We went up to Inverness to meet with some of my husband's colleagues to enjoy a spot of 'corporate hospitality' and decided to spend the weekend before so we could have some relaxing time, play a round of golf and do a little sightseeing around Inverness. I have been to Inverness before but it was for work and a long time ago so I was quite excited to go back and actually enjoy being there.
We stayed in an apartment, which gave us a bit of flexibility and included a washing machine so we didn't have to take too much luggage too. I am looking more and more for apartments and air b&b's for trips longer than 4 days as i do enjoy having the ability to make my own breakfast.
We ate at a few local restaurants but one particularly special one was at Chez Roux at Rocpool Restaurant.
The restaurant is in a boutique hotel a short walk from central Inverness. We booked in advance online but actually on a Monday evening in April it was fairly quiet. We were offered beautifully presented amuse bouche in the bar where we enjoyed gin and tonic before dinner..
My started cheese souffle was very tasty, the cheese had a beautiful flavor. My main dish of lamb with sweetmeats ravioli was just delicious. My husband's asparagus starter and rabbit main were also declared to be perfect. We shared a cheese plate for dessert as we were both so full that a dessert wasn't an option... The cheeses were as you would expect mostly local and served with a nice basket of crackers. All the staff were exceptionally friendly but professional.
The wine list was good, and not at all overpriced. In fact the whole meal including wine was very reasonable.
Chez Roux at Rocpool
Culduthal Road Inverness
We played a round of Golf at Castle Stuart Golf Club to get us warmed up for the games we would play with my husband's colleagues. I'm not an especially good golfer so I was worried that I might crumble under pressure. We LOVED Castle Stuart. The staff were VERY friendly. The pro shop was well stocked (and even had a great sale when we were there).
The course is VERY challenging. The fairways are very open but the greens were very fast, very wavy and quite challenging. A great game of golf, It wasn't cheap, but I'd go back again. Oh and the hotdogs in the halfway house were very good too.... I'd love to go back and play again....
The golf that was organized by my husband's colleagues was at Royal Dornoch Golf Club. I played twice and both days it was quite windy. The fairways on the course were quite easy and I didn't loose a single ball, but the greens were tough to read. There are a lot of brambles so if your ball does go astray you are not going to recover it.... As happened to my husband a few times.
The staff were very friendly in the pro shop. There is also a good halfway house where you can enjoy a small shot of whisky too.
There are some beautiful views of the sea and beach too on the way around. I'm definitely looking forward to going back again.
The whole group of colleagues stayed at Links House in Dornoch. During this time we ate breakfast and dinner in the hotel restaurant which was closed to the public for the whole of our trip. We were treated like royalty.
They even raised the Swiss flag in honor of my husband and I being there.
Everything was absolutely fantastic. The staff were fabulous, nothing was too much trouble for them..
The food was amazing. Lots of local produce and fantastic flavours.
The menu changed daily and on the third day we had a BBQ with a big selection of items from the grill including salad.
The rooms were lovely, we stayed in Beauly which was a good size with a big walk-in shower. The bed was extremely comfortable with crisp cotton sheets.... It was difficult to drag myself out in the morning... There was a good supply of toiletries and fluffy towels.
We had an absolutely fantastic time, gained several pounds, but can't wait to go back again.
All the guys played golf for the whole 3 days but the 'partners' were offered the option to sightsee and do some touristy things in the area. I opted to take one day out and see some of the local sights and I fully enjoyed it. I had a driver who took me to Cawdor Castle a small but lovely castle to visit. Not too big that it became boring and it is still used today as the owner lives in a apartment inside the castle.
The gardens are beautiful too, I could spend hours just sitting and enjoying the sounds of nature and the smells in them. If you are in the area is definitely recommend spending a few hours here.
Lunch was arranged for me at the fabulous Culloden House Hotel.
All in all we had an absolute blast. It was a lovely place to visit, we ate amazing food, stayed in a fabulous hotel, played fairly good golf on great courses and were with an extremely nice bunch of my husband's colleagues.... Someone mentioned that they might repeat the event every two years..... I've already got the dates in my diary.
This was a trip of firsts for me. It was my first time to Amsterdam and The Netherlands and also my first experience of Air B&B.
My friend an I had an absolutely fabulous time. We loved everything about Amsterdam. The people were incredibly friendly, everybody chatted with us and appeared really relaxed. Maybe because they cycle to work and have a good work/life balance? I have no idea, but it made for a great trip.
We arrived on a Wednesday and left on the Saturday. We wanted to avoid the weekend tourists and if the amount of people we saw arrive on Friday afternoon was any indication - I'm glad we did. We did a few of the 'must see' tourist things but also spent a lot of time wandering along the canals and just enjoying the city.
Here are my thoughts on a few things that we did...
First opened in 1800 The Rijkesmuseum is the national Museum of The Netherlands dedicated to Art and History. The Art collection is huge with Paintings from Old Dutch maters such as Hals, Vermeer and of course Rembrandt. The building that houses the museum is beautiful and the museum is very well laid out, with lots of room around the exhibits for everyone to get a good view. It does get very busy so I'd advise getting there early. Even the cafe had a queue at 11.00am
The admission price was 17.50 euro, and I would recommend buying the tickets online to avoid queuing.
