Wednesday, 24 August 2016

REVIEW: Chiquito, Hemel Hempstead

Food review of Chiquito Hemel Hempstead Mexican food
Food review of Chiquito Hemel Hempstead Mexican food
Food review of Chiquito Hemel Hempstead Mexican food

A few weeks ago, I was invited to Chiquito in Hemel Hempstead to try out their menu and see how the restaurant was getting on. They had a party back in May to celebrate their 500th day, and with nearly a year and a half under their belt, are well established in the Jarman Square part of Hemel.

If you know the area, Jarman Square used to be known as Jarman Park - a leisure park with a swimming pool, cinema, a couple of restaurants and a big Tesco. It was built in my teens, so twenty odd years later it was looking a bit sad and in need of some TLC. That's finally happened recently, with plenty of new restaurants opening up including a Bella Italia and a Nando's, and the Empire cinema being replaced by a Cineworld. It's streets ahead of where it was when I worked in Hemel a couple of years back.

We popped into Chiquito on a Friday night, and it was busy and bustling. Neither of us had been to a Chiquito for years, so we opted to try a few new things on the menu and see what was new. My overriding memory of previous visits to Chiquito is eating tons of food and leaving uncomfortably full, so I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to move for our cinema trip later, but there was so much on offer in the menu that I went a bit mad trying to choose everything.

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

RECIPE: Spicy chorizo and tomato pasta

Tomato and Chorizo Pasta - perfect for batch cooking

Everyone has those recipes that they throw together on a moment's notice. When there's nothing in the fridge, as such, but you only need to grab a couple of bits from the supermarket to pull it together. Those recipes that you've made a thousand times, always slightly differently, but never ever get sick of.

This is mine.

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

REVIEW: Great Northern Pub, St Albans

Great Northern Pub St Albans next to Odyssey Cinema, gastro pub with gourmet food and head chef
Great Northern Pub St Albans next to Odyssey Cinema, gastro pub with gourmet food and head chef
Great Northern Pub St Albans next to Odyssey Cinema, gastro pub with gourmet food and head chef

When I went off to university, I noticed something. And it wasn't until I came back for that first Christmas holiday that one of my friends voiced it. "Haven't you noticed that you have a much higher alcohol tolerance than everyone else?" We all had. And that night, in the pub - of course - we pondered why. And we came to the conclusion that it was coming from St Albans, a town with more pubs per square mile than almost anywhere else in the country. Possibly.

There sure are a lot of pubs in St Albans. I have my favourites and my least favourites, and then a list that's bigger than both of those of pubs I've never made it to. There are many. So it's easy to lump a lot of them in together as 'old man pubs' or 'scary local pubs' and completely miss it when they have a much needed makeover.

That's exactly what's happened to the Great Northern Pub, which is one of several pubs up London Road. It's right next to The Odyssey, the recently refurbished cinema, but I'd never even realised it was there until I noticed last year that they'd had a lick of paint and were featuring some tasty looking food on their Instagram. I mentally made a note to pop in at some point, but they beat me to it a few weeks ago when they invited me to their new menu tasting. Everything was absolutely delicious - like, so, so, SO good and also with loads of unusual but great flavour combos, like lemon drizzle cake with fennel - that I couldn't wait to go back for a full meal. Luckily for me, they invited us back. Hooray!

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

EVENT: Davidstow Cheddar Dinner and Cheese Tasting with Lee Westcott and Mark Pitts Tucker

Blog and press event for Davidstow Cheddar featuring Lee Westcott and Mark Pitts Tucker plus recipes and tastings
Blog and press event for Davidstow Cheddar featuring Lee Westcott and Mark Pitts Tucker plus recipes and tastings
Blog and press event for Davidstow Cheddar featuring Lee Westcott and Mark Pitts Tucker plus recipes and tastings

I don't go to too many blog events these days. Yeah, I'll admit it, laziness is the main reason - I just like sitting down, that's all - but every now and then I get an invite to one that I can't refuse.

One such invite was 'Hey Sarah, do you fancy coming to a cheese-based event?' Why yes. Yes, I do. Davidstow Cheddar, you just get me.

Davidstow teamed up with Lee Westcott, who's the head chef at trendy joint Typing Room in Bethnal Green, and has totally been on telly and stuff, to make a delicious cheese based menu. The night of my dreams, basically. Everything involved cheese, from the canapes to the dessert. There was even a cheese tasting. You know wine tasting? Like that. BUT WITH CHEESE.

(And also wine, hooray.)

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Saturday, 6 August 2016

REVIEW: Jamie's Pizzeria, St Albans

Jamie Oliver Pizzeria St Albans review

Not long after Jamie’s Italian opened in St Albans, a Jamie’s Deli opened next door. This always massively confused me for some reason. It looked intimidating, like a trendy wine bar, and I never ever went in there, despite popping into the main Jamie’s restaurant on many an occasion.

Perhaps this was a problem all round, because Jamie’s Deli has now been replaced by Jamie’s Pizzeria. It’s a more low-key version of the restaurant, really, although they only do – you guessed it – pizza. They asked me along to review it, and I said ok, because duh, pizza is amazing.

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Tuesday, 2 August 2016

RECIPE: Sweet potato with feta and coriander sauce

Coriander sauce, dressing, chutney or salsa for sweet potatoes, salad and rice

Sometimes it doesn't feel like writing about food requires much effort. But then sometimes you try to start a post with 'Look at that tasty bowl of green and orange stuff' and realise that, okay, some effort is required. It IS a tasty bowl of green and orange, though. Sweet potatoes and feta are a match made in edible heaven, it's true, but as I decided that my dinner would involve the pair of them, I realised it needed something else too. Something saucy, but salady. Something... about the same colour as a frog.

So, I made this. I've called it a sauce, but you might call it a chutney or a salsa, or even a salad dressing. Or, even 'Something like a pesto', which is what my Mum went for (I think it was the colour, it's really not a lot like a pesto at all). Either way, it's sharp and garlicky and is very, very nice on a baked sweet potato. It's also very, very nice stirred through rice when you make burrito bowls. It's just very, very nice. And easy! Just chuck everything into your blender (I used my BlendActive) and it's basically done. You don't even need to chop. Just chuck. And press a button.

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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Summer eats: Where to eat al fresco / outside in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Best places to eat outside or al fresco in St Albans, Hertfordshire
Craft & Cleaver

I'm just going to come out and say it - this summer hasn't been that bad. I mean sure, it's probably raining right now. But we've had a decent run of sun, right? Have we had to get the opaque tights out for a few weeks? NO WE HAVE NOT.

So therefore, I proclaim this a decent summer. Well, it's the least 2016 could do, really. But it opens up so many exciting opportunities! Like a reason to buy summer dresses! BBQs! Beer gardens! Al fresco dining! And on the subject of that, I thought I'd do a little compilation of my favourite al fresco dining spots in St Albans. So if the sunshine DOES continue, we can all eat outside like we're on holiday or something.

But hurry, because there's probaby only about thirty seconds left of sunshine this year.

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