Bagels in NYC: Ess-a-Bagel, Russ & Daughters, H&H

Thursday, 30 June 2011

One of the things I never really understood was the bagel and consequently I tend to avoid eating it. Why make something that’s essentially a sandwich but leave a hole in the middle? It just seems structurally unsound. Plus, the bread is doughy and dry (well, the ones I had anyway and that scarred me for life). But anyway, New York is famous for bagels, so naturally we had to try some of it.

Ess-a-bagel

We first went to Ess-a-bagel to grab something for breakfast. I was starving and decided to get a Reuben’s which had massive slices of pastrami, corn beef and swiss cheese on it while the PigPig had an everything bagel (called everything because it has all the most popular toppings a bagel usually has) with olive tofu mix (tofu cream cheese with bits of olive). Naturally, I loved my Reuben’s bagel although it may not be the first thing one thinks of when thinking bagel.

Ess-a-Bagel, New York

Not so much a fan of the PigPig’s olive tofu as I generally don't like cream cheese not unless it's in the form of a cheesecake, but she enjoyed it. They were very generous with the filling. The tofu cream cheese tasted very much like the real thing, I really couldn't tell the difference. The bagels were moist, soft, dense and chewy at the same time. Weird I know, but they were delicious - nothing like what we've tasted before.

Ess-a-Bagel, New York

Russ & Daughters

At Russ & Daughters, it was Fathers Day and it was absolutely packed with people buying stuff for their picnics or home lunches or whatever other smorgasbord they had planned. Basically, Russ & Daughters are famous for their lox on bagels (lox = smoked salmon) so these people were buying masses of smoked fish (salmon from seemingly all the seas in the world, sturgeon, herring, chubbs, tuna) as well as the usual stuff to make a bagel (cream cheese in nine different flavours). The shop is really tiny with no tables and is takeout only. To make things worse, there was a film crew there that day!

Russ & Daughters, New York

Well anyway there’s a ticket system, so snag a ticket right upon entering the door and wait for your number to be called. We then waited about 45 minutes just so we could get a lox on bagel. The patient and cheerful guy behind the counter serving me recommended the Gaspe Nova smoked salmon as that’s the most popular version - less salty as compared to traditional lox. He slapped that salmon in between a sliced everything bagel, added some red oinons and some scallion cream cheese. The result was pretty amazing. Definitely worth the wait.

Russ & Daughters, New York

H & H Bagels

H & H Bagels, New York

On the last day we went to H & H Bagels as we heard that NYC is pretty divided between Ess-a-bagel and H & H on who does the best bagels. Another takeout only place and H&H doesn't do sandwiches. In a way, it was good because this allowed us to enjoy the bagel without the distraction of various meaty products. The PigPig had an onion bagel while I had a cinnamon and raisin. The bagels were still warm and the most obvious difference is the chewiness compared to Ess’ version, my jaw muscles were literally cramping up halfway through my bagel as it was being overworked. To be fair though, the bagels were tasty enough to be eaten alone and my cinnamon-raisin version was really nice and was almost dessert-like.

H & H Bagels, New York

Ess-a-Bagel
831 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Other branch:
359 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Ess-a-Bagel on Urbanspoon

Russ & Daughters
Lower East Side
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon

H & H Bagels
Upper West Side
2239 Broadway at 80th St.
New York, NY 10024

Other branch:
639 West 46th St. at 12th Ave
H & H Bagels on Urbanspoon
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Pink Grapefruit-Asti Sorbet

After the insanely rich and creamy roasted banana ice-cream I made earlier this month, the wild boar wanted something lighter and refreshing for a change.

Pink Grapefruit-Asti Sorbet

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz' pink grapefruit-champagne sorbet recipe. I used Asti, a type of sweet white sparkling wine instead of champagne. Since the wine is quite sweet, I omitted the sugar and sweetened it with agave nectar. It's extremely refreshing with a mix of bitter and sweet flavours. Perfect for a hot summer day or after a spicy meal!

