Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The Hinchcliffe, Hebden Bridge

The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Some days are just perfect, aren't they? The sun was shining (again), and a day trip had been planned. Those tormenting pictures on The Hinchcliffe's Instagram had finally taken their toll, and on a complete whim, we were booked in for a Sunday Roast.

The only slight spanner in the works to a delicious, carby roast was the glorious weather. It was redders. Alas, all was well when we arrived in picturesque Cragg Vale. The air-con had been pumping round the car with the fervency of a blast chiller, and we arrived to find the most idyllic outside terrace, which was covered in parasols to protect those with more sensitive skin than mine...
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Picture shamelessly lifted from The Hinchcliffe's Instagram
We were welcomed by the delightful Kit, who was also my favourite ever contestant on First Dates! He's a very funny chap who seems to thrive on friendly interaction. He can sit with us. All the staff at the Hinchcliffe were fantastic to be honest, especially our waitress who's name I didn't catch, but I do remember she was a fellow history graduate (geek 'fist bump').

Chef Rob Owen Brown was the chap who ran the Mark Addy in Salford, famed for its Manchester eggs, superb roasts, and sadly for getting flooded in 2014. With the River Irwell firmly behind him, Rob has picked one of the most beautiful locations in the country to set up shop.
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Crispy black pudding potato cake, poached hen's egg, and a tangy tarragon butter sauce: Fairly certain that eaten in any large quantity, that this sauce would surely kill you. It was rich and decadent, and the perfect mate for that tasty black pudding potato cake. 
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Pressed ham hock terrine with onion relish: Oh terrines, how I love thee. The perfect picnic style starter. The WI would pin a ribbon on that onion relish.
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Sunday lunch sharing platter - local aged beef, free range poussin, locally reared pork, with stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and Yorkshire puddings: I had to take several pictures to fit it in. Kind of regretted starters when it arrived, but then got far too involved in stuffing my face to care. I feel these pictures really do not do it justice. Behold! The only thing it was missing was some crackling.
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
Banana bread with vanilla ice cream: 'I'm not having a dessert' I bleated. However, after tasting the rest of the food, I felt I would have only completed half a job if I didn't sample baked goods. This looked really dark and rich like a sticky toffee pudding, but it was incredibly light. For those of you who hate bananas, me too, but when baked into a cake like this, they take on a whole new form. The same cannot be said for beetroot. Be warned.
The Hinchcliffe, Hebden
We've already recommended The Hinchcliffe to pretty much everyone we have been in contact with since going; friends, family, the lady on the checkout at M&S... I can't wait to go back here in winter to experience the cosy pub side they have to offer.

Go here whatever the weather. It's peaceful and picturesque in the summer, and I imagine it's the cosiest fireside spot in winter. Either way, you're going to get great food and a warm welcome.

A couple of weeks later we went to see Rob at The Big Grill Festival at Burr's Country Park in Bury. He did not disappoint there either. I'll leave you with some pictures of another lovely day out. Let's make the most of this sunshine!
The Big Grill Festival
The Big Grill Festival

Monday, 9 July 2018

Mezzaluna, Whitefield

Mezzaluna, Whitefield
Am I the only one who is desperate to eat outside when it's nice weather? Don't get me wrong, the current 'Hades' levels we are experiencing at the moment are even too much for me, but on this particular day it was about 23C, which is perfect. Then comes the question, where can we eat outside, which won't be full of Stella fuelled idiots with no tops on?

Mezzaluna in Whitefield is a bit of a hidden gem on the al fresco dining front. I had no idea they had a beautiful garden, until we drove past and could see the doors open at the back. It was gorgeous. Picnic benches with optional parasols, pretty flowers, and food and drink flowing in the blazing sunshine.

My favourite type of food on a nice day is 'picky bits', and Mezzaluna was perfect for this. A pizza, sharing board, and chips appeared to be the perfect garden picnic on a warm day. Real picnics are a bit too much faff!
Mezzaluna, Whitefield
Antipasti platter: A selection of lovely strong cheeses, a full ball of mozzarella, continental meats, salad, olives, honey and bread. Now let me tell you, it turns out that mozzarella and honey are my new favourite thing. I may have recreated this in my own garden. Twice.
Mezzaluna, Whitefield
Mezzaluna, Whitefield
Pizza with fennel sausage, broccoli and mushrooms: Cannot for the life of me find this on the current menu, but noticed you can still build your own to this effect. Broccoli and sausage is such a wonderful combo that I have it wherever I go. If you've never tried it, I really must insist that you get your act together.
Mezzaluna, Whitefield
I kind of didn't want to tell you about this place, as it was serenely quiet in the midst of summer mayhem. Hidden away behind a busy road, this really is a little oasis for sunny days. Go here for a relaxed afternoon where you can pretend you're in the Mediterranean, not Manchester. Drink wine, eat some lovely food, and laugh with your nearest and dearest.

