REVIEW: California Soul Bowl, Brighton

This is a really interesting new Brighton business offering something completely different to anything we currently have. California Soul Bowl was set up by Steve Parsons (who some may know from the music industry) after a stint living in health-conscious California.  

Blending is what they do. But don't get that confused, as I did, with just your standard smoothie. Essentially this is a choice of seven bases of quick-frozen fruits blended with frozen non-dairy milks (soy, almond) and superfood boosters. They can then be part of a combo bowl topped with their own baked granola or made into sorbets or drinks.

I am big on food. A lot of food to be exact, but keeping a 27 inch waist means I try to eat "clean" most of the time (jars of Nutella and double portions of fettuccine aside). But it's not just me. We have generally have become more aware of what we are shovelling into their mouths and I do think you can eat healthily without too much sacrifice on taste.

And lunch is when I really crave a healthy working meal to save me from an afternoon desk slump. Still, I was a bit dubious whether one of the bowls here would fill me up but it really did. I opted for the Long Beach Twister with frozen pineapple, peach, grapes, strawberries and frozen almond milk. There was also a lacuma boost added (yeah I had to Google it too) which is a powdered Peruvian fruit, rich in nutrients. This was topped with their granola, a vibrant seed mix and fresh fruit. 

And I really enjoyed it. I think anything with that many textures is a pleasure to eat, the frozen fruit/milk base was really thick and left chunky. It felt healthy but also a treat which is good. Certainly a nice fast-food switch to take the kids to.

Although the interior is not usually to my taste (the only bright colour I like is Russian Red by MAC), I felt unusually relaxed. Not something that comes easily to a fiery Italian let me tell you! But it works with the sunny fresh food on offer. Even in the winter where blended soups and warming rice milk chocolate will be on offer, may be the pick up you need on those grey days.

The location is tricky, but like the fabulous Coal Shed who is a neighbour, proves if the product is good (and the promotion effective) then they will come. Handily it is on the way to the beach so you can grab and go. Either way, I really do think they are worth the visit here.
27 Middle Street (corner of Boyces Street) 
Brighton BN1 1AL

I was invited to review CSB

RECIPE: Salad Lyonnaise recipe and the new OXO salad spinner design

Salads can be exciting (really) and this is one of my favourites, an elegant, but everyday dish based on the salads I had whilst trawling the bouchons of Lyon. Essentially it's a warm bacon an egg salad with my favourite leaves of frisee and chicory. Recently at Hotel Du Vin, I had a similar salad with a wine poached egg. I've stolen the idea but replaced the red wine for white, for sweetness and flavour but avoiding that strange purple egg colour. 

Serve it with a nice chilled wine and eat al fresco if the British weather will allow.

I'm using my new OXO salad spinner which is, as to be expected with their products, fab. I've had one for five years which still works perfectly but they have just changed the design after ten years. The salad spinner is one of their most iconic designs (inspired by a visit to a toy shop) so interesting that it has been updated, as often OXO kitchen tools prove hard to improve on. This time I went for the smaller salad and herb spinner as the only negative with my previous one was the storage size (you can see the difference below - new one at the top). The larger size is great if you are a family of 4+ but the smaller version suits us, especially as the capacity has been maximised with a squarer design.

So many people recommended this spinner to me. No crank wheel and the clever plunge spin function with break and storage lock still remains. It really is an effective kitchen tool and I find the the basket useful as a colander and the bowl to serve food in too.

I've also got the new OXO dressing pot which works as good as it looks. I love the ergonomic stopper which can be opened with one finger and seals shut perfectly so you can make a decent amount of dressing for use over a few days. It also has a rubber collar which is handy if you get oily hands, unlikely with the pouring spout though.

Salad Lyonnaise recipe
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil 
1 garlic clove, smashed once
Large slice of good white bread, crusts removed and cubed 
200g smoked lardons
1 small head of frisée lettuce or frisée based salad mix
1 head of chicory
Handful of small pickled silver skin onions 

1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine/sherry vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp olive oil

For the eggs
1 tbsp white wine vinegar 
500ml white wine (more depending on size of pan, see below)
2 very fresh eggs

Preheat the oven to 170°C

Make dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients and a little water to loosen.