Pink Grapefruit-Asti Sorbet

Pink Grapefruit-Asti Sorbet

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 20 mins
Chill time: Overnight
Churn time: 25 mins
Yield: 1 L

Ingredients:
  • About 600 ml fresh pink grapefruit juice (from about 4 fruits)
  • 400 ml Asti
  • 4 tbs agave nectar (more or less to taste)

Directions:
  • You should get about 600 ml of grapefruit juice from 4 fruits. Make up to 1 L of liquid with Asti.
  • Add agave nectar to taste.
  • Chill the mixture overnight then freeze it in the ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Pink Grapefruit-Asti Sorbet
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Sakagura, New York

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Among some of the advice we got about eating about New York was to safely ignore the French food and steakhouses there, as comparable versions can be gotten in London. Instead we were told to feast on burgers and weirdly, Japanese food. For whatever reason, NYC has an abundance of high quality Japanese restaurants. After our first three nights feasting on Momofuku Ko and some fantastic ramen (covered in other posts), for our fourth night’s dinner, we went to eat at Sakagura (so basically for four dinners straight we had Japanese or Korean-Japanese food).

Sakagura, New York

The name Sakagura supposedly translates into “sake brewery” and clues in the visitor to the key attraction: the sheer confusingly large array of different types of sake on the menu. However, we tend not to visit a place just for a gimmick, we also demand good food and Sakagura is known to deliver on that too.

We didn’t make a reservation but arrived early at opening time and was seated at the bar. Thankfully, the bar seats were proper chairs, not stools, and there was ample elbow space. The interior of the restaurant was proper stunning too and it felt like we had teleported out of NYC into some hot spring resort in Japan.

TAKAISAMI Junmai Ginjo Nakadare”. Since we’re both pretty innocent when it comes to sake, we randomly chose one of the specials. We had a “Masu” which came in a little box (wooden of plastic, we chose the former) and amounted to 200mls in total. It was deliberately overfilled so some sake overflowed into the saucer underneath and we were supposed to tip that back into the box afterwards. As it claimed, it was a summery sake, very light and smooth, quite good for us beginners I would assume.

Sakagura, New York - sake

HIYAYAKKO : Chilled Tofu Topped with Grated Ginger , Scallion and Bonito Flakes”. As it was a hot day I wanted something fairly simple to start out with and it doesn’t get simpler than this. Really basic dish, but nice if one likes tofu.

Sakagura, New York - tofu

ONSEN TAMAGO : Soft Boiled Egg Topped with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe in Cold Soup”. Quite simply the best onsen tamago (egg cooked in hot spring water) we had. The egg itself was boiled to just the right degree we like, with the egg yolk being more runny than firm. The dashi was nice and flavourful too but adding the sea urchin and salmon roe was exquisite.

Sakagura, New York - onsen tamago

WASHU GYU TATAKI : Slightly Seared Slices of Washu Beef Served with Grated Daikon Radish and Ponzu Sauce”. The beef itself was quite mild mannered but nicely seared on the outside and juicy pink in the middle. I felt it was a tad too tart, but the PigPig quite liked it as it made for a good appetizer.

Sakagura, New York - beef

KAMO ROAST : Slices of Chilled Roasted Duck Wrapped Around Scallion Accented with Basil Sauce”. One of the dishes recommended by the bartendress, this looks like a fairly simple one to replicate at home. The roast duck itself was deliciously tasty, not too oversalted and we can really enjoy the taste of the duck itself. The strips of scallions and the basil add a little freshness.

Sakagura, New York - roast duck

MAGURO TARTAR : Chopped Tuna with Flying Fish Roe Steeped in Yuzu and Caviar”. Truthfully, the tartar with the yuzu dressing on its own would have been tasty enough but adding the extra fish roe just gave it that little touch of luxury. The cucumber on the side gives the mushy tartar the much needed crunch too.

Sakagura, New York - tuna tatare

UNI SOBA : Homemade Cold Buckwhat Noodle Served with Fresh Sea Urchin Sashimi and Sea Urchin Sauce”. Once the PigPig saw this item on the menu, there was no escape for it.

Sakagura, New York - uni soba

The soba itself was nice and the sea urchin on top was indeed fresh. However, the best part of the dish must’ve been the broth that went around the soba; it was very light and easy to drink but somehow so full of uni flavour. I swear the PigPig could drink a whole bowl of it on its own. The little touches of the fresh herb and little shards of tempura batter around it were good as well.