Museumstraat 1 Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
With the world's largest collection of Van Gogh paintings all under one roof The Van Gogh museum is a must see on any trip to Amsterdam. The number of 'recognisable' Van Gogh paintings here is just staggering. It was also really interesting to read about Van Gogh's letters to his brother and learn about his family life and a bit more of his history.
Tickets are 17.00euro each for adults and I definitely would buy them online in advance and try and get the 9.00am ones. This gallery was VERY busy when we visited on a Thursday in mid April (not the school holidays). There was a massive queue to buy tickets when we arrived at 8.30 and this was even longer when we left.
1071 DJ Amsterdam
Moco Museum - Banksy and Salvador Dali Exhibition
This was my absolute favourite thing in Amsterdam. I love the work of Banksy and to be able to see the HUGE collection here was a bonus. I had no idea the collection was here and we literally stumbled upon it as we walked to the Van Gough Museum. The tickets were only 12.50 euro and when we went there wasn't even a queue. Maybe not everybody knows Banksy ? Possibly people didn't know the exhibition was here ? I have no idea, but it worked to our benefit.
Museum Square - between the Rijkesmuesum and the Van Gough Museum.
Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in The Attic Museum)
This Museum was suggested by a friend and it was quite a surprise. In 1663 when people weren't allowed to celebrate Catholic mass this church was built hidden in the attic of one of the canalside houses. Before we got there I really thought it would be like a one room shrine, but its is an actual church.... quite amazing.
Keukenhof - Tulip Fields.
We were lucky to have some friends who live nearby Amsterdam who offered to take us to the tulip fields. You can get a coach, and there were LOTS of them, either online or through a hotel concierge. Its about a 40 min drive outside the city, but if you have time its certainly well worth doing. Its quite staggering how many tulips are here (apparently more than 7 million.
We visited for about 3 hours and didn't see everything.
Its 16 euro per adult to visit and then you are free to wander and relax in the beautiful grounds. There are plenty of spots to enjoy a snack or a coffee.
Its only open for the tulip season between March and May so check online.
So thats the touristy stuff out of the way.... where did we eat ??
We arrived into Amsterdam around 8.30 pm and so after we got to our houseboat it was quite late. We were tired and wanted to be able to eat quickly and get to bed early. We had dinner in Bar Mash which was very close to where we were staying. They serve Thai food and the Thai curry was delicious. We ordered a red curry and a penang curry with a couple of beers.
Service was speedy (just what we needed) and the food was as good as any I have had in Thailand. We got great service from very friendly staff.
Located in a very 'local' area De Pijp which is buzzing with restaurants and bars.
La Purete coffee
Fabulous little coffee shop in a beautiful building. We noticed it as we were photographing the buildings nearby. It got very busy with a local crowd taking their coffee to the office. The Vietnamese coffee was excellent and their apple muffins were scrummy too. .
We stopped in for breakfast, It is very close to the flower market.
The Lobby at Nesplein
I booked online a week or so before our trip and I'm glad I did as the whole restaurant was packed with tables turning over quickly. Most of the diners were locals, which is always a good place to be.
Service was very good - until after the starters were cleared away then it slowed down considerably. This wasn't a problem for us as we were happy to enjoy the atmosphere.
The food was excellent. The menu isn't huge - which is something I always like. I'm happier if restaurants offer fewer dishes and cook them well. The Lobby did just this. The food was tasty, well prepared and not too expensive.
I'd recommend this restaurant to friends visiting Amsterdam.
Tunes Bar at The Conservatorium Hotel
Our friends took us to this bar in the Conservatorium hotel and we had a fabulous time drinking gin and chatting to the bar staff. They had lots of knowledge about gin and made excellent recommendations based on our gin preferences. They were frienldy and chatted to us about Dutch gins and even gave us a great recommendation of where to buy local gins before we returned home. There was also a nice supply of nuts at the bar.
De Silveren Spiegel
In a 17th century building De Silveren Spiegel looks like it could collapse if there was a strong wind... We had a late dinner here with friends who live in Amsterdam. They only offer a set menu on Friday and Saturday which I think is good value for the quality of food, however there didn't appear to be much flexibility. The first courses were excellent, Service was also very good. Its quite a formal setting and the tables are laid out beautifully. For us things went slightly downhill with the meat course. We didn't feel the standard was as high as the fish courses, and the service also went slightly downhill... maybe it was too late, I'm not sure. I don't like rhubarb, which was the dessert and so I had to pay a supplement for a cheese plate instead (no alternative) and to be honest the cheese plate was pretty miserable. It was served with the same rolls we had when we arrived, but at this point in the evening they were really hard.
I would recommend this restaurant to friends - however I would suggest making a reservation on a night when the a la carte menu is served.
We stayed in a house boat I booked via the website Air B&B.
As I mentioned it was the first time I have used this site and so I was equally nervous and excited. Everything went smoothly so I had no reason to worry.
We arrived and Anne Marike was there at the house boat to meet us and give us the keys.
She explained how everything worked and gave a couple of tips for the evenings in Amsterdam. The boat was in a more residential area than the chaos of the main touristy streets and was a great location to start sightseeing and visiting the museums I wrote about above. The houseboat on Air B&B I'd use Air B&B again and I have just booked for a trip to Vienna and Budapest.... I'll update with a blog all about that trip in a few months.
