Category Archives: Food/Drink

An Interview With FoPo

In my last post I was talking about some new discoveries, including cauliflower pizza  and Tony Lozzi’s cauliflower bread recipe – using cauliflower in other ways other than a bog standard vegetable.  This week I’ve discovered FoPo – a company that powderises food products that would otherwise go to waste, retaining 90% nutritional value and vastly extending shelf life. Not only was I intrigued by the idea of food powder but the CEO, Vita Jarolimkova, just happens to be a bit of a fashionista too …. I couldn’t let this company pass me by without an interview… Hi Vita, please introduce FoPo…

Hi! Our mission is to give rejected fruits another life by upcycling them into nutritious, sustainable and tasty food products! There are now three of us working full time. Gerald is in charge of finance and marketing, he comes from a very entrepreneurial family and already had two dessert businesses in the Philippines. Ada is heading our operations, she has also background in nutrition and market research and her family runs a funeral company (no shortage of dark humor at the office). I, Vita, am responsible for strategy, management and navigating the complex maze of German bureaucracy – but originally I am a biochemist and I worked mainly in various research projects in Europe and Asia. We all met during of Food Innovation and Product Design master’s program, which gave us a backstage look at the food industry and helped us realize the problem with current food supply chains and the impact of food waste. It also helped us in developing the concept into a viable business and get a great network of great professors and experts in food industry to support us.

FoPo food powder is a simple yet brilliant concept – powderising food products that would otherwise go to waste. What inspired the conception of FoPo?

We developed the concept through a design thinking lab organized by the Thought for Food Challenge: How to Feed 9 Billion People by 2050. We were looking at ways to prolong the shelf-life of easily perishable foods, overcome aesthetic problems of “ugly fruits”, and to make a product that would not be at a risk of going to waste itself. We decided on dehydrated powder due to its long shelf-life, easy logistics, and versatility of application. It’s just as god as the fresh fruit, but undestroyable. 🙂

Food powders including olive & mango are among your products and on your website you feature some recipes using the powders. What is your favourite recipe?

My favourite recipes actually come from our customers – it’s amazing to see people being creative with the product. Someone just made homemade mango marshmallows! From our own recipes, O-love Olive Dip is great. You just need to mix a bit of the olive powder with cream cheese and voila, healthy dip for chips, veggie pieces or bread sticks. Also, Injust discovered the magic of overnight oats. Mango, pineapple, calamansi, oats, chia and coconut milk – simple tropical breakfast or healthy treat for afternoon coffee.

Out of the food powders currently available, what flavours are proving popular amongst your customers?

Everyone loves the olive powder, it’s a real best-seller. It has a very intense taste and is so easy to mix with salads, sauces, pasta, cream or cottage cheese etc. Among the fruits, mango is really popular, but it varies a lot depending on people’s interests. For example, our banana powder is great for vegan baking since it improves the dough texture and kids love the fact that by adding a bit of water and grated nuts to apple powder, you get apple dough from which you can make small edible statues.

How do you source products for your powders? What’s the process that the fruit and vegetables go through to become a powder?

We are getting produce from farmers, exporters/importers and manufacturers that has been rejected because of different reasons. For example, bananas cannot go into supermarkets if they are too yellow, a lot of olive flesh is wasted during canning process when the pit is removed, sometimes there is also surplus produce no one wants at the moment. The fruits and vegetables are then checked for quality & safety (no moulds!), washed, chopped or puréed, dried and powderized. We are currently exploring several different drying processes: freeze-drying, spray-drying and solar-drying to get the ideal combination for each fruit and each country where we produce.

What are the benefits of your food powder?

It prevents food waste, which also indirectly means it prevents release of carbon dioxide and saves natural resources that went into cultivating the fruits. At the same time, it preserves the taste, aroma and nutrition of the fruit, making it available for much longer time in very convenient form. Many people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables (86% of EU population to be exact), often because it’s challenging for people to plan purchasing and prepare fruits that need to be peeled and de-stoned. FoPo can be mixed directly to anything from yoghurt and muesli through drinks (juices, smoothies, yogurt drinks…) to creams, pastry, soups and cooked dishes. This makes it a very convenient and delicious way to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables.

As you are based in Germany, are your powders available overseas?

We take orders within EU through our webshop, but customers living outside of EU can send us an e-mail if they would like to get a pack as well. We are also planning to expand our products to distributors and retail overseas eventually.

Have you got plans to expand your food products/ powdered food range in the future?

We have just developed a recipe for crispy 100% made-from-FoPo bars that taste like candy but are made from our powders. We plan to scale-up to industrial production by end of 2017. After that, we have still more ideas in mind – functional powder blends for different occasions and seasoned guilt-free fruit and vegetables crisps. On a more futuristic note, we are looking into the use of FoPo in food 3D printing!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Quite atypical for a start-up founder I guess, haha – I wear mostly skirts, dresses and low heels in very feminine designs and wide range of colors. I’m a big fan of pastels and bright pink too. I worked in Japan and Korea before, and I still get a lot of inspiration from their fashion and make-up trends.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I buy most of my clothes second-hand and I also like to design and make my own. In Germany, eBay is a goldmine for affordable, barely used brand clothes and shoes and it still has the same thrill of digging through piles of clothes in normal second-hand store as you browse and bid. Zalora (online store in the Philippines) features also local brands and young designers, but you have to use a shopping service to order from abroad.  For brick-and-mortar stores, I like Goodwill in the US (e.g. Ted Baker dress for 12 USD), “Beautiful Store (아름다운가게)” in Korea (many local + international brands – I got the mint and black A.P.C. jacket that apparently sold out everywhere since Kim Kardashian bought it – for 8 USD), Don Don Down on Wednesday and Mode Off in Japan. And finally coming from Czech Republic, our local brand Pietro Filipi has beautiful, high-quality clothes for professionals at very decent prices.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Elegant backpack since I have to carry laptop, documents and samples around a lot, comfortable nude mid-heel pumps to replace my dying pair, nicely fitted black dressy jacket since I don’t have one yet, and I’d like to design something inspired by what I’ve seen on the 2017 runway when I have a couple days off during Easter.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, I feel like they suit me better.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about FoPo.

