Sunday, 23 November 2014

At the Chapel | Bruton | Somerset

I've been more than a little bit excited about sharing my recent stay At The Chapel with you, get yourself a cuppa and make sure your comfortable because you are in for a treat.

Bruton has been on our must visit list for a while now, put on the map when global art enterprise Hauser & Wirth opened up in an unused farmhouse on the edge of Bruton, making rural somerset the most recent addition to the gallery-chain's existing locations in New York, London and Zurich. An unlikely choice but this charming town seems to have long attracted arty, bohemian types and has firmly become the epicenter of creativity in Somerset.

At this time of year glamping options in Bruton are limited, as it was Tristan's birthday and therefore not all about me (I know hard to believe!) we decided to stay At The Chapel - a beautifully converted medieval chapel that's very much the heart of the town, renowned for great food and it's relaxed vibe. The owners have done a fantastic job at creating a home from home feel, unpretentious, laid-back, simple style yet unmissable attention to detail that gives an edge of luxury - our room had beautifully restored stained glass windows, White Company crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and robes, Victoria and Albert freestanding bathtub with Zen bathroom products stylishly dotted around. There wasn't a disheveled pile of washing or mix-matched towels in sight, we were definitely away from home!

The chapel has a winery, restaurant, bakery, clubhouse and terrace. The dining room is flooded with natural light through the floor to ceiling windows, at the center is a hanging decorative glass bauble light fixture and the contemporary furniture mixed with an eclectic artwork gives a relaxed sophisticated vibe. The restaurant has an open kitchen linking through to the bakery with an impressive wood fired oven where home-made pizzas are cooked-up to order. My natural instinct tells me to run through every course we had but why ruin the surprise for you, all I will say is that each plate was delicious, well presented and a good balance of flavors, book up a table and taste the goodness yourself.

My absolute favorite part of our stay At The Chapel was the freshly delivered bag of croissants hanging on our door in the morning for a lazy breakfast in bed. Bliss!


Lose yourself at Oudolf Fields..
Hauser & Wirth is home to some fantastic exhibition space, a restaurant and a shop but for me the most intriguing feature is the garden. Internationally renowned dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, who has created naturalist planting schemes for The High Line in New York, has turned his talents to this outdoor gallery. You can see the life-cycle of the plants throughout the seasons, we wandered through the garden after lunch at Roth Bar and Grill, as you would expect it's not that colourful at this time of year, I'm looking forward to coming back to appreciate the borders and wild meadow.  

Cheese tasting at Godminster...
Oh-em-cheesus, you have to stop at the farm-shop to try this strong vintage cheddar, very friendly staff, lots to taste and plenty of gifts to pick up before heading home. 

Hangout with the cool kids...
Roth and Grill Bar is the hottest place to hangout, especially on a Friday night when there's live bands, DJ's and a party vibe - all music is taken care of by Danny Goffrey (supergrass) Dominic Greensmith (Reef).

Dine at Bruton's weekly supper club...
Pop by to Matts Kitchen where he will be found serving up simple dish-of-the-day menu from around £12 per person including starters and dessert.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Let's get pickled!

It's Saturday night, I'm in my twenties and I'm getting pickled - oh no, not in the way you're thinking, if you're hoping for debauched stories then sorry to disappoint, I'm talking about the process of preserving food by fermentation, please do try to stay with me because this is surprisingly pretty cool.

The hairy, beardy weirdy soon-to-be husband of mine is the real foodie in our house, he likes to cook, experiment and is quite frankly somewhat of a culinary genius, this works out incredibly well for me because I love to eat, taste and review all his creations -  it's an excellent partnership!

On the menu this weekend is a recipe inspired by two of our favourite ingredients - eggs and beetroot, not a traditional pairing I admit but the idea came from London based BBQ restaurant Pitt Cue's cookbook. I picked it up at a work book sale last year, it's American Southern inspired BBQ recipes all served with distinctive British sides, ahem please give a round of applause for classic bar snack staple the pickled egg, yes that's right you've guessed it we're making beetroot pickled eggs - yum!

