London Daily Photo: Look

LDP 2014.08.23 - Look

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Win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box

Win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box

Love Jelly Belly gourmet jelly beans? Here’s your chance to win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box.

Fans of flavour, do you have a favourite Jelly Belly? Is it Berry Blue, Cherry Cola, Island Punch, Juicy Pear, Toasted Marshmallow, Watermelon or … or … or …? Well, with my latest competition, one lucky reader will get to taste them all! Yep, I’ve teamed up with gourmet jelly bean confectioners – Jelly Belly – for an especially flavoursome opportunity to win a classic 50 flavour gift box. The gelatine free, dairy free, fat free, certified OU Kosher, vegetarian treats come in a stylishly attractive square box with a flavour map inside highlighting each of the 50 flavours, with each flavour presented in its own individual compartment.

To be in with a chance to win a 600g 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box valued at more than £22 simply tweet the following:

RT to win a #50Flavour gourmet jelly bean gift box from @JellyBellyUK, compliments of @tikichris. Enjoy! http://bit.ly/1pPWdTE

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 29 August at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one 50 Flavour Jelly Belly Gift Box valued at £22.98. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK.

Find out more about Jelly Belly Candy Company at jellybelly-uk.com.

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London Daily Photo: Centrepoint

LDP 2014.08.22 - Centrepoint

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Jacob’s #SnackHappy Savoury Ice Cream Parlour

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Jacob’s #SnackHappy Savoury Ice Cream Parlour, the UK’s first savoury ice cream parlour, opened tonight in Soho as short run pop-up offering free ice cream in exchange for folks sharing the #SnackHappy hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

The range of savoury flavours include A Pint of Ale & a Packet of Twiglets; Blue Cheese & Jacob’s Cream Cracker; Mini Cheddar Chutney; Tangy Tomato Sorbet; Avocado Crunch; and Smokin’ Salmon & Chive. I swung by the launch this evening and found all the flavours worth trying. I especially liked the smoked salmon ice cream. If you’re planning to be in Soho tomorrow or Saturday drop in for a taste.

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Jacob’s #SnackHappy Savoury Ice Cream Parlour is located at 15 Bateman Street, W1D 3AQ and runs tomorrow and Saturday (22 and 23 August) from noon to 8pm.


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Posted in Beer, Food, Freebies, London, restaurants, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Distillery Tours in Louisiana (OneTravel)

Rum Gimlet

Photo/Bart Everson

Thirsty for a taste of something local in Louisiana? Two new distilleries in south Louisiana have recently started to offer tours of their facilities along with onsite tastings of their products made with Louisiana ingredients, and a third distillery is under construction with the promise of plenty more tours and tastings to come.

Here’s a look at this newbie trio of Lousiana distilleries bringing traditional spirit production back to the Deep South.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Splat

LDP 2014.08.21 - Splat

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Have You Heard about New Jobs Board City Calling?

View from the 29th floor of Millbank Tower

Job bored or job boards? City Calling offers an new way to connect employers and jobseekers online. I reckon it’s at least worth checking out whatever your job situation is at the moment.

This innovative new online jobs board provides employers and jobseekers alike with a “perfect platform to meet their recruitment needs.” A multi-sector recruitment site, City Calling actually embraces social media to help folks looking for work to fully personalise their searches and to get in touch with relevant employers in their chosen field. The site has an international presence as well. So, companies can recruit from across the globe. For people thinking about relocating to another country, City Calling offers support information to ensure such a major transition goes off without a hitch.

City Calling’s aim is to “take care of your career.” If indeed you care for yours it couldn’t hurt to have a peek at the site and see if might get you moving in the right direction. Find out more at citycalling.com.

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The 4 Apps I Use Most for Getting around London (OneTravel)

LDP 2012.11.15 - Enter the Dragon

When visiting a new city, do you ever wonder what apps the locals use to get around?

Here’s a look at four apps that I use most often when moving around London. All are available to download for free.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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Faroes and Away: Shhh …

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It may seem mundane and not terribly exciting, but one of the main reasons I loved my time in the Faroes was the peace and quiet found there. Folks say that silence is golden. But during one particularly placid morning at my hotel, it was mostly deep green and soft brown with tiny dots of wild flower yellow and a soothing blue ocean view.

I had to spend one morning of my visit to the Faroe Islands doing some work in my hotel room. Boring I know, but that’s how life on the road plays out sometimes. In retrospect, I’m so pleased to have had to stay up for awhile as my morning in turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

As much as I was hankering to hit the road and see more sights, I couldn’t complain about where I was; ‘If I’ve got to work, this ain’t such a bad place to do it,’ I thought. My room, with its Danish design accoutrements, was a minimalist’s dream and a pleasant space for doing just about anything. Indeed Hotel Foroyar – a long grass roofed modernist structure somewhat inconspicuously built into the side of a mountain just above the city of Torshavn – proved an excellent base for all my endeavours. And being there with its modern architecture and eased into such a natural and rustic setting felt oh-so incredibly Scandi too.