I booked a room and table at Schloss Schauenstein as a present for my husband's 50th birthday. It is pricy. Its not an everyday kind of thing, but it was absolutely spectacular and the best meal experience we have had to date.
I use the words 'meal experience' because I really felt that from the moment we arrived to the moment we left the next morning we ate and drank such high quality delicious treats as well as an amazing meal that to simply describe it as 'dinner' somehow just isn't enough.
Andreas Caminada is the chef at Schloss Schauenstein and he has 3 Michelin Stars and 19 Gault Millau points. I'll be honest and tell you that I had never heard of him before a friend suggested this as a gift for my husband, but now I am firmly a fan.
Everything about Schloss Schauenstein was just perfect.
We were greeted warmly when we arrived and our car was parked for use whilst our bags were carried up to the 'Luft Suite' in the tower where we were staying. There was a lovely welcome note on the table for us with two beautiful chocolates.
Our suite was AMAZING. a great view of the local countryside and a bathroom stocked with Molton Brown toiletries, big towels and bathrobes. The hairdryer even had a diffuser...
After settling in (and eating the welcome chocolates) we decided to have a glass of champagne on the terrace. As a nice surprise this was complimentary as was a platter of delightful small snacks that arrived alongside it. The terrace was a lovely spot to wind down after the drive and to enjoy the beautiful sunshine that we were lucky enough to experience that day.
A lovely bubble bath followed the champagne before we descended the stairs to the bar for pre-dinner drinks.. and delicious amuse bouche from the kitchen.
Here are a few photos from the interior of the Schloss...
Dinner was 3, 4, 5 or 6 courses with the option to add 2 surprise courses... As it was a special occasion we opted for 6 courses and the 2 surprise courses.... and we couldn't think of a good reason not to...
From the moment we started eating the amuse bouche in the bar to the final plate of petits fours which were served with tea back in the bar EVERYTHING was delicious. In fact the word delicious doesn't really do justice to it.
At the table in the restaurant there was a little packet of cards with a description of each course printed on it. Anyone who has eaten in this type of fine dining restaurant will appreciate how much this really helps when actually eating the food ( and especially if you aren't giving the waiter 100% attention when he is describing each plate)
I have added lots of photos of the food as an album. I'm not going to bore you with descriptions of each dish, and I think the photos are enough to convince anyone how spectacular the food was...
At the end of the meal Chef Caminada came into the restaurant to greet the diners and spent several minutes talking to every table effortlessly switching between German, Italian and English. He is charming, friendly and deserves every bit of praise he gets. I can not say enough good things about Schloss Schauenstein.
The evening ended with fresh peppermint tea and petits fours in the bar..... which was just about as much as we could manage before we rolled up to bed......
The next morning we walked over to a small building alongside the castle for breakfast... which as I am sure you can guess was scrummy. We has champagne (we I did since I wasn't driving) a selection of juices, pastries, breads, cereals, cold meats, cheeses, and fresh fruit before being served perfectly cooked eggs. It was a truly perfect ending to what was an unforgettable experience.
If you get a chance to go to Schloss Schauenstein TAKE IT - you will not regret it!!
It is not easy to get a hotel booking as they are snapped up, but there are often cancellations so it is worth checking back on the website.
Schauenstein Schloss Restaurant Hotel
Here is a little summary of where we stayed and ate during our 2 weeks in NYC. As with all the places I write about none of these places paid me or gave me free food in return for any kind of reviews
Le Parker Meridian
We stayed here once before and LOVED it, however it is usually one of the more expensive hotels in NYC and so we usually choose the slightly cheaper The Westin at Grand Central.
For whatever reason this trip we were able to get very good rates. Maybe we booked far enough in advance… I have no idea but I was certainly very happy about it.
When we arrived we were upgraded to a junior suite (That Lifetime Platinum Starwood membership has its advantages) which was nice and after a long flight we just completely crashed out, unaware that the room had not been de feathered as per our profile. This wasn't a great start and I woke up on Sunday morning feeling pretty miserable and very congested but everything was rectified quickly and the duvet and pillows were replaced with foam and a wool blanket.
As a platinum member we get a gift which is usually free breakfast. In Le Parker Meridian this is vouchers for a coffee and pastry in Knave their small coffee/lunch/bar spot. This was great for me as I was able to use both my husbands voucher and mine due to them only being usable after 8am. Now this is fine if you are on holiday (me) but makes them pretty useless if you are here for work (husband)
Generally, the rooms are looking a bit tired, the wood in the bathrooms of peeling, and my husband didn’t have a bedside lamp, it had obviously broke and the wires were covered with a plastic square on the wall.
I also noticed that bath robes and slippers aren't automatic here. It was only when I wanted to visit the pool on the 4th day that I realised we didn't have them and had to call housekeeping. Toiletries being replaced is a bit hit and miss, and there are no cotton buds, cotton wool balls or anything beyond shampoo, conditioner, and soap.. not even body lotion.
The gym is excellent and the rooftop pool with floor to ceiling windows is also a rare find in NYC and certainly gives you something to do for a few hours if its raining outside or you are a bit jet lagged and need a bit of a kick start.
The Burger Joint on the ground floor of Le Parker Meridian is a big bonus. The burgers are amazing, some of the best I have eaten. I have written about them before....
