Posts Tagged ‘event’

Magical, Mystical, Marvellous Food

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

I have great news, boys and girls. Last week my dedication to writing restaurant and bar reviews on Yelp was rewarded. I, Jessica Davies, have officially become a member of the Yelp Elite Team, making me one of Manchester’s most Important People. Ok, that last bit is an exaggeration but I now have a little “Elite ’14” badge on my Yelp profile and I get to feel special. Coinciding with this promotion in Yelp status, I was lucky enough to be invited to my second Yelp Elite Event. Last month’s japanese saké and food extravaganza continues to sit fondly in my memory, occasionally bringing back taste-bud-memory hits of wasabi and soy, and so I was a wee bit excited when I received my invitation to March’s Magical Mystery Tour. Where we would go and what we would eat was kept a big secret from us all. Nobody knew. Let the tour begin.

Meet at Apotheca at 6.30pm

This was our only clue as to what the night would entail. Apotheca is one of the Northern Quarter’s hip and cool cocktail bars and somewhere I had been wanting to try. I once danced the night away there on a make-shift dance floor that my friend and I created but I had never sampled their cocktails. The Yelp Elite Team had the downstairs bar area to ourselves where we were greeted by our always-cheery host, Jonny, and a mojito. After standing around and meeting and greeting fellow Elite members, we were then treated to a variety of pizzas from Dough, the adjoining pizzeria. I had eaten at Dough once previously and while I enjoyed the slightly adventurous toppings, the bases were a little disappointing. Why can’t anywhere in Manchester make a decent pizza base? Once again I found the toppings delicious (the lamb with spices and sultanas was particularly tasty) but the bases were thin, cracking and far too perfectly shaped. They collapsed in our hands and had soggy bottoms.

While we were eating, we were invited to get behind the bar and have a cocktail making session with the mixologists. We could choose our drink of choice from their great range of drinks and then make them ourselves with the guidance of experts. I chose to make a cocktail called Just Beet It which contained vodka, beetroot juice, balsamic vinegar liqueur and basil. After adding all of the ingredients and giving it a good old shake, I was then allowed to drink my concoction. Amazingly good! I think my inner mixologist is bursting to come out.

Just Beet It

Just Beet It

I had to drink it fairly quickly though as our next destination awaited and it was time to move on.

Venue #2 – Pie & Ale

I had managed to get my friend and office-buddy, Hannah, to be invited to the Elite event so we were both a little concerned when we found ourselves walking back to the office. Pie & Ale is located next door to the office space we rent and we often get to enjoy the enticing smells of baking pies. Thankfully this time we were actually going to get to eat the pies – sixteen of them, to be precise. We were guided upstairs to a lofted seating area where we met the manager of Pie & Ale who explained what our next food and drink experience was going to involve. The chefs had prepared sixteen different pies for us to stick our forks into and sample and we would have three different beers to wash them down with. I tried to sample as many of the pies as I could – rabbit, wild bore, chickpea and, one of the highlights, crocodile. They were all very tasty although I think they could refine their pastry – it is very doughy and a bit excessive. And this is coming from someone who loves pastry and believes more is more.

Crocodile pie

Crocodile pie

The beers we tried were the Golden Arrow, Yippee Pie Ale and the 10 Storey Malt Bomb – basically golden, pale and dark. All very delicious with the dark ale coming out as my favourite. But who doesn’t like liquid caramel?

Our tour didn’t stop here – oh no. Why only go to two venues when you could go to three? Time to move on.

Venue #3 – Bakerie

We didn’t have far to walk to get to our next location. Bakerie is located next door to Pie & Ale and owned by the same company. Despite these connections, Bakerie is a bit more ooh-la-la and focuses on its wine. And cheese. You can imagine the delighted faces of us already happy Yelpers when we discovered we had free access to the “Wine Jukebox” – a glass fronted box containing approximately 12 wine bottles. Inserted into each wine bottle was a plastic tube. Above each bottle was a button. Push the button and wine is sucked up the tube and into your glass, giving you a taster-sized serving to enjoy. Glorious. Paris and all that I learnt about wine flooded back to me as I made a strategic decision about which wines I would try. My choices ended up being two of three most expensive wines in the jukebox – an Argentinian Malbec and the French Bourgogne. They were both amazing and the sort of wine I will drink when I am a world famous author. They were made even better by the cheese platters placed in front of us. Blue, smoked, goat, soft and squeaky (halloumi) – the cheese and wine combo made Jess a very happy girl.

This was the end of our mystery food tour and we all sat around rubbing our bellies, unable to believe just how much we had consumed and how wonderful the experience had been. The Yelp Elite are a great bunch of food-loving people and it was a really fun night out. It is nice to meet people who appreciate good food as much as I do and a huge treat to be able to be invited to such a gluttonous event. Bring on April!

One Year and Counting

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Greetings from sunny Perth! What a difference a 20 hour plane flight makes. I went from sunny yet frosty Paris to even sunnier and oppressively hot Perth and it was certainly a shock to the system. I hadn’t felt the burning sun sensation for over 360 days and as I stepped out of the Perth International Airport and headed into the concrete car park, I reeled back and almost ran into the air conditioning again. The jeans, long sleeves and boots that I had worn for voyage to the Paris airport and the excessively cold plane didn’t quite suit the 38 degrees I found myself in.

Today is a landmark occasion in my life as it is exactly one year since Tom and I arrived in Paris. I’m sure you’ve realised by now that I love anniversaries, count downs and dates of significance and so I am a little bit sad and disappointed that I am in Perth for this event. Really, I would prefer to be in the minus temperatures that Paris is currently experiencing, heading to the stairs of Sacre Coeur to have a ceremonious Nutella crêpe. It is the only way to celebrate this sort of day. I am more just disappointed that I can’t really say that I have lived in Paris for an entire year, because I haven’t. I missed out by three days. Three hundred and sixty two days does not a year make. Anyway, I’ll get over it.

