London Daily Photo: Way

LDP 2015.05.03 - Way

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Le Vie della Zagara: Experiencing Sicily with Gusto!

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Invited to attend a mid April press trip hosted by Sicilian not-for-profit cultural association Gusto di Campagna and the Distretto Agrumi di Sicilia (Citrus District of Sicily), I was one of roughly two dozen members of the international media to travel Sicily’s Le Vie della Zagara, a new initiative encouraging visitors to spend at least a little time of their beach bound holiday in delicious and eyeopening exploration of the island’s surprisingly diverse landscape and enjoy its equally varied bounty of citrus fruits and many more treats along the way.

Gusto di Campagna – a term which could be interpreted to mean country flavour or country style, and I suspect the idea is for the phrase to have dual meaning – was established in 2007 by “farmers willing to collaborate together to promote and enhance their quality productions and their multifunctional agricultural activities.” Sound like a load of hot dry air? Well, there was an awful lot of huffing and puffing about grand plans that I had to endure during the trip and considerably less demonstration of action than I would have loved to see. But (and it’s a big juicy gorgeous but) for all the ostentatious bluster of earnest intent, a cool sea breeze of down to earth charm soon smoothed things out and cleared the air for the captivating wonders of sun-kissed Sicily to be wholly admired.

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Zagara is Italian for orange blossom. And La Vie della Zagarathe ways of the orange blossom – certainly proved an apt description of the itinerary we kept as the first full month of spring indeed was a glorious time to visit. Most everywhere on our tour, the heady and intoxicating scent of the zagara was present enhancing the mood when situations were already pleasing, softening annoyances or inconveniences when not.

The trip was my first to Sicily. Despite knowing Italy pretty well and having had the good fortune to see a sizeable chunk of it, many of the most quintessentiallyItalian elements I’ve come to expect weren’t nearly as apparent or discernible as everywhere else I’ve been in the country.

At its closest point to the Italian mainland, Sicily is only a couple of miles across the Strait of Messina from Calabria on the mainland. But the distance between, say, Palermo and Milan is considerably greater. Indeed, Sicily is a lot closer geographically – and to a considerable extent culturally – to North Africa than Northern Italy (and Palermo is about as far from Milan as it is London).

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With its Moorish past, the tone of the island comes across as more like that of the Alentejo, deepest Andalusia or Marrakech than that of Venice or even Rome. But it wasn’t only the Moors who made an impact. The Greeks, Romans and Normans – and of course, the Bourbon Kings whose mark is perhaps the most indelible of those left upon this uniquely Sicilian mélange set amidst a backdrop of rugged and imposing terrain. Add to this ancient and beguiling hodgepodge, Sicily’s famously sunshiny climate along with generous amounts of one of the world’s yummiest cuisines to yield as richly idiosyncratic a destination as any.

Very much a diamond in the rough but an undeniably marvellous gem to behold, local folks seem to realise they live somewhere special but aren’t quite sure what it is that makes them and their island home so distinctively different. Every customer service quirk or wrinkle in my visitor experience (and I must say such nuanced encounters occurred more frequently than I am accustomed) was countered usually with a warm generosity of time or a sincere desire to please – often during the same situation and from the same persons involved.

In the coming days, I’ll delve deeper into the tastiest bits discovered along Le Vie della Zagara in a series of dedicated posts. Until then here are a few key points on getting to Sicily from London.

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Addison Lee

I used the handy dandy Addison Lee app for my transfers to/from London airports. I’ve relied on the app a number of times before and definitely plan to for upcoming trips as I’ve yet to have any issues with the service.

Flights

Ryanair via Stansted got me to Palermo on a Monday night while Easyjet from Catania brought me back to London via Gatwick the following Friday. I can’t say I’m a fan of flying Ryanair, but I’ve got to give the airline credit for serving so many routes to otherwise overlooked or hard to reach places. My outbound flight was my first experience flying Ryanair Business Plus, which for yielded a much more comfortable and tolerable journey than usual for not that much more cost. The Easyjet leg was hassle free.

Agromobile

Agromobile is a website and a free to download app sharing food and wine related itineraries in Sicily. The project is the brainchild of Gaia Barcellona and Valentina Guerrera, “two young professional Sicilian women who love their land and have decided to start an activity that would enhance and promote the image of Sicily both in Italy and in the whole world.” A number of the sites I visited along Le Vie della Zagara are highlighted by Agromobile with practical suggestions grounded with a local perspective.

