Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Quick Post: New York meets Prestwich

I don't usually do food reviews. There are too many bloggers out there, much more experienced in it than I am (and no doubt better), but an interesting conversation last week led to me writing this one.

A friend mentioned that a new grill restaurant had opened. Though my passion for good meat and steak in particular is well known; I didn't particularly rise to this. He mentioned it was in Prestwich - Mr GFB's home town. Still I didn't rise to the bait. Oh, says he, and the chef is from New York....

Tender tuna carpaccio

... at this, my curiosity was aroused. Really? New York trained chef in Prestwich? I've had steak in New York. I've never had steak in Prestwich. And though both well known for their Jewish communities, this was really the only connection I could find and probably a pertinent one, but still I wondered. Only one thing to do.... Investigate for myself....

After a trip down memory lane for Mr GFB and exclamations over what shop is now a deli and what off licence is now a shop and what takeaway is still a takeaway, we arrived at a nice little new development on Bury New Road. The Rare Grill sits somewhat dominantly next to a Sainsbury's, managing to tone it's orange sign in with theirs, but looking more glamorous.
The beef rib. Oh it was good.

Inside, it's working hard to be New York restaurant in design. Chocolate browns, meets cream, glittering chandeliers, intimate booths for your first date in one corner and an open hatch to the kitchen - you can see and smell what's going on in the kitchen.

We were seated and quickly served. A glass of house wine for myself and something soft for Mr GFB. The staff were friendly, though it was clear that they're still a little new in the role. The menu was full of delectable little meaty morsels, chicken liver bruschetta, duck breast; and those were just the starters. Mr GFB decided on a tuna carpaccio and I indulged in rate beef tetaki for myself.

We were not disappointed. The beef was as tender as butter, tasting of not just of the beef itself, but the marinade, salty soy sauce a crack of black pepper. The tuna was rich and satisfying, a smear of wasabi to set it off nicely.

Prefectly cooked. So much so, Mr GFB wouldn't share.
And onto the mains. Opting for the grill, Mr GFB had the larger of the rib-eye steaks whereas I aimed for the rib. And what a rib. Tender, smeared in a sticky barbecue sauce. It was tender, and I soon abandoned all ladylike manners and picked it up in my fingers. Mr GFB (quite used to my lack of manners) attacked his steak with gusto, adding the chimchurri sauce. His steak being tender, chargrilled to perfection but beautifully rare. Added to that the thick cut chips - soft and fluffy with a crispy outside and he downright refused to share..

Replete, but with a sweet tooth begging satisfaction, we both opted for a dessert - lemon tart for Mr GFB, tart tatin for myself. The lemon tart was as it should be, creamy centre, vanilla icecream setting it off perfectly.

Tart tatin
Unfortunately this is where we hit a couple of disappointments. Being a pudding cook myself, I thought the base on the lemon tart could have done with a few more minutes, so it was a touch more crisp and the tatin, well unfortunately that was a real disappointment for me. I expected sticky, sweet, slightly crisp filo, meeting sticky toffee and apple goodness. It was unfortunately soft, and mellow. Not unpleasant, but not what I expected either.

Lemon tart, pretty and sweet, but nicely sharp
There are a few other niggles. The table next to the kitchen could be a fascinating window into the work going on behind the scenes, but might also end up being a touch smokey on a busy evening. The staff are lovely, and will settle into their roles a bit more in time, so their over eager attentiveness is forgivable. I did want to pat the waitress's hand and tell her it would be alright.

So, down to verdict. 

Is it a good restaurant? Yes.

Was the food good? The beef and tuna are excellent. Good rare beef is hard to beat. Fix the dessert issues and it's better than good.

Was it worth the cost? Absolutely. 

Was it worth the trip? This was more of a debating point. If you're in the centre of Manchester, you'd go to Smoak or The Grill on New York Street and be more than happy. In Prestwich, (and actually for some distance around it) aside from the heaven which is Aumbry, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that comes close.

The Rare Grill will do very well and next time I'm in that neck of the woods....

Monday, 25 June 2012

Beer Fuelled Bluestocking...

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows what a fan I am of Brew Dog beer. We've been buying it since Punk IPA first appeared, which we fell in love with. Here was a beer that had flavour, wasn't the mass produced 'beer' that was usually on offer, but nor was it the heavier real ales (which still have their place in my heart). Brew Dog were different. New. Exciting.

