How I Kept It Welsh

For so long it was my dream to move to Cardiff and 2 years ago I achieved that dream and made the move from Reading to start my new job here. It’s been the best couple of years of my whole life and I have made the most amazing friends who I am going to be very sad to say goodbye to when I start my new job in Reading in a couple of weeks.

When I started looking back at the things I’ve had the chance to do since living here it made me realise just how lucky I have been to have so many opportunities to get involved in exciting things.

So these are the highlights of my time in Cardiff…this is how I spent my time… Keeping It Welsh!

Welsh Flag

Welsh Varsity is a grudge match of epic proportions. Cardiff vs Swansea it’s all or nothing!

Varsity 2013 was the night I met the beautiful Ieva! On a night out a couple of months after I moved to Cardiff, Ieva was bartending at what used to be Pica Pica. I stayed until closing and she came out partying with me for the rest of the night. We ended up in Live Lounge and I acquired a Varsity t-shirt from a random man in the street!

This year Sarah and I actually went to watch the match at the Millennium Stadium. There was such an electrifying atmosphere with all the rivalry banter and drunken shouting. As it’s typically a student event we thought we would feel a bit out of place but there were plenty of other ‘gatecrashers’ and we drank so much cider that we just made friends with everyone there.

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Cardiff Retail Awards 2013 was the professional highlight of my career. With the awards ceremony taking place on my birthday I was excited to say the least and knew there was some really stiff competition in our category. We had a champagne reception and a beautifully cooked dinner and then as the awards came around it was my turn to go on stage and find out my fate. Beating out several other retailers including John Lewis; they announced that my store had won Best Customer Service in Cardiff which was an absolute dream come true and was so rewarding after all the hard work myself and my team had put in.

Retail Awards

St David’s Shopping Centre put a call out for entries for their new blogging team in early 2013 and having just started up my own blog properly I jumped at the chance to get involved. I sent off a mock post to them and got an email the following week saying I had been chosen to be their resident Food & Drinks Blogger. I’ve been to so many amazing restaurants and met some outstanding people including some of my fellow resident bloggers Steph, Joshwa and Eve.

Blog Events

Photography was always something I’d been interested in but always felt unless I really knew what I was doing and had a top-notch camera that I had no business trying to showcase my photos. Over the last year however I have posted many of them on Twitter and had so much positive feedback that it’s really encouraged me to keep going.

Photography

In May this year I was given the massive responsibility of holding the ‘keys’ to Cardiff on the ‘Cardiff Is Yours’ Twitter account. I spent a week tweeting about where I liked going and what I was doing and essentially shared ‘My Cardiff’ with everyone. It was a pleasure to have the chance to get to know so many people through it and I was able to write a blog post for the masterminds behind ‘Cardiff Is Yours’  and also one for Citysocializer.

The one and only Jamie Laing…

Back in October last year I attended the Student Lock-In where I interviewed the one and only Jamie Laing from Made In Chelsea. As a die-hard fan of the show I was pretty much incapable of shaking while I was talking to him but he put me at ease and answered the questions I had for him. We didn’t talk for very long as he had a queue of people waiting to meet him but it was still amazing fun and he’s such a great guy!

Jamie

When I first moved to Cardiff I was finding it difficult to meet people outside of work so I joined Citysocializer which is essentially a local social networking group. Throughout my time with them I became a Community Host and helped to build up the Cardiff base to a team of almost 15 hosts with on average 4 socials every day. Some of the highlights for me were hosting the Halloween party last year, Mexican Night at the flat which I share with my flatmate (who I met through CS) & the Valentines Mingle at Vodka Revs which saw over 30 single Citysocializers descend for cocktails.

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I’ve been to some amazing gigs since living in Cardiff but my favourites have to be Our Last Night (Clwb Ifor Bach), Daytona Lights (Buffalo Bar) & Young Kato (Clwb Ifor Bach). They are both great venues and I had the chance to mix with all of the bands once they had finished. I ended up doing shots with the lead guitarist from Daytona Lights…Total hottie!

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I have made some of the most exceptional people living in Cardiff and have friends for life in them! Whether it’s a been a fellow blogger, people I’ve dated or my flatmate they have each contributed to making me the person I am today.

I have to say though, the biggest achievement for me has been this… my own blog. Something I started as more of a journal when I first moved here has now become an outlet for my passions. A place for people to read what’s hot and what’s not and actually want to know my opinion. It’s amazing to have such an influence and I have been presented with exceptional opportunities to attend events which has helped me grow my blog and develop my writing style. What began as a humble WordPress page is now a fully fledged ‘.com’ and my reviews can be found on sites all over the internet which I never thought would happen.

