29 July 2014

STAX Diner

STAX Diner is the newest creation from Bea Vo, owner of Bea's of Bloomsbury which is famous for it's afternoon tea. However, as the name suggests this is a bit of a jump from Bea's dainty cakes and sandwiches. 

Let's face it American style diner food is not a new trend in London - there have been a lot of diners cropping up, focusing on doing a certain diner favourite well (I'm thinking of the successful niche restaurants here i.e., Bubbledogs etc). However, STAX Diner in Kingly Court off Carnaby Street serves up literally all of the good old All American Classics. They're not serving just one American favourite several ways, they're serving many. Think fried chicken and waffles, shrimp po boys and burgers a-plenty. And if we had to give a name to it's American style you'd have to call it flipped or fried as almost everything on the menu (drinks and deserts excluded) is.

We snuck in on the rainy Saturday of the Gay Pride Parade at lunch time and were surprised to be seated at once with how many people were milling about (the rain definitely didn't deter Gay Pride). In addition, STAX Diner only opened at the end of June and it's got a small number of seats so I was expecting us to wait at least half an hour (something quite typical with London restaurants and that I conveniently forgot to mention to Dan when I said we should go!).

The place has a semi open kitchen next to the bar and seats in the windows, which open out onto Kingsly Court. The decor is laissez-faire chic, with black metal tables, scuffed yellow stools, an array of coffee tin light fittings and a drum kit come chandelier. The walls are covered in a wallpaper of old band tour posters everywhere except the blackboard wall at the entrance which displays the entire menu, hard shakes and all. And if you can't see the menu clearly from the back why not have a fan menu, perhaps designed so you can better waft the smells from the kitchen to your face.

Having been running around all day, we were in serious need of hydration so we ordered their freshly squeezed lemonade (making mine a pink one of course), which was very refreshing.

We had visited the Wild Food Market in Brook Green just before, so we decided to not overdo it and ordered four sides between us; apple and poppyseed coleslaw, popcorn shrimp, fried pickles and the 'must have' onion blossom. It has not escaped my notice that three of these were deep fried - I won't lie to you, this isn't a healthy post.

The apple and poppyseed coleslaw with it's different textures was really interesting and had a good tang to it. 

I loved the popcorn shrimp and the accompanying Spicy Comeback Sauce! It was spicy cajun style and the shrimp were juicy with a crispy coating. I realised I'd eaten almost all of them at the last one, and I felt really bad for Dan. But I still ate the last shrimp..

Dan's favourite were the deep fried pickles, which says a lot because he's normally a fickle pickle pleaser. These were more like deep fried pickle chips they were so thick and the accompanying sauce also had pickles in, with this in mind it's a wonder he liked it, but they were delicious.

I was so excited by the 'must have' blossom onion and when it arrived it looked amazing. Like the blossom from my dreams (this post by Emma over on A Beautiful Mess), when it showed up on the table it was golden brown, covered in spices and smelt amazing but 'must have' it was not. I'm sorry to say the onion was raw, sharp and really greasy. Maybe this is how it's supposed to be, but for me my dream must have onion was a must not. 

It makes me sad just looking at this picture.

Moving on, overall the food and service were good, and I will be going again if only to grab the hard shake (alcohol meets ice cream soda) I missed out on and some more popcorn shrimp. And maybe some waffles? Or a burger. Or a duffin sundae! 

Yay duffins!

27 July 2014

Oh You Pretty Pins

Two weeks ago, Dan and I went home to visit my mum for her birthday. I love going home, normally we'd just walk along the beach or the harbour, breakfast out and relax. And although we did all these things, we also went out for dinner with some of my mum and her boyfriend's friends, watched a seriously good country band from New Orleans, Truckstop Honeymoon, and their kids play (honestly I could never have played an instrument at their age, this is supported by me getting expelled from recorder club age 9), and went to my brother's best friend's homecoming party. It was really unusual because when we're at home we might do one of those additional things, but Saturday was just a blur of activity. 

Amongst this, while I was deciding on what film to watch in 3D on Saturday night (that's right after all that I wanted to watch a film) it was discovered that my mum's boyfriend and his son have never seen Jurassic Park. Which only happens to be my all time favourite film ever, and I won't hear a bad word about the sequels either! In trying to explain what it was (something I never thought I would have to do) I ended up singing along to Vikki Stone's Jurassic Park Love Song, and I think I might have got too carried away in my dinosaur impressions because no-one wanted to watch it after my performance. 