Make croutons. In a large freezer bag pour in the olive oil and smashed garlic. Add the cubes of bread and coat thoroughly. Empty the croutons on a baking tray and place in the oven for 5-10 mins.

Fry lardons gently  until firm and all fat melted away (I prefer this). Drain on a sheet of kitchen paper and set aside.

Wash and ideally spin your salad leaves or shake excess water.

Bring the white white to boiling in a medium pan (you may need more or less wine depending on your size of pan), lower the heat to a gentle simmer, add a little splash of white wine vinegar and crack egg directly into the wine very gently. Simmer for a few seconds then tun off the heat, cover the pan and allow the egg to poach for a few minutes. Use a slotted spoon to raise the eggs to check them every minute or so. The white needs to be cooked but the yolk should have a good wobble. Place on a piece of kitchen paper whilst you do the other one. If you are money then use a larger pan, a whole bottle of wine and do them together.

You may find it easier to crack the eggs into a small ramekin and pour them in very near the surface of the wine.

Place the leaves on the plate, scatter over the lardons, croutons and onions. Drizzle over dressing and place the poached egg on the top. Season the egg and serve.

I was sent the OXO salad spinner and dressing pot for review.

REVIEW: Kindlewood mobile pizzeria, Brighton Station

Ah pizza…the cause of many Twitter scuffles and heated conversations for me. Frankly, so far in this city, there are few, if any, pizzerias that have impressed me. And I don't really care that people claim "x"or "y" is UH-MAZING. It maybe amazing compared with the Domino's and frozen pizzas that some may have dared to put in their mouths in the past but none of the skill in crafting the dough has really compared to true Italian pizza, either Neapolitan or the thicker style from Rome.

It's a simple beast really but quality of ingredients and handling of the dough is everything. Details that some overlook entirely. Crikey, look at Pizza7 who had everything apart from a decent dough going for it. That went up in flames in a matter of months. 

But Kindlewood Pizza is a welcome addition to the gourmet train station we now have at Brighton. This mobile pizzeria is housed in a beautifully restored 1969 Citroen H van, pride of place outside on the forecourt. As mobile eateries go, this is one of the most gorgeous for sure. There are very few vans I would contemplate pulling up a chair to eat lunch from but I could happily do so in my heels here. The team behind this venture are Café Coho who have two successful and very good cafes in Brighton. They certainly know a thing or two about the food industry so I think this is a nice off-shoot for them.

When trying pizza, I always start with a Margarita and it was pretty good. I like the fact you can order a half pizza to go at a mere £3 and whole ones start from £5.50. They cook in a matter of seconds too so this is a great place to grab a bite on the fly or linger a little longer on the bar with a San Pelligrino.

The base was probably a bit too thin (I suspect they roll rather than mould the bases by hand) but crisp and just charred enough to give you the delicious flavour from the wood oven. The dough was well seasoned as was the sauce, with the right amount of basil. For once I didn't have any complaints on either the amount of cheese or sauce. You could easily eat the slice without anything sliding off or any wrangling with a floppy corner.

Eating pizza straight away from the oven is best but if for any reason you have to take-away I like that they have avoided the use of boxes which would be an environmental frown. A simple paper plate and greaseproof paper is all that's used and needed. My studio is mere stone's throw so lucky me! 

Even if you don't have a train to catch, make an effort to visit Kindlewood. Pull up a stool and try a pizza, deliciously mouth scolding hot from the oven. As it should be.

Would I go back and make a dent in the other pizzas? I'm not quite ready to renounce my nationality but I'll absolutely revisit. And there isn't anyone else I can say that about so far. 

