Recently, I set out with a spring in my step most out of sorts with the frosty Friday morning it accompanied. Anyone who saw me strolling along Oxford Street might well have wondered what could inspire such enthusiasm at 8am on a day so icy. Since I hold you dear, my readers, I’ll share with you why. I was on my way to one of my favourite places in the whole of London to test out their new 2014 Christmas food hampers! Where else but, of course, Selfridges?
We like to treat you here at FoodGoblin and this Christmas is no exception. I've teamed up with the lovely Toby from TASTE Cocktails to bring you something naughty this Noel.
For your chance to win a bespoke DIY cocktail kit from TASTE Cocktails, containing the premium ingredients and recipes to make 6 cocktails (with a little extra to taste), follow the below steps...
December is closing in and on these cold, winter's nights for me there is little more comforting than a creamy mug of hot chocolate. Jazz yours up with a glug of something naughty; I've used Amarula, a wonderful African liqueur made from double cream and the fruit from the Marula tree. This fruit is picked and distilled in oak barrels. It's like a warmer, rounded version of irish cream and its fruity notes work really well with dark chocolate. Make it even naughtier with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings.
Christmas began early for me this Winter. It was a chilly November night when I negotiated the cobbled paths of London Bridge’s backstreets to arrive at a quiet set of business units. I’d been invited to a Christmas party-cum-tasting where, I was told, we were going to learn all about ‘the art of Christmas’. ‘Christmas?’ I thought, ‘How ridiculous. It’s barely even November’. All this nonsense about Christmas songs and ‘getting in the spirit of things’ still irked, and the Grinch very much reigned in my mind. The idea of planning my Christmas meal certainly hadn’t registered.
Now you may be reading the title to this piece thinking that I may be about to ramble a derogatory tirade on a well-loved Leeds establishment. But before you jump to conclusions, let me set the record straight. I really love Belgrave. In fact, I have an affinity with the very building it inhabits. I am old enough to remember those four walls when they were Riley’s snooker club. I used to hang out there in my angsty teenage years, chain smoking fags like I was the 22nd member of So Solid Crew. Too cool for school – or so my ignorance told me.
Anyway, fast forward nearly 10 years and it would appear that some things haven’t changed at Belgrave. Gone are the soggy carpets and clouds of stale smoke, however the staff have managed to retain the look I had on my face at 14; arched eyebrow, tight lipped with a Regina George side eye thrown in for full effect. I think the colloquial term is “resting bitch face”.
This weekend sees the first ever Tequila & Mezcal Festival come to the UK, to be held in London over November 22nd-23rd. That this is the first ever festival of its kind not only to be held in the UK, but also in Europe might come as a surprise to you. Certainly it did to me. Tequila, after all, is somewhat of a household name. Sure...this household might be a student one but it's still a well known and utilised spirit here. I caught up with event founder, Eduardo Gomez, at Condesa Mexican/Spanish Tapas Bar over tostadas and more than a few mezcals to find out the story behind the festival.
First of all, Eduardo tells me, whilst tequila might be used extensively in the UK, it is certainly not well understood (or actually, widely liked!). A small number of brands command the market, Jose Cuervo being the largest, and the vast majority of people have only ever experienced tequila as a shot with salt and lime post 2am in some nightclub. Even the trade are far less experienced with it than with better established spirits like gin or vodka. Mezcal (another agave based spirit) is even less known, although is starting to become trendy in some circles. It's time, Eduardo claims, to put the spot light on these two wonderful spirits. There won't be shooter in sight.
The purpose of this event, I'm informed, will be two-fold. To educate and to celebrate; both the 'category' of agave spirits and the individual brands that produce it. There will be 2 convention halls; one for tequila with 14 brands, each including several individual tequilas, and a second one for mezcal with 17 brands. Like other drinks shows, attendees will be given a glass and can potter around the trade stalls, sampling all the wares (hic) and chatting to the producers. The beauty of tequila and mezcal is that for the most part they are truly artisanal products; most are produced in very small batches by small, family operated groups - each has a story.
Alongside the sampling there'll be master classes, seminars, debates and even food pairings led by industry experts where one can learn all about the spirits; how they're produced and how they can be used.
And so; it is with great anticipation that I await this weekend's festivities. Tickets are a steal at £15 and use the promotion code 'foodgoblin' to get £3 discounted off them!
