Cooking classes in Dominica | Experiences Caribbean

Caribbean food is rich in flavours and personality, with influences from many other countries. Caribbean food is fresh, colourful and often very local, particularly on Dominica where the fresh fruit & vegetables are so easily available around the island. A cooking class is an excellent way to learn about the cuisine on Dominica as well as a nice introduction to a few recipes you might even want to try back home.

Daria has been running cooking classes since 2006 and has won over her customers with her cheery approach and in depth knowledge of Caribbean cuisine. She recently filmed with her beloved ‘Chef Ainsley’ British chef Ainsley Harriott as part of his show ‘Caribbean Kitchen’ which can be seen on ITV.

A class with Daria is like learning recipes from an old friend, she’s passionate about using fresh, local ingredients and many of them come from the surrounding houses and almost all from Dominica itself, except the rice which is imported from a neighbouring island.

I opted for a private class with just Daria and her daughter as an assistant and then my friend & I. As it was a small group we cooked in Daria’s private kitchen upstairs, but with larger groups particularly when a cruise ship has docked then she has a huge kitchen downstairs which can cater for lots of people cooking at once.

We cooked a variety of dishes with Daria talking us through the ingredients for every recipe and encouraging us to get stuck in with the preparation & cooking itself.

First we prepared some Titiri fish cakes/fritters. Titiri is a local fish which seems to come under different names around the Caribbean, the fish is mixed in equal parts with wholewheat flour, lime juice, chilli sauce & coriander before being fried in oil until it’s slightly crispy on the outside and doughy in the middle. It made a lovely snack often chosen for breakfast in Dominica but also went down a treat as a mid cooking nibble.

Another favourite dish we prepared was Creole Fish. A colourful recipe of yellow fin tuna served with pepper, onion, tomato & a marinade ofparsley celery, spring onion, thyme, chives, garlic, lime & parlsey. Creole food is a fusion of cultures and history and Daria describes creole as having attitude. In her own words “Creole is colour, creole is flavour.”

Alongside a coconut rice & beans and plantain cooked 2 ways we dined on the balcony with beautiful garden views before finishing the meal with a fruit salad mixed with local spice infused rum.

Daria’s class was one of the most enjoyable things we did in Dominica and the food was certainly one the top meals of the trip as well. It’s a fantastic introduction to Dominican food and a fun way learn about the flavours of the island.

To book visit Experiences Caribbean |Classes usually run every Tuesday and Friday, but they can be flexible. Prices are $100 USD per head which includes the class, a full meal and 2 free drinks. Up to 30 people.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bower House | A delightful Cotwswolds stay

I’m a big fan of boutique properties, I find the attention to detail is usually much higher and the service often more personal.  Indeed, at The Bower House you’re welcomed as an old friend and the smiling staff have great suggestions for the local area.

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The five rooms are individually designed, with different styles, layouts and sizes to appeal to a range of guests. I stayed in Room 1, which was spacious but furnished in a way that felt cosy, especially with the slightly drizzly weather outside. There were many details in the rooms that have addressed pet peeves of mine at other hotels over the years; fresh milk was provided in the fridge, necessary for people like me that have their coffee pretty white and who don’t want to have to empty 12 UHT pots to make it drinkable.

There was a bath oil provided, once again presumably an idea of someone who has stayed in too many hotels where you have to empty the shampoo bottle into the bath to make any bubbles. Plug sockets were plentiful and near both bedside tables, a detail so often missing and making it difficult to charge one’s phone overnight.

810_7350The rooms come with a mini bar/drinks including local gins and quality wines, and the television comes with a Netflix account. Normally I’d say that I don’t go to a hotel to stay in and watch television but there was something about The Bower House that made me want to actually relax and enjoy the room. It’s designed in a luxurious way, but one that doesn’t feel pretentious, just quality furnishings allowing you to relax and enjoy your surroundings.

810_7322The bathroom is huge, featuring ‘his n hers’ sinks, a deep bath tub as well as a large shower with a range of quality shampoos and lotions. Once again it strikes me that the designers /managers will have stayed in the room as the small details make it so functional. Separate towels for the bathtub and the shower area make for easier post bathing and even the addition of the full length mirror alongside the sink mirrors and make up mirror mean every eventuality is thought of.