We would probably stay again because the location is very good, but it would be a coin toss over here or the Westin Grand Central.
119 West 56TH Street New York City NY 10019
The new restaurant of Chef Dan Kluger ABC Cocina and was on my restaurants to visit list as I had been to ABC and really enjoyed it and so was quite interested to see what Loring Place had to offer.
It was really hard to get a table, even the bar was packed. So we were quite pleased that a friend secured a table for four. Great way to get to sample lots of dishes.
We had drinks in the bar before dinner, and service was very good, the staff were very knowledgable about the gin collection and especially the American Gins and the 'boutique' syrups that were made to go with soda water instead of tonics.
We were seated at our table and ordered a selection of the 'signature' dishes that we could all share.
The hummus and flat bread was very good, nice flavor, spiced cauliflower was also very good. The sprout pizza a big disappointment, it was lacking in flavor but the pork chop with pomegranate was very good, though quite small.
For dessert we had the recommended Hostess cupcake dessert but sadly that was just average at best.
Sadly the meal was really nothing special. ABC was memorable but I don't think Loring Place offers anything new or exciting. It's a nice sized restaurant and the tables are well spaced and you can actually hear your friends speak which is nice but sadly there wasn't a single dish I would return for.
21 West 8th St
New York , NY 10011
Il Bucco Alimentari
I was in the area with a girlfriend visiting Great Jones Street Spa and so I booked this place for late breakfast. We were given our menus but we were a little startled by the size of the plates on the table next to us, However when our food arrived it was more 'normal' portion sized.
I had Eggs al Forno and my friend had Avocado Toast and we ate every last bit. Both dishes were tasty, and a good sized portion. Service was good and we enjoyed a lovely quiet restaurant until the lunch crowd started to appear.
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
53 Great Jones St. 10012 New York
+1 (212) 837-2622
Restaurant Marc Forgione
We arrived a little early to meet our friends and were greeted warmly and shown to the bar where we enjoyed gin and tonics before dinner. The bar area is nice, spacious and if you can't get a table then you can eat smaller plates here.
The restaurant is dimly lit and tables are arranged so we were not too close to our neighboring table.
Our waiter was very good, and patient, explaining all the ingredients that we didn't recognise - there were a lot !! The menu was unnecessarily complicated/cryptic. I'm not sure if they are aiming for confusion or superiority, but a little more description would be great. I'm perfectly happy to admit my lack of knowledge and ask questions but if your menu has the potential to intimidate your customers is that something you want to do? There were many things I'd never heard of mangalista lardo, rutabaga, and nduja to name a few and having foods to share like skewers of love, hot little bitches and lunchables was actually just a bit irritating.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, we had a few small plates to start, an amuse bouche from the kitchen, chili lobster was delicious (but a little messy), fois gras was beautifully presented and the halibut and the monkfish were both cooked perfectly.
I might go back, but the cryptic menu kinda took something away from the whole experience.
134 Reade Street
New York City 10013
+1 (212) -941-9401
Excellent service once again. The is the second time we have visited and it was just as good as I remembered. We were very lucky to get a Saturday night table through our hotel concierge as the restaurant was very busy.
I had the fixed price 4 course menu which is great value.
Oysters were a bit miserable to be honest. I said I liked meaty and creamy ones but 2 of the ones that arrived were so small they were almost none existent. however that was the only complaint. The risotto was tasty and cooked perfectly, my scallop main course was delicious and quite substantial. Large tasty scallops. Chocolate dessert was the perfect end to a delicious meal.
Everything my friends ate from the amuse bouche to the petit fours - mini tiramisu received great compliments. Service was seamless and we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I'll definitely go back again and won't hesitate to recommend mares to friends.
I'll be going back to Marea again and again.....
Marea 240 Central Park South NYC 10019.
La Pizza La Pasta - Eataly
Well first of all I love Italy, I used to come here to buy ingredients when we lived in NY, second it is a great place to eat lunch during the week as there is a lot of choice. (forget the weekends they are crazy busy) We arrived around 1 pm and had no problem getting a table. My friend and I both had the Vongole and it was DELICIOUS. This is my favourite Italian dish and it was coked perfectly with fresh pasts. I would recommend not only the restaurant but also this dish.
Eataly 200 Fifth Avenue NYC 10010
Of course we ate at LOTS more places, but these were the hi-lights.. I hope they are in some way helpful.... I'd love to hear if anyone has been to any of these places and what they thought....
There are several cities my husband regularly visits for work. Depending on the level of interest and time he spends there I decide if I am going to tag along and take advantage of the hotel room. Believe me, I know how lucky that makes me. Its fabulous. I love it !!
And New York is a 'no brainer'.
Even more so since he was spending 2 weeks there, we had some friends from London in town for a few days AND one of my best girlfriends from Melbourne was also going to be there at the same time.
I booked myself a great priced premium Economy ticket with British Airways, and was lucky enough to get an upgrade to business class. I've mentioned before that I LOVE travelling with British Airways, I LOVE the champagne lounge at Heathrow and as a loyal Gold Card holder I get treated well and have a few nice upgrades. It makes a big difference to any trip.
I even managed to get an appointment for a facial in the complimentary Elemis spa at the lounge. This trip was off to a very good start...
