Posts Tagged ‘food’

Super Mega Fun Birthday Crazy Times!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

I am now officially closer to being old. Luckily my inner 12-year old lives on and she was particularly disappointed this morning that my birthday has been and gone. Why does time speed up on birthdays? The injustice.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday and my lovely boss, Myself, gave me the day off work to pursue the pleasures of being the Birthday Girl. I am particularly good at being a Birthday Girl and greatly annoy everyone around me by constantly reminding them of my elitism. Luckily it is only for 24 hours (if you don’t include the count down period and the week-long extended celebrations I like to undertake.).

Sir Pubert Gladstone was my elected chaperone and slave for the day and what a day it was! I slept in! Amazing. Breakfast and present opening involved delicious homemade muesli from Dad, stewed damsons from my friend Hannah, and opening a little white box containing one of the best looking black resin and pyrite rings that I have ever seen in my life. Pubert had clearly picked up on my previous blog-inserted hints and had sourced a ring from one of my favourite local jewellery designers, Jade Mellor. It is a truly beautiful object and it is sitting proudly on my hand as I type this. Fabulous work, Jade, and thank you, Pubert.

Designed and made by Jade Mellor

Designed and made by Jade Mellor

After completing a few errands, Sir Pubert took me for a weirdly timed meal (at 11.30 it was neither morning tea nor lunch) at Teacup where I had my first piece of cake for the day. Slightly dry but still quite tasty, this pear and almond cake sat nicely in my birthday belly.

Pear and almond cake from Teacup

Pear and almond cake from Teacup

Then there was Skype and present opening time with the family back home. I am becoming very experienced at not having my family at my birthdays, however no matter how frequently it happens or how old I get, it is still hard to not get a hug from my Mum, Dad and bro on the Most Important Day of the Year.

My family in electronic form.

My family in electronic form.

So to cheer me up, Sir Pubert and I decided to expand our minds by visiting the Museum of Science and Industry for the Hadron Collider exhibition. I had won two tickets to see the exhibit so was looking forward to learning about particles and Higgs Bosons and what exactly happens in that giant doughnut. To be honest, it was a little disappointing. We entered not really understanding much about what goes on in the collider and we left with just as much confusion. At no point do they really explain what the Higgs Boson is, despite it being a fairly significant finding within the whole collider-building-thing. I learnt a lot about how the collider works but I did spend most of the visit with an “I don’t understand…” frown on my face. Any additional wrinkles on my forehead are due to this confusion and not old age. So if anyone would like to explain Higgs Boson particles to me, please do.

Whoa, technology.

Whoa, technology.

With our tired brains we headed to the twenty-third floor of Manchester’s tallest (and essentially only) skyscraper to the Hilton hotel’s Cloud 23 bar. This swanky, overpriced and poorly decorated bar offers some great views over Manchester and the surrounding countryside and I had been wanting to come since moving to Manchester. The scattered cloud yet relatively clear sky produced some excellent views and Sir Pubert and I slowly drank our expensive (yet tasty) cocktails while staring out the window. It was Monday night and the bar was practically empty, so my Cloud 23 experience was better than what I had been told by some friends who had been before. Definitely a great place to watch the sun set on my birthday.

Goodbye, sun.

Goodbye, sun.

But the day didn’t finish there; MORE FOOD was needed so Pubert and I went to one of the reasons I moved to Manchester – Australasia. I love this restaurant. The decor is stylish but not trashy, the staff are friendly and know what they’re doing, and the food is just damn good. We shared salmon and black rice sushi, yellowfin tuna, goats cheese with beetroot, and seared teriyaki beef. Oh and the boy wanted chips.

Seriously tasty yellow fin tuna with sushi rice and just enough chilli

Seriously tasty yellow fin tuna with sushi rice and just enough chilli

Salmon wrapped in black rice

Salmon wrapped in black rice

Beef.

Beef.

Cheese of goat.

Cheese of goat.

But even the chips were the best deep-fried pieces of potato that I had ever had. It was well crafted, beautiful and delicious food and it made me very happy. What made me ecstatic was the chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and raspberry sorbet that I had for dessert. It was sadly a little undercooked and therefore a bit eggy, but it was rich, gooey and choc-tastic. The raspberry sorbet added the perfect amount of tang, while the tiny pile of vanilla salt added absolutely nothing.