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The stylish bar serves some great cocktails, some featuring twists on classics like the margarita with a dash of pear brandy and some foreign favourites like the Pisco Sour. The bar and dining area is a mix between modern and traditional, with old paintings on teal walls and vintage style drinks trolleys next to brightly upholstered chairs. 810_7401

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I enjoyed the ambience in the dining area. It’s clearly a popular location for a meal amongst guests at the hotel but also with customers travelling in from miles around to dine there. I opted for the Roasted Chorizo as a nibble for the table, followed by a perfectly done salt & pepper squid with homemade chilli jam.

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810_7449Desserts were excellent including the Treacle Tart and the chocolate fondant served with honeycomb. The Bower House is also a popular brunch spot, and on Saturdays the restaurant was a lively affair with families and couples choosing from American Pancake stacks, smoked salmon and poached eggs and other breakfast delights alongside  mimosas and a selection of coffees.810_7537For a fantastic nearby option for dinner or drinks is The Howard Arms. A cross between a local style pub with friendly regulars & small groups enjoying the bar, and smartly dressed couples dining in the restaurant area. As well as a selection of real ales they have some fantastic wines including a great English white which went excellently with the Cropwell Bishop stilton bon bon served with grilled pear. 810_7457

810_7474The Howard Arms offers both traditional favourites like fish & chips, and slight twists like the ham & duck egg, but also more fine dining presentations such as the ‘Ham Hock Rillete with crispy black pudding, soused vegetables and apple sauce.’ 810_7491

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Shipston on Stour is a very pleasant town with some great unique shops, independent boutiques & charming delis to spend a couple of days wandering around, and The Bower House makes an excellent luxury base from which to explore.

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The Bower House

The Howard Arms

 

Top places to eat & drink | Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

Santa Rosa de Copan is great for foodies. It has a huge choice of cuisines from street food options right up to romantic steak houses and restaurants with food so good that orders come in from all over Honduras.

It also has a lively nightlife with a number of cocktail bars and clubs to choose from.

Below are some top choices in SRC as to where to eat, drink, party, drink coffee and chill in Santa Rosa de Copan,

Calitos Grill
In a courtyard decorated with great street art Calitos Grill is owned by two brothers; both passionate about food but also with a vision to create an atmospheric place to spend an evening.

The menu here is fairly simple, but with everything done incredibly well. Top notch burgers including fillings such as pineapple and a range of meats, loaded fries, and ribs with yuca fries are all designed to have you licking your fingers clean.

It’s a great place to come with friends, and the street food style big tables make for friendly dining.

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Los Brasas
Los Brasas is one of the top restaurants in the city. Large potions, quality ingredients and a strong house sangria worth sharing between friends.

Primarily a steakhouse, it serves a range of steak options including a fantastic surf & turf.  It finds a good balance between being a romantic restaurant for a date, but also a good option for family friendly choice; especially if you’re hungry! Top tip; try the seafood soup for a starter.
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Mass Bar & Restaurant
A sleek bar and restaurant run by some friendly and lively owners. There’s a lovely outside area and the well stocked bar serves up imaginative cocktails. Come earlier for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, or after 9 for a lively atmosphere late into the night.20190125_18372720190125_190143

Lenca Maya
A favourite on Trip Advisor, Lenca Maya is a good option for anyone wishing to have a crash course in Honduran food. A big menu with many traditional offerings, you’re even able to try your hand at making tortillas here, before tasting your creations alongside a whole host of dishes in a colourful environment.

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Teos
A trendy brunch bar that turns into a lively wine bar by nightfall, Teos has a spacious terrace looking out onto the street below. It’s a great place for a big breakfast with good wifi and a stylish layout.
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Timoshenko
Locally famous Timoshenko is a Honduran liquor that’s so popular some restaurants have even included it in some of their sauces.

The two flavours are coffee and fruit, with the former being served with milk and a cream topping giving a tiramisu flavour overall. Come and look round the bar area to see the bottles on sale and the antique decorations.
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Kaldis Koffee
Listed as one of three Honduran Coffee shops in the Phaidon’s book on where to drink coffee, Kaldis’ is a small coffee shop with a range of preparations for your coffee including some very traditional methods. It also has some of the best cakes and desserts in the city, including a lovely tiramisu, and a instagram worthy

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Cafe de las Velas
It’s a small but characterful cafe with a craft shop inside. Here the handicrafts are made by local underprivileged women; they have a great range of candles and soaps. The cafe also creates jobs for the local people including some homeless individuals.

