Well Hello! Accidentally Wading Into Debate, Sydney, The Greening, Mudgee. And As You Were. Or As I Was.

The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

Hello there! Pull up a seat. How has everything been with you? Where have I been? Oh…

I really don’t like reading blogs that apologise for their absence. Why? This isn’t a newspaper, I don’t have an editor, I blog when I can and when I want to, and I would love to blog more. It becomes difficult though, when external pressures (book writing, bacon boxes, travel and other work that pays the rent and keeps me in Gremlins t-shirts). And here I am apologising, it seems. I just can’t help myself.

I am the sole writer here, and it will always be that way. That does limit content, and that is ok, as I am a big ole control freak, and I want everything to be just so and exactly as I saw it in my brain. Plus, this isn’t a place for food and travel stories, it is a place for my food and travel stories. I want to keep it that way. Ahem.

Blogging is a funny animal. When I started there was a few, and now there are a lot, which is great. But, I feel that there are a lot of people outside of blogging who want to define what a good blog is without maybe understanding blogging at all, and that creates pressure for bloggers (including me), when it shouldn’t.

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Announcing: A Weekend Long Food Blogging Masterclass at The Guardian HQ

Picture taken by Pål Hansen for the Observer Food Monthly when I won the OFM Best Blogger Award in 2011

Picture taken by Pål Hansen for the Observer Food Monthly when I won the OFM Best Blogger Award in 2011

I was extremely honoured to be asked to curate a food blogging masterclass at the HQ of The Guardian newspaper as part of their series of masterclasses. As curator I have asked the best food bloggers in the UK to join me in sharing our knowledge with you. It will be useful, informative and hands on. We are planning it right now, and I will be back soon to share some more details for you.

For now, here are some details on my fellow tutors. There will also be two influential keynote speakers, details on those soon too. The course will run on the 13th and 14th of July and therre are only 36 places. Classes will be taught in groups of 18 so it will be intimate and everyone will get lots of attention.

Book on Eventbrite via The Guardian website.

Niamh Shields – me! – social media, etiquette and food & travel blogging 

You know about me :)

Daniel Young – food criticism for bloggers

Daniel is the “Young” behind young&foodish, a London-based website and food events company. He is the creator of the BurgerMonday, PizzaTuesday, SpagWednesday, WichThursday, FryFriday and CoffeeSaturday series of pop-up dinners, working with such chefs as Giorgio Locatelli and Nigella Lawson. He was restaurant critic of The New York Daily News and has written about food for such publications as The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit Magazine and Gourmet Magazine.

Daniel is author of eight books, including The Paris Cafe Cookbook and Made in Marseille. In February 2013 was named one of the 50 food websites and one of the 15 sites the foodies love by The Times. In May 2013 Young was named Online Food Writer of the Year at the Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards.

Signe Johansen – recipe writing

Signe is a food writer and cook who grew up in Norway and now lives in London. She trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine, and after graduating worked in some of the UK’s top restaurants. Signe has a Masters in the Anthropology of Food from SOAS, a degree in Social Anthropology from Cambridge and has written about Scandinavian food for Sainsbury’s magazine, Delicious magazine and the Financial Times as well as contributing recipes to all the major mainstream and trade publications in the UK.

Signe has recipe tested cookbooks such as Hawksmoor At Home, both the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ books, Le Pain Quotidien Cookbook and the Pitt Cue Cookbook. Saltyard Books published Signe’s books Secrets of Scandinavian Cooking…Scandilicious in 2011 and Scandilicious Baking in 2012. Signe’s blog Scandilicious specialises in modern Scandinavian cooking, baking and living and her supper club EatScandi was recently featured in the New Yorker.

Jeanne Horak-Druiff – food photography

Jeanne Horak-Druiff is a South African by birth and a Londoner by choice who has been writing her blog Cooksister since May 2004. CookSister! was named as one of the Times Online’s top 50 food blogs in the world and is also a four-time winner of Best South African Food Blog in the South African Blog Awards. Jeanne started Cooksister at a stage when she did not even own a digital camera, and is a self-taught food photographer who fully understands the challenges and limitations of shooting food in a makeshift home studio with a limited budget. She is passionate about teaching and has run a number of photography workshops both in the UK and South Africa.

Peter Langdon – web design and building your blog 

Peter works on the Guardian web team designing and building web pages and managing digital marketing for Guardian Masterclasses. He has also worked at Amazon and as a freelance web designer on a wide variety of projects. He regularly teaches blogging masterclasses and you can find his own blog here.