Friday, 6 July 2018

80/20 Health Bar and Kitchen, Bolton

80/20 Health Bar and Kitchen, Bolton
I am known for stuffing my face on a regular basis. My Instagram feed is quite frankly a disgrace, and shows quite clearly that I am Pig of the Week, every week. My friend Anna and I love nothing more than plotting a Great Escape from the office, which in the past was limited to Peckish Pony* or Frankie and Benny's unless we were willing to shlep further afield.

Then shone a shiny new kid on the block in the form of 80/20 Health Bar and Kitchen. Owners Tahir and Mina took what was a wreck of a building where pigeons lived, and transformed it into a spacious and airy restaurant serving fresh, healthy food. We were in love! Their ethos is simple; 'nutritious, wholesome ingredients with freshly ground spices, bringing you deliciously healthy food in just 10 minutes', which is perfect when you're on your lunch break.

Whether you're a body builder, mobile worker, catching up with friends, or daft girls on lunch breaks, everyone is made welcome and we always have a nice chat with the staff, and have genuinely considered working from here ourselves. 

It's a bit of a long standing joke, but we always have the same thing when we go. We just cannot deviate because we both love the dishes so much.

Satay chicken with basmati rice, stir-fry vegetables and peanut satay sauce
CAL 562 | FAT 27g | S.FAT 11g | CARB 48g | PRO 24.5g
Anna's choice. A great mix of sweet and savoury, and very filling. This is a decent sized lunch, ideal for a crackers Zumba teacher who will be killing herself in a sweatbox later on that evening. Or indeed if she decides to sit on the couch and watch This is Us until the early hours. Whichever.
80/20 Health Bar and Kitchen, Bolton
Grilled halloumi wrap - slices of grilled halloumi with mixed salad and sweet chilli sauce with sweet potato fries
CAL 345 | FAT 14.5g | S.FAT 6g | CARB 33g | PRO 19g (not including fries)
My choice, and actual heaven. One day I promise to try something different, but for now, I'm hooked. I cannot get enough of halloumi, so this is perfect for me. There isn't too much in the wrap, which would sky-rocket the calories and fat content, but there's enough to satisfy the craving. Lots of crunchy salad and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce make it a little more substantial, plus I always order a side of sweet potato chips as a treat. They are so crispy and wonderful, without being saturated in grease. Makes me feel better about the Milkybar later.
80/20 Health Bar and Kitchen, Bolton
We go here at least once a week because we can be back in work within 45 minutes if needed, and the food is delicious. The menus include nutritional information, and all meals are already hooked up to My Fitness Pal, so tracking your macros couldn't be easier. The breakfast menu looks rather exciting too, so I think I'll be making a trip for steak and eggs some time soon.

Go here for tasty yet healthy food, in a relaxed setting. Muscle vest optional.


* Okay so it's actually the Hungry Horse, but we have literally never called it that.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Zumu, Hale

Zumu, Hale
Every so often, everything is aligned just perfectly. A sunny day, a ride out to somewhere lovely, and amazing food. Oh and good dogs. A couple of weeks ago, we had a trip over to Hale to sample some Japanese food at Zumu. I have to admit I was rather excited about this review, as it was something a little bit different.

I'm sure it hasn't escaped your attention, but it is absolutely redders at the moment. The last thing I fancy in this weather is really stodgy, beige food, although it has to be noted that I am generally thrilled with this option any other time (caveat being yellow muck cooked straight from the freezer). Joy, happiness! The restaurant was cool and airy, we swiftly had iced drinks in hand, and were perusing a sizeable menu, where everything sounded exciting and delicious. We totally bottled it and asked for recommendations, which I think worked out just beautifully.
Zumu, Hale
For years I was a bit fish-phobic, but I'm much braver these days, and will try pretty much anything (except rabbit and beetroot, I don't eat pets or soil). Signature cocktail at the ready, and filled with bravery, I agreed to try one of the sushi platters as a 'side' whilst safely ordering some of my known favourites. We were talked into trying the Omakase mixed sushi and sashimi, which sounded like the best idea ever. 

Omakase - Chef's selection of mixed sushi and sashimi: The size of it. That right there is a thirty piece platter. The pictures look pretty, but this really is a showcase of colour, texture, and the chef's skill. It was like a fish carnival! I can't think of anywhere else that has served food which looks so fresh, and boasts such elegant simplicity. The sushi is made in full view at the back of the restaurant too. 

