Lone dining or loner dining? Is a table for one the new restaurant trend?

Cheesecake sml

I was interested to read the BBC article this morning ‘Tables for one, the rise of solo dining’. Commenting on how more restaurants now cater for single diners, and noting Amsterdam’s new pop-up restaurant Eenmaal, (which only has tables for one) the article went on to question the motivations of lone diners. 

I recently commented on social media in reaction to the Guardian Newspapers article ‘Table for one? Restaurant offers giant stuffed animals for company’. This article reported how a Japanese restaurant offers its lone dining clientele large Moomin toys to sit with they whilst they eat, in an attempt to banish loneliness. Most social media reaction I received was from those who regularly ate alone whilst on business. These commentators preferred a good book to a large toy for companionship!  However is a book just a way of avoiding gaze from fellow ‘smug married‘ diners?

Now before you paint me as a dining no-mates (as opposed the the Billy variety) I will defend myself by saying there I think there is nothing better than a celebratory meal, coffee, croissants and gossip or afternoon tea and sympathy with girl-friends. However I’m with Inspector Montalbano the legendary lone-diner of Andrea Camilleri’s books, in the enjoyment of eating alone. Montalbano frequents wonderful coastal trattoria where he sits to enjoy three course lunches; the flavours, the aromas, the work of art on his plate, without having to make idle small talk.

As I take my lunch table for one I’d love to know what you think….

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A penny for them; cycling freedom with ‘Penny in ‘Yo Pants’

I love dresses and in this warm weather I’m finding wearing them invaluable. However I also love to cycle and until recently I found to two to be incompatible. There have been many days when I’ve ventured out to collect my bike wearing a lovely frock only to be met with winds that have blown me back inside, to change into the safety of trousers. Ladies you will know what I mean, you want to cycle but you don’t want to show your knickers to all the other road users!

A couple of days ago a friend shared this video with me. Such a simple idea that it’s genius! I wanted to share it with you but also the message behind ‘Penny in ‘Yo Pants”a message for the freedom of all women cyclists.

I take it for granted that any day and everyday I can just hop on my bike and go; for work, for errands and for leisure. Throughout it’s history the bike has been a symbol of liberation for women and a mechanism of freedom.  ‘Penny in ‘Yo Pants’ continues that journey by aiming to sponsor the Afghanistan women’s cycling team through the sale of their forthcoming ‘Penny in ‘Yo Pants’ product.

Have a look at this video to find out more;

If you want to find out more about the ‘Penny in ‘Yo Pants’ Kickstarter fund and more general info then take a look HERE

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My ‘Little Food Finds’: Tutti Frutti ice cream

Tutti Frutti Ice Cream_With temperatures set to soar again in the week ahead, you need ice cream in your life! and I know just the place to recommend….

On the hottest day of the year (so far) I finally got to try ice cream at Reading’s legendary ice cream parlour and cafe ‘Tutti Frutti’. I’d heard great things about the ice cream at Tutti Frutti but the only time I ever seem to visit the cafe was passing through for an early train connection. A latte seems appropriate at 6am on a winters morning but not an ice cream! So I made a promise to a friend that this summer, on the hottest day of the year, I would be buying the ice creams at Tutti Frutti.

When the temperature hit 30c I made the call and we headed for solace of ice cream. We both opted for two scoops in a cup. My icy companion choose strawberry ice cream and frozen yoghurt with lemon curd. I chose pistachio and peach with amaretto.

It’s at this point that I have to apologise for the poor quality of my photo. Frankly the ice cream was sooo good, and melting so fast! That, well quality photos were the last thing on my mind when I could have ice cream in my tummy :-D

All four flavours were really good and the portions really generous – seriously don’t try the 3 scoop option. For me the best, hands down, was the peach and amaretto. Not only was it an interesting flavour combination it was an excellent one. Refreshing, fruity and creamy, everything really good ice cream should be.

So does Tutti Frutti’s ice cream live up to expectations? Yes. Do I recommend Tutti’s to you? Most definitely. Ice creams are freshly made on-premises everyday so you will always have something new and innovative to try.

 Tutti Frutti 

Reading Railway Station (near ticket office)

RG1 1LT

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The clear nutritional benefits of organic food

Organic is differentYou might have seen a headline in the papers or heard something on the news, as tomorrow (15/07/14) a ground breaking piece of research is being released that shows

“Significant differences in the nutritional content of organic and non-organic crops”

Research led by Prof Carlo Leifert of University of Newcastle will show that organic food has more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health and lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides. 