Cardiff…you have been amazing!

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Healthy Living with Rizopia

The lovely people at Rizopia sent me some of their products to review a little while ago and this week I finally managed to get some time in the kitchen to create my healthy masterpieces. Their range includes only 100% Natural Organic brown rice pasta.

I started with a vegetable lasagne and used their Gluten-Free brown rice lasagne sheets. I added so many vegetables it was ridiculous! There were mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, courgettes, peppers, with garlic, onion and paprika to add some depth of flavour. I also put a fine layer of cheddar cheese in between each layer of lasagne just to hold it all together.

The healthiest lasagne I’ve ever made and it was gorgeous! The pasta tastes even better than the regular stuff I buy from Tesco and knowing that the whole dish was probably half the calories of a normal one made it that much cheekier! The texture was soft but still a bit firm, like a really good kind of chewy and the nutty aftertaste sold it to me.

Lasagne

The second dish I made was using their brown rice Fusilli twists. I cooked the pasta as normal, drained off the water but kept a little bit to add back into the pan with the drained pasta. I then added my box of passata until it was stirred through and then added a handful of frozen garden peas just at the end so they were still a tiny bit crunchy when I bit into them! I topped the dish off with just a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese.

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This is an amazing dish to make if you want to plan ahead as you can make a big batch and freeze it for later, although this is what I have when I’m in need of comfort food and isn’t going to help your route to healthy eating if you have it every night.

Rizopia pasta is so good that it has been NHS approved and is available on prescription for those who suffer from Coeliac disease

For more information visit http://www.rizopia.co.uk

Summer Tapas at Cosy Club

Anyone who knows me well, knows there is only one place in Cardiff I continually return to time and time again and that’s the hidden gem that is Cosy Club.

A discreet hideaway, it’s perfectly positioned in a central location with a great view across the main shopping street in the city.

Cosy Club is like a grown-ups’ social playground…Whether you’re grabbing brunch with a friend, booking one of their wine tasting sessions or curling up on the sofas for an intimate date it’s the perfect setting.

I recently went there for dinner with my friend Jack and we might have spoilt ourselves just a little bit.

We opted for a starter each… I had the mushroom bruschetta & Jack went for the Goats cheese pearls with sun-blushed tomatoes and black olive tapenade… These were just so scrummy!

Cosy Starter

We decided that we simply couldn’t choose which tapas dishes to go for…so we went for all of them! The only 2 we didn’t try were the ham hock and the herring as they had run out.

Mini Cumberland sausages with a sticky, wholegrain mustard & cider sauce– 10/10 WE LOVED! If I had my own Last Supper, this is what I would serve.

Crispy potatoes with pesto mayonnaise-9/10 Lush flavours, crunchy texture, creamy mayo!

Honey glazed shredded 5- spice pork– 9/10 A party in your mouth with each soft, gooey piece

Watermelon & crumbled feta with black olives, mint & extra virgin olive oil– 9/10 The naughtiest salad you’ll ever have… Going to make this at home!

Chorizo braised in cider– 8/10 Mouth watering texture, scrummy sauce, could’ve eaten a whole bowl of this

Mushroom rarebit made with their guest ale and mature cheddar– 8/10 Just like mumma makes it!

Home cured raspberry salmon with a raspberry vinegarette– 6/10 Lush salmon, bit too much fruit…

Grilled courgettes, red peppers & roasted vine tomatoes with a walnut & parsley pistou– 6/10 Superb flavours but this dish deserves to be served warm!

Mini fish fingers with tartare suace– 8/10 Always a winner for me… Gotta love anything mini

Houmous topped with spiced sultanas and chickpeas– 10/10 Made us feel very festive, I want to smother this on top of everything I eat at home.

Sweet potato and basil falafels with cumin & coriander yoghurt– 6/10 We are not falafel people, but we tried them and loved the aromas that came from within.

Pulled chicken poached in buttermilk and ginger with fennel & apple coleslaw– 7/10 Bit too much slaw, not enough chicken but blimey the chicken was good!

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Okay…we were so full by this point we contemplated stopping but then we remembered… there’s always room for dessert…hehe!

I went for the Peach Melba Cheesecake which arrived in the cutest jar and tasted phenomenal… nom nom nom!!

Cosy Dessert

Jack chose the Rhubarb, stem ginger and custard fool… It looked outstanding and the heavenly noises Jack made whilst eating it only made it seem even better.