So there I was in my room tapping away on my laptop to keep ahead of a few deadlines and tame a rather unruly inbox. I had my window open, taking in the fresh air and admiring the lush scenery. And for whatever reason I stopped typing for a second and was by the nothingness. No winds, no birds, no cars, no sirens, no murmuring neighbours, no babies crying, no building site beeps and bangs, no planes … no-thing at all. Not a sound. It lasted a long stretch and set my mind as such ease. Even now recounting it, I can almost feel my blood pressure drop, my stress drift away like an inconsequential leaf, and my attitude shift toward a more relaxed position.

Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.

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Four star Hotel Foroyar is situated on a hill above the captial city Torshavn and about an hour’s drive from the airport. In addition to the Nordic comforts and utter traquility, the hotel is home to one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever come across. Find out more at hotelforoyar.com.


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London Daily Photo: Untitled

LDP 2014.08.20 - Untitled

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Faroes and Away: It’s Best by Boat!

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With 18 islands, innumerable islets and rock formations, and more than 1,000k of craggy coast, the best way to experience the Faroe Islands is definitely by boat. Luckily during my brief stay, I managed to climb aboard a few different Faroese vessels. As I said in my first piece about the Faroes, you should just go! When you do you be sure to make every effort to spend as much time at sea as possible island hopping and taking in the views of this rugged and beautiful island nation. Here’s a look at some of the boats I hit the water with and can happily recommend.

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Traditional Wooden Boat

About 15 minutes’ drive from the airport is the ancient village of Bøur. With views of an extraordinarily unimaginable and dramatic seascape, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Within minutes fo arriving in the Faroes, local guide Sigurd Nordendal had me in his traditional Faroese (motorised) wooden boat dipping in and out of sea caves, skirting along waterfalls, pointing at puffins and taking a gazillion photos. My jaw dropped and stayed in that position until we were back on land. I have no idea if regular excursions from or around Bøur are offered to the public, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Get in touch with the folks at visitfaroeislands.com about possibilities.

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RIB62

Offering “a rush with a bite of culture” RIB62 does “unforgettable maritime experiences and breathtaking land adventures” which usually include dashing across a stretch of open water in a RIB boat. I enjoyed an adrenaline pumping high speed scenic tour punctuated with idyllic island stops with these guys. They took every precaution to ensure passenger safety and seemed to know the Faroese coastline and its waterways extremely well. Check ‘em out online at rib62.com.

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Westward Ho

Westward Ho is a British tall ship built in 1884. Docked at the Torshavn marina, the sloop has been Faroese owned since the 1890s. She’s a beauty to be sure and available for a range of private hire events. You best bet for finding out more about this ship is to visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/westwardhotn54. You can try westwardho.fo too, but at the time of this post’s publication the website was a blank page.

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Vestmanna Sightseeing

My last day in the Faroes, I tagged along with the islands’ most popular tourist attraction, a ferry ride to the bird cliffs of Vestmanna. More utterly epic scenery and birdwatching galore – this time at a leisurely pace and from the picturesque little village of Vestmanna. Find out more at puffin.fo/en.

Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.

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Consider Epson for All Your Printing Needs

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Hankering for a more affordable way to print quality images? Epson might have the answer.

I published my first “tikichris” blog post waaay back in the summer of 2006. Yep, I’ve been at this blog thing along with all sorts of other online activities for quite a while now. Indeed, I took to blogging like a duck to water. And still to this day, I’m mostly digital in my dabbles. If you are reading this post and familiar with my blogging, you know it’s largely comprised of my photography. I love photo-blogging, especially the immediacy of it and being able to share my shots quickly and easily with pretty much anyone in the world with an internet connection. Still, I sometimes want to go beyond the blog with my work and actually print something out and be able to hold it in my hands or display it in some way that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. In particular, my exhibitions and other photography projects over the past few years have proved fun opportunities to show off my pics on walls and even get them in the pages of a few books. Of course, printing and such can be expensive endeavours. So, I’m forever on the lookout for ways to cut costs.

Do you take a lot of photos and wish you were able to print more of them? Here’s some info about a cost effective approach to printing.

Individual ink cartridges versus combined colour cartridges

With individual ink cartridges, you can save money. Here’s why. For example, if your pictures have vivid red background, naturally the ‘magenta’ ink would need replacing sooner than the other colours. So if you’ve got combined colour cartridges, you may end up throwing away an entire cartridge when really there’s only a single colour that’s run out. This can be wasteful and costly.

Epson printers run on individual ink cartridges. Using them, you only need to replace the colour used, thus saving money and ink. The folks at Epson reckon that using individual ink cartridges can offer up to 30% savings compared to competitors’ tri-colour cartridges. Click here to learn more about individual ink cartridges.

Genuine Inks

Let’s be honest, I have put in time and effort to plan my shots and in the production work – cropping, resizing, even some burning and dodging. Naturally, I expect a high quality end result, a vibrant photo print that can capture anyone’s attention instantly. Quality is the key reason why I invest in genuine printer inks that produce vivid and accurate colours every single time. Epson is known for the quality of its ink – all the result of ongoing research and development which has led to a level of output quality and user confidence that other brands can’t match. Epson produces two different types of ink for home and home office printers: pigment ink and dye ink.

Pigment ink or dye ink?

