Author: millieepona

The Travel Report: First Week in New York

The Travel Report: First Week in New York

Before 2017 I had never traveled outside of Europe. Sometime back in January, fueled by the season of resolutions, I said: “I want this to be the year that I take a long haul flight”. It was the first step towards us going on an adventure.

In March we booked flights; we were going to the USA! We had absolutely no plan except a flight and some vague sightseeing desires.

In May I handed in my notice. My two years of a teaching contract were up and it was time to take some much needed holiday.

In July I had my last day at work. We packed everything from our house into a storage unit and waited (not so) patiently for our trip to begin.

We flew from London to New York on August 15th.

I am not the most confident of flyers but I found that being on a larger plane for a long time actually made me less nervous than other flights have done in the past. The abundance of Friends and Modern Family on the screens helped too!

We’re incredibly lucky that my boyfriend runs an online business, so he can (and will!) work from anywhere. In the week that we arrived, he experienced the most incredible spike in sales. With this came a huge deluge of customer service requests and with a time-sensitive product it was all hands on deck! We took on extra remote staff and were working solid 18 – 21 hour days for our first week in the city. This was certainly not how we had expected our holiday to start.

When we arrived we could not yet check in to our hotel and instead found ourselves eating pastries and working in a deli nearby. My first bite in New York was a red velvet croissant! This was working out well for me already.

We started our trip in the great but small hotel Pod 39. This is the perfect place for a sightseeing weekend as the rooms are small but clean and well equipped. If you were going to spend a day out and about, Pod 39 would be the ideal place to rest your head.

After two days at Pod 39 (we had booked this when back in the UK as we knew we wanted flexibility on where we might go next), we decided that with all of this work it was time to move into some 5-star luxury. The Pensinsula on Fifth Avenue was an absolute oasis for us. A huge bedroom with ample desk space, a beautiful bathroom, and a lobby gave us the space that we really needed to smash through all the work coming our way and stay healthy and happy. The pool and spa were a true sanctuary. We spent the next few days working in the fluffiest robes and ordering room service to sustain us.

Falling into bed at 2 am and waking at 6 was made all the easier by the huge bed and its incredibly comfortable pillows.

I have to admit that we felt a little like impostors. I have never experienced service like that at The Peninsula before. Impeccable timing, nothing too much trouble and absolute attention to detail without being intrusive. We also had quite a few giggles as they had my boyfriend’s name on the booking and kept referring to me as ‘Mrs. [his surname]’! We couldn’t bear to correct them and by the end of the stay could hardly contain our amusement.

As a side note, everywhere we have been people have referred to me as his wife and called us Mr. and Mrs. One waiter even called us ‘newlyweds’! I think this might have been because we were drinking prosecco and holding hands, but really? It has led us to question if everyone in America over a certain age is married!

A couple of days before we left The Peninsula we finally got out of the hotel and headed out for a walk in the city. It was a hot and sunny Saturday morning with all of the hustle and bustle of the city coming down the street. It was exactly what we had expected of NYC, but after 5 days of hotel bound work, we were a little overwhelmed, to say the least. I think we must have been wandering aimlessly (I honestly can’t remember, we were at absolute exhaustion at this point) and found ourselves on The Avenue of the Americas. It was filled with stalls, people, and the sun’s bright rays. The smells of food from every continent drifted past us. Steam issued forth from the streets and yellow taxis came over intersections in a blur. It was our first taste of New York and we really were hooked.

The Food Report: The London Carriage Works

The Food Report: The London Carriage Works

Last week, meeting a very dear friend for a reunion before he jetted off to another far-away country, I went along to The London Carriage Works on Hope Street for a delightful dinner.

The London Carriage Works

Whilst this might be a little out of our usual budget for a Monday evening, their ‘Autumn Mondays’ offers two courses for £17.50 or three for £22.50, with a bottle of wine thrown in to share. Considering that mains head up to £30 on the A la Carte and the menu is still of an incredibly high standard, this was really excellent value for money.

The service was excellent, starting before we had even arrived with the marvellous online booking system. We were warmly greeted upon arrival and selected our wine alongside some lovely fresh bread. I was rather displeased at the assumption that my male companion would taste the wine, considering that I have much more knowledge on the subject, but this was the only faux pas of the evening.

