Friday, 27 February 2015

Di Palomo

I've been lusting after this for absolutely ages.
By ages, I mean years.  At least 5 years. Probably longer thinking about it.

Di Palomo's White Grape with Aloe is the sister scent to one of my all time favourites, Wild Fig and Grape (they have a bit of a thing for grapes in their scents).  The Wild Fig is wonderfully rich and spicey, deep and cosy and perfect for winter.  If I bury my nose into my scarves, I can smell the lingering traces of ripe fig and mimosa mixed with the distant memories of sandlewood and vanilla.  Delicious.

The White Grape with Aloe is everything that the Wild Fig and Grape isn't.  It is clean, fresh and sharp and blows away the cobwebs of winter like a cleansing spring breeze.
I used to go into town without any perfume on, just so I could pop into Fenwicks and spritz some on myself.  However, I was a poor student at the time and couldn't justify the £35 spend on the bottle, especially as I was always torn between this one and the Wild Fig.

Well, I finally caved.  I've been gradually working my way through and using up all my half open bottles of perfume in a vain attempt to try and de-clutter a bit, and when I finally got rid of 4 half used bottles, I replaced them all with this one.
Di Palomo scents are tricky to track down on the high street.  Most perfume shop assistants stare blankly at you when you mention them, and Fenwicks have now stopped carrying the line.  John Lewis still have them but in all honesty, the easiest place to get hold of a bottle is the website.

They are an English company (based in Devon to be exact), and all their products are made in the UK but inspired by the scents of Italy.  The White Grape with Aloe is influenced by the fresh scent of grapes in the vineyards above Lake Corbora in the early morning as dew droplets still linger on each ripe, plump grape.

Sharp top notes of green leaf and aloe mellow out into a lingering light aroma of jasmine, white grape and pear, all resting on base notes of white musk, wood and amber. Is crisp and sparkling, the equivalent of a chilled Sauvignon Blanc after months of treacly Merlot. 
The Di Palomo range has a medium length longevity, with most of the impact having faded by mid afternoon and requiring a top up and the silage is not too extreme either (a positive for me as I dislike being a walking perfume bomb).  There are a whole host of goodies in each range you can use to layer the scents if you wish to extend the longevity of the perfume, including bath elixirs, shower gels, body and hand creams, body butters, dry oils and even fragrance sticks, a fact that I have taken advantage of from the Wild Fig and Grape products.  All the products are filled with natural oils, such as fig, honey and aloe and as such leave your skin feeling silky soft.  I've been known to sit on the sofa with my legs in the air rubbing my calves together going 'but they feel so soft!' after moisturising.

The range is, in my opinion, also very good value for money.  This is a 100ml bottle and will last for a good few months for £35.  There are four varieties to choose from, all inspired by those heady Italian summer days.  In addition to the two I love, there is also Tuscan Rose, inspired by the courtyard of a Tuscan villa overhung with Linden trees and the newest range (and the next one I want to try), Orange Blossom with Wild Honey and Olive, inspired by the scent given off by the olive and orange groves in the heat of the day.
As the days grow lighter, green starts to return to trees and the first hints of spring are in the air, this, for me, is the perfect scent to welcome in the new season.
In case you were wondering, yes, I did stick the bottle of perfume and a bunch of grapes in the bottom of my bathtub, climb in, lie down face first with my legs up the slope of the bath and take these pictures.  What of it?

This post was not sponsored by Di Palomo.  I bought the bottle of perfume with my own money, and, as far as I am aware, Di Palomo don't have the first blue clue that I have written about them.  I will be informing them on Twitter though, so there.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Builders Breakfast Pasta

One day I came home from work to find the sorry looking remains of a fry up in the fridge.  Leftover, uncooked sausages, black pudding, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms were scattered haphazardly across the shelves, whilst a sheepish looking Steve sat on the sofa.

"I got hungry".

The problem was, we didn't have enough leftover bits and pieces for two complete grill ups (always a grill up when I'm cooking it) and I didn't want to waste anything.

