Thursday, 31 August 2017

BY THE SEA

Sunglasses / Quay Australia
Jacket / ASOS
Bag / Sophie Hulme
Boots / Mango

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

HOW TO HOST THE PERFECT FRIDAY NIGHT GATHERING


One of my favourite things in life is hosting Friday drinks to ring in the weekend and start the night in style before heading out later in the evening.

I love inviting friends over after a hard week at work and having a little breather whilst enjoying their company, putting on a food and drinks spread for them that is a lot less pricy than going to a bar or restaurant though no less sophisticated! Yes, I take hosting serious and with a few short tips you can too, mixing up some super easy yet super tasty cocktails and lining yours and your friend's stomach with yummy treats that are straight forward to make or order in.

All that's left is sorting out that killer outfit to wear and ignoring the threat of the hangover that awaits the next day!

1. GET SOME NIBBLES READY FOR YOUR GUESTS

My friends regularly make fun of me and my snack tray. Haters gonna hate as they say and I do proudly own a wooden tray on which I without fail serve up a selection of cold snacks, ready for everyone's arrival. I mean let's be honest the Italians totally nail it with the whole idea of aperitivo hour- one simply needs something salty and crunchy to nibble alongside your first couple of drinks of the day and to be honest you can really let your imagination run wild here!

I like picking unusual crisp flavours (favourites of mine are the black truffle crisps from Torres Selecta that you can get at Marks & Spencer or Tesco Finest's goats cheese and sweet chilli variety) but go as fancy or old school as you like, no one will say no to Doritos in the end of the day. I also like to add some sort of dip to the selection, preferably a tub of Sabra hummus which is as good of a hummus as you are going to get in the supermarket, and serve it with some freshly cut, and in my opinion totally underrated, celery as my choice of crudités. When I feel like making an extra effort I sometimes also whip up a guacamole from scratch or get some olives but really it is all about having a nice little selection of what you fancy on that day ready to welcome your guests and which stays looking appetising even if everyone shows up an hour or two late!

2. MAKE FANCY LOOKING COCKTAILS (WITH MINIMUM EFFORT)

Cocktails can be a bit of a pain to make at home- once a cocktail shaker, precise measurements and hard to get ingredients become involved (bitters anyone?!) it also becomes increasingly hard to commit to making them (well) during pre-drinks, especially as ones patience and mixing abilities begins to decline with each drink consumed. The solution? Cocktails with less than 5 ingredients that you can mix in a big wine glass, make with things you can find in any supermarket but which when all mixed together style look like the real cocktail deal:

THE GINGERVIDUAL WITH STONE'S ORIGINAL GREEN GINGER WINE

Now this little cocktail number was a real surprise for me and on first taste instantly won over all my friends. I had never actually tried or even heard of ginger wine before but wasn't going to say no when the lovely people at Stone's Ginger Wine offered to send me a couple of bottles to try and recreate their range of cocktail recipes using the wine.

Stone's have been embracing their ginger roots since 1740 and this summer they have partnered with one of London’s leading expert mixologists to create a range of refreshing summer cocktails, capturing the essence of what it means to be a Gingervidual.

Their range of cocktails are designed as an alternative to your classic summer drinks and The Gingervidual immediately caught my eye, not only because it sounded super easy to make but because the combination of ginger wine, elderflower cordial and sliced cucumber sounded so refreshing and with that perfectly suitable for a hot summer's evening. Assembly may only have taken 5 minutes but the finished cocktail ended up looking rather fancy, cucumber ribbons adorning each glass, and wowed us at first sip. The ginger wine was fragrant and perfectly balanced and worked a real treat with the other components here. It tasted so light yet nuanced that we couldn't quite believe none of us had ever tried ginger wine or this cocktail before! I for one will be adding it to my shopping basket more often and the Gingervidual to my repertoire of regular drinks!

Here is the super easy cocktail recipe for you to make at home:

50ml Stone's G.W
10ml Elderflower Cordial
Top with Soda

Method:
Pour the ingredients into a highball, add some ice cubes, stir and top with soda water. Garnish with cucumber ribbons and raspberries (I went for glacé cherries on this occasion)

PS: Stone's Ginger is priced at £6.50 and available at supermarkets and off licences nationwide. If like me you've been won over by Ginger wine there are plenty more cocktail recipes to try out here.


3. LINE THOSE STOMACHS

I am small person by anyone's standard and there is only so much alcohol I can take before I need some carbs to soak up the booze. Here are two great food options that will suit your needs on the night, whether you need something quick, easy and with no cleaning up or if you want to impress with some home cooking. Both are pretty damn tasty and should hopefully avoid you having to dash to some gross kebab shop next to a club as so often happens when you leave the house on a cocktail filled but otherwise empty stomach.

