Taste of London Winter 2015

Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit more than an afternoon of great music, buzzing atmosphere and festive feasting. This year, Tobacco Dock played host to another round of Taste of London Winter (can we please go back to calling it Taste of Christmas?). The halls were decked with tinsel, Christmas trees lined railings, lights and decorations hung from the rafters, and it was characteristically freezing – an element I would’ve happily sacrificed. Nevertheless, we bundled up and soldiered on, fuelling ourselves on this year’s gastronomic fare.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015The Truscott Arms started the afternoon on a delicious note with several winter warming dishes.
Taste of London Winter 2015This take on colcannon was filled with creamy ragstone and topped with basil oil and fried kale – an edible hug in a bowl.
Taste of London Winter 2015Moreish bites of crispy pig’s head were served with a sweet apple puree. The meat was really flavourful and paired perfectly with the tart contrast of the applesauce, bites I could happily replace popcorn with whilst watching a film.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Their icon dish was the most tender piece of beef cheek, served swimming in a pool of smoked mash, topped with crispy shallots. Taste of London Winter 2015 Over at The Bandstand, some really talented bands kept the vibe cool as we wiggled our way around the stalls. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Room was stunningly decorated and filled with minglers slowly sipping their bubbles before braving the cold again.
Taste of London Winter 2015Over at The Fire Pit, Mike Lecouteur from Mews of Mayfair was barbecuing meat fit for a monster, alongside a creamy bowl of lobster macaroni and cheese. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015 Gordon Ramsey’s Maze played ring around the Big Green Egg, with a wrapping queue of BBQ fiends eager to get their paws on slow cooked BBQ pulled beef on a brisket bun. Taste of London Winter 2015The perfect combination of sweet and tangy of BBQ sauce and tender beef rested on a fluffy bun ready for a bite, after removing the pickle, of course…
Taste of London Winter 2015 Kurobuta served their famous BBQ pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy sauce, one of my favourite flavour combinations, despite the cold weather getting the best of the chilly bun.

Awesome charity Action Against Hunger teamed up with five star chefs to create 5* kebabs.Taste of London Winter 2015We opted for Francesco Mazzei’s spicy veal meatballs with Grana Padano and salted padron peppers.  Taste of London Winter 2015 Having experienced a feast fit for a queen, it was time I took my place on the throne… Taste of London Winter 2015 I think it rather suits me, don’t you? Winter is coming… and so is hibernation at this rate. Taste of London Winter 2015 The HBO stall even had a gingerbread scale of King’s Landing! I considered attempting my own form of attack by taking out the towers and eating them one by one… but resigned to a hunt for less destructive dessert.
Taste of London Winter 2015

Glistening in the glow of winter light, Club Gascon was serving some winter-themed treats.Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015We went for the oversized black forest macaron, filled with brandy soaked cherries, dark chocolate mousse and chestnut cream.
Taste of London Winter 2015 We watched, mesmerised, as Pan-N-Ice chopped, slathered and rolled ice cream into rolls. Taste of London Winter 2015 Taste of London Winter 2015 This Thai-style method was enticing, but I was too cold to even consider a frozen treat. Taste of London Winter 2015 Sari Cakes hand-decorates each fruit cake inspired by ancient henna creations.
Taste of London Winter 2015 Vicetti’s homemade tarts were beautifully presented, with great flavour combinations. Taste of London Winter 2015The much loved Meringue Girls hosted Saturday’s dessert bar, but were sold out of the good stuff hours before closing. I really wanted a Nutella Cookiemuff topped with vanilla ice cream and salted hazelnut honeycomb crumble, ya know? Taste of London Winter 2015Instead, we waddled our way back to Maze for fried doughnuts swimming in a beautifully tart clementine curd.
Taste of London Winter 2015Taste of London still sits firmly atop my event list. This year saw the least amount of restaurants, but the venue looked beautiful, food was all delicious, atmosphere was amazing, and overall I’d have to give it an A… ^ get it?

I can’t wait to see who turns up to Taste of London 2016! Who’s ready for Christmas?

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Taste of London Winter 2014

Did you go to Taste of Lon…
Taste of Christmas….
No, Taste of London Christmas……..
No! Taste of Winter!

Oh, right. I’ve been informed this year’s food festivities are going by the name: Taste of London Winter.
Whatever its name, you know by now I love it. I love the mosh pit of foodies, friends, chefs, lovers, families and fiends, all scrambling to taste unlimited samples of food, snacks and an absurd amount of booze.

The day began being spoiled by Duck & Waffle protégé, Chris Thompson. A bowl of fried beef tendon with bovril emulsion and togarashi soon appeared.

Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Followed by smoked haddock takoyaki with curry, malt vinegar and raisin.Taste of London Winter Taste of London Winter Pandan with white chocolate and coconut ganache was a mouthful of sweetness.  Taste of London Winter Finished off with fried roti with banana and peanut butter.

We were then to vote which dish was our favourite – which would you choose?
After voting for the smoked haddock takoyaki, we skipped off in search of more plates to taste. Taste of London Winter Barbecoa had a predictably long line. We joined the queue catching up on recent adventures before eventually getting our hands on sticky short rib with mashed potato. The meat was incredibly tender, but lacked that smoky sweetness needed for such a sticky bite. Taste of London WinterWe then submerged ourselves in the rows of food stalls, with people pedalling their samples like merchants in a souk. We came across Balsajo, offering up a board of smoked black garlic, which is visually rather shocking. But, this black beauty is something delicious. We happily popped this in our mouths like candy and surrendered to the unexpected sweetness that followed. Taste of London Winter The lovely ladies of Azizi Drinks warmly welcomed us, insisting we try their concoctions. The fizzy drinks are created with hops to give the consumer that ahhh feeling of release after each sip. Yet, the delicious elderflower and rose flavoured drinks are actually nonalcoholic. The drinks were tasty and creators so sweet, I wish them the best of luck with their nonalcoholic endeavour. Taste of London Winter The rain continued to pour down from the heavens, but this didn’t stop things from heating up at Tobacco Dock. Taste of London WinterTaste of London WinterWe found Kurobuta nestled in the corner, a badass Japanese joint which I told you about back when it was a King’s Road Pop Up. We plumped for the BBQ pork belly in a steamed bun, topped with pickled cucumber and spicy peanut sauce. I begrudgingly shared. Taste of London Winter We passed this darling champagne van, sparkling in all its shining, bubbly glory. I sort of wanted to steal it and drive it round the dock, watching all the drunk people chase me with their half empty flutes. Taste of London WinterWe then found New York’s answer to the burger game. Shake Shack were offering their Lil’ ShackBurger, an Aberdeen angus beef cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce. To my delight, given the closeness to Thanksgiving, they served up a deliciously spicy pumpkin pie flavoured custard.

Taste of London WinterThis guy basically served up a platter of dreams to my American heart. Swoon.
Taste of London Winter Action Against Hunger is an awesome organisation working to fight world hunger. Each year, they team up with award winning Chefs to create Taste dishes. This year’s muse was hot dogs, of which we selected Jason Atherton’s creation. His choice of apple puree with onions, topped with crispy pancetta and grilled Gruyere, I’m sad to say, did not please. The combination was unnecessary and altogether, wrong. He’s still a personal food hero, but this is not something to be added to the menu. Taste of London WinterMaida Vale sweetheart, The Truscott Arms had a truly wintery dish on offer. Their roasted cauliflower soup with textures of cauliflower, truffle oil and cauliflower crisp was really good. It was an airy, thick and rich creation with a creamy, truffley punch. Taste of London Winter Taste of London WinterTempted by anything pumpkin, I popped over to Andina for a bite of Peruvian picarones. Rings of pumpkin doughnuts served with purple maize honey.
Taste of London Winter

Running out of time with quite a few Taste Crowns left, we followed the smoke back to Kurobuta for some tea smoked lamb with smoky nasu and spicy Korean miso. A delicious final bite of this year’s Taste.

With a bundle of brownies tucked under my arm for the car ride home, we dashed out into the rain full of food and Christmas spirit.

Did you attend Taste of London Winter this year? What was your favourite dish? Tweet me @Alessandra_LDN or leave me a comment. Don’t be shy.

Oh, and did you see my big debut? I’m trying not to let the fame get to my head. I always knew my shining moment would involve pumpkin doughnuts… What do you think of the video?

The Providores & Tapa Room

I’m going to tell you about my new favourite brunch spot in London.

You may have already heard of Peter Gordon’s The Providores & Tapa Room, as it’s not exactly a new kid on the block. But if you, like me, have added it to your foodie bucket list and haven’t gotten around to it yet – I’m here to tell you, GO!

Go now.
Go tomorrow.
Okay maybe book for this weekend after a little lie in, but go!

We pushed past Christmas shoppers and fought against the winter wind down Marylebone High Street to arrive at the warm, little haven that is the Tapa Room.
A crowded café with banquettes lining the wall and communal style, tall tables filling the centre of the room.

