Monday, 11 May 2015

Hunting Trip

I am currently searching for a new job which is filled with numerous trials  from tedious applications, misleading job descriptions and fruitless or disappointing interviews, to worrying about how long it will take for my supply of tea bags to run out, a deadly scenario - possibly for myself, but most definitely for anyone nearby when my internal caffeine gremlin stirs. However, there are some perks to having extra time on my hands and when I had three hours to kill in North Kensington I decided to stalk down some more appetising prey.

Although there are a seemingly endless supply of great places to eat and drink in the area, including Bluebelles Cafe, Lowry & Baker and Pizza East, I popped into an establishment next to Bluebelle's Cafe, whose name I cannot recall (bad blogger moment!) Do not let my faulty memory be an indication on their food. They offered an excellent selection of Italian paninis, deli food, creative salads and deserts. I chose a fresh salad which combined rice, chicken, seasonal vegetables and a light herby dressing which was the perfect accompaniment to the other ingredients.

My next stop was Kipferl, where authentic Austrian and Viennese cuisine is served in simplisticly stylish settings. This is their second site, another is located in Angel. Specialities range from Viennese coffee varieties and beverages, freshly baked cakes, to Frankfurters and Pierogi, an insanely satisfying savoury dish which I first tasted on a long weekend in Poland, and have been missing ever since. I ordered a delicious Topfentorte (a fluffy vanilla cheesecake) and a Velangerter (Americano). I was very happy as the coffee was paired with a small sachet of Milka, a chocolate variety which I believe beats any other confectionary competitor easily peasily. All the cakes can be ordered for take away - good news for tastebuds, bad news for my bank accounts and waistline. Although I wasn't expecting the wΓΌrst, the cake, coffee and relaxed atmosphere were more than great and I'd gladly return to explore their menu further.

Let's hope I find a new position before my funds run out and I am unable to bankroll any other treats or trips!

Friday, 8 May 2015

"I have a heart like the sea, a million dreams lie in me" - Miss Saigon Review

The last helicopter leaving the American Embassy, Saigon (30 May 1975)

During the bank holiday weekend I was lucky enough to secure tickets to see the award winning Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward theatre. The musical premiered in the West End in 1989 and completed over 4000 performances before relocating to Broadway and numerous other subsequent cities. On its return to the West End this adaptation smashed all records for opening day ticket sales with good reason. 

Miss Saigon is adapted from Puccini's Madame Butterfly and relays the tragic romance between an American GI (Chris) and an orphaned Vietnamese prostitute (Kim) in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city during the 1970s. It is principally centred around events relating to the fall of Saigon to the communist Viet Cong, which celebrated its 40th anniversary recently (30th May). A slick production whose performers, costumes and set design convey the vulgarity of Dreamland and Bangkok emotively, as well as the terrifying, violent maelstrom of war which consumes and scars all participants and bystanders. Eva Noblezada (Kim), delivered a phenomenally impressive performance, especially considering that this is her West End debut.

As well as focusing on the evacuation of personnel off of the roof of the American embassy, which culminates in a spectacular, highly technical, visually absorbing and highly emotional scene, the production engages with the aftermath of the destructive conflict and the desperate sacrifices which were made during and following the fall. In addition to the millions of Vietnamese and thousands of Americans who died during the conflict, a complex legacy endures. The war irrevocably damaged America's self-confidence and political position within the world. Vietnamese civilians continued to perish in the Communists brutal "re-education" camps. Even today many Vietnamese remain exposed to destructive artillery shells, the deforming effects of chemical weapons employed during the war (such as Agent Orange), the obliteration of communities and the psychological scars carried on by civilians and servicemen/women throughout the following years.

For me, this production effectively communicated the humanity of all the characters, as you could criticise but also sympathise with every single person, irrespective of what they did. Instead of vilifying individuals (even those you initially disliked), it emphasised the horrifying nature of war, a phenomena which never produces victors, only damaged victims. 