For more details about Gusto di Campagna go to gustodicampagna.com.

Information about the Distretto Agrumi di Sicilia can be found at distrettoagrumidisicilia.it.

More to come! Grazie.

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London Daily Photo: In the Urban Countryside

LDP 2015.05.02 - In the Urban Countryside

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The Clothes Club Fundraiser at Dalston Roof Park

The Clothes Club fundraiser at Dalston Roofpark

Need some new summer clothes? Emily de Groot asks, “Why not put some conscience into your closet at the same time?”

The Clothes Club is hosting a fundraising event at the recently reopened Dalston Roof Park, on Thursday 21 May. For just £8, you’ll get some new clothes, make a donation to the causes they’re supporting at the same time and there’s some great prizes in the raffle too. Early bird tickets are available here.

The Clothes Club is supporting two great projects:

A youth project run by Arts Against Knives. Through their creative workshops and projects they have been successful in supporting young individuals with a past in crime who need experience and opportunity to access education employment and training.

Also supported is Childhope via TRAID, who provide birth certificates for children of garment workers. In Bangladesh many garment workers are extremely poor women who are single mothers. They have usually migrated from rural areas looking for work and opportunities for themselves and their children. With high demand for cheap labour in the garment industry, many of these women work sewing clothes in factories. Birth certificates are crucial so their children can get access to education and medical care.

The Clothes Club fundraiser at Dalston Roofpark

Dalston Roof Park is located at The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL. To find out more details or to join The Clothes Club community, visit facebook.com/TheClothesClub. And why not follow them on Twitter @clothes_club_uk? For more about Dalston Roof Park, go to bootstrapcompany.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Welcome to Haringey

LDP 2015.05.01 - Welcome to Haringey

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Finding Inspiration in Bonne Maman Desserts

Bonne Maman

Maddie Salters visits the Bonne Maman team and celebrity chef Eric Lanlard for sweet inspiration.

Little angular jars of Bonne Maman jams, jellies, and compotes have sat on breakfast tables across the UK for decades, so imagine my surprise and delight to find that its brother branch, the brand’s lineup of fine cakes, biscuits, and tartlets, work as a great accompaniment to old favourites or as a tasty stand-alone treat.

If you don’t know about Bonne Maman’s dessert line yet, my prediction is that you’ll be a fan. The literal sibling to the lauded jam brand, two real brothers own the branches of the company, and oversee the excellence its name implies: old-school recipes, natural ingredients, indulgent freshness.

I joined the Bonne Maman team in the kitchen for their cooking demonstration with celebrity chef Eric Lanlard to learn how their dessert line, helmed by the famous Madeline cake, can be enjoyed on its own or used as inspiration to enliven new recipes.

In the kitchen, Eric is equally a natural: he slices through fresh fruit with daring precision, jokes with an ease that loosens up the crowd, and carefully straddles the UK-French rivalry by denying to answer which country was responsible for the founding of the Charlotte cake he is whipping up for us. The bold interpretation of the Charlotte uses Bonne Maman Madeleine cakes to line the sides and base, creating layers for the decadent strawberry mousse, fruits, mint, and syrup to sit on, soaking in all the flavour while holding shape. It’s fun to see how the cakes, which are light enough not to overtake a delicate balance of fruit notes while adding form and substance, can be incorporated into other recipes.

Eric also gives some excellent cooking tips. Only add vanilla extract to recipes once they’re cooled, as heat kills the flavour. Whisk sugar and eggs quickly, so that the sugar doesn’t begin to cooking the eggs. If you’re making a Bonne Maman mousse cake in the summer, add a bit of sparkling rosé to the blend, or mulled wine in the winter for a holiday treat– provided your young guests will not be digging in! Cheekily, he adds that you should try your fruit in the market before you buy it. While I’m not sure that would fly at my local grocer, he passes this off with a wave of the hand and the assurance, “I’m French.” Better to be bold than end up with watery fruits, is the implication.

The folks at Bonne Maman feel the same way.

Once the Charlotte cake is done, it was time to test their lineup of desserts individually – a pleasant task.

The newcomers to the line, the tartlets and the coconut chocolate cakes, hold up to their elders. The lemon tartlet is especially tangy, while the chocolate caramel version has a nostalgic taste to it, all the elements of childhood wrapped up into a confectionary no bigger than three bites.

