Cocktails in the City is BACK for 2014!

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There is one event I have been eagerly awaiting the return of in Manchester. You may remember my absolute delight at being asked to judge last year’s Cocktails in the City event (if not you can read about it HERE) and what a night it was. My dreadfully difficult task was to wander around each of the amazing bars showcasing their cocktails, try them all and pick a few winners. Lucky for me I had Dave (aka The Drinks Enthusiast) at my side to help the selection process and stop me getting too giddy and finishing every cocktail. It was an amazing night of superb drinks, wonderful hospitality and wicked banter.

Well Manchester, you are in luck, it is BACK!

Celebrating Manchester’s vibrant cocktail scene, Cocktails in the City the UK’s largest ever cocktail master class returns to the grandiose surroundings of the Great Hall, Manchester Town Hall on 8th May 2014, with tickets priced an amazing £10 for 1 cocktail, cocktail book and entry. With Manchester’s greatest cocktails being served and a dedicated North West following eager to see what this years event entails. Cocktails in the City Manchester is the only place where cocktail lovers and Manchesters finest bars will gather together, for an evening dedicated to the art of cocktail making.

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This year there will be a pamper area provided by Harvey Nichols for any emergency beauty fixes you need as well as the chance to enter a prize draw to win a Cocktails in the City Vesper Moped! Feel free to put my name multiple times on your entry…

Food will be provided by Almost Famous with a number of DJs blasting out the tunes to keep you entertained. As usual there will be demonstrations with the following planned:

 19:00 – 9:30: ‘Making cocktails at home’ – How to make amazing cocktails from  common ingredients at home. 

20:00 – 20:30: Sours, Punches and Flips – Get to grips with three distinctive styles of cocktails and get creative with them.

21:00 – 21:30: A very Britsh affair – A selection of very British cocktails using  some of Britain’s best boutique spirits.

I’ll be donning my judging cap once more to help pick the winners of the prestigious awards including best bar, best cocktail and best personality. Last year saw Proof, Whim Wham Café and Escapades collecting gongs. The cocktail scene in Manchester has boomed over the last 12 months and with Manchester House and Elixir attending the event this year, there will be some tough competition between old and new faces. Who will win? Watch this space to see who can sweep to victory this year and I’ll see you there yes?

Tickets available HERE

Spirit of Hale Tasting With the Drinks Enthusiast at Hale Grill

Most drink related events in the North West tend to take place in Manchester City Centre. This is great for me as I live there so can just wander out but I know friends who live in the suburbs really struggle to get to some of them. Quick to recognise this was The Drinks Enthusiast who joined forces with Hale Grill for a spirit tasting with a difference.

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We started with a chat about what spirits we liked and disliked. Lucky for me I had tried all the spirits Dave brought to the tasting but it was lovely to listen to others in the group who had never been to an event like this.

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Dave started with Grey Goose vodka and the fascinating story of Sidney Frank. Frank was responsible for the promotion and development of Jagermeister in the States which, was huge, and decided he wanted to hit the market currently enjoying Absolut vodka. He was originally beaten by Belvedere being recognised as a premium brand. Not deterred he upped his game and decided to search for a brand in France rather than the more traditional vodka producing countries of Russia and Poland. He found an excellent base in winter wheat which gives the vodka a smooth and light taste ideal for sipping. The product has ‘slow legs’ in the glass showing no sugar has been added. On the nose are notes of butter and almond with this buttery taste coming through on the palate. It is sweet and smooth; so unlike any other vodka I have tried.

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Up next was a personal favourite of mine, Portobello Road gin. Now I like gin, this isn’t a secret. But then it comes to a sipping gin I prefer something smooth and slightly sweet with no spikiness. That is exactly what you get from Portobello Road which was brought to us by Jake Burger, Gerard Feltham and Paul Andrew Lane. Juniper is quite heavy on the nose as is lemon anise and liquorice. The liquorice is prominent on the palate too which is likely to be thanks to the cassia bark, coriander and nutmeg used in the distilling process.

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A whiskey followed with Monkey Shoulder. I’m not a fan, the flavours just don’t work for me but if you are thinking of trying whiskey for the first time, this is definitely one to start with. It is a blend of whiskeys from Speyside and other none whiskey drinkers in the room described it as incredibly drinkable. Dave had a few converts on the night!