According to the site, and I quote, “Pigment ink is a resin coated particle. The resin coating encapsulates the ink, making it waterproof. The resin remains on the surface of the paper while the pigments are fixed on the paper. This element gives pigment ink its durable nature, ensuring it is water, smudge, highlighter and fade resistant, even on plain paper.”

“Dye ink is made up of dye molecules which are dissolved in an aqueous solution, instead of resin coated particles. When placed on the paper/media, the ink droplets settle and are absorbed without running. The aqueous fluids in the solution diffuse, leaving the colour molecules visible on the surface.”

Of course, the type of ink used in a printer varies dependent on its purpose. Understanding the different types of ink can provide you key information on which ink is suitable for your needs. For most home and office needs, consider pigment inks to produce sharp, clear text documents. Dye-based inks are better suited for producing high-gloss photos with rich, vibrant colours and a pristine finish.

I’ve relied on Epson in the past. And I certainly will again. When you want your colours to ‘pop’ and to be sure what other viewers see is as close you want you aim to show them, Epson is a safe bet.

Find out more at epson.co.uk.

Published in association with Epson.

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Faroes and Away: The Ultimate Burger?

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To be honest I didn’t intend to write about it – and in all sincerity (and a bit of naiveté?) I really didn’t think the topic actually would come up – but I was wrong. The issue of the long standing Faroese tradition of hunting pilot whales was something a number of Faroe Islanders wanted to discuss with me. Now back home and thinking about my time there, any account of my trip without mention of this part of Faroes Islands life would be remiss. Please note that in this post I’m only going to tell you what I witnessed and experienced for myself and what people told me while I was there. If this issue is an important one for you, there are much better sources of information about the Faroese tradition of hunting pilot whales.

There was the kind and elderly woman whom I asked for directions and ended up giving a lift into Torshavn. When I told her I was a writer she asked if I was there to write about whale hunting. To my negative response she said, “Oh good. Welcome!” There was the two-person North American crew on the islands to film a documentary about hunting and eating whale for Vice Magazine. Another out-of-towner, Pamela Anderson (yes, the Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame) was also there, with her animal rights activist hat on. An interesting and unexpected celebrity siting, I saw her in the lobby of my hotel one morning.

There were others – all eager to talk about this contentious issue. And with respect to the locals who mentioned it to me, they were keen to let me know how proud they were of this significant aspect of Faroese heritage … that it’s the most democratic distribution of food ever to exist … that they don’t actually round up the animals as much as take advantage of situations when the whales happen into particular coves … that they only kill until they reach a certain limit …

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Personally, I am deeply ambivalent about the subject. Indeed, images of the cull are bloody and horrific. Whales are beautiful, wild, intelligent creatures. It’s the 21st century, and there are all sorts of other things the Faroese could eat and different ways they could feed themselves. But as I understand it, the cull is as humane as, say, a deer hunt or slaughter of a domestic animal. And I wonder how unhealthy Faroese eating habits would be – and how big of a carbon footprint would be made – if the nation’s 50,000 some odd citizens were denied access to this traditional source of protein.

Perhaps shared with the most enthusiasm by local proponents of the hunt was the assertion that whale meat is extremely nutritious and especially tasty … and that it’s a key ingredient to what a few people described as the “ultimate burger”. I was presented with the chance to try an ultimate burger while in the Faroes – and I did. It was given to me at a privately hosted party – not sold in a restaurant, shop or any sort of commercial enterprise.

A so called ultimate burger consists of a slice of dried whale meat (with a flavour like a very iron-tasting salami), a slice of blubber (like a somewhat briny lardo), a piece of dried fish, and a chunk of boiled potato stacked together and to be eaten in one or two big mouthfuls. My own concept of an ultimate burger would have vastly different to be sure, but I could understand with my first bite how someone could love the taste of whale. Everybody around me was having a blast at this party and eating ultimate burgers seemed a key component of the celebration. I can’t say I’m necessarily proud of my choice to eat it or that it was particularly enjoyable for me, but given the unexpected opportunity I’m glad to have given it a try.

The burger analogy got to me though. Was this an admission of human gluttony and the epitome of carnal indulgence? Or was it a wry comment about consumerism and how Faroe Islanders are (however imperfectly) removed to a large extent from globalised, profits-driven corporate supply chains?

I’d like to end this post saying that if you’re against hunting pilot whales, I don’t think you should let that keep you away from the Faroes. First of all, you can go there without encountering anything to do with the hunt – you definitely won’t see whale products in any restaurants and shops. The occurrence itself is rare and usually in remote locations. But if you’re a wide eyed traveller like me and end up scratching just below the surface you will be made aware of it. In my opinion, the best way to affect change is to engage with those who see things different from you. Right or wrong, the locals I spoke to were open to discourse and extremely civil about the topic. Most of all they were keen to hear my take on the issue and learn about the world’s perception of life in this far flung North Atlantic archipelago.

Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.

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London Daily Photo: Make the Call

LDP 2014.08.19 - Make the Call

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Faroes and Away: A Bad Day Fishing …

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My first full day in the Faroe Islands had me tagging along with local television personality and ace cook, Gutti Winther, on a fishing trip at what seemed to be the very edge of the world. The salmon weren’t biting, but the setting was breathtaking – and the clean sea air, majestic scenery, and Gutti’s ‘plan b’ lunch more than made up for any lack of catch. As the saying goes, “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work,” and my scenic Faroese fishin’ expedition certainly proved that point.