My personal pick, however, is the chocolate Madeline. I took to the cookie bar to decorate it in icing and fondant roses, delighted by the result. Both because of its decadent taste, and by thought of whipping up these tiny decorated cakes as dinner party finger-food. Served alongside a nice muscat, it’s a quick, no-fuss ending to a meal, in perfect portions– a host’s dream.

Since the demonstration, I have been munching on Bonne Maman salted caramel cookies and the chocolate Madeleines, sometimes in parcel to a sweet brunch, and sometimes as an after-dinner treat. The best feature of the desserts is that they come individually wrapped for freshness and longevity, which meant they don’t go stale once the box it open. The fact that the Bonne Maman team also posts frequent recipes for which their desserts can be incorporated means that the lineup isn’t a one-hit wonder. I look forward to enjoying Granny’s recipes at meals to come! Bon appétit.

To learn more, check out Bonne Maman’s webpage at bonnemaman.co.uk/our-products.

Posted in Celebrities, Chocolate, Food, Maddie Salters, Recipes, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: At the Press Preview

LDP 2015.04.30 - At the Press Preview

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Walpurgisnacht: When the Witches Celebrate Spring! (OneTravel)

Walpurgisnacht

Half way to Halloween and itching for some good natured but kinda creepy fun? Well then, it’s high time you got into the spirit of Walpurgisnacht and welcome spring in an especially witchy way.

Walpurgi-what? Walpurgisnacht. Or Wapurgis Night in English … or even simply Witches’ Night as the date is also commonly known. Despite being an ancient festival, Walpurgis Night is a new one to me. So come with me for a quick look into the roots and reasons for this age old holiday.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Morning View

LDP 2015.04.29 - Morning View

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Give Me Space: Make Room | Save Money | Win Big

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Here’s a recap of the posts I’ve written over the past few months while taking SpaceWays for a spin … plus a reminder of the big competition for six months of free storage … and even a discount code for your first time using SpaceWays! I’m really pleased with my SpaceWays experience and am happy to recommend this urban storage service to anyone looking for affordable and convenient solutions for finding some breathing room in the big city.

To help you browse the posts I’ve published in this series, here’s a list with links to all of them:

Give Me Space

Win Six Months of Free Storage

To be in with a chance to win six months of SpaceWays storage for free, simply tweet the following:

RT to win six months free storage with @Space_Ways, courtesy of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/16JoUva #GiveMeSpace

Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting! 

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 8 May at 11.30am BST. The winner will be entitled to six months of free storage. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address within the M25 (this could be a student hall, hotel, house, flat, place of business) where your items can be picked up and returned.

Get £30 off Your First Month of Storage for New Customers

When you sign up for SpaceWays be sure to use this discount voucher code for a £30 off the first month of storage: SPACEZI36

SpaceWays Box

About SpaceWays

SpaceWays offers a reasonably priced and convenient option for self-storage with its on-demand full-service storage via durable boxes delivered to your doorstep that you fill with your things. These boxes and your oversized items get picked up for free and stored in secure facilities, and then returned whenever you need them. Pricing is transparent and starts as low as £3 per month.

Find out more at spaceways.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Fins

LDP 2015.04.28 - Fins

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The Ultimate Foodie Safari in Sabi Sabi (City AM)

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve - Giraffes

Michelin starred chef Eric Chavot cooks for Chris Osburn in one of the world’s top safari destinations, Earth Lodge.

The streets of Mayfair may seem a world away from the remote South African bush, but for discerning gourmet travellers the metaphorical – if not physical – distance between the two has just become smaller. A new initiative at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve invites some of the world’s top chefs into the kitchen at the area’s renowned Earth Lodge. The partnership was launched in February, with Michelin-starred Eric Chavot making the inaugural visit, taking a week-long break from his eponymous Mayfair brasserie (at The Westbury on Conduit Street) to share his experience with the cooks at Earth Lodge.

Al fresco dining is a big thing at Earth Lodge, with the kitchen serving excellent, fresh local produce such as ripe papaya and figs preserved in honey (the lodge also has an impressive wine cellar for somewhere this far from civilisation). Nevertheless, it can hardly be expected to keep abreast of what’s on-trend with fashionable restaurants across the globe, which is where the chef partnership comes in. Chavot’s objective was to bring some Mayfair flair to the African bush – to “pimp” rather than overhaul the menu, to use his own words.