That's when it hit me.  Builders Breakfast Pasta - a pasta sauce made out of all the fry up ingredients.  We were both rather sceptical about it, but thought we should at least give it a go for dinner the following evening.
This is the surprisingly delicious result of that experiment.
So, for a pasta dish fit to grace the hallowed tables of any honest corner cafe frequented by builders, students, emergency service workers at the end of their shift and anyone in need of a strong hangover fix, you will need (for 2-3 people):

The leftovers from a fry up the previous day (or just get some sausages (about 3), 2-3 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon, a handful of (about 6 medium) button mushrooms, some slices of black pudding and a couple of peeled tomatoes, all chopped into bite size pieces)
1 tin of tinned chopped tomatoes
125g dried pasta (I used penne as it is what I had to hand)
1 tablespoon dried or frozen basil, or a couple of shredded leaves of fresh basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato puree (optional)
1 teaspoon garlic oil OR
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
Tabasco (it is me, after all)

Heat the garlic oil or the vegetable oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic clove to the oil if you are using it.

Add choppped sausage, bacon and black pudding to the pan and fry until lightly browned
Add the mushrooms to the pan and fry for 3-5 minutes
Add the chopped tomato and the tin of chopped tomatoes to the pan and stir to form a sauce

Add the herbs, sugar and tomato puree to the pan, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.  Cover and leave to simmer while you cook the pasta

Put the penne in a pan of lightly salted boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions

Drain, reserving a half ladle of the starchy cooking water.  Add the water to the pasta sauce and stir through until the sauce becomes a bit more glossy. 

Pour the drained pasta into the sauce and stir it all together then leave to simmer for 2 more minutes.

Serve - tabasco optional (and in my case, essential)!
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Friday, 20 February 2015


When Sinead had first contacted Love Brighton about places to go, people to see and libations to swig, one place kept getting mentioned over and over again.
Silo.  The UK's first zero-waste restaurant.  Now I have eaten at sustainable restaurants, nearly-zero waste restaurants, foraging restaurants and other variants on this theme, but never at somewhere that proclaims to be completely zero waste.  Just pause and try to get your head around that for a moment.  You can't purchase flour - you need to mill it yourself if you want people to eat bread.  Every last scrap of food waste needs to be composted.  Booze needs to be brewed on site. All the building materials need to be recycled.  All produce, every last scrap needs to be locally sourced or come into the UK via sustainable methods.  The sheer scale of this endeavor is, quite frankly, terrifying. 
This is a challenge that founder and head chef, a former BBC young chef of the year, Douglas McMaster has launched himself into with a passion and fervor that is astounding.  You would have to be passionate in order to commit to something as absolute as zero-waste.  Passionate, or absolutely bonkers.  Silo in Brighton is not Douglas' first foray into the world of zero-waste.  A prototype of his vision was launched extremely successfully in Melbourne with the Artist / Designer Joost Bakker. 
Located inside an old industrial Warehouse in the North Laines, Silo's mission is evident from the moment you step through the great doors.  In the waiting area / bakery you can see evidence of the mushrooms being grown onsite ready for cooking and the waiting list by the tills with peoples names being jotted down on the back of old brown envelopes.   The toilets are flushed with used coffee grounds. Really.  Almond milk is made on site for people who can't tolerate lactose.
The waiting system is quite refreshing.  You pop your name, your phone number and the time you arrived on the list and they call you when your table is ready.  Shay and I were happy to wait by the cakes, out of the rain and use the 15 minutes until they could seat us as an opportunity to snap some pictures.
The tables look like they have been recycled from old scaffolding platforms, whilst the chairs and benches are made from compacted recycled plywood.  They don't look particularly comfortable but are in fact surprisingly kind on the backside!
Silo is extremely popular with a constant stream of hungry visitors, so expect to share your table your party can't occupy all the seats at a table.  The main room is open and airy, with the chefs cooking in full view of the diners.
The ingredients that the restaurant uses add another novel dimension to the experience.  Silo believes in a pre-industrial food system, with ingredients having been through an absolutely minimal food processing system.  Food is sourced from local farmers, alcohol is brewed on site in the basement, where the composter is also located. Wild and foraged food features heavily.  The menu is simple, with only 6 dishes to choose from, including a daily Plant, Dairy, Fish, Meat and Wild option to.  This limited choice is deliberate.  In an interview with The Guardian, McMaster said that “Choice is something which is wrong with the food industry. The places with more choice create more waste and have lower standards, that’s an absolute fact."