It feels very LA and incredibly welcoming – the kind of place you could catch up over a coffee or munch away with a book.

We squeezed past the pastries and freshly made muffins lining the counter and headed up the stairs to The Providores, the restaurant’s formal half. Here we sat down to brunch, where there is an incredible menu filled with innovative takes on brunch classics as well as wild creations begging for me to try.

So we ordered three of the wild ones, and shared.
Naturally.

The Providores & Tapa Room Turkish eggs from Changa restaurant in Istanbul – two poached eggs on whipped yoghurt with hot chilli butter and sourdough or seeded granary toast.
This dish was phenomenal. A little taste of Turkey for breakfast which I could happily indulge in every morning.
The Providores & Tapa Room French toast stuffed with banana and pecans with grilled smoked streaky bacon and vanilla verjus syrup.
This tasted every bit as decadent and naughty as it looks.
The Providores & Tapa Room The Providores & Tapa Room Grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline.
This was my favourite dish by far, which says a lot considering I loved them all. The flavour combinations were strange, but married perfectly in each bite.
This is the dish you come back for. Promise me you’ll order this when you go?
The Providores & Tapa RoomThen onto dessert.
Don’t look at me like that…
Don’t all perfect brunches end with dessert? And how could I possibly turn this down?

The Providores & Tapa Room Mint, white chocolate filled Original beans 70% Virunga chocolate fondant with umeboshi, pineapple salsa and coconut sorbet.
See!? Could you say no to that?
The Providores & Tapa Room We certainly didn’t. The Providores & Tapa RoomThe Providores & Tapa Room was an amazing check off the foodie bucket list. This would be the perfect place to pop in whilst finishing up your Christmas shopping on Oxford Street or to go with friends to catch up on your weekend adventures.

Speaking of Christmas shopping, what’s the coolest gift you’re giving this year? I need some inspiration. You can always tweet me ideas @Alessandra_LDN …. #helpme!

Red Velvet Brownies

It’s holiday time, which means you have presents to buy, halls to deck, and parties to attend. For the Christmas party goer that doesn’t have much time between gift wrapping and hall decking, I have the perfect recipe to dazzle your friends with.
Red Velvet Brownies.
The deep red colour is perfectly festive and the rich, dense flavour will have all your friends saying, “let it snow.”

Red Velvet Brownies

Here’s what you’ll need

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted, room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 oz red food colouring
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350F/ 176C degrees
2. Spray a non-stick spray over your 9×13 glass baking dish
3. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and mix until combined.
4. Time to put the red in the red velvet. Add food colouring until you have a deep red colour. Don’t overdo this or you’ll end up with bright red brownies. Add vanilla extract and mix until the colour is fully incorporated.
5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa and salt until fully combined. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients until you have a gooey, red batter.
6. Pour batter into your prepared pan and pop into the oven for 35 minutes. This will ensure a thin crust and gooey goodness underneath.
Now you have time to lick the spoon and get back to wrapping those last few gifts.

Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Red Velvet Brownies Do you have any favourite Christmas baking recipes you’d like to share?

Christmas Market on South Bank

The Christmas Market on South Bank is one of my favourite festive things to visit each year to kick off the holiday season. I love spending the day walking down South Bank year round, but there’s something particularly magical about the twinkling trees and decorated stands set up to appear as if you’ve been dropped in the middle of a German Christmas market.

Take someone to snuggle up with whilst you browse the market stalls for Christmas gifts and reward yourself for all the calories burned shivering down the Thames with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. When you’ve seen enough mini snow globes and wooden ties, follow the smell of grilled onions to the stand with piles of German Bratwursts sizzling over a pit. There are also pans made for giants filled with steaming cheesy potatoes, bacon, and caramelised onions.

My favourite thing to get at the market would have to be the Kangaroo burgers. Kangaroo burgers?! you ask.
Yes, tender Kangaroo burgers topped with onions caramelised in Jack Daniels.
Whilst devouring your meat, wander a bit further down South Bank to the graffiti covered skate park and watch the bikers, bladers, and skater boys attempt their tricks.

After sharing a Bratwurst and Kangaroo Burger, we had some warm, candied nuts and  peppermint hot chocolate before taking a ride on the Eye. Gazing out at a twinkling London was the perfect ending to an evening at the Winter Christmas Market.

Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank I told you there were pans made for giants.
Christmas Market on Southbank Can you spot the blurred sk8r boi? 
Christmas Market
Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank
Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank Christmas Market on Southbank

The market is on until the 24th of December and is sure to spread some Christmas cheer, so grab some friends or a loved one and head down to South Bank.