Read my complete article at City AM.

Posted in City AM, Drink, Food, Hotels, Luxury, restaurants, South Africa, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: New City Days

LDP 2015.04.27 - New City Days

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4 Sites to Visit for South Africa’s Freedom Day (OneTravel)

Freedom Day

27 April is Freedom Day, a national holiday in South Africa that commemorates the day in 1994 when the first democratic election was held in the country.

Have a look at this list of four places to visit in South Africa offering the chance to learn more about the country’s struggle against apartheid and to help honor the lives of Mandela and the many other South African anti-apartheid heroes.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Brixton

LDP 2015.04.26 - Brixton

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Preview: The Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball 2015

Goblin King Masquerade Ball

The Goblin King’s Annual Masquerade Ball is a themed costumed ball “of mischief and revelry” exploring the darker side of fantasy through promenade theatre, live music and DJs, cabaret, interactive creatures, puppetry, art installations, goblin markets, hot tubs, “hidden experiences” and loads more surprises in “suitable goblin habitable locations.”

This year’s dastardly do takes place Friday 8 May from 10pm to 4am at The Coronet, 28 New Kent Road, SE1 6TJ. “Early Bird Goblin” ticket prices start at £20 each for individuals and £16 each when purchased for groups of five or more. For details and to book, go to goblin-king.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Soho

LDP 2015.04.25 - Soho

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Sony World Photography Awards Exhibition at Somerset House

Elliott Erwitt Dogs
Photo/Elliot Erwitt © 2000, Dogs, New York City

There’s a whole lot of photography on view now at Somerset House with the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition with a good assortment of eye catching and poignant works to see.

The number of photographs to view impresses. Those that I was most pleased to give more than a once over at the press preview include Li Fan’s photos of life among the Ethnic Yi people in China’s Great Liangshan Mountains; Jordi Pizarro’s portraits of Acid Survivors in India; John Moore’s gut wrenching images o the Ebola Crisis in Liberia.

I also really enjoyed the chance to check out works by legendary Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, winner of SWP’s 2015 Outstanding Contribution to Photography award.

Hardcore fans of contemporary photography, keep this show on your radar.

One more thing: hats off to Somerset House for becoming such the premiere centre for photographic exhibition in London. Really amazing stuff doing on there these days!

The 2015 Sony World Photography Awards exhibition runs from 24 April to 10 May at Somerset House, Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA. For tickets and more details go to worldphoto.org.

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A Simple Space at Udderbelly Festival: No Frills Just Thrills and Simply Amazing Acrobatic Stunts

A Simple Space at Udderbelly

Wow! I was blown away at last night’s press preview performance by A Simple Space, a no-frills show direct from Australia which “champions the incredibly artistry of the human body over traditional circus gimmicks.”

Could you solve a Rubik’s Cube while balancing upside down on your head in front of an audience? Would you ever want somebody standing on your face or jumping on your back while you yourself are standing atop another person? And who’s up for being slung meters into the air to be caught considerably close to the floor by four different performers each grasping onto a different limb with perfect precision?

Pared down to T-shirt attire, basic lighting and little else save for lots of muscle, flexibility, grace, humour and friendly one-upmanship – the six fellows/one gal Gravity & Other Myths acrobatics ensemble behind this thoroughly entertaining hour of ouch defying feats and novel stunts leaned on their own ability, training, and trust in each other – and little else – to amaze a thoroughly appreciative crowd.

I’ve been a member of enough mostly Londoner audiences now to know that a standing ovation in this town is not easily come by. The enthusiastic everybody-sprung-from-their-seats send off we gave the Simple Space acrobats was perhaps this most appreciative I’ve seen at any London show. That in and of itself should serve as ample recommendation to get you down to Udderbelly to see this Aussies do their stuff before they head off near the end of May.

In addition to the chance to see amazing feats of strength, endurance and daring, it was just really nice to realise that – with Udderbelly now open – summer is almost here! I very much enjoyed sitting outside near the river having a Pimm’s and lemonade and soaking up that last bit of early evening sunlight at the festival grounds.

A Simple Space runs from 21 April to 24 May at Udderbelly Festival, located on the Southbank, between Southbank Centre, Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye, just off Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX. Find out more at udderbelly.co.uk.