The menu is presented to you on a tablet or projected onto the wall.  This causes some issues when the projector inexplicably cuts out and a different menu from the day before appears, but for the most part it is a simple, obvious system that reduces paper wastage.
We start with water with herbs in containers made from recycled glass and jam jars.  All drinks are served in jam jars - including the coffee and tea apparently, while the drink stocks are kept in recycled and reusable containers.
Then the bread appears on plates made of recycled plastic- delicious slabs of home milled sour dough using a speciality mix of ancient grains. It is packed full of flavour and has a light, nutty taste to it.
I order a drink made from fresh ginger and lemon; it is hot and cooling at the same time and quenches the thirst I have from my hangover which is starting to gather momentum by now.  Shay orders one of the home brewed ales which she said was nice but with a very unique taste.
Now came the big test. The main dishes.  I must confess, I was worried that the lure of Silo so far had been built on a gimmick and there would not be the substance needed in the food to back up the claims.

I needn't have worried myself.  I ordered the catchbox fish dish, which on this day happened to be some unfortunate cod that had swum into the nets, with greens and a light butter dressing.  It was divine, and I do not say this lightly.  It was served with seaweed mash, steamed leeks and capers.  I actually had to ask what one of the ingredients was as I had never heard of it before.  Turns out it is a cousin to broccoli (which I detest, but in this dish was wolfed down).  The flavour combinations were subtle and delicate, and, (to quote a phrase I am not particular fond of as it is ridiculously hipster, but in this situation it absolutely applies), the entire dish left you feeling clean afterwards.  Every single element on the plate had a purpose and it just came together in a medley of magnificence.
The food here is masterful, and incredibly reasonable priced.  We had a main and a drink each for about £15 each.  No receipt - no paper wastage.

In addition to the restaurant is the bakery where we pick up cakes for the train ride home later that day.
You can also grab a sandwich to go here if you don't have the time to stop and linger over lunch.  When we were here the place was continuously busy with the lunchtime crowd, including families with very young children who (surprisingly to me) loved the food that they were served, considering the amount of flavours on the menu that I thought would not be particularly child friendly.  To be fair, I have no children and was a picky kid, so I could be extremely out of touch!
Overall?  Silo blew us both away.  It is an incredibly brave venture, and one that, they seem to be getting right.  It only opened in October 2014 and they aren't fully there yet - they are still trying to raise funds to improve areas that aren't quite zero waste yet, such as sourcing ingredients that are difficult to get in the UK and improving the coffee system
My verdict?  If you live in or near Brighton and have this on your doorstep, I am jealous of you.  If you live in or near Melbourne and have this on your doorstep, I am jealous of you.  It is worth making a trip to Brighton for this place alone.
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Wednesday, 18 February 2015


When we arrived in Brighton, we had heard rumour of a fab little Mexican place called La Choza.  I called to try and book us a table for dinner, only to find out that they didn't take bookings.  We then planned to drink our way through the Laines to La Choza to grab a table later on.  We made it out of The Mesmerist, accompanied by the sound of growling stomachs and decided we couldn't wait any longer.  Out came google maps, and we started to negotiated our way up to the North Laines.

We found La Choza, a lively, colourful little restaurant on a dark street corner and bundled ourselves inside to find a table.

Which they didn't have.  They also wouldn't have a table for another hour and a half.  Frankly, we couldn't wait that long.

Shay remembered that we had passed some promising looking places on the way up near the Theatre.  By this point my heels were killing me, but I stuck my brave face on and we marched purposefully down the hills until we came to Oki-Nami
Once again we bundled ourselves inside the bustling restaurant, only to find that there was only one table left, and it was right by the door.  The owner was wonderful though, told us to sit there and hold tight as another table further in was about to vacate.
Vacate they did, and just as we were about to move, another couple came barging in and took it.  Meh, stuff like this happens and honestly, being right by the door actually wasn't that much of a problem.  For one thing, it meant that we had a bit more privacy for the awkward taking of photos - a major disadvantage of being a blogger and something that I am still not entirely comfortable with, especially in restaurants.  Two of us doing it made it feel less awkward though!