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Last but most definitely not least was Old J spiced rum. Formulated by Tom Hurst in 2009 who tried 60 varieties to find the perfect blend, this rum is delicious. Butterscotch and slight honey aromas on the nose yet toffee, vanilla and lime are prevalent on the palate with a gentle spice kick.

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Hale Grill has launched their new summer cocktail and invited us to try one of two cocktails featured. I chose the honeyed rum daiquiri which blends honey, lime and Old J spiced rum. A classic this is slightly sweet with the lovely toffee flavours coming through from the rum. I also got to try the apple, mint and raspberry cosmopolitan as other guests ordered this on the evening. Stoli raspberry, Cointreau, mint and apple juice gives a fresh twist to the classic cosmopolitan whilst the mint provides a lovely freshness.

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A thoroughly enjoyable evening and a feast for the senses, it was really interesting to hear what beginners thought of the spirits neat. All are readily available at your favourite bar in the City but this just goes to show that you don’t need to venture too far to get your fix.

Restaurant Review: Avalanche, Manchester

One of the wonderful things about Manchester is that there are so many bars and restaurants to try. There are new and exciting places popping up weekly in totally different areas of the city giving us a really vibrant mix. So vibrant it is hard to keep up at times. On a recent visit to Liquorice I noticed Avalanche on the corner off Pall Mall on Booth Street. I then noticed some pretty photographs being put on Twitter of their food so added it to the list of places I needed to visit. As I am sure you can imagine this list is incredibly long!

Lucky for me I had a spare Saturday before a gig at the Phones 4 You Arena so booked in to see if the photographs reflected the food in terms of taste as well as appearance. Despite arriving on time and the restaurant being relatively empty, we were told our table was being sorted so would we grab a drink at the bar first. This wasn’t a problem as we had allocated plenty of time for the food before we had to be over at the Arena. The wine menu is competitively priced for the King Street area so we chose a bottle of the Frascati which was so good, we ordered another bottle.

We were soon showed to our table which was in the window. Perfect for nosey little me to watch the world go by! The specials had been written on a chalkboard within the restaurant but were quite unclear as to what they were. I had my eye on the ‘pollo basilica’ recognising the Italian word for chicken but had no idea what this dish would entail. Unfortunately there wasn’t anyone to ask either as we waited a good 20 minutes to place our order. We had to grab a server to ask if we could place our order in the end for fear that we would miss the show. Turns out the specials had been printed on a separate menu with descriptions of what they were; we just hadn’t been given this.

Once the food had been ordered things moved much more quickly and our starters arrived in no time.

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I ordered the trio of bruschetta which arrived on a wooden serving board. The olive tapenade topped with mozzarella was my favourite of the three which is surprising considering my dislike of olives in general. The glug of olive oil really helped the tapenade along but I would have preferred the bread to be more toasted. The oil left it a little soggy considering it had only really been warmed through. The smoked salmon was clearly good quality on a bed of soft cheese and the marinated tomatoes had a lovely sweetness that showed to me that they were really fresh. One thing I would say about this dish is that it is extortionately priced for what it is. £7.45 for a starter of bruschetta that was ok seems really steep when a similar dish at Rosso, a much more established restaurant in a more prominent location, costs just £4.95.

My date’s starter was similar story. He ordered the meatballs which were juicy with a lovely rich tomato sauce. The sauce was so good he commented that more bread would have been welcomed to mop it up properly. This dish was also pricey at £7.95 although tasty enough to justify it. I’m also sure, had my date asked that more bread would not have been a problem.

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Our plates were cleared quickly and our mains followed. I chose the chicken special which consisted of chicken stuffed with ricotta cheese covered in a cream sauce on a bed of mashed potato. The chicken was cooked perfectly; just cooked so still lovely and juicy in the centre. The ricotta was a lovely touch but I did feel the addition of mash and a cream sauce was a bit too much. I think this dish would have worked with a tomato sauce to compliment the cheese so much better.

