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Chasing Pineapples

an English girl tasting her way around the world

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Bath’s Best Hot Drinks… Each To Their Own Goldilocks Moment!

When it comes to hot drinks, particularly coffee, everyone knows just what they like. On countless occasions I have sat in shame while my parents describe their particularities to waitresses across the world.

To my mum’s dismay, few people know what a proper macchiato is, so she reels off the now familiar order of “single espresso in an espresso cup with froth on the top and a sprinkle of chocolate” and dad’s “double espresso in a large cup with hot milk on the side“. Complain I may, but they know what they like and I found myself doing the exact same thing this weekend at my favourite hot chocolate place that I have so far come across in the whole world.. Chandos in Bath (12 George Street).

After spending four of the happiest years of my life studying in beautiful Bath, the love affair was rekindled for a weekend and Chandos hot chocolate did not let me down. This time my “hot chocolate with extra chocolate flakes” was accompanied by a deliciously crispy chorizo sausage roll in a newly renovated space. Simply divine!

The Ultimate Hot Chocolate Accompanied by Chorizo Sausage Rolls at Chandos
The Ultimate Hot Chocolate Accompanied by Chorizo Sausage Rolls at Chandos

If I order a hot chocolate and someone serves me a mug of watery liquid that is neither frothy nor authentically chocolatey, I am disappointed to say the least! To add to this I now drink coffee thus I can comprehend that this little fix really should be perfect and a truly committed establishment should strive to fulfil their clientele’s individual requests. Safe to say that when we visited the highly acclaimed Colonna & Small‘s (6 Chapel Row), a coffee house new to Bath since my departure, the barista not only fulfilled our requests but recommended one of the three beans according to our individual tastes. The tasting notes even catered to the subtle variations served with and without milk.

Coffee Perfection in a Tiny Cup at Colonna & Small's
Coffee Perfection in a Tiny Cup at Colonna & Small’s
Each One of us Having Our Own Goldilocks Moment in Colonna & Small's
Each One of us Having Our Own Goldilocks Moment in Colonna & Small’s

I can’t possibly speak of Bath’s coffee shops without mentioning Society Cafe (Kingsmead Square) which quickly became a favourite towards the end of my studies – they always remember your preferred drink and serve it with a smile.

The final hot drink episode of note during my stay in the golden city of Bath was sitting at the window watching the Bath fireworks in the cosy shelter of my dear friend’s home while the rain pounded down outside. Feeling very pleased with ourselves that we had the best view in Bath, we smugly sipped on our Bailey’s and hot chocolate. This is one of my favourite combinations of two of my preferred drinks that I first came across in another of my favourite cafés in the world, Café Atelier in the Loire Valley. But this opens up another whole array of favourite hot drink haunts in France, so I will leave it here in my own Goldilocks moment at the window of a beautiful Bath house looking out onto my favourite city of gold… how’s that for a corny ending!

A Cosy Shelter for Fireworks Night
A Cosy Shelter for Fireworks Night

 

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Dinner Chez Gray… That Friday Feeling!

When visiting Jill and John Gray in that beautiful city of Bath, one thing is always guaranteed.. a delicious feast! Last visit did not disappoint..

Grub's Up chez Gray!
Grub’s Up chez Gray!

We were welcomed into the kitchen by a tantalising mixture of aromas. The main event was a boeuf bourguignon and to Jill’s horror not only had I recently tasted the real thing on my stop in Burgundy on the Food and Wine Tour, but my mum and brother both confessed to have been served it at separate dinner parties on New Year’s Eve. Poor Jill thus felt she had a lot to live up to. However, she surpassed all possible expectations by not only having slow cooked the dish all day long to create the most tantalising texture but also by adding an extra twist to spice things up a bit. This consisted of giant homemade croutons layered with Dijon mustard and topped with a generous helping of cheese. These were added to the brewing cauldron of taste just before serving to soak up the flavours and slightly crisp. The result was perfection and I can honestly say it beat the authentic version I tried in Burgundy in a tourist-sparse village.. and that is saying something! If Jill will disclose the recipe, I will most definitely enclose it next time!

Just Out of the Oven after 6 Hours..
Just Out of the Oven after 6 Hours..

To follow was Banoffee Pie. Again, Jill’s audience proved rather difficult as the majority of diners did not like banana, but loved Banoffee Pie. Safe to say there was many a piece of banana left on the otherwise scraped clean plates. It was absolutely divine with the smoothest caramel and a crunchy yet buttery base. YUM!

As if that wasn’t enough, John got out a cracking cheeseboard stuffed full of local and international cheeses of all kinds! And THEN he treated us to a few slithers of his delicious Jamón Iberico leg that he was given as a birthday gift from Jill a few months earlier. What a fantastic present idea, though it will set you back a bob or two it lasts for months.. Hint hint friends my birthday is coming up!!