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Estucafe
A tiny with a lot of character, Estucafe has 17 different offerings to prepare your coffee; from the ones you’ll recognise like a percolator, to contraptions that look like something from a science lab.

You’ll then be offered dozens of options of the coffee itself. Cups are heated to specific temperatures while the coffee is weighed and water levels measured. It’s a long process but the sheer effort of accuracy and effort that goes into each coffee makes for great viewing and even greater coffee.

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Le Casa Doña Olimpia
Doña Olimpia is a Santa Rosan institution. It’s famous roast pork is so in demand that they have orders coming in from all over the country, especially at Christmas when the lines are ringing off the hook.

Strictly for meat eaters only, the house special is roast pork, marinated for 12 and then roast in the kilns for 8 hours. It comes out salty, crispy and rich, and is then served alongside a thick gravy and slices of mandarin.  Wash down with a Copan Dry.
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Zotz
Zotz ticks a lot of boxes; great choice for a sports bar, cool roof terrace to sip on the giant cocktails, and with a long menu.

It has a family friendly atmosphere inside with kids toys and large TVs, but also does a great range of beers and cocktails.

A great addition to their menu is some fantastic hand made pasta which will definitely line your stomach well before a night of drinking and dancing.

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New York Discoteque
This small nightclub doesn’t really get busy until 10pm, when the town’s fashionable crowd come to dance and party into the early morning.

Loud music, well priced drinks, you know the score.

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For more information please contact Choose Honduras

Where to eat in Lincoln |Top food & drink in Lincoln

Lincoln has a great number of options for food and drinks to suit all tastes. In the old town area then cute coffee shops and brunch options are numerous, as are traditional pubs with a few unique wine bars in between.

The list below is a few top recommendations for food and drink in Lincoln to suit whatever mood you’re in, all within walking distance of Lincoln Castle and the Bailgate area.

Where to go for cocktails in Lincoln and a stylish lunch – The Cosy Club

Towards the main shopping area of Lincoln is the old agricultural market and corn exchange area. It’s going through a regeneration of sorts and The Cosy Club is leading the way for style and also great use of the buildings. A relatively unassuming entrance leads up the stairs to a grand hall, with old timber beams on the ceiling, giant crown like light features designed by set designers from Game Of Thrones, and original adverts adorning the walls from when the building was an old corn exchange.

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It’s bright and cheerful, with colourful decorations and a long bar reminiscent of a speakeasy. There’s plenty of choice for drinks, including an imaginative cocktail menu which changes regularly, as well as an extensive spirit list.

As well as impressively sized sandwiches and burgers, there are tapas style options to share including top end haloumi fries and a scotch egg with black pudding. Main courses are also generously portioned with options including a superfood bowl and a delicious roast chicken wrapped in bacon which is made from scratch every order meaning it’s juicy and fresh.

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Top tip for dessert | Order the chocolate bomb with popping candy. It comes with a hot caramel sauce which melts the chocolate when poured, making a great boomerang, for those so inclined.

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Where to go for a coffee in Lincoln & a light lunch – Stokes Coffee

Stokes Coffee is a long standing family run business that smelt so delicious the scents wafted over as we approached from the castle. They have three locations but we visited Stokes on the Lawn which is housed in an old asylum. The cafe is decorated with funky wallpaper and a giant whale sculpture hangs from the ceiling. The team source, blend, roast and pack the products here and it’s possible to go ‘backstage’ so to speak, and view the teas and coffees and the coffee making process. They also sell the products to take home as well as drink in.

I tried the guest blend, with it’s hint of chocolate flavours as well as a fresh juice. The homemade food menu is clearly popular as the cafe was busy when we visited, giving a nice friendly atmosphere. I opted for the Lincolnshire Platter, complete with cheeses, pickles, pork pie, tasty Piper’s crisps (which of course are also from Lincolnshire), and haslet. For those who don’t know, (myself included until yesterday), haslet is somewhere between a meat loaf and a pie, and is sliced very thinly, going exceptionally well with mustard.