Sakagura, New York - uni soba

BLACK SESAME CREAM BRULEE with Black Sesame Ice Cream”. The crème brûlée was nice and creamy with the appropriate amount of black sesame taste but it was lukewarm and not hot. The ice cream was nicely balanced as it was more of a vanilla ice cream with black sesame swirls, which was good as it would have been too overpowering with the black sesame flavoured crème brûlée otherwise.

Sakagura, New York - black sesame creme brulee

Altogether, the bill came up to $125 including tip and sake. We were reasonably full but we deliberately didn’t order as much as we normally would as we were planning on hitting other places later that night.

The food in general was pretty good with that strange Japanese style of being blindingly simple yet oddly complicated at the same time. The presence of many a happy Japanese customer in the restaurant is a good sign as well.

PS. The restaurant is pretty hard to find. We walked up and down the street several times until we spotted this small signboard placed outside an office building. It's located in the basement of this office building.

Sakagura, New York

Sakagura
Midtown East
211 E 43rd St B1F
New York,
NY 10017

Sakagura on Urbanspoon
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Stir-Fried Crocodile with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Just treat it like chicken!

Stir-Fried Crocodile with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

and so I did. Chicken with black bean sauce is a stir-fry dish commonly found in Chinese restaurants. It is really easy to make at home and so good with rice. I used the rest of the crocodile meat I had instead of using chicken and it was pretty darn delicious with rice.

Stir-Fried Crocodile with Spicy Black Bean Sauce

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Yield: serves 2


Ingredients:
  • 350 g crocodile tail fillet - cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 stalks (about 10 stalks) spring onion - cut into 2-inch in length, white and green parts separated
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 red chili - de-seeded or not, your choice. cut into small slices.
  • 2 1/2 tbs preserved black beans - rinsed a few times and minced
  • A splash Shaoxing wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Oyster sauce (to taste)
  • Sugar (to taste)
  • Sesame oil
Marinade:
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A dash white pepper powder
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbs Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp corn flour
Directions:
  • Mix together crocodile meat and baking soda to tenderise the meat. Leave at room temperature for 15 mins then rinse thoroughly. Drain and pat dry meat with paper towels.
  • Mix together tenderised meat with all ingredients for marinade. Leave to marinate for at least 10 mins.
  • Heat up about 1 tbs of oil in a wok. Add ginger, white part of spring onions, garlic and red chili. Stir-fry until fragrant.
  • Add preserved black beans and fry for a min until fragrant.
  • Add crocodile meat, stir to coat meat.
  • Pour in a splash of Shaoxing wine to deglaze the wok.
  • Pour in about 1/4 cup of water, stir to mix and leave to cook until meat is cooked through. Add more water if too dry. If too watery, just add more cornstarch slurry to thicken.
  • Add green part of spring onions and season to taste.
  • Lastly, drizzle a bit of sesame oil and serve with plain rice.
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Momofuku Ko, New York

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Once we had decided to make a trip to New York, it was time to start researching for the most important part of all our holidays: where to eat some of the best food the destination has to offer. And while NYC has some famous starred restaurants, we thought we'll try something a bit different from the typical French or Modern European fare that we've sampled in London and San Sebastian...

So the only restaurant reservation we made for our four nights in NYC is at Momofuku Ko. David Chang is building a mini-empire of eateries (more about some of the others in upcoming posts) but Ko is possibly the jewel in his chain with two Michelin stars for the past three years. The PigPig has already bought David's cookbook, strongly influenced by his Korean heritage with a fair bit of Japanese touched, and we tried his ramen and steak recipes and loved them.

Momofuku Ko, New York

The PITA reservation system...

In fact, while this was the only reservation we made for the entire trip, it was one of the hardest. Bookings only open exactly one week before the date of booking at 10 a.m. EST sharp and only online reservations are taken. Register for an account in their system beforehand and we recommend having all your details and credit card details prepared in a separate file, ready to copy and paste into your Internet browser. Also, you will need an extremely fast internet connection. Even with that, we could only get a 9.50 p.m. slot as they disappear within literally seconds. Oh also to make it more exciting, there's a clock counting down for you to enter the details (about 2 minutes IIRC).