www.myfopo.com
https://www.facebook.com/fopofoodpowder/
https://www.instagram.com/myfopo/
https://twitter.com/myfopo

Some interesting food ideas there using your food powders Vita, and  exciting plans afoot. I quite like the sound of the homemade mango marshmallows!  Dear readers, do you like the idea of the food powders?  What powder recipe would tickle your tastebuds?  Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from FoPo.

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5 Spring Discoveries

Following on from my December 2016 post “6 Discoveries I Made in 2016” (read it HERE) – here are 5 new discoveries I’ve made since the start of 2017. When I say “new”, the discoveries themselves may not be “new” as in “just out in the market new”, but in the sense that I’ve either stumbled across them for the first time or have tried them for the first time.

1. Cauliflower Pizza.

According to the Slimming World magazine, the latest food fad is cauliflower pizza. My first thought was, I admit, “yuck” but thinking about it, I like cauliflower cheese and the ingredients used to make that are essentially the same, just put together differently.  I then came across Tony Lozzi’s blogpost (Fit2Father) talking about cauliflower bread and his yummy recipe gave me hope for the cauliflower pizza.  Here’s the recipe for Cauliflower Pizza (slightly adapted from Slimming World) – serves 2 :

Ingredients:  1 cauliflower, cut into florets; 2 eggs; salt & pepper; 1 teas dried oregano; cooking oil spray (try Frylight’s garlic spray); 3 tab tomato purée; red onion, sliced; yellow pepper, sliced; 4 slices of ham, sliced; grated cheese (optional)

Method: Preheat oven to Gas 5 or 180C.  In a food processor whizz cauliflower florets until very fine. Tip into a microwaveable bowl, cover with cling film and zap in the microwave for 5 minutes. Add beaten eggs, seasoning & oregano. The mixture should be really wet.  Line a large baking tray with nonstick baking paper, spray with cooking oil & pour on the cauliflower mixture.  Shape it using a knife, wooden spoon or your fingers. Bake for 25 minutes, until base has solidified and gone golden. Flip base over & cook for another 10 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven, spread with tomato purée & top with ham and vegetables (and cheese). Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve sliced.

2. Silvaner Pinot Grigio Wine

No discovery post of mine can be complete without a reference to wine.  The discovery is not actually Pinot Grigio itself – I’ve tasted Pinot Grigio wine from Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa … but not from Germany.  This wine is deliciously light and went well with my chicken dinner tonight.  I will definitely purchase this wine again – thank you mum for the introduction!

3. Italian herb secret

Famous UK cook Mary Berry caused a stir this week when she revealed that she uses an old recipe for making spaghetti bolognese using WHITE wine and double cream (and chicken livers & bacon).  Most people were outraged that she used white and not red wine – some commented on the use of double cream.  Personally, I add red wine if there is any in my kitchen and occasionally Worcestershire sauce. I think I’ll stick to my tried and tested recipe. However, a native Italian pointed out that Italian cooks don’t actually add herbs or garlic at all when making bolognaise….so, now you know….

4. Sheer Knee Highs

OK … knee highs or pop socks are not new.  Despite my day job being a hosiery merchandiser, and knee highs are a mega big seller in the stores where I work,  I actually bought & wore knee highs for the first time ever last week.  Not the sexiest of hosiery items I must say, but it was more comfortable wearing them under my trousers than tights. 

5. Drops Of Youth by Body Shop

When is a face mask peel not a peel? When it is a fantastic liquid peel such as Drops of Youth by Body Shop. This is absolutely fantastic stuff.  My Body Shop At Home gave me a sample to try and I was so impressed that I immediately purchased a bottle. I’m using it instead of a night cream – this stuff works! It not only deep cleans your skin, it works immediately, leaves your face feeling clean, refreshed, moisturised and soft.  It doesn’t irritate my skin either.  To use: after taking off your make up, apply a blob or two into the palm of your hand and rub over your face. The peel immediately gets to work. When finished rubbing, rinse off with warm water and dry.  Add night cream if you wish. My skin gets extremely dry but this stuff does such a good job that my skin is fully hydrated afterwards.  Excellent product.  Give it a whirl.  Apparently use it long enough and your skin takes on a youthful appearance…

That’s all for the moment dear readers! What do you think of my recent discoveries? Do share your thoughts 🙂

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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6 Discoveries I Made In 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve decided to make the last post of 2016 one which I share with you some discoveries that I have made across  the board – fashion, footwear, beauty, food, etc.  These discoveries might not actually be “new” but they are new experiences for me 🙂 So, in no particular order, here are 6 things I discovered this year….

1. The Jack-it Bag   –  I love it as a jacket but it can easily convert into a bag.  Catch my interview with the brand HERE.  The jacket I’m wearing is made of velour and has a strong satin lining.  I’m looking forward to wearing it more in 2017.