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London Daily Photo: Dragons and Lock

LDP 2015.04.24 - Dragons and Lock

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The George Foreman Grill “Evolves”

21610 Evolve Grill Main CO

Leila Dukes reminisces about her days as a student while trying out the new George Foreman Evolve and pondering its practicality in her life now that she and the famous grill have both grown up.

This week a student became an internet sensation after being snapped using a George Foreman grill to make a bacon sandwich in the front row of a university lecture.

The last time I encountered a George Foreman I was also a student, which was more years ago than I care to admit. In those days, the student halls had a greasy, squalid kitchen shared by over twenty freshers who would rather spend their pennies on snakebite than washing up liquid. The communal “George” was the high point of the place; the only reliable appliance and the maker of many late night cheese toasties. Even the culinarily challenged (one guy genuinely used to eat dry Supanoodles straight out of the packet) could whip up something hot and nutritious on our trusty George.

Coincidentally, in the same week that the brazen student’s antics went viral, the nice people at George Foreman invited a group of bloggers to try out the latest model.

Like those early Noughties students, the George Foreman has grown up; the new “Evolve” model is described as “the next generation”. New features such as a deep bake pan mean you can easily create so much more than the toasties, paninis and grilled meats associated with the earlier versions. It’s now possible to cook small stews, casseroles and even pizzas using the grill.

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The main draw of the original models was the angle of the grill which meant excess fat drained away. The Evolve still has this feature, but as people are gradually coming around to the idea that fat isn’t something to be afraid of, this model lets you adjust the angle as you wish.

Another snazzy new addition is the sear function, which gives a blast of intense heat before returning to normal cooking temperature.

To put all of these features through their paces, we prepared a menu of seared tuna with salad, a beetroot and broccoli pizza, finishing with grilled plums on rosemary skewers with a hot buttery citrus sauce.

Some of the dishes were more successful than others – all of our tuna steaks ended up overcooked despite following the instructions to the letter. The sear function did not seem to deliver on its promises. The pizza was decent but the base was so crisp it was difficult to cut through – a far cry from the pillowy soft Napoli style pizzas. The best dish was the grilled fruit dessert recipe which didn’t require such precision timing and temperature control.

The George Foreman Evolve grill certainly looks impressively shiny and is easy to use; the dual LED display has a digital timer and variable temperature. The ceramic coated grill plates are simple to remove and clean (even for lazy students) and are dishwasher safe which is a bonus.

Although the appliance is touted as space-saving as it combines several features in one, it is a fairly bulky bit of kit to keep on your kitchen counter, particularly if you already have a hob and oven/grill. It’s not for everyone; I struggled to think when I would prefer to plug in the George instead of using a normal pan or oven dish. Even our famous student would have struggled to set this up in class.

However, the George Foreman Evolve is great solution in many situations; it would be fantastic in a setting with limited cooking facilities such as an office, student accommodation or for taking on self-catered holidays. And let’s not forget those hangover saving cheese toasties. I may not keep one on my kitchen counter 24/7, but I dare say I’ll dig out the George Foreman Evolve next time I feel nostalgic for my student days.

George Foreman Evolve grills are available from Argos, £149.99. Find out more at georgeforeman.co.uk.

Leila was invited to review the George Foreman Evolve as a guest.

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Win a Variety Pack of Jaz & Jul’s Origin Mixture Drinking Chocolate

Win a Variety Pack of Jaz & Jul's Origin Mixture Drinking Chocolates

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

Award winning independent chocolate makers, Jaz & Jul’s, are launching a new Origin range of drinking chocolates. Featuring three single-origin dark hot chocolates made with cacao grown in a different region (Madagascar, Peru, Brazil) for a collection of subtle yet indulgent flavours. Keen to find out how to get a sneaky peek taste ahead of all the other choco-fiends? Keep reading, my cocoa loving friends.

The new Origin mixtures are made by hand in London with organic chocolate shavings ethically sourced from small producers. Already popular at a number of top indie coffee shops (such as Madagascar 61% at Pot Kettle Black, Peru 75% at Fields Beneath and Brazil 70% at Prufrock and Kaffeine), the new Origin retail range will allow customers to enjoy Jaz & Jul’s fabulous single-origin dark drinking chocolate mixtures at home too.