Twitter Taste Live

Twitter Wine Tasting

I was invited to a very interesting event recently, a wine tasting organised by the fantastic host and wine blogger Rob, who was aided superbly by fellow wine blogger Andrew, from Spittoon. This was no normal wine tasting, it was multinational, and we would share our thoughts on the wines via twitter. The wines were supplied by Bin Ends, all from the Alsace region, and we would be tasting them with fellow twitterers in the US, Spain, South America, and one in China!

Our Twitter Usernames

Our Twitter Usernames

If you don’t know twitter it’s a microblogging application, where you send your thoughts out into the world in 140 characters or less. It’s community focussed, so those twitterers that are connected to you see those updates, and you can send replies and direct personal messages that only the people involved see. So, it’s like online shared texting, or status updates on facebook. If you’re on there, I am eatlikeagirl, come join me. I really enjoy it and use it as a means of communication with friends and other food bloggers e.g. Helen of World Foodie Guide, Su Lin of Tamarind & Thyme and Helen of Food Stories.

There’s the background, now: back to the tasting.

Now that’s a number of different locations, and clearly timing was going to be an issue, so we started early and planned to twitter with everyone else from midnight. Rob and Andrew prepared a wonderful 5 course meal and matched the food to the wines.

Twittering and blogging the evening

Twittering and blogging the evening

I am guessing you are a little curious about the wines and the food. Now, I don’t blog about wine, and it’s not because I don’t like it, it’s my tipple of choice, I just don’t have anything approaching the level of expertise that wine bloggers have and it’s, well, intimidating. I do want to know more, and I see a wine tasting course looming on my horizon, but for now, I surf the part of the wine list that I know and I try to learn more by breaking out of this occasionally. I’ll get there. This evening all 5 wines were white wines from Alsace, which would prove to be interesting as I am generally more of a fan of red.

scallops starter
So, we started with a delicous starter of scallops accompanied by Hugel Tradition Gentil (aka Les Fleurs d’Alsace) 2006. The scallops pan fried with white wine, ginger, garlic and chilli, the spices added to compliment the spice in the wine. The scallops were fantastic, large, juicy and perfectly cooked and the wine was a very pleasant accompaniment, light with gentle spicy flavours.

asparagus tart

Next up was red onion or asparagus tarts with baby leaf salad accompanied by Hugel Tradition Pinot Blanc 2006. The tarts were great, light and quite eggy, the wine cut through this quite well. I wasn’t a huge fan of this wine, on first taste I was underwhelmed, putting it mildly, but the food was a good match and it improved. It was quite rich and acidic, heavier than the first.

hugel pinot blanc

At this point, we were all starting to feel really spoiled, with our two wine blogging friends slaving in the kitchen, and us chattering, sampling and generally having a very good night. It was time for the next course and our most decadent yet, with fois gras mi cuit with toast and fig chutney matched with Hugel Tradition Gewürztraminer 2006. The foie gras and fig chutney were well matched even before the wine got involved, but the wine was a wonderful match and brought the best out in everything. It was rich and golden with hints of honeysuckle and quite an oily texture, which amplified the flavours in the meal. Delicious.

foie gras with fig chutney

hugel wines

Next up was pork medallions with mustard mash, apples and cider reduction accompanied by Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2004. The dish as all previous was perfectly executed and the wine, for me, was sharp, acidic and spicy with background syrupy sweetness. It was a good match for the food.

pork tenderloin with mustard mash apples and cider reduction.Our last wine was awaiting us, unfortunately so was the last train, so we had to rush. We had coconut macaroons with Hugel Gewürztraminer Vendage Tardive 2001. Now this wine was delicious, and was great with the coconut. It had a honey fragrance, intense sweet syrupy honey flavours, rich and gorgeous.

coconut macaroons

It was truly a wonderful evening, I learned alot, and am determined to expand my wine tasting experiences. The company was great and it was a very fun evening. Thanks to uber host Rob and Andrew, for organising and serving up such a wonderful meal,Bin Ends Wine and Hugel & Fils for the wines and setting up the event and Annie Mole, Lea, Kai, Sandrine, Jeremy, Lolly & James.

There’s lots of photos, you can take a look on the flickr group – Twitter Taste Live.

Flickr Group

Flickr Group