We dug out the Kilner jars ready for a hardcore weekend of pickling around, the process is actual quite straightforward but don't forget to sterilize the jars before you get started. Beetroot pickled eggs are perfect to make in advance of a picnic, weekend away or even just to have in the pantry (if you are posh enough to have one) to serve with cold meats on Boxing Day. The good news is the flavour is said to improve and the colour of the egg darkens the longer they are left in the jar to pickle, so they should be looking and tasting delicious by Christmas!

Being impatient and intrigued by the flavour, we tried our first batch today and they are surprisingly sweet and earthy tasting nothing like an actual pickled egg which always seems to have an overwhelming taste of vinegar. The pickling trend is well and truly rooted in our household, looks like carrots and mushrooms are up next as two more jars have appeared in the last 24 hours.Who knows what we'll be pickling by next weekend!

If you're in your late twenties living a rock n roll lifestyle just like me then do give this a whirl and feel free to share any other ideas to keep us busy on the weekend. Here's the recipe - happy pickling! 

Small free range brown Burford eggs 12
Pickle Brine 700ml
Beetroot Juice 700ml 

Boil eggs for 6 minutes 
Remove, roll lightly on surface to give cracked mosaic look to the shells
Place brine and Beetroot juice in a large bowl (we made the brine but you can buy it) 
Add eggs, allow to cool
Refrigerate in a sterilized jar and allow to pickle for 2 days - 2 weeks. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

PHOTO INSPIRATION | Laurent Chehere | Flying Houses

Laurent Chehere Flying Tent

Laurent manipulates Parisian structures including buildings, tents and caravans removing them from original background suspending them in the sky. These photos are from the collection - check out the full portfolio at Laurent Chehere's website.
Laurent Chehere - Flying Caravan
  Source Laurent Chehere

Ethicurean | Barley Wood Walled Garden | Somerset

Last month we visited the beautiful Barley Wood kitchen garden, it's half an hour drive outside of Bristol towards the mendip hills. The garden is stunning but it's the restaurant that's really made a name for itself over the past few years. Known for seasonal fresh simple dishes using produce grown on site the chefs have launched their own cookbook full of great recipes and ideas, we've tried a few at home but we couldn't wait to sample the real thing. The resturant is in a beautiful orangery overlooking the working kitchen garden and far reaching 360 views of Somerset. Managing a productive plot of this size is most definitely a labour of love, you can see lots of work goes in behind the scenes and although there wasn't too much in season at this time of year, I've seen enough to know I have to go back during May/June when it's in full swing. 

The meal itself was deliciously wholesome and unpretentious. The menu lived up to every expectation; it was fresh, seasonal and simple food well cooked and presented. We ordered the homemade sourdough, be warned it's extremely moreish! 

Here are some of our pics, if you haven't been before go and explore this lovely place! 

Rainbow House | Big Sur | California

After a couple of days in San Fran we ventured down highway 1 towards Big Sur. We had it on good authority the coastal views were "breathtaking" by a man dressed head to toe in orange, complete with matching fluorescent ORANGE bag, so naturally we trusted his judgment. I mean who wouldn't?! 

We collected our car, you're probably imagining something pretty cool that screams American road trip like a convertible or camper, but sadly we ended up with a Kia Soul. If you don't know what this looks like then google it. It's similar to the pope mobile. We had an altercation with Avis picking it up and they definitely had the last laugh. 

We headed south and true enough the scenery was stunning, Redwood Trees, lakes and then onto a windy coastal road revealing endless sea views. This wasn't longlasting though, about 30 mins outside of Frisco a thick layer of coastal fog just swept in completely obscuring the "breathtaking" views we were promised. We've discovered California Coast is plagued by this fog in early summer months bringing the temperature down, apparently in height of summer the sun burns through the think layer making temperatures obscenely hot. The fog was with us for the duration! I'm secretly quite grateful as I'm not sure how resheeda would have fared in the Californian heat. At a guess I would say quite badly!