Me? Oh, I’ve already dipped my fingers in the packs for a taste. And I like – a lot! And you will too. Check ‘em out …

There’s the slightly spicy and a little sharp Madagascar 61% made with Malagasy cocoa from the Sambirano Valley with yummy fruit aromas; the Peru 75% made with rare white crioloo beans from the Alto Piura region of northwest Peru with their buttery texture and a complex, coffee-like finish; and the rich Brazil 70% made from Trinitario beans grown in the Amazon rainforest in the state of Para.

To be in with a chance to win a variety pack of Jaz & Jul’s Origin mixtures, simply tweet the following:

RT to win a variety pack of @JazandJuls #OriginMixtures drinking #chocolate compliments of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1EvtbSA

Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Thursday 30 April at 11.30pm BST. The winner will receive a variety Pack of Jaz & Jul’s Drinking Chocolates. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted. Good luck.

Jaz & Jul’s at the London Coffee Festival

Heading to the upcoming London Coffee Festival (30 April to 3 May at Old Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR)? Be sure to look for Jaz & Jul’s, who’ll be there launching their Origin drinking chocolates. For details about LCF, go to londoncoffeefestival.com.

Shop online and find out more about Jaz & Jul’s at jazandjuls.co.uk.

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

Check out more tikichris competitions.

 

Posted in Chocolate, Competition, Drink, Food, Freebies, London, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: The Strand

LDP 2015.04.23 - The Strand

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Review of Moët Academy

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Last week Maddie Salters embarked upon an adventure in London’s Southbank that would take her into the heart of France’s Champagne region. Celebrated brand Moët & Chandon re-created the vineyards and wine cellars of its lush estate at OXO along the River Thames, allowing guests absorb the look and feel of the Champagne valleys before relishing the taste of its most famous export.

The experience was called Moët Academy. Educational and interactive, it first took visitors through a mock-up vineyard where real Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier grapes grew in chalky French soil. There, among the leaves, a lecture on traditional production revealed the difference between a Grand Cru estate and a regular, and the effect of temperature and season on quality and taste.

Armed with this knowledge, guests ambled into the second portion of the experience: a Moët & Chandon cellar, where the complex, artistic, and nuanced process of creating their line was demonstrated and recounted. I was floored to learn that in a single bottle of Moët & Chandon vintage, over one-hundred base wines are blended together to create a fabulously malty and deeply acidic brew that is then painstakingly transformed into their brightest, fruitiest, and sweetest Champagne. The process takes over six months of constant care and a deep commitment to professionalism, proving that the journey from vine to glass is one of creativity above science.

The last section of the tour, the ‘School of Champagne,’ boasted a deeply impressive tasting menu. A vintage champagne, a Brut Impérial (the brand’s primer cuvée,) an atypically dry and bitter Rosé, and a summer Iced Impérial were paired off with savoury morsels. Hosted by Master of Wine Peter Richards, I was immediately put at ease by his cool wit as he began the walkthrough of the glasses with a short pronunciation lesson of ‘Moët & Chandon.’ “Mow-way is No Way! Mow-It? No-It Ain’t! Mmmwet is more like it… though it always sounds better when someone French says it.”

Highlights of the class included getting to try the pungent base vintage wine side-by-side with its bubbly counterpart, the Grand Vintage 2006. Usually an honour only reserved for those creating the blend, it was a sensory way to understand the very complex process each bottle undergoes to reach its marketable state. I was also impressed that the brand’s Rosé contained less sugar than its Impérials, meaning it lent itself surprisingly well to food pairings, especially desserts. A swish of refreshing ice wine was a fun and funky way to keep Champagne contemporary as rooftop season begins, and the individual smelling notes that were given to each participants tested our might at being able to identify the many layers of taste and scent in each glass.

Best of all, I was able to capture the moment in their photobook, using the hashtag #moetacademy.

England has never had such marvellous access to the French Champagne region in the luxury of its own backyard. Hopefully, Moët Academy will return next year with more to learn, and of course, more to taste. Cheers.

Posted in Drink, London, Luxury, Maddie Salters, Shopping, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: Deep in Dean Street

LDP 2015.04.22 - Deep in Dean Street

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7 Eco-Wise Travel Tips to Celebrate Earth Day Everyday! (OneTravel

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Happy Earth Day! But why should we celebrate this planet we call home only one day a year? And how can we make the most of our travel and leisure time while still keeping a clean and green conscience?