The London Carriage Works

I started with a Kidderton ash goats’ cheese creation, complete with fig, microherbs and lovely savoury but sweet tuiles. The brittle made this meal, with its extreme crunch and perfect sweetness against tangy goats’ cheese in its original form as well as a perfectly fluffy foam. The textures of this dish were everything I need in a starter! Rob had a chicken liver parfait with perfect little toasts and a red onion marmalade. Considering that he normally hates relishes or chutneys I was impressed to see a completely clean plate!

The London Carriage WorksThe London Carriage Works

For main I opted for sea bass, with a wonderful selection of mushrooms and sea beet. The accompanying sauce seemed like a tangy beurre blanc, although I couldn’t be sure. It was delicious nonetheless! I would never normally eat fish skin because it is so often left slimy and fatty, but here it was super crisp, cracking to expose perfectly cooked, light fish, and so I ate it all up.

Rob had a Wirral pork loin, with heritage carrots, fondant potato, greens and some unidentified sauces (I didn’t try these!). I was most impressed that the fondant potato was properly cooked, but of course Rob was in love with the pork.

The London Carriage Works The London Carriage Works

For pudding, Rob had a chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet, which he made me try. The torte was perfectly rich, creamy and melt in the mouth, with a base that yielded to our forks with ease – no horribly solid base here! The sorbet was intensely flavoured with raspberry, whilst staying light, as sorbet should be.

I’ve saved my pudding until last as it was my favourite part of the meal. I had a basil panna cotta, with chilled strawberry consommé. The panna cotta was wobbling enticingly as it arrived, but was rich with cream and light with herbiness, against the sweetness of the strawberry. Once again the textures were perfectly balanced, with fresh slices of strawberry, basil leaves and finely chopped pistachios adding freshness and crunch. Balancing usually savoury herbs in puddings can be very tricky, but here there was no shying away from the basil flavour so that it matched the fruit, rather than being drowned out.

The London Carriage Works The London Carriage Works

Overall, we had an absolutely beautiful evening in wonderful surroundings with excellent service and great wine. The food was delicious, with incredible presentation, and such good value for the quality. The menu changes daily so if you head along you may find different dishes on offer, but I would return for that panna cotta alone any day. We were completely transported from daily life, forgetting that it had been a Monday filled with work, and the service was just attentive enough whilst allowing us to get engrossed in serious life chats. I would certainly recommend trying The London Carriage Works, and rushing along to sample Autumn Mondays, and I hope that I’ll be back to visit soon.

Have you been to The London Carriage Works? What’s your favourite place for midweek fine dining?

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

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Watching The end of the Bake Off, with new pyjamas, pie and pudding; Educating the East End, a rewatch of Peep Show and a weekend dose of Spaced.

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Listening to The new podcast from the This American Life team, SerialIt’s absolutely engrossing, and I love how much the team are working to get new people listening to podcasts.

Reading Still The Secret History. It’s taking me forever but I don’t care because I love it.

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Writing I wrote a very quick poem in my new notebook this week and it felt great.

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Eating A completely incredible meal at the London Carriage Works (coming up on the Food Report), a Mexican supper club meal, an afternoon tea, a Byron burger, pancakes and bacon, fresh produce from the roof garden, a wonderfully made chicken and chorizo stew, Ottolenghi ricotta fritters and the first soups of autumn.

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Talking about Liverpool, London, exciting new opportunities, dates, photos, people being adorable, my dream shop and sleep (or lack of it).

The Food Report: Plum and Almond Crumble

The Food Report: Plum and Almond Crumble

I’m going to make a very bold claim today. This is the best crumble I’ve ever made: a plum and almond crumble.

I picked up a load of beautiful plums from the Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago. Wonderful seasonal stone fruit is one of my favourite things and it called for an amazing crumble.

plum and almond crumbleplum and almond crumble

My standard crumble topping is 200g flour, 100g butter, 75g sugar  but this time I subsituted half of the flour with ground almonds. I then chopped up a big handful of whole almonds (around 100g in total) and added these to the crumble.

plum and almond crumble

While I was making this I cooked the plums down, adding about 1 tbsp of brown sugar as they were already fairly sweet. I thought about adding some almond essence but I didn’t want to go overboard with the almond, and I’m glad that I didn’t. Once they were cooked I layered them into a dish and sprinkled over the crumble topping. Normally I go for the Nigel Slater water-splashing trick but I didn’t feel this mixture needed it.