The Manchester bar had a pilot brew session last week to create a new beer and I was fortunate enough to be able to act like a beer groupie and meet Martin and the guys putting together the brew. I was even lucky enough to taste it before it even headed to fermentation. That's going to be one interesting beer...

...but last night Mr GFB and I went to the Beer School at Brew Dog. Six different beers, meat and cheese platter, and the expert knowledge behind the bar in Brew Dog, made it an opportunity not to be missed.

On arrival we made our way upstairs and introduced ourselves to our fellow beer enthusiasts, before Dean and Al, our hosts for the evening arrived and the lessons began.

To make it easier to understand, tasting  beer is the same as tasting wine and following my visit to Three Wine Men earlier this year, I understand a bit more about how to do it. The three S's - Swirl, Sniff and Sip - rinse and repeat. There are no right or wrong answers - everyone has different taste, it's all about the experience you have.

Dean and myself submitting to Mr GFB's photography skills
The first beer of the evening was Dead Pony Club, which is a light American style beer. I immediately thought of peaches, but dipping my nose further into the scent, I could smell mango, lychees - sweet tropical fruits. The taste is as it smells, tropical fruit, with a slightly metallic tang at the end. Dean was able to tell us that the hop used to brew Dead Pony Club is new, only 6-8 months old and has only recently been named  Mosaic.

Our second beer was the stalwart of the Brew Dog empire, Punk IPA. The scent is very similar to Dead Pony Club, but the taste is slightly heavier, more bitter grapefruit. A variety of hops is used to brew Punk - including Simcoe and Chinook. 

IPA is Dead was beer number three. This smells like a mango farm - deep, earthy and yummy, with a tickle of passion fruit. Again this has a gorgeous grapefruit finish with a light caramel edge.

Dean and Al described the beer making process with us, inviting us to try some of the malts that are used by Brew Dog and to smell some of the hops they use. The malts can be roasted to different degrees, affecting the depth of colour and flavour of the beer. The hops are chosen for their oil composition and the later they are added the lighter the effect they have.

Yes, yes we do. And gin, vodka, whisky, rum....
Mr GFB was curious to know, if the spent grain from the fermentation process goes into animal feed... Does it make the meat taste any different? Answers on a postcard please...

Onto beer number four and our first non Brew Dog beer, Schneider Weiss Hopfen Weiss. This beer started as collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery and following this, they each brew a 'version'. This beer was interesting to say the least - when one member of the group described it as banoffee pie, I described further - the beer starts slightly creamy, then you slide into the banana and toffee with a hint of cloves and mixed spice, before it goes all the way through to end with the biscuity base. For all my descriptive abilities; whilst I liked that it was such a complex beer, it wasn't quite to my liking. Mr GFB much prefers a wheat beer, so he didn't hesitate to finish my glass for me.

Our second non Brew Dog beer was Hitachino Nipponia from Japan. This uses a Japanese malt, Kaneko Golden and Japanese bred hops. This results in a light citrus beer, quite lemony but with an unusual truffly flavour to it, slightly fungal and a slightly sour aftertaste. Mr GFB exclaimed it was like nothing he had had before and I agreed, though the element of sour apples reminded me of Without You I'm Nothing from Evil Twin Brewing.

Colin! (If I say it enough, it will catch on...)
Our final beer of the tasting was Mikkeller's To From via. This is Christmas in a glass; deep in colour, it smells and tastes like sticky parkin, with liquorice, chicory, chocolate, coffee, bonfire toffee flavours all present. I could picture myself with this, a coal fire in front of me, cat on my lap, snow outside. It was probably my favourite beer of the evening. Mikkeller is an unusual brewer, he travels the world working with different breweries to create one off beers.

Al and Dean then decided to treat us all to a surprise last beer, I Hardcore You. This beer was brewed in collaboration with Mikkeller, his I Beat yoU in combination with Brew Dog's Double IPA Hardcore. This is a very very popular brew and lasts only around 2 weeks on draught. It's slightly floral, hoppy, mango and passion fruit scented, with a grapefruit edge, sweet but bitter. Complex flavours. Brew Dog in a glass.