My date had requested the veal cutlet served with a wine sauce. It was only halfway through his meal he questioned the dish that had been brought to him. It appears the kitchen had gotten the dish mixed up with the escalope which is served with a caper, garlic and olive sauce. By this time it was too late to question it but the veal had been cooked exactly as requested and the sauce worked well with the meat, the saltiness complimenting the game flavours of the veal.

We were far too full for dessert so didn’t indulge. By the time we left Avalanche it was full of customers enjoying their food with lots of pizzas coming out of the kitchen. The service was incredibly slow at the beginning of our meal but certainly picked up with the help of a more experienced member of staff. I would say the gentleman who served us for the rest of the evening was the owner but I don’t want to presume because I didn’t ask if this was the case. Either way he was incredibly pleasant and even walked us to the door having a chat.

Whilst the food was enjoyable I don’t think I will be rushing back. Considering I have yet to visit the big players in Italian food in Manchester, namely San Carlo and Don Giovanni, I’d like to see how they measure up against this stiff competition.

This meal was paid for.

 

East Z East Cooking Competition With The Chance To Win A Meal For Two And Your Recipe Featured On The Menu

When I first started trying to lose weight I had to give up Indian food. I have to tell you this was really tough but the amount of ghee used meant that I just couldn’t justify the calories. I managed to make my favourite jalfrezi and masala dishes ‘light’ by making the curries at home. I’d make boiled rather than pilau rice and replaced ghee with low fat cooking spray. Another god send was that I could pad out the dishes with lots of vegetables and use low fat yoghurt to add the creaminess without the extra calories. I found that getting the right balance of spices, I didn’t need the extra fat for my curries to taste good.

Do you like to play with Asian spices and make your own curries at home? Do you like to get your family round for a slap up Indian banquet cooked from scratch? Well you have the chance to take that one step further and have your recipe featured on the menu at East Z East as well as a meal for 2!

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All you need to do is submit either a starter, main or dessert using THIS link. You can submit a family recipe, a tweak on an original recipe or something totally unique to yourself.

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The closing date for entries is the 18th April and the winner will be chosen by the Owner of East Z East. What are you waiting for?

*All images taken from the East Z East website.

New Moon Pub Company Bring Beef and Pudding to Manchester

The New Moon Pub Company have been on my radar for some time. A group of ‘gastro pubs’ in Cheshire owned by David Mooney and Paul Newman, I’ve been desperate to visit for some time but their location has meant I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. That is where Beef and Pudding comes in and the buzz around Manchester for this new restaurant is like nothing I have witnessed since starting this blog.

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Beef and Pudding is located on Booth Street just off Fountain Street with unmissable red neon signage. I’m told this is an impressive renovation from the pub that was previously housed here with a lovely bar area separated from the restaurant. Never ones to like to miss out Charlie and I popped along during their soft launch to see if they could live up to the hype.

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The first area to impress was the cocktail menu. It is quirky, different and a great mix of fizz, sweet and savoury to suit most palates. I went for the beef and pu off the fizz menu. The house champagne Taittinger (and one of my personal favourites) is joined by locally grown beetroot syrup to give a slightly earthy edge to your regular glass of fizz. And it is a lovely colour obviously! My date went for the mojito diablo following a recommendation from David Mooney himself and it didn’t disappoint. Fresh limes topped with chilli, mint and sugar is muddled before topping with copious amounts of Patron tequila, crème de cassis and a splash of soda. This certainly packed a punch and is not for the faint hearted, the heat of the chilli pairing really well with the spicy flavours of the tequila.

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The olives are beautifully presented in a tall can with olive topped cocktail sticks that were quickly turned into hair accessories.  The cheese topped garlic bread beats any other I have had so far in the city with a smokey flavour cheese on top of sweet brioche. Just beautiful.

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For starters we decided to try a few of the plank sharers with Charlie and Mr GFB going for the coastal and my date and I opting for the Manc plank. Head chef Nic had recommended the tripe dish to us before Beef and Pudding opened so we ordered some of that too. It would be rude not to.

The coastal features the most beautiful potted shrimp cake with the saltiness to leave you begging for more. The ‘gunpowder’ smoked salmon was also fabulous with a melting texture that a vodka spiked rub works with so well. The Dublin bay prawns were so juicy and just cooked giving them the perfect texture and fresh flavour. A mini beer battered fish with mushy peas finished it off and just left us wanting more. If I hadn’t already ordered my main course I would have been ordered the regular size of this.