Brighton Station (forecourt)
Queen's Road
Brighton BN1 3XP

English's of Brighton seafood restaurant, Brighton

There are not many restaurants that could be classed as a Brighton institution but English's of Brighton is most definitely one of the small handful. It has existed in the same location since 1945, with a much older fish restaurant on the same premises from the late 1800s. You can even still see the original embossed brass plate on the outside.

Sitting at the oyster bar, it could be any era really, I doubt much has changed looking at the faded framed pictures on the wall, the charmingly worn print on the plates and handwritten old menu. And I love it, few places could exude this type of eccentric atmosphere, and one that cannot be created unless it had been seasoned in place over decades. I only regret not having visited sooner, thinking this was a quaint old place for tourists and the over 60s, the only people that seem to appreciate velour seating.

I suppose I have also been seduced to frequent the handful of other good fish restaurants with their neue lux surroundings (Riddle and Finns) or exciting and accomplished cooking (Little Fish Market).

So before we go ahead, here is my secret. Seafood is the only thing I dislike eating and one mollusc in particular, the oyster. I don't believe that you should "hate" any food (microchips and frozen pizza aside) so have always been disappointed with myself for not enjoying seafood, especially as Mr. GF can devour huge platters of the stuff like a seal. I feel like I have failed as a food appreciator as oysters are so revered, but I do try, and try again in hope.

So the invitation for an education in oysters at English's was exactly the ticket I needed to cure my palette. Oh, and the inclusion of champagne may have been a sweetener too. I KNOW I like that thank you very much.

We were hosted by Jonathan Speirs who has been the head Oyster Shucker at English's for over 10 years and for more than 30 in the industry. Unremarkably, he knows a thing or hundred about oysters. First, we were given a selection of cooked oysters, which I have never tried before, a good move rather than going in hard with raw ones.

Surprisingly, I liked them. The toppings (tempura with a dipping sauce, samphire and hollandaise and and the classic thermidor style) were a welcome taste distraction and cooking eliminated the squeamish qualities of the slippery, slimy raw oyster. Instead was a soft, mild little sea pillow with enough flavour to shine through the other flavours.

Next came the big boys and I will admit I wasn't exactly rubbing my hands together with glee. What was interesting is that we were given a selection of rock oyster varieties and we were told to eat them in a certain order, much like a cheese board based on strength. The Jersey oysters slipped down ok. They were quite firm and mild. I wouldn't say I was quite there with the love but I felt like I was finding my feet. Next were Lindisfarne oysters, a middle ground oyster. Again, I ate these with no issue. The only ones I did struggle with were the Mersea ones, which were so soft and creamy and possibly one texture of slippery too far. One for the oyster pros amongst you.

People say they taste of the sea, and I can't add much more to that. If you like them, you like them I guess and if you want to explore or know more about them, pull up a stool here and chat to the staff. I was happy to learn a little more, what affects the taste like the depth and temperature of the water and so on. Oysters, at the very least, are interesting little creatures.

But oysters are not the only thing on the menu at English's. Trying the sharing plates of sea treats like scallop cerviche, octopus carpaccio, mackerel samosa and their own home hay smoked tuna and salmon made me want to come back for more of the main courses.

Prices, as with most good seafood restaurants, are toward the more premium end, but as the price reflects the variety of what you are eating it all depends on what you order from mackerel fillets and mussels to lobsters, dover sole and brill. Some fish is just wildly expensive.

There is always a place in my heart for a proper restaurant. The more I see of stylised food trends, the more I seem to crave smart service and tablecloths. I want to be treated when I dine and English's is most definitely a special spot indeed, whether you are perched up at the bar, inside admiring the murals or outside in the bustling atmosphere of the square.

English's of Brighton
29- 31 East Street
Brighton BN1 1HL

I was a guest of English's.

REVIEW: Bluebird Tea Co., Brighton

Ok, ok, I'll admit that if you look into my tea cup you would normally find a cup of the finest mass produced builder's tea. Other than that I may have a few Earl Grey and some dusty herbal tea bags in the cupboard. Yet look on my shelf and you'll see my collection of teapots. I love them! I even had 200 British made teapots flown out to Italy for my wedding favours for the Italians, that like me, will display them on the shelf whilst we down our espressos.