THE NO BRAINER PIZZA DELIVERY

With pizza delivery I do not mean some shoddy Dominoes "pizza" or the like. Especially in London we are blessed with some amazing pizza joints that also happen to deliver so make the most of them! My personal favourite is Pizza Pilgrims. Their pizza is reasonably priced, barely going over the £10 mark, always tasty and big enough to share between two people before a night out.

I always go for the Gianfranco Gorgonzola, a white pizza topped with fior di latte, gorgonzola, ribboned courgette, basil and oregano, which never disappoints with it's outstanding flavours and sets the perfect foundation for more drinking in the most delicious of ways.

SWEET POTATO NACHOS

Now, these sweet potato nachos do take a bit more kitchen prep and ingredients shopping ahead of your gathering but have never failed to wow my guests. I try to head to the supermarket the day before and also put the sweet potatoes in the oven the minute I get home from work as they do take a good hour or so to bake. Once they are in I also try to get all the other components ready ahead of everyone arriving (i.e make the guacamole, drain the black beans etc.) so that once the potatoes are done it is simply an assembly and quickly shove under the grill job that I am more than happy to do even a few drinks in.

I adopted my recipe from here and can only recommend recreating them for yourself at home. The sweet potato "nachos" are super filling and a lot more wholesome, fresh and flavourful than the usual tortilla chips used for nachos, making this healthy sunshine food perfect for sharing. One worth making the extra effort for!

AND LASTLY.... HAVE FUN OF COURSE! DRESS UP, GRAB YOUR FRIENDS AND GO FOR A DANCE!


Monday, 28 August 2017

TROPICAL SUMMER

Earrings / Mango
T-shirt / & Other Stories
Skirt / & Other Stories
Bag / Radley
Shoes / Superga

Thursday, 24 August 2017

PINK SEQUINS

Dress / Missguided
Sunglasses / Quay Australia
Boots / Mango

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

THE PERFECT CITY FESTIVAL? HELSINKI'S FLOW FESTIVAL MAY JUST BE IT.

This blog post could have easily turned into a short novel, knowing how much I like to digress at times and based on just how fantastic my experience here was, but I want to keep it short and sweet on this occasion and most importantly convince you to not only visit the beautiful and seriously cool city of Helsinki but also to make Flow the next festival you go to because for me it was no doubt the best I've ever been to.

First things first I do have admit that I won a competition to attend the festival, including VIP wristbands, a hotel stay and flights there, which of course made it pretty easy for me to have a good time but the fact that I am already planning to return next year (when I'll be paying for everything) proves that Flow delivered, free or not.

Located in a formerly industrial part of town and just a 30 minute walk from the city centre, Flow also allowed me to further explore Helsinki's stellar food and drinks offerings during the day before the festival performances and I was once again lucky enough to have my favourite travel buddy and Helsinki local Emmi to show me the best and newest spots (you may remember when I visited her last year and pretty much instantly fell in love with Helsinki's late summer sunsets and awesome outside drinking spots). It meant that the weekend offered the perfect mix of culture, walks by the sea, live music, amazing food and a bit of unforgettable drama, the festival put on hold for a good hour or so as a massive rain and lightening storm passed over the grounds. Below are a few of my personal highlights, from Flow itself to the best hotel in town, to where we got over our festival hangovers by scoffing down the best cinnamon buns and pizza in the Finnish capital.

Finally a big thank you to Flow's team who looked after us and treated us like total rockstars! It was one of the best weekends of my life and made me love this city even more than I did before. London may be my home but the older I get, the more does the quarter Finnish in me feel a sense of homecoming every time I visit. Kiitos Finland, kiitos Helsinki and kiitos Flow.

THE FESTIVAL: FLOW

How to best summarise Flow festival? For me it was everything that I ever wanted from a festival and much more. No drunk people falling over, no crowds roaming the grounds confused because of bad organisation and lay out, no crappy beige food from questionable food trucks and no performances where as someone that is 5'2 I basically see zilch. Indeed every little detail was considered to perfection here.

All  food served for example was locally sourced, mainly organic and incredibly vegetarian and vegan friendly. The range on offer was simply astounding, from deep fried crab in a sticky Korean marinade served with a kimchi salad which we went for on the Friday, to the most flavourful tofu massaman curry that we had on the Sunday - this was food of a top notch quality as you'd expect in London's latest eating out hot spot, not at a music festival.