After feeling suitably stuffed we made our way home, but not before saying goodbye to the evening’s host Nathan who always gives you a warm welcome and makes sure you’ve had a great time.

The whole team at Cosy Club always make you feel like one in a million and it’s for this reason that I will continue to keep going back!

If you’re looking for a great deal then head to Cosy Club on Tapas Tuesday and you can get 3 tapas dishes and a glass of wine for £11.50!!!!

http://www.thecosyclub.co.uk/cardiff

 

   

Gourmet Burger Kitchen- The Review

With Mumma Wicks coming to visit me I knew I needed to take her somewhere which would satisfy her fussy taste-buds and Gourmet Burger Kitchen fits the bill. It sits along what I like to call ‘Restaurant Row’ in Cardiff City Centre and has a unique Kiwi vibe which spans across the decor to the food.

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We were greeted warmly by General Manager Jordan and ordered some Halloumi Bites to start and we both had a Strawberry Milkshake. Let me just start by saying that although you may have a heart attack when you see the price of this milkshake… It’s SO worth it! Made using real fruit and thick ice cream it’s possibly made it to my top 5 milkshakes ever!

For our mains I had a Camemburger and mum had a Satay Chicken Burger- NAKED (I will explain this more below), we also shared some skinny fries which came with…wait for it… Baconnaise!

Here was my burger…

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100% prime British beef, Camembert, hash brown, truffle mayo, onion jam, relish and a brioche bun

My only complaint with this burger would be that all the sauce made the bun quite soggy on the bottom, but I overlooked this due to the amazingness of the burger as a whole.

Mum opted for the Chicken Satay… Now let me explain that with any of the burgers you can ‘Go Naked’ which means you can have it bun-less with a side salad instead.

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Chargrilled Chicken, Satay sauce, house mayo, relish, tomato, red onion, alfalfa sprouts & a green salad

The satay was fantastic, if not a little bit too spicy, but combined with relish and green salad it made for a perfect summer lunch.

The skinny fries were gorgeous and yes… they came with a bacon-flavoured mayonnaise with small bacon bits in as well.Image

 

The meal was so good that I sent GBK a message on Twitter… I thought you’d all like to see their response!

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Try not to be too jealous guys… This meal gets a 9 out of 10 from me!

Website: www.gbk.co.uk 

Summer Has Arrived at Marks & Spencer

Last week, Marks & Spencer sent me some goodies from their new Summer Range and oh my, they didn’t disappoint.

I indulged in the tapas selection in one sitting… Spanish Meatballs, Chorizo & Cheese empanadas and Garlic Mushrooms.

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*Spoiler* All of the Summer Tapas range is 3 for £6 until the 20th May

My only mistake was not checking the packaging first, both the mushrooms and meatballs can be quickly heated up the microwave in a minute each, however the empanadas needed 12 minutes in the oven, not a very long wait but next time I would just do the oven ones first so it’s all ready at once.

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The mushrooms were fairly salty but that’s kind of how I like them, with huge chunks of roasted garlic all over them I was in a sort of mushroom-heaven. The meatballs had a gorgeous tomato sauce on them and their texture was soft, but they didn’t fall apart when you put your fork into them. The empanadas were the real highlight… oozing soft, gooey cheese and then you get the salty, spicy chorizo which works really well with the buttery pastry.

Next up…Dessert!

I was lucky enough to be given two different ones to try… A Coconut Milk dessert with a Pineapple & Chilli salsa and also a Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Dulce de Leche dessert

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I LOVED the Coconut dessert! It was soft, creamy and mixed with the pineapple beautifully. I can’t begin to describe how utterly delicious this was, it was like eating a fluffy cloud and then adding a layer of citrusy gold to it. The chilli salsa was great for flavour but the texture of it really was like salsa and the chunks were just too big for a dessert that small, in my opinion.

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The milk chocolate & dulce de leche was a weird texture. It was kind of like a sponge cake, but a really wet sponge cake, like a moist, chocolatey sponge cake…but not a sponge cake! It had a crunchy salted caramel layer running through it too which I could have quite easily eaten on its own. It was rather rich though, and like an idiot I ate both so as you can imagine I was going into dessert-overload at this point.

Overall, I’d give this Summer Range a 9 out of 10!

Get yourself down to Marks & Spencer in St David’s Shopping Centre and grab some ready for the Bank Holiday!

The Wild Peanut

This week the lovely people at The Wild Peanut sent me some mini versions of their amazing products and I have to say I’m impressed!

The Wild Peanut are one of the newest peanut butter producers here in the UK.