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Where to go for a cosy pub dinner in Lincoln – The Wig & Mitre

Upstairs from the Wig & Mitre Pub is the restaurant area. From my table I had great views of the castle on my right and then through the skylight on my left I could see the top of the cathedral, so I couldn’t really ask for better views.

It’s a cosy, relaxed atmosphere with a delightful owner who came to say hello during the meal. They do a range of ales as well as other options like the popular Adnam’s Stout, and there is a fairly extensive wine list.

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The menu is seasonal and there were a number of specials to compliment the other options. Starters included a beef brisket served in a yorkshire pudding which was filling and comforting, like the best kind of home cooking. Main courses included a duck breast with rich red cabbage cooked in red wine & cranberry sauce, and a pork belly with black pudding. The highlight for me was dessert. I opted for a double chocolate sponge, with caramel ice cream, genuinely so delicious I considered licking the plate.

The Wig & Mitre is a great option for those wanting tasty food in a homely environment, with the added benefit of being right in the old town area.

Where to go for Michelin Listed food | Special Occasion Dining – The Bronze Pig

So popular that you will have to plan your visit a few weeks in advance, The Bronze Pig has been open in Lincoln for around three years and gained a fantastic reputation during that time, as well as honourable mentions in the Michelin Guide 2018.

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It’s top quality, British food with unusual twists, featuring seasonal menus with ingredients sourced as locally as possible, (usually within 10 miles of the restaurant.)

There is an extensive wine list as well as suggested wines for each dish, and the staff are knowledgeable and passionate about the food as well as the concept.

Despite the fine dining level of food, it’s non pretentious, and makes for fantastic special occasion food or indeed a more frequent visit to try out the monthly changing menu for proper foodies. – Full review here;

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The Bronze Pig | Fine Dining in Lincoln

When you mention The Bronze Pig in Lincoln to others then their eyes light up. Either people are excited about their visit, or indeed have visited already for a birthday or an anniversary.

810_9244810_9251The restaurant is intimate, with only 12 tables, and only one sitting, meaning that you have the table to yourself for the whole evening. This is quite unusual in a restaurant of this standard, but allows guests to dine leisurely, enjoying their food and the environment, without having to rush for the next guests. There’s even a chef’s table for 6-8 people with views into the kitchen to marvel at the masterpieces being cooked. It’s decorated in a unique modern style, with wall murals and multi coloured chairs, bringing a bright vibrant aura to the rooms. 810_9266810_9270The chatty and personable owner explained a little about the ethos of the restaurant. Despite his Italian background the restaurant is decidedly British with almost everything on the menu coming from within 10 miles. A few exceptions such as the fish (from Grimsby) are allowed, but even bottled waters are locally sourced and Pompeo has even dabbled in British wines. The menus nod towards traditional cuisines, which with Lincoln being a heritage city with a huge amount of history is a lovely link.

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The food is seasonal and the menus change every month, with an evening of gastronomy held every 3 months with a special tasting menu. The food finds a wonderful balance between traditional menus and ingredients with a modern often deconstructed twist. Meats like rabbit, guinea fowl and pheasant make an appearance, with touches of sweet and savoury alongside each other, as well as a range of textures in every dish. The pan roasted quail was accompanied by a poached quail’s egg, but served alongside slightly blackened corn, giving a fine dining meal a homely nod. In a similar manner, the impeccable cod served with a tarragon pesto, sat on a cassoulet bed, once again mixing very familiar ingredients that one might find at home, alongside flavours and cooking techniques only found in top end restaurants.

The deconstructed lemon meringue pie was both sweet and torte, with a white chocolate ‘base’ that tasted like a rich tablet. A basil jus added an unusual but welcome flavour, and also that signature sweet & savoury mix.

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The chef is passionate about his food, and his taste comes across in the food. I was lucky enough to chat with him briefly after the meal and he talked enthusiastically about coming up with menus for the month.

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The evening was delightful from start to finish, and certainly in the top few meals I’ve eaten in recent times. With the frequently changing menus and expansions to the restaurant in the next year it’s certainly a place to return to.

http://thebronzepig.co.uk

A French Feast with Eric Bichon | Wine Pairings & fine cuisine

L’Orée des Bois located in La Breille-les-Pins is the restaurant of celebrated chef Eric Bichon. I recently had the opportunity to try a menu of his creation, alongside thoughtfully paired wines inside one of the dining rooms at Chateau de Jalesnes in the Loire Valley.