Why so hard to get a reservation? There's only about 12-13 covers in the restaurant. The seatings are bar stools arranged around a counter where you can enjoy watching the skills of the chefs preparing the dishes. Watching them was a bit like Iron Chef as you're guessing not only the dish but the ingredients going into it. There's also no menu although the chefs will talk you through the dish upon serving.

Worst of all: NO pictures!
Some bloggers have taken to sketching out the dish but neither of us are talented enough. Unfortunately this means you'll have to try to imagine the plates.

Now, the food...

The trio of amuse bouche was chicharrón (pork crackling) seasoned with shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice powder) - very light, crisp and tasty; tuna tartar with cucumber and yuzu and a tomato; basil and bacon combo. While none of them were stunning, each of them were lightly flavoured and not overpowering so it was a good warm up for the palate.

The first course proper was almost like a sashimi dish using kampachi; the chef explained it was the belly of baby hamachi or yellow tail which he preferred as it was fattier than the adult. On and around the thin slices of fish were little shavings of bacon, pineapple and radish as well as some dots of basil seeds. It was a very well balanced dish as the flavour of the fatty fish was still evident but melded with the salty and sweet bacon and pineapple and still felt fresh thanks to the basil seeds.

Next up was a tartar made from madai (I think, according to the chef, it's a type of sea bream) with some mustard seeds and shiso mixed in. The tartar itself was well flavoured and the mustard seeds gave it a mild zing similar to wasabi while the cucumber added a little crunch. The PigPig preferred this course compared to the previous but I think the flavour of the fish was a little lost in this admittedly delicious creation.

For the hot summer, a cold soup made from dashi was the next course. Scattered around the bowl was a slice of ham (to mimic a naruto I think), some uni (sea urchin), shiso, microleaves and peas. The peas were displayed as three peas in an opened pod; the trick here was that the peas were in fact little balls of honeydew, which was a nice touch as it gave a little sweetness to the soup. The dashi itself was very light and easy to drink but filled with umami goodness. Hidden within the leaves was a dot of something spicy (wasabi I think).

The next course was one of their signature dishes and one of the mist stunning egg dishes we've ever had. A smoked soft boiled egg was the centrepiece, expertly sliced down the middle by the chef to expose but not split the yolk. The egg itself was great, a testament to the simple beauty of a soft boiled egg done perfectly, but brought up a notch due to the slight smokiness of it and seasoned with some smoked salt.

However, there is more: under the egg was some sautéed onions, into the cleft of the sliced egg was a generous dollop of caviar, to the side were some crunchy potato chips and herbs (we think coriander and chives) and a little splash of sweet potato vinegar around it all. As in the earlier kampachi dish, I thought this was brilliant as all the components on the plate harmonised together to bring about a deliciously rich blend of flavours that still has a nice fresh feeling and a little bit of a crunch. Well played Mr Chang, well played.

It was always going to be hard to top the previous plate, but the next dish gives it a pretty good go. A piece of halibut, coated with flour and pan-fried in butter is the main ingredient. Under it is a pepper puree providing some spice while above it was diced shiso and kohlrabi for fresh herbal aroma. Further on top of that was a dollop of charred onion butter for an extra layer of complexity to the dish while some fiddleheads around the plate provided some unique textures (texture was a bit like okra).

From the first course the food was getting better and better but unfortunately the next one was a bit of a let-down. Home made macaroni was quite chewy and while some little cubes of chorizo added some flavour, the diced squid was neither here nor there. Finishing the dish were some peas. While it was actually a tasty dish it didn't feel special and there was a lack of team effort for the ingredients.

It very quickly picked up again though as the next two dishes were nothing short of spectacular. For this next one, imagine if you will, a bowl with some cubes of Riesling jelly inside. Scatter about some pine nut brittle and lychee pieces and this sounds like the making of a great dessert with those sweet elements. Cast aside the notion Of dessert though as the chef then takes out a chunk of foie gras from the freezer and liberally shaves it over a grater on the bowl.