2. Salted Caramel.  Since the end of 2015 when I discovered Tesco Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur and Wilkins Salted Caramel Spread, I have had an indulgent love affair with salted caramel throughout 2016 – cheesecakes, ice creams, chocolate – and then, at the beginning of December, I found this ultimate shower cream from Avon ….. Yes, it’s “salted caramel & almond” …..

3.  Chocolate Red Wine.  This year, courtesy of my darling husband, I discovered chocolate red wine.  It is a combination of 2 of my favourite things – chocolate & wine!  It is pretty sweet, smells divine and tastes heavenly – it is akin to port rather than your standard glass of red.  My new favourite “liqueur” to date.

4.  Contouring.  I was a little late in embracing this make up look and couldn’t quite “get it” until I came across this delightful contouring stick by W7.  It is a 2-ended stick with a highlighter at one end and a bronzer at the other – plus clear and handy instructions on how to apply on the box. 

5.  Slippers.  OK – not quite a “discovery” BUT I used to hate wearing slippers as I always received furry ones or memory foam style slippers which I felt were uncomfortable, made my feet sweat and I couldn’t walk in them! I needed to find a pair that I could wear indoors – and I found these leather Moroccan style ballerina style slippers from NEXT.  They not only look stylish but they fit well, are comfortable and I now wear slippers indoors! No more stubbed toes that used to occur when I walked about barefoot.

6.  Fitbit.  Coming home on a flight from Madeira in August I was listening to a podcast on my phone that was talking about the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps. It motivated me to move more.  A Fitbit was on my Xmas list but my lovely husband treated me to a Fitbit beforehand.  I love it.  I have gone from being a slob to being on the move and although I don’t always hit 10,000 steps every day I am pleased with the 8000 steps + a day I  do currently hit and my twice weekly 10,000 steps +. Love the turquoise colour strap too.

What did you discover in 2016?  Do tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With The Sweety Guy

Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t like sweets (candies)?  From mints to fruit drops, chews to Haribos … a car journey is just mundane without a sweet to suck; on an aeroplane, sucking a sweet helps ease ear ache; sucking a mint helps to ease indigestion; sucking a sweet helps to distract when experiencing a panic attack….. as well as being a naughty but nice treat that puts a smile on everyone’s face.  My guest on the blog today is definitely smiley … he works surrounded by sweets of every description …welcome Damion, aka Sweety Guy….

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Hi my name is Damion Elson and I am known as the Sweety Guy, bringing a SMILE to everyone’s face. I deliver sweets locally and across the UK.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of The Sweety Guy?

My inspiration for setting up Sweety Guy was from my dad. My dad is a confectionery wholesaler and as always been motivated to keep on going no matter what it takes. Also I love to bring a smile on peoples’ faces when they come home from a hard day’s work.

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From assorted mints, old fashioned boiled sweets to haribos and jellies, you have quite a wide range of sweets to offer. Early days yet I know, but what sweets are proving most popular amongst your customers so far?

The most popular sweets this week have to be Midget Gems and Fruit Salads. These are made by Lion, a sweets manufacturer based in the North of England. There are other sweets the same shape but they don’t have the juicy flavours that these have! These are the real deal!

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I’m partial to chocolate limes, mints & haribos (especially when travelling!) What are your favourite sweets?

My favourite sweets have to be Vidal, which are spanish gummy sweets.

What do you look for when sourcing sweets for your company? What is the most unusual “sweet” you’ve come across?

When sourcing sweets for Sweety Guy, I particularly look for good quality and they have to be very yummy! I have to be chief tester too!! The most unusual sweet has to be cough candy for me at the moment, here is a link to it http://www.sweetyguy.co.uk/product/cough-candy/

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Apart from the sweety shop where you can order what you like online, you have also launched the monthly subscription box for sweety fans – those who would like their sweets regularly delivered to their door!Have you got any plans to expand your range in 2017?

My range of sweets will expand every week from now and right into 2017 and beyond. I love sweets and I know a lot of people do too. Each month the Sweety Guy Subcription box will have different, surprise selection, so not only you won’t know what you get but you know they will be yummy!

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As you are based in the UK, are your sweets available for ordering/shipping overseas?

Yes, I am based in the UK. My sweets are available for overseas ordering/shipping if required.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

My outfit is usually yellow Levi cords with a checked shirt and black shoes for meetings. My casual outfit consists of jeans and usually a super hero t-shirt or my Sweety Guy one! 😉

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My favourite shop has to be TK MAXX because of the unique products they sell and the fact they only get a select few of the same product. One of my favourite online shops as to be Lomography. I love the nostalgia of the cameras and I am really keen on video production.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

I really could do with a new winter coat but thinking of going for something totally different than my standard parka.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes seem to be more comfortable for me.

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Your Links:

Sweety Guy website http://www.sweetyguy.co.uk/
Sweety Guy Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SweetyGuyDamion/
Sweety Guy Twitter https://twitter.com/sweetyguybfd
Sweety Guy YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/sweetyguycouk

Thanks Damion! We wish your business the sweetest success for 2017 and beyond! So, dear readers, do you have a favourite sweet (candy)?  Drop me a comment, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Damion Elson.

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An Interview with The Goodness Project

Is there such a thing as a healthy office snack? In the office I worked at as a teenager, the tea lady came round with our morning coffee & afternoon tea with a range of calorie laden cakes, biscuits, crisps & sandwich … with a few pieces of fruit that had seen better days! My guest on the blog today is Anna Szanto, co founder & MD of The Goodness Project, the ultra convenient healthy office snack & fruit delivery service.  I caught up with Anna recently to find out more…. Hi Anna!