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We drove out to the village of Saksun on the northwest coast of Streymoy island. The 45 minute drive from my hotel was worth the trip alone. Have I ever uttered “oh wow” so many times in my life? The panoramas and vistas were among the most beautiful I’ve seen. But as ravishing as the route had been, the destination was all the more enticing: huge inexplicably green mountains forming a narrow valley which when followed to its end opened up to open sea with a vast nothingness extending for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. Here is where we fished.

It was my first time fishing in ages and my first attempt at fly fishing. Despite not catching anything, I think I got the hang of it. I would jump at any chance to have another go. I was feeling a little less than manly about reeling nothing in, but Gutti’s luck was just as mine. A couple of other local guys who’d been fishing nearby left without any catch as well.

We had been fishing for our lunch, and I can only imagine how gorgeous our fresh salmon lunch in the great outdoors would have been. Gutti had a backup plan though and it proved just as resourceful and tasty.

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Back near to where he’d parked his car, Gutti waded out into the fjord with a bucket. A few minutes later he came back with the biggest frickin’ mussels I’d ever seen. A gas stove, bottle of wine, some onions and garlic revealed from his car boot along with water from a nearby stream and some foraged angelica archangelica (the taste of the Faroes according to Gutti) and we were back in business preparing a most satisfying lunch. As ginormous as those mussels (horse mussels to be exact) had been, they were also incredibly delicious. Upon leaving, Gutti left the rest of his yield at the front door of the farmer’s house up the hill from the gated entrance to the path along the fjord.

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If my dinner at Koks the night before had been an intriguing introduction to Faroese haute cuisine, my Saksun lunch with Gutti the next day was a delectable demonstration of what makes the food there so distinctive.

Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.


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During my visit to the Faroe Islands, I spent a good bit of my Faroese trip touring around with Gutti Winther. He was a brilliant guide who seemed to know the islands’ many nooks, crannies, sea caves, cliffs, fjords et al like the back of his hand and to have a warm friendship with just about everybody from there. My tour with him was arranged through Visit Faroe Islands. I would love to pass some more details about him your way, but when I asked for his contact details he said, “I don’t have an email address; it’s not my style.” However, if you Google his name you’ll get a few results (mostly in Faroese) which might lead you his way.

For loads more info to help plan your own Faroese adventure, go to visitfaroeislands.com.

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Nachos of the Month: Grapefruit and Scallop Ceviche

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Nachos! They’re an easy assemblage and an awesome snack. I’ve teamed up with tortillas with spirit brand Manomasa to create some recipes to help you best enjoy your next crunch time. Here’s my first recipe: a zesty grapefruit and scallop ceviche.

GRAPEFRUIT AND SCALLOP CEVICHE Yum

Ingredients (4-6 servings as a starter; 2-3 as a main)

  • 250g of scallops (without the roe);
  • 1 teaspoon of honey;
  • Juice from ½ of a grapefruit;
  • Juice from 2 limes;
  • ½ of a thinly sliced red onion;
  • 2 chopped jalapeños (keep the seeds if you’d like a kick);
  • 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger;
  • Sea salt to taste (I’d say at least 3 or 4 tablespoons);
  • A pinch of white pepper;
  • Chopped fresh coriander to taste;
  • Chopped fresh mint to taste;
  • 4 finely diced spring onions;
  • 1 bag of Manomasa Green Lemon and Pink Peppercorn tortilla chips.

Method

  • Gently toss the scallops, honey, grapefruit and lime juices, onion, jalapeño, ginger, salt, and white pepper together in a non reactive bowl;
  • Cover the bowl and chill for at least an hour or overnight at the most;
  • When ready to serve, top with coriander, mint, and spring onions.

Serve

Serve alongside tortilla chips. I found Manomasa’s Green Lemon and Pink Peppercorn chips to be an ideal pairing with this recipe. This ceviche goes well with some guacamole too. And washing it down with a pale ale or lager isn’t such a bad idea either.

Tortillas with Spirit

Manomasa was born on the back streets of Mexico and pays tribute to the original tortilla chip – the totopo - whilst branching out into new tastes, sensations and textures inspired by the diversity and creativity of street food culture. Each variety of Manomasa tortillas has a distinctive shape, allowing you to snack, scoop or dip with them. Along with a variety of exciting textures (owing to the super-seeds used, such as sunflower, linseed and caraway for extra depth and bite), delicious flavour combinations have been used, leaving you with a unique snacking experience. Find out more at manomasa.co.uk.

Read more tikichris recipes.

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Faroes and Away: Koks Restaurant and Its New Nordic Kitchen

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One especially delicious ‘just go‘ reason to visit the Faroe Islands is the opportunity to dine at Koks restaurant. Located at Hotel Foroyar with sweeping views over the town of Torshavn and across the bay to the island of Nolsoy, the restaurant features haute cuisine dishes “designed to delight guests with the essence of Faroese culinary heritage” using ingredients almost exclusively sourced locally. For English speakers, the restaurant’s name might sound a bit unappetising, but don’t let that put you off … or expect anything salacious. It simply means “cooks” and is apt enough given the magic done there.

