Monday, 7 April 2014

Postcard from...Seville











Plazas filled with orange trees, late-night bars with generous gin-pouring policies and impromptu flamenco shows, and tapas joints with hams dangling from the ceiling: Seville was everything I hoped it would be.

We only had two nights in this sultry Spanish city, and food was obviously priority uno, so I booked a Sevilla Tapas tour with local expert Shawn Hennessey. Shawn is a Canadian ex-pat who has lived in Seville for 20 years - she knows every hidden restaurant in Seville's twisty back streets, every tourist-trap to avoid and every bar owner (and their families). It was raining on the night of our tour, so we scuttled under umbrellas along the cobbled alleys of Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter) and into timeless bars like Las Teresas (owners of the magnificent Iberico hams pictured above). I highly recommend taking one of her tours if it's your first visit to the city.

For a full account of the most delicious things to eat in Seville, check out my round-up for Sainsbury's magazine here.

Follow Shawn on Twitter: @sevillatapas


Monday, 27 January 2014

Postcard from...Camber Sands






There is a tradition in my home town. As soon as the mercury tops 20°C, half the parish grabs their beach bags, digs out the bucket and spade...and heads to Camber Sands. This exercise is repeated in many towns and villages around Kent and Sussex, as Camber is the south east's best and sandiest beach. If a heatwave hits during the school holidays, Camber's five miles are wall-to-wall windbreakers and toasting flesh.

But the best time to visit Camber Sands is out of season. On a cold, dry day the open stretch of pale sand, rustling dunes and watery sky give the beach a romantic and bleak quality which attracts fashion shoots and film directors (George Clooney filmed The Monuments Men here). What Camber has long needed is a hotel which does justice to these surroundings (and I don't mean Pontins). It now has one: The Gallivant.



The Gallivant is a little slice of the Hamptons in Sussex. Converted from a former motel (which adds to the American feel), it's now an exercise in tasteful whites, greys and creams. I stayed in one of the new deck rooms, which is floor-to-ceiling white: the wooden floors, the bathroom, the marshmallow-soft pillows and duvet. There's fun touches too, like the freshly-baked cookies in the bedside drawer (crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle just as they should be).



It's also worth a trip to The Gallivant just for the food. I've eaten here at the Beach Bistro a few times now, and never been disappointed. New head chef Ben Fisher worked at The French Laundry, and puts as much care into his mugs of hot chocolate as he does into dishes like Romney Marsh lamb with aubergine-truffled French beans (above), which was exceedingly delicious paired with a 2011 Pinot Noir from nearby Chapel Down vineyard, and a smoky, tender pigeon breast. The seafood is superlative too - in the summer I ate a crispy red mullet on top of a broth of baby vegetables, and this weekend ravioli crammed with fresh crab. Most of the seafood is sourced from nearby Rye.



Best of all is the Recovery Station. Every hotel should have one: a DIY Bloody Mary station with Stoli vodka and all the fixin's, Berocca and a jar of Alka Seltzer. Team it with a cooked breakfast and a trundle along the beach and even the worst hangover seems bearable.


The Gallivant Hotel, New Lydd Road, Camber, East Sussex TN31 7RB. www.thegallivanthotel.com

Pinch of Salt was a guest of The Gallivant.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Postcard from...Siena












Siena is the perfect Italian city. Bear with me on this. No, it doesn't have Rome's ancient treasures and grand boulevards, Florence's glut of galleries or Venice's maze of waterways. What is does have is an almost eerily well-preserved medieval centre (it blessedly escaped bombing in the second world war) which somehow, despite the number of tourists shuffling around its piazzas, still manages to function as a modern, youthful city but with less of the problems affecting Italy's largest metropolises (crime, traffic, the usual).

Siena is built across three Tuscan hilltops, and surrounded by several miles of ramparts. There's a lot of wandering going on in Siena. Teenagers in box-fresh high tops circling the Piazza del Campo at dusk for la passeggiata, university students lugging bags of books to their favourite coffee shop and rich Tuscans drifting between boutiques.

Once we'd explored the fabulous Duomo, Siena's 13th Century baroque cathedral, which borders on kitsch thanks to its black and white humbug stripes and utterly OTT entrance (you have to see it at dusk when the sunset is reflected in the glass and the gold turns a soft rose colour), we joined the ranks of the wanderers, too. And so passed an indolent few days of espressos and apple cake at pavement cafes, the richest wild boar ragu at Le Logge (formerly a pharmacy), bottles of Chianti and tubs of late-night dark chocolate sorbet. We ate our sorbets huddled on the steep brick slopes of the Pizza del Campo, watching the flirting teenagers, fur-clad dog walkers and boisterous groups of work colleagues at outdoor tables. The coach parties had gone for the day and Siena was fully returned to itself. As I said, perfect.
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Friday, 4 October 2013

Postcard from Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn








New York...I miss you. It's over a year since J and I packed up our London life and headed across the Atlantic for an amazing fall adventure of eating, drinking and working (plus battling a certain Hurricane named Sandy) in NYC. While I was there, Sainsbury's Magazine asked if I'd write an account of our adventures, and I'm really excited to finally be able to tell you all about it. The story is in the November 2013 issue, out now.