Saturday 22nd, 2pm- 8pm
Sunday 23rd, 12-6pm
Ticket link here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tequila-and-mezcal-fest-2014-tickets-13939839435?discount=foodgoblin
Think Mexico City, think scale. Mexico’s capital is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and possesses a population of 21.2 million people, making it the 2nd most populated city in the world. Towering at over 7000ft above sea level and with over 300 separate neighbourhoods and 16 boroughs, its metropolis dwarfs London. This enormity of scale is part of Mexico City’s fabric. The capital has been gigantic ever since its foundation in 1325, from its position in the triumvirate of 15th century Aztec Empire states to its later colonisation by Spain. With scale has come wealth. It stands as one of the largest financial hubs in North America and the 8th richest city in the world (with its economy set to double over the next 5 years).
Such size can feel overwhelming to the first time visitor. In deciphering this ancient city, it’s hard to know where to begin. But in mind boggling scale such as this, endless opportunity exists for the footloose traveller.
The eastern end of this park gives way to the marble heights of the Palacio de las Bellas Artes or Palace of the Fine Arts. This huge, neoclassical construction is the heart of Mexico City’s vibrant arts scene and sees regular events in music, opera, dance and literature. Art fans can find spectacular works by Mexican muralists and the inside of the building is a notable example of art deco architecture. Before going in, walk around the side to admire it from the front.
Next, turn the corner to the Palacio de Correos de Mexico…the local post office. This magnificent building is a far cry from your average postie, covering almost an entire block and with 4 floors of marble sculpted, 24 carat gold encrusted decadence. Every window frame, every banister and arch is exquisitely decorated, either with filigree or statues. Discovering all this building’s detail is the work of weeks and at least a cursory wander is a must.
For dessert, head round the corner to the Café de Tacuba. This local institution, opened 1912, used to be part of the nunnery that is still active across the street. All the baked goods served are recipes of the nuns that reside there.
No trip to Mexico City is complete without a trip to see the wrestling, or lucha libre. This style of free wrestling, characterised by colourful masks and flamboyant aerial manoeuvres, began in the 1860s and has developed its own unique, distinctly Mexican style ever since. Luchadores (the wrestlers) are known by their individual masks and take on characters which fall roughly into 2 categories: the rudos, bad guys, and tecnicos, good guys. Mexican wrestling is tremendously theatrical and can seem outrageous, with fights involving midgets and occasionally homoerotic tropes. Despite some occasional risqué content the tradition has an underlying aim of installing moral principles in the community.
Mexico City is an incredibly alive, culturally vibrant destination. Rich history, epitomised in grandiose architecture and a vast number of museums (2nd only to London), is juxtaposed against a culture that is progressive and fun loving. One could find themselves lost (literally… the city is huge) here for weeks and still not scratch the full surface of what Mexico City can offer to the tourist. I encourage you, visit.
Where to stay: The Marquis Hotel offers spacious and well-equipped accommodation in one of the most convenient locations in town. Check out their spa – the city’s largest – for a relaxing break from the capital’s buzz.
How to get around: Mexico City’s public transport is second to none. In a drive to cut down on congestion, the government recently launched Ecobici, a bike share scheme that is set to be one of the world’s biggest within a couple of years – for next to nothing you can rent these bikes and zip about the city like a local. Although the cycle lanes are spacious and well understood, for inexperienced rides on Sundays the main strip of Pasa de la Reforma is pedestrianized.How to get there: Aeromexico flies 3 times a week from Heathrow to Mexico City with its new luxury Dreamliner Boeing 787s. Business class flyers can enjoy the comfort too of the Sky Team Lounges at both ends – there’s nothing like a free oxygen bar to get an international trip off to a good start!
This year one of the world’s grandest institutions of tiki culture celebrates its 80th anniversary; Trader Vic’s, bringing South Pacific fun to the world since 1934. Before coming to London’s Park Lane, this famous bar was founded originally in Oakland, California, by eccentric San Francisco bartender, Victor Jules Bergeron. The prohibition had just ended and people were once again beginning to drink and celebrate alcohol again. Victor harnessed colour and tropical flavours from his travels in the Caribbean and brought them to war time America, sparking an appetite for rum and filling his sites with exotic South Pacific artefacts the likes of which the public had never seen. Trader Vic’s multiplied swiftly. By Victor’s death in 1984, he had overseen openings across North America, Havana, Munich, Tokyo and, of course, London.