As with a lot of my trips to NYC I do tend to make a lot of plans. There are lots of things I like to do and restaurants that I want to try, if I don't make the reservations I can't get tables where I want to or the spa I want to go to is full so to avoid disappointment I do make quite a few plans.. Also, this time around I was co-ordinating a few things with some friends and so being organised was important.
On this trip we were staying at Le Parker Meridian, an SPG hotel very close to Central Park. Its a great location for Shopping, the Metro, and Hubby can walk to the office. Its often quite expensive, but luckily this time, for whatever reason, their rate was very competitive. We use the SPG chain a lot and have lifetime platinum status, and they are quite good with rewarding their loyal guests. This time was no exception and we were up-graded to a suite which is great when you have 2 weeks of luggage and plan to do a lot of shopping. A review of the hotel and the restaurants we ate at will follow in the next post. 2 weeks in NYC - Part 2.
Top of my list of appointments in NYC is always a visit to the hairdresser for a cut.
I have naturally curly hair and there is a great company called Devachan who have 2 salons n NYC, and trained stylists all over the USA and even some in the UK.
If you have curly or even wavy hair check them out. Their cutting technique makes absolute sense and bad hair cuts will become a thing of the past. I discovered them whilst I was living in NY years ago and apart from a Deva trained stylist in London there is no-one else I let near my hair. I use their products (thank you Amazon) and my curls are happy, bouncy and I'm often complimented for them.
425 Broome St (At Crosby), New York, NY 10013
220 West 79th Street, New York, NY 10024
Next on the list of bookings was a spa day with my friend. We chose Great Jones Street Spa as it had been recommended by a friend. I don't have an photos from inside as its a full on spa with saunas steam rooms and jacuzzi as well as all the treatments a girl needs to make her feel beautiful and ready to face the world. Its spread over several floors and is very spacious, you would never be able to tell from the outside.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, I had a fabulous facial and a Mani-Pedi. It was a beautiful oasis in the city and I'd highly recommend it... not at the weekend when it gets crazy busy, but on the Tuesday afternoon in March, it was just perfect.
29 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012
My last booking was for a personal shopping experience at Macy's Department store.
This was lots of fun and a very good time and money saver.
I contacted them via email and sent a photo of myself with my clothing size and a brief explanation of what I was looking to buy. I decided this would be a great way to shake up my wardrobe and try some styles and colours that I wouldn't normally. It worked out very well and I arrived to find a whole room of outfits and accessories ready for me to try on.I found a few pieces that I loved and my personal shopper rushed away to find them in other colours for me. I didn't have to run around the worlds largest department store myself, instead I enjoyed my complimentary drinks and waited for the clothes to come to me. Perfect.
To add to the experience is the 20% discount offered on all the items you buy from the personal shoppers suggestions. On the day I was there some of the items already had a discount, and so the additional 20% really did bring the overall bill down considerably.
I left with some great jeans, a couple of pairs of cropped trousers for the summer, some tops and t-shirts in colours I would not normally choose and a beautiful wrap dress.
A very successful, stress free shopping trip I will definitely repeat.
151 West 34th Street NY 10001 4th Floor
I'll write a separate post about the restaurants we went to during our stay, some new ones, and an old favorite... READ THIS POST HERE
All in all the trip was a great success, a fabulous mixture of 'me time', catching up with friends and eating in some great restaurants, updating my wardrobe ready for spring and getting a haircut. What more could I ask for....
I've eaten Gnocchi many times in restaurants and really enjoyed it. I have no idea why I have never tried to cook it myself.
It is a lighter option than pasta and if it is cooked fresh it is absolutely delicious. I found a great recipe online and it was so easy to make and it produced enough dough that I froze some for another day. (I have since used that and it defrosted and cooked without any problem)
I'm not going to lie, It is a time consuming recipe but I just did it on a day when I had lots of other chores at home. My husband loved it. I served it with a pork and mushroom stroganoff. Give it a try, its well worth it.
250g rock salt
1.25kg potatoes (I used ones for baking/Rosti/fries - we don't have the same names in CH as the rest of the world)
200g plain flour
1/4 tsp pepper
200g parmesan finely grated.
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 egg yolks
100g unsalted butter
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. scatter the rock salt on a baking tray and put the potatoes on top. Bake for 1 hour / until tender. This will depend of the type of potato and their size. Remove and allow to cool.
Slice the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. In a bowl mix the flesh with parmesan, flour nutmeg, salt, and egg yolk. Using a potato masher helps to also ensure there are no potato lumps. Mix into a lump and divide the lump into 4 smaller balls.
Roll the balls out on a floured surface to form a roll about 2 - 2.5 cm wide and slice. See the picture below. Use a fork to flatten, this also gives them the indents on top.
In batches cook the gnocchi in boiling water until they float to the top (about 1 minute). Remove and plunge into iced water then transfer to a plate with kitchen towel to dry.
Leave these to dry for anywhere between 1 - 4 hours. I put mine on trays in the fridge but you can keep them anywhere cool.
When you are ready to cook them heat the oven to 200 degrees.
Melt butter in a large fry pan and cook the gnocchi in batches turning them to ensure they are a nice light brown on both sides (about 4 minutes).
Transfer to a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 5 mins until they are puffed and golden.
Serve with a nice meat ragu or a mushroom stroganoff... whatever you feel like.
I just use them wherever I would normally add potato or pasta to a creamy sauce dish.