We spent a manic, fun weekend running around Brooklyn and Manhattan with brilliant photographer Kelsey Foster. We shot in the West Village, Upper West Side, Midtown, and our adopted neighbourhood of Boerum Hill. To coincide with the feature, I thought I'd share some photos from Boerum Hill, and adjoining Cobble Hill. The two neighbourhoods, dubbed 'grown-up Brooklyn' by Hannah in Girls, are both just south of downtown Brooklyn and are lined with clapperboard walk-ups and restored brownstones with burning gas lamps out front.

Once seriously scruffy, the area is now full of hip cafes, atmospheric bars and great restaurants like seasonal American spot Battersby (its kale salad is insanely good) , and cult Thai joint Pok Pok NY. I wrote about some of my favourite places in the area in the Sainsbury's piece, including the charming Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain (pictured above). Do check out the article and let me know what you think!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

New series: Postcard from...Brighton













In recent months I've been lucky enough to experience some great places both far (Vietnam, Singapore, Kenya) and near (the glorious Kent and Sussex countryside near our new home). Postcard from... is a new series of personal travel highlights (with lots of food thrown in, of course), and cafe recommendations. Hope you like it!

First up is Brighton. J and I took a day-break from wedding planning back in May to head down to the coast. We were there for the start of the Brighton Festival, a month-long celebration of art, culture, and - it transpired - the occasional busker in a frock coat playing a kazoo and frightening the locals.

Unfortunately it was bucketing with rain, so we spent much of the day darting between cafes in inadequate flip flops. Luckily, Brighton is crammed with quality coffee shops - from the boho charms of Tic Toc, to the futuristic lab feel of the excellent Small Batch. When I wasn't puddle-dodging, or turning my umbrella back the right way, I did manage to enjoy a few indoor arty highlights, including the Peter Blake Art Bus, a double decker full of Blake's pop-art creations, and a church hall which had been transformed with a strangely beautiful rainbow of mens' shirts. Next year I'll plan a visit properly to take in some of the big theatre, literature and comedy events. Oh, and take a change of footwear.





Cafe of the Trip: Tic Toc Cafe

Tic Toc Cafe resembles a colourful Amsterdam Coffee House without the special cigarettes. The yellow walls with patchwork panels, multicoloured giant letters, robots, and pink plastic bunnies on the counter all create a cosy, fun and not-too-precious feel. Grab a seat in the window to watch shoppers and beach-goers passing by. A silky soya cappucino and a huge sourdough sarnie stuffed with avocado will set you up for an afternoon of exploring the Lanes, lazing on the beach, or driving the Dodgems on the Pier.

Tic Toc, 53 Meeting House Lane, The Lanes, Brighton BN1 1HB

With thanks to festival sponsors Alpro.

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Food intolerances: yes they're real



Delicious Magazine August 2013

In 2011, after months of unexplained stomach pains and doctors' tests, I was diagnosed with a lactose intolerance.* Which is a pain in the ass when you make your living as a food writer. What makes it worse is that a lot of people think food intolerances are a fad, or a product of fuss-pot imaginations. So I've written a column for this month's Delicious Magazine standing up for the millions of Brits with food intolerances.

On the plus side, in the past year and a half I've had lots of fun experimenting in the kitchen with dairy-free and low-lactose ingredients. Coconut milk, cocoa powder and sheep's cheese have been among my firm allies in this quest (many lactose-intolerant people, including myself find goats' and sheep's milk dairy easier to digest as the lactose levels are far lower than in cow's milk). I'm currently working on a new dairy-free project which I'm very excited about...watch this space for more info.

In the meantime, do check out the beautiful August issue of Delicious Magazine, and let me know what you think. If you have a food intolerance and have similar troubles when eating out, I'd love to hear from you.

*Just in case you're wondering about those erstwhile Cafe of the Week posts featuring flat whites and fat cakes, alas it's a little trickier these days as I can't eat lots of those things any more! But I'm planning a new series for Pinch of Salt which will include the best cafes from my travels.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

New York love and my Pinterest addiction



#PinitforwardUK



My name is Katy and I'm a Pinaholic. Ever since I got an invitation to join the online pinboarding site about a year ago, I've used it to plan our wedding, collate ideas to make over our flat, collect recipes from all around the interwebs and sometimes just stare at pretty pictures (normally when I've got a tricky deadline and I need to take two minutes out to look at cakes or small animals). It's my online happy place.

So I was chuffed when Pinterest UK got in touch and asked if they could feature one of my boards on its blog as part of its Pin It Forward campaign. I chose my New York Love board, which is where I pin beautiful shots of the city and images of my favourite places to eat, drink and hang-out from our time living in NYC.

If you're not already using Pinterest just click this special Pinch of Salt and Pinterest link and follow the simple sign-up process which will then take you through to the NYC board. See you there!
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