Then I just baked til golden and bubbling. The bubbling edges are my favourite bits!

plum and almond crumbleplum and almond crumble

Once baked, the topping was super crunchy and textured, cracking to reveal soft, unctuous plums with the perfect level of tartness.

I served mine with a good dollop of clotted cream, but it would be equally excellent with custard.

Have you tried plum and almond crumble? What’s your favourite autumn pudding?

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

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Watching Bake Off, Cuckoo, too much Saturday morning cookery TV. 

Listening to The Archers, This American Life, lots of Fleetwood Mac.

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Reading Sadly I’ve been a little bit too busy for reading books – I’ll try to get some done this week! I did grab a copy of Bitten though, which I’m really enjoying, and I’ve been lusting over my copy of Plenty More!

Writing A million emails.

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Eating Lots of Ottolenghi, including a salad made my his very own hand. That was at the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival, where we also sampled tiny pulled pork sliders, halloumi, Dukes Cold Brew coffee and various baked treats. It was an excellent way to  spend a weekend!

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Talking about Liverpool and how much I love it, buying fresh produce, what I’d keep on my smallholding, and rather obviously, food!

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The Food Report: Maray Review

The Food Report: Maray Review

Maray opened 3 months ago on Bold Street and ever since I saw their tagline – Falafel x Cocktails – I have been trying to make it there. Finally, an opportunity opened itself up this week and we made it along for a Tuesday night treat!

Maray Liverpool ReviewMaray Liverpool Review

The menu consists of small plates and big platters, all perfect for sharing. We started with some Q.V.O. cocktails. I immediately knew I would visit Maray again purely for this glass of perfection – sweet sloe gin, smooth prosecco fizz and a refreshing smack of cucumber.

The menu was varied and really interesting. We opted for FHT (Falafel, Hummus & Tabouleh);; fish goujons with sweet potato wedges; slow cooked lamb, spinach and turmeric potatoes; black eyed peas with feta and za’atar; and cauliflower with yoghurt and pomegranate.

Maray Liverpool ReviewMaray Liverpool Review Maray Liverpool Review

The falafel was crisp and really well flavoured, accompanied by the smoothest hummus I’ve ever eaten. The fish was perfectly cooked and encased in beautifully light breadcrumbs, with buttery soft sweet potato wedges with sticky, crispy edges. The lamb was melt in the mouth and the black eyed peas had plenty of za’atar and crumbly feta hidden underneath. Whilst I’m loathe to write yet another review where I say that our favourite thing was the cauliflower, but really – roasted cauliflower is the best anyway, but add a tangy yoghurt and some sweet pomegranate seeds and we were really onto a winner.

Maray Liverpool ReviewMaray Liverpool Review

We also went for a second round of cocktails, this time opting for the St Germain Whip – another gin cocktail with St Germain, an elderflower liquer, more cucumber and velvety smooth egg white.

The atmosphere is lovely, and I’m glad we were there early enough to get a table because it did get busy. The service was brilliant too, attentive without being overbearing, and we were offered lots of advice on our choices. With the cocktails this was a little more expensive than our usual midweek eating, but overall it was great value. Kate and I absolutely love to get lots of dishes and share them, but if this isn’t your thing you could certainly go for a couple of small plates and a side each (but if you’re going to do that, really, go on, just share!).

Maray Liverpool Review

I think Maray would be the perfect place for a date – dimmed lighting, flowers everywhere, a healthy amount of gin and sharing some delightful food? You can’t go wrong.

We had a beautiful evening at Maray and I can’t wait to head back – if only for a Q.V.O. and some crispy kale!

Have you been to Maray yet? What would you recommend I try next?

The PS Waverley

The PS Waverley

For my Grandpa’s 80th birthday back in February we booked tickets on the PS Waverley – the last seafaring paddle steamer in the world!

It’s been up in Scotland for the summer so we waited until last weekend to use our tickets and spent a Sunday cruising the seas.

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We set off from Clevedon Pier in the wonderful, lucky sunshine, before sailing out down the Bristol Channel, past the Welsh coast, and on to Ilfracombe. There we were greeted by the Town Crier and a bizarrely large crowd; we waved at lots of people!