I would highly recommend getting tickets for the show, but make sure you bring lots of tissues, you will need them.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

New Blog, New(ish) Blogger - Fruity Quinoa Porridge Recipe

The last five months have been characterised by excesses of brilliant memories, new friends, mountainous landscapes and a comprehensive range of Alpine cuisine - I am not exaggerating when I say that I consumed my body weight in cheese regularly! Following the completion of my ski season I have decided to 'spring clean' my life. Recent adjustments have included tweaking my diet, exercise routine as well as experimenting with new, wholesome and yet completely delicious recipes.

Quinoa porridge is a dish which has become my current breakfast of choice. It is brilliantly versatile, filling as well as being suitable for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan diets. Although cooking the quinoa is not for the time poor, or reluctant early risers, you can cook a large batch, separate into regular portions, freeze and reheat when required. For this recipe I used a combination of water and almond milk, then topped the creamy porridge with a plum, banana and grated cinnamon. Depending on personal preference the ingredients can be substituted for any nut, soy or animal milk (if they take your fancy) and whatever combination of fresh or dried fruit you have to hand.

Serves: 1
Preparation time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup almond milk
1 plum
1 banana
1/2 tsp cinnamon (grated)

  • Mix the water and almond milk together in a pan and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat until simmering. Add the quinoa. It will take approximately 15 minutes for the quinoa to soak up the liquid and transform from opaque bullets to translucent, readily edible grains. Stir regularly to prevent the quinoa from sticking to the pan.
  • After 10 minutes add half the chopped plum to the mix. By cooking the plum the porridge gains a natural sweetness which negates the need to add sugar or sweeteners.
    Suggestion - you could add a handful of blueberries at this stage. The potent berries make the dish acquire a gorgeous purple hue, antioxidants and a brilliant flavour
  • Once the quinoa is cooked, sprinkle the remaining plum, banana and grated cinnamon onto the porridge and enjoy!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Into Eternity: A Film for the Future, but watch it now

Putting aside the debates which contend whether nuclear power is or is not a viable, sustainable or acceptable source of energy, the fact that it has, is and will continue to generate highly toxic waste for the foreseeable future is undeniable. The byproducts will remain hazardous for an almost inconceivable length of time - 100,000 years. Into Eternity explores ONKALO, Finland and the world's first geologic repository, quarantine station or underground tomb for nuclear waste. The documentary thoughtfully considers many of ONKALO's fundamental safety issues, as well as broader concepts.

Madsden's crafted narration and accessible discussions from experts are artfully combined with compelling stylistic shots of ONKALO's maze of tunnels, vaults, its ongoing construction, as well as the eerily beautiful natural landscape above. Into Eternity makes viewers simultaneously consider humanity's capacity for irrecoverable destruction and unpredictable fallibility, as well as our transient nature and insignificance. After all, our current civilisation  can morph into irrecognisable forms within a fraction of ONKALO's desired life span, if humanity will exist at all.

Following Finland's lead, the UK government have recently announced plans to build a similar geological disposal facility (GDF), thus reinforcing Into Eternity and ONKALO's relevance for us in 2014, as well as innumerable other subsequent generations.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Goodbye July & My Holiday Buys

A few mementos I picked up on my holiday. I think the photos are pretty self-explanatory - bag, bracelet, perfume - but I do want to write a quick note about the latter. The name Calyx is derived from a Greek word for "seed pod", which is a nice coincidence given the destination of my holiday. It was initially released by Prescriptives in the 1980s and quickly became a cult fragrance. Although I have no experience of the original, this version from Clinique is a sparklingly bright, fruity floral fragrance. It has received some good reviews, notably from one of my favourite beauty writers, Sunday Times columnist and author India Knight. I would recommend trying before you buy as it suits me, but smelt completely different (and unfortunately, not so nice) on an initially interested passerby in duty free. Don't be put off by the initial blast of citrus, wait for it to mellow and the refreshingly unique floral notes to develop, then I'm sure you'll find that this one's a keeper.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Kalimera from Kefalonia