The Manc plank is a thing of beauty and something that will have me coming back here time and time again. Now I don’t ‘do’ pate. I’m just not a fan of the gamey, rich flavours and would never order it in a restaurant. I was dubious of this duck variety and I should have been… because I am now a convert. This pate is made using Gressingham duck, my favourite Hunters gin and macerated apricots, the latter flavours giving this a fruity yet spicy punch to take the edge of the game flavours just enough for me to become obsessed. Charlie had to wrestle the pot off me to get a look in. I was gutted that she loved it too. Cheshire cheese bon bons are similar to the goats cheese ones I tried at Rosylee but with a more salty and citrus taste thanks to the gorgeous change of cheese. Pig and Co sausages (who won the sausage test at Manchester Food and Drink Festival I judged last year) are also welcomed with a beautiful chutney as well as a mini cottage pie and buttered black peas. Delicious and all pretty filling to say the least.

The recommended tripe I was worried about. It’s offal and I don’t like offal. Many people have tried to change my mind in the past six months and haven’t succeeded. But Nic? Yep she did it. Soft tripe is given a crispy coating and served on top of a wedge of crumbly Lancashire cheese with spicy pickled onions. The flavours work so well together that the creamy flavours of the tripe are complimented in a way I never thought possible.

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Onto mains and my date had long before made his mind up that he was going for the pudding. One of us had to after all, it is the namesake of the restaurant. I thought I’d go slightly lighter after such a heavy start to the evening with the pork belly and chorizo pappardelle.

The pudding is immense. A huge and towering suet pudding filled with softly melting beef and venison chunks, slight heat from a horseradish paste, rich gravy and more of those lovely black peas we had enjoyed on our starter plank. This dish was an instant hit with the whole table and most of Manchester, it would appear, With Paul having to rush out on the opening night to find more suet following a sellout!

The pappardelle was served all dente with just a brushing of sauce and beautifully soft pork belly. The manchego (my favourite cheese ever) gave the saltiness the sherry needed to finish off the dish but unfortunately the chorizo had been missed. This was a soft launch and the whole point is to test the kitchen and wait staff before opening for real, I wasn’t at all bothered. I’ll have this dish again because the chorizo would finish it off perfectly.

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How we managed dessert is beyond me. We also opted for a pudding plank as many others have by the looks of other blogs I have read so far this weekend. Well the menu looked fabulous and this is a great way to try more than one! The hit for me was the Eccles cake topped with Lancashire cheese. My mum always used to eat her Eccles cakes with cheese and I always thought it odd. I had to ring her and apologise because the sweet currants against the sharp cheese is a perfect match. The ‘most chocolate’ tart was also a hit with me. Rich and sweet chocolate in a perfectly crispy pastry case topped with peanut brittle, it has me written all over it right? I wasn’t a huge fan of the banoffee cheesecake as  I wanted more banana flavour but I know Charlie absolutely loved it. See how this wonderful dessert satisfies the whole table?

Suitably stuffed we went on our merry way… and then remembered that we had a business meeting the following day. Guess where we ended up…I have no photos. It was a business meeting after all, but the Beefham tower was declared ‘the shit’ (from a Stoke male this means pretty damn good) and another member of the party said the pudding was the best he had ever tasted. And this guy has lived all over the world.

Something I did photograph was my cocktails. Well I am a cocktail bar reviewer, I was just doing my job. I went back to my childhood with a naughty twist on the drumstick and umbongo.

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Both served with sweets that bring out the flavours of the drinks so well they are fairly sweet but taste just like their namesakes. Drumstick mixes Absolut vanilla, blackberry and strawberry liquor that, when drank with the lolly, brings out the flavours of the vodka really well. The umbongo is simply Absolut mango, grapefruit and pineapple. Simple yet genius.

I think it is safe to say we have converted some of the business clientele of Manchester to the ways of Beef and Pudding and you know what? I’m glad… now when can I go back.

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I was invited to this event as a guest of the restaurant. The second visit was discounted to 50% but all drinks were paid for in full. This is an honest review of my experience.