So since then, Jurassic Park deprived, I have been pinning many dinosaur-related goods with a few of my favourites shown below. And I seem to have quite a few new followers on Pinterest, which make me feel great because I no longer feel alone in my love for dinosaurs (sometimes Dinomania can be a very lonely disorder). 

1. Ice cream just doesn't taste as sweet knowing that it could be covered in neon dinosaur sprinkles or just sprinkles in general looking at the Bakers Confections Etsy shop.
2. As said previously I grow more plants in our flat than most people grow in their gardens. But if you're not naturally green fingered terrariums are a great easy project, and I love the idea of adding dinosaur props to one. Unfortunately this terrarium has sold out, but Urban Grow have some other designs here.
3. Sometimes I get it into my head that I want a giant T. Rex replica skull on the wall in our flat, strangely Dan has agreed to this happening when we move house. However, for now I'm in search of something a bit smaller and this gold T. Rex skull pendant sure is pretty.
4. I absolutely love Fred & Friends kitchen items and have tons but there's always room for one more!
5. Again sold out, but such a fun planter. As an alternative I am loving this lime green Euoplocephalus one from Crazy Couture.
6. These dinosaur lollipops would make great favours for any party but I can also see them as supreme cake toppers!

22 July 2014

Eat Pasta de Señorita

When I go out for dinner if there's a choice of restaurant and one of them is an 'Italian' I will almost always go for the other suggestion. This isn't because I don't like Italian restaurants, I do! When we went to Italy it wasn't really possible for us to have a bad dish, but in the UK some of my most disappointing dining experiences have been with 'Italian' restaurants and more importantly pasta. One of those experiences happened recently when I went to an Italian with a group of friends from my old workplace. I may have been slightly affected because a couple of nights before Dan and I made this pasta dish, but the one that I had at the restaurant which promised a thick tomato sauce with white wine and prawns tasted purely of salt and cheese. Which actually sounds delicious now but really wasn't. 

So you might be wondering, 'why have you named this post Pasta de Señorita when you're talking about Italians?' And the answer is because this is my fusion Italian pasta meets Spanish sherry and smoked paprika (a food trend I will never let die). 

This is one of our go to dishes and you wouldn't believe such a quick and easy dish could pack so much flavour. But with garlic and chilli, tomato and bacon, and sherry and paprika it's a Spanish fiesta of flavour!

Pasta de Señorita 
(serves 2 señoritas)

200g wholewheat pasta
160g king prawns
2 slices of smoked bacon
1 1/2 glugs sherry
2 1/2 tbsp parsley
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 large vine tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
2 tbsp single cream
Squeeze of lemon
Olive oil

Step 1. Cut the bacon into strips and fry in a pan without any oil until crispy then remove from the pan. Heat a pan of hot water adding salt to aid boiling and a splash of olive oil. Once the water is boiling add the pasta, cook for the desired amount of time and then drain. I used wholewheat pasta because I like the nutty flavour it gives this dish.

Step 2. Cut the tomatoes into eighths and fry in a little bit of olive oil till the skin starts to pucker. Peel and dice the garlic and chilli and add them to the pan, cook for 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant and then add a good glug and a half of sherry (I use cream sherry as it gives the dish a more rounded flavour). 

Step 3. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the prawns (if they're not deveined you may want to do this first), cook the prawns for about 30 seconds on each side or till pink. Add the cooked bacon, paprika, lemon and half the parsley and stir it all in. Take the sauce of the heat and add the cream and cooked pasta. 

Step 6. Stir, serve and scatter with the remaining parsley.

Step 7. Devour.

18 July 2014

Love Supreme Jazz Festival

If you're a jazz lover, or perhaps a fan of the genre's other family members, motown, soul, funk and R&B, then you may already be a Love Supreme veteran. However, for those who are not, Love Supreme Jazz Festival is of course a festival of jazz and it's related genres but it's also something more. With it's swinging tunes, friendly family atmosphere and amazing food (best BBQ of my life!) Love Supreme is not just a festival it's a celebration of the groove! 

Dan and I were given free VIP tickets to Love Supreme through work so we went down to Glynde on the Saturday to check out the festival, which is now in it's second year. It was absolutely pouring it down when we set off, something that you must expect when visiting any British music festival. However, when we arrived at Glynde it had stopped, which may have tinted my opinion, but I have never been to a music festival with a prettier setting. Walking past the river and the cottages in the village, then through the Glynde Place arch and coming out to see the mansion opposite the festival, I'm not sure if I was more stunned by the beauty of our surroundings or the fact the festival was actually there.