John Crafting the Iberico Ham!
John Crafting the Iberico Ham!

This feast fit for a King definitely put us in that weekend indulgent mood, before we remembered that it was only Thursday night! To confuse us even more, our Friday morning we were served up a full fry up fit only for a Sunday morning. Lucky Crossley family!

Friday Morning Fry Up!
Friday Morning Fry Up!

Thanks Grays, what a treat!!

 

A Graduate’s Tribute to Golden Bath

So, my time in Bath has come to an end and another chapter in my life is over. There is many a thing that I will miss about this golden city: not only my friends from all over the world, but more so (as I know I will congregate elsewhere with those I have met) the exquisite Georgian buildings that host some of the friendliest and cosy cafés, eateries and bars England has to offer.

The Golden City in all it’s Glory (http://www.london2see.co.uk)

I will most certainly be back, and here are a few highlights that I will somehow manage to pack in to each weekend visit:

Chandos Deli: How I have not already featured this momentous part of my time in Bath is beyond me. Conveniently situated on my morning walk to lectures, stopping off here has become a ritual and no longer having it in my daily life is rather sad. The wide range of foods including award-winning sandwiches, coffee, fresh bread, patisserie and fine wines to name a few are frequently available for tasters; and the knowledgeable staff are extremely friendly and accommodating, always with smiles on their faces and the majority of them knowing my regular order of ‘hot chocolate with extra chocolate flakes on top.’ Frothy and creamy, yet as chocolaty as can be (non of this watery milky substance that pretends to be hot chocolate), this is without a doubt the best hot chocolate I have tasted, which is saying rather a lot as I drink it everywhere I go! The Chandos brownie and lemon polenta cake are also musts as accompaniments!

mojitos in jam jars: vintage!

Opium Bar: This was a favourite Thursday night haunt for final year students sipping cocktails attempting to be sophisticated before stumbling over the alleyway to the less sophisticated, but host to many happy memories: Kitsch! The vintage decor creates a perfect ambiance for catching up with friends and enjoying exotic-flavoured mojitos, previously featured: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/mojitos-in-jam-jars-vintage/

Same, Same But Different: A tiny relaxed café, always bustling and full of Latino character. Having frequently taken coffee and yummy breakfasts here, my friend Pia and I decided to see if they could keep their standards up through to the evening. And, to put it simply, yes they did. First we shared a few tapas, including the thinnest but tastiest fried calamari imaginable. Following this was slow cooked pork on a parmesan and sweet potato risotto: simply divine! We couldn’t resist finishing off with warm chocolate brownie and ice cream. Left very much to enjoy the intimate home-from-home ambiance, we took our time and felt extremely at ease. So there you have it: perfect for all occasions breakfast, coffee, lunch and dinner!

Cavendish Cooks: How lucky we were to have this eatery on our doorstep (literally: it was next door!) With their friendly neighbourly smiles and the daily scent of whatever was brewing up in the kitchen wafting through our front door, these cooks will be sorely missed. Definitely worth the little walk out of the town centre, you can also pick up delicious home-made takeaways. Here is my earlier review: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/161/

Hall and Woodhouse has punctuated our final year at university: from tea and cake in the potting shed, to delicious hearty and homemade fish finger sandwiches in the common room, to special occasion dinners in the restaurant, to a glass of wine on the Mediterranean-feel roof terrace with a view of Bath’s rooftops. This adventurous enterprise manages to use the vast space to its advantage, creating cosy individual areas and escaping the canteen-like atmosphere that big spaces often create. Perfect for every occasion!

Society Café:  This airy corner café has only recently opened, therefore I fear that the majority of my fellow graduates have not had the opportunity to visit, but anyone still in Bath should definitely get on the band wagon! Here’s my previous rave about the chic and friendly haunt: https://comomanger.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/haut-societe-for-the-everyday-onlooker/

There are many more places I have absolutely loved, but these are a few gems in a haystack of golden glory!

So, ta ta for now, Bath: it’s been a pleasure!

Ta ta for now Bath, we’re off on a food tour!

‘WILD thing, you make my tummy sing!’

One of my favourite things to do is ‘brunch’. Whether it be a chilled catch up with friends, a big family get together or just riding solo with a book: all tick the box!

I must admit that being a student, one has quite a lot of ‘free’ time. Therefore I have managed to pack many a Bath eatery in to my time here.

A place that I have only just discovered (great timing, just as I am about to leave!) is ‘Wild Café’. Recommended by a friend, I took my mum for brunch on her visit last weekend. The brightly coloured door and bike outside give it that arty Cornish vibe, which extends inside to the intimate and friendly dining space. The open kitchen fills the small yet airy room with the buzz of chefs at work and delicious aromas of their dishes.