Hello chocolate soufflé

Hello chocolate soufflé

It was a seriously good day and I really was sad when it all came to an end. Now I have to wait another 364 days until I can do it all again. I wonder where in the world I will be next year and who will be coming to my 30th birthday party…

Surprise Birthday Wrap

Friday, August 29th, 2014

My birthday Two-Or-So-Weeks have begun in the form of delicious food. My friend and fellow Classroomer, Alam, surprised me with a halloumi and falafel wrap and a piece of carrot cake from the Veggie Kitchen at the Manchester Markets. Alam is always teasing me with his delicious cheesy wraps and so, to celebrate my birth, he went and bought me one. It may not be his Audi R8, but in my world a cheesy, chickpea filled wrap with a slab of cake is WAY better. Thanks, Alam!

Mmmm… birthday wrap...

Mmmm… birthday wrap…

Mmm… birthday carrot cake...

Mmm… birthday carrot cake…

 

Kurt, Steven and Yelp are Close to my Heart

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Last night brought another delicious Yelp Elite Event into my life – this time we were welcomed by Bar 21 in the Northern Quarter to sample their wares and check out their disco-tastic dance floors. In recognition of Bar21‘s ‘Movie ‘n’ Music’ theme, the evening was to be focussed on all things famous. It was suggested that we dress up as something film-related. Considering my very poor effort at the previous Elite event where we were asked to dress in ‘Summer attire’ and I wore sunglasses, I decided to actually think about my outfit for this event. With the use of my office’s printing facilities, a pair of scissors and a box of safety pins, I transformed an average red dress into HOMAGE TO B-GRADE MALE ACTION MOVIE STARS THAT I LOVE.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

Steven, Kurt, Chuck, Jean-Claude, Arnie and co were well received by my fellow Yelpers and there were some mighty fine film and music related tees worn on the night as well.

I had never been to Bar21 before and, to be honest, I had purposefully avoided it. From the outside it had always appeared a bit concrete and uncomfortable, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ventured inside and discovered a bright and cheery bar full of memorabilia. Anywhere with a giant photograph from Back From the Future on the wall is a winner in my world.

We were allowed to choose a drink from their extensive Happy Hour list and Hannah and I were particularly happy to see that Doom Bar ale was an option. An excellent start to the evening.

The super friendly staff made us feel very welcome and took us on a tour of their downstairs dance floor. I think I will need to return for some serious hot-stepping one evening. It has been a long time since my last dance session… too long.

Next was a cocktail master class where we were shown how to make two drinks and then allowed to sample the tasty concoctions. Unfortunately (although probably luckily for our brain cells) there were 30 Yelpers and 15 glasses of each drink so there were a few sharpened elbows pushing their way through to get their drink of choice. Humans + free alcohol = messy. Hannah and I decided sharing is caring and went halfsies. The cocktails were good although neither would be something I’d normally choose. One had a cream layer and the other tasted like liquid Haribo. SWEEEEEEEET.

Mixology madness

Mixology madness

After the cocktails we were all in need of some food and we were overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of dishes put out for us to gorge on. It was a meatlovers’ delight with chorizo, salami, ribs, burgers and more kinds of chicken wings than I’ve seen in a long time. And it was tasty! I wouldn’t normally have chosen to come to Bar21 for food but I was really impressed with what I ate. The beef burgers were served with proscuitto and blue cheese – so good. Sadly, they were also drenched in some sort of brown sauce that was far too strong and completely overpowered all of the flavours. After I had attempted to remove most of the sauce the burger was definitely a winner on my plate.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah's phone.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah’s phone.

Dessert came out as we were still stuffing our faces – lime curd or chocolate mousse tartlets were our choices. Surprisingly I went for the lime as the chocolate didn’t look dark enough for my liking. And the lime was good – nice and sharp and served in a deliciously buttery pastry. Yum.

If we hadn’t consumed enough, out came a birthday cake to celebrate Yelp Manchester’s 10th birthday. Marzipan covered red velvet cake anyone? Yes please. As we forced the cake into our mouths (ok, there was no force involved. It was delicious.) Bar21‘s Thursday night quiz began and in our teams of 4, 5 or 6, we competed to the death to win great prizes and ultimate glory. My team failed miserably and finished in third-last place. We were largely let down by the Australian on our team who didn’t know how many stars were on her own country’s flag. Yep. For shame.

