, food to warm you up and just make the cold weather outside seem like a distant memory.

Greek yogurt with pear and granola. Enough said.

Raclette: a French meal of cold meats, boiled potatoes and melted cheese. A true comfort dish and just right after a day of cold weather and Christmas preparations. It may not be health food. It may not even be halfway good for you. But it’s a dish for sharing, it’s a social meal and it’s perfect for being as a family. It’s just what we need at this time of year. And if I put on a couple of pounds over Christmas but I’ve had a wonderful time with the people whom I love the most then I won’t even care!

Raspberry, peach and mango juice.

Chorizo, spicy hummus and rocket in a brioche bun served with skin-on chips. It was delicious. And all the better because it was shared with my lovely mother and sister in town today. We had a lovely meal and it was so nice to be able to chat and relax together.

Isn’t this pretty? It’s book art which we saw in the window of a little book shop in town and I thought it was really clever, it’s so delicate and beautiful.

Sisters together again ❤ We may bicker quite a bit, and we’re worlds apart in our tastes but we do have great chats and she’s the person I find it easiest to giggle with!

Anyway I’m exhausted so I’m going to head off to bed but I hope you’re all having a fantastic week and enjoying the last few days till Christmas 🙂

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Favourite Christmas food?
What have you got left to do before Christmas?

Sophie x