Fully satisfied after a ‘Wild’ brunch

Not a hug fan of full English breakfast due to the customary layer of grease and soggy tendencies, I decided here was the place to bite the bullet and order it: it was brunch after all! And I was not disappointed; in fact I was extremely impressed: tasty mushrooms, smoky-yet-not-too-salty bacon and nothing soggy in sight! My mum had a contrasting dish: avocado on toast, with a gorgeous texture and lemony zest! There were also other more adventurous dishes on the menu, which we felt were too bold for brunch o’clock: think wild nettle and squash risotto, wood pigeon salad, and here’s their cheeky recipe for a real country bumpkin dish: rabbit pie! http://www.wildcafe.co.uk/index.php/wild_recipes/rabbit-pie/

The friendly staff, tongue-in-cheek attitude (they speak on their website of an army of smurfs in their basement!) and colourful decor make for a quirky, rustic and vibrant brunch haunt! (And all run on 100% renewable electricity!)

‘Charlie’s mom has got it going on…’

… when it comes to her brownie recipes!

When entering the quaint Yorkshire cottage of my friend Charlie, you are bound to be greeted firstly by his adorable Springer Spaniel presenting you with her choice of shoe, shortly followed by the unmistakable aroma of his mummy’s baking. Sue’s best-known treat amongst our friends (and I’m sure in the local area) are her chocolate brownies.

‘Naughty Noo’ being pampered as usual…

I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to these chocolaty desserts. However, ordering a brownie is not as simple as it may first seem. The variety of delicacies you can be faced with under this umbrella term of ‘the brownie’ is overwhelming… from the dense and fudgy brownies to crumbly cakey brownies; with ingredients varying from chocolate chunks, to fruit pieces, to many a type of nut.

My favourite have to be those which are crunchy on top but gooey and moist in the middle: so not too heavy and rich but slightly spongy. Sprinkled with a dash of icing sugar and voila: the best brownies in the world! This is the type that Charlie’s mum bakes. I am afraid that I cannot point you in the direction of these drops of heaven (secret family recipe and all…) but take my word for it, they are GOOD!

Otherwise the best brownies I have tasted are from easily one of my favourite places in Bath: Chandos Deli (full post to follow). They’re dense, they’re packed with cranberries and they are most importantly of all chocolaty… divinely chocolaty! What are your favourites?

A beautiful car, a beautiful cottage…

Haut Société for the everyday onlooker

When thinking of France, particularly Paris, one evokes glamorous and romantic images of the cafés littéraires (literary cafés) of haut société. Having studied the artists Toulouse Lautrec and Edgar Degas and their portrayals of these Parisian haunts, I have come to realise that this vie bohème (bohemian lifestyle) was much more than pompous nobility of the era sipping tea and discussing the latest trends. They were in fact also places where the everyday individual could go to console themselves about their impoverished lives. These places fascinate me: from the romantic images of the literary elite finding their inspiration in the art deco surroundings, to the not so glamorous idea of people frequenting them as an escape from solitude.

When visiting Paris I have visited these cafés many a time, my favourite activity being looking past the inevitable tourist glare and daydreaming about what it would have been like to sit in the same spot decades ago amongst the writers, the artists and the bohemians of Degas and Lautrec.

Unfortunately my current location means that I cannot pop along to these cafés with ease. However, in Bath I have found a modern day equivalent in ‘Society Café’ on Kingsmead Square. Here I have wound away the last couple of afternoons minding my own business (well, maybe also minding other people’s business as they planned weddings and discussed the music industry and up-and-coming artists…). The incredibly friendly staff are a refreshing change to modern day hostility: they not only remembered me from the day before but let me sit peacefully for a couple of hours without making me feel I was in the way or that they were trying to get me out once I had given them my custom. I felt back in the café culture of France where the ambiance is to be enjoyed and you are left at ease to enjoy your coffee (in this instance two varieties of hot chocolate: the first incredibly sweet white chocolate with subtle hints of vanilla and the second a milk chocolate a bit less sweet but just as tasty, both made with giant chocolate buttons!) Also not to miss are the giant chocolate bourbons and the delicate pastries from the local Bertinet Bakery.

A recent venture, I am sure this café will become a home from home for many locals, be they haut société or not.

My friend and elephantbranded bag at my favourite table to sit at in Society Café

http://www.society-cafe.com/

Summer spirit, syrup style!

This Sunday we took a trip to the Bath Love Food Festival and we were lucky enough to see a demonstration by the Vegetarian Cookery School belonging to the Award Winning restaurant ‘Demuths’.