As the evening came to a close and I headed home to bed like the Grandma I have become, I felt that great sense of pure satisfaction after you have had a great night out. Good food, good drinks, good friends, good times. Looking forward to Yelping it up once again in September.

P.S. My stupid phone died during the cocktail master class so I have a serious lack of photographs of food. Very disappointing.

Deutsche Torte in Edinburgh

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

My trip to Edinburgh reminded me of how much I miss good food. While Manchester’s food options are slowly improving, it was so nice to be back in a city with small, independent cafés and bars and little pockets of suburban shops and restaurants. Edinburgh city centre is easily walkable with residential areas close by. I was staying in an apartment that was a ten minute walk from The Mile and the main action of the Edinburgh festival. It was also a five minute walk from streets lined with cute cafés and one-off shops and on my final morning, Les and I went for morning coffee at one of the local hang outs.

German heaven.

German heaven.

Falko is a German bakery and café that sells a jaw-droppingly joyful array of German bread, cakes and meals. It was rye central. As we walked in we received a very German welcome – our lack of decision making skills as we stared drooling over the cakes meant we were holding up the woman in charge. She was to the point, frowned a lot and wanted to run her business. We were disrupting that. It was wonderful – I felt like I was back in Germany being an annoying non-german-speaking tourist.

When we had finally chosen our cakes and ordered hot chocolates each, we sat outside (another faux pas as no one else was sitting out there and that meant additional work for Frau) and awaited our delights. When she delivered our cakes and drinks and we complimented her on the quality of her products, she decided we weren’t that bad and we even received a smile. Win!

I want.

I want.

Let me start with my apple torte – huge, juicy chunks of apple embedded in a not-too-sweet custard filling and perfectly baked pastry. I was instantly transported back to 2007 when I used to eat this every sort of thing every day. No wonder I got fat that year. Coupled with a glass of hot chocolate that was made from actual chocolate. Yes, you’ve heard of the stuff. Dark-brown and kind of sweet. Frau was proud of her hot chocolate and its real-chocolate content and so she should have been. It still wasn’t quite rich enough for me but it was three-hundred-million times better than any hot chocolate I have consumed in Manchester in the last year.

There's real chocolate in that glass.

There’s real chocolate in that glass.

It was one of those eating experiences that reminds me how much I love food and how I could happily spend the rest of my life surrounding myself in apple torte. In 10 days it is my birthday and I am concerned that I won’t be able to find a birthday cake to live up to my high standards. I might need to make my own to avoid the crushing disappointment of excess icing and tasteless sponge. In the meanwhile, my Falko apple torte sits fondly in my memory bank. Happy cake times.

It’s Official – I Don’t Like Hotdogs.

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Over the past year or so, Manchester has been hit by a Hotdog Frenzy with multiple sausage venues popping up around the city. Hotdogs are the new burger with even more overly processed bun and ‘what is this meat?’ for your buck. I have never been a huge hotdog fan, unless it is a good old aussie snagger unevenly charred on a barbecue, served with a good dollop of tomato sauce. At least you know what you’re getting with a butcher’s sausage – a lot of fat and a bit of beef. With these new-fangle sausages, you need to sharpen your teeth to get through the red outer skin and then sit and chew for awhile so that your stomach has some chance of eventually digesting it.

Last week I was invited to another Yelp Elite event at The Fruit Exchange where we were served fruit juices spiked with rum and Caribbean flavoured hot dogs from Dogs ‘n’ Dough. The alcoholic juice was just win win win, but as I opened the box containing my hot dog, I just had no desire to eat it. This isn’t anything against Dogs ‘n’ Dough – some of my fellow Yelpers were hoeing into their sausages with gusto and delight. It was purely my disinterest in boiled frankfurters and sweetened bread that turned me off. But I wanted to give this craze a chance and so I ate my hot dog. I chewed on that sausage and washed the gluggy bread down with rummy juice. And I will admit to giving some of the excessively sweetened pineapple away to Hannah, who had announced she likes ‘sweet with meat.’ But as I shoved the last mouthful into my gob, my gut wished I had listened to it saying, “No, Jess. You don’t want to eat that.”