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Hello, my name is Anna Szanto and I am the Co-founder & Director of The Goodness Project. The Goodness Project offers monthly Healthy, Gluten Free and Vegan subscription boxes, gift hampers for individuals and healthy snack & fruit boxes for offices. To sum up our mission in one sentence, our aim is to help people to make the right decision towards a more conscious eating and lifestyle and to connect health-conscious brands with their customers.

The Goodness Project is a simple yet brilliant concept. What inspired the conception of The Goodness Project?

I have always been very passionate about healthy eating and in late 2013 me and my business partner have decided to launch the first healthy subscription box service in the UK, that focuses on organic and natural products. This proved to be very popular within the wellness scene and in time our customers started to ask for one-off gift boxes that they could gift, so shortly after, we have launched a range of vegan and gluten-free gift hampers. Using our expertise, this year we have also started tapping into the corporate market and we are determined to change unhealthy snacking habits of employees by supplying healthier snack alternatives and fresh fruit boxes to offices across the UK. We also have big plans: In the next three years we would like The Goodness Project to become the UK’s biggest food gift service in the free from segment and see our gift boxes and hampers stocked by mayor retailers.

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From assorted nut mixes to protein bars & healthy alternatives to crisps; as well as catering for all dietary requirements – vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free – What snacks are proving most popular amongst your customers?

Our customers are very health conscious, so they love everything that is not only tasty, but also good for them. However raw vegan chocolate and popcorn are proving most popular amongst our customers – they can’t seem to get enough!

I’m partial to the granola & protein type bars. What are your favourite snacks?

Great choice Linda, granola & protein bars are great to curb the 3 pm carvings and also really popular at the moment. I personally love nuts and absolutely adore anything with peanut butter. A few apple slices with nut butter – you can’t beat this healthy snack!

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What do you look for when sourcing products for your service? What is the most unusual “snack” you’ve come across?

Our whole team is always on the lookout for the latest snacks. We have very good relationships with our wholesalers and we constantly search the internet, social media for new products. We also get many companies approaching us with their products, so we always have the newest snacks in stock. Over the years we have developed a unique set of guidelines for our curation process to ensure only authentic products are featured in our boxes and hampers. Each product must fall into one or more of these categories: organic, vegan, gluten-free, fair-trade, environmentally-friendly, chemicals-free, cruelty-free, people and planet positive.

Most unusual snack we have come across? It has to be flavoured crickets. Edible insects such as crickets and mealworms have become popular in the last year or so and are now available in some health food shops. Although it is an environmentally-friendly alternative to meat, as a veggie/vegan business, we won’t be stocking them I am afraid.

How does a company order snacks etc – are there set contracts or plans? Is it possible for individuals to order or is it mainly offices/corporations purchasing, in effect, wholesale?

Our healthy subscription boxes and gift hampers are available for everyone to order on our website. For offices/corporate clients we offer a bespoke service, whereby they let us know their requirements and we tailor a package to suit their needs. There are no contracts or set plans – companies can easily order one-off snack or fruit boxes for events or set up a regular delivery with us; we offer a transparent and flexible service. What I think is also important to mention is that we have a constantly revolving snack selection, so our clients won’t get bored when it comes to our deliveries.

As you are based in the UK, are there plans afoot to expand overseas?

We are London based and we ship our subscription boxes and hampers worldwide.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I have a functional, minimalist wardrobe. Most of the days you’ll probably find me skinny jeans, white or black T-shirt and multicoloured trainers (my ‘signature style’ at the moment) as I move around a lot in the office and give a hand when our deliveries go in our out. If I have a meeting or presentation to attend I like to keep it smart casual, so I’d probably be wearing a combination of heels and jeans.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I absolutely love Cos, I always find something in their store! I adore their modern minimalistic approach. They offer edginess and clean lines for an everyone-can-join price and I find their garments comfortable and the fabrics long-lasting.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

As mentioned, I am obsessed with funky trainers, so it will probably be a new pair.

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes every time! If you see me wearing boots it means it is very grim outside.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Goodness Project.

https://thegoodnessproject.co.uk/

https://thegoodnessproject.co.uk/shop 

https://www.instagram.com/thegoodnessprj/

https://www.facebook.com/thegoodnessprj

https://twitter.com/TheGoodnessPrj

Great to chat with you Anna and I wish you continued company success!  So, dear readers, do you favour a nutty healthy snack like me? When it comes to 3pm, just what do you crave to eat? Please tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from The Goodness Project.

 

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An Interview With Infruition Water

Water! If my sons complain of  headaches or feeling tired or nauseous, my answer has always been “Drink Water!”  Luckily for me, they enjoy a glass of water and 9 times out of 10, it does cure their ailments.  However, I must hold up my hands and say that I find plain water just … well …. plain boring!  My guest this week, Carmen Hubble of Infruition Water, is on a mission to convert me! Hi Carmen ….

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Hello I’m Carmen and I’m the Brand Development Manager for Infruition fruit infusing water bottles.

Infruition Water is a simple yet brilliant concept – water bottles with an inner capsule that you pack with your choice of fresh fruit & herbs. What inspired the conception of Infruition Water?

Infruition’s message is simple; we want to help people drink more water, naturally. We launched the brand with this idea in mind and immediately knew that fun and creativity was at the heart of Infruition. Everyone knows they should drink more water and Infruition makes it easy.

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There are currently three styles of water bottles – sports, classic and kids. All made of 100% BPA free plastic apart from the classic,which is made of glass. Which style is proving most popular among your customers?

