Taste of Christmas 2012

As you may remember, I visited what I call “Foodie Christmas” earlier this year at Taste of London in Regent’s Park. For foodies, this “Christmas” happens to come twice a year.

Every holiday season, a massive space in Excel is decked out with Christmas trees and filled with food stalls for a weekend of getting into the holiday spirit by stuffing your face. There are restaurants serving miniature versions of their signature dishes, stalls selling gifts to get some Christmas shopping out of the way, and samples of booze, chocolate, and cheese galore.

This year there was a combination of Restaurants and Street Food Vans serving up their best dishes at very high price. Taste Festivals have their own currency called crowns. I’ve explained this all here, but two crowns is worth £1 and most dishes are around 10 crowns, which you nerds have already worked out is equivalent to £5.

The space is a bit overwhelming and doesn’t exactly have that intimate Christmassy feel. The live band playing Christmas hits does however make you wiggle around the room, ready for more edible Christmas cheer. If you plan on visiting next year, you could wander around the stalls and have breads and oils, cheese and dips, and crisps and roasted garlic spread as your appetisers before working your way around the mains. However, I prefer tackling the restaurants and street food vans first, and then working my way around the stalls to ensure my favourite dishes aren’t sold out.  Taste of ChristmasMy first sample was from Peruvian restaurant Lima. A woman greeted us with a large plate of Sea bass ceviche, with white tiger’s milk, glazed sweet potato, and Inka corn. The sea bass was incredibly fresh and went beautifully with the texture of the sweet potato and crunchy Inka corn. Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, is the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in a ceviche, which gave a lovely citrusy hint to the dish.

IMG_6714Next to sample was Salt Yard, a tapas restaurant with Spanish and Italian influenced flavours.

Taste of ChristmasHere I tried the Truffled Mac & Cheese, the perfect foodie comfort food. The dish was hot and cheesy with incredible flavour, a cheesy breadcrumb topping for texture, and the perfect hint of truffle.

Taste of ChristmasMark Hix, chef and restaurateur, brought his food truck to the festival.

Taste of ChristmasHix’s Fishdogs consist of a fried coley fillet in a bun, with minted mushy peas and tartare sauce. The fishdog was good, but nothing too exciting as I couldn’t taste the minted mushy peas.

Taste of ChristmasAs Jamie Oliver had opened Taste of Christmas, he of course had an enormous stall covered with Christmas decorations serving up traditional British food.

Taste of ChristmasFrom his fabulous feast stand, we tried the Christmas Dinner sandwich, complete with turkey, stuffing, rocket, and a tangy cranberry sauce.

Taste of Christmas From The Lawn Ranger, a grass-covered street food van, The Bowler’s meatballs were rolling out.

Taste of Christmas I sampled the Jingle Balls made of free range pork shoulder and beef chuck balls winter spiced with red onion and tomato sauce, cumin, soured cream, and fresh coriander and the Excithai Balls of free range pork shoulders and beef chuck balls with a coconut curry sauce, crispy onions, sweet chilli jam and fresh coriander.
Although they were a bit cold, the flavours were marvellous and the meatball itself was incredibly tender.

Taste of Christmas

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Taste of ChristmasComptoir Gascon, a gourmet bistro, was serving up something that particularly caught my eye. Taste of ChristmasA foie gras and truffle burger.

Let’s just say, I wish I had ordered the duck burger instead.
The amount of foie gras was overwhelming, bun was too dry, and truffle seriously lacking. Not impressed. Taste of Christmas

We then wandered the stalls looking for gifts and sampling everything in sight.

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasI may have stolen a sample or two…or 10 from the Ferrero Rocher Man.
I was more than happy to celebrate their 30th birthday with them.
Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasHow adorable is this little lady!? Don’t you just want to steal her and set her up in your kitchen to make all her magical, grandmothery comfort foods all whilst wearing her little apron and hat?