This new research shows that “switching to organic crop consumption is equivalent to eating one or two additional portions (to the recommended “five a day”) of fruit or vegetables per day”

As an advocate of organic food this research finally gives me, farmers and growers alike, the opportunity to tell people just how beneficial eating organic food is. For years we have been barred from saying what we all knew empirically, because we did not have the ‘proof’ to back our claims. Now this extensive study, conducted by an international research team, will illustrate;

  • Farming method affects quality: the quality of food is influenced by the way it is produced.
  • More antioxidants: Organic crops (cereals, fruit and vegetables) have significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than non-organic.
  • Fewer: Pesticide residues and heavy metals like in organic crops.

Whilst the full research is not released until tomorrow in the British Journal of Nutrition, you can read a summary of the paper here;


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‘Little Food Finds’; Postcard Teas

Postcard Teas2

I’ve become a little obsessed with ‘First Flush’ Darjeeling tea of late. This preoccupation has come about purely because I have found it so hard to get hold of the tea this year. Anyway two tea fixations came together last week as I finally got the opportunity to visit London’s ‘Postcard Teas’. 

Situated off Bond Street, one of London’s busiest shopping roads, Postcard Teas is an oasis for the tea parched. I visited on a stifling hot summers day and walking into a fresh, cool store and being instantly offered tea, well I was won over!

After a quick perusal of a wide (but not daunting) selection of teas I quickly opted for the ‘Spring Darjeeling’ and took my place at the long wooden table in the centre of the store.

Postcard Teas1I was presented with my tea by Jonathan Nunn, with whom I discussed the tea’s origin, picking and flavour. Jonathan explained the difference between ‘First Flush’ and ‘Spring’ Darjeeling to me and he was spot on. Postcard’s Spring Darjeeling has no hint whatsoever of the bitter, slightly acrid taste that some First Flushes offer up. The tea was paler than I have come to know Darjeeling but this did not, as I feared, mean a weak flavour. On the contrary the Spring Darjeeling had a fullness of flavour with a real freshness to it.

Whilst Jonathan kindly made me a second infusion I took the opportunity to explore Postcard Teas. The stores name derives from the postcards of tea that can be sent around the world. You pick the tea, either in the shop or on-line and it will be dispatched to your chosen recipient. You can also buy normal caddies of tea in the store which can be refilled. However Postcard Teas is more than a gimmick, with a staff of experts, a strong sourcing policy and proof of provenance for all teas sold,  Postcard is a haven of superior tea.

Postcard Teas3

I only have one last thing to say about Postcard Teas… at the moment tea has become synonymous with ‘afternoon tea’. At most establishments this means piles of sandwiches and sticky cakes over quality tea, properly made.  Afternoon tea in London also carries with it a premium price tag, often undeserved and riding on the name of the up market establishment rather than the quality of the actual tea being poured. Against this then it is so refreshing that Postcard Teas put tea first, puts tea on the table without cake so it’s fine flavour can actually be enjoyed.

Postcard Teas4

Postcard Teas

DERING STREET,

NEW BOND STREET.

LONDON W1S 1AG

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The Proverbial Porridge

Breath Porridge1‘Save your breath to cool your Porridge’. A wonderful and useful saying that’s so much more polite than the rude turn of phrase from my teenage years; “Talk to the hand”!

I love a good clichè, a truism or a saying. I find them useful as a writer to lighten up a dull paragraph or in speech to brighten up a heavy discussion. Conversational crisis can always be avoided with a good clichè and “worse things happen at sea” has got me out of some tricky corners! You can probably imagine then how excited I was to come across this lovely card from the Artist Emily Sutton. I instantly bought the card which now takes pride of place on the shelf above where I work. I often look at the card and mutter about how people should save there breath, when I am dealing with particularly vexing e-mails!

Breath Porridge2

Anyway the card got me thinking, could there be other sayings or proverbs about Porridge? A quick google later and yes, a pretty amazing array of Porridge proverbs exist and some of my favourite can be found here.

‘Crumb not your bread before you taste your porridge’.

If you know of anymore Porridge proverbs please do share them here on the blog.

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Bridget; The board game for sunshine and strategy!