This is a hot dog.

This is a hot dog.

It just wasn’t enjoyable. Chewy sausage skin, unrecognisable meat, doughy sweet ‘bread’, and toppings that didn’t really add much to the eating experience. It did have barbecued chicken on top which was probably the best part of the whole dish. At least I could eat the chicken and say, “Ah! I’m eating chicken!” Every other part of the hot dog had an element of mystery to it.

So I have decided to never eat a hot dog ever again. Sorry, hot dog restauranteurs – don’t take it too personally. Your wares are just not my thing.

Italiano Feast

Monday, July 28th, 2014

I have grown to love and adore Twitter. On multiple occasions it has brought me glorious food-based moments that have added joy and deliciousness to my life. A few weeks ago, I noticed a tweet advertising the Moretti Gran Tour – an italian food festival touring the UK. It was coming to Manchester to the old Granada Studios and after some research I decided I needed to go. So on a sunny Friday evening, Sir Pubert Gladstone and my friends Ellie and Ryan joined me in an italian food extravaganza.

Entry to the Moretti Gran Tour was £10 which gave you a wrist band covered in very useful tokens. One beer, two food, one gelato and one coffee – the night was looking promising as we walked into a warehouse building filled with food stalls, wooden bench tables and Italian flags. It wasn’t overly busy which meant easy access to all of the stalls and after checking out our options we whipped out our tokens and got sampling.

Better than a slap-band.

Better than a slap-band.

I usually avoid token-based food and drink events as you are usually served tiny portions or yesterday’s left overs. Not the case with this italian extravaganza – the generous italian nature was in full swing with our beer tokens getting us pints of Birra Moretti. With drinks in hand we separated and hit the food stalls. Pubert and I got two vegetarian dishes and went halves – an amazingly rich beetroot gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and pumpkin ravioli served in a butter sauce with amaretti biscuit sprinkled on top. Fantastic quality and seriously delicious.

There's pumpkin in there.

There’s pumpkin in there.

My second food token was exchanged for a deep fried pork and beef calzone – slightly spicy and tender meat, the pastry case was crisp and not excessively oily. It was awesome. Just awesome.

There was pink lighting in the room – the calzone wasn't rose coloured.

There was pink lighting in the room – the calzone wasn’t rose coloured.

Pubert had the arancini which were slightly disappointing as they sounded better than they tasted but they were still better than any arancini that have ever been served in Manchester before. Ryan and Ellie both chose the slow roasted pork rolls with Ryan choosing to use both of his tokens in order to get two servings. Clearly a winner.

Rotating pig.

Rotating pig.

Next came dessert with Gelupo gelato and sorbet. Their great range of flavours included sour cherry and yoghurt, chocolate, pistachio and blood orange and the best part was that you could get half and half. That always makes me happy. So chocolate and pistachio it was, and as the guy in the stall forgot to take my token, I was naughty enough to make Pubert go back for seconds. I will break the rules for food.

Half 'n' half gelato.

Half ‘n’ half gelato.

Ellie was the only one of us to use the coffee token but she let us try hers. So generous.

We all came away from the Moretti Gran Tour with full bellies and an overall feeling of satisfaction. It was one of the best £10 I have ever spent and certainly one of the best food events I have ever been to. Please come back, my Italian food friends. I miss you already.

Food, Friends and Family

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I need to become a food and travel writer. What am I saying? I am a food and travel writer – what else have I been doing for the past 3.5 years if it isn’t writing while eating and travelling? I just need to convince someone to pay me to do it because it is currently 11.11pm and instead of going to bed like a good girl should, I can think of nothing but turning on my computer and writing about the glorious food experience that I have just returned home from. And while I may not post this until tomorrow when my sober eyes are able to check it for spelling and grammatical errors and perhaps resize and insert some photographs, I am writing this while still high on my foodie buzz. Life is good.

I have just spent the evening with 20-something fellow food lovers (aka Yelp Elite members) at the Bar and Grill restaurant at the Lowry Hotel. We had been invited for another complimentary meal to thank us for writing about restaurants/bars/cafés on the Yelp website.  I was particularly excited about this Elite event – a five course meal with matching wines. If there’s anything in this world that I truly love it is a multiple course dinner with matching wines served in separate glasses. I am but a snob.