If you want to freeze them you can do so at the stage where you have a dough. I did this and defrosted it, rolled them and continued from that stage and they were just as delicious.
As part of my attempt to introduce new recipes into my kitchen I decided to try one of my husband's favourite Chinese dishes. Crispy Duck with pancakes.
It needs a bit of time - a few days !!- to do the prep, but its actually a fairly simple recipe to follow.
2 - 2.5kg duck
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
2.5 g piece ginger peeled and grated (I used ground ginger from a jar)
2 star anise
For the Brining solution
140g brown sugar
300ml Chinese rice vinegar
2 spring onions cut into strips
1 cucumber cut into strips
How to do it...
Clean the duck washing the inside and then drying with paper towels.
Using a sharp skewer prick the skin all over.
Holding the duck by the neck pour boiling water over the skin. This tightens the skin and helps to produce the characteristic crispy skin.
Dissolve the 140g brown sugar in 200ml warm water and add the rice vinegar and 700ml cold water.
Put the duck in a large plastic bag and pour in the brining solution.
Chill for 3 hours or up to 24 hours turning over a few times.
Remove the duck from the bag and pat dry.
Leave the duck on a rack over a tray uncovered in the fridge overnight.
Before cooking remove from the fridge for an hour to let the duck get to room temp.
Combine the sugar and salt and five spice and rub this thoroughly inside the duck.
chop the shallots roughly and put inside the duck with the ginger and star anise.
Close up the end of the duck using a skewer.
Cook the duck on the rack over the tray in a 130 - 150C degree oven for 2 hours 15 mins.
Increase the oven heat to 220C degrees and cook for a further 15 mins to crisp up the skin.
If you want the duck even crispier you can heat some peanut oil until hot enough to cook a cube or bread and carefully spoon this over the duck.
I made a mistake here, I forgot to buy peanut oil and thought I could just use the oil that had dripped into the roasting tray.... this left black bits on the skin of the duck (you can see it in the photos) It didn't change the taste, but it wasn't as visually appealing as I had hoped.
Serve rolled in the pancakes with a drizzle of the hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onions.
I also fried some Bak Choi (called crispy seaweed in Cantonese restaurants) as a starter. I just cut the green part into fine strips and fried it in about 10 cm of oil. it cooks very quickly so fish it out as soon as it changes colour.
It was a huge success. The flavour was amazing, the duck was moist and the kitchen smelt like a Chinese restaurant. Hubby loved it, and there was way too much for just the two of us so my Brother In Law came over and had a take away too. I'll definitely be making this again, especially since the duck was relatively inexpensive in the wholesale food store I'v started using.
If you give it a try, let me know how you get on. Enjoy.
Most people don't see as much of the city they live in as the tourists who visit it. I don't have any statistics to support this, but just listening to friends who say..
'Oh, I've lived here for years and never seen that'
tells me that this is true.
In fact when we lived in NY we saw more of the USA than many of our American friends... we visited Mt Rushmore, Bryce County National Park, Drove from San Diego to San Francisco, went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and lay on a beach in Hawaii.... all in all we visited 23 states in 2 years, maximising our time there. I guess we are not 'the norm'.
I lived in London for 16 years and I did visit most of the sights. We had lots of visitors from Switzerland during the years when my husband and I lived there together so whilst escorting them around I saw a lot more than the average Londoner.
There were still LOTS of things I hadn't done though so when a friend from New York City was visiting for a few days I jumped at the chance to 'be a tourist' with him. Of course we weren't the usual tourists dithering at the ticket machine at the tube station and trying to work out how to negotiate the vast London Underground network, I made fabulous restaurant reservations and knew exactly the quickest way from A to B, but we still had a hit list of 'sights' to see.
The list included some of the most popular, Tower of London, St Paul's, Westminster Abbey which of course I had already done, but also included the more obscure like the Silver Vaults which I had never even heard of. Ask how many of your London friends have even heard of The Silver Vaults and I'm pretty sure there won't be a lot.
There were also the predictable lunch and dinner spots. The only one I had been to before was the Gherkin... all of the others most Londoners avoid like the plague, but 'In for a penny, in for a pound' and all that... so The Goring, Claridges and the Savoy were added to the list. I added a couple of more local spots to keep a little balance. One of my fave spots, Berners Tavern was a firm favourite with my American friend as was Mr Foggs Gin Parlour.
Here is a more detailed explanation of what we got up to, Maybe it will give you some idea for your next visit to the 'smoke'.
We booked a table in the 'lobby' restaurant for lunch during the week. It was quiet and the staff greeted me warmly showing me to the table where I waited until my friend arrived. My friend, as I mentioned, is American and this was somewhere he really wanted to visit. It's not somewhere I would normally go and I was pleasantly surprised by the sensibly priced menu.
I ordered Roast beef sandwich and hand cut chips and they were perfect.
My friend had the set lunch but I was short of time so couldn't indulge. I explained to the staff I was short of time and so my order was brought very promptly.
To be honest it's not somewhere I would return to alone but I would take visitors to London without hesitation and would definitely recommend it. Food was very good quality and service was excellent.
Claridges, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR +44 (0)20 7629 8860 website
Amazing service in an incredibly elegant environment. From the moment I arrived to wait for my friend in the bar the staff went out of their way to make me feel comfortable offering me a newspaper to read or the dinner menu.
