WIN: Hotel Chocolat Chocolates to Chill

Food & drink
WIN: Hotel Chocolat Chocolates to Chill post image

Here’s a great chance to win a box of Hotel Chocolat’s new range of slightly-boozier-than-normal chocolates.

The Cocktail Chocolates to Chill box contains sixteen chocolates four Passionfruit Margaritas, four Moscow Mules, four Mojitos, and four Grapefruit Gin & Tonics. These are not the dusty old liqueur chocolates of old … there’s no terrible flood of alcohol as you bite into them, no sickly aftertaste. These chocolates taste fresh and light, the alcoholic content subtle and very well-balanced with the chocolate. The flavours work together well and they most definitely do taste better chilled from the fridge – I checked both ways so you don’t have to.

To win, enter your details in the form below, and good luck!

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Savage Salads, by Davide Del Gatto & Kristina Gustafsson

Books
Savage Salads, by Davide Del Gatto & Kristina Gustafsson

I often struggle with lunch.

Sometimes, there are too many meetings and it just slips by unnoticed, and other times, I fail to prepare and end up grabbing another mediocre sandwich here or there.

Other times, my planning and effort collapses as I stare down dismally into a plastic box full of whatever was left after yesterday’s dinner, repurposed carelessly as something that just about passes for ‘lunch’.

My two recent successes on the lunch front are the discovery of homemade sauerkraut and kimchee, which make a simple salad of a few tomatoes and some cucumber explode with flavour, and tinned sardines that my colleagues detest for smell-related reasons, but which give a huge boost of protein at a time of day when its much-needed. I stockpile cans in my locker, like some sort of office-bound survivalist. It’s a point of great amusement to others.

This leads me to Savage Salads, the break-out book by Davide Del Gatto and Kristina Gustafsson written on the back of their influential street food business, which takes the idea of a ‘salad’ and gives it a serious shake up.

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Bilbao Bar, Leeds

Eating out
Bilbao Bar, Leeds

The new entrance to Leeds Station, the one that looks a bit like Kylo Ren from Star Wars if you look at it from a certain angle, has suddenly connected the waterfront area around Granary Wharf a little more successfully with the city. The trail down under the underpass and past the roar of the Dark Arches has gone if you’re heading city-bound by train, and you end up right in the heart of the Wharf.

That area was something of an alternative haven way, way back, packed with stalls selling crystals and Native American paraphernalia that had an uncertain use in West Yorkshire, but that part has disappeared, and the focus is on the waterfront, with new bars and restaurants emerging all the time, cocooned in the old railway arches, facing the canal.

It’s been renovated and developed well, and investment has attracted a string of new venues, Bilbao Bar among them.

Open for a couple of years now, Bilbao Bar is the closest thing to a Basque style pintxo bar in West Yorkshire. It’s like stepping into somewhere in the back streets of San Sebastian. There’s a big, broad counter, designed to be loaded up with food, and intended for use by people casually propping it up, glass of Rioja in one hand, slice of octopus on toast or whatever in the other. It’s an excellent space.

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Korean Food Made Simple, by Judy Joo

Books
Korean Food Made Simple, by Judy Joo

A few months ago, we were in town, and had lunch at the superb Trinity Kitchen.

For those unfamiliar with the mighty city of Leeds, Trinity Kitchen is the food court attached to its big, shiny shopping centre.

At this point, I’d expect most people with an ounce of self-respect to run screaming from any recommendation to eat in a shopping centre food court, but this one has a little trick up its sleeve in the form of a huge vehicle hoist and a big door in the wall, through which a revolving cast of street food vans are driven each month. The set list changes all the time, showcasing the very best in British street food, and it really is something.

On this particular visit, there was a van there that had trundled up from London. How it got to Leeds, I do not know, but it was there, and it was pushing Korean burgers – big patties of just slightly rare ground beef, served in a brioche bun and covered in kimchi. The boy and I had one each, went home, and started to make kimchi immediately.

It was familiar, but so entirely different, a burger with an otherworldly touch. Leeds is a city that can knock out a decent burger or two, but these were off-the-scale good.

There’s a looseness and playfulness about Korean food that makes it really attractive to the home cook. The rules are there to be flexed, bent, and smashed to pieces, and nobody Korean will care. Don’t have exactly the right variety of cabbage to ferment in your kimchi? Doesn’t matter. Chuck in whatever you’ve got, and anything else that’s left over in the fridge, just remember the chilli, OK?

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Viennese café culture, and the magnificent apple strudel

Food & drink
Apple strudel

It’s said of Vienna’s cafés that you consume time and space, but only coffee appears on the bill. These are places to think and contemplate, to sit and read, to discuss the weighty matters of the day over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.

One cup is enough.

The waiter will not hurry you, will not bring the bill until you ask for it. Sit here all afternoon, among the shabby, romantic grandeur, next to the billiard table, surrounded by the world’s newspapers and nobody will notice.

Dream, discuss, write, plot, conspire, just as Freud, Mozart, Stalin, Klimt, Wittgenstein, Schubert and the rest did before you, many in the same cafés, in the same booths, eating the same food and drinking the same coffee.

There’s a very real sense in Vienna that the course of world history, particularly in the twentieth century, pivoted around those streets. I feel this in Berlin, too, where a glance downwards catches a brass plaque bearing the names of Jewish people who used to live at that address, sent to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. In Vienna, the same thing happens, a scene feels familiar, too familiar, and a quick Google reveals that you’re standing under the balcony from which Hitler addressed 200,000 people in 1938, a time when things fell apart.

There’s an eternal quality to Vienna. It’s seen horror and bloodshed, but it’s also shaped some of the world’s greatest thinkers and artists, a creative catalyst fueled by the murky grey waters of the Danube, and fermented in those wonderful cafés.

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