We were heading to Big Sur to stay at Don Loui's place - I had found it online and described it loosely to Tristan as a hippy house haven. If I'm honest I wasn't entirely sure what to expect and I could sense that Tristan had THE FEAR. 

Reaching the place felt like our own mini mission to Mordor. We received the most incredible set of directions from Don Himself; "you will be crossing the creek on a footbridge, from there you begin your ascent up the mountain through large Redwood Trees. You must pass through the tunnel at dragon house to access secret gardens and rainbow house." Just amazing! There was an element of mystery and magic before we'd even arrived.

There are two properties on site, Dragon and Rainbow House, both hand built by Don into the hillside of the redwoods with the most incredible view to the coast above the forest. We stayed in Rainbow which is the bigger of the two running over three storeys. The entire place is crammed with weird and wondeful trinkets gathered by the owner giving the place a very distinctive personality. We we're in awe of it's natural beauty and the work that had gone into making it what it is. 

There are trails dug into the hillside for guests to explore with spots to relax, it's the perfect writers retreat with a sense of stillness. We listened to music, watched a beautiful sunset, drank wine and played cards. 

Don has created a rustic unconventional hidden paradise in the most humbling of settings. It's hard to truly capture the whimsical beauty but I've given it a go.

Here are some pics from our first glampy stay in California. More Cali updates soon. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Spotted - 1950's Airstream | The Blues Kitchen | Shoreditch London

Here's something you don't know about me - I'm getting married next may to a very wonderful man Tristan and yesterday I took a trip to London to try on wedding dresses at Kate Halfpenny, after a very successful afternoon of dress shopping (I found THE ONE) myself and the girls head to Shoreditch for celebratory wine at The Blues Kitchen.  This authentically southern themed rhythm and blues bar serves up everything you would expect on the music and food front, all within the walls of an ex-warehouse with an incredibly impressive decor. Designed with music in mind, the ceiling light fixtures are up-cycled gramophones, posters of great American musicians cover the exposed brick walls and the biggest surprise of all was the 1950s rock-n-roll themed airstream behind the centrepiece bar. A really cool space, available to hire for private parties with a secret doorway to a games room and private loo, I was lucky enough to get a few snaps before all the revelers arrived. The lighting was pretty poor so the quality of the photos aren't great, but a wonderful unexpected glamping spot nonetheless! 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Glamping in California - Top 5 glampsites

California is a glamping enthusiasts playground with lots of quirky and unique places to stay, anywhere that's bonkers enough to host an annual dog surfing competition, where pooches of all shapes and sizes ride those infamous Californian waves fully kitted out in shades with doggy-boards is a place I want to explore. Known for it's laid back culture, big imagination and individuality, I like many others set off to the golden state to pursue my dream, that wasn't to become a Hollywood star but to discover what California had to offer a glamping enthusiast like me. With it's incredible coastline and natural beauty it promised great adventure, and certainly didn't disappoint. Here are my top five glamping spots not to miss.

1: The Human Nest | Treebones Resort | Big Sur

The Nest at Treebones Resort - cliff-top glamping site overlooking the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Big Sur, is probably the most adventurous glamping option I've ever seen and is certainly not for the faint hearted. Made from a collection of wood created to form a human nest structure, it's neither waterproof or heated, the idea is to rock up with a sleeping bag and nestle down for the night under the stars, falling asleep in the most natural and magical environments. Really quite something, well providing it doesn't rain of course!

Glamping California - Treebones Resort Human Nest
The Nest

Treebones Resort
Kitchen Garden

Treebones Resort Yurts
Yurts Treebones Resort

For travellers looking for something a little more comfortable, Treebones Resort has other glamping options including several luxurious yurts and a treehouse, all with outstanding views and next to an outdoor pool, shower facilities and restaurant. The restaurant serves up rustic meals using ingredients grown from on site kitchen garden - deliciously wholesome and feelgood food guaranteed to restore much needed energy after a day adventuring the Redwood Forests. 