As we normally camp at festivals it was a nice change not to have to carry a back pack that weighed as much as me on my back, leave the wellies behind, and have a shower rather than a spritz of dry shampoo and a wet wipe before stepping out. We were carefree with absolutely no worries, until we got to the festival and it hit us. Do we even like Jazz music? Going into the festival, I'm not sure we could of said we did, but coming out I can truly say I am a Jazz convert, a Motown lover, a Groovy girl (I've taken it too far again but it is the truth!). Highlights included Phronesis a British/Scandinavian lounge jazz trio who transported us into a dark 1920's basement bar, Incognito who were sending the message 'one love under the groove' with their Latin funk/R&B rhythms, and Earth, Wind and Fire who made disco contagious with their synchronised dancing, soulful voices and Eighties energy.

One of my favourite things about going to festivals is discovering what's new and this doesn't just cover new music it also extends to the food. Festivals have so many options now, begone are the days where it was just a burger van and hogs roast. Although I have no problem with a good version of either of these stalls, today festivals can be as much about the food as they are about the music. 

 As I've already told you about my favourite performer of the evening (boogie wonderlanders Earth, Wind and Fire) it's only fair for me introduce my favourite food stall, El Gaucho BBQ. Serving South American style BBQ meat of the highest order, El Gaucho were cooking up the most tender rib eye steak sourced straight from their Mother continent's country Uruguay, juicy beef short ribs from Devon (a first for me and I'm glad I had them from El Gaucho) and lamb which I am very sorry to say we missed out on. What we did have was a mixed box of rib eye and short ribs piled high on four bread buns and drizzled with chimichurri which set the whole thing off with lemony sharpness and heat from the garlic and chilli. For £20 this box was a steal. I kid you not, we shared this box between two starving, non-breakfasted festivalers but it could have easily served four. It was absolutely delicious and as I said here, best BBQ of my life.

El Gaucho will be at Bristol Harbour Festival this weekend and I've also got it on authority that they will be at Blackheath Music and Food Festival in South East London on the 13-14 September 2014. Now to just snag a ticket!

An unexpected surprise at Love Supreme was their partnership with Grand Marnier producing a pop-up bar, which was one of the best outdoor advertisements I have been to.Within 'Hidden Charm', a speakeasy like den complete with an outdoor lounge and dj booth, scrumptious cocktails were served up in unique spherical chalices that doubled as cocktail shakers. Whoever thought of the glasses alone deserves a big bonus, we had countless numbers of people coming up to us asking what it was and where they could get one. The whole event was really cleverly done and the enthusiastic staff and great-tasting cocktails made it a real hit. We went for the Grand Master Smash, which was heavy on the chilli and delicious, although I am a sucker for anything with lime, mint or ginger beer in. Call me a dark and stormy sort of girl. Unfortunately, they were also giving out hats which Dan leapt aboard immediately. He says to most people that'll listen to him on the topic that he has a head for hats. I think the picture above can let you decide for yourselves on that one.

Something that has come a long way in representation at festivals is vegetarian food and the choice at this festival for vegetarians and vegans alike was really strong. Greek Expectations Meze Bar stood out in offering an array of vegetarian delights including favourites like stuffed vine leaves, thick and creamy humous and a vibrant green bean salad. This was just what I needed after overindulging at El Gaucho, it was a refreshing and every bite was interesting with a different meze. Greek Expectations do not specialise in vegetarian food alone, they also have other stands selling Greek/Cypriot kebabs, and steak and halloumi. 

Greek Expectations will be at WOMAD Festival on the 24-27th July 2014 and out of season they can be found at Leather Lane Market.

Having not known what to expect from Love Supreme, it was an excellent day and I'm looking forward to going back. 

And so I leave you with how all good festival have to end. 

With churros.

10 July 2014

Oh You Pretty Pins

Has anyone else gone Hampton Court Palace crazy? Maybe not yet if you live outside of the UK, but inside we (I'm speaking on behalf of all UK citizens here) have! 