 

Zizzi Opens in Manchester Piccadilly

It won’t come as a surprise to many of you that I have a bit of an obsession with planning food. If I plan a holiday or weekend away I’ll spend ages researching the local restaurants and where looks like an interesting place to eat. There are times though when I have had this option taken out of my hands and one of those times was a hen do in Barcelona. I got particularly excited about trying all the different types of tapas on Las Ramblas to find that I had to dine in Pizza Hut and McDonalds as the girls I was with liked normality. Some people are scared of the unknown and that is where some of our more common chains come in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ‘anti chains’ and if that is where my friends want to dine then I certainly won’t turn down the chance to spend time with them because I don’t want to eat at their choice of venue. One of those venues for me has always been Zizzi. I do like Italian food so this is always a good start and whilst I have never had a meal here that blows me away, I think it is a good choice to please most people in a group.

Zizzi already have a restaurant in Spinningfields but have just opened a restaurant on Piccadilly Gardens next to the new Nandos, Morrisons Local and Premier Inn. As if the new hotel isn’t a good pull for visitors already this is also the prime location for people walking to and from the train station as well as people waiting for their buses.

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I was invited to the launch party where we were greeted with Prosecco and Aperol spritz. I’m not a huge fan of Aperol in general but others in the group loved these and were more than happy to help dispose of them.

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With this being a launch party we had a reduced VIP menu but the food we ate is available on the normal menu.

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We shared a platter to start with and the star for me was the garlic bread with caramelised onions. The base wasn’t too thick nor too thin with just enough garlic smeared on top and a lovely sweetness from the onions. I tried my best to snaffle more pieces of this than my friends. The meats were ok as were the olives. Fairly generic and nothing to blow you away. The calamari was cooked well with no toughness and just enough batter for a crisp outside without any greasiness.

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I went for the lasagne for my main course. It is my ultimate comfort food and I am yet to find one anywhere near as good as my old local Italian Benvenuti in Hazel Grove. This was, unfortunately, not going to steal the coveted ‘best lasagne’ crown. The topping was more like a crumbled breadcrumb than a cheesy crust which, I prefer. The breadcrumb idea I am fine with but this one wasn’t baked long enough for the bread to crisp up enough. The rest of the dish was nice though, the pasta still al dente with a rich tomato sauce with just enough cheese to compliment it. Not perfect but not bad either.

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My date chose the pollo al prosciutto; chicken wrapped in prosciutto with a white wine sauce served with new potatoes and green beans. He liked it so much that I didn’t get a look in! The chicken was still juicy but the ham could be a little crisper for my liking. The potatoes were seasoned well and the sauce lovely and rich.

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For dessert we were treated to a trio of tiramisu, chocolate tartufo and a lemon meringue sundae. The tiramisu was the perfect consistency for me. Still creamy with well moistened sponge that wasn’t too stiff. The tartufo, delightfully rich and chocolatey, was my favourite with the lemon meringue sundae being too much for my palate. The sharp lemon flavours drowned out the flavour of the meringue which had no crunch left. I appreciate this was a launch party so this may be different if made fresh to order.

Overall a fun time was had by all and this is a great addition to the Piccadilly Gardens family. I’d happily dine here with friends who want ‘familiarity’ as would I pop in here whilst waiting for my train.

I was invited to this event as a guest of the restaurant. This is an honest review of my experience.

Bake Off at The Violet Hour, West Didsbury

I never used to watch The Great British Bake Off on BBC and I don’t really know why. It has ‘me’ written all over it; cake and a competition on TV with some potential disasters to air. I started to watch during the last series and backed Frances Quinn early on to take the coveted crown. I loved the quirky designs she did and her Midsummer Night’s Dream cake was a sheer work of art. Apologies, I digress. Keen bakers of Didsbury and beyond, allow me to present to you a bake off with a difference.

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On 23rd March five bakers took over the kitchen at The Violet Hour in West Didsbury in a bid to impress guests with their signature bake in a blind tasting. Marks were given out of ten with the overall winner bagging a cash prize on the night. So how did they fare?

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A classic bramble cocktail started the evening well and allowed guests to have a chat before the more pressing matter of cake testing. This is no laughing matter and all the bakers took their jobs extremely seriously.