Mr GFB and I spent another couple of hours with our brand new friends, indulging in some Lost Dog, Rip Tide and discussion of all things beer. Now I just need an excuse to do it all again...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Quick Post: Mens Vintage Clothing

I had a couple of interesting conversations this week - I'm quite well known for frequenting charity shops, vintage shops, fairs, eBay - pretty much anywhere that I might pick up a sweet little vintage item (30s-60s being more my eras, heavily 1950s). However, when it comes to the boys, where can they go?

The answer, it turns out, is lots of places. After asking on Twitter and a few friends, the answers are below for your delectation.

Firstly, the obvious places:

Everyone's online auction friend. I've been using it for years and have bought some amazing pieces from sellers there myself and, having browsed the mens section, this too is well populated. A word of caution, it does take some trawling if you want to find individual pieces - particularly if you're like me and have a wide spread of preferences. On the other hand, trawling can be worth it - really worth it. Settle yourself down one lazy afternoon and have a look.

Charity shops:
Ok, so these too can be hit and miss, but ask any charity shop fan worth their salt and they will tell you that the chase is part of the fun. Who doesn't like randomly finding a gorgeous pair of handmade shoes for £20? Or a pair of 1930s trousers sitting on the rail in mint condition?

Vintage Fairs:
There are lots of these going on all the time. One of the most well known is Judy's Affordable Vintage Fairs - they happen all over the country and really do have affordable items, as well as the more exotic and expensive. Another excellent example is the Textile Society's fair that happens every six months - a little bit more abstract in some ways, you can buy everything from jewellery, to knitting yarn to, yes you've guessed it, clothes. The next one is 23 September 2012 and takes place at the Armitage Centre, Fallowfield.

Now to some little places you might not have considered:

If your passion is 80s and 90s, this place on Piccadilly Plaza is worth a nosey.

Pop Boutique:
One of the originals in Manchester, this is still one of the best places for retro styled clothing, 1960s vintage and mod.

Oxfam Originals:
Another inhabitant of Oldham Street, this I've found to have some amazing items - well worth a look for a big variety of eras and designers.

The Vintage Village:
At Stockport Market Hall is probably one of my favourite options. This has everything you could ever possibly want under one roof. Clothing, accessories, ornaments and on 8 July, there is the Vintage Village Yanks event. A must for anyone interested in the WWII era (and lovers of a man in uniform!)

And now for the online retailers:

This site covers just about everything - and so you are welcomed by a vast array of items at your disposal. The only limitations I've found is that it's often not clear what era you are looking at.

Beyond Retro
Probably one of my favourite sites. Prices are good, the interface is pretty and the range is excellent.

Savvy Row and Tweedmans Vintage
Oh heaven for suit lovers everywhere. Tweed, velvet, herringbone. I do love a man in a suit....

Atom Retro
For all your mod needs... Their stock is beyond impressive.

A limited selection, but a good one.

Needs no introduction at all.

So gentlemen, a nice little bunch of places for you to try. Let me know how you get on - let me know of other places you find, the pieces you buy. I am, after all, a fan of a smart dressed man.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Quick Post: Slippery Belle Burlesque

To the uninitiated amongst you, burlesque is art, comedy, theatre and yes, striptease. Stripping and burlesque are very different things and, if you want to understand the difference for yourself, Manchester has an active burlesque scene and you should come along to a show.

The amazing Bella Besame, performer, teacher and the lady behind Burlesque! at the Lowry and The Slippery Belle burlesque, held a special show last night at TV21. A show with a difference.

A German TV company had been in contact with Bella, to arrange for a lady to perform burlesque for the first time ever, in front of a live audience as part of a full show. She had never even seen a live burlesque show. The TV programme effectively gives people the chance to live their dream in another country. To try something they've never done before. This was one brave lady.

So, as I can't post photos from the event and the film is in production (I'll hopefully be able to point everyone to it in September time), what I thought I could do, is a quick post on some of the outfits the audience wore to the evening...

We are a glamorous lot and as a matter of course, dressing up to watch burlesque is a lot of the fun :o)

First up, is the gorgeous Danielle Brown, in a dress from Collectif. I was also exceptionally envious of her handbag too, an eBay find I believe.

Next up is Victoria Denbigh in a divine corset, satin skirt and that handsome gent beside her, is her husband Conrad.

