Saturday, 30 June 2012

New Blog

Just a little advert for my new blog:

The Essay of Doom and other Tales of Academic Woe

It will not be replacing this blog in any way, shape or form; it is to record my adventures in academia, studying for my MA in History with the Open University.

If you're interested, please take a look!

Thank you. :)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Restaurant Review: Malmaison, Birmingham

Last weekend I attended a Midlands Bloggers meet-up. The meet-up took place at the Malmaison Brasserie in Birmingham organised by Cat of Yellow Days. She managed to get us a deal where we paid £18.50 each for three courses and half a bottle of wine.

It was great to meet up with other bloggers, including meeting Jo of Jo's Kitchen and Jo's Nursery again, and meeting parent bloggers Cat, Rebecca of Here Come the Girls and Roz of Life, Love and Lollipops for the first time. I think we all had a great night with good food, lovely wine and great company!

The service at Malmaison was very good right from the start. They made no complaint about us having fewer persons than expected and swiftly rearranged our table for five people.

The menu was fairly small but had a good range of dishes. 

For starter, I opted for the spring roll.

Sorry for the blurry photo - my little camera couldn't cope with the low light conditions...
Anyway, this was delicious - possibly the best spring roll I had ever had. And just the right size for a starter.

For my main, I had Beef Bourginon. I love a good beef bourguinon. And if they could get that right, then that's the sign of a really good restaurant.

Just look at those delicious little mini shallots! This dish did not disappoint. The mash potato was creamy and perfectly smoothy and the beef bourguinon itself was deliciously meaty and salty.

My main wasn't huge, so I was feeling totally up for pudding at this point. I opted for the vanilla panna cotta.

It had an impressive wobble on it. The fruit went really well with the creamy vanilla panna cotta. And for such a small, innocent-looking dessert, it just about finished me off. I felt like I couldn't MOVE after I'd eaten it.

So, would I eat at Malmaison again? Yes. I couldn't fault any of it really. We had great, attentive service and great food, and I'd definitely like to try some more of the food on their menu. I also wouldn't mind giving the hotel a go (my husband thinks there'd be no point given we live so close to Birmingham, but I just like hotels, ok?). A return visit may be imminent!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ta Mena Estate, Gozo, Malta

After the wedding, there was of course a honeymoon. We visited the island of Gozo in Malta for two weeks. I had been to Malta once before with my family, but we had only done a day trip to Gozo, so thought it would be interesting to experience the Gozitan way of life and explore the island more thoroughly.

One of the highlights of our holiday was taking part in a food and wine tour at Ta Mena Estate near Marsalforn. The tour was advertised through our hotel - the Kempinski San Lawrenz - and cost €13 each. It was advertised as including a tour of the estate and food and wine tastings. For €13 I wasn't necessarily expecting a huge amount of food nor whole glasses of wine (wine tastings I have been to before have included small amounts of various different wines), but let's just say for now that the Gozitan hospitality did not let me down on this score.

As advertised, there was first a tour of the estate. The owner of the estate, Joe, showed us the olive trees, the vineyards, some of the animals and explained his traditional methods of farming and the history of the estate - you can read more about these at their website linked to above.
Gozo has the perfect climate for growing just about everything - strawberries, melons, oranges, lemons, broad beans, to name but a few products produced on Gozo. Fennel and capers grow wild on the road side. They make particularly good wines, as the climate is perfect for growing grapes, but I don't think much, if any, of it is exported.

Once the tour had finished, the small group of us who were on the tour, returned to base camp at the bottom of the hill, where we sat al fresco as we were introduced to some Gozitan food and wine produced on the farm by Joe and his wife.

We had tomato paste on bread and Maltese crackers (galletti), olive paste, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and Gozitan cheese (gbejniet). And there was plenty to go round. The tomato paste in particular was amazing - I have never tasted tomato paste like it! We also got a lesson in olive oil tasting and wine tasting.

I couldn't believe how much wine they gave us. We had one glass of white, one of rosé, and two different reds. All the wines were delicious - I can't remember what kind of white it was now, but I do remember that it was the best white I had ever tasted - even my husband liked it and he doesn't normally drink white! We were particularly impressed by the final red we had which was Marsamena - we ended up buying two bottles of it (we would have bought more if we had more room in our suitcases). It was a bargain at €8 a bottle!

 This particular wine is made from five different grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Savignon, Serkuzan, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. It's a complex and full-bodied wine, perfect for sipping slowly and savouring after a scrumptious supper.

The best thing about the tour (apart from the delicious food and wine), was that it felt like we had been invited into Joe's home for the evening - he and his wife were so warm and friendly and welcoming. And they did ply us with plenty of food and wine.

We were also treated to some samples of their newly-developed chocolates and a shot of limoncello to round off the evening.

They have small shop on site and we bought some tomato paste, capers, olives and some Maltese biscuits to share with relatives back home. These are nice reminders of our holiday and I only wish I could import these products so I could keep a regular stock of them here at home!

All in all, a fantastic evening was had at Ta Mena and we hope to visit again in the future.

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Wedding

I promised a more detailed post about the wedding, so here it is, with a slight emphasis on food. Credit to Fierce Photography for the beautiful photos.

Preparations began in my flat. The theme of my wedding was Spring, and my choice of dress reflected this with flower themed lace.

My dress was from The Bridal Gallery in Coventry.

My beautiful bouquet containing gerberers, roses and agapanthus was put together by my husband's cousin, Helen. She's an engineer who likes to engineer flowers into nice arrangements in her spare time.

My transport to the wedding venue was a 1953 Chevrolet BelAir Club Coupe, courtesy of Classic American Wedding Cars:

The harpist, Jemima Phillips, played us in:

And then there was ring-exchanging:

And kissing...

And then finally, on to the start of the food! There were canapes and bubbly (we opted for prosecco, as I prefer it to champagne), while speeches were done:

I can't even remember what kind of canapes we had. I didn't get a chance to eat very many of them. All our catering was done by the venue, Stoneleigh Park; although we provided the prosecco and wine for the tables in the evening, which we purchased from Naked Wines.

And then a short while later there was afternoon tea, complete with Pimm's:

While our guests enjoyed the beautiful decorations, which had been put together with such loving care by our friends Kerry and Febs:

And then it was time for some evening entertainment provided by duo Spring and Pemberton...

...before the cutting of the cake - cake made by Kathy of Kathy's Cupcakes and More - bottom layer chocolate, middle layer lemon sponge and top layer fruit cake.

Along with dairy-free and gluten-free cupcakes:

And then there was more food in the form of a three-meat carvery accompanied by a hearty buffet of spring rolls, sausage rolls, salads, etc. (Again, I didn't get the chance to eat much of it being the bride, but what I did have was delicious. And HUGE.)

The end...