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I started with the Honey Peanut Butter… Sweetened with Natural Golden Honey this sat on my toast beautifully and had an almost citrusy aftertaste. I think this would taste really nice dipped in Greek Yoghurt…mmmmmm!

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Now I’m allergic to Banana so my friend tried this one and she loved it!

Sweet and fruity; the ‘I’m Bananas’ peanut butter really hit the spot for her. It’s a blend of bananas and roasted, crushed peanuts, which makes for a thick and tasty dessert-like spread.

She said that it would be a great snack to have pre-gym, for an energy boost before her workout.

Their Chocolate flavour is absolutely divine. .. and everyone knows I’m a bit of a chocolate aficionado so am very fussy whenever I buy something containing chocolate.

A mix of honey, roasted salted peanuts, molasses and chocolate ensures a truly indulgent snack.

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I have to say I was a little disappointed with the Chilli one… Never one to shy away from creative flavour combinations and being a massive Chilli fan I just found it far too salty. The kick you get from the heat was brilliant, but unfortunately I just couldn’t get over the saltiness.

To end on a bit of a high, I shall now sing the praises of the ‘Superfood Cinnamon’… It reminded me of when I make French toast but with added nuttiness. Sweet and woody, it’s the ultimate deluxe treat! I could quite easily have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Now I just need them to make a Salted Caramel version… Nom nom nom!

What I really love about The Wild Peanut is their ethical values and their partnership with TREE AID. Every time you buy a pot of their peanut butter they help villagers in Africa to plant trees across the drylands to transform their lives and landscapes for the long term.

 These products really are little pots of delicious, nutty goodness and well worth a try for any peanut butter fanatic or anyone interested in a good cause!

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The Wild Peanut:  http://www.thewildpeanut.co.uk 

Yes Pie-Minister

I love quirky food… anyone who knows me knows that!

So imagine my excitement when Pieminister contacted me to see if I would come along to the press launch of their new Cardiff restaurant on St Mary’s Street last Friday.

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I spent the whole week building it up in my head, tweeting them constantly and hyping it up to my ‘plus one’ Jack who didn’t quite understand the concept at the beginning, like most people I’m sure.

So how do I begin to explain Pieminister… Well it’s not so much gourmet Greggs as Sweeney Todd meets fine dining (not the dead people part, just the pies) although when Commercial Minister Chris came around to speak to us I had to ask whether moving in to a unit just a few shops away from old style barbers ‘Keep The Faith’ was just a happy coincidence… He laughed and assured me it was!

We were greeted warmly by Marketing Minister Claire who told us we could go and have a look around and then order some food and drinks.

When you walk in you are immediately greeted with a chilled out bar feel, with a mix of booths and tables it lends a very relaxed atmosphere; perfect for a girly lunch or even a first date.

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The downstairs is simply crying out to be used for private/large parties, it’s beautifully cosy with lots of lights hanging from the ceiling and a mix of tables and booths.

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Back upstairs we both ordered a Thatcher’s Cider which was both crisp and sharp.

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For food I opted for the Matador… A pie filled with British Beef Steak, Chorizo, Butterbeans and Olives, accompanied by Sweet Potato Fries and gravy… Perfect for dipping the fries into!

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For the first time all evening we were completely silent, content with our comfort food and drinking in the atmosphere in the room. After finishing we both sat back and took a big sigh… these are the best pies ever! (I should point out that at this point I was slipping into a pie-induced coma!)

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With fresh and locally sourced ingredients you just can’t go wrong and with Pieminister’s ethical values you know you are always guaranteed something that’s kind to you and others too.

Pieminister’s promise to their customers is that they insist on 100% free range British meat (sourced locally), 100% free range eggs, Non-hydrogenated fats and fresh herbs & vegetables… the ultimate in British pie baking!

After being disappointed at the lack of desserts to try, Commercial Minister Chris arranged for us to try some of the famous Pork Scratchings and some apple sauce from the kitchen. They did not disappoint… Super crunchy with a soft yet slightly chewy edge and an incredible flavour, we will most definitely be back for some of these.

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If I only had one criticism of the evening it was that a couple of team members were rather uninterested and one was actually quite rude. I’m someone who champions customer service! It’s the difference between people going out or just ordering things online. Even more importantly in a restaurant where direct service is more heavily needed than in a retail store. I’m going to put this down to first night nerves coupled with the stress and pressure of all the press being there, so I’m going to reserve full judgement until I’ve been back.

Ultimately the evening was amazing though and so was the food and I can’t wait to go back and see how they’re all doing now that they’re officially open to the public.

To find out more visit http://www.pieminister.co.uk

#liveandeatpie