As it turns out, La Choza being full was actually a brilliant twist of fate for us, as Oki-Nami turned out to be one of the best Japanese restaurants I have ever eaten in.  Check out The Demon Gin for her take on the evening.
It's been a long established part of Brighton life for over 20 years and run by the husband and wife team Mike and Azita Dodd.  It was Mike who sorted our table out for us, chatted with us freely, was clearly loved by the regulars we saw in the restaurant and who pointed us in the direction of the cocktail bar (but more on that later).   It is a family run business, with both of the Dodd's sons, Daniel and Joseph, helping out in-between University terms, and Azita's sister, Nazanin Kamali who designed all the furniture and the interior.  It is also co-owned by Fatboy Slim.  Huh.
Oki-Nami is all about producing good, satisfying and healthy Japanese food in a calm and beautiful setting whilst ensuring that all the ingredients are locally sourced where possible and ethically treated.  Some of the herbs and vegetables used are even grown in Mike's own garden, fed with compost made from the waste produced by the restaurant in one great green circle of life.  They also have a minimal-wastage approach, something that Shay and I would experience again the following day....

So, that's the history and ethos behind Oki-Nami.  What about the menu? 
Well, firstly, it's pretty to look at.  Inside though was a huge selection of choice.  We started off with cocktails.  Holy crap these were good.  Mine had prosecco and grated fresh ginger and was sharp, warm and full of flavour.  Shay's was cool and sharp, cut through with lime and gin and made the area at the back of your jaw tingle with delight.
We both went for the set menu, three courses for £22.95 is an absolute bargain. I chose the Gyoza, which was sticky and sweet and caramelized on one side whilst Sinead ordered the sushi selection with wasabi and fresh pickled ginger (which was just divine - I could have munched a bottle of the ginger).  All through dinner Shay told me stories of her time in Japan, a place I have never been and now seriously want to visit. 
For our mains we both had the Teriyaki, char-grilled chicken for me in the Oki-Nami teriyaki sauce with braised vegetables and sticky rice, topped with sesame seeds and Japanese pickle.  Shay's version came with a char-grilled salmon fillet.  Both were delicious; light and full of a delicate smokey salty flavour.
Finally we both ordered the chocolate orange cake.  I was tempted to go for the Matcha Green Tea Ice cream so that we didn't end up with the same dish, but frankly, the temptation of wheat free chocolate orange cake made with almonds, oranges, chocolate and eggs, with plum liquor infused sultana ice cream and chocolate sauce was simply too hard to resist.  We both caved and dove into one of the nicest, fluffiest, lighted chocolate cakes we have ever had.  It also looked like it came with a carrot.  It didn't - that was a strawberry and mint leaf.  Looks like a carrot though.
We both settled up our bill; a very reasonable £30 each for the three courses and a cocktail, and looked curiously at the large, spiral staircase in the middle of the restaurant.  We knew what was downstairs; the toilets and the burst beer line that had the staff frantically running around an hour or so earlier.  We didn't know what was upstairs, apart from that people kept disappearing up there and no one was coming back down. 
Another chat with Mike, and we found out that the stairs led up to Oki-Nami's cocktail bar, which he promised was somewhere we definitely wanted to be next.
Hunger sated, we concurred and traipsed dutifully up the stairs in search of more cocktails.  At the top we found a circular room with high tables and vibrant red painted walls and a small bar. 
We grabbed a table and perused the extensive cocktail menu.  Ramos Gin Fizz for myself (Tanqueray gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar syrup, double cream, egg white and orange blossom water) and Espresso Martini for Sinead (which tasted wonderful!). 
Sinead placed our orders at the bar and the cocktails were delivered to our table.  The bar operates table service so if you fancy another cocktail, catch a member of staff's eye and place your order.  You just settle up at the bar when you are ready to go.  Cocktails start at £7.50 so are pretty reasonable as well.
The crowd in Oki-Nami was eclectic.  There were an unusually high number of groups of guy friends for a cocktail bar and that may have been due to the lack of fruity, sweet cocktails on the list - something that I heartily approve of.  A lot of the mixes are made with strong rums, whiskey, gins and brandy's.  I took a mental note of the fact that the Maderia Drive was made with Monkey Shoulder, one of Steve's favourite whiskey blends, for when we will inevitably end up in Brighton next.
The Oki-Nami bar has an enviable position on New Road, right opposite the Brighton pavilion, something you can take full advantage of by taking your drink out onto the little balcony and people watching down the street.
We lingered in Oki-Nami for some time, conveniently forgetting a couple of the other bars that we had originally debated going into before heading back to the Black Lion for some late night ska.  The evening was finished off with yet more gin in the hotel bar, before (so rock and roll) cups of tea in our PJ's back in the room.

I didn't feel particularly drunk.  I still woke up with a hangover though.

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