I don't know quite what got me interested in illustration considering that I am myself an average drawer. One could assume the obvious reason may have been the fact that I was lucky enough to be made into a fantastic illustration myself by a talented artist like Diglee a few years back, however I believe my passion for it may have started even earlier. I remember flicking through a thick book of fashion illustrations in a little German book shop when I was perhaps 8 years old and being immediately enchanted with the way the drawings, adorning the glossy pages, managed to fuse the essence of art and fashion on a piece of paper whilst showing off the illustrator's sheer skill and distinctive style.
Since then I have always been fascinated by illustration and on the constant look out for new talent able to, at least to me, excite and show creativity hard to find in a pure form nowadays. Yes, of course illustrator's work has become inevitably sleeker with the help of photoshop and the like but these drawings still require years of practise, an eye for detail and ultimately a talent that one can't help but be born with. They are as successful in my eyes in conveying emotion- from sadness to desperation to love- as they are in creating something beautiful to look at and I will always take joy in discovering a new talent in their midst, able to, in this day and age, add a unique twist with a stroke of their pen ( or for the cynics with their skill in adobe). Below are 5 recent favourites which I hope you will take the time to look a little closer at or at least let serve as brief visual stimulation to brighten up a dull day.
Portraying 80's teen girls, hanging out and facing life, one can't help but want to be one of Laura Callaghan's bright and vivacious illustrations. Full of details of everyday adolescence, from posters on the wall to ash trays on the floor and always with a hint of boredom and fear of the future adorning the girl's faces, her illustration show girl power and the mixed emotions of being a teenager like no other.
Mix David Hockney with an 80's album cover and the atmosphere of Drive and you get pretty close to the super charged and slightly surrealist aesthetic Yoko Honda creates in her illustrations that so successfully mix pop art with an almost Barbi-esque sickly sweet mix of colours to create completely unique illustrations I love looking at each time.
Sara Herranz may only use black, white and red ( the red for the lip's of the female heroines she portrays) in her illustrations yet they like no other manage to capture a plethora of emotion, be it love, sadness, loneliness or desperation. For me she is one of the best examples of how much of a story an illustrator can tell with a few brilliant strokes, enabling us at an instant to identify ourselves with them.
Drawn predominantly in blue biro, Carine Brankowitz's illustrations have a surprising air of fragility and humanity about them, the characters and situations she captures always a little chaotic, always perhaps a little lost but with detail that makes them at times appear almost as real as a photo.
I have been a regular at this lovely wine bar just around the corner from me since it opened and have already written a blog post on the well sourced, reasonably priced wine served here before. I had however never tasted the small plates section of the menu and it is definitely not to be dismissed as afterthought alongside your chosen tipple. The absolute highlight amongst an array of salads, bruschetta style dishes, cold meats and cheeses has to be the cheese toastie which involved an impressive three types of cheddar. With a hint of red onion and sandwiched between crusty, freshly toasted artisan bread, this is carb heaven in a nutshell. One to yourself could quite possibly put you in a food coma but shared with a few olives on the side it may have just become my new favourite bar snack.
Pizza isn't fancy food. It's a comfort food that relies on simple and good and ingredients yet in London you are far too often faced with overpriced, overcomplicated and very mediocre tasting pizza ( Pizza East is a prime example of this). The little van parked outside Olive on Hoxton street, which has to my great enjoyment been spared gentrification thus far, may not look very fancy but the pizza baked inside it's oven is damn fine. With no pizza costing over £7 despite some pretty fantastic flavour combinations on the menu ( I went for an asparagus, sun dried tomato, rocket and goat's cheese number), this is a true neighbour hood gem for me as I live literally a 2 minute walk away. Ok, you can't sit in the adjoining cafe, which is more builder's caff than romantic tratorria but the perfectly thin dough, fresh ingredients and price make it my favourite takeaway pizza in London.
As some of you may have realised I injured my hand a little bit at the beginning of the year ( more precisely managing to break an amaretto bottle with my hand). Being pretty much unable to leave my flat ( yes. it was that painful), I had the opportunity to explore some takeaway options around me. One surprisingly fantastic discovery was Al Qalaa in Camden town. Far from your usually slightly greasy and stodgy takeaway Al Qalaa offers the best of Lebanese mezze- from hummus, fantastic tabouleh to juicy and well spiced wraps. Even the lemonade we ordered was freshly squeezed and full of flavour and able to bring a little bit of sunshine on a delivery bike for my miserable injured self. One I would fully recommend for anyone to lazy, or injured, to leave the house.
4. Truffle Mascarpone
I first had truffle
mascarpone in one of my former favourite brunch haunts Workshop Coffee and have
used it ever since with almost every dish I cook. Simply mix some mascarpone
with truffle oil ( which you can get for around £4/5 a bottle in Sainsburys)
and season with plenty of salt and simply add to dishes like roast veg, braised
beans or here with a more brunchy concoction of eggs, smoked salmon,
asparagus and rocket. It elevates all flavours with the hint of truffle and
really does wonders for any veggie based dish. It's so ridiculously easy to do
you got to try it!