On Monday, Dan and I decided to take the day off work to supposedly recover from camping at Love Supreme. Which, by the way, was awesome despite the bad weather something that is almost always part of any UK festival. I don't want to give too much away as I'll write it up soon, but Earth, Wind and Fire still know how to groove definitely my favourite act of the weekend, and I had the best BBQ meat of my life (sorry Dan's dad) if you are in the area El Gaucho or Gaucho BBQ are at Bristol Harbourside's Foodie Festival this weekend so go, eat and thank me later. However, we didn't camp at the festival because we could go home and I am a creature of comfort or a comfort monster whatever you prefer. 

So not camping, left us with a very open day ahead so we decided to go to Hampton Court Palace and explore the house and gardens. I'll share our visit and a great place to stop for lunch nearby shortly. What I didn't realise when we turned up was that we were a day early for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show! One day! Granted Tuesday is for members only but still! Anyway owing to my disappointment at missing the flower show, I have been avidly watching it on the BBC and pinning many botanic beauties on pinterest.

And now I find I'm faced with a real problem having seen the hedgehog friendly garden and one of my adopted foxes just run past the window. Will I encourage foxes or hedgehogs into my garden? As Dan has said we can't do both without creating a death trap or buying several acres of land.

1. Need to grow my borage seeds from seed so I can use them in loads of recipes including these ice cubes by Maddocks Farm Organics (huge range of edible flowers and their blog has some amazing looking recipes).
2. This print by The Painted Arrow sums up what I feel most flowering spaces project or maybe it's just who I'm with in those spaces. Pinned via  P.S I Adore You which is a shop run by three mums where the proceeds go to children battling cancer. A very worthy cause.
3. Great for the summer and definitely a way to incorporate flowers into your life long after summer  ends.
4. Want to incorporate modern floral into your wedding, well look no further than this cake found on Whimsical Wonderland Weddings photographed by Binky Nixon. I wish I could go to this wedding 'carnival' but I'm not engaged so would any engaged ladies like to ask me along?
5. How many textures are in this bouquet found on Style Me Pretty. Stunning images by Manstrom Photography.
6. Lord, give me the patience to make my nails this pretty like Wondrously Polished.
7. I saw someone with this skirt waiting outside Camden station and have idolised it ever since plus it's in tall!
8. Aren't these pansy shortbreads by Stone Gable too pretty to eat, course they're not, nothing is! But these come close.

8 July 2014

Eat Lemon Pepper Goats Cheese & Maple Pecan Salad

If you've ever felt salads are not enough to fill you up, then you haven't met this winner of a dinner (too much?).

We have been eating variations of this goats cheese salad for the last two weeks. I am really surprised the cheese we got from the Wild Food Market the weekend before last has lasted this long because it is absolutely delicious and we've eaten a lot of it! But it has, and this pairing between the lemon pepper goats cheese, roast tomatoes and salted maple pecans is heavenly. I only wish the weather would get better so we could enjoy this outside with a glass of white wine (I thought July was supposed to be sunny?!).

3 July 2014

Brook Green Wild Food Market

Every Saturday from 10am till 3pm, Addison Primary School's playground in Brook Green (near Shepherds Bush) transforms into a Wild Food Market, which is aptly named as being outside means it's open to the elements (wind and rain included as noted on our visit). Despite the bad weather and trader's personal ponds, which collected in dips in the playground, the trader's keep coming back and now so will I!

What caught me with this market is its community spirit. With locals nipping out from the house to grab their breakfasts from the market, less than 20 stalls and the traders returning weekly, there's a real comradely spirit in Brook Green between the traders and locals.

Talking to some of the stall holders it's clear how passionate they are about their produce (something which can go amiss at the bigger markets where the sellers are shipped in for the day). Everyone we spoke to was happy to talk us through their goods, when we turned up at Paul at Nut Knowle Farm's stall we asked about one goat's cheese and straight away he said "Let me just stop you there. I'm going to take you on a tour of our goats cheeses. There will be samples along the way." 

And that was the moment I knew this was the market for me.

We weren't planning to eat anything/a lot at the market (I hear screams of why not, well let me tell you) because we had plans to go to the newly opened STAX Diner for lunch. However, when we arrived and saw Social Meat Club's stall and the wood smoked rack of ribs we couldn't not have them and for £4 that half rack of ribs was a steal! 

