It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bacon Butter? Yes, Bacon Butter!

You know I'm a big fan of the crew at Domestic Sl*ttery (asterisk instead of "u", so as not to cause offence), they're always up to something new and fabulous.  Today's recipe was for crumpets with bacon butter.  Bacon butter!  Bacon + butter.  Such beautiful words alone, and seriously drool-worthy when used in tandem.

I know there will be a bunch of you wondering why the heck you'd ever make crumpets when you can get them at the supermarket really cheaply, but them I'm guessing you've never lived in a country which is a crumpet free zone.  I live in a crumpet free zone.  And I do love crumpets, so I'm going to give this recipe a try.  It was, however, the words "Bacon Butter" that got me to click on the link, so here's the recipe for that gloriousness:-

Bacon Butter
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon, diced
  • 125g butter (room temperature probably best)
  1. Fry up the bacon until crispy and let cool
  2. Blitz the butter and the bacon together in your food processor
  3. That's it!
  4. You can use it straight away, or wrap it in cling film and keep it in the fridge
  5. Just think of it in a risotto, or with pasta, the opportunities are endless ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

High Tea at The Berkeley Hotel, London, UK

Some of The Berkeley's current High Tea favours ...

My gorgeous friend Kris was visiting London from the US with her hubby and I managed to snag some very cheap flights on Ryanair to go and spend some time with her in one of our favourite cities. Because we'd not seen each other for ages, we decided to treat ourselves with a lovely High Tea, and the offering at The Berkeley seemed just the ticket.

It's billed as a fashion afternoon tea, with the little delicacies based on the current seasons catwalk fashion from the big international designers.  Yes, I know that sounds a wee bit quirky, but it kind of works.  The High Tea starts at 44 pounds per head and escalates sharply if you want a glass of champers to accompany it - you also need to book well in advance.

We dressed up (do dress up) and arrived promptly at our appointed time, and were escorted to a beautiful table, laid with The Berkeley's own High Tea china (that gorgeous harlequin pattern pictured above - WANT!).  After perusing the tea menu and deciding to upgrade to a glass of champers each (squeeeeee!), our attendant scampered out with our etagere of treats.  Now, we were both a little miffed that there was only one of each thing - and there were two of us - and it cost 44 quid (cue the raised eyebrows), but it was explained that it was a "bottomless" service and that we could have as many of those things as we wished.  Whilst that's rather generous, it meant that we had to cut things in half or take a bite each, to see what each thing was like - not ideal (or posh).

We were still on Autumn/Winter 2013 collection (it's now Spring/Summer 2014), and this is what we were served:-

  • Oscar de la Renta's orang bavarois gown topped with shocking pink chocolate embroidery
  • Jean Paul Gaultier's quilted gold banana and caramel cremeux with passion fruit compote and a leopard print chocolate shard
  • Burberry Prorsum's ginger trench coat biscuit with caramel icing
  • Giles' gold chocolate feather set on a base of Sachertorte
  • Miu Miu's polka dot Joconde and Gianduia mousse with playful orange neck scarf
  • Gianvito Rossi's chocolate knee-high boot biscuit with snow white icing
  • Vivienne Westwood's Anglomania checked mint green macaroon coat
  • Saint Laurent's autumn red Classic duffle 6 Victoria sponge cake bag

There was also a tray of gorgeous little sandwiches, the best of them being an egg salad on brioche - YUM - we kept ordering more of those.  Let me just say that it all looked totally amazing and we were rather thrilled, but sadly it didn't taste as good as it looked.  It was all "nice", but certainly not mind blowing.  Several things merited a "Not worth the calories" statement after the initial bite, though it was all certainly incredibly pretty - slightly more style over substance.

The only other slight niggle was that every single staff member we dealt with only spoke English as a second language, a very highly accented second language, and we rarely understood anything they said.  Now, I'm certainly not knocking people who can master English as a second language (it's a shockingly difficult language to learn), but I could see that many other tables were having the same problem.

Don't get me wrong, we had an absolute ball and stayed for several hours, but I don't think we'd go back again and would probably try somewhere else next time.

The Berkeley Hotel
Wilton Place
London  SW1X 7RL

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hotel Wi-Fi

One of the things that really gets my back up is when hotels charge guests for wifi, it really "gives me the rage" (great statement I heard in Glasgow once - giggle).

If Starbucks can give free wifi when you buy a coffee, how dare hotels have the brass neck to levy an additional charge for wifi after you've paid a few hundred for a room.

During our last Sheraton stay I snapped this pic of their charges - check out that top cost for non-registered guests - that's the most expensive I've seen anywhere in the world.

As you can see in the photo, this particular Sheraton does provide complimentary wifi for guests, but so many hotels do not.  Does paying for wifi in a hotel drive you crazy too?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Recipe : Mortgage Apple Cake

Last time I was in Detroit airport (DTW) they were giving away New York Times newspapers and I grabbed one.  The NYT is a wee bit highbrow for this little chicken, but they have some good articles, and I read one about a lady who was about to lose her house and decided she'd try and save it by baking and selling cakes.  She invented the Mortgage Apple Cake.  Her mortgage fight got a lot of interest, and not only did she save her house, she's now in business selling her cakes  (US$40 each!!!!).  You can check out her story HERE.