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At the Koks helm is Head Chef Poul Andrias Ziska. Only in his mid twenties, Ziska was born and raised in the Faroes. Having earned a degree in Gastronomy at the Food College Aalborg in Denmark, he started his professional career at Koks in 2011. Later, he worked in Copenhagen at Geranium (two Michelin stars and ranked 45th among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants before returning to Koks only this February. The man is one to keep on your foodie radio. And for uber keen gourmands, a trip to the Faroes for a feast at his hands would not disappoint.

As a “pioneer of the New Nordic Kitchen,” analogies with top rated and celebrated Danish restaurant Noma are inevitable. I’ve never been to Noma but I did once enjoy a few dishes prepared by its chef Rene Redzepi. I reckon there’s an element of homage to what’s doing in the Koks’ kitchen and an effort to further the cause of fine dining with regional and seasonal focus. Whereas Redzepi’s reach spans the entire Nordic region for ingredients for his innovative recipes, Ziska keeps his search as local as possible. To the best of my knowledge everything I had from his 13 course tasting menu (except for the wine) was actually raised, caught or foraged in the Faroes. All of it was incredibly delectable too … and resulted in what was probably the best meal I’ve had this year – and definitely the most intriguing.

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The menu’s five appetisers followed by an assortment of dishes inspired by traditional Faroese cooking wowed and surprised with their flavour and elegant presentation. Raest crisps (wafer thin crisps made from the dripping of air cured lamb) were an especially savoury treat for whetting my appetite and building the anticipation for each dish. Sea urchin with with sea purslan, dill, cucumber and apple was terrific. And pine smoked langoustine an absolute thrill for my joyful palate. A simple Skyr (Icelandic style yoghurt) with chervil for dessert followed by a herbal tea ended my experience on a grounded and refreshing note.

Backing up Ziska and sous chef Áki Herálvsson’s brilliant cookery was sommelier Karin Visth’s fabulous wine list consisting mostly of natural (and primarily French) wines. Each quaff paired perfectly with each course with a few stand outs grabbed my attention. A gorgeous and somewhat licorice German Pinot Noir – Spätburgunder “Kalkmergel” 2009 from Weingut Knipser, Pfalz – was particularly noteworthy wine that I’ve now added to the top of my short list.

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Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.

Koks is located at the four star Hotel Foroyar, situated on a hill above the captial city Torshavn and about an hour’s drive from the airport. Find out more at koks.fo.


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Posted in Drink, Faroe Islands, Faroes and Away, Food, Hotels, Luxury, restaurants, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

London Daily Photo: Shoppers

LDP 2014.08.18 - Shoppers

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Faroes and Away: Just Go

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Why the tiny (if staggeringly scenic) nation of the Faroe Islands wasn’t overrun with tourists during my visit in early August is beyond me – especially considering that my flight from Stansted was hardly more than two hours long and that I had never seen anywhere on earth quite as extraordinary or been anywhere quite as distinctive. That this archipelago of 18 islands jutting from the juncture of the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea is such an accessible yet sparsely populated and utterly gorgeous destination should be reason enough for you to stop whatever it is you’re doing right this instant and start making plans to see the Faroes for yourself.

I’m going to take the next few days to recount the amazing time I had discovering the Faroe Islands. But really everything I’m gonna say boils down to this: if you can go there you should … and when you do spend as much time as possible in boats. Ancient culture, jaw dropper sights, exquisite food (mostly of the fresh seafood variety), and tranquility like I’ve found nowhere else on earth all added up to a wonderful sense of calm and a solid dose of adventure.

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I flew to the Faroes with Atlantic Airways, the national airline of the Faroe Islands “operating domestic helicopter services and international passenger services as well as search and rescue responsibilities” from its base at Vágar Airport. At the moment, Atlantic services Stansted only the summer months, but there are year round flights to/from Copenhagen. Other airports where the airline currently operates include Billund, Aalborg, Reykjavik, and Bergan. Find out more at atlantic.fo.

My flight from Stansted was just over two hours long, and within minutes of my arrival, I was being blown away by the place. About 15 minutes’ drive from Vágar Airport is the ancient village of Bøur. With views of an unimaginably dramatic seascape, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Thanks to local guide Sigurd Nordendal for showing me around Bøur by car and traditional Faroese wooden boat (!!!) and for sharing his love of his home with me.

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About an hour’s drive from the airport is the captial city Torshavn (yep, that means “Thor’s Haven”) where 20,000 or of the nation’s 49,000 folks live. There I stayed at the four star and ultra chilled out Hotel Foroyar, and I’d happily do so again … particularly if it meant another meal at the hotel’s fine dining Koks restaurant! Visit the hotel online at hotelforoyar.com.

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Hired car is the best way of getting around while visiting the Faroes. Mine was booked through 62ºN tour company. I can’t recommend them enough – especially after the speedy and friendly service I experienced when I got a flat time! Find out more at 62n.fo/en.

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As breathtaking as so many views were around the islands I was glad have had a pair of Swarovski Optik CL Pocket binoculars in my bag (although for much of the trip they were glued to my face). The lightweight and foldable compact binoculars with individually adjustable twist-in eyecups offered my eager eyes a large field of view (357ft/119m) of exceptional optical quality – which proved just the thing for birdwatching (puffins galore!). Read more about these fine binoculars at uk.swarovskioptik.com/travel.

