Happy New Year 2016!!
WordPress have just sent me the blog’s Annual Report full of statistics about which posts were most popular and where readers came from. The most popular post this year was a TV review of Italy Unpacked Series 3: Puglia & Basilicata but my recipe for mince pies wasn’t far behind. I published fewer posts this year – 121 rather than the 152 posts I did last year. This doesn’t represent less interest in writing the blog; far from it. It’s just I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the year to be a bit more discriminating about what I write. When I began the blog I was keen to gain followers and get people reading it so tried to write often and just about anything related to food or travel counted. I’m proud of all my posts and it’s interesting to see how popular the early ones remain: in my Top Ten for this year the TV review is the only one from 2015, all the others date from 2012 and 2013 and in fact, the mince pie recipe, dating from December 2012 is the most popular of all time with 9,836 views.
Despite publishing about 20% fewer posts this year, my overall views increased to just over 87,000. The blog has created a life of its own and even when I don’t publish anything for days, there will still be plenty of visitors to it – averaging about 240 views a day.
In these ‘annual report’ posts in previous years I’ve listed all the top posts but this year I’d like to do something slightly different and offer my own highlights for the blogging year:
- I was excited to be on the DFDS Travel Blogger of the Year 2015 shortlist back in March. For details click here.
- It was great to be noticed by Waitrose again this year and have them give me another challenge to come up with a Christmas recipe: click here.
- Carluccio’s have kindly invited me to a couple of events: to launch their new sharing plates (click here) and their 2015 Christmas Press Party (click here).
- A very personal highlight was the project I gave myself at the beginning of the year to record a year at Kew Gardens. I’ve visited the Gardens each month, taking photos and recording the changes and highlights throughout the seasons and it was just the most wonderful thing to do, helping me to see and appreciate these glorious botanical gardens in their full glory throughout the entire year (click here).
I’ve done fewer interviews of late but 2015 saw a couple of really exciting ones:
- with Bonifacio Brass, owner of Locanda Cipriani on the small island of Torcello, Venice (click here)
- and with the Sicilian Chef, Enzo Oliveri, of Fratelli La Buffala and other restaurants (click here).
I never like to forget my old friends and there remain favourite haunts to which I’m fiercely loyal, like the wonderful Joe Allen. But even old ‘friends’ move on and I’d like to highlight some great changes at a couple of these this year:
- The fabulous Orso Restaurant (sister to Joe Allen) has seen great changes since the arrival of Tim Healy and Laurence Hartley. This year they introduced Regional Dinner evenings when an entire menu and accompanying wine were built around one particular region of Italy. The evenings are great fun with fabulous food and wine as always, and a chance to learn a little more about Italian food (click here for Piemonte, Tuscany or Venice).
- I could go so far as to say that the arrival of Ruben’s Bakehouse in Twickenham, just 10 minutes walk from my house, has revolutionised my eating. I’ve been enjoying their amazing sourdough bread regularly since late 2012 (click here); their fabulous pizzas since July 2013 (and really, there are none in London I like better – click here), and then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this year they introduced breakfast: La Colazione at Ruben’s Bakehouse (click here).
A food blogger must always be on the lookout for new restaurants. For me, it’s a balancing act between trying to find somewhere new and wonderful and not neglecting those old favourites. This year has seen some fine additions to my favourites:
- It wasn’t so long ago that, having passed Barrafina in Adelaide Street many times, I finally got round to going in. Why had I waited so long! All those great things I’d been reading about it were justified: Barrafina is fabulous. It’s a great ‘Single Gourmet’ place as I just sit happily at the bar, but I’ve been back with friend Elsa and will no doubt go many more times in the coming year. If you want great atmosphere and fantastic tapas, go! (Click here for review.)
- I just love Greece and I love all that wonderful fresh Greek food with its salads, its salty feta cheese, comforting moussakas and sizzling souvlaki. But I hadn’t had much luck finding good Greek food in London until novelist Victoria Hislop’s website led me to The Life Goddess. It’s not exactly convenient for a West Londoner to pop into often, but I really must go back soon (click here for review).
- I kept reading about Brasserie Zedel and how wonderful it was, so when I happened to come across it one day while in London and near Piccadilly Circus, then I just had to go in for lunch. Wow! What a great place for some good French food (click here for review).
- I first visited Locanda Cipriani on Torcello in 2014 and had a snack lunch there, but was so lucky that after interviewing Bonifacio Brass in April this year, he invited me to stay for lunch – proper lunch this time! What a wonderful meal it was and just the most delightful place (click here for review).
- OK – this one is a cheat!! I finally got to The Palomar on 29 December last year. But I love the place so much – and have been back with Annie (my great foodie companion on trips to new restaurants) and Linda and George (Linda who first read about Palomar some time ago and directed me to it – even though she lives in Spain!) that I can’t leave it out. ‘The food of modern Jerusalem’ they describe themselves on their website: it’s just the kind of food I love so much and eating there is a wonderful experience of the senses from the food to the atmosphere, to the buzz of happiness as people eat and talk, and the delight to the eyes of watching the chefs at work if you manage to grab a stool at the bar (when I was in recently I was told the wait for that was sometimes 2 hours!!). The Palomar was recently voted Best Restaurant 2015 by Observer Food Monthly – so how could I possibly leave it out! (Click here for review.)
More ‘Personal’ Posts:
I branched out a little to write a few more ‘personal’ posts this year. No – not details of my personal life, but more my personal thoughts on entertaining, solo dining and travelling alone; being a food blogger and cookbooks (I do still occasionally edit cookbooks too!). Here are the highlights:
- A Single Person’s Guide to Entertaining: I don’t do a lot of ‘entertaining’ these days, other than cooking for family, but when I do I want to spend time with my guests and not be hot and flustered in the kitchen. Click here for my thoughts on how to best entertain alone.
- Now We Are 4: Solo Dining: The blog’s 4th birthday seemed an ideal time to look at the benefits of solo dining and why I like to eat alone sometimes (click here).
- Ten Things Not To Say To A Food Blogger: This was a response to an article I read but a chance for some fun thoughts on being a food blogger (click here).
- Cookbooks Aren’t What They Used To Be: This was written in response to Prue Leith saying ‘cookbooks aren’t what they used to be’ and gave me a chance to voice my own thoughts on cookbooks today and the use of the internet (click here).
I’ve had another fantastic year of blogging and the blog continues to enrich my life. A big thank you to the wonderful people who read it, some of whom now feel like friends, and the many restaurateurs, cafe owners and chefs who’ve kindly supported me. I should like to wish everyone …
A Very Wonderful, Peaceful & Happy 2016!!!