This quartet of glamorous ladies are Punky Galore, Polly Tickle, Zara Williamson and Robyn O'Rorke.

Punky and Polly are performers themselves and I believe roller derby was mentioned...

Polly's shoes, she tells me were 50p from a car boot sale. I am beyond envious.

And this lovely lady is Paula Surtees, who not only has the most fantastic hair, makes her own clothes - this gorgeous dress being one of them - but also had on the most amazing pair of shoes I've seen in a while....

The dapper gent partnering her for the photo is Howard Ball.

Paula's shoes in all their glory. Fabulous...!

Finally (though a little later in the evening), this is myself, in a Bettie Page Clothing dress and vintage hat. I too  was in the obligatory seams, though by the time this photo was taken, it was somewhat late in the evening. (I'm not grumpy honest... my feet were killing me!)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Guest Post: Whim Wham Thankyou Mam (& Alix)

I've been fortunate enough to meet lots of amazing people via Twitter and some of those in real life too. Helen is one of those people, and when she won a dining experience at Whim Wham Cafe, I asked her if she'd mind writing up her experience for me. She said yes :o)

Cocktails... Backdrop provided by Alex

This is my first time doing this.

Please be gentle.

So, I entered a RT (retweet, for those not involved with Twitter) competition for a dinner for four at the newly opened Whim Wham cafe.

I won the competition. Marvellous.

After a few emails between myself and the manager we arranged for Saturday (9th June) evening at 8. Perfect.
Deep fried Lancashire

Chosen chums Chris, Alex, James and I arrived at the nifty gaff under the arches on Whitworth Street West at 8. I got to meet lovely Alix (our emailer) who was very friendly and turned out like only the proprietor of Gin Saloon should be - dapper and like he'd stepped straight out of the 1930's.

Mackerel Salad
Seated and advised on what my prize included we settled on cocktails to start. Now, I wish I could remember the name of the one I chose but it was a tall, beautiful fruity-berry-Gin combo and Alex ordered the Vimto-Gin sipper. Honestly, it was a taste sensation! Who'd have thunk gin and Vimto would be such a winner?!

A long hard look at the menu and we all struggled to choose what to eat. Everything sounded great and tasty.

So, to start the boys had the Cheshire cheese and beetroot pickle (which looked really good, deep-fried triangle of gooey fromage... oof). I had a beautifully fresh poached mackerel salad with apple and rocket. It was so light and set the taste buds a-tingling ready for my main. I ordered fish pie.

Now, I LOVE fish pie. I make a really good fish pie. My expectations of a fish pie are high. My goodness, it was a beltin' fish pie. Served in a delightful copper pan with a wedge of bread and butter (What more do you need?!) The cheesy top was scrumptious, there was plenty of lovely fish in a creamy white sauce with
peas and carrot in the mix up too. Great fish pie. Try it.

The Fish Pie. *dribble*
The boys had the Hot Pot and to put it simply it arrived, with pickled cabbage and obligatory bread & butter, they looked at each other in mutual appreciation of the food they were about to eat then 'uhhmed and ahh'd all the way to the end. 'Lovely lamb, really lovely, mmmm mmm etc'. No offer to try. Boo hiss.

Alex had the chicken casserole. It smelt delicious and she ate it all. Again, no offer to try. (I must pick more generous friends in future). Alex was also the only contender for pudding, which was a salted caramel-peanut butter ice cream. It was lovely I'm sure but an ice cream eater I am not.

Quite simply it was deliciously homely food, lovingly cooked well presented. That's all we want really isn't it? Beautiful.

Chicken Casserole
The end of dinner signalled more drinks and whilst the boys stuck to some sound local ales Alex and I had more cocktails. She had the Vimto sipper again (really REALLY worth a visit alone) and I had a Hendricks lime/Elderflower and mint sipper. It was just refreshing enough to end meal and not tip me over the edge.

The Whim Wham cafe is lovely little establishment that deserves all the support of the people Manchester - and beyond. Don't forgo this independent gin saloon and eatery for some pompous crap chain. Go and try it. Have gin.

Without a shadow of a doubt we will be going back. Properly, to pay for it and enjoy it again.


Thankyou Whim Wham x

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bakerie Wine Tasting

If you haven't yet visited the Bakerie, you should. You really should.