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas One of the most innovative things I saw at Taste was 2grams Christmas Cards. It’s the Christmas card you can have and eat, too. They’re made from gingerbread with messages stamped onto icing. Find out more about them here. Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasEdible Chocolate Candlesticks would make a nice talk-piece for the dinner table.
Taste of ChristmasHow realistic are these edible Chocolate socks?
Perfect for a stocking stuffer.

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasAs always I left with a skip in my step and ache in my tummy. 
This year wasn’t as good as previous years due to the lack of restaurants participating, but it’s still one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

Did anyone else visit the festival?
What was your favourite dish?

2012 Olympic Equestrian Dressage

Hello there, I’m back!
Sorry I’ve been a MIA lately, but this past week has been one busy blur.
I’ve been out of town and on adventures, but now I’m back to fill you in on what’s been going on.

I went to my first Olympic Event, ever.
I joined the millions of other Brits a couple years ago in applying for the chaotic lottery that was the Olympic Ticket Sale.
To my excitement, I “won” tickets to the Equestrian Dressage.

After the interesting Opening Ceremony, London became buzzing with tourists and excitement. A few sweltering, overflowing tube rides weren’t enough to dampen my Olympic spirit and I couldn’t wait for my event.

My friend and I joined the crowds early morning at Greenwich, all being herded like cattle by cheery volunteers chirping “Good morning!” and “This way, this way!” in voices unsuited for the time of morning. It certainly pepped the crowd up and people waved their nation’s flags and chattered excitedly on our journey to the arena.

After being searched and x-rayed, we were in the park. We took photographs with the statues constructed completely of horseshoes and headed off in search of some overpriced water bottles. The water boys were incredibly sweet and snuck us some free Cadbury Chocolate Mascots.
Complimentary chocolate is the best chocolate.

We spent the morning cooing and chatting over the stunning horses and their routines. The audience was silent besides our whispers, all holding their breath until the exclamatory “Ah!” or “Ooh!” when the horse misstepped.

The other noise that could be heard was of course the music. I cannot comprehend the absolutely bizarre selections the rider’s made. 80’s pop keyboard soundtracks followed by a Hawaiian-esque luau song followed by elevator music. I must say, however, the Michael Jackson remix was incredible and the judges clearly enjoyed it judging by their scores.   Like I said, the horses were all stunning. Perfectly groomed with gleaming coats and intricate braids in their manes. After seeing gorgeous, tall Thoroughbreds, Percherons, and Hanovers prance into the arena, it was quite funny seeing Spain’s Grandioso enter. A short, round Pura Raza Español danced in with his ears forward and tail swishing. Grandioso may have looked small and a bit overweight, but he still gave a great performance.As the day had been so militantly organised, making it impossible to get lost or to wander from the designated areas, the food situation came as quite a shock. Outside the arena, on a grassy hill was long platform with different stands all in a line offering Fish & Chips, Classic Roast, Chinese Noodles, Spanish Paella, etc.

As the one hour break came, the stands emptied and hungry horse lovers headed to fill their stomachs and glasses in preparation for the rest of the riders’ performances. Instead of neat, organised lines sprouting from each entrance of the stands, the platform became one massive muddle of multiculturalism. Different languages were being shouted trying to find lost friends and small, heated debates began to break out over who was first in the nonexistent line.

My friend and I joined the Gourmet Pizza “line” behind the tallest man at the event. He was our marker. Having to stand our ground from all the different countries trying to shove in front for a relentless half hour made us feel as if we were battling for our meal. Luckily, the bubbling, gooey pizzas fresh out of the oven were well worth the wait, and the battle.

We returned to our seats with the spectacular view of Canary Wharf to eat our pizzas and enjoy the rest of the event. Although all the performances were beautiful, Team GB truly deserved the gold. It was such an incredible atmosphere made even more exciting with so many members cheering for the home team. After leaving the event, we spotted mounted police overseeing the crowds. Desperate horse lovers flocked to their sides cooing and caressing their smooth necks.
This is Harvey and he could not have been more of a tart soaking up the love and attention.

I have so enjoyed having the Olympics in London. Although I was a bit skeptical at first, everyday it has made me more and more proud of my city and of course, Team GB!