But genuinely, the arrival of Bluebird Tea Co. in the North Laine has transformed hot beverages at GF towers. We've dusted off the teapots and filled them with the most wonderful Bluebird Tea blends. I suppose my lack of enthusiasm for tea is due to my ignorance on the subject. I've avoided mass produced fruit teabags because they taste like disappointment and dust. Yerk. But the Victoria Sponge mix here, with a base of Ceylon black tea with coconut, strawberry granules, whole freeze dried raspberries and raspberry leaves was anything but dusty. It was really vibrant and had a truly fruity taste with a comforting vanilla cakeish (it's a WORD) background.

I was trialling an "experience pack" which I think is a great idea if you are new to real tea or the BTC brand. They contain five blends in specific collections (chai, caffeine free...) or a pick n' mix of your own choosing. There is enough loose leaf tea in each for quite a few cups and there are some I would never have chosen yet will absolutely repurchase. Handily on each pack is the brewing guide, temperature and if it is served with or without milk for each tea to enjoy it at its best.

Favourite of my pack (which you can purchase in store and online) was the Gingerbread Chai. I loved it for after dinner. Handily caffeine free with a Rooibos base and an intense but not over the top spice from cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, softened with Mallow flowers.

I also tried out the Peppermint Cream (fun for after dinner), Nearly Nirvana (jasmine silver needle with spearmint) and the prettiest tea on the planet, Enchanted Narnia, with whole rosebuds, cocoa shells and raspberry leaves.

And look at the blends! They are utterly beautiful, as you can see all of the ingredients. yes some of the teas are quite quirky and I guess that gives this brand their playful charm but the taste is very serious and well considered, something you will want to drink again and again rather than experience for gimmicks sake.

And they don't just sell tea and tea accessories. There is a little bar in the corner for delicious iced and hot teas for take out or to perch on their bench seating. Plus they hold tea events in the evenings. I particularly like the sound of the tea mixology classes with tea cocktails. There is also a tea club you can join to really try out the different blends which are delivered to your home every month via a subscription.

I can't recommend this shop enough. Get down there, have a sniff and a cuppa. There will be something for all tastes whether you like spicy, fruity or fresh in all manner of base teas. Dark chocolate chilli chai, Apple Strudel, Fire chai, Monkey Chops or Bonfire toffee. Whatevs, it's there. Go.
Order online or at their store:
41 Gardner St

I was sent an experience pack for review.

REVIEW: Angelberry, Brighton

I love frozen yogurt. Anything that I can pass off as a relatively guilt-free treat, I'm all in. And I'm not the only one. The froyo craze is still running hard in the UK, particularly the self-serve, sold by the weight model which is what Angelberry is.

We're still not quite used to the idea of self service in the UK. People look awkward trying to do it. I like it though, and the set up here is quite basic. Grab a cup, choose your base probiotic froyo flavour(s) from the wall mounted pumps, then head over to the topping station. Then you weigh and pay at the till. All the while trying to retain an element of self-control.

I opted for a mix of plain natural yogurt and superfruit flavours which were as healthy as you can go and topped it with fresh mango, strawberries and blueberries. I don't have a massively sweet tooth so the tang of natural yogurt is particularly appealing and the superfruit flavour was fresh and fruity with the bonus of being sweetened by stevia not sugar.

Although with the eight other flavours, those that do prefer sweet things can knock themselves out with banana, tropical, chocolate or lemon cheesecake base flavours. There were loads of other toppings like cookies, sprinkles, marshmallows, sweets, nuts and chocolates too. I really enjoyed my portion, the fruit toppings were really fresh and exactly what I needed to cool off, felt like a treat and definitely left me wanting to revisit.