Recently relaunched and situated in one of Manchester’s most hoity-toity hotels, we were welcomed to the restaurant with big smiles and friendly service by the lovely staff. Canapés, prosecco and cocktails were served liberally in the ‘library’ (not much reading was done) but most of us headed out on the balcony where we had great views over the brown Irwell River and a lovely 70s mission brown office block. If you squinted it was actually quite pretty.

View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

We headed inside to the private dining room which, like most private dining rooms, was a bit of a squishy little box but it seated 24 people perfectly and had doors opening out into the balcony area. I was seated next to the door so I had a nice breeze wafting in. Quite pleasant. There was plenty of excited giggling and we were invited to take as many photos as we wanted on our phones. This was a room of happy people.

My name, my seat, my Yelp sunglasses.

My name, my seat, my Yelp sunglasses.

Huseyin was the main man for the evening – he was in charge of everything and knew what was going down. He was smooth with the ladies and suave with the gents and made everyone feel right at home. He introduced us to our first wine for the evening and then out came the asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. I have never really liked eggs. I think hard boiled eggs should be used as weapons and never consumed. However, I was determined to enjoy this and cracked open that egg sack and watched the yolks flow. And BOY, OH BOY was it good! The asparagus were cooked perfectly with a wonderful chargrilled saltiness and the egg and hollandaise just screamed to be wiped off the plate with a piece of bread. Luckily they gave us bread rolls to do just that. That’s initiative.

Asparagus. poached egg and hollandaise.

Asparagus. poached egg and hollandaise.

We were then served a small amuse bouche of gazpacho served in a small coffee cup. You picked it up and drank it like a coffee and felt the huge kick of cucumber and spice. It was a powerful beast and went down well although I needed to break the code of etiquette and use my mains fork to eat the chunks of cucumber and tomato sitting in the bottom of the cup. Other people were doing it too so I figured it was ok.

Gazpacho.

Gazpacho.

I had been drooling about my main course since I first read the menu about a week ago. My recent realisation that I love eating small birds was elevated further when I discovered I would be adding guinea fowl to my consumption list. To be honest, I wasn’t certain what a guinea fowl looked like or how big it is but clearly it is larger than I imagined. The large breast that I was presented with was significantly meatier and more chickeny than I expected. And geez was it tasty. Crispy skin, a fantastic marsala cream sauce, girolle mushrooms, broad beans and a truffle risotto. It was salty,  creamy, mushroomy and it made me happy. I could have done with more sauce as the guinea fowl was quite a hefty bird and the meat was a little dry. I am horrified to announce that I didn’t manage to eat it all, something I am not proud of. However, for a five course meal, the portion sizes were all quite large. While eating I was reminded so much of the food that I ate while living in Paris, and I couldn’t help but think that the portion sizes were twice those you would get in France. This doesn’t necessarily represent better value for money – instead I felt stuffed and didn’t finish my food which I really dislike doing. But dessert was coming and I couldn’t not eat that.

Hello, guinea fowl.

Hello, guinea fowl.

The guinea fowl was served with a pinot noir from New Zealand, taking me back to an evening I spent with my best friend, Gill in Sydney, at a New Zealand wine tasting event. Oh, we drank some Pinot Noir that night… Anyway, it was a mighty fine wine and I am once again willing to admit that the New Zealanders can make a nice drop. And they should continue to do so.

Dessert was interesting. Clearly not a regular item on their menu, it was a roll of frozen strawberry cream wrapped in a sheet of meringue that had the Yelp logo printed on it in edible ink. Sadly it looked a bit horrible. At each end of the ice cream cigar were clumps of cold cream that didn’t do much for the presentation. A smudge of caramelised meringue that looked a little bit like the guinea fowl had made a mess on the plate was apparently decoration. Then there were some strawberry jellies and tiny strawberries cubes. It tasted quite good – the strawberry cream wasn’t too sweet and the meringue was nice. But overall it was a bit clumsy and far too big but I give them credit for designing something for the Yelp event. Dessert was served with a dessert wine from Chile which wasn’t too perfumed and worked well to cut the sweetness of the cream and meringue in the dessert. Big win.

Yelp-flavoured dessert.

Yelp-flavoured dessert.