However, as the Bakerie is split into two and as this is specifically about the wine tasting, I'll save anything about its other elements for another time.

I don't claim to be a wine buff in any shape or form. I like to drink it, I like to taste it (I mean really taste it, savour it), but as I mentioned in my Three Wine Men post, I'm just as guilty of picking a wine because of its bottle or name, as anyone else. On my second foray into the world of tasting, I'm learning a lot - and that's due to the people I'm meeting as much as the wine I'm drinking.

I won't go into huge detail over the wine - I'll leave that to the experts such as Everyman who is incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic and, even better, isn't one of those people who makes such a novice as myself feel like one. I'll concentrate on the experience itself, with a very brief lowdown on the wines we experienced.

The Bakerie leans on the utilitarian style - in fact anyone who went to my old high school will probably be reminded a little of our chemistry labs, though I can assure you the stools are a lot more comfortable and the floor, stencilled and covered with a heavy varnish, is a big improvement on cork tiles. Bread is everywhere, divine nutty little brown loaves, big focaccia style slabs and round rustic white twists. As bread is a big weakness of mine, I'd be at home with a bread tasting, let alone a wine tasting. Thankfully some of these gorgeous dough confections were on offer and so we settled down to dip them into a balsamic dressing and appreciate them ahead of the main event.

The tasting had been arranged by Origin Wines and Alban de Guerin, who is the Export Manager for Henri Bourgeois was our guide to the wines, the history and the grapes. 12 different wines were available for tasting and these ranged from whites to reds, with a single rosé. The majority of the wines were French in origin, but interestingly, the producer also has New Zealand wines available and four of these were presented to us during the evening.

We started as a quiet group, with the first tasting, but we soon became more enthusiastic, louder and more conversational. I was lucky enough to be not only seated with Everyman, but also with Douglas Lowe, the man behind Origin Wines itself and also with Duk Pond restaurant in Preston, Artichoke Bistro in Chester and the Market Restaurant in the Northern Quarter.

Discussion flowed, descriptive words were thrown around - pebble, flint, mango and peach though I'm not sure the assertion of aisselle as a fragrance is quite what I want in a wine...

The evening ended in a role reversal, with the 'naughty' end of the table wandering off to Kro Piccadilly for some sustenance and a further glass or two, whilst the 'sensible' wandered off to sample the tropical delectations of Tiki Tuesday at Keko Moku.

Things I did learn during the evening:
Don't wear a strong scent to a tasting. It's likely to interfere with your experience of the wine.
There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone's palate is a little different.
Everything affects a wine's flavour. The weather that year, the climate, the ground it's grown in. You can taste the differences, even between the same wine produced a few years apart.
The world is a much smaller place than you imagine - and then even smaller than that.

Wines Sampled:
Le Petit Bourgeois, France, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Quincy "Haute Victoire", France, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Sancerre Blanc "LA Vigne Blanche", France, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Pouilly Fume "Jeunes Vignes", France, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Le Petit Clos Sauvignon, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Clos Henri Sauvignon, New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Sancerre Blanc "Le M.D.", France, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Sancerre Rose "Les Baronnes", France, Pinot Noir 2010
Sancerre Rouge "Les Baronnes", France, Pinot Noir 2009
Sancerre Rouge "Les Baronnes", France, Pinot Noir 2006
Le Petit Clos Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir, New Zealand, 2010
Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir, New Zealand 2008

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Ten years on: 2002 to 2012

Yesterday was the Manchester Day Parade and I'm massively proud to be able to say that I took part in it.

My original pass - you change a lot in 10 years!
Ten years ago, when I was a young thing (well, ish), I volunteered to work at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. I still believe it's one of the best things I ever did.

I worked in the accreditation office at SportCity, ensuring that anyone visiting the site was given the correct pass, with the correct access to whichever site they were needed at. This basically involved lots of printing and laminating of passes, handing them out and generally acting as reception cum security in a little portacabin.

We met athletes, television presenters, commentators, ambassadors, coaches, flagbearers - if they had to collect a pass, they had to come through our office. One of my team met Matt Dawson (she got his autograph for me, which I still have and have never forgotten that she did that for me).