Bridget4Last year I blogged about the fast and furious game of ‘Pucket’. I loved it so much that a few months ago I was Asked by ET Games to review their new offering ‘Bridget’; ‘The world’s No. 1 bridge building strategy game’.

When Bridget arrived I wasn’t disappointed. On opening the box I could quickly see that Bridget is made to the same quality as Pucket. Held in an organic cotton bag, Bridget is made from sustainably grown ash and birch. The game is manufactured in the UK and finished at Highdown Prison via the social enterprise Blue Sky Inside.

Bridget3However whilst Pucket was an instant success with me, Bridget has been a slower burner. It’s taken me a few sunny Sunday’s to get to grips with the game and encourage others to join in. Now don’t get me wrong, this ISN’T a negative review. Just like those albums that take a few listens before you ‘get into them’ Bridget, once mastered will become your fav game.

Whilst Pucket is quick to pick up and then no holds barred! Bridget is more tetris mixed with chess. With Swiss origins Bridget has been redesigned by ET Games for a new audience. I would say that audience is; ethically minded, enjoys strategic games and a little challenge but most of all understands quality.

Now get your picnic blanket out as it’s time to play in the sun!  

Bridget2

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Summer of Stag Beetles

Stag Beetle_I know that summer has arrived when Strawberries and Stag Beetles arrive in my garden.

The Stag Beetles appear in late May or early June, normally after a few consecutive hot days. I’m alerted to their presence by a sort of buzz/low hum they make when flying, then the inevitable thud as they hit a bush or the compost bin (ouch).  They are not the most graceful of flyers, more of a Sherman tank trying to take off than Concorde. However the Stag Beetles are quiet a sight to behold and a joy to watch.

I feel very privileged and quite protective of the garden Stage Beetles. As a rare species seeing a Stage Beetle is a treat and having a garden colony is certainly an honour, especially as it takes It takes 5 years for a Stag Beetle to come to full maturity.

Stag beetlesmlWhilst Stag Beetles look fierce, with the males having long jaw-like mandibles that look just like a stag’s antlers, and the females with their pincer like claws, they are in fact harmless.

Just like rutting Deer stags, the male Stag Beetles are prolific fighters in the mating season. However this is a mating ritual and will not bother you.


Thank you to @AnglianPandW for this amazing video. 

A final word… Stag Beetles are rare so please give them the space that they need during these hot summer days. Do not be tempted to pick them up or move them unless they are in immanent danger e.g. in the middle of a road.  If you want to find out more about Stag Beetles, what to do when you find them, or how to encourage them into your garden, you can read more on the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species website.

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Votes for Women! When washing up gets radical

Radical TTC1

Ever thought that washing up could be radical? Neither had I until I received an e-mail from the ‘Radical Tea Towel Company’.

Now I get a lot of e-mails asking me to review restaurants or endorse products and generally I say no. In short I will only blog about a product I already use and love, an ethical endeavor or something innovative, something that catches my eye and that’s just what the tea towel company did. Claiming…

The Radical Tea Towel Company has dragged this formerly dull kitchen accessory from the shadows of its history as a tool for the aristocracy – and into a revolutionary standard for the masses

I was intrigued. Curious enough to have a look over the radical’s website, It was the ‘women’s march, suffragette design’ that caught my eye. However not wanting to be shackled to the kitchen sink to review the product ;-) I asked for the tote bag rather than the tea towel.

Radical TTC2When the bag arrived I was instantly impressed with the printing. Bold with a purple true to the suffrage colours and clean printing, no warped lines etc. The bag is well made with a gusset and well sewn handles. To test the bag I went off on my bike to get the weekly fruit and veg in and I can definitely say that it’s a strong bag.

Now to the ethics… well the company has a clear policy which you can read in full here. It’s all good stuff but Radical’s please can I make a request… a range of organic cotton tea towels good for people and the earth :-)

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The rise of the Staffordshire Oatcake: Povey’s Oatcakes expand!

Povey's Oatcakes

Reading through the BBC website last night I came across some very good news for Staffordshire Oatcake lovers. After years of decline, the fortunes of the Staffordshire Oatcake are on the up due to one of Stokes most famous Oatcake shops ‘Povey’s Oatcakes’.

Alongside the Biddulp Oatcake shop, Povey’s have just opened a new factory with the aim to “take the oatcake further and wider across the world”. With his eyes firmly set on wider distribution and export, Alex Povey looks set to put the Oatcakes on the shelves of shops and supermarkets the world over. 

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