The Infruition Sport is the most popular as many of our customers like to use their bottles on-the-go or at the gym! We have only recently launched Infruition Kids but are already seeing alot of pick up amongst the little ones and hope that this continues, as it is so important to get kids drinking and enjoying water.

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A normal water bottle you can just fill up – so, can you explain how you can prepare your infruition water? Any handy hints?

It really is as easy as 1-2-3: choose your combo, load the chamber, top up and go! For a stronger flavour, slice fruits or leave the bottle in the fridge to chill overnight.

There are so many fruit & herb combinations to try from strawberry & basil to the more exotic pineapple with cucumber & mint. My favourite combination is lime & mint. Have you got a favourite? What was the oddest combination you’ve come across?

Lime and Mint is actually our most popular combination; if we have events we always make sure we have this on offer. The oddest combination we have come across is famously featured in our recipe booklets:  Avocado and Kale.

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Infruition Water is a great way to get the message across about the importance of drinking water – from the new children’s bottles with their cute designs to the sports bottle that fits snuggly into bicycle holders. Just how important is it to keep hydrated?

Our brains are composed of 85% water, and studies have shown that even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on mood, energy levels and mental performance. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that mild dehydration in study participants led to alterations in mood, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. These findings, published in The Journal of Nutrition, were found to be more pronounced in women than in men (ladies take note!); and occurred both at rest and during exercise. Check out an infographic by nutritionist Naomi Mead on the importance of drinking water: http://www.infruition.co.uk/happy-hydration-10

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As your company is based in the UK, are overseas customers able to purchase your water bottles?

Yes – we ship worldwide. If you are having issues finding your city, town or country on our website,  just drop our customer services team a line and they can help you.

Are you planning to expand your bottle styles/range in the future?

Absolutely; we have jugs, drinks dispensers and frui-tea bottles coming up!

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Infruition Water.

www.infruition.co.uk
https://twitter.com/InfruitionWater
https://www.facebook.com/infruition/

OK …. You’ve convinced me Carmen!  I may pass on the avocado & kale combo, though! So, dear readers, what water combo would tickle your fancy? What are your water thoughts?  Do tell!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Infruition Water.

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The Life Negroni

Few cocktails have achieved cult status – but Negroni is one of them – probably due to its stylish Italian association, seductive taste and its fascinating history.  This week on the blog, I’m honoured to welcome Leigh and Nargess Banks, authors of the fabulous book “The Life Negroni”.  This book uniquely delves not only into the history of the Negroni, but also gives tips on composing the classic Negroni and the culture that surrounds the Negroni cocktail.  So grab yourself a Negroni and read on….

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Hi! We are Leigh and Nargess Banks and The Life Negroni is our first husband and wife team work! Leigh is a design and branding expert, working alongside companies around the world through Spinach (Spinachdesign.com) forming unique brand identities. He specialises in food & drink culture, luxury lifestyle and has worked with a wide range of companies from financiers, to boutique bars and restaurants, and fashion labels. I’m a writer of design, a cultural critic and founder of Design Talks (d-talks.com) making a living as a journalist, author and luxury brand specialist for publications including Wallpaper* and Esquire. I’m passionate about all things creative – be it art & design, cars & car culture, food and increasingly, cocktails!

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Your excellent book, The Life Negroni, published by Spinach Publishing offers an unique perspective on the cult cocktail Negroni. What inspired you to write your book on this iconic cocktail?

It all happened one hot summer’s night in Formentera. Intrigued by the sight of a deep red cocktail in a cool bar on this paradise Spanish island, we asked the bartender for the name. ‘The Negroni,’ he smiled as we watched him expertly combined sweet vermouth, bitters and gin over ice cubes, adding a juicy wedge of orange. The colour was intoxicating, as was that first taste. We immediately fell in love with the perfect balance of sweet and bitter, the challenging first note, the botanical aromas that followed… On our return to London, we began researching this drink, its history, its composition, the world that it inhabits. Each bar we visited and every aficionado we encountered – and there were many – unravelled further intrigue. We saw that the Negroni represents far more than a drink. The cocktail expresses a time in history… call it liquid history. It tells the story of architecture and design, of art and aesthetics, of fashion, of passion and free spirits.… And so The Life Negroni journey begun…

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Your book is very thorough and leaves no stone unturned – delving into the cocktail’s history, its ingredients, tips on how to compose the classic Negroni, interviews from aficionados and hotels/bars from around the world that champion the cocktail – accompanied by stunning photography. Was it hard to compile a book of this nature? Have you got a favourite part or chapter that you really enjoyed writing/researching?

Our mission from the start was for it to be completely unique to us, to be authentic, meaning we had to meet, visit and photograph, where possible, all the people and places mentioned in the book. We wanted to sample all the drinks, taste all the food we document. This was at the very heart of our project and something we are passionate about. So yes it did take just over a year to research, write and edit the book as we had to fit it into our other work commitments. It was, however, a hugely rewarding and enjoyable journey that took us to distilleries and bars around Italy, France, the US and in London where we met with some incredibly passionate and talented people. We hope the sense of adventure and discovery comes through the pages.

Do I have a favourite chapter? I love art and design and to be taken behind the scenes at the Campari headquarters in Milan to see the most incredible collection of Italian Futurist art work was behind thrilling… That said we are both crazy about road trips and our research for the ‘Negroni Grand Tour’ was pretty special especially behind the wheels of the stunning Bentley Continental GT convertible.

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How many cocktails did you have to sample as part of the research for the book?!