My personal highlight was the Unagi Nigiri, which is delicately moulded sushi rice topped with delicately fragranced eel. Who would have thought it hey? Add a bit of that pickled ginger and you'll be delirious. I left the sashimi to Phil, as it turns out there is a limit to my fish tolerance. My attempt at raw salmon looked a little like a toddler eating lemon for the first time, or indeed me drinking beer.
Zumu, Hale
Zumu Special - prawn, avocado, seared salmon, and teriyaki barbecue sauce: This was our original choice which we thought had been replaced with the platter above. Surprise! So that's thirty pieces of mixed sushi and sashimi, then ten more pieces of the Zumu special. Needless to say, much of this was boxed up to take home. The crispy prawn inside these little rolls makes me question everything I know about fish. They were very nice indeed with that sticky teriyaki sauce, which just so happens to be my favourite. 
Zumu, Hale
Pork Gyoza - home-made ravioli dumplings filled with minced pork: Oh the textures! A soft shell packed with firm pork dumpling mix, and pan fried for a crispy edge. All the umami in one soy dipped bite. 
Zumu, Hale
Satsumaimo - lightly seasoned sweet potato with salt and pepper: Oh how we laugh now that we thought we needed to order sides. They were absolutely delicious though.
Zumu, Hale
Fried Rice - fried rice topped with sesame seeds: The perfect vehicle to mop up excess sticky sauce. I will come onto this in just a moment.
Zumu, Hale
Teriyaki beef with kimchi: Behold its shiny stickiness, glistening in the sunlight. I love teriyaki. It's sugary sweet, with a barbecued tang. I could eat this every day. Add some of that beautiful rice to the sauce and I'm in a very happy place indeed.
Zumu, Hale
Kamoniku - pan fried duck breast with cherry ponzu sauce and pak choi: Another beautiful sauce with soft duck breast. Sweetness from the sauce and the duck, with a slight sourness from the cherry pieces.
Zumu, Hale
Dessert platter: This was a rather delightful selection of macarons, mochi and ice creams. Again, I think the scale of this is lost in a photograph. Throughout our entire meal, the couple sat at the side of us appeared to be aghast at the beautiful food we had ordered. They were a little behind us in the ordering process, so had constant food envy until theirs arrived.

Another beautifully presented dish, with real thought into the flavours that made up the selection. We've had mochi (a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice according to Wikipedia) before, and weren't overly thrilled (understatement of 2018) with its odd texture. We may have used a different word to describe it, albeit inappropriate here. This was so much better! No slime in sight, but be prepared for some epic brain freeze if you bite into them. Highlights were the coconut ice cream and chewy macarons.
Zumu, Hale
I knew this would come in handy one day... my glove box doubles up as a cooler at the flick of a switch. No-one wants car warmed sushi, or a car that smells like bin fish. Even the takeaway boxes were stylish.
Zumu, Hale
What a wonderful experience. Yes, we appeared to have been served all the food in the world, but the lads on front of house seemed genuinely excited to showcase what they had to offer, and helped pick a wonderful selection of their best dishes. Everything we ate was fresh and beautifully presented, and displayed real craftsmanship.

Go here for a special meal in the evening, which will feel like a real treat, or opt for the lunch menu during the day if you're fancying something a bit different to a pub lunch. I really cannot say enough nice things about Zumu; both the food and staff were faultless. 


Disclaimer: I was invited to review Zumu, despite being a self confessed ichthyophobic weirdo. I was under no obligation to say nice things, or indeed eat any fish whatsoever. I tried new things because the menu looked so inviting, which paid off!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Giveaway - Tickets to Manchester Eats Festival

Manchester Eats Festival
Tickets to Manchester Eats Up for Grabs!

Your Chance to Win Passes for You and A Friend to Enjoy Fabulous Food at Heaton Park, Manchester this July
I have joined forces with Manchester Eats Festival for a great giveaway to celebrate the inaugural event this year, which will see Manchester’s Heaton Park transformed into a food lovers’ paradise.

The Festival will include talks and workshops from top celebrity chefs and mixologists, classes including vegan and vegetarian cooking, a chocolate masterclass and even cooking for kids. It will celebrate Manchester’s growing restaurant and bar sector, and its reputation as the food capital of the north. Guests will also have the chance to preview new recipes and exclusive tasty treats across areas including a prosecco tent, gin garden, global food court and a healthy living zone.