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First out was this St Clements meringue pie. Not the best looking bake by far but the meringue was perfect and the zesty fruit worked well together. I felt the base was a little soggy (yes, a soggy bottom) and perhaps could have done with being blind baked for a little longer. Can you tell my cake expertise were starting to show?!

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Quick to follow was a chocolate trio; the rocky road part of which you can buy from Manchester Rockadelic. The rocky road was beautiful with soft and squishy homemade marshmallows, the salted caramel truffle a chocolate lover’s delight. The cake was a little lost with such rich flavours but, on it’s own, delightful.

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The lavender and honey cake with violet cream was the prettiest of the night with a lovely moist texture. I was worried this may be too perfumed with lavender and violet but, in fact, I couldn’t taste much of either. This made for a lighter cake which, was welcomed after the first bakes, but I felt the flavours should have been more evident.

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I managed to snaffle the last piece of baked lemon cheesecake having spent some time in the kitchen with Charlie preparing her bake. Apart from any obvious bias this was my favourite of the night. Usually I find a baked cheesecake a bit sickly and rich. This was light with a wonderfully crumbly base. The lemon flavours were just right without being too sickly and the texture of the filling light and creamy. A lovely bake and one I wish I had the recipe for.

Last but most definitely not least was our very own Charlie. She managed to persuade me to help in the kitchen and for a stressful 20 minutes I rolled ball shapes out of firm fudge frosting. It was not one of my finest hours I have to admit but I like to think I was useful.

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The kitchen is incredibly small so plates had to be strategically placed wherever possible, as you can see…

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The cake was a coffee liqueur sponge made with lashings of Toussaint liqueur. It is one I have enjoyed before but I, and many others I suspect, was completely caked out after a few mouthfuls.

Scorecards handed in we waited with bated breath to hear who had won the coveted bake off crown…

The first cake triumphed with the St Clements meringue pie baker taking home the cash prize but, more importantly, the bake off title. Tickets for the event cost £20 so keep your eyes peeled for future events. And if you are a baker, get your game face on and practice your signature bake…

I was invited to this event as a guest of the restaurant. This is an honest review of my experience.

Wine Tasting at Buffalo Cafe Wine Bar With Pizza and Wine

Following a thoroughly enjoyable time at the launch of the Buffalo Café Wine Bar new menu (post HERE if you missed it) I was desperate to go back and get my chops around one of their buffalo burgers. Fairly healthy with a much lower fat content to beef, Buffalo also sell them ‘in the buff’ with no bun. Lucky for me I didn’t have to wait long as the lovely people invited me over for their first wine tasting evening with their neighbour’s Pizza and Wine.

My date, a wine novice, was slightly sceptical when handed a detailed tasting record sheet. To be fair, it is the first time I had seen anything quite so detailed and I have done this a few times now. On closer inspection though I think this was a great tool for beginners. Instead of trying to guess colour hues such as garnet and brick, this handy sheet gave lots of options that just needed circling.

We were warmly welcomed by our host Guy who owns Pizza and Wine just a few doors up from Buffalo Café Wine Bar itself. At the menu launch I had been told of its great pizza and even better wine so to have a chat with the owner was lovely. Guy is French so brought his wines all the way from Bordeaux with enough knowledge to satisfy the most ardent wine enthusiast.

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We started with a delicate 2013 rose from Chateau Haut-Pougnan. The pale colour showed its youthfulness that would normally yield a light flavour. This was slightly different with a strong strawberry aroma and a lovely sweetness on the palate. I loved this and, at £8.99 a bottle, it will be going to the top of my ‘summer beer garden’ wine of choice list.

Not content on serving good wine alone we were also treated to canapés to pair with the wines. Prosciutto on bruschetta brought out the sweetness in the wine whilst the courgette cream on bruschetta (my personal favourite) brought out lovely citrus notes.

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The white was next with a 2013 sauvignon blanc from the same brand. Also light in colour this wine had a strong citrus nose whilst the flavours were more pineapple and creamy notes. Another lovely wine and also £8.99 a bottle; an absolute steal.

Two more canapés followed with a salmon and caviar blini, which brought out the citrus flavours, and an asparagus with hollandaise blini which matched the creamy notes well.