Ha! Too many to disclose 🙂

Spoilsport! 😛 OK then, so out of all the bars/hotels which was your favourite spot to enjoy a Negroni and why?

It is difficult to say as each and every bar we mention in the book offers a unique experience. For instance the bar at the St Regis Hotel in Florence, formally the Grand Hotel, is where, allegedly, the Negroni was first made popular in the 1920s so the experience is unique to the location. But then Bulgari Hotel Milano cocktails are perfection, Agostino Perrone makes a delicious Negroni at the Connaught in London, as does Aaron von Rock at the Lincoln Centre in New York (where our reporter got so excited she did a head stand!), and Frank Boxer creates fantastically simple ones at Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar, the hip summer pop up in Peckham Rye car park. We suggest trying them all!

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Are you planning to write any more coffee table style books in the future?

Oh yes! We have a whole series planned…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love human interaction! And as we live centrally in London, in Notting Hill, there are so many unique boutiques to browse through it leaves little time to shop online. I do, however, check out fashion blogs for inspiration, and in terms of following design trends worldwide, I am always online.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Life Negroni

Our book is on sale from Spinach at Thelifenegroni.com, and we’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Thelifenegroni where we post daily updates. Please #Thelifenegroni.

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Thank you Leigh & Nargess for the interesting chat.  I think this has to be the ultimate Valentines Day gift for your stylish sweetheart and a must have coffee table book for Negroni fans.  Who knew that a cocktail could be so interesting?! So dear readers, now that I’ve got your tastebuds going, tell me … What’s your all-time favourite cocktail? Have you got any cocktail based stories to tell? Where is your favourite cocktail bar? I’d love to know, so comment below!

Until next time, ciao! 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Leigh & Nargress Banks.

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Let’s Chat Whiskey!

I’m pleased to welcome back onto the blog, wine connoisseur Richard Betts, who wowed me back in April with his fabulous “scratch ‘n’ sniff” guide to wine ( read that interview HERE). Richard has had a busy summer and has got together another fab guide but this time we’re chatting whiskey! Hi Richard … I know you, but for any new blog readers, could you please reintroduce yourself?

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Hi! I’m Richard Betts, I’m a winemaker, author, master sommelier and mezcalero. I make wine in Australia under the banner of “An Approach to Relaxation” and in France where it’s called “My Essential”.  The mezcal we make in Oaxaca, Mexico is called “Sombra” and it will make you smile. I spend about 300 days a year on the road making and selling and am the luckiest kid around.

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Following on from your excellent Scratch & Sniff Wine Book, you have just released your whiskey version, The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide To Becoming A Whiskey Know-it-All. So, what inspired you to turn your attention to whiskey?

Well first of all, I really like drinking the stuff! I also really like making people happy and while there is a ton of enthusiasm around whiskey there is also a lot of room to make it easier to understand and enjoy. Plus, our methodology of dissecting a topic, making it clear and then allowing the reader to reassemble the pieces they like to arrive at the drink that will make them happy works really well here. That’s the magic, everyone’s taste is unique and giving people the road map to their individual tastes is such a fun thing to share.

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Helping would-be whiskey connoisseurs to learn their personal preferences by using a mixture of facts, humorous illustrations and scratch & sniff scents – this book has already received rave reviews … I spotted Sir Richard Branson amongst them. Was it harder to compile this book than the wine version or about the same?

It was definitely different because I wanted, in fact needed, to relearn everything. There was a point in time many years ago when I passed the Master Sommelier exam and all of that knowledge was really fresh. Of course you begin forgetting all of those facts the very next day :). So, I started from scratch and relearned it all which was very fun but it also puts you in the frame of mind of the novice which is very useful when your ambition is to explain something in an accessible way.

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How many whiskeys did you have to sample as part of the research for the book?

We tasted nearly 500 of them – all blind (as in, we didn’t know what they were when we tasted them so we would be candid!) This was actually physically really hard but also really interesting and it took up all of last summer.

Do you have a favourite whiskey? Any whiskey that didn’t tickle your fancy?

I love Japanese Whisky as a category and Scotch from the Islands takes a close second place. Favorites in there include Hakushu 12yr and Laphroaig 18yr.

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Your books cover whiskeys from around the world – what place surprised you most by having actually a decent whiskey?

I was really impressed with Irish Whiskey actually. It is dominated by a few big brands but if we dig just a little there are actually a whole bunch of small, interesting drinks such as Red Breast and Connemara.

Are you planning any more scratch & sniff style guides in the future?

Indeed! We’ve got a couple ideas – including a potentially somewhat scandalous one – that we’re considering.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about your books.

The best place to start is yobetts.com and you can go everywhere from there. I’m also yobetts at everything – twitter, instagram, fb

It’s been brill to have you back on the blog, Richard – wine is more my drink but I am not adverse to whiskey!  So, dear readers, what drinks do you think would make a good “scratch & sniff” guide? Gins,? Vodkas? Tea? Coffee? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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Talking About Recipes For Recovery

For those with eating disorders things like grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with others, all present huge challenges; and yet,  healthy and balanced meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life.  An important part of the recovery process is learning how to cook and “Recipes For Recovery” was created to do just that as well as raising money for BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity.  I spoke to Francesca Baker, the creator of the book, to find out more…

Hi Francesca and welcome – please introduce yourself 🙂image

Ah the question who am I? Without getting into an existential crisis of identity, I’m Francesca, and I work in advertising and journalism, and my passions are words, music, creativity and wellness. I always have a project on the go related to one of these areas – and Recipes For Recovery is one of those.