Kit, Dave and myself.
We saw the Royals, watched some of the events (for myself the finals of the Rugby 7s and shot put and javelin stick in my mind). We watched  both the rehearsals for the opening and closing ceremonies (I can distinctly remember walking in one early morning, listening to Russell Watson's voice echoing around the Stadium) and the events themselves (sitting in the press boxes... sneaky).

We also got to work with other volunteers - some of whom we'd have never met in other circumstances - older, younger, richer, poorer. All walks of life, character and person. And you know what? We all bloody loved it. I've yet to meet anyone who didn't enjoy themselves, working as a team, the atmosphere, the pride we had in our city. We gave up our time (I took two weeks holiday from work, as did many others), worked shifts, caught buses early and late in the day; and loved every minute of it.

And so today, we got to celebrate the anniversary - ten years on, we're all different, older, greyer, wiser (I hope), but still as in love with our city then as now.

The atmosphere was amazing and once we'd gathered together, put on our 'medals'  and 'crowns', we heard the bang which heralded the start of the parade.

I've never waved or smiled so much in my life. I don't want to think about how much our photos were snapped, but we were welcomed, cheered and clapped. Our 'athlete' struggled a bit, but we pushed, pulled and pedalled on, to get him around the route.

I saw friends of mine on the way round, which made it all the sweeter.

The best bit for me, was when we entered Albert Square. We were announced to the crowd and a cheer went up. That will stay with me for a long time I think. Yes, we gave up another Sunday for Mancland. And we'd happily do it again.

Thank you Manchester. I still love you, after all these years.

Quick-post: World Gin Day

Saturday 9 June was World Gin Day and, in the spirit of being gin fuelled, I could hardly ignore this fun fest. Hubby and I decided to wander around town for some much needed alcoholic release.
We kicked off the night at the Atlas Bar, where they had an astonishing number of gins on offer. After much deliberation, some Blooms and Death's Door gin went down very nicely indeed. For some reason whilst drinking the latter, I couldn't get the idea of chocolate limes out of my head - not what I expected given the ingredients. Perhaps I just have an odd palate...

Onward we went to Gorilla, where a fabulous Gorilla dog was consumed, along with a burger for myself - not as pink as I wanted it, but tasty nonetheless. Accompanying it was a Sipsmith and tonic, sharp and citrusy- they too have a good selection of gins on offer, not to mention everything else. 

Our penultimate destination was The Whim Wham Cafe, so hubby could indulge his beer love, whilst I delighted in a Martinez, followed by 'On a Whim' basily lemony goodness... Yummy. We also bumped into a couple of twitter friends, @HelenFrancesca and @MightHorselips, enjoying their dinner amongst the vintage finery. I feel they may be as gin fuelled as I am...

Finally, though not on a gin note at all, we headed to Brew Dog. I fancied a beer to round off the night and we settled in to one of our favourite places, happily sipping on their yeasty goodness before trundling home.

Manchester, you did World Gin Day proud...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Guest Post: Dancing in the Streets

Taking the opportunity to connect with other bloggers in the Twitterverse, I asked The Hungry Manc - normally found on his own blog page - to write a post about his recent foray out of the world of food and into the world of musicals...

There are a couple of things I don’t do. Firstly I have never written a post that didn’t somehow involve food and/or drink. Secondly – musicals.

However, here I am writing a non-food post about a musical. I think the kids these days call that an epic FAIL!

I have been to a musical before (20+ years ago), but that was Les Miserables and the topics of revolution and war seemed blokey enough for me to go along. So when a friend of mine called me up and said that they had a free ticket to “Dancing In The Street” at The Palace Theatre, I was somewhat sceptical. However I abandoned my plans to attempt to eat the biggest sandwich in Manchester (un-confirmed) and decided to try something different.

As ever, and as I do on my regular blog, I did very little reading about the subject prior to going along. I am not a fan of having my judgement clouded, either way, by the opinions of others. I’ll happilydiscuss the merits or lack of with you after the event but I’d rather make my own mind up first.

So after a pre-show drink at The Cornerhouse we wandered over the road, shuffled in to our sits and awaited the show.