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We also saw Verity, the Damien Hirst sculpture on the Ilfracombe pier. Having only seen artists’ impressions back when the sculpture was first proposed, I was expecting to really dislike it, but I found it incredibly compelling. It’s currently the tallest sculpture in the UK, and she makes an impressively striking feature against the landscape.

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From Ilfracombe we sailed out along the Atlantic Coast, where we happened to get a little wave from the RAF Rescue helicopter whilst sitting out on deck with a perfectly chilled glass of Pinot Grigio.

We were out for just over 10 hours so there was plenty of time to explore the boat. You can go in the engine room and see everything working, and I loved all the little places to stand and let the sea air blow through your hair! I was really surprised by how relaxing the whole experience was – once you’re out at the water you can’t feel bad that you aren’t cleaning or doing some work, because you’re on a boat! Instead we whiled away the time chatting, reading, playing card games, picnicking, drinking lots of coffee and wine, taking far too many photos of the absolutely stunning scenery and sunning ourselves out on the deck.

PS WaverleyPS WaverleyPS Waverley - Damien Hirst Verity at Ilfracombe

The PS Waverley was a really great day out for our family and I’d definitely recommend it for yours. Just remember to take lots of activities along and don’t forget your cameras!

The Drinks Report: The Curio Canteen Cold Brew Coffee

The Drinks Report: The Curio Canteen Cold Brew Coffee

At Fieldview a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of trying The Curio Canteen’s Cold Brew Coffee.

The Curio Canteen Cold Brew Coffee

Whipped up in a kitchen dedicated to honest ingredients and exciting treats, I absolutely loved the flavour, brand and adorable packaging of this coffee. Anything that makes me feel like a school milk monitor is a winner in my book. The coffee was delicious and well flavoured without being too sweet (you know I hate that!). Just look at all that beautiful, real vanilla!

It was perfection as a morning pick me up after an indulgent evening, but we also tried it as part of a White Russian with vodka and butterscotch schnapps which was definitely the best coffee cocktail I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tried a few!). This might have been one of the many reasons we needed a pick me up!

Definitely look out for The Curio Canteen on your travels, or find them on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr if you can’t wait that long. You can also join in their Kickstarter and get a marshmallow in a flavour of your choice!

The Curio Canteen Cold Brew Coffee

It’s not often you get a picture of me here, but that’s apparently how much I loved this coffee!

The Curio Canteen Cold Brew CoffeeWhat’s your favourite cold brew coffee?

All photos courtesy of Laura Herman

The Food Report: A Seafood Feast

The Food Report: A Seafood Feast

Last week in Bournemouth, we held a mini Nom Nom Club with some new members. To celebrate our proximity to the shores, we create a seafood feast!

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We ate: sushi and prawn spring rolls, all lovingly wrapped by hand; a fish curry made by Olivia that I still can’t quite get over; a beautiful sea bream that we bought on Mudeford Quay with pommes dauphinoise (and an extra version with cider!); a crème brûlée. I have never cooked a crème brûlée before but I jumped at the chance when Laura happened to have a blowtorch!

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We listened to: plenty of music on a sea theme, plus a healthy dose of Kate Bush and electroswing.

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We played Cards against Humanity and Articulate, and talked about everything from our dating techniques to how much of a dream this Summer has been.

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We drank: mojitos, moscitos (with vodka), a somewhat unhealthy amount of malibu and some crisp, cold French white wine (the only thing for seafood).

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It was a pretty special evening – I’ll bring you our Sunday treats soon as we cooked up a pretty impressive roast with a delicious crumble.

What’s your favourite seafood? Have you held a supper club yet?

The Weekly Report

The Weekly Report

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Watching Bake Off, Cuckoo. 

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Listening to The Archers, This American Life, The Food Programme, lots of Black Keys and Beirut.

Reading The Secret History. The lovely new Yoga Journal layout, especially this great advice on yoga for runners.

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Writing All of the lists I mentioned last week are now in my lovely Acad-Pad!

Eating Extra amazing fajitas and guacamole, Nigel Slater’s herb burgers, chakchouka, beautiful British strawberries, a perfect picnic on a boat, and then another one on a train. It’s been a week of travelling up and down the country.

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Talking about Family, the future, boats. We went on the only seafaring paddle steamer in the world this weekend. It was the absolute best, but it’s probably a post all of its own considering how many pictures I took!

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