As it is sold by the weight, a guide for something like mine would be £3.75 at £1.85 per 100g. I thought that was quite a big portion but the tendency is to cram everything on. Probably not so good for the wallets of people who are a tad uncontrollable around buffets. Mr GF I'm LOOKING AT YOU. Other than that they do a variety of blended yogurt smoothies for £3 and hot drinks.

So all good. the problem? The problem is the bright pink and white brand in the environment of the North Laine. It looks a touch like a children's soft play centre from the outside so they will be attracting a very niche age group of teens and foreign students. And froyo is for everyone! I admit I have walked past due to this but the whole of the froyo sector seems to suffer a little from this saccharine aesthetic. It has that American jolliness which looks great in a US shopping mall, but not so great in the UK, especially away from the high street like this Brighton branch. Maybe it's the contrast with our grey skies?

Only a few of the other froyo brands get it right like Yog which is pretty target generic, mainstream and fresh looking and Snog who went for an edgy and cheeky vibe. I see Samba Swirl are rebranding to be in line with the cooler look of their Camden flagship store - a good move for them. And I loved Brighton's own homegrown store, Lick, which has now closed in favour of a wholesale and retail operation but it always looked at home in the North Laine with the right mix of fun and design the passing demographic craves. Angleberry jars in the environment and the large, bright shop looks out of place next to the bric-a-brac stalls, trendy cafes and indie boutique shops. I think it will have to work really hard to overcome this which is a shame as the product is really good.

Anyway, along with the good froyo, the other plus of this place is it's a great space for buggies and kids (a rarity in the area) and I sure will be treating Baby Foodie soon for a first froyo taste.

Give it a blast.

27 Kensington Gardens
Brighton BN1 4AL

I was invited to review Angelberry.

BOOK REVIEW: Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley

Are you a hardcore baker? And I mean HARDCORE. I don't mean Victoria sponges and cupcakes, no matter how good they are. As for those that like to make cute cake pops which look like little pandas with teeny tiny icing ears, you may as well stop reading now.

This is a serious book on the highest quality patisserie. It's almost as if William & Suzue Curley have written this to mock the majority of home bakers. It contains page after page of incredible French Patisserie that defies gravity and sometimes reality. Glossy, bejewelled beauties that look too good to eat. The recipes generally span multiple pages and cross reference elements which have recipes themselves in the foundation part of the book, which in itself if half an inch thick. You will need bespoke equipment in precise measurements (what the hell is a savarin entrement mould?!), and some hard to find ingredients like shiso (isn't that the dude that sang the Thong Song?). You may weep, almost definitely weep, creating these recipes.

But although these recipes are very involved, and quite long, each has clear step-by-step instructions with plenty of images to guide you through and are absolutely necessary.

As I said, this book is for those that wish to take that leap from being "good at cakes" to being incredible. If you have a real passion for sweet treats and an eye for beauty, if you want to push yourself to that next level then this is for you. It's essentially a course book, starting with ingredients and equipment to the core techniques like custards, pralines and feuilletage that really you should master before attempting the main recipes. And it's an interesting read too. This book contains plenty of historical information and the origins of some of the classic patisserie. And along with these classics, there is a good balance of Curley's contemporary creations, some with Japanese twists clearly taken from the heritage of his wife and partner Suzue. There are sections on pastries, gateaux, macaron, verrines, cakes and petit fours.

Although well written and clear, design-wise, I'm not a fan of the old fashioned style, type and layout of the book. But the cakes are jaw droppingly beautiful, pure works of art despite being given a slight 80s feel with graded coloured backgrounds.

Personally, I'm not even close to creating the recipes here and I really do not have the time to dedicate to them but I adore this book as much as I adore fine patisserie. Even the fact that it gives me a glimpse into the magic of their creation, the hard work and incredible technique behind each one is worth the read.

If you are passionate about cakes, then you will learn an incredible amount from this book. If you attempt to make anything then I salute you oh cake warrior.

Patisserie by William and Suzue Curley is published by Jacqui Small and costs £40.

I was sent this book for review.