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I spent a good bit of my Faroese trip touring the islands with local chef Gutti Winther. He was a brilliant guide who seemed to know the islands’ many nooks, crannies, sea caves, cliffs, fjords et al like the back of his hand and to have a warm friendship with just about everybody from there. The man can cook too! My tour with him was arranged through Visit Faroe Islands. I would love to pass some more details about him your way, but when I asked for his contact details he said, “I don’t have an email address; it’s not my style.” However, if you Google his name you’ll get a few results (mostly in Faroese) which might lead you his way.

For loads more info to help plan your own Faroese adventure, go to visitfaroeislands.com.

Keep an eye out for more posts in my Faroes and Away miniseries.

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London Daily Photo: Face in the Crowd

LDP 2014.08.17 - Face in the Crowd

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How Many Airports Does London Actually Have? (OneTravel)

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So you’ve set aside the time to go and you already have a good idea of the sights to see and activities to do. You’re big London vacation is eminent! But which airport is the best option for you to fly in and out of and how should you go about making such a decision?

… here’s a list of London’s six airports along with brief descriptions including proximity to Trafalgar Square (considered by many to be the center of London) to help you determine where to catch your flight.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: KIngs X

LDP 2014.08.16 - Kings X

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Win a Luxury Holiday to the British Virgin Islands: #BVIParty

BVI Masters – Ninja from Black Tomato on Vimeo.

Today’s the last day to play for a chance to win a luxury holiday to the British Virgin Islands. All you’ve got to do is tweet your own BVI inspired cocktail recipe using the #BVIParty tag.

Yep! That’s all ya gotta do. Here are some deets about the comp and the prizes:

The ten best cocktails will be selected by our first-class team of cocktail tasters, and will win a BVI goody bag! Our grand prize winner will be jetting off for a week in the BVI, staying at Biras Creek Resort and Oil Nut Bay, with return flights from the UK for two. You and your cocktails will also feature here on the website later in the summer. Aspiring mixologists can submit their recipes by using the #BVIParty hashtag on Twitter any time before midnight on the 15th of August.  You must be over 21 years of age to be eligible to win a prize.

To be sure, I entered my own creation in hopes of winning a Caribbean holiday. Here’s that tweet:

Best of luck. Find out more at bvitourism.co.uk/bviparty.

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London Daily Photo: Dalston Down

LDP 2014.08.15 - Dalston Down

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Aberlour and the World’s First Outdoor Whisky Art Gallery (OneTravel)

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Back in May, single malt whisky makers Aberlour launched the world’s first outdoor whisky art gallery. A few weeks ago, I got the chance to check the exhibition when I paid a visit to the distillery. Set on an idyllic stretch of babbling brook winding its way to Aberlour’s historic distillery, the exhibition aims to capture “the individual elements that together result in one of Scotland’s most famous exports.” And I reckon it certainly succeeds in doing so.

This free to view and permanent exhibition blew me away with its series of super-macro images magnifying the beautiful and minute details specific to the journey of Aberlour whisky – from the pink granite that creates the softness of the water used in the distillation process to the special oak cask in which the spirit is transformed.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Study in Contrast

LDP 2014.08.14 - Study in Contrast

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Good Stuff – Speyside Delights!

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Good Stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or savour – in this case all yummy findings from my recent trip to Scotland’s Speyside that I thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy.

Royan of Elgin, Traditional Butcher

This traditional butcher shop was founded in 1850 by the grandfather of present owner, Jim Royan. I didn’t actually make it to the shop (or to Elgin for that matter), but had a taste of Royan’s amazing sausages while at dining at the Copper Dog Restaurant at the Craigellachie Hotel. The top quality sausages were mostly pork shoulder with small chunks of black pudding blended in. I loved it and wish I had some stashed away in the freezer.

Strafton Blue Cheese

My unsuspecting palate was wowed by this super creamy and very blue sheep’s milk cheese. Good luck finding much more mention than this of it online … but if you do please let me know.

Wildcat Ale

Although I was visiting the Speyside for its famous whisky, I was impressed by a couple of beers I had while there. One of them was Wildcat Ale. I had this malty amber ale at the riverside Mash Tun pub in Aberlour. Brewed by Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore, proceeds from each bottle sold go to support the Highland Tiger Project and the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.

Windswept Weizen

The other beer that had me jotting down a note from the bar was a cloudy and banana-y hefeweizen from Windswept Brewing Co. It’s a “special seasonal brew to celebrate Oktoberfest in Moray,” but I thought it was a perfect quencher for a sunny summer’s day.

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London Daily Photo: Oxford Circus

LDP 2014.08.13 - Oxford Circus

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Aberlour at the Source: Fine Finish

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Clean air, clean water, clean tasting whisky – why’d I ever leave? I’d relish a repeat visit to Aberlour Distillery and the Speyside swath of heaven that’s its home. Folks looking for their own ‘clean’ break would be wise to go on their own similarly relaxing retreat.