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Moving onto two reds and my date was nervous. I’m not a fan of red wine but have learnt to appreciate the more fruity, less aged variety. My date was still firmly in the ‘I don’t like red wine’ camp but Guy didn’t flinch.

First he wheeled out a 2010 blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes. This was a dark coloured red with chocolate and blackcurrant on the nose. There are some tannins making it dry on the palate but the blackcurrant flavours help to bring a fruity flavour to the finish.

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Paired with this wine was a goats cheese blini topped with a merlot chocolate reduction. Chef Steve had let me in on this secret prior to the event and I was sceptical. Surely the flavours would clash dreadfully let alone when paired with wine? Not surprisingly he was spot on and this was delightful. The creamy goats cheese cut through the fruit in the wine whilst the reduction rounded off the flavour to bring a totally different flavour to the wine. My date wrote “clean and crisp with the canapé” on his tasting sheet and tells me this is a definite positive.

Last but definitely not least was the 2010 merlot. The fruit in this wine was evident before my nose had even gotten close to the rim of the glass. Berries, blackcurrants and a sweetness on the nose gave way to a beautifully smooth wine that was less dry than the last.

The evening was a great success and, I’m told, one of many with spirit tastings in the planning. If I had to criticise anything it would be the lack of ‘guidance’ on the tasting. We were left to our own devices for most of the evening which, was fine for me having been shown the ways of wine tasting before. My date was a bit lost and asked on several occasions what he was supposed to be smelling and tasting. I put him straight on the ‘no wrong answers’ rule but it would have been the perfect ending just to have the thoughts of others in the room on what they had tasted and smelled.

Guy is clearly passionate about his wines and all the wines we tasted can be found at Pizza and Wine for sale. The perfect excuse for another trip to Heaton Mersey.

I didn’t get that buffalo burger but my date did and advises it is just as tasty as it looks. So much so that I didn’t get a look in. He even asked for another glass of the merlot concluding that he does, in fact, like red wine. Seems we have another convert on our hands.

I was invited to this event as a guest of the restaurant but the food was paid for.

 

Beauty Review: Fairypants Nail Polish

You may remember my reviews a while back of the fabulous vegan friendly lip balms and eyeshadows I have received from Fairypants. So far they haven’t put a foot wrong so you can imagine my excitement when a nail polish popped through my letterbox! But did it live up to the big reputation I have given the range?

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As with all of the Fairypants cosmetics range, this is completely vegan friendly and not tested on animals in any way. That’s one of the reasons they sent it to me, no comments of my animal like tendencies please…!

I was sent the shade ‘rose’ which is a pearlised pale pink. All shades have the pretty black speckles in that look like poppy seeds. This concept was new to me until I spied the Models Own speckled egg range, these are virtually the same yet with prettier shades I feel.

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The brush is a good size with a small applicator which, I love. I much prefer a small applicator as I find it much easier to control for less mess. I was concerned that the coverage may be difficult with the black specks. I’ve had many a frustrated evening applying glitter nail polish due to the lack of even coverage. Some of my polishes can take over 5 coats to get the effect I want! This isn’t the case here, the polish glides onto the nail so easily and 2 coats is all you need for the perfect effect.

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Isn’t it pretty? This picture was taken 4 days after applying the polish and you can see just how long wearing it is. There were no chips until day 6 when I managed to slip my hand shutting the car door so not entirely sure this is any fault of the nail polish where the chip was concerned.

My biggest bugbear with textured polishes is removal. I’ve got the most beautiful OPI nail polish with thick and fine pieces of glitter that I no longer wear because I hate trying to remove it. I’m not joking, I need to use the acetone and foil technique to get it off and that  isn’t great for your nails.

I needn’t have worried. Yes it takes a little bit of soaking but only with regular nail varnish remover on a cotton wool pad. I pressed gently onto the nail for around 30 seconds and it slid right off. I was really shocked at this I have to say, what a find!

The range has not yet been released but will be priced at £3.99 with 5 shades named rose (reviewed here), lilac, bluebell, buttercup and mint. Keep an eye on their website http://www.fairypants.co.uk and their Twitter page for updates on when you can bag yours. At £3.99 I’ll be going for the full set and a different shade on each nail for the Easter weekend.

This item was provided for review purposes.

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