Official charity partners the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation will be providing an activity zone on both days with interactive, accessible sporting activities for both children and adults. The event also features a dedicated children’s village and live DJ.

For your chance to win one of three pairs of tickets (for access on both the 7th and 8th July), simply complete the following:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire Dales

Bolton Abbey
I've found my happy place. This Bank Holiday weekend we took a trip to Bolton Abbey, and it changed everything, even knocking Formby off the top spot. Fighting talk. I'm going to tell you a bit about it, but predominantly show you why.

I've started to write about places to visit as well as food, as this is the kind of stuff I do to make myself happy, and think it might bring the same happiness to others if they know about it, so here goes.

The scene: Horwich is hotter than the surface of the sun. I'm cooped, like a chicken, in a coop.
The brief: Somewhere to go for a nice walk, without hiking up mountains and dying in the process. Needs to be pretty, preferably with water nearby. Must not get stuck on the motorway for hours in Bank Holiday traffic.
The plan: Set off for Bolton Abbey at around 9.30am, get there around 10.30am, have some breakfast, and go for a nice walk in the sunshine. 

Let's go.

So as planned, we arrived at Bolton Abbey around 10.30am ready to bask in the glorious sunshine, and I'm kitted out in a flimsy flowery sun dress. It was brass! Clouds everywhere and a nippy breeze (disclaimer - most people would describe this temperature as 'comfortable'). However, it's okay because the next part of the plan is breakfast. I braved the elements and sat outside in the courtyard of Tea on the Green, medicating the windchill with a cardigan whilst we fed sparrows on the sly. Tea helped.
Bolton Abbey
I'd looked at the Met Office app, and it promised the return of blazing sunshine from 11.30am and dead on cue, there it was! Cardigan off and topping up the tan within thirty seconds. 

First up was a walk around the Priory church and ruins. Although there's a rather impressive church there, it's the ruins that steal the show. Magnificent in their decrepitude, they stand like ancient dinosaur bones, looking rather ornamental against the picturesque landscape beneath them. Genuinely wonderful. Even Henry VIII and his Reformation couldn't fully destroy this beautiful place.

History: The land was gifted to the Augustinian canons by Alice de Rumilly in 1154. The canons lived and worshipped here until 1539 when the dissolution of the monasteries stripped the Priory of its assets. History lovers will enjoy the story of Prior Moone and how he negotiated with Cromwell to secure the nave as a place of worship for the local community and how the church continues to thrive to this day. (Source https://boltonabbey.com).  
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey
With the sun now beating down, we went for a walk round the River Wharfe. It's pretty shallow so perfect for paddling, and has the most inviting stepping stones, which were originally the route the workers would have taken to the Priory. These days they are a bit of fun! Many of these poor souls were tempted into the drink by slippery feet, parents unbalancing their offspring in a misguided attempt to help them, or just sheer fear of falling in. One dad had accepted his fate and seemed to be permanently positioned in the river. 

I didn't go on these as I would have been in that river within seconds. To quote Phil; 'I really want you to go on those stepping stones, and fall in!' I wasn't as keen on the prospect of a see through dress and wet ballet pumps! Logistical nightmare. That cool water did look very inviting though.
Bolton Abbey
Stepping stones
Bolton Abbey
A fella taking a dip or real life mermaid. You decide. 
Further up the river is the most beautiful pebble beach (there is sand at some points too). One family had completed life by taking a huge inflatable dinghy, which their dad was casually rowing down the river. Kids were skimming stones, picnics were in full swing, dogs were paddling, the sun was warm on my shoulders, and life was suddenly excellent.
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey
If you go the other way up the river, it's much quieter, and generally filled with adult groups playing quintessentially English lawn games, the odd cunningly concealed barbecue, swallows dancing over the water, and sheep seeking shade from the sun. Idyllic.
Bolton Abbey
Before we left we sat in the tea cottage garden admiring a little chaffinch gathering grubs, and bees collecting pollen from the most beautiful flowers. Last stop was a lemon sorbet cone from the ice cream shop, before heading to Skipton for a wander round. It only takes about ten to fifteen minutes from Bolton Abbey, and was on our way home anyway.
Bolton Abbey
What an absolutely beautiful day, faultless in every way.