Tea and coffee were served with little macarons which appeared to be encasing blackberry jam, a slice of some sort of cheese and a mint leaf. Pure BRILLIANCE. It was fresh, clean and not sweet. The perfect end to the meal.

Crazy macaron.

Crazy macaron.

I spent the evening surrounded by lovely, friendly Yelpers who were chatty, easy to get along with and just generally fun. Who knew a Monday could be so good? I had spent the day visiting family, driving around the English countryside in a yellow Beetle convertible with the roof down, and I had eaten amazing food with wonderful people next to the stinky Irwell River. This was one of those days that have popped up in my life over the past few years that make me want to chain myself to a tree and refuse to leave the country when my visa expires. Maybe these experiences exist in Australia as well but right now Manchester is really delivering. It must be summer.

Happy Birthday, You Delicious Nutty-Chocolate Delight

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

A very big congratulations and happy birthday to my good friend, Nutella who turned 50 years old this week. We have spent a lot of time getting to know one another and I feel our friendship has grown from strength to strength. I have consumed this wondrous, gooey hazelnut and chocolate spread in Australia, France, England, Germany and various other European countries, with each country offering a slightly different flavour sensation. No two countries deliver the same product – the ratio of chocolate to nut and the consistency can vary significantly. It is smoother in France than it is in the UK, and a lot more chocolatey in Australia. Despite it being an Italian invention, I give the award for “Best Use of Nutella” to the French who spread copious amounts in hot crêpes creating chocolate volcanoes that ooze down your chin. Simple culinary brilliance. I will, however, give the Italians the “Invention Prize” for the Nutella flavoured gelato that I had in Bologna. WOW. Just wow.

Mmm… nutella gelato...

Mmm… nutella gelato…

I have consumed Nutella on bread, in crêpes, as ice cream, in cakes, in little plastic tubs that are designed for kids but loved by adults, in a calzone and, I am willing to admit, licked off the end of a knife. The excitement levels that I am experiencing while writing this post almost scare me and I am currently envisioning swimming in a vat of Nutella. Clearly my love for this product and dedication to the consumption of it, despite its affect on my health and waist line, means that Mr Ferrero should definitely make it happen. Or at least give me a free jar.

The most Nutella-ful crêpe that I have ever consumed. It was freaking awesome.

The most Nutella-ful crêpe that I have ever consumed. It was freaking awesome.

Searching for ANZACs

Monday, April 28th, 2014

April is great. It is one of the months of the year that brings GFE (Great Food Eating) opportunities – something I greatly appreciate. Last week I was gorging myself on hot cross buns of both the fruit and chocolate variety. These were backed up by Easter eggs that, while over priced for the cost-to-grams-of-chocolate-ratio, offer such a good excuse for chocolate eating. It would be inappropriate not to eat another Cadbury’s Creme egg – it would hurt the Easter Bunny’s feelings.

Then came ANZAC Day on the 25th April. This year marks the start of the centenary of World War I, an event that has increased in significance for me since moving to England and learning more about my great grandfather. Having a personal connection with the war offers a new level of meaning and it has been quite an emotional discovery for me. So I felt it gravely important to bake Australia’s most significant biscuit in honour of the ANZACs and my great grandfather.

I have now baked ANZACs in three different countries – Australia, France and England. For obvious reasons, sourcing the required ingredients in Australia is a breeze. Every supermarket stocks the required products just in case someone is feeling the urge to bake buttery balls of oaty goodness. No problemo.

France was a challenge; golden syrup is not an ingredient that is frequently used in French cuisine and sourcing a jar of the sticky, sweet syrup was difficult. While it was frustrating, I could understand the lack of golden syrup and I did eventually find it in a supermarket frequented by Anglosaxon expats. Moving to England, I saw golden syrup of the shelves of almost every supermarket and felt great relief that my ANZAC biscuit baking undertakings would be not be hindered by the lack of syrup. But then I tried to find desiccated coconut.

I will start this by stating that most of the supermarkets in Manchester city centre are small and generally useless. There numerous Tesco Expresses and Sainsbury’s Locals that stock your basic necessities at slightly inflated prices. Depending on which supermarket you go to, you can find different items depending on the people who live or work nearby so you can generally find everything you need by visiting one or two stores. HOWEVER, it would appear that no one needs desiccated coconut. I went to five supermarkets looking for the fairly ordinary item but came out empty handed. Where was the coconut? As ANZAC day drew closer, I became increasingly anxious and even contemplated making them without coconut. The horror.