This attention to detail continued in the general set up of the festival. Toilets were readily available and the crowd so chilled that I was able to get a good spot to watch the musical performers at all gigs including headliners Frank Ocean, Lana Del Rey and The xx (which were all outstanding by the way with the xx leaving us in tears of joy!). Everything felt super chilled and intimate with no gurning 18 year old wearing a flower crown with glitter on their face in sight. Even when a huge code red rainstorm hit the festival on Friday night, a situation that would have surely resulted in the whole festival being called off in the UK, organisers kept their cool, updating their social platforms in real time and meant that within a few hours and after a few emergency tent repairs Flow had weathered the storm and we got see the XX with pink clouds and a rainbow forming behind the stage, with an atmosphere of sheer elation in the air. Sure it isn't the cheapest festival, the ticket may only be 180 euros for the 3 days but food and wine are, much like the rest of Helsinki, prettttty expensive (i.e. an average meal at the festival is 12 euro upwards and a small glass of wine i8 euros) but in my eyes here it is 100 percent worth it. It's a festival for young, but not too young, creative people that know what's good when it comes to music, fashion, food and design, Flow delivering on every single of those fronts. I urge you all to leave Croatia and the like behind next year and make the trip to Flow when it comes to foreign festivalling, it won't be a hidden gem for long.

THE HOTEL: F6

F6  is the boutique hotel in town. It is bang in the city centre, a stones throw away from the main market square and tourist attractions but has that unique sense of style in it's interiors which you never get in chain hotels and an informal, fun atmosphere that super fancy 5 star sort of places usually replace with uptightness. Only open for a year, F6 is a beautifully designed space that is modern yet plays on Finland's long design history. There is the stunning bright orange courtyard with astro turf in which you can have a drink while soaking up some rays, the beautiful art deco inspired tiling throughout the lobby and the perfectly formed rooms that come with everything your heart desires, from Ritual bath goodies to probably the most comfortable bed I have slept in in my 25 years on this planet (in fact I had to snooze my alarm about 6 times before I could make myself get up which is saying something coming from a semi insomniac).

The breakfast included with the stay was impeccable and a typical Scandi affair with an array of fresh bread, pastries, juices and cold toppings including hot smoked salmon, all plated on stylish Marimekko tableware that I immediately wanted for my own kitchen collection. Service was friendly, with staff going out of their way to make our stay a dream. If your budget allows make this place your home for the weekend, you won't regret it, F6 a hotel that is far from generic and one I will set as benchmark for hotels in the future.

THE PLACE FOR FANCY COCKTAILS: RUNAR @ F6

The evening before Flow was about to kick off, full of excitement and in my case relief of having survived another flight, Emmi and I went on a hunt for the best cocktails in Helsinki. As luck would have it they happened to be served in what was basically our living room. Indeed, Runar, named after F6's resident hotel dog, whose cute little face adorns their logo, is not just any hotel bar, no, it is the hottest place in town for unique and expertly made cocktails.

With a distinctively 80's dive bar feel, neon signs and all, you can tell the bartenders here know what they are doing and it was hard for us to choose from their concise but well curated cocktail menu. In the end we both went for a rosemary, champagne and vodka number, slurped through a metal straw to keep it chilled. It was perfectly balanced and flavoured, the sort of cocktail you don't get in your standard bar and akin to a gourmet dish. It may not be cheap but if a stand out cocktail is what you are after in that hotel bar environment (and I'm sorry but that does somehow add instant glamour) come to Runar, it may not be the Savoy but it's seriously good.

THE PIZZA THAT IS WORTH THE HYPE @ PIZZERIA VIA TRIBUNALI

Via Tribunali had been on Emmi's to-try list for a good few months, it supposedly making THE best pizza in Helsinki and commanding waiting times of up to two hours most evenings. I like a challenge and I also like to know if a place is worth the hype surrounding it, with Emmi of a very similar mindset, which is why we were absolutely determined to squeeze in an early dinner here before heading to our first evening at the festival. And well there was a wait.. and not a short one at that especially considering that we showed up at 6pm on a Friday, but after we left our name on the list and an hour and a half later (in which time we freshened up at the hotel and downed a rather amazing espresso martini at Runar) we did manage to snag a table in the bright and open space dining room. I, of course, had super high expectations after all of this palava and the numerous ecstatic reviews I had read about the place on social media (someone even said it was better than my favourite NYC pizza joint Roberta's) so am very happy to report that I was not let down, even a little surprised just how good the pizza was here.