Now, not being a regular theatre goer, talent spotter or bitchy critic I will not attempt to tell you how good each of the performers was. What I will say is that I had a thoroughly enjoyable 2½ hours being entertained by classic Motown songs performed by singers, who, while not the original stars were certainly more than competent to my uneducated ears. Not so much impersonations but homage to the likes of The Temptaions, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and more besides. All performed with just a touch of humour and a nod and a wink to the undertones of some of the tracks.

Did I enjoy it? Well if I tell you that by the end of it I was dancing in the aisles (if not the streets) I think that says enough.

As far as I know the show leaves town very soon but if they return be sure to get yourself along. It's just good fun.

Oh and just so you know dear reader, I think I can safely say that I have still only been to one musical. This show is definitely more a collection of great songs, a celebration of the genre of music with a few interesting facts scattered in along the way.

So keep dancin’


Thursday, 7 June 2012


I'm a little bit inspired by one of the many blogs I read, Bangs and a Bun and her most recent post. It's heartbreaking, but shows how strength can come from something and a negative can become a positive.

It's this element, the negative turned positive, I wanted to go with and to, I guess, explain a little about me, why I am who I am and why I do what I do. To those of you who know me in real life, this is probably going to be a little dull, so apologies in advance...

One upon a time, there was a young lady called Charlie. She lived with her other half and her cats in a flat and believed herself to be happy and lucky and in love. Like any couple in love, they decided to get married and Charlie wanted to look fabulous for her big day. The only downside to this, she felt, was her size. She was, to put it bluntly, fat. Obese would be the doctors word for it and though she made an effort with herself (she always felt she had to make twice the effort to compensate for her size) she was uncomfortable and her health had started to suffer.

As a size 26
So, she started a diet plan, got herself a gym membership and worked her arse off. Literally. 3 times a week to the gym, hitting the cross trainer and the treadmill, the resistance machines, walking; whatever meant the weight would go. 6 stone in weight loss later, she was feeling a lot better in herself and happier.

She then had a bit of an incident at the gym she went to. On the treadmill one day, climbing a nice big hill, there was a pull and a tearing sensation, in her glute. She stopped. Pondered whether to continue and decided against it. There was always another day. Or so she thought.

 Three years of limping, pain, steroid injections, prescription painkillers and weight gain later, she was finally referred to Trafford General Hospital and their Physiotherapy Department. By this time she was depressed, miserable and believed that she was never going to improve. During these three years she had seen 5 different physios, private and NHS, but it was at TGH she met Nick. Nick went back to the beginning. Talked to her. Asked what happened those many years ago. Nick bullied and pushed and made sure she did her exercises. Nick effectively fixed Charlie. I love the NHS.

More comfortable, Charlie joined a new gym and as part of her package she got freebie personal training sessions and it was because of these she met Mike. Mike bullied and nagged and persuaded and helped Charlie lose the weight she'd put back on and more besides. He helped her strengthen her weak hip, strengthen her core, improve her balance - fix the other problems discovered on the way.

Mike introduced Charlie to running, to strength, to confidence. And if she got a little broken on the way, there was Nas the Physio to fix her again.

In total, I lost around 10 stone. I went from a size 26 to a size 12. I will never be able to thank Nick, Mike, Nas, nor Lisa and Emma and Sarah who go to classes with me, or the gym instructors who push me, enough.

I also know that my hubby, went through it all with me. He put up with the change in food, the massive changes that I put myself through. And I thank him for that too.

And I really won't lie. It was bloody hard work.

I'm a stubborn cow at the best of times, and this has probably made me worse. I can tell you it takes commitment to stick to 1200 calories a day, to hit the gym 5 times a week. To go from terrified of running on the treadmill to running a 10km in just over an hour. I sometimes scare myself with how much I've changed and how strong I now am, both in mind and body.

There are things that I'd still like to change about myself. Going from such a big size to such a small one, means there are physical signs of the change. And yet, in a peculiar way I'm proud of that. I imagine a scar that shows how much I've changed and how different I am.

So, that's it. That's me. Fat to thin, weak to strong, confident to cocky, sad to happy. To you all, thankyou x

Monday, 4 June 2012

Waste not, want not

Anyone who knows me, knows I love my food and that I can't stand wasting it. Whether it's giving away the last piece of pie to a neighbour, or taking leftover muffins to work, wasting food just seems plain wrong.