Go here for breathtaking scenery and happy times. Take your kids and dog if you have them, consider borrowing some if not. I would happily return here tomorrow and spend all day there. Pack a picnic and something to sit on, take some dry clothes and fall in the river, and talk to strangers like you've known them for years. It's such a happy place, I challenge you not to have a great time. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Big Gay Ice Cream, New York

Big Gay Ice Cream, New York
I was once very close, yet so far... Big Gay Ice Cream had previously been top trumped by a beer establishment... not today my friends! I had my sights on getting back to that unicorn window sticker, and getting me some soft serve, god-dammit!
Big Gay Ice Cream, New York
I'm here! With the unicorn!
We picked the best day to mooch around Greenwich Village. It was hot, we had walked about a million miles around the Highline, petted dogs in Washington Park, gone miles out of our way to find bundt pans, carried them round in the baking heat, drunk a fishbowl cocktail with dry ice, eaten pizza, then landed at Big Gay Ice Cream. It had been quite the day. It was time to sit in a park with ice creams and people watch for a bit.

From this day forth, I don't want to know about ice cream cones that don't have a protective cover and drip catcher. No sticky paws here (Ellie was a different story). 

Salty Pimp: Vanilla soft serve injected with dulce de leche and dipped in salted caramel chocolate (which sets). It's like a mix between a Mr Whippy and a really refined choc ice, where the chocolate doesn't stick to your teeth, and the ice cream isn't made from powder. Not my usual choice, but when in New York...

Rocky Roadhouse: Chocolate ice cream, toasted almonds, marshmallows and melty chocolate morsels: It's like a cold, chocolate Christmas tree. I'd say most people around us were snaffling these.
Big Gay Ice Cream, New York
Big Gay Ice Cream, New York
Look at it glisten... 
We were so lucky to eat these sat in the sun. If we had been in Bolton we would have been wearing drips of it down our tops, and be swarmed by wasps. Greenwich Village is such a beautiful place on a lovely day.

Hooters, New York - Revisited

Hooters, New York
I'm making a pledge now, I will never go to a city with a Hooters, without going to sample their melted jalapeno cheese. Never. 

It started in Vegas when I declared the burgers there the 'best ever', then there was the first trip to the New York gaff. I even bought a t-shirt last time I went, but decided never to wear it as Trading Standards would be hauling my ass in. I'm more than ok with that tee not fitting though, because I've never missed a bus in my life. There are many 'perks' to having smaller boobs! 
Hooters, New York
For when there's not enough make up in the world... there are always cocktails!
By the time we were mooching about in New York, we had been awake for over 24 hours. We had endured a seven hour flight, lots of diazepam, sorted a hotel room drama, got massively upgraded and showered with free stuff, managed to get changed, and still found ourselves pondering which cocktail we would have first! Warriors.
Hooters, New York
There it was... the familiar sight of the illuminated Hooters sign. It had moved since I last visited the city, so it was like a sampling a completely different restaurant. We were met by the loveliest chap who was managing front of house. He asked us to take a seat in the bar whilst he sorted our table. He knew we were both celebrating, so got us the best table with an amazing view of Manhattan by night. We were really in New York! 
Hooters, New York
For those of you who think Hooters is a seedy gaff with scantily clad girls with their boobs in your face, it is not. It's essentially a sports bar where you can get huge pitchers of beer, buckets of wings, colourful cocktails, and service with a massive smile. The girls are so friendly, and I've never met anyone yet who hasn't liked it. Don't reckon I'd be friends with anyone who hates Hooters.
Hooters, New York
Blake Shelton likes Hooters. Blake and I would be friends. 
We literally necked our first cocktails in the bar downstairs in an attempt to wake up, but worry not, the girls were on our case and ensured we were never without a drink. It helped that upstairs was so lively, with birthday parties, sports fans, and jet lagged girls all having fun simultaneously. I just wish I could tell you what we drank. Lots of frozen things...
Hooters, New York
Hooters, New York
To the food. I will start with a short video. For this to work properly, I suggest you set some soft mood lighting, maybe a little gentle classical music, and imagine a gold aura shining from the edges of the screen. BEHOLD.
I ordered a 'More than a Mouthful' burger, and Ellie got the same with a veggie patty. We also got side orders of curly fries, potato salad and beans. We weren't even hungry! Virgin Atlantic had done an excellent job of stuffing us for hours. Didn't matter, we were in New York, we had alcoholic slushies and big burgers, but more importantly, we had cheese fries!  The food always looks rubbish, but tastes like heaven.
Hooters, New York
Hooters, New York
Whatever, I'm getting cheese fries... 
What a way to start our trip! We crawled back to our hotel and slept like dead things, until about 5am, which apparently is the best time to wash your hair. 

Go here for a good time. You'll always be made to feel welcome at Hooters. There's something for everyone. I'm just irked that I didn't have room for dessert, but in our defence we had been up for a very long time at this point. This will not be my last visit.
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