Tom and I had planned on celebrating early on the evening before I left for Perth, however I had managed to give myself quite the impressive upset stomach that I couldn’t actually eat food. This is potentially one of the worst experiences of my life. Usually if I am sick, I’ll still eat something. Dried crackers, rice, bread. This time – nothing. I’m back to normal now but for awhile there I thought my life was over. No more food?? This can’t be true.

I have been to the beach three times since my return to Perth and it has been utterly wonderful. I now realise why people fall over in amazement when they discover Perth beaches – they are truly special. On Monday morning at 7am, I dumped my towel on the sand at North Cottesloe beach and ran into the water like a crazy lady. I feel like I have washed a year’s worth of grime from my skin and my insides are all cleansed and sea-salted. In the past year I swam in Greece and Portugal but nothing compares to the Australian coast.

Returning to Perth hasn’t been so bad. I know I whinged about having to come back, and I will continue to do so as it is becoming a excessive financial drain for something that really could have been done in France, however I am definitely finding the positives of being in Australia. I get to wear skirts and sleeveless tops; I have rediscovered my old clothes and shoes; my mum cooked me chicken and asparagus for dinner; and plums and nectarines are in season! Life is good.

Ohhhh the Champs Elysées

Monday, July 25th, 2011

J’adore Paris et le Tour. What a great afternoon! At 1.30pm, Tom and I met my ex-school friend, Pippin, and his girlfriend near the Champs Elysées and headed down to find a spot to watch the riders come in on the last leg of the Tour de France. I was expecting madness but all I found was “slightly busier than normal”. As a result, we managed to plant ourselves at the end of the VIP tents, right near the finishing line, but standing in mud piles with the rest of the average folk. No tiered seating for us.

Tour de France

Not a bad view apart from the annoying police folk who decided to stand in the way

We had to wait for a while. The riders didn’t hit the Champs Elysées until after 4pm so in the mean time we watched a parade of trucks and vans covered in sponsors’ logos and with tight-tshirted girls dancing and waving to the crowd. Now that’s entertainment. I must say the truck advertising laundry detergent with two six-packed men who were only wearing their red underwear was probably my favourite.

Baguette mobile

A baguette a day makes you ride like Cadel

The crowd was full of non-french people who had clearly come from far and wide to be there. It was a nice group of people and I only saw two drunken idiots, both of whom were escorted away by some of the many police officers standing around. When the riders finally arrived the crowd cheered and applauded and it was a vibrant and happy atmosphere. There was a very strong Australian support group who were surprisingly well behaved and oh-so-proud of Cadel.

Tour de France

Spot Cadel on the left of this photo, next to the policeman's cap

I have wanted to be on the Champs Elysées for the end of the Tour for many years now and it was such a great experience to have been part of. We chose a great place to stand as at the end of the race the award stage was pulled out and positioned within our view and we could watch Cadel being announced as the winner.

Tour de France podium

Cadel is the winner!

Sadly I didn’t get to see Jens Voigt but I felt good knowing he was within a few hundred metres of me. He’s so cool.

For photos and videos of my time at the Tour de France, and to hear Tina Arena sing the National Anthem (yes… that was depressing), head to my Flickr site.

They Built This City on Rock and Roll and Jazz and Hip Hop and Techno…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

I love Paris. Sometimes it just really comes through and makes you realise how great a city it is. Yesterday was Fête de la Musique which is the one night of the year where the city fills with music on every corner of every street. At about 8pm, Tom and I headed towards the centre of the city and met up with Rom and Coup (who is sporting a new Swedish hair style and looking very snazzy) and we made our way aimlessly, following the sounds of instruments.

I have never seen anything like it before – bands were competing for sound space and sometimes if you stood in the right place you could have an indie band playing in one ear and a dj ‘mixing it up’ in the other. Thousands of people were out and about enjoying the free concerts and everyone was in great spirits. What particularly interested/amused/excited me was seeing such a wide variety of music being enjoyed by such a wide variety of people. At one stage we were standing outside a middle eastern restaurant listening to an elderly guy singing and playing a keyboard and creating amazing music (I think it was middle eastern of some description – not sure.) There was a huge group of people listening and dancing to the music and the crowd would have had a representative from every gender, age group, nationality possible. Further down the road and into a little side street we followed the sounds of electronic doosh-doosh music to find a white-masked dj playing from the window of a small clothing store with about 20 darkly-clad goths dancing wildly outside. That was just weird.

The potentially strangest moment of the night was our final music viewing. Things had started closing and we hadn’t seen any music for two street blocks but could hear something in the distance and walked towards it. As we turned the corner we saw a small stage set up next to a church where two guys were playing digeridoos to a crowd consisting of happy, drunk, young white folk; a hippy girl on roller skates; an asian guy on a fold up bicycle; children (it was midnight by this point); a punk; and all sorts of other ‘types’. The music wasn’t great but the crowd sure was enjoying it. I was enjoying watching the crowd and trying to work out how on earth this group of people could potentially have gathered in the same place at the same time and actually have something in common. It was brilliant.

Fete de la musique

He definitely wasn't Australian – A blurry photo but you get the idea

So a great night was had and not once did I see a drunken brawl or anyone doing anything even slightly stupid. If this had been in Perth, the riot police would have been in full patrol and everyone would have been strip searched and sent home to bed by 8pm. We bought pints of beer in plastic cups and walked through the streets past police officers who didn’t even look at us. It is technically illegal to drink in the streets but unless you’re drunk the police will overlook it. And it works.

Merci pour un bonne nuit, Paris.