Sounds weird? I thought it did. It may be one of the signature dishes but I had my doubts when I read about it on paper. If you think about it though, the creamy, rich fattiness of foie is almost always paired with a sweet compote of some sort and usually with a liquor as well. So this isn't really that weird after all. In fact, it was absolutely brilliant.

The main course was also the last savoury course and ended on a high. In simple terms it was a piece of deep-fried short ribs with some onions on the side. However, nothing is ever quite that simple. The short rib was marinated for 48 hours in a sauce similar to bulgogi before being thrown into the deep fryer. The meat itself was extremely marbled, juicy and tender and had just enough flavour to be tasty enough to eat on it's own without being too salty.

Around the plate was a variety of different onion-like stuff. The green half of spring onions were very roughly blended and made into a "hash" while the white half was kept separated and sautéed. Some golden chives were also sautéed while some onions were roasted. A tiny handful of pickled red onions were also added for good measure. The variety of onions helped to temper the fattiness of the beef while also providing some good aroma and flavour.

Before dessert was a mouthwash of green tomato sorbet, green tomato cubes and basil. While the slightly tart, slightly sweet acidic tomato flavour worked reasonably well as a palate cleanser, it unfortunately reminded us both of vomit and was a major turn off.

The singular dessert course was a strawberry themed event. In the middle of the plate was a refreshing strawberry sorbet with some strawberries around it. Also present and slightly weird were some strawberry 'concentrates' that had a kind of mushy texture. More interesting were the cold cloudlike coconut sponges and malt biscuits. While not the most spectacular dessert, it was still pretty good.

Altogether, the bill came up to $250. Only the degustation was ordered, we didn't have any aperitifs or wines.

Simply put, most of the courses were brilliantly amazing. What struck me in particular was how well balanced the dishes were with a touch of luxurious richness balanced by fresh herbs and also with some nice crunchiness around. Lastly, plate presentation was also beautiful in a rather simplistic manner, although you would have to see it to appreciate it.

Momofuku Ko
East Village
163 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th street)
New York,
NY 10003

Momofuku Ko on Urbanspoon
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Marks & Spencer: Summer Wines

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Summer Select Whites - Case of 12 - Marks & SpencerOver the summer, we'll be bringing you some of the best recipes to enjoy during the warmer weather. A glass of wine can be the perfect accompaniment to many culinary creations - but how do you choose a bottle which will perfectly compliment your summer foods?

It's actually relatively simple to find the right summer tipple, and there are just a few things which you may wish to consider. While many people automatically reach for the Pimm's during the warmer months, this drinks tastes best with added fruit and can require some preparation. Wine, on the other hand, is a great last-minute choice. As anyone living in the UK will know, the sunshine can be unpredictable and short-lived. If you simply want to stock up on summer wines in preparation for the odd sunny day, than several retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, offer a pre-chosen summer selection case filled wine varieties which are all ideal for warm weather drinking. This can be a great way to make sure you're always prepared for that impromptu summer picnic.

Réserve de Sours Sparkling Rosé NV - Case of 6 - Marks & SpencerHowever, if you want to be a little more adventurous, it is also relatively easy to choose summer wines for yourself. Generally, white and rose wines are more popular during the summer months, when chilled drinks are often preferable. However, more recently so-called 'chillable reds' have also made their way into a number of top summertime selections. Lambrusco, a sparkling red from Italy, is a great example.

Whatever grape variety you go for, it is important that summer wines are 'light' and easy to drink. Whilst heavier-bodied bottles might be enjoyable drunk over a long winter evening sat by an open fire, they can offer be too much effort to drink during hot and sticky summer afternoons. 

Many summer foods are grilled or served cold, and so have a much lighter flavour. Fresh and fruity wines are the perfect way to compliment this, and summer is a great time to try a wine which is made with a more unusual fruit, such as raspberries or apples. Sparkling wines can often be a great summer choice, especially if you want to add a sense of occasion to summer events, such as a barbecue. Finally, a handy tip in the name of practicality - it can be a good idea to stick to screw-cap bottles. After all, there's nothing worse than arriving at your chosen picnic spot only to discover that you're without a bottle opener.