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The dining area was laid out in a grand manner, with candelabras and foliage down the long tables. As the sun set over the gardens and pool area visible through the windows, it became a very atmospheric environment to dine in.

Around 20 people were dining together, with still gave off an intimate feel, and guests mingled and chatted together throughout the meal.

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Before every course, Chef Eric, softly spoken and humble in his mannerisms, came to the table to talk us through the dishes. The menu was unapologetically French, with fois gras and veal served, divisive socially but rather delicious. He regularly talked of getting certain items from his own personal garden, and his combination of the particularly sweet items on savoury dishes worked very well, such as the fresh figs served with the veal. The dishes also looked towards slightly more unusual textures such as the goat’s cheese mousse.


The Menu

Aperitif – Cremont de Loire – Ackerman Brut

Starter
Foie gras and braised beef cheek set in jelly, fresh mint flavoured broad bean puree and pickled red onions.
Served with Coteaux de Saumur – Domaine Lavigne 2015

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Main Course
Slow cooked veal, butternut squash cream, glazed shallots, fresh figs and orange sauce – Served with Traditional Saumur Champigny – Chateau de Targé 2015

 

Cheese
Ste Maure de Touraine goat’s cheese and chive mousse, assorted salads and chive & rosemary flavoured oil.
Served with St Nicholas de Bourgueil – Vieilles Vignes 2015

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Dessert
Soft lemon flavoured biscuit, rich lime flavoured cream, lemon verbena and cottage cheese flavoured sorbet.
Served with Saumur Rosé Ackerman

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The local wines served with each course complimented the dishes excellently. A particular favourite of the guests was the Saumur Rosé Ackerman, a popular sparkling rosé that not only went well with the lemon flavours in the dessert but also proved a popular option as a stand alone wine.

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Guests also seemed to thrive on the social aspect of the evening, with the chance to chat with other guests at Chateau de Jalesnes whilst enjoying the food. Many of the table had specifically chosen to visit that weekend to time it with the gastronomy evening, which is understandable as for many the chance to eat such fine French cooking in a picturesque environment is definitely worth the trip and rather better value than similar opportunities back in the UK.

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Chicken Street in Hanoi | BBQ Chicken Street Ly Van Phuc

Hanoi is an absolute gem for street food lovers. I lived there 7 years ago and on my visits back since then, while a lot of the larger food establishments have changed hands or disappeared completely my favourite street food vendors have stayed put.

Top of this list has to be Ly Van Phuc (pronounced Lee Van Fuk) or as it’s more commonly known “Chicken Street/ BBQ Chicken Street.” It’s one of the top street food destinations in Hanoi if not the whole of Vietnam and despite this it’s still much better known amongst the locals and ex-pats than the many backpackers that visit the city as it’s slightly out of the main town area.

ly van Phuc bbq chicken street Hanoi

The vendors might all appear to be selling the same grilled chicken and potatoes but the tried and tested favourite is right down to the end of the road and on the right…trust me!

The menu is fairly simple and all the below are brushed with honey before being grilled to perfection on the open grills you can see all along the street. You’ll also be served chilli sauce and pickled cucumbers in sweet vinegar to go with it.

bánh mì – grilled bread
cánh gà – chicken wings
khoai – roasted sweet potato, cubed on skewers

For the more adventurous there’s also the option of local favourite; chicken feet. Don’t be concerned if you don’t fancy trying out your Vietnamese, staff here are used to foreigners pointing out what delicious food they want to try next, so just point and hold the appropriate number of fingers up!

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Make sure to wash down your meal with glasses of local Bia Hoi. If I’m honest I’ve never really understood the pricing system here and I’m sure it changes slightly every time I’ve been, however a meal for two including all the chicken, bread and potatoes we could eat plus 3 beers each came to less than $10 this time which I can’t complain about.

Now as you’re sat on small plastic stools which I’ve seen many a westerner break and rubbish is pushed onto the floor to be cleaned at the end of the night…admittedly you might feel that the surroundings are not 5* standard, however the scores of motorbikes arriving night after night shows that this place’ popularity is here to stay, and there isn’t a star system high enough to score how good the food here!