I love ice cream. It is probably my favourite food group were it to be a one nutritionist would acknowledge as an legitimately existing one ( which they should as it makes you happy when you are sad, heartbroken, ill or just in need of something sweet) and as such have tried a fair amount of flavours on hungover Saturdays when it serves as the perfect accompaniment for my weekly film marathons. Of course ice cream is one of those comfort food where we like to play it pretty safe - the worst you can do is commit to a pint, which isn't that cheap to start with - some of my corner shops clearly exploiting the desperation of ice cream fans with prices south of the five pound, and after one spoon realise in disappointment that it isn't quite the flavour experience expected, leading to grumpily returning it to the back of the freezer to stay there to be either eaten by a less picky flatmate or forever stay next to a bag of frozen peas.
Well I am here to help with my review of the best, perfectly fine and more avoidable ice cream flavours that I have tried in my time. As disclaimer I am not a fan of chocolate ice cream so don't expect a review of some double chocolate brownie, chocolate chunk concoction and personally I think frozen yogurt based ice cream is best served fresh from somewhere like Yog where it's creamy and you have a choice of toppings rather than bought from a supermarket. I have never had a good own brand ice cream flavour no matter if Tesco, Waitrose or Sainsbuyrs ( though a Waitrose white chocolate and raspberry variety was commendable if bland after a while) and Cart'dor has always been too full of air rather than flavour for me. So below are the flavours I have tried and would most likely eat again, some more happily and regularly than others and I hope they will tickle your ice cream tastes buds to try something new because we all know no one is more boring than the guy that only orders vanilla! What are your favourites? Any that I have missed out and got to try?
1. Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup
I absolutely love Reese's peanut butter cups to the extent that my crazy aunt from America sends me a massive care package with just about every imaginable Reese's variety once a year ( my favourites being any white chocolate variety and the mini dark chocolate cups) which was why I had very high hopes when I first spotted this flavour. However while I love the big chunks of actual peanut cup, and they are literally whole cup sized, the peanut butter ice cream surrounding the cups wasn't quite up to scratch, becoming too bland and almost too savoury after a while. I much prefer the flavour balance of Peanut Butter Me Up ( reviewed below) and overall would only give it a C!
Overall Verdict: C
2. Haagen Dazs Pralines & Cream
Though one of the most old school flavours, this remains my unrivalled number one ice cream flavour. Why? It has the perfect mix of classic, creamy vanilla ice cream, gooey caramel and sweet nutty praline pecans. It's not too sweet, not too sickly and one of those ice creams where you can more than easily finnish the pint in one sitting. For me a hundred percent A+!
Overall Verdict: A+
3. Ben & Jerry's Karamel Sutra
Karamel Sutra definitely isn't the lightest of flavours but nonetheless one I greatly enjoyed, even more surprisingly so as it features chocolate ice cream which I usually avoid. With a superb liquid caramel core surrounded by caramel and dark chocolate ice cream it can become a little sickly after a while but I really enjoyed how the dark chocolate balanced out the caramel elements with all three working incredibly well together. It is an ice cream to enjoy a few spoons full rather than the whole tub but I would definitely recommend it and give it a B+
Overall Verdict: B+
4. Haagen Dazs Salted Caramel
A relatively new flavour in the freezer isle, I was super excited to see this especially being a massive fan of anything salted caramel and boy it didn't disappoint! A buttery caramel ice cream is speckled with nuggets of salted caramel and finished with a gooey liquid caramel swirl. Let it melt a little bit for extra creaminess and you'll struggle to put it down as it goes down WAY to easily. It's only minor let down and why it hasn't quite taken over Pralines & Cream as my favourite flavour is that it lacks a little bit of texture for me ( the so to speak 'praline element) though that is more personal preference and doesn't affect my overall verdict of straight A!
Overall Verdict : A
5. Ben & Jerry's Satisfy My Bowl
This is a special limited edition Ben & Jerry's flavour to commemorate the thirty year anniversary of Bob Marley's "Legend" compilation album and one that I would highly recommend trying if you can find it while it is still out. I was more than sceptical whether I was going to enjoy this. I am neither a massive banana or cookie dough fan and with the ice cream base being banana and a cooking swirl going through the whole tub things weren't looking too promising. However this flavour is all about just the right combination and with the added element of caramel swirl and dark chocolate peace signs the result was absolutely delicious. The banana isn't overwhelming but rather adds a fruity freshness that balances out the sweetness of the cookie dough and caramel and made this ice cream hugely enjoyable! I'll be sad to see this one go and give it a B+
Overall Verdict: B+
6. Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Me Up
I check literally every corner shop I ever enter for this ice cream, it being far too difficult to find in normal supermarkets considering how BRILLIANT this flavour is. Yes, the raspberry jam core sounds a little odd to start with ( based on the American's beloved peanut butter and jelly sandwich) but once you open the tub you realise that rather than jam a deliciously tart berry coolie is surrounded by peanut butter ice cream and vanilla ice cream speckled with tiny peanut butter cup. Where the Peanut Butter Cup variety becomes a little bland after while here all three elements make sure that the peanut butter really shines, the vanilla and fruit really working a treat with the peanut cups and ice cream. It's one of my absolute favourite flavours and worth keeping an eye out for, deserving without a doubt an A+
Overall Verdict: A+
7. Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew
Lastly probably the most disappointing Ben & Jerry's flavour I have sampled. The caramel ice cream is very weak in flavour, the caramel chunks covered in chocolate bland and not gooey enough. It seems a little bit of a half hearted flavour especially for someone like me that loves caramel. Not worth trying I give it a D.