When my friend arrived the restaurant waiter took our food orders and the sommelier came to discuss wines and we were escorted to the dining room when dinner was ready to be served.
Everything we ate was delicious. Starting with the bread and perfectly salted butter.
The Cep risotto that we both had to start was perfect. Great flavour and well presented. My friend had Brill for the main course and I had cod, again both cooked perfectly. Desserts were equally impressive. You would expect noting less from a Michelin Star restaurant and The Goring didn't disappoint.
The dining room is simply lovely. It's all very elegant - and the tables are spaced to ensure privacy. A great place for a special occasion dinner. I'd highly recommend a reservation here.
The Goring 15 Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW +44 (0) 20 7396 9000 Website
This was my third visit to Berners Tavern and won't be my last. We booked in advance and got a great corner table enabling us to see the whole room which was great for people watching.
The dining room is stunning with high ceilings and lots of paintings giving it a real wow factor.
The menu offers something for everybody and even those who don't have an unlimited budget. There are burgers on the menu and wine by the glass - of which there was quite a good selection, of course you can also have amazing British lobster and steaks with champagne too.
My starter - pork pie was wheeled out on a trolley and was sliced at the table and dressed with a selection of pickles and mustards. It was delicious.
My burger for my main course was really tasty and juicy. Although it didn't look 'big' neither I nor my friend could finish them. We chose not to have desserts as the 2 courses we had were quite substantial, which was a bit of a shame, as I know the desserts are very good....
I'll be back again and again and have been recommending to everyone who visits London.
Berners Tavern, 10 Berners Street, London +44 (0)20 7908 7979 WEBSITE
The Savoy Bar
Dark but elegant decor with an old fashioned elegant feel. You expect well dressed men and women in pearls drinking cocktails but sadly when we were there it was just men in suits drinking beers with colleagues.
Our waiter was charming and out G&Ts were good. The drinks menu is a pop up menu book which was delightful. I may venture over for afternoon tea... or Kaspars Seafood Bar...
The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R OEU + 44 (0)20 7836 4343 website
Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour
A friend who comes here regularly suggested I try this place, what a fabulous find. I would highly recommend booking ahead. It's small and they simply don't have space for drop ins. We managed to get standing room space because we were early and only wanted one drink before a dinner reservation. The staff are all fab - great personalities, especially the guy who works downstairs on the door.
They have hundreds of gins and many different tonics to go with them. Our drinks arrived beautifully garnished and the cocktails we saw others drink looked equally beautiful. If you even like hi just a little bit you will love this place. It's quirky and fun. I'm already looking forward to another visit - this time with a reservation!!
Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour 1 New Row, Covent Garden +44 207 590 3605 WEBSITE
Tower of London
It was years since I had visited the Tower so I was quite looking forward to this bit of the trip. Its on most tourists hit list so it can get very busy.
We got to the tower at just after 9am and there was hardly anyone there. We decided to go and visit the Crown Jewels before taking the 10am guided tour with one of the Yeoman Warders who actually lives and guards the Tower. We got to spend loads of time in the jewel room and were the only ones there. The security guard was knowledgeable and we had a great chat with him.
There were about 40 people on the short tour with the Yeoman Warder but that wasn't a problem and he was very entertaining. We got to go inside the church which you wouldn't be able to do without the guide. It was an informative tour and the guide had some great anecdotes.
The Tower compound is much larger inside that it looks like it will be. Its was a thoroughly enjoyable site to visit.
After the tour we had another walk around and then enjoyed tea and a biscuits in the cafe. There weren't a lot of people visiting at all so our morning was calm and relaxed.
If you can go first thing in the morning I'd advise it.. even better if it's in January.
We were not able to make a guided tour as the times are not advertised on the website and we missed the last one when we arrived. This was really a shame as I love the interaction and being able to ask questions...Also i don't particularly like the audio guides. Despite this we stuill really enjoyed out visit. The Gothic Abbey has been the venue for many royal weddings and funerals and is also the burial site for many key figures in British history.
The abbey is beautiful and there is a lot to see so it's worth allowing 2-3 hours.
As a bonus just over the road is Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
St. Paul's cathedral
Located in the City of London St Paul's Cathedral is London's Anglican cathedral.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren it is spectacular.
We arrived at 9am and booked spaces on the 10am tour. Elaine (?) our tour guide was fabulous. She clearly loves her job and St Paul's and was full of information. Taking the tour also means being able to access some restricted areas of the cathedral.
St Paul's has held the silver, Golden and Diamond jubilee celebrations and the 80th adn 90th birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II. It is also where Charles and Diana were married and was where the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were held.
We spent 2.5 hours and didn't get to see everything. I could easily have spent 4 hours there.
The Silver Vaults
I never even knew that the vaults existed but my American friend had seen a tv documentary and wanted to see them so I went along. I'm so glad I did.
The Vaults opened in 1885 as The Chancery Lane Safety Deposit.
The vaults now house traders shops selling silver. LOTS of them.
There are shops selling new modern items and shops selling antique table wear and everything in between. There isn't a lot of jewellery.
It's a fascinating place to visit and the traders there are mostly descendants of the original traders. They are happy to chat and tell you about their wares.
It's a great place to pick up a unique gift.