‘Summer syrups’ was the theme, fitting for the forecast a few weeks ago, but unfortunately not for the current weather. However, the demonstration was very useful and inspiring for us young food enthusiasts. An assortment of syrups were prepared and served in a variety of ways. The elderflower syrup was mixed with water and ice for a refreshing and sweet cordial, the lavender was mixed with whipped cream to make a fragrant cream, and finally the mint and rosewater syrup was poured over fresh strawberries. The strawberries and cream together with the fragrant flavours of the syrups was perfectly sweet yet light.

The little tasters really brightened up the wet wintery day and have inspired us to make elderflower mojitos and fragranced strawberries and cream for our graduation. Thank you Demuth’s!

*RECIPE*

The beauty of these syrups is that the wild ingredients can be freshly gathered from local areas, therefore no expense apart from sugar.

–          200g sugar (the ladies at Demuths use their homemade vanilla sugar for an extra spice)

–        100 ml water

–          4 tbsp dried lavender/1 tbsp rosewater and small bunch of fresh mint/or create your own.

Place the sugar, water and chosen fragrance in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the syrup thickens. Allow to cool et voila, there is your syrup to add to cream, to make cocktails, to flavour cakes, to drizzle onto desserts… the possibilities are endless!

For details about courses and classes at the Vegetarian Cookery School check out www.vegetariancookeryschool.com

A Home-cooked Goodbye

Rebecca and Nancy cooking up a storm

On arriving back in Bath to our new house, I popped in next door to the opening of a family run kitchen/restaurant/take away.

A quirky yet traditional concept, this venture consists of one room with a few wooden tables and a big open kitchen where the extremely friendly staff cook in front of your eyes. The idea is that every morning the cooks (two friends Rebecca and Nancy) decide from their diverse menu and depending on the availability of ingredients or on their mood, they cook up one dish available for lunches in the cosy dining area. They are also a ‘posh takeaway’, cooking delicious homemade meals which you take away and heat up in the comfort of your own home.

‘hello in there’

So, after almost a whole year of trying to organise a date, a few days ago we finally took a house trip next door to celebrate finishing our degrees and the end of a very happy era. Being a house of eight girls, plus our honorary housemate who had just received a first for her architecture degree, we took up the majority of the wooden tables, making for an exclusive dining experience.

After a very warm welcome, we were served up with an absolute feast. Spring roast chicken was the main: chicken pieces perfectly crisped with onions, bacon and crushed Jersey Royals with sweet peas, topped with a gravy-like buttery sauce of white wine, onions, and a dash of chilli, salt and pepper. Topped off with a side salad of sun blush tomatoes, mozzarella, and toasted pine nuts; portions were plentiful! This was followed by a divine homemade chocolate orange ice cream with a moussey consistency.

I can honestly say that this is one of the best all round eating experiences I have had thanks to the exquisite food and relaxed and welcoming environment (and extremely reasonably prices!). Home cooking at its best! In fact it was so perfect that I have just been in to book it again, requesting exactly the same meal, for my graduation. With so many wonderful places to eat in Bath, this should definitely not be overlooked and is well worth the trip up the hill to St James’s Square.

A celebratory gathering

Check out their website to see what they are cooking daily http://www.cavendishcooks.co.uk/

A Local Market Dinner

This weekend, to eat away exam stress and to celebrate the sun’s very welcome guest appearance, my friends and I decided to venture into the Saturday morning Farmer’s market in Bath. In addition to the airy and majestic setting of an old railway station, the extent of local produce on offer provided a colourful and traditional market scene. So off I wandered in search for dinner…

The chosen meat was sausages. However with such an extensive variety, I had to taste each one twice just to make my mind up. What makes the market experience special is that it brings complete strangers together for a few brief minutes, before moving on with our separate lives, unlikely to meet again. For example, I freely discussed flavours and shared my tasting experience with an old lady, both agreeing on the difficulty of choice…boeuf bourguignon, garlic and mushroom, chicken curry, the Toulouse and the Russian. I opted for the latter two- the Toulouse being made from belly pork with white wine, white pepper and garlic, whereas the Russian consisted of pork shoulder with dill, caraway and garlic, forming an Eastern European flavour, hence the name!

After considerable time spent on the main event, onwards I wandered to find some open cup mushrooms for accompaniment (fried on a low heat in butter and salt providing a melting flavourful compliment to the sausages.)

For the final touch of pudding we stopped by the fudge stall where we I picked up a trial product of ‘Fudge Dust’. As the name suggests, this consists of a pot of finely ground fudge pieces, which, when heated in a pan with a knob of butter and milk, transforms into a sweet yet surprisingly light sauce.

With my usual haunt of Sainsbury’s just to the side, going back to the local producer made a nice and quaint change to food shopping, especially knowing how fresh and local the produce was. Followed by a cup of coffee in the square outside the Parisian Jazz Café, accompanied by the sunshine, a delightful accordion player and the hustle and bustle of the neighbouring flower stall and cafés, this provided a very Parisian experience indeed.

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