2: Trailer Trash | Hicksville | Joshua Tree 

Hicksville motel park is quite possibly the coolest place I've stayed, located 5miles from Joshua Tree Hicksville started out as an artists retreat with on site recording studio, musicians and writers escaped here to be creative. It's distinctively American with a 24hour jukebox playing rock and roll tunes, festival going musos lazing by the pool, drinking beer and soaking up the sunshine. 

Each trailer has it's own story, I stayed in the Sideshow - an old circus caboose Uncle Higby used to travel the country in showing off his sideshow oddities and selling potions. The story was brought to life by the imagination of set designer from TV series Carnivale who created a freak boutique complete with fortune telling Zultan  - as seen most famously in film Big. 

Anything and everything goes here, you are encouraged to socialise with guests, play dress up - Fifi trailer has a wonderful selection of wigs, star gaze from the roof top jacuzzi and it's motel etiquette to show all guests your trailer, so to speak! 

The Pee Wee - Gypsy Wagon
Pee Wee Gypsy Wagoon
The Integratrailor

The FiFi -Hicksville
The FiFi
The Sideshow

3: Hippy House | Rainbow House | Big Sur

Rainbow house is the wild vision of owner, creator and craftsman Don Louis, built into the hillside of the redwood trees along the Big Sur coastline staying here gives you a window into Don's world. This bronzed Californian ex beach bum has created a rustic unconventional hidden paradise in a very humbling setting. Rainbow House is brightly painted handmade spacious wooden hut crammed full of wonderful trinkets and mismatched furniture giving the place a very distinctive personality and charm. The coastal fog and tall trees gives this place an mystical atmosphere but when the fog lifts, you an see to the ocean from the roof top veranda. It's a truly natural, whimsical and beautiful spot that you can't help but fall in love with because of the hard work gone into creating it.

There are trails dug into the hillside for guests to explore with places to relax, it's the perfect retreat to listen to music, watch the sunset, drink wine and play cards. 

California glamping
Rainbow House

Glamping Big Sur - Rainbow House
Living Space
Big Sur
Big Sur
4: Cabin Fever | Far Meadow | Yosemite National Park 

A traditional wooden Cabin on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, for those who like remote places and appreciate well thought through design - all solar powered, eco friendly and built around the base of a huge tree. We found ourselves eating alfresco, lighting fires and sitting outside listening to the wildlife. A great family glamping spot with lots of space for kids to run around and an tire swing that keeps them entertained for hours. It's just over an hour to drive into Yosemite village, some of the most incredible scenery on the way and once you get there hire bikes to get round the park and see some of the less popular hidden waterfalls and trails. They have other glamping options available in the summer months including vintage trailers and caravans. 

Far Meadow - Yosemite
Far Meadow Cabin

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Waterfall
5: Camper-van-man | vwsurfari | LA

Last but by no means least, the granddaddy of glamping - the campervan is the perfect way to explore the coastline and gives you a great sense of freedom to stopover wherever you want. There are loads of companies to hire classic VW or RV's, I've recommended VW Surfari as they've lovingly restored super-cool vintage VW camper buses for you to casually cruse along highway 1. All vans are kitted out with camping equipment and flower-power interiors.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Day Tripping | California Dreaming

What can I say, California has blown my mind, such incredible scenery, great people and all day sunshine. Life on the road has been pretty sweet this past 9 days although we didn't quite appreciate how vast a place it really is - we've gone from walking miles in NY to driving miles and miles here. One things is for sure though 2pac wasn't lying when he said "it's all good from Diago to the Bay." Yes we've been listening to a themed playlist! 

Here are a few pics from when we first arrived. It would appear I was really into this "edgy" filter at this stage of the trip, apologies and you will be pleased to hear I'm over this now, well sort of. 

    Blazing Saddles Bike Hire

    Biking the Bridge 

    Golden Gate Bridge 

    Weiner Dog | Sausalito Dock | The very     Dock Otis Reading wrote "dock of the bay" 

    Shrimping & Pimping | San Fran 

    Sea Lions 

    Funfare | Santa Cruz Beach 

    California's equivalent Blackpool