Recipes For Recovery is a book to help support people in recovery from eating disorders as well as hoping to get the message across that everything in moderation is OK and necessary in a healthy and balanced diet, and that meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. What gave you the inspiration to start the project?

I have suffered from an eating disorder from a number of years, and I think that a huge part of recovery is learning how to love food again, and cook yourself nutritious meals. It’s important also to realise that food can be fun and meals can be social events – the focus does not always have to be on fuel, although of course that is an important lesson to accept. Often what is needed is guidance and permission, and I hope that this book helps offer that support. Conversations and experiences with therapists, professionals and those suffering and recovering from the illnesses, have taught me that having a connection with food again is a step on the path to a normal relationship with food.

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People with eating disorders don’t necessarily like or dislike food per se – they can often be food obsessed, might fear it, might want to avoid it because of weight issues etc. For some grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with other people are difficult challenges. Learning to cook is an important part of recovery as those obstacles slowly get conquered. Bearing those issues in mind, what sort of recipes are most suitable for this sort of recovery?

Many people with eating disorders might have a limited repertoire of meals or food that they feel ‘safe’ eating, and the aim of the book is to widen the options available, giving suggestions in a simple and safe format. The book provides recipe ideas that are balanced and include all the food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vegetables – to ensure that the nutritional and physical aspects of recovery are addressed. It’s not rocket science, and so things like chilli, paella, salmon pasta, and fish pie are all included. Many of the recipes can be cooked for one, which is important as often people with eating disorders fear that it is not ‘worth’ cooking for only themselves. But they are worth it, health is worth it, and these recipes can help with that. I hope that it helps provide the stimulus to start new, healthy habits.

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I have recently renewed an interest in cooking from scratch and exploring herbs, vegetables, fish, cheese and cuts of meat that I previously avoided because I didn’t know how to cook or use them – I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth so savoury main meal recipes appeal to me now and I’m finding it fun. Do you enjoy cooking? Have you got a favourite recipe that has been submitted to the book?

I love cooking, and I agree that the process of learning how to use food and basic ingredients can be a fun one. A few months ago I was travelling around Australia, and carrying around tins of tuna and noodles in my bag – typical backpacker food. I stayed in a lovely eco-friendly place where visitors were allowed to pick from the garden. The lemongrass, chilli and basil I picked from the trees transformed my bland dinner to an exciting stir fry. I also love the recipe for paella that a friend donated, telling me that he picked this one as it was ‘what I saw my dad do every Sunday from June to September. Always in the same place, slow, focussed, constantly assessing the water, the salt, the rice, cooking for the family that he built and loved. Paella is a social event, a family event, an excuse to be together….and my dad made a cracking succulent excuse!’ The importance of the emotional and social aspect of a good meal resonated with me.

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The money raised from sales of the recipe book are going towards BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. What are the aims of the charity?

BEAT provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders. They campaign, raise awareness, organise events and offer support to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders, improve the way services and treatment are provided, and to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten. 40-50% of people make a full recovery, and BEAT are one of many resources that can help recovery be a reality.

You have gathered recipes from a variety of people and sources. What has been the most unusual dish submitted?What type of recipe was the most popular submitted?

I’ve had a great number of people submit recipes, and vegetable chilli has been a repeat submission. Which is good, because it’s tasty, and can be made in lots of different ways. A breakfast salad that includes avocado, alfafa, coconut and carob was a surprise entry, and I’m looking forward to people trying the Maltese recipe for hobz biz-zejt, as that is filled with wonderful memories for me.

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Have you plans to do more projects/ books in the future?

I’d like to develop this one to include an app – so if any developers out there fancy getting in touch that would be great?!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I’m a total words girl, and always seek out a library when I arrive in a new place. This has been the case since I was a child, and would visit the library on a Saturday and have devoured all the books I borrowed by Monday. I love Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence, and grew up absorbed in Enid Blyton. Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Joe Dunthorne are contemporary writers I adore. And of course, Shakespeare.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I like all sorts of styles and trends, but I tend to feel the cold, so my outfits are made up of layers, cardigans and scarves. I love a bright and beautiful pattern, and pick up scarves from charity shops that catch my eye. Every year I make the New Year’s Resolution to wear more heels, but it rarely transpires. I have a fantastic pair of very high purple suede stilettos that live on my mantel piece – they are too hard to walk in but too beautiful to be hidden away in the wardrobe!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I spend too much time on Bookish and The Literary Gift Company.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I saw this gorgeous skirt by Dawn O’Porter in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines a few months ago and fell in love with it. Pretty skirts and powerful quotes! 

Boots or Shoes? 

Perhaps boots – for their practicality. It’s definitely boots I wear the most often. I can walk, dance, skip and kick in them!

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Recipes For Recovery:

www.andsoshethinks.co.uk
http://recipesforrecovery.flavors.me/
https://twitter.com/hashtag/recipesforrecovery
https://twitter.com/andsoshethinks

Thanks for talking to us Francesca and I hope the book encourages us all to enjoy cooking, eating food and discovering new flavours.  Have you got a favourite recipe? I’d love to hear what you like cooking.