To whet your appetite, I covered what I enjoyed seeing and doing on my recent travels in Kefalonia. Now, I am going to run through some of the mouth watering, insanely satisfying food I would typically work through:

  • Breakfast - Natural greek yoghurt with honey and fresh fruit, pancakes or exceptional freshly baked bread, croissants and brioche from one of the local bakeries in Fiscardo. 
  • Lunch Any sort of seafood, but probably either a whole fish, grilled squid, or greek salad with a spinach and feta pie.
  • Dinner - To start, I'd opt for aubergine balls, bread with tzatziki or taramasolata and saganaki. Arguably my favourite Greek speciality, saganaki is essentially deep fried salty cheese (kefalotyri), and it is wickedly delicious. For mains, you can't go wrong with moussaka, Kefalonian meat pie, souvlaki or unbelievably tender lamb kleftiko. One of the joys of eating in the tavernas  and restaurants is that you are often offered a complementary dessert and liquor with your bill, which makes paying that bit sweeter. These treats normally take the form of panacotta, sticky baklava, watermelon or homemade limoncello. However, if you see it on the menu do order loukoumades, mini deep fried dough balls which are drizzled in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon, you won't be disappointed.

"Kalimera" - Good day / morning

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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Kalispera from Kefalonia

In addition to the title and snaps I think it might be worth giving some details on where I spent two glorious weeks this month, Kefalonia. The largest Ionian island, Cephalonia, Keffalinia, Kephallenia or Kefalonia (the version I'm going to roll with) is a pretty lovely place. The next couple of posts will round up what I personally enjoyed and would recommend seeing, doing and eating.

  • Argostoli - Even if you stay in the north of the island as we did, do take the time to travel to the island's capital on one morning. Start by grabbing breakfast or an energising Greek coffee then wander to the harbour. Head to the fishing boats where you can browse the morning's catch and also meet some of the charming locals, a swarm of turtles who visit daily for the fishermen's cast offs.
  • The Gentilini winery -  Conveniently located in close proximity to the airport and capital, the family run winery is worth a visit. You can enjoy a free wine tasting, or for only 5 a head they offer a guided tour with local cheese, bread and olive oil to accompany a selection of their premium organic wines. 
  • The Drogarati caves & Melissani lake The cave is refreshingly cool 18C, offering a respite from the balmy sunshine 60m above where you can marvel at the the limestone formations. You can go for an enchanting boat ride on the incredibly bright blue Melissani Lake, the alleged home of water nymphs. Both the caves and lake can be visited on the return from Argostoli. 
  • Fiscardo - I don't think you can find a more picturesque Greek village. It features some of the island's oldest buildings, Roman ruins, boutique shops, an array of tavernas and boats from quaint fishing boats to the super yachts of the rich and famous. Away from the harbour's edge lies the Lord Falcon which is a brilliant thai restaurant. If you are in town on Friday go to Nicholas Taverna for a great view and some authentic Greek dancing.
  • BeachesIn my mind, swimming in the sea beats pools hands down (on most days anyway) and beaches are the perfect location for some of my favourite holiday activities, namely reading, sunbathing and taking long, lazy naps. There are almost too many beaches to choose from, but I rate Foki Bay, Aghia Jerusalem and Anti-Samos. Bring a torch to Foki as it has a large cave to explore. If you want some water sports and beach side cocktail bars go to Anti-Samos. Contrasting with the south, the northern beaches are pebbled which creates crystalline seas, impeccable snorkeling conditions and no itsy bitsy pieces of sand working their way into teeny weenie bikinis, score. 
  • Boats - You don't have to be a certified captain or storm weathered sailor to hire one of the small boats which are moored in many of the coastal villages. For those with more cash, you can hire a sailing boat or larger motor boat equipped with a skipper to visit a wider variety of beaches or some of the local islands. Either option is truly the best way to explore Kefalonia's spectacular coastline. As many of the coves and beaches are inaccessible by road, you can moor up and swim ashore to what is effectively your own private beach for a blissful morning or afternoon!

"Kalispera" - Good afternoon / evening