This is a sponsored post by Marks & Spencer.
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Stir-Fried Crocodile with Ginger and Spring Onion

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Keevil and Keevil sent me a box of meat to review a while ago and one of which was crocodile tail fillet. Crocodile is a white meat and is low in fat (less than 1%) and high in protein.

Crocodile tail fillets

Because of its low fat content, it can be quite tough if overcooked and should be treated like lean pork or chicken breast. I decided to tenderise the meat with baking soda like how I would normally do with chicken breast and kept the dish simple by stir-frying the meat with spring onions and ginger. I also added carrots and black fungus for a bit of texture and colour.

The meat turned out quite tender. The texture of crocodile meat is like a corss between chicken and pork, but tastewise, more like fish. It actually reminded me of meaty fish like swordfish. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the meat itself. I'd rather eat pork or chicken as the meat doesn't have a character of its own. The texture and taste were neither here nor there, it was just a weird combination of many things to me. I think I was more confused than anything. Maybe it just takes a little getting used to!

Stir-Fried Crocodile with Ginger and Spring Onion

Stir-Fried Crocodile with Ginger and Spring Onion

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Yield: serves 2


Ingredients:
  • 350 g crocodile tail fillet - cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 40 g ginger - sliced
  • 90 g (about 10 stalks) spring onion - cut into 2-inch in length, white and green parts separated
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 small carrot - cut into strips
  • 25 g black fungus - soaked until softened, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Oyster sauce (to taste)
  • Sesame oil
Marinade:
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • A dash white pepper powder
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbs Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp corn flour
Directions:
  • Mix together crocodile meat and baking soda to tenderise the meat. Leave at room temperature for 15 mins then rinse thoroughly. Drain and pat dry meat with paper towels.
  • Mix together tenderised meat with all ingredients for marinade. Leave to marinate for at least 10 mins.
  • Heat up about 1 tbs of oil in a wok. Add ginger, white part of spring onions and garlic. Stir-fry until fragrant.
  • Add carrots and black fungus, stir-fry until carrots are softened.
  • Add crocodile meat, stir-fry until meat is cooked through.
  • Add green part of spring onions and season to taste.
  • Lastly, drizzle a bit of sesame oil and serve with plain rice.
Stir-Fried Crocodile with Ginger and Spring Onion
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Hotel Chocolat for Summer Babies - A Giveaway!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Summer is like a birthday season. "Children born in the summer and autumn months were on average half a centimetre taller and had nearly 13 cm sq of extra bone area than those born in the winter months." according to bbc. Is this the reason why so many of my friends have Summer birthdays?! Summer birthdays are great, the weather is wonderful and so many outdoor party opportunities. However, it can be a bit tricky when it comes to birthday gifts (all birthday gifts in general really!).

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

Hotel Chocolat have just launched a fantastic range of chocolate birthday gifts. Some of which are fit for Summer birthdays. Others such as their new poduct the "Sleep Over Kit" is great for all ages, filled with the perfect chocolate treats for pyjama parties, get-togethers and midnight feasting – with slabs to snap and share around, chocolates to keep you munching well after bed time and soothing drinking chocolate when eventually it’s time to sleep. Also, every gift delivered includes a gorgeous gift card for your witty notes and tender messages – for that finishing touch.

I was sent a Summer Picnic Hamper to review. The box is huge I tell ya and I literally jumped with joy when I received it!

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

The hamper includes a box of Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection - a collection of classic summer dessert truffles including Eton Mess, Summer Pudding, Lemon & Passion Fruit Tart, Red Berry Mousse, Red Berry Mousse, Neapolitan, Coconut Bombe and also some classic chocolate flavours such as Chocolate Mousse and Chocolate Brownie. Once again, Hotel Chocolat did not disappoint us, the packaging, the chocolates, everything was amazing. We really enjoyed this box of truffles especially the Summery berry ones.

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

Also in the hamper are two popcorn cones of irresistable truffles inspired by the pinnacle of childhood treats and a great British ice cream classic loved by generations - Neapolitan Knickerbocker Glory (this can also be found in the Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection) and Mint Choc Chip Knickerbocker Glory (the wild boar single handedly finished this!).

