Santa Maria Product Launch event

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Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of joining my friend Katrina to a wonderful supper club evening to celebrate the new Santa Maria product launch. I know, another post that starts with “Kat kindly invited me” -(thanks, girl you’re the best!). For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katrina works at the Lady magazine and her job often involves getting approached by journalists who send and invite her to try their new food/ drink and lifestyle products. Here, we got to discover their new range of sauces, rice, seasonings, tortillas, toppings and sides, influenced by tastes from the Caribbean to Argentina. This was all cooked and prepared by chef Luiz Hara, the London Foodie and award-winning food blogger Rosana Mcphee. The event itself was hosted in the chef’s lovely home- (seriously, can I just say: HOUSE GOALS!), which really made the evening feel relaxed and more personal- we were all told to help ourselves to his fridge overflowing with delicious wine, beers and bubbly.

Upon arrival, we were each handed a yummy cocktail as we tucked into a few tapas items before the main event. I must admit, we did arrive a bit late, so we sadly only got to try one of the items on the menu (I say sadly only because I’m greedy). These were the Colombian crunchy chicken bites, served with a pineapple and chilli sauce. I was really surprised to hear that the crumb coating was part of the Santa Maria range, as it made the chicken perfectly crispy and crunchy with minimal effort – and who doesn’t love stress free crispy chicken!  I think we all tend to judge that if a sauce comes in a packet, it will fail to deliver on flavours- but as we were about to discover,  chef Luiz created all his delicious and high-quality plates by incorporating the different Santa Maria products, showing us all their versatility and ability to be used by both amaetuers and professionals alike.

Our menu for the evening was as follows, and bear with me because it was a lot of food (which of course, I loved!) I’ve also inserted the Santa Maria products used for each dish that was featured to show you what the chef used, as well as my own pictures of the food to properly convey just how effective the seemingly simple sauces went in transforming the dishes.  You’ll be as amazed as we were, trust me.

Starters:

Baked Costa Rican fish in Banana leaf

 

Capaccio of Mexican Chayote

(served with cheese, truffle oil, hazelnuts and the Santa Maria soured cream topping)DSC03680

Brazillian Xinxim de Galinha  

 

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Mains:

Argentinian Picanha of Beef

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Venezuelan Cigarillas de Repollo

(Baked cabbage cigars with cashew nuts)

 

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Arroz y Frijoles

(Served with spring greens & avocado)

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So, my verdict? I was pleasantly surprised at just how flavourful the new Santa Maria range really is! I LOVED the beef, which thanks to the chef, was cooked to utter perfection. The spices gave it a rich flavour that kept me going back for seconds. I also loved the peanut sauce which was particularly tasty and made the perfect accompainment to the soft peppery tortillas. I’m all about cooking things from scratch- I’m sure every food blogger would agree, but the great thing about Santa Maria range is that it allows anyone to quickly whip up a delicious meal in only 15 minutes. I’m looking forward to trying my own concoctions thanks to the guys at Wildcard PR who gave us all a hefty bag of yummy goodies!

 

Burns Night at Boisdale of Mayfair

On Thursday, I had the chance to attend the Burns Night at the brand new Boisdale of Mayfair, which has launched just in time for the Scottish celebration. The event offered an exclusive preview of the traditional Burns Night Dinner, a five-course set menu served at all four Boisdale sites throughout January. Asking if I could bring a plus one, I decided to bring Mark along with me. 

boisdale-231116_mayfair_520Upon arrival, we all mingled by the bar as we sipped on old-fashioned cocktails.  They were tasty! Strong, but with the right amount of sweetness that made me keep going back for more. Once we were given enough time to relax and warm up from the cold outside, we were all seated. The dinner started off with a welcoming speech from the owner of Boisdale, who explained the delicacies of Scottish cuisine and what inspired him to put the menu together. Together, we all clinked our glasses and begun our feast.

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To start, we had an assortment of fresh seafood to share, including fresh langoustines, rock oysters, Shetland mussels and Atlantic prawns, as well as luscious smoked salmon. Making sure I didn’t get to full on a first course, I tried to pace myself. Mark and I tried everything except the oysters, as we are still sceptical about them- (I know what you’re thinking, everybody loves oysters… I’m still undecided). Each of our courses was also served with a specially selected wine pairing and with the seafood, we inevitably sipped on crisp white.

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Feeling slightly tipsy at this point, having had little for lunch, I anticipated our second course. It was a mini roasted Blackface Haggis, served with creamy mashed potatoes and swede all served with a noggin of whisky. The owner suggested that we pour our whisky over to really accentuate the flavours and because it is traditionally what happens when one eats it. Now, having heard of what Haggis was made of, I was worried that I would perhaps not like its taste or texture. However, I was pleasantly surprised! It was flavourful, tender and really yum!. I am a haggis virgin no more, and I’ll definitely be eating one again. This was paired with a full bodied red and the more  I ate, the more I also drank- tipsy Sofia and Mark coming out to play! 

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However, Mine and Mark’s favourite dish of the evening was definitely the Aberdeenshire dry-aged fillet steak, served with green peppercorn & whisky sauce, greens and bone marrow potatoes. The sauce was rich, and the steak melted in our mouths, being the perfect medium. It was succulent and tender. I also loved the crispy, yet creamy potatoes. I’d even say it was the best steak I’ve had in a while. This dish was also paired with more red. (Mark… pss I think I’m drunk) While we dined, a talented man played melodious tunes with his bagpipes. What could be more Scottish than that?

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By this point, I was incredibly stuffed and knew we had two courses still to go. Of course being greedy and tipsy made me prevail and carry on eating. After all, I am the type of person who gets jealous or sincerely regrets not trying everything and anything offered to me. Oops. 

To finish, we had a tipsy scotch tart served with clotted cream and cheese served with chutney. Although I am not a fan of raisins, which were in the tart, it was still moreish nonetheless! It was filled with spiced nuts, encrusted in pastry and the clotted cream really helped to cut through all the richness. 

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Overall, we had a lovely evening in good company eating good food and drinking great wine. If the Burns set menu at Boisdale is meant to evoke and preserve the precise feelings that people get when they sit down and share a meal together then it does just that! The food was delicious, the choices on the menu varied and the atmosphere cheerful and comforting.

If you’re looking for a traditional Scottish evening to share with friends and family, I’d recommend it.

 

 

Festive Feasting at Nordic Yulefest

On Friday, nursing a horrid hangover, I had been invited to a festive feasting event sponsored by Ketel one vodka at Nordic Yulefest. For £85 guests could have a 5-course dinner feast, complete with half a bottle of wine each and because I was listed as press, this was actually bottomless. Sounds epic but since I felt so shi* I didn’t take full advantage of this as much as I would have loved.

Nordic Yulefest was in Old Street, inspired by Nordic culture, the venue was decorated with a new trend that has swept the nation, ‘hygge‘-a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Arriving just after 6 pm, Serena and I (a childhood friend of mine) were introduced to the Ketel one representative and given a yummy cocktail inspired by the festive season and sprinkled with spices like cinnamon and star anise. Led to our table, with the menu placed in front of us and the room decorated with Christmas pines and tree branches, the banquet room certainly felt festive and snug.

Our meal started off with Birch cured venison, pine smoked Norwegian beef tartare and BBQ’ed Lamb Skewers with blackberries.

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From this board, I thought the food was OK. For one, it was definitely not the best beef tartare I had ever had, but the venison and lamb were quite tasty. I do want to point out that the portion sizes were quite small as we were 4 on a table in total and had no trouble scoffing most of it down. One thing I read online is someone complaining that the feast was too small and why I had no trouble with that, I can see how others might have felt they didn’t get enough per portion.

Next on our list was torched mackerel, ice cellar salmon, pickled herring tempura with dill mayo and a Nordic potato salad.

dsc02049In my opinion, this course was a lot better and tasted pretty good. The salmon was fresh, the mackerel in tasty bites and the tempura pretty crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. I also surprisingly loved the potato salad– not because I don’t like potato salad but because I perceived potato salad to be rather mundane in comparison to the other items, but it was delicious! I had to keep nibbling on it even after everyone on the table was pretty much done with that board.

The meal was then followed by a wild mushroom and truffle broth. I must say this was rather disappointing. For one, I was looking forward to a nice warming broth, but this was definitely more of a soup. That would be absolutely fine, but it tasted more like a pasta sauce. I LOVE truffle, but here it was so overpowering and meant I could only have a few mouthfuls. Sad.

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Thankfully, the next course redeemed itself yet again. It was Icelandic cod with clam butter sauce. The Cod was moreish and soft, and the clams were the perfect accompaniment. This was one of my favourite parts of the whole meal.

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One more course to go before dessert. I must say that I was getting quite full by this point and also felt more hungover as the evening went on. I sound like a massive baby, but hair of the dog and food weren’t helping. Nonetheless, I stuck it out for my love of food. The last savoury course was smoked and roasted duck with apple and prunes. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the apple and prune side that was meant to go with it, but the duck was tender and yummy. Also, we had sides of caramelised potatoes and sweet and sour red cabbage. 

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Finally, to round it all off we had a board of different desserts (always a highlight for me). This was initially confusing as it didn’t really say so on the menu. Nonetheless, I love desserts, so I was happy to comply! The macaroons were probably my favourite, I managed to try the vanilla and raspberry ones, and they were gooey in the middle just the way I like them. The meringues, despite being listed as raspberry were not- and the sauce didn’t taste like raspberry either but overall, they were alright.

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My final thoughts?

I liked the cocktails that were crafted with Ketel one vodka, they were tasty. I loved the decor. There was meant to be alcoholic snow, but staff told us different things about whether that was happening or not. In the end, we ended up leaving because I had reached my limit (my bad) so I can’t say whether that happened, but it sounded like such a cool concept. Regarding the food, it could be improved slightly as some dishes were better than others, but overall that is down to personal preference, and it was still a lovely evening that felt super cosy. As there was a range of different tickets-  including the option to pay solely for entrance to a 5-course feast, guests don’t have to pay £85 pounds to have a good night.

Thanksgiving Cooking Event

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my good friend Katrina to another one of her press events. As she knows I am a huge foodie (and an inspiring blogger), she thought the event would be perfect for me.

Hosted by French’s American Mustard, the evening entailed a Thanksgiving feast, incorporating French’s products into the meal and getting the chance to be hands on and cook. In fact, we got to prepare two Thanksgiving traditional dishes all together with Mississipi-born chef Brad MacDonald by our side, whose specialities lie in Southern State cooking. Southern state cuisine is definitely becoming a new favourite of mine, and as Katrina’s family also originate from the South, it felt particularly special that we got to cook and learn some new recipes together. While I am not American, I am slowly starting to be convinced that it is one of the best holidays as the food is always so tasty!

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Set at Food at 52 cookery school near Old Street, the location was cute, quaint and cosy– the perfect place you’d imagine a Thanksgiving meal to be. I felt like I was in somebody’s home with the glorious smell of slow cooked turkey and ham swirling around as soon as we entered. With wine continuously flowing (and probably impairing my ability to do the basic cooking) we all started off making the first dish: potato salad.

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Salad prep

With all our ingredients kindly laid out in front of us, various people around the table took on different tasks. Some chopped the potatoes, others the squash, the chestnuts and the dressing. Consisting of mayo, vinegar olive oil, chives parsley and of course mustard, the dressing was delicious! I’m not sure if it was because I had had little to eat that day or I was also feeling the effects of my red wine, but I kept getting the urge to lick my spoon for more. Garnished with French’s crispy onions and pumpkin seeds everything came together to create the perfect moreish dish.

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There’s a domestic goddess in all of us

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Our combined efforts in action

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The finished product!

Next, after sitting back, chatting and guzzling some more red wine (oops guilty), we all shared the pleasant task of making a Green Bean Casserole. Brad told us that this particular dish was a real reminder of home and it certainly did not disappoint. While I have never thought of having green beans this way, it will certainly be a new preferred method of mine.

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Note to self: Don’t get tipsy and try and pour beans into boiling water

Combining green beans and sauteed mushrooms, every element was merged by the creamy and flavourful bechamel sauce, whisked through with sour cream, mustard and plenty of crispy onions… I may have poured in the whole box at this point, but I have no regrets.

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Testing out the Bechamel (we approved)

Katrina and I both said we really enjoyed the chance to cook with others in a relaxed and comforting setting- it made the event feel like a special homely occasion. But, that was not even the best part of the evening. While we had contributed in making a few of the side dishes, Brad, his wife and the French’s team had also spent the day preparing the other excellent dishes which were on the menu for the evening. These included:

  • Roast Turkey with Tangy Mustard Stuffing
  • Ginger Beer Mustard Glazed Ham (YUM)
  • Mustard Braised Greens with Almonds
  • & Cornbread (Brad’s Speciality)

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The Stuffing Up Close and Personal

I am not even joking – when all the food was laid out in front of us, including the dishes we had helped make a wave of excitement rushed over me as we were finally able to put an image to the mystical smells and taste it all. Everyone rushed to take pictures of the marvellous spread in front of us (including me!).

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You know it’s going to be a good meal when you photograph each other with the food

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As we sat down to eat, each and every dish was tantalising good. For starters, I loved the cornbread; its sweetness went particularly well with the other salty and tangy flavours on the plate. Also, I had never really had a tangy mustard sauce with turkey– in England, it’s all about the gravy- but French’s recipe? Well, it has officially convinced me. I wish I could have had more and more of that stuffing and I was tempted to go up for seconds. However, my eyes always deceive my stomach, and I wanted to have room for dessert (which is always my favourite part of ANY meal). By this point Katrina and I already felt super satisfied and sleepy, joking about how we would have to roll all the way home. (In the end.. it seems people agreed because a lot were ordering ubers– stuck firmly in a food coma and overcome by sheer delight).

I had kept some room for dessert for a reason. The evening ended with cute miniature pumpkin and pecan pies (topped with bourbon whipped cream). That was all I could pretty much still fit at this point- although I did obviously have to try both). Both were incredibly scrumptious and baked to perfection. dsc01212_fotor

Overall I had a great time and felt incredibly stuffed and content. Thanksgiving has also made me realise that nearly any fruit or vegetable can be transformed into a dessert– so that’s another bonus in my eyes. Upon leaving, we were given some of the French’s products we had used and recipes of the dishes, which I hope to replicate and bring to Thanksgiving at Katrina’s house.

That’s the exciting part, this won’t even be my last Thanksgiving meal of the year.