Anyway, I thought I'd have a go at creating a Mortgage Apple Cake, and I mooshed a few apple cake recipes together to come up with this.  It's dead easy and the bit that takes the longest is the peeling and dicing of the apples.  The cake itself was scrumptious and got inhaled by the crowd, so I didn't get a chance to get a photo of the end product (duh), but I'm going to cook it again soon and I'll post a photo.  Basically, it's a great apple cake with the apple dices spread evenly through the slices (I was a bit worried they'd all sink to the bottom, but NO!).  Let's get cooking!

Kristy's Mortgage Apple Cake
  • 4 cups peeled and diced cooking apples (about 8 medium sized apples)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Half cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (not peanuts, I used almonds, but pecans or walnuts would work too)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, well beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour (plain, not self raising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat oven to 350f (180c)
  2. Grease 13x9 inch pan (or whatever you've got, I used a round spring form lined with paper on the bottom and that squirty butter stuff on the sides)
  3. Mix apples and sugar thoroughly
  4. Add oil, nuts, eggs and vanilla
  5. Mix dry ingredients together
  6. Add dry ingredients to apple and sugar mixture
  7. Stir it all together, it might look a bit thick, but that's okay
  8. Cook for one hour on middle rack
  9. My oven is old and dodgy and it took more like one hour and twenty minutes, just keep an eye on it
You don't have to frost it, but seriously, isn't everything better with frosting?  This frosting is scrumptious and very easy.

Sour Cream Frosting
  • 4 tablespoons of softened butter
  • Half cup sour cream
  • Half teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Half teaspoon lemon juice
  • Quarter teaspoon salt
  • 2 and three quarter cups of icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
  1. Whack it all in a bowl and mix together - by hand if you've got upper arm strength, or using an electric mixer if you're a bit of a wuss like me
  2. Frost!

Forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but remembered to take a photo of the mess.  Yes, that's how I roll.  Sigh.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Aqua Di Parma Boutique, Rome, Italy

Do you remember that scene in the movie "Love Actually" where Rowan Atkinson's character is helping to pack up the necklace for his cheating client at Christmas?  It's all meant to be done in quite a hurry, but he wants to make the parcel look enchanting for his customer, and it takes ages and ages, with his client blowing steam out of his ears, worrying that he's going to get caught by his wife?

Yes?  Well, I had a very similar packing situation (not the cheating though!) in the amazing Acqua di Parma store at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome earlier this year.  It was hysterical and my hubby and I couldn't actually make eye contact or we were going to burst out laughing.

I had seen this gorgeous scent, Arancia di Capri, in the Alitalia Duty Free magazine in November last year on my way to Cagliari, Sardinia.  I thought I'd best try before I bought it, so when I was in Cagliari, I found a store selling it, so I had a good sniff and loved the fragrance (even though I think it might be mens - who cares?).

On the flight back to Zurich, the Alitalia staff couldn't be bothered to bring the Duty Free cart around, so I couldn't buy it - grrrr.  After that I looked for it everywhere, and couldn't find it anywhere, so I was thrilled to find out that there was a brand new, and seriously upscale, Acqua di Parma store in Rome when we were there in February.

We were on our way back to the hotel to collect our bags and head to the airport as I ducked in to the store to quickly grab a bottle and then run to a taxi - but no, that was not to be.  As I discovered, the Acqua di Parma experience is not to be rushed.

I was greeted by a rather gorgeous, impeccably dressed, male staffer who helped me take a bottle from the shelf, then tried to sell me an additional fragrance ("No, but thanks, we're in a bit of a hurry") whilst he balanced my bottle of fragrance on a dinky little tray and placed it on a dinky little counter.

I whipped out my credit card and was then escorted by another staff member, with my fragrance on the dinky little tray, to a beautiful little room where you pay.  A different staff member lifted my fragrance off the tray, farewelled the tray carrier, and placed the fragrance on a monogrammed mat.  He delicately sprayed some monogrammed tissue with a different fragrance and placed it in a very posh carry bag, making a little nest, before placing my bottle in the nest.

"Samples, Madam?" he enquired.  "That would be lovely" I calmly said, whilst having internal hysteria over the whole thing, and trying not to get a case of the giggle snorts (not pretty).  Out come a stack of beautifully packaged samples, more sprayed tissue, more nests, more delicate placing in the posh bag.  Then a roll of ribbon was produced, a length measured and cut, sprayed with another fragrance, and tied to the ribbon handle of the posh bag.

Only then was I allowed to pay.

Now, every single fragrance that they sprayed about was absolutely gorgeous, and the entire experience was amazing.  If you're in Rome, you must go there and buy even a small bottle (and that's all I bought), so you can have the Acqua di Parma experience - it's fabulous!

Boutique Acqua di Parma
Piazza di Spagna, 27
00187, Roma