Tender juicy pork ribs were slathered with a smokey BBQ glaze and smoked with wood chips allowing the flavour to permeate deep into the meat. The glaze was fruity from the presence of pineapple (who knew?!) and tomato juice, harrissa, garlic and smoky paprika gave it a bit of a bite, while the addition of coke made this glaze sticky, sweet and oh so GOOD! If you haven't cooked with coke at home it's a staple of a good bbq glaze and so easy to do (granted it takes a long time to cook but you can just slow roast it). Social Meat Club are currently at The Wild Food Market most Saturdays.

Nut Knowle Farm stall ran by Paul was for me the highlight of the market and I'm not being biased because Paul told us a story about how he fell for goats cheese in my home town. Yay Kent! Paul was really helpful, I wasn't joking when I wrote that he said he was going to walk us through his cheeses he really did (with samples!!). For this stall alone you're going to wish you had double the amount of money you  bought to the market, I'll tell you straight I have never spent so much money on goat's cheese (or cheese) in my life but I wish we'd bought more! 

Nut Knowle Farm are a goat's farm in Sussex and they make by hand a huge array of vegetarian goats cheeses. From a silky Camembert style cheese, the Saint George, to an aged ash coated log which has the flavour of blue mould on the outside (mould is good!). And if neither of those sound up your street what about a goats cheese rolled in chilli flakes which packs some serious heat, with crystallised ginger or unusually with strawberry and black pepper. We bought an ash coated goats cheese which Dan kept calling blue because it tastes very similar to a blue cheese, a goats cheese rolled in lemon pepper this is delicious and we've been having it in salads all week and a jar of garlic crumbed cheese steeped in olive oil as a gift for someone special (resisting the temptation to eat is proving difficult).

I could talk you through all the cheeses they have to offer but I wouldn't be doing them justice so you should just go and try some yourself. Paul and his cheeses from Nut Knowle Farm will be at Nottinghill Market this Saturday but they trade all over!

I have to stop talking about cheese so let's move on to my second favourite subject. Cake. 
Bad Ass Cakes to be precise, and I'm not just trying to hype up the cakes (although they really are bad ass) that is the name. Bad Ass Cakes is a bakery which frequents the Wild Food Market selling their cupcakes and 'Slutty Brownies' but the owner Barbara also make big cakes; we're talking the Leaning Tower of Pisa big cakes (go check it out on their website). What we sampled at the stall was great, the Jamaican rum cake (so I'm told by Dan) packed a good shot of rum in and the chocolate orange cupcake I took away was light and fluffy with a tangy orange gel and the best kind of icing (thick and chocolate). I'm only sorry we didn't try more, but the glittery strawberry New York Lady cheesecakes are calling me back and I've got to return in the search for the elusive Slutty Brownie (it had sold out by the time we arrrived!).

Bad Ass Cakes are at the Wild Food Market every Saturday but they also have a store and online bakery you can visit.

There are so many stalls to take a look at so head down to the market every Saturday to stock up your larder with all the produce mentioned in this post, as well as wild mushrooms, vegetables (including courgette flowers!), birch tree syrup (like maple but treacle tasting) and more.

 I only regretted one thing on our rainy Saturday at the Wild Food Market. Not eating more!

2 July 2014

Oh You Pretty Pins

Glastonbury is over and we're now well into the festival line up this Summer. Personally, I'm super excited to go to Love Supreme this weekend. It's not that I'm a huge lover of Jazz, I'm just looking forward to getting out of the city and into the countryside, listening to new music and dancing the night away. Unfortunately it's also supposed to rain this weekend all weekend, but luckily Dan and I got free VIP day tickets so we won't have to truly camp in the mud (don't get me wrong, I love camping but walking to the loo at night, knees deep in mud is never fun!). 

Inspired by my festival trip, I've been pinning lots of survival pieces for your festival suitcase (or more aptly named giant rucksack). 

1. Can you get away with wellies as part of everyday wear? Because I want to with these.
2. I'm a huge fan of Garnier's Ultimate Blend Range for Mid-Long Hair and this dry-shampoo will keep your festival locks looking and smelling sweet with Madagascan vanilla and papaya.
3. This hairstyle is simple and I love the triangle arrangement of pins.
4. You're sure to stand out in the mosh pit with this peony and cameo print pac a mac
5. Festivals may be the one place taking a hip flask to is totally acceptable sometimes even required.
6. As it is going to rain this weekend bringing your own sunshine is a must.
7. Sick of struggling to find you tent after the headliner, this sheep tent might not help as it literally blends in to the grass but god is it good for the aesthetics. 
8. Keep cool and stay protected in the sun with this colour block fedora.