I desperately asked a friend where on earth he thought I would find this ingredient and after looking frazzled and perplexed he suggested I look in China Town. YES. The chinese supermarkets somehow manage to pack everything you could possibly imagine onto their shelves. And sure enough, there it was, next to dried mushrooms and chillies, a bag of mysterious dry white shavings.

I made my ANZACs a day late but I don’t think it matters. They were perfect – crunchy outside and chewy innards. I have now fed them to four Brits experiencing ANZAC biscuits for the first time. And all of them said, “Is there coconut in this?” Yes. Yes there is.

Yum.

Yum.

FOOD FIGHT!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

For the past few weeks, every Friday night the old Campfield Markets in central Manchester have come alive with food and drink stalls and general eating shenanigans. I had been watching the interest and excitement build up around the Friday Food Fight on Twitter – everyone who was ‘down with it’ in Manchester was talking it up. It is hip. It is cool. It is the place to be. So I wanted to go. I finally managed to venture here last Friday, taking my friend Jon as back up in the case of propelled edible goods.

EAT! EAT! EAT! EAT!

EAT! EAT! EAT! EAT!

The Campfield Market building is a beautiful space with high ceilings and a markety-vibe. We arrived at 7.15pm and had to queue for about five minutes before being let in. I was anxious to get inside – I didn’t want to miss the FOOD. Imagine that… the horror. Thankfully there was plenty left by the time we made our way through the doors. The place was buzzing with a lot of happy hipsters and foodies who were wandering around being seen.

We went and bought ourselves a drink first and were somewhat gobsmacked by the prices – £5 for a pint of beer. I felt like I was back in Perth. I guess the lack of competition meant that everything would be over priced – most of the stalls followed suit. As we wandered around looking at the eight or so options available, everything seemed bit… well… expensive. Perhaps the real fight was happening between the stall owners and the amount of profit they could make on their food.

There was an interesting mix of food with most stalls being run by some of Manchester’s most popular restaurants and pop up stalls. Red’s BBQ and Lucha Libre were consistently popular while Mumma Schnitzel‘s deep-fried halloumi created a long queue through the centre of the room. From looking around, the most popular items were probably Manchester’s latest food crazes – hot dogs. Fat, flavoured sausages in plastic bread buns coated in all sorts of sauces are what the hipster-kids are digging these days with places like Dogs ‘n’ DoughDiamond Dogs and now The Splendid Sausage Co popping up around town. It amazed me how many skinny, make-up encrusted, fancy females in stilettos I saw gnawing down on sausages. They were big hot dogs – perhaps the good value was what attracted them.

I went for a middle-eastern seven-spice lamb with pita and salad from Shake, Maroc & Roll. I asked for smokey aubergine sauce to go with it. It wasn’t there. I also spent a lot of time trying to find the seven spices – I’m not sure there were any spices at all, let alone seven. The pita was cold and soggy from diced tomatoes and the lamb was chewy. It wasn’t THAT bad and I somewhat enjoyed it but for £6 it was disappointing. That said, these guys were under pressure to produce a lot of food in a short space of time. I think they might need a bit more practise.

Lamb wrap

Lamb wrap

The lamb wrap was really small and I was still hungry so Jon went off in search of more food to fill our bellies – this time heading to the Lucha Libre stall. He returned with three pulled pork tacos for himself, cheese, mushroom and spinach quesadilla for me, and some guacamole to share. Now this was tasty – my quesadilla oozed cheese and the guacamole was tangy. We came away feeling far more satisfied with our food adventures but slightly ripped off.

Lucha Libre goodness

Lucha Libre goodness

As for the fight – we witnessed a very lacklustre hot dog eating competition with no cheering, no applause and no real effort from the competitors. There was no food being shovelled into mouths or any gagging. Again, a little disappointing. So overall I left the Friday Food Fight with a general air of dismay. It wasn’t bad – it just wasn’t the food-frenzy-fantasy that I had imagined it to be. I can’t decide if I will go back and try it again or just host a hot dog eating competition in my own house.