Linda x

Photo Credits:  The photo of Francesca was published with kind permission from Francesca Baker.  The food photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Richard Betts

When the sun is shining what could be better than sitting outside lapping up the glorious rays, with a glass of wine by your side (pinot grigio preferably but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at whatever flavour is offered!) and a good book.  Yes –  wine, sunshine and books come up very high on my list of passions.  Imagine my excitement at discovering a book – not just any book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”.  Scratch’n’sniff books … I can remember having a couple as a child where you could scratch the picture of a strawberry or an orange and a most delicious scent was emitted. Probably showing my age! I had a chat with the enterprising American author and winemaker Richard Betts to find out more…hi Richard, please introduce yourself 🙂image

No way. Okay, my name is Richard. My most lofty ambition is to smile and to make other people smile. I endeavor to do that by making wine and spirits easy and part of your every day life. See, I’ve got this ‘-ism’ that “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” and if I have my way you will live by it too.

Believe me… I agree with that “ism” too! I’m going to jump in straight away & talk about your book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”. I used to love the scratch & sniff books as a child ..and I’ve approached this book with as much glee! What was the inspiration behind the writing of this book?

Whelp, there is for sure no shortage of lengthy wine tomes on all subjects and I have nothing to add to that. BUT! Wine can sometimes be too stuffy and exclusive which stinks. I think the best way to engage and welcome is to knock wine off the pedestal, make it easy and make it fun and what better way to do that than with a Scratch and Sniff wine book?!

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When did you first discover the delights of wine and the realisation that you wanted to become a wine expert?

Living in Italy in the 90’s. I was totally blowing off my academic life and instead just living life – learning to speak Italian, to cook, to eat – and wine was an inseparable part of this. The table is not set until there is wine upon it and this matters.

In 2003 you passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, being the ninth person ever to do so – congratulations! So you do know your wine! What was the hardest thing about the exam did you feel and what do you think is the stumbling block that makes it very hard to pass the exam at first attempt?

The hardest part is for sure the tasting. Service and theory are more in your control because they are studied and you either know it or don’t. Tasting is different as we are different people every day. You know, we all have good and bad days and when you get one chance at taking the test you’re not really allowed to have a bad day, right? So the key is figuring out what are the ingredients that best set you up to have a great day and then making sure you heap them on when it’s time to perform. (For me that includes exercise, loud music and a beer.)

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Tell us a bit about My Essential Wine and your “as a grocery & not a luxury” ethos.

My ethos of “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” was born out of that time when I was living in Italy and there was always wine on the table, at lunch, at dinner, without fail. It’s just a part of the whole. (Smart.) After selling my first wine project, Betts and Scholl, I wanted to start another project that really made good on my -ism/ethos and, thus, My Essential Wines. The idea is you’ve got twelve bucks in your pocket on a Tuesday and I’m your date! It’s that easy. The wines themselves (we make rosé and red) are also wines I love to drink because, after all, if you don’t drink them I have to and I’m prepared to do that so I might as well make what I like.

You are a fan of Bordeaux wine and having holidayed in that region of France for many years I, too, share your enthusiasm. What’s the origin behind the name of your Bordeaux wine, Saint Glinglin?

It too is an -ism, a French -ism for “When Pigs Fly” and it became the name of the wine when I told good friend Erin Chave that I was going to make great Bordeaux and make it cheap to which she replied…. 🙂

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You are currently touring the USA promoting your book, drinking and sharing wine. I am sure you are having a whale of a time! What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Any funny tales you can relate to us about life on tour?

Well, my girlfriend and I gave up our homes, flew to Miami, bought a car and called it home for 4 months. It was amazing – we drove all over this beautiful country and met the most amazing people. As a guy that flies so much, it was wonderful to slow down and actually take in what you’ve been flying over – I treasure the experience and hope to repeat it when we release The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All this coming fall.

What is (are) your absolute favourite wine(s)?

Any wine that tastes like a place. This is key, it’s the intellectual value of wine that can transport you around the world. It’s sometimes called terroir – a French term meant to describe everything that goes into the wine, that informs it and is specific to only that place in the world from whence it has come.

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Travelling to visit different countries and their vineyards – which place surprised you the most with its wine? which place have you got a soft spot for? which place would you love to visit and sample its wares?

Surprised, always, by Australia – there simultaneously exists a ton of tradition and a ton of innovation. It’s always better and always interesting. This, of course, makes it a favorite of mine too. I’ve also got a soft spot for the whole of France as well as Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli in Italy. Oh wait, I have to also add Sherry in southern Spain – I have never been more amazed at a wine region and it’s wines. Very little has changed in forever and the wines are magic – for sure the best food wines on earth.

Your book is the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast! Is it available to purchase outside the USA?

Yes and I have no real idea how. I was recently passing through Vienna airport and there was a huge stack of them for sale. Which was cool 🙂

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Nice Jeans like Simon Miller or Raleigh Denim. Vans, flip flops (favorite) or boots. I have a really beautiful pair I bought 10 years ago in France that are still the most perfect pair ever. And t-shirts. Easy.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Raleigh Denim Workshop and Simon Miller are both really special. In Rome, I love Strategic Business Unit and in Paris, it’s always Merci.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Just ordered some stuff from Entree LS in Brooklyn, we’ll see how it is. Thinking Spring so always fresh sneaks too. Lots of them.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots or hi-tops – they’re just comfy like a warm hug.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and Essential Wine

www.myessentialwine.com is where we do wine things, I also make mezcal in Oaxaca,Mexico and you can check that here: www.sombraoaxaca.com AND we have something super duper top secret and very small happening in the way of a single new wine I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Best to follow along via @yobetts on twitter/instagram/fb to catch the announcement very soon.

As the sun beams down on my part of the UK this Friday evening, I raise a glass to you Richard for chatting to us! I wish you continued success & look forward to sampling your new wines… Readers, have you got a fave wine? What “scratch & sniff” book would appeal to you? I’d love to know what you think!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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