Italian Adventures - Tuscanic and Gelupo

I'll let you in on a little secret; this is one of the best Italian Restaurants in London. Fact. I can say that with conviction not because I've eaten at all the Italian establishments in London (although it is my mission to try!) but having lived in Italy, specifically Tuscany, I can certify this is some of the most authentic, well sourced Italian food I've eaten in the UK.

Unlike my other favourite Italian, Bocca de Lupo on Archer Street which shares goods from all across Italy, Tuscanic has a traditional concept based solely on Tuscan specialties and ingredients. All the food, wine, preserves and sweets are sourced directly from artisans and small producers from across Tuscany. Quality and tradition are at the heart of their ethos; cured meats from San Miniato, oils and vinegar from Reggello, everything is high quality and truly, truly Tuscan.

I discovered this place not long after I moved to London, on one of the 'exploring Soho' sessions that I used to go on during my free hours. I saw they sold Bresaola, my favourite of the cured meats and I was hooked in an instant. I've been here for lunch, for dinner, even for a drunken snack when I've had too much wine and can't bear the thought of getting the bus. To make it better, the staff are a delight, even at those times when I've been unable to type my PIN into the machine!!

The food, as you can imagine, is beyond excellent. Simple Tuscan fayre with a lengthy menu of choices from sharing platters - il Misto and il Panino (thick, soft Tuscan style focaccia stuffed with meats, cheese and vegetables) to il Dolce (Home-style Tiramisu, Ricotta mousse) and my very favourite the 'Pistocchi chocolate cake'. The prices are fair, with most dishes coming in at £6 and sharing platters either £10 for a small plate or £16 between two or three. For a big dinner you may want to get a sandwich and a salad as we did but you'll certainly come out with change from £20.

On my walk to the bus, I stuck with the Italian vibe for a little pot of dreams at Gelupo. If you haven't heard of this place, you need to educate yourself quickly. Actual, proper gelato not the "gelato" so many places offer, slap bang in the middle of Archer Street with beautiful blue awning. Italian flavours like swirled lemon curd and chocolate ricotta with black pepper make for a difficult choice when you're limiting yourself to a small cup. I could easily have a large with ALL the flavours! They do of course offer the more traditional pistachio and 'milk’ flavours too. Now surely you don't need any more convincing, so get yourself down to Soho for some Italian lovin'.

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Life Lately

Well haven’t the last few weeks been hectic! I don’t know about you but it’s been non-stop over here, in a good way of course. It’s always a delight to have such brilliant people in my life who want to spend time with me but I can’t lie, I’m glad to have a few nights off with nothing to do and have some time to actually write a few posts.

‘So Kate, what’ve you been doing!?’ I hear you cry. Well, firstly, I built a picture frame… an actual frame with my bare hands. That was a pretty superb day. My local church also held a brilliant Summer Fete a few weeks ago where, I bought a beautiful print by Holly Francesca, an artist you should all take a look at if you’re into whimsical prints and local artistry. On top of all that I’ve also been to the ballet, which was a beautiful, moving experience. I saw Romeo and Juliet at my favourite venue the Royal Albert Hall and I’ll be honest, if I didn’t know the story as well as I do, the whole thing would have been a little confusing. Let’s not forget there’s no words; but what can I say, it was magnificent non-the-less.

A really exciting event I’ve been to this week was the Cosmopolitan Superblogger Masterclass. Cosmo put on a brilliant event to talk us thorough everything from expanding your audience to monetising your blog. There were boys and girls from all kind of blogging domains: people who wrote blogs for business, people who wrote joke blogs, or those who write about weddings, beauty, writing - everything was covered and I know I personally left full of new ideas. In addition to all the inspiration, I met the lovely Anna from Yay or Ney Interiors on the tube home. It was such a shame because we only had two stops to chat as I was going home and she was off to Euston, but we’ve made promises to meet up again next time I’m up north, check her blog out if like me you’re like me and obsessed with peeking into other peoples homes! On that note, if any of you are bloggers who want to get in touch then please do. I love meeting new people and making new friends. We’re all in this together after all, so let’s stick together.

The event also made me think about how far this blog has come over the last few months and all of the exciting things to come. So, at this point I’d like to say thank you, all of you, for reading (even you Mum). Thank you to all of you who read my blog when I was at university, and thank you even if you’re reading for the first time! I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but I truly am grateful to all of you for allowing me to have a creative outlet with a little purpose.

Back to what I’ve been up to; the highlight of the last two weeks was seeing George Ezra live again. What can I say; he really is a total talent. His songs are anthemic, his voice totally captivating… I like to think of him as ‘Barry White singing a Johnny Cash song’ (in a twenty year old body of course). His album release is next week that I’m waiting for in eager anticipation and the best news is that I’m going to see him again in Antwerp in November!!

I guess the biggest step I’ve taken is cutting my hair off… Oh didn’t I mention. I’ve had about 2 inches taken off my mid-length hair to take it to a long crop. It wasn’t a deliberate ‘life change’ move but it’s the best decision I’ve made in some time. It feels fresh and exciting.
Summer is here guys; let’s have some fun!!

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A little reflection

Summer has arrived! The weather is divine, people are happy and there's ice cream to be eaten.

I must say though, this time of year makes me ever so slightly sad; this is the second year that it hasn’t been ‘summer’ any more, not the conventional summer I lived for about twelve years where I was off from school or 6th form or university. I’m not sure when the feeling of missing out on adventures will shake, or if it ever does but I’m sure those of you who are recent graduates feel the same! Now, I don’t go dwelling on the fact that I’m officially never going to be off for three months again, with very little accountability or anything to really do; but these past few sunny weeks have got me thinking about university, moving forwards and the challenges of those early years you come out for education blinking into the light of ‘real life’.