Toppings are kept traditional and we decided to go halves on two flavours to make the most of the menu, ordering the Siciliana, a classic combination of Neapolitan peeled tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, capers, basil and olive oil, made to perfection here, and the stand out Tonnarella, the stretchiest of doughs with just the right amount of crust, topped with mozzarella, tuna, onion, basil, capers, pecorino romano, olive oil, lemon peel. This place doesn't need gimmicky truffle oil or other culinary showstoppers to adorn its pizzas because the flavours speak for themselves. You may find yourself in a Helsinki restaurant but any Italian nonna would be very impressed with what they dish up here. Get yourself a good book or prepare to get a little tipsy while you wait for your table here, it'll be worth it

THE APEROL SPRITZ ON A BOAT @ MERIKERHO


Helsinki is full of amazing outdoor drinking venues with stunning views over the Baltic sea and this newly opened bar right by the Flow festival area is hard to beat in it's location and vibe, it being housed on a repurposed boat with spacious deck, full of high stools and tables that let you gaze across the bay. I can't imagine many places better suited to enjoy a sun downer drink and I felt a world away from London as I sipped on my Aperol Spritz here just a few hours after landing. It's a place you wouldn't expect in the centre of Helsinki but one that makes this such a cool city visit.

THE BEST FISH IN TOWN @ OLD MARKET HALL

Sometimes one just has to be a stupid tourist and go for the stereotypical foods of the place you are in and on the Sunday morning of my weekend in Helsinki all I wanted was some typically Scandinavian gravadlax (a type of mild smoked salmon I grew up with and love to this day but rarely find made well in the UK). So I skipped the hotel breakfast and demanded Emmi to take me somewhere where they would sell exactly this, nothing fancy, no super cool hipster spot, no I just wanted smoked salmon done well, a lot of it and right away.

She of course knew exactly where to take me and got us heading towards Helsinki's famous old market hall, touristy yes with it's array of (eye roll) reindeer sausages that Japanese tourists can't wait to buy and which are eaten maybe once a year by a regular Finn, but also housing old school fishmongers and smokers that have been there for decades and really know their stuff. I settled for two types of open sandwiches on some fantastic dark Finnish rye bread, one simply with butter and gravadlax and one with an incredible salmon tartar with a hint of mustard and dill that I couldn't have been happier eating off a paper plate right by the sea. It wasn't fancy and definitely not the most underground of places but it was Finland on a plate for me and an unexpected highlight food wise. Touristy doesn't always have to mean bad after all.


THE CINNAMON BUN WITH A SIDE OF DREAMY SEA VIEWS @ BIRGITTA HERNESAARI

I would quite confidently call myself a bit of a cinnamon bun connoisseur, not only regularly seeking out the best ones you can find in London (Fabrique is the current frontrunner though I won't ever say no to an excessively calorific Cinnabon number) but am also always bugging Emmi to find me the best one in Helsinki. Last time we weren't too lucky with many of the top bakeries shut for the summer holidays but boy this time she did VERY well taking me to this unique spot right by the sea. I mean the whole place is an architect's dream, a glass and wood walled pavilion that looks out onto the wide open bay, modern and sexy in it's design yet somehow effortlessly blending into the nature surrounding it, if I was local to this I would basically spent every single Sunday in the summer here perched on one of their outside tables, watching the world go by with the waves swishing in front of me. It's so beautiful in it's setting, it almost feels unreal. Which is not to say that the food and drinks don't deliver in the same way.

No, the baked goods, presently beautifully behind a glass counter for you to drool over as you order your (very good) cup of coffee, are out of this world and I had to stop myself from ordering more than one thing. Indeed I felt almost bad going for my default cinnamon bun looking at the many other fantastic creations here but oh wow am I glad I did go for this favourite of mine in the end. Why? Well this was hands down the best cinnamon bun of my entire life (and I have had many)- gooey, crispy, juicy, sugary, cinnamony... I cant even describe to you how good it was, even Emmi commented on how happy I looked slowly devouring it, making the most of every bite. If there is one place we shall have to go back to on my next visit no matter how many cool new places have opened in the interim it will have to be Birgitta Hernesaari, not just for the bun or the view but for the whole unique package here. A true Helsinki gem.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Levain Bakery - Super cool crowd, great coffee, insane looking salad

Löyly - Architecturally stunning sauna and outdoor bar right by the sea

Stockmann - Head to Helsinki's equivalent to Selfridges for their fantastic food hall and pick up some Finnish sweets, chocolates and biscuits - super well organised and merchandised!

3 Kaverin jäätelö is a Finnish ice cream brand that is out of this world! If you see it anywhere grab a tub, it's all locally sourced and made and tastes insanely delicious!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Thursday, 17 August 2017

LIVING IT UP IN LEEDS

Sunglasses / Alien Shades
Earrings / ASOS
Dress / Fyodor Golan
Shoes / Superga

Monday, 14 August 2017