Unfortunately, I'm just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to forgetting what's in the fridge. So, discovering today I had a small mountain of wilting spinach and a baby gem, I recalled a recipe from Mr Rick Stein. Now, unfortunately, this recipe is now only available in his book - I had hoped to link to it on the BBC website, but it's been taken down. So, this is, I guess, my variation, written as I've cooked it this afternoon - of course, you can edit this to your own tastes.

Baked Greek Omelette
I small leek
1 red pepper
1 pack of Feta cheese
2-300g of 'greens' (I used little gem and spinach, but watercress, lettuce and rocket are good, kale or even cabbage).
6 eggs
1 tablespoon dill (dried or fresh) finely chopped
1 tablespoon mint (dried or fresh) finely shredded
1 ovenproof dish
Oil for frying

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 5 (around 190 degrees for those of you with electric).

Chop your leek into half moons, dice the red pepper and pop these into a frying pan with a little oil. Fry gently until the leek is transparent, then add your greens, dill and mint. Allow the greens to wilt and in the meantime, dice the feta and pop it in the bottom of your oven proof dish. Once the greens have wilted, lay these in the dish, on top of the feta. Break your eggs into a dish, beat them well, add salt and pepper if you like and pour over the greens and cheese.

Pop into the oven for around half an hour, til the egg is nice and set.

Serve hot or cold with some new potatoes :o)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Gin, my friend. I have missed you.

Glamourpuss Miss Pond
I hope your Jubilee weekend was fun.

Mine is proving exceptionally so, so far, beginning with an evening of cocktails with the lovely Miss Pond.

Properly glammed up, we started in The Alchemist, for some much needed gin-based fun and frolics. A rosebud later and I was desperate for something pretty and feminine. Along came a divine Garden Martini and I was having an Audrey moment in my little black dress and pearl earrings.

Emma indulged herself with a Summer of Love - and not surprisingly flirted with the nice young man behind the bar...

The Agwa Smash
Garden Martini in hand
As our final drink here, after much deliberation, we opted for the Agwa Smash. That little beauty slipped down far too easily and before we became unsteady on our heels we headed off into the night.

Emma had decided we needed to hit up Keko Moku - 'If it's not on fire, I don't want it', but we hit up Bacchanalia on the way, Emma grabbing a much needed Long Island Iced Tea, whilst I had my second martini - with ginger and chilli and yes, more gin.

Deciding it was a little too quiet; we wandered into Walrus, for some G&T love and a wiggle to some music; before we headed for our final destination. A couple of drinks later and suitably relaxed, we arrived at Keko Moku. It was a rugby scrum as usual, but that's why we love it... What's more fun than being pressed up against lots of people you don't know while you all clamour for the fiery rum fun that's a Zombie?

Saturday had it's own fun in store with a trip to the Beached Festival with my little brother Matt, as my planned company for the day dropped out. Heading out a little later than expected, we missed the heaviest rain and arrived in plenty of time for Kid British. Looking curiously at the ladies in heels on the sand (vanity thy name is woman - but seriously girls, you'll only ruin them) we grabbed a couple of beers each and headed to the main stage.

Being a relative newcomer to KB (I've got a track or two on my running tracklist), I'm now a massive fan. They knew how to get us bouncing, despite the grey skies and cold.

We bumped into Charlie who was there with her daughter, Em, who by all accounts had a fantastic time, making friends and bouncing along to the music. Em takes after her Mum and Dad :o)

Catching Jessie Rose Trip was worth it too - I've not seen the guys play for some time, not since they made the switch into a more electric feel. Jessie's voice has always given me goosebumps and they didn't disappoint. It's really hard not to respect someone who can not only play every instrument on stage, but can also wring a sob from an electric guitar.

The band I was really there to see were The Whip, who seriously did not disappoint. I've only managed to see them once before, quite a while ago now (I fear I've been neglecting my love of music). The weather had turned drizzly again, my jeans were soaked, my feet were soaked through, they had technical problems and started a bit late, but we really didn't care. We bounced, we laughed, we danced. They really are on fire at the moment.
Beer o'clock

Sadly, we decided to leave at this point. I was tired and lack of sleep from the night before was taking it's toll. I try not to regret anything, but wish we'd stayed for the Futureheads, even though by the time I got home I was slightly hypothermic. Charlie tells me they were bloody amazing. Dammit. Next time I stay....