So this post, despite its slightly morose beginnings, will be dedicated to all you movers and shakers; the 18 years old who are just about to embark on semi-real life and all of you fresh faced twenty-somethings, suddenly realising the concept of jobs is exponentially scarier than you ever could have thought. I hope not to be patronising and most certainly don’t seek to be inspiring but I guess I just want to be true. I just want to say, it’ll be okay.

Those of you who have read this blog for a longer time than I could imagine anyone would read it, may remember my ill-fated move to Italy and the following low I suffered. I had mega plans to Au Pair out there for a year and it just all went wrong. I wasn’t au pair-ing, more sitting in my attic room waiting to be of use. I’m not one to sit around being bored so made the hard choice to come back to England. Looking back I think that was the start of a little bit of a downwards ‘failure spiral’. I struggled getting a job and ended up working in a deli for some months, I was sad and couldn’t see a way forwards. Eventually I was successful in applying for an internship; initially even this wasn’t enough for me, an internship wasn’t where I’d seen myself. Retrospectively, it was the making of me. The experience of monumental lows truly put into perspective what I did have and the potential of things to come.

So I upped and moved 235 miles away to the Big Smoke, an experience that quickly made me realise that university had been a little like a dress rehearsal for real life. This is where the intention of this post was leading - I’m now sat here in my beautiful new apartment, with a full time job (I was kept on following my internship) and my ever-present wonderful friends and family, happier than ever. I’ve met some fantastic people through work, twitter and blogging, with new experiences popping up at every moment. Be it at work, sat on my mum’s old sofa or lying in the park with my pals, I cherish all I have old and new. The experience was and remains to be a struggle at some points, still come the moments when I have to call my parents for a little cash (sorry mum!) and, when I realise I don’t know how to fix the hinge of my wardrobe. All in all though, the lows truly made the highs shine though.

Remember, you will makes friends if you treat people well, you will get a job even if the latest rejection from some company you’ve never heard of has crushed your soul, and you most certainly will become a bigger and better person than you could ever imagine. Accept every opportunity, even if you think at the time it’s not very you. If it transpires that it wasn’t the right decision, that’s okay too. Change it. Never be unhappy and feel stuck. Talk about how you feel with somebody, anybody; I can guarantee somebody else will feel the same. I’m only at the start of my journey and I’m excited for what’s to come!

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Afternoon Tea at The Dean Street Townhouse

These past few weeks have been manic, right!? It's been one of those times where I don't know if I'm coming or going, which is good I suppose because no one wants to be bored; plus it has/will mean that there is plenty of content for this little space. Although it does mean that during my workdays I'm nearly asleep at my desk! Combined with late nights and 6am starts I'm starting to extinguish a little.

So today, I'm going back a little, back to a time when I wasn't fading and when my darling mother came to visit. I know everybody thinks that their mum is ace, but mine really is the bomb. Her weekend was a little holiday for both of us; she deserved a treat and what better thing to do on holiday than Afternoon Tea.

This most wonderful and British of traditions is only ever luxurious - I mean when else can you drink champagne and eat sandwiches, scones (yes, plural) and cakes at 3 o'clock in the afternoon? I booked us a table at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho, a venue with a classic British menu with both a traditional dining room and, the ultra plush, velvet armchair clad lounge area. I chose here mainly because I pre-empted an afternoon of mooching around central and nipping to Liberty. It turned out to be a really wonderful decision as it was quite possibly the best Afternoon Tea I've had in some years. Lovely fresh sandwiches with tomatoes and salmon and a fancy coronation chicken (all different sandwiches of course), multiple scones with fresh jams and clotted cream and, a marvelous selection of cakes from Battenberg to salted caramel éclairs and lovely cupcakes full of yet more jam. The best part: it comes in at under £20 per person. Yes, you heard me! We had a few extras but I think for a good quality food with a sprinkle of fun and laughter and lots of lovely food and tea what more could you wish for!

My only piece of advice is don’t do what I did and use the hand soap as hand cream (I don’t t know how I managed it!). You’ll end up with really sticky hands until you can find a decent water source!! A totally unpleasant feeling!

The rest of the afternoon was spent dodging rain followed by a late dinner at the wonderful tapas restaurant Pix at their Soho branch on Bateman Street. Now I’m off to get in bed!

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June 2014: Love Want Need

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

This cake saves lives. Really. I know I may have gone a little overboard with the ‘triple’ chocolate element but who care right, chocolate is good for the soul! This cake will undo all your worries, its soft and squidgy, tasty and wholesome. This cake will make you friends, it’s easy to transport to work or on the bus, no amount of banging around will ruin its fundamentally sound structure. Most of all, this cake is easy, one pot and one tin; if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare I could think of worse ways to spend them.

Triple Chocolate Banana Bread
3 medium-to-large ripe bananas
1 large egg
115g unsalted butter, melted
145g brown sugar (i used a mixture, because that's who I am)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g self-raising flour
65g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
200g mixed chocolate (dark, milk and white)

Pre-heat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease and line a 2lbs loaf tin.

Mash bananas in a large bowl.
(– a little note on the bananas, if yours haven’t gone black and liquid-y as needed, pop them in the oven on around 150°C for 15-3- minutes, they’ll soften right up.)

Whisk in melted butter, followed by the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients into the liquid mix and stir until just combined then, add in the chocolate chips for a few final stirs.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 60-75 minutes. I know this is a long timeframe but mine has taken this long before; if your oven if just a few degrees cooler it can make all the difference. Leave it in until a knife/skewer/tooth pick comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool. I’d say wait until it’s room temperature, but where’s the fun in that.

Stored in a container it’ll last about three days, four if you wrap it up. It won’t last that long though!

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