Keep reading.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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Piadabar: New Italian Takeaway in the Heart of Soho

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Piadabar is a new Italian takeaway on Bateman Street in Soho that serves authentic piada (Northern Italian flatbread), traditional cheeses and cured meats, amazing homemade desserts, excellent espresso and more. It’s a brilliant spot to drop by for a quick sandwich or snack – whether on your way to work in the morning, during lunch or even after a late night out playing weekend warrior (Piadabar is open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights).

You can get a filling and tasty sandwich here, as I did during a recent visit, for under a fiver. Throw in a soup or salad and a drink and it will only cost £6.50. I recommend the “classic” piada (toasted piada sandwich with Parma ham, melted mozzarella and rocket), but there’s a range of options including salmon, beef, pork belly, three cheese and vegan, as well as ones with chocolate or fruit.

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Coffee’s good here – if you like a more fully flavoured and no frills approach to espresso-based drinks. Desserts – such as gorgeous homemade zabajone and tiramisu and all sorts of pastries like cannoli and sfogliatelle – are definitely worth saving room for!

Yeah, I was impressed with what’s on offer at Piadabar … to such an extent actually, that I might be teaming up with the owners to help spread the word. So watch this space. Or better yet, head over to this affordable and friendly Soho eatery to have a look and taste for yourself!

Piadabar is located at 3-5 Bateman Street, W1D 4AG. Find out more at piada.bar.

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London Daily Photo: Gatekeeper

LDP 2015.04.21 - Gatekeeper

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Taking it Easy with an Overnight Spa Break in Bath

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Easter week, Kemey and I made a quick overnight trip to Bath for a bit of rest and relaxation with a dash of history and scaled down but nonetheless urban ease. Both of us had been to Bath before but ages ago and not together. We had so much fun during our brief stay in this compact and attractive city. It’s a great place for couples and super easy to get to from London. Of course, more time to explore Bath and the bucolic countryside nearby would have been ideal, but our overnight visit proved to be an amply replenishing pause before having to head back to the London grind.

Thermae Bath Spa

The highlight of our time in Bath was the early evening Twilight for Two visit to Thermae Bath Spa. Available from 4pm with last full entry at 6pm (daily except for Saturday), The Twilight package offers a three-hour session with a light meal in the spa’s Springs Restaurant (straight from the pools in your robe and slippers if you like – we liked!). Prices start at £45 for individuals and £85 for couples.

This was the first experience at the spa for both of us. We especially loved the steam room and getting to take in the views from the heated rooftop pool. Situated in the heart of town just a short walk from the rail station and our accommodation with reasonably priced range of options, we also admired the spa’s aim to provide accessible means of wellbeing.

Thermae Bath Spa is located at The Hetling Pump Room, Hot Bath Street, Bath, BA1 1SJ. For more details and to book your visit, go to thermaebathspa.com.

Brooks Guesthouse

We stayed at boutique bed and breakfast, Brooks Guesthouse, and would not be against doing so again. Basic requirements – impeccably clean, free WiFi with a good signal throughout, comfy bed, strong shower, quiet room, convenient location – were certainly all met. Everyone we met at Brooks was exceptionally friendly. Breakfast was scrumptious and hearty.

Brooks Guesthouse is located at 1 Upper Bristol Road, Bath, BA1 2NA. Visit the guesthouse online at brooksguesthouse.com.

The Bell Inn

A fireside pint (of delicious Bath Ale Gems!) at The Bell Inn at the end of our night added to the unwinding effect of our dip at the spa. Live music, friendly folks, and prices so cheap they remind you how nutso expensive life in London has become – ah, that’s what a West Country pub’s supposed to be like, right?

Located at 103 Walcot Street, Bath, BA1 5BW, The Bell is owned by 536 customers, fans (including Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel) and workers under IPS CoOperative rules. How awesome is that? Go to thebellinnbath.co.uk for details.

First Great Western

Not even an hour and a half travel time between London Paddington Station to Bath Spa Station via regular train service provided by First Great Western, getting there was a breeze. We went First Class, very much enjoying the WiFi, extra legroom, and free snacks – waiting to board our outgoing train in the First Great Western lounge at Paddington (freebie sandwiches and magazines) was a treat as well.

