The Vortex, Little 5 Points Atlanta, GA

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P P

Again, admitting I am completely spoilt in that I have 2 sisters in the USA in two of the coolest cities on the east coast. My eldest sister lives in New York State, and my second eldest lives in ATL.

Atlanta is one of the coolest places I have ever been and I absolutely love going, not only of course to see my sister and my adorable little niece but also because in the past few years, they have had an renaissance. The food scene in Atlanta is one of the very few in the USA that has such variety, innovation and fun!

However, all though I have a number of cool recent additions to the ATL scene to tell you all about, this one has actually been an institution in the area since 1992. The best hangover burger and fun place you can hang out whilst feeding a hangover with friends piecing together last night’s adventures.

If you are visiting ATL you should must visit The Vortex, food is fantastic, and the menu is hilarious. Read past the list of ingredients and you will find hilarity. Whoever wrote this menu must have been on a great buzz at the time, it is comedy genius.

Try it, I promise you it won’t disappoint…

Prices: Starters $6.95-$11.25 Main Courses $8.25 – $28.95 Desserts

Great for: Something a bit different, Hangover Heaven, Casual Dining, Fun Friends Meet ups (they also do take out 😉 )

Vixxy P’s Menu faves:

– Cheesey Cheese Goo – dip in tater tots!

– Blue Shroom Burger

– Swiss and Mushroom Burger

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Contact Details:

Address: 438 Moreland Avenue – Atlanta, GA 30307  (as recommended on their website just look for the Giant Skull!)

Telephone: +001 (404) 688-1828

Website: http://www.thevortexbarandgrill.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheVortexL5P

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thevortexl5p

Google +: https://plus.google.com/103687550343405850743/about?hl=en

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Gamboa, Almancil Portugal

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P P

I am one of those spoilt brats who are lucky enough to have parents who live abroad. They live in a beautiful part of the world, which I am very well aware does not fit in to the ‘authentic’ box, but boy have I loved growing up there – Quinta do Lago in the Algarve Portugal.

One of the great thing about the area being a resort based area, is that there are so many restaurants in the area to cater to the tourists that come from over Europe as well as the local residents. As much as I love fine dining, I do love the Portuguese way of ‘eating out’ – canteen style.

There are a few of these restaurants in the area that my parents frequent but their favourite (and now mine) is Gamboa. The main attraction as well as the food is the staff. Riu, Michelle and the team are so friendly, helpful and always happy to see you and squeeze you in where they can! The menu is varied and simple, easily a great place for those who don’t want to get all dressed up to pop out for a bite to eat.

If you have hungry men who are eating you out of house and home, I suggest you get them to order the Picanha here, the amount of food you get per order will satisfy (if not.. challenge) any one who orders it! Their Chicken Piri-Piri is another good order, none of this ridiculous Nandos stuff, proper Algarvian piri-piri.

One thing I would say is that you don’t need starters! If you accept the bread when you sit down, what they will bring you more than just bread. Cheese, Pate, Olives, Carrots all are more than enough to get your stomach working in preparation for your main course (and if you are particularly hungry, ask for some of the boiled prawns – they are divine!)

Prices: Starters 1.50€ – 7.50€ Main Course 5.50€ – 25.00€ Desserts 5.50€

Great for: Low key, casual, flip-flop dining

Vixxy P’s Menu faves: (unfortunately no photos here – however I am sure on my next visit I will get a few 😉 )

– Picanha

– Lamb Chops

– Chicken Piri-Piri

– Grilled Seabass

– Grilled Sole

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Contact Details:

Address: Rua Manuel dos Santos Vaquinhas, Almancil, Portugal

Telephone: (+351) 289 048 733

Website: http://www.visitou-ganhou.pt/index.php/web/106

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/restaurantgamboa

Twitter: n/a

Google +: n/a

Abeno, Bloomsbury London

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P P

After living in London for 8 years I finally get round to going to one of the first restaurants that was written on my ‘to do’ list. Boy was it worth the wait. Looking for somewhere a bit different for an informal celebratory meal we walked in without a reservation but the smiling waitress who greeted us must have worked some magic as miraculously a table appeared for us to have.

We had no clue how the menu worked and looked to our smiley waitress for guidance, she guided us through and gave us some history background