To help you better browse the posts I’ve published about the fine time I had discovering the source of Aberlour whisky, here’s a list with links to all of them:

Aberlour at the Source

Special thanks to Aberlour International Brand Ambassador Ian Logan for sharing his time, knowledge, expertise, and kind hospitality and to International PR Manager for Aberlour and Chivas Brothers Amy Grantham for organising such a fantastic trip.

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Founded in 1879, Aberlour distillery is located outside of the village Craigellachie about an hour’s drive either way from Aberdeen or Inverness. The whisky made here is indeed fine to drink particular during a scenic Speyside expedition. Find out more at aberlour.com.

 

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London Daily Photo: This Guy’s Famous, Right?

LDP 2014.08.12 - This Guy's Famous, Right?

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Aberlour at the Source: More than Whisky

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Even when setting aside the distillery tour, cooperage visit, and the delectable chance to taste the Aberlour range of single malts in the very environment where they’re made, my Speyside time was still such a blast. The area is absolutely gorgeous, all the food I had was delish, and the hours spent outside communing with nature were as invigorating as they were relaxing. I would have loved to have been able to extend my trip at least a few more days as there was just so much great stuff to see and do. Indeed, I would be so very keen to head back that way again to get to continue discovering this lovely part of Scotland.

Think you’d like to check out the Spey for yourself? Here are some of my ‘more than whisky’ highlights from the few days I enjoyed up that way.

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Do

More than anything, it was just really nice for me to explore the great outdoors. The weather was super summery and actually quite hot while I was there, and I got a kick just walking around the villages and along the river, crossing the famed Penny Brig and Craigellachie Bridge, and just breathing in the fresh air and taking loads of photos.

Being Speyside was nice of course, but even better was getting on the river for a short and scenic paddle with British Canoe Union Coach Keith Dickinson of Sporting Scotland – an outdoors activity that’s easy to recommend.

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Stay

I stayed at the Craigellachie Hotel, in Craigellachie village a couple of miles from Aberlour Distillery. I’m happy to recommend it … with a couple of provisos though. First the bad news: there was no WiFi during pretty much my entire time at the hotel (and as I understood it this had been the case there for a couple of weeks prior to my booking). If you’re looking for somewhere you can “get away from it all” this might be just the spot. However, if you’re going to need to keep in touch with contacts and do a bit of work while there (as I wished I could have done), you’d best call ahead to find out about the situation with the internet. When you do, see about the availability of rooms not facing the road at the front of the building. I was awakened each morning around 6.15 by all the traffic driving by. Other folks I chatted with who were staying in rooms on the other side of the hotel didn’t have such problems with morning noise.

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Caveats aside, I otherwise liked the Craigellachie. My bed, in particular, was commendably comfy. The hotel has been beautifully restored and recently renovated and is ideally located near Dufftown and the historic Malt Whisky Trail. It’s a smart accommodation option to keep in mind for any Speyside activities that might be of interest to you.

Eat and Drink

As much as I’ve grumbled about the traffic and the lack of WIFi at the Craigellachie, I absolutely loved the hotel’s Quaich bar and Copper Dog restaurant. The bar features an amazing assortment of more than 700 whiskies and a fine line up of quality craft beers too, including a couple of extra tasty local brews. Dinner at the Copper Dog was yummy. A main course of Elgin’s Copper Dog sausage and rumble thumps with onion gravy was an especially savoury delight. Banana muffins with toffee sauce and clotted cream ice was a treat as well. Breakfast at the hotel was also really good; I got haggis with my fry up one morning while the other I had a more subdued bowl of porridge with fresh fruit. The bar and restaurant are cosy and there’s plenty of outdoor seating for taking in the stunning mountain views.

Two other great dines during my visit including a very satisfying lunch at the Mash Tun pub on the banks of the Spey beside the Penny Brig (loved the locally sourced hot smoked salmon and black pudding) and a fine feast with a small assemblage of other journos and some brand reps at the Aberlour Distillery’s private Fleming Rooms. This meal featured fresh Scottish produce paired with the Aberlour whisky portfolio made by resident chef, Eric Obry. Obry’s creations impressed. His pavé of baked sea trout with a velouté of wild garlic (paired with 16 Year Old Aberlour) was a delight as was his loin of Auchindoun venison (which incidentally was stalked, shot, hung, butchered and cooked by the chef) with juniper berry reduction, chantrelles, parsnip puree, carrots and potato rosti. If an opportunity should ever rise for you to eat this man’s food – go for it!

I’ll wrap things up soon with one more post in this short series of posts about discovering Aberlour at the Source.

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Founded in 1879, Aberlour distillery is located outside of the village Craigellachie about an hour’s drive either way from Aberdeen or Inverness. The whisky made here is indeed fine to drink particular during a scenic Speyside expedition. Find out more at aberlour.com.

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London Daily Photo: Richmond Road

LDP 2014.08.11 - Richmond Road

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Aberlour at the Source: Tasting Notes

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To be honest, I’d never had a sip of Aberlour before my visit to its distillery. Always reckoning myself more an islands whisky kinda guy, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I simply had not even given Speyside whisky a fair shake. I now realise the error of my ways and that I have been missing out all these years as a whisky drinker.