CHANCERY LANE, LONDON WC2A 1QSWebsite
If you are planning a trip to London I hope I have given you some ideas of places to eat and things to do during your visit. Have a look also at the Fabulous things to do in London 1 - 5 in the index on the right. There are some less tourists things to do if you have been to London many times.
Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy London - it has a special place in my heart and I hope it finds a way into your heart too.
Sometimes I feel like I am in the Import and Export business. I'm pretty sure this is a common feeling many Expats experience because there are always food things you miss from your old 'home' and things from your new 'home' that you are excited for friends in your old 'home' to try. Whenever we have house guests from overseas there is always a list of things we'd like them to bring too... I don't do all the work myself, I do delegate sometimes.
I started importing and exporting way before we even moved away from the UK. We would take potato chips and Indian food items from the U.K. to Switzerland and return with delicious Swiss Chocolate and Cheese for our U.K friends.
The quantities were never huge, often just enough for one meal... unless its chocolate - then the whole office wanted some, so I'm pretty sure no laws were being broken, and often one small packet of un baked Naan bread or a large pot of yeast could make you a welcome house guest.
The I&E business continued when we lived in Hong Kong.
Cheese was always high on the list of things to bring back. There was a miserable selection of cheese at the time and it was certainly one of the things my husband really missed. When we lived in Singapore it was wine. Wine was outrageously expensive. House guests would bring wine and leave with Laksa spice kits or Beef Rendang curry sauces.
In the USA it was trips to Canada that supplied us with proper back bacon... that streaky stuff is just not what Bacon Butties should be made with. Trips back to Switzerland ensured we had Gruyere Cheese and Chocolate as anyone European in the USA knows 'Swiss Cheese' and anything from Hersheys is completely unpalatable.
Trips to the UK would allow me to stock up on Coleman's Mustard and HP Sauce.
Requests for things from the USA often meant trips to Nike and Michael Kors before a flight to Europe.
My Last trip to the UK I managed to find the stash of goodies in the picture above. Thankfully I wasn't travelling alone as I would have gone straight over my luggage allowance...those tins of treacle are fairly heavy.
Luckily now in 2017 I can buy 'most' things in Switzerland but there are a few things that are so expensive that I always throw them into my luggage when returning such as Baking powder and yeast. In Switzerland they are only sold in sachets. These sachets are too much for one bake but never enough for two. In the UK I can buy tubs, for a fraction of the cost. Made by the same people but in much more user friendly sizes for a fraction of the cost.
But best of all is my current favourite import, Prawn (Shrimp) Crackers. I can buy these in Chinatown in London for a couple of pounds for a big bag but somehow these have never made their way to Switzerland even though there is a strong Thai community here.
They are by far superior to the puffy Chinese Prawn Crackers which I can buy in Switzerland but are not even a close substitute.
I buy as many of these as I can fit in my suitcase.....
Before a Thai curry and with some sweet chilli dip whilst enjoying a Tiger Beer there is nothing better.
I accept that we are completely spoiled and that this has lead to the movement of food around the globe in my suitcase. If we didn't travel so much I would have no idea that the tonkatsu sauce bought in the supermarket in Tokyo is by far superior to the ones I attempt to make myself, And once you have eaten proper Thai Prawn Crackers on a beach in Thailand, nothing else really hits the spot.
So, whilst I am thankful that we get the opportunities to travel as much as we do... it has made me an accidental international grocery trader.
There isn't a lot a I don't like about the Trip Advisor travel map. There have been a few times over the years that I haven't been able to pin the places I've been to, but that is usually because they are more remote places we travelled through in Tibet for example, but apart from that its hard to find fault with it.
I LOVE the ability to pin cities I want to visit.
I usually only do the cities I am actively planning to visit, otherwise the whole map would be filled with green pins.. Using the green pins is a great way to plan journeys.
We have just booked flights for a trip in August to Sweden. I pinned all the cities we would drive through on our trip and then it was easy to see if there were any other cities nearby that we could easily get to, this is how we added Copenhagen and Oslo.
I zoomed into the map and printed it out and then using google maps I put in the driving distances between the cities to estimate how many days we would need. Easy Peasy.
I'm in the process of planning a 5 week trip to India early 2018 and I'm doing something similar. Hubby has gone through a few websites and come up with some cities or sights he wants to visit. I've pinned the map. I've printed the map and will write on the cities and using a guide book and various websites I will check to see what else is nearby each of the pins.
On my paper map I've added all the local airports and can start to come up with a rough 'plan'
I have also asked a few friends who have visited India several times to take a look at my map and suggest places I may not have thought about... I can see their travel maps and ask questions about places I can see they have travelled to... This only works if your friends keep their maps up to date too... but since its such a fun thing to do - why wouldn't you ??
There is something very satisfying about turning those green pins into orange ones :)
My Map tells me I have been to 750 cities and want to go to 43... and that I've only visited 43% of the world.... My Travel Map
I'm lucky that I've seen a lot more than many people... but also VERY aware that there is a lot of places I have yet to get to... and my list of places to visit is constantly grows.
Whilst I am still in the planning stage of both of these two trips - any advice or thoughts regarding any of my green pins would be most welcome :)
Do you use Trip Advisor or any other travel maps ?? I haven't really looked into any other Maps and would be interested to hear about any other sites or apps...
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