I thought it would be fun to pick my top ten foodie and travel things for the year: things I’ve bought, meals I’ve had, places I’ve travelled to; the highlights of a brilliant food & travel blogging year. They are in no particular order – just as they came into my head once I got thinking.
1. Kitchen Equipment: Digital scales
I know it may be hard to imagine that this keen cook and food blogger has only just got round to buying digital scales, but I was enormously attached to my old balance scales with weights. It took me a long time to listen to my daughter and son and go digital. And once I did, I can’t imagine how I waited so long to do it. Gosh, this may seem a small thing – but why on earth wouldn’t a cook want digital scales in the kitchen; it just makes life so much easier … not to mention wonderfully accurate.
2. Kitchen Equipment: Ice Cream Maker
This is my second ice cream maker. When I moved six years ago, the first one was in too sad a state to bother to bring with me and I threw it away. It took me a long time to be convinced that buying a new one was worthwhile. But all those visits to Rome and wonderful gelaterias, then spending a ridiculous amount of money in the local Richmond gelateria in the summer of 2011, made me see the sense in making some myself again. And what fun I’ve had. I love it.
3. Cooking Ingredient: Sharpham Park Spelt Flour
When I reviewed THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS cookbook, I followed a recipe I tried for the review so religiously I even bought the flour they recommended: Sharpham Park Organic Spelt White Flour. And I’m so glad I did. I love this white flour and now never buy any other kind. Apart from the health benefits of eating spelt flour rather than refined white, it has a lovely nutty flour that enhances all I make with it, and a slight but nice grainy texture.
4. Favourite Cookbook: Jersualem
You won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve bought a few cookbooks this year. And if you read my blog regularly, neither will you be surprised to learn that my favourite new book this year is Ottolenghi’s wonderful Jerusalem. It’s full of fabulous recipes but also gorgeous photos and is a great read.
5. Top Blogging Outing – A Cena’s Not So Secret Supper Club
It was very exciting to be invited to A Cena’s first Not So Secret Supper Club in June and asked to write a review of it. You might say it was my first official assignment! It was a fabulous evening with great company and – of course! – amazing, wonderful food. I hope they’ll have more evenings like this and I’ll be getting together a group of friends to come with me. If you want to keep up to date, look at the A Cena website – www.acena.co.uk – and sign up for their monthly newsletter.
6. Restaurant Highlight: La Fine Fourchette, Falaise, Normandy, France
How to choose with so many great restaurant visits this year! December has been a gastronomic highlight in itself with visits to my favourite restaurants: Joe Allen, A Cena, Caldesi in Campagna and the wonderful festive tasting menu at The Cinnamon Kitchen. However, I decided the real highlight of the year was the lovely meal I had with my family in France in the summer at La Fine Fourchette. It was a wonderful meal with all the style, elegance and great service that epitomises French restaurant dining at its best. And, of course, a good meal with one’s lovely family is like no other: simply the best.
7. Places to Stay: Hotel Mocenigo, Venice
This is the view from my and friend Annie’s room in April. I love Venice. I can’t understand why people complain that it’s smelly and expensive and full of tourists. Yes, all those things are true to some extent, but I’ve rarely noticed a problem with smell in all the times I’ve been there, and if you know where to go, you can walk beautiful narrow streets free of crowds and eat well and very reasonably. Hotel Mocenigo is a joy. The small hotel is so pretty and peaceful – despite its proximity to the Rialto – and Sandro and Walter are simply the kindest and most welcoming hosts. April wasn’t my first visit to the hotel – it was my 4th (and about my 7th visit to Venice itself) – but it was great to go back after a 4-year gap, with my friend Annie who features in many blog posts, and find it just the same as always: perfectly lovely.
8. Top Travelling Gourmet Experience: Al Gatto Nero, Burano, Venice
Still in Venice in April: Annie and I took a trip out to Burano and Murano one day. We’d only intended to stay on the smaller Burano for a short time first but on discovering Al Gatto Nero and managing – against the odds as normally you need to book well in advance – a table free for lunch, it turned out to be one of those lovely spontaneous surprises where everything comes together for a special experience. The sun was shining, we were given a canalside table and the food was exceptionally good. Next time I go to Venice, I’ll definitely go back … but I won’t risk just turning up now I know it; I’ll book.
9. My Top TV Cookery Programme 2012: Sicily Unpacked
I think I watch just about every cookery show on TV but this short series back in January of Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon travelling round Sicily together was exceptional and brilliant. They combined Giorgio’s passion for the food of Sicily with Andrew’s art historian knowledge so well and seamlessly, and seemed to enjoy every moment spent together, discussing things with enthusiasm and apparently no script. I’m sure there was some kind of script but unlike a lot of staged programmes of this kind, this one really came across as relaxed and natural. I hope 2013 sees these two getting together again for something similar.
10. The Single Gourmet Traveller’s Top Recipe: Summer Sorbet
I’ve had a great time this year cooking for the blog. I’ve refined favourite recipes, carefully followed new ones by great chefs, and have developed my own creative skills in the kitchen by thinking up recipes of my own. Without doubt the recipe I was most proud of this year was my Summer Sorbet. By this time I was confidently using the new ice cream maker (No.2 in this post) and wanted to try some combinations and ideas of my own. There’s just a short time in the summer here in UK when all the summer fruits are in season and at their best and you can make an authentic and good summer pudding. I love summer pudding so my inevitable thought during my ice cream making enthusiasm was how to take this flavour to a sorbet. My son came round as I was finishing. Taste this, I said, handing him a spoon with a mouthful of my newly made sorbet, saying nothing else. Mmm, he said, it tastes just like summer pudding. Success!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun review of some of the best bits of my blogging in 2012 and I look forward to sharing more of my food and travel adventures with you in 2013. The new year gets off to a great start with my flying to Geneva on 2 January to join Annie and Jerry at their apartment in Switzerland … so there should be some snowy photos coming and no doubt some fondue! Meanwhile, a very happy new year to you all!