I mean not to disparage the peaty pleasures of Islay, Skye, and Jura, but a Speyside single malt can yield as luscious a tasting experience as any dram can – and that certainly holds true for the Aberlour malts I’m now able to comment on. As much as I relished my time spent ambling beside Ablerour’s source of water and getting to see some local coopers in action, I loved even more the opportunity for an onsite sample of what the Aberlour folk had done to combine all the right elements together for a bottle full of Speyside pride.

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Sitting in the comfort of the Fleming Rooms at the Aberlour Distillery with its plush leather sofas, backlit wall of bottles and regional ephemera and whisky related memorabilia, I very much enjoyed every whisky that I sipped during an arranged tasted and just about flipped for two particular malts: the 18 Year Old and the A’bunadh. As wonderfully apropos as it was to drink them where I was, I suspect each one of them would go down well wherever had. Below are some tasting notes (mine alongside Aberlour’s own) of malts in the Aberlour range.

Aberlour 12 Year Old

The “rich and sweet” doubled casked 12 Year Old has a citrus character “perfectly complemented and enriched by superlative use of ex-Sherry casks.” I tasted hints of coconut in this easy drinker with a slightly bitter caramel finish (something like the aftertaste from a well pulled espresso).

Aberlour 16 Year Old

The “deep, soft, fruity” doubled casked 16 Year Old has a more concentrated flavour that’s syrupy sweet. I found it to be an apple/applewood-y tipple.

Aberlour 18 Year Old

A doubled casked spicy spirit with a discernible and raisiny sherry edge and a “liquorice tang,” the 18 Year Old is buttery, nutty little number aged to an impressive flavour profile. I loved the stuff and am keen to hold on to my own bottle of it for special occasions.

Aberlour A’bunadh

Handmade from start to finish, with each batch being created from scratch, the non-chill filtered and cask strength A’bunadh is a “weapon’s grade” “cult whisky” which those behind the brand reckon it’s “challenging to make and challenging to savour,” but personally speaking, I had no trouble savouring this walloping Scotch with complex flavours suggesting all sorts of delectable treats from raisins and cinnamon to butterscotch and dulce de leche. A good one to pair up with an after dinner stogie, A’bunadh rocked my socks off!

More to come in my short series of posts about discovering Aberlour at the Source.

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Founded in 1879, Aberlour distillery is located outside of the village Craigellachie about an hour’s drive either way from Aberdeen or Inverness. The whisky made here is indeed fine to drink particular during a scenic Speyside expedition. Find out more at aberlour.com.

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London Daily Photo: Kentish Town

LDP 2014.08.10 - Kentish Town

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Aberlour at the Source: Speyside Cooperage

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As important as the few raw ingredients that go into whisky is the cask in which the spirit is aged. Indeed it’s the interplay between the spirit and the cask wood that gives any whisky its flavour. And coming by the right cask is no mean feat as I found out when I got a look see inside the Speyside Cooperage near Aberlour Distillery.

In the case of Aberlour, most of its single malts are double-cask matured in first fill ex-Bourbon casks and ex-Oloroso Sherry butts which have been personally selected for the right aromatic qualities by Aberlour’s own Blender from traditional bourbon distilleries in the USA and Sherry makers in the Jerez area of Spain.

The wood used for Aberlour’s casks may come primarily from Spain and the US and be approved by the Blender, but much of it is sourced via the local Speyside Cooperage in Craigellachie, just a short drive up from the distillery. As in my last piece where I argued that distilleries are worth a visit no matter your inclination or aversion to whisky, any admirer of traditional craft would find value sneaking a peak in a cooperage. And that’s just what’s on offer at this one: the chance to watch skilled artisans hard at work adhering time honoured tradition and practical know-how to each cask repaired or assembled.

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Speyside Cooperage is the only working cooperage in the UK. Family owned and more than a half century old, the cooperage produces the hight quality casks finest casks using traditional methods and tools. Its casks are shipped across the world, with many of them staying in Scotland.

There’s a visitor centre, gift shop and cafe on site, as well as an “Acorn to Cask” exhibition for learning about how casks are made and used. What I loved most when I dropped by was the raised viewing platform stretching across the coopers’ workspace where I got to observe and marvel at their efficiency and ability. Making casks may not sound too terribly complex or difficult – but it requires loads of skill. The cooperage has an activity area next to the viewing platform where guests can have a go assembling a cask, as I did. It was tough, like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle while jugging all its pieces at the same time.

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On top of a deeper appreciation for the thought and elbow grease that goes into a cask, I learned a few things as well. Before my visit, I just assumed all casks were barrels – that the two terms were interchangeable. Not! A barrel is a relatively small type of cask, and the term cask generally refers to by cylindrical container of liquid (usually made of wood). There are also drums, puncheons, hogsheads, butts, tuns and more. Keep these distinctions in mind. They could prove to be all that stands between you being a barrel of laughs at your next whisky tasting or the butt of the joke.

For details about visiting Speyside Cooperage, go to speysidecooperage.co.uk.

More to come in my short series of posts about discovering Aberlour at the Source …

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Founded in 1879, Aberlour distillery is located outside of the village Craigellachie about an hour’s drive either way from Aberdeen or Inverness. The whisky made here is indeed fine to drink particular during a scenic Speyside expedition. Find out more at aberlour.com.

Posted in Aberlour at the Source, Design, Drink, Food, Scotland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment