Friday, 28 February 2014

The Diner

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"Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey in Rye"

Me and Dan had been talking of going to America later this year, hence my obvious need to sing classic American songs at the top of my voice. Well in the end, America's off the cards, so instead we headed for the next best thing, The Diner. And no it was not my singing that caused Dan to say no to going to America with me. 

Or at least that's not what he said... 

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The Diner is a small chain of that classic 50's style American Diner's. High top bar, red leather stools, corner booths and of course, good old deep fried goodness.

The menu is pretty vast, right from every combination of burger you could imagine, down to southern blue plates of dirty rice and chilli.

After putting up with my singing for too long, Dan decided we (he) needed a strong drink. 

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Red, white and blue twist Margarita for me- staying in America mode.

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 A G & Tea for him- trying to get out of America mode.

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While I ummed and arrred over the menu, someone was clearly getting hungry. That is the face of a man being denied his burger. 

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So naturally we had to order a 'light snack' whilst we decided in mains. Happy now? I think that's a smile.

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Hot sauce chicken wings with blue cheese sauce. Spicy, juicy and oh so messy. I could have ate another round of those.

But then that would have spoiled this feast.

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Dan had The DCB. The Diner Buttermilk Chicken Burger topped with bacon, blue cheese sauce and coleslaw. It looked pretty epic. Did I get a bite? Did I hell.   

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Here was me thinking I was the food blogger, yet the sheer concentration in sizing up the burger did lead me to feel slightly threatened in my job...

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Of course we also ordered a round of sides including onion rings and sweet potato fries. Yet it was these that got my intrigued...

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Let me introduce to you the American Biscuit. I ordered it out of sheer bewilderment. A biscuit? Turns out is sort of like a savoury scone, yet more bread-y. Think scone meets English muffin in some sordid savoury love affair. 

However if you think that's odd, then you might want to look away as it gets crazier. Oh you Americans!

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I discovered this. Fried chicken. On waffles. With gravy. AND maple syrup.

Pause for dramatic effect.

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Yes, your not wrong. It is one of the most random combinations I have ever thought about, and yet it somehow works. Is it gourmet cuisine? No, but it it tastes like the food you pretend you wouldn't touch in front of friends and family, but really secret crave.

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We finished off with a cheeky twist on the old school Slushy. Vodka, chambord, berry tea and cherry puree- defiantly not what you'd find in the cinema vendor. 

Honestly though, a big thumbs up for the Slushy. I could have drank this all day, I would go just for this alone.

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Of course, naturally things got a little silly my way- specs appeal anyone?

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Err, maybe not.

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Feeling more determined about American than ever I started saying...

"We can go buy some Twinkies?"
"No"
"We can watch a baseball game?"
"No"
"We can watch the Victoria Secrets show?
"No- oh"

So America might be back on the cards after all.

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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Conservatory at Dead Dolls House

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I firmly believe everyone needs a bar they feel comfortable and at home in. Somewhere you just know you are going to have a great time no matter what day or who you are with. Its not that easy though finding those, especially in London. A lot of bars are not your social drinking houses, so when you find THE ONE, grab it with both hands and for God's sake don't let go! 

So let me introduce you to my soon to be second home- The Dead Dolls House in Hoxton. 

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You might remember it from when I went for Checkon's Sunday dinner there, and you know how much I raved about that, so like I said when you find that special one, you just have to go back time and time again.

Dead Dolls House is members club, however you don't have to be some Made in Chelsea Daddies Girl, membership here is made in the form of a gift of either a fine, top shelf bottle of spirits or a a fine china dog for The Parlour. Yes, a China Dog. 

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Now something rather exciting is finally happening over at Dead Dolls House- They've finally opened their inside conservatory. When I went last time, it was still a painter and decorators dream, but now  its open (OK in two weeks, us press types got a sneak peak).  With hand drawn drawings done by the incredible Kate, it is a visual masterpiece.

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Finally someone is thinking outside the horrible winter season we are in, and in true British style they have launched their British Tapas menu in The Conservatory made from the very best British Produce.

Think of it as a indoor picnic- handy really seeing as we are in Britain! Hurrah!

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Remember I said about finding a bar that you feel truly at home in? What other bar would get you your own golden tea cup?!

Last time I went to Dead Dolls House, I received my espresso Martini in a tea cup to my utter delight. So in a moment of banter I tweeted on the morning before coming, would I be re-acquainted with the teacup. Thinking I was all hilarious, I carried on my day. 

So on arrival, when I gave my name to the doorman, he said in a enlightened manner 'Oh your Laura'  Errr yes I am good Sir.

'There is a golden tea cup with your name on it behind the bar' A golden tea cup?

Kate and Adam the owners of the House had gone and got me my very own golden tea cup!

Collecting it from the bar to another round of 'Your Laura!' I carried my tea cup around with me with utter pride! I love these guys!

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Now in true British fashion, what goes with a tea cup? Food of course!

Taking my seat with Wilkes, All things Meaty and the ever mysterious Clerkenwell Boy, we started with Salsify, Jerusalem artichoke drizzled in a light Vinaigrette

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We of course, all started snapping away. Typical blogger habits. 

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Then came the veal meatballs with gremolata. I loved these as they made for a great alternative to a bit of a plain pork meatball. Sorry Sweden, I think we do it better.

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Next were scallops and crispy pigs cheeks topped with fennel and apple. The scallops were lovely and fresh, and the fennel made a deliciously British twist on a seafod dish.

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Finally we shared the Tofu salad with wild broccoli, Garlic and Chili oil. I'm actually rather a fan of Tofu, so may have nicked more than my fair share.

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Same as this Wilkes then really. Food bloggers eh, cant take us anywhere! 

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After our picnic, the drinks started flowing. Dead Dolls House bartenders are amazing. I'd recommend the Gin Aviation and the Whiskey Sour.

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Like old friends, us bloggers chatted and laughed all night. Everyone at Dead Dolls House instantly becomes friends, its just that kind of place. So much so that the drinks really started flowing... one tequila... two tequila...

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But even after all that Tequila, I still couldn't be parted from my Golden Tea cup.

35 Hoxton Square.
London
N1 6NN

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Cava and Tapas Tasting at Copa de Cava

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Having just come back from a weekend in the south of Spain, I was feeling all Mediterranean- skip the burgers, I was suddenly craving fish and olives.

So it was rather a stroke of luck when Copa de Cava and Sauce Communications invited me down to a Cava and Tapas evening.

I wont deny it, I love a glass of the old champers, but again I won't deny, Cava had always seemed rather anonymous to me. Was it a cheaper version of Champagne? A British imitation? With questions needing to be answered, I headed on down the stairs to the little magical brick vault that is Copa de Cava. 

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Cava is a sparkling wine, which in the past was referred to as "Spanish champagne", although its not allowed under European Union law any more, as Champagne is a protected name under something called Protected Geographical Status.

Yet it is not to be sniffed at. Cava is as prestigious, and as much a labour of love as Champagne is, it just hasn't quite translated over to us Brits yet.

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Keen to change that perception, we began with a cracker; Raventos Blanc De Nit Brut Reserva paired with Pan Con Tomate.

Crisp toasted bread with tomatoes, roasted garlic and extra virgin olive oil went fantastic with the Cava. It was extremely fresh, with a soft hint of fruit. Who needs champagne when Cava tastes this good?

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We then were served Chacinas- A selection of cured meats: Teruel D.0. Jamón, Lomo lberico, Chorizo and Fuet. I love cured meats, and I found the Iberico and Chorizo very impressive here. 

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We swiftly moved onto the Conde De Haro Brut (Rioja) paired with Setas, which is sliced Abalone mushroom tossed in garlic and chilli. The Cava was delicious, but I will be honest the mushroom wasn't quite to my liking. It had a unusual texture, rather rubbery, almost like halloumi. 

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I did however really enjoy the Tortilla Siglo just because it was a Spanish omelette in a glass! Genius!

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I've had tapas a few times over the years, but I've never actually had that popular classic Patatas Bravas. Yes, pretty shocking on my part. Luckily I was making up for my sins by finally sampling those Potato rolls in a tomato based 'brava sauce'. The verdict? Not bad at all eh?

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Now we all know champagne is best drank with friends- friends don't let fiends drunk alone- so I invited Frou along to convert to the world of Cava. You remember Frou from my Fable launch party post- yes we stayed in touch! Woop!

We also met Nancy from Its a Lifestyle Thing, and so 3 hungry and thirsty girls continued on our quest to learn about Cava.

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Up next was the Raimat Gran Brut paired with Ceviche of stone bass marinated in lime, chilli, coriander. I was wowed by the Ceviche. I've never had Ceviche before, but the crispness of flavours just shone right through in each mouthful. Delicious!

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Things were clearly getting serious now as our glasses were quickly whipped away and replaced with the Mont marcal reserva and a platter of coca recapta- Thin crispy pastry sheets topped with roasted aubergine, red pepper, onions and anchovies. I loved the overall combination, but I did accidentally eat a chunk of anchovy on its own. Salt-y!

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However the winner of the night was this impressive beast-

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Pulpo- A whole Octopus tentacle with olive oil mash and paprika, which was paired with the deliciously rich ALBARIÑO, Mar de frades brut nature. Another winner. 

Wow, the octopus was so fresh, so juicy, it just blew me away. I've never had octopus so meaty before! 

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Thinking there couldn't be much more, you'd be very wrong indeed. Things were just getting started. Well when in... err... Spain?

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The Reserva de la familia gran reserva was up next matched to slices of presa iberica which is shoulder of Iberica pig done rare- very rare indeed. I found the Iberica needed a little seasoning, but the creamy pearl barley mixed with lberico ham and Manchego cheese was heaven.

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Thinking I couldnt fit another bite in, we were presented with an amazing filete tartaro which is a smoked steak tartare which was kept under glass. Confused, I soon understood when the glass dome was lifted and out poured the smoke! Talk about fresh!

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Finally we popped a little chunk of ladrillo de Chocolate into our awaiting mouths. Sweet beautiful dark chocolate filled with a deliciously sugary white chocolate truffle mousse. 

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Upon finishing, we were told our education was complete, and so like any graduation we celebrated by popping open a bottle of the very finest. The Kripta, Gran Reserva Brut Nature, agusti torella 2007.  Costing £85 a bottle, Cava is no cheap bubbly knock off!

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Having sampled enough Cava to possibly last a lifetime (OK who am I kidding, when its this good, maybe a week at best) I can honestly say I am a Cava convert. Who knew Cava was such a refined drink. 

So next time you reach for the Champagne, give Cava a try instead. But remember like any wine or Champagne, don't go for the cheap bottom shelf thing, you'll always find the rubbish ones there. Give good Cava a chance.

http://www.camino.uk.com/restaurants/copa-de-cava/
33 Blackfriars Lane
London
EC4V 6EP

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