With a couple of trains servicing the route hourly and it being such a short ride time, taking the journey via standard fare would not be a hardship. Still, if the tickets aren’t too dear, doing it in First Class style is definitely the way to go! Read schedules, special offers and more information at firstgreatwestern.co.uk.

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More

So many sights to see and things to do in Bath! Here’s a look at the few we got round to.

Bath Abbey: The beautiful and impressively well preserved Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is worth a visit if only for a look at the natural light streaming in from its massive windows – bathabbey.org.

No 1 Royal Crescent: Whoa! The ornate symmetry, the insight into the formalities of socializing during the Georgian era, the phenomenal knowledge and consideration of the numerous docents on hand … our tour of No 1 Royal Crescent was such a wonderful way to while away an hour – no1royalcrescent.org.uk.

Roman Baths: Not to be missed, the Roman Baths are a fascinating link to the distant past. Kemey and I had both been before but absolutely loved the repeat visit – and would probably be inclined to go again next time we’re in Bath. One nagging complaint – I wish there were facilities like a coat check or somewhere for visitors to leave bags. We dropped in before heading to the station to return to London. Lugging my suitcase through the venue was kind of a bummer – romanbaths.co.uk.

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House: We got a kick out of our pit stop at this centuries old and rather kitsch attraction. My bun with cinnamon butter was tasty – sallylunns.co.uk.

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Take a gander at visitbath.co.uk for loads more ideas for making the most of your visit to this lovely little laidback town.

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London Daily Photo: London Light

LDP 2015.04.20 - London Light

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Sponsored Cocktail Recipe: The Last Word

The Last Word

In comparison to many other drinks, cocktails are mainly drinks for connoisseurs. When you go to a bar or a pub, first things that you have in mind is beer, wine or whiskey. Only a handful of people are willing to go for cocktails. It is not only that you need to know the flavors of the cocktails; you also need to know the precise places that are making good ones. Otherwise, you might end up in an establishment that can’t satisfy your need for a quality drink. Cocktails differ from your regular bottled beverages that are same wherever you go.

These drinks are heavily susceptible to trends. One good example is The Last Word. It was really popular during prohibition era. Unfortunately, it has fallen off the map somewhere along the way. Seattle bartender, Bill Murray, reinvigorated this drink by serving it in one of the popular Seattle clubs, Zig Zag Café. Besides this club, you can find The Last Word in many popular bars and lounge all over Canada and US. One of them is D.W. Alexander, a great lounge in Toronto.

Although The Last Word is based on green Chartreuse, it is actually a perfect mix of four different drinks. Cocktail has really strong flavour and it is fairly easy to make.

Ingredients

·       0.75 ounce gin (any type)

·       0.75 ounce green Chartreuse

·       0.75 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liquor

·       0.75 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Even though it is easy to prepare this drink, you need to be careful and put precisely the same amount of each drink. When everything is ready, put all the drinks into a shaker filled with ice. After 10 to 15 second of shaking, strain the cocktail into stemmed glass.

The most popular variation of this drink is The Final Ward which has rye whiskey instead of gin and lemon juice instead of lime juice.

 Sponsored post submitted by Nick Stokes

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London Daily Photo: Hungerford Bridge

LDP 2015.04.19 - Hungerford Bridge

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Record Store Day in Kingston, Jamaica (OneTravel)

Record Store

Long gone are the days when the streets of Kingston, Jamaica were chockablock with record shops. And with most folks listening to music by digital means and piracy all too often used, the days of many music retailers still in business are numbered.

Nevertheless, a few of the best shop are making a go of it and are definitely worth visiting if you’re a fan of classic reggae, ska and dancehall and heading on to Kingston Town.

Read my complete post at OneTravel.

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London Daily Photo: Brixton Market

LDP 2015.04.18 - Brixton Market

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‘Hot & Chilli’ Coffee Break with Rosana McPhee (espressoCrazy)

Rosana McPhee

Our resident blogger, Chris Osburn, takes a Coffee Break with Rosana McPhee.

Ready for a quick cuppa friendly food blogger advice? Then kick back, relax and enjoy the latest instalment of my Coffee Break series of interviews. This time round, I’m finding out about Brazilian food and learning a few tips for cooking with coffee from Hot & Chilli blogger, Rosana McPhee, a Brazilian expat keen to share Latin kitchen expertise with the wider world.

Read my complete “Coffee Break with Rosana McPhee” at espressoCrazy.

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