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

Two mini version of their signature chocolate slabs - Eton Mess with sunny swirls of strawberry and vanilla white chocolate, crushed chocolate cookies, crisp meringue and tangy strawberry pieces; Mississippi Mud Pie, milk chocolate with dark drizzles, pools of creamy white chocolate and dark cookie pieces. On top of that, a bag of white chocolate and raspberry discs.

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

Now my dear readers, here's the best part - a GIVEAWAY!

Hotel Chocolat Summer Birthday Giveaway

For a chance to win a Summer Picnic Hamper, do one or more of the following, or all to increase your chances of winning:
  • Leave a comment below telling me the best birthday gift you've ever received.
  • Like my Facebook page.


  • Tweet about this giveaway.
  • Stumble this post (see the stumble button on the left side of this post?).
Please leave a valid email addess and tell me which of the above you've done in your comment. The competition ends at Midnight GMT 26th June 2011 and a winner will be selected at random.

Good luck and a very happy birthday to all summer babies!!!


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Daring Cooks - Creamy Potato Salad with Chives & Gherkins

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Creamy Potato Salad with Chives & Gherkins

The wild boar almost jumped with joy when I told him about this month's daring cooks challenge. He loves potato salad. Not just any potato salad, only those creamy ones with potatoes slathered in mayonnaise. That's also the main reason why I rarely make potato salad, it's simply too fattening! For this, I sneaked in a bit of greek yoghurt instead of just using only mayonnaise. The wild boar didn't seem to notice and really enjoyed it.

Creamy Potato Salad with Chives & Gherkins

Creamy Potato Salad with Chives and Gherkins

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Yield: serves 2-3


Ingredients:
  • 550 g potatoes (I used baby new potatoes) - washed, leave the skin on
  • 1/2 cup gherkins (in sweet vinegar) - chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup chives - chopped into 2 cm in length
  • 3 tbs Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 3 tbs low fat greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp Coleman mustard
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
  • Boil potatoes till tender, about 20-25 mins. Drain and cool. Once cooled, cut potatoes in half or quartered if too big.
  • Mix together potatoes and all other ingredients.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Spontaneous Trip or Plan Ahead?

Monday, 13 June 2011

A very close friend of mine is getting married soon and so to celebrate her last month of freedom, we decided to go on a road trip to Wales together over the May Bank holiday weekend. A hen weekend getaway, just the two of us!

Snowdonia, North Wales

I was feeling rather adventurous as it's my first road trip with me being the designated driver, normally I just eat or sleep in the passenger seat. I wanted it to be a spontaneous trip with only one goal in mind - to Snowdonia, no specific route planning whatsoever, not even accommodation. Unfortunately, my friend didn't dig the idea and urged me to book the rooms ASAP. Bo......ring! Anyway, we ended up booking a night at Travelodge and the other at Premier Inn - both at special rates, £45 a night! That's the best part of planning ahead, you get to save some money by seeking out the best online deals through money saving websites such as Coupon Croc. Coupon croc is completely free to use, and they update daily with all the latest discount vouchers and money off codes.

It was a pleasant drive from Manchester to Snowdonia in north Wales.

Snowdonia, North Wales

Snowdonia

Snowdonia

The name Snowdonia is derived from Mount Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 ft (1,085 m). You can choose to hike up Snowdon or take the train. We didn't do either as we took the wrong train, Llanberis lake railway, which took us along the shores of Lake Padarn at the foot of Snowdon instead. That's what happens when two girls with no sense of directions do a road trip together.

Snowdonia, North Wales

Here are some of the other highlights of our trips.

Portmeirion - modelled on Italian coastal villages, is a popular tourist village in Gwynedd, North Wales.

Portmeirion village

Portmeirion gardens

View from the exit of the Sygun Copper mine.

Sygun Copper mine view

Llechwedd Slate Caverns. A roof inspector, using an 86 foot tall ladder to inspect the vast caverns.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns, North wales

Betws-y-Coed - the principal village of the Snowdonia National Park. One of the most beautiful villages I've seen, very picturesque and not to be missed!

Betws-y-Coed, North Wales

Betws-y-Coed, North Wales

This is a sponsored post by Coupon Croc. Check them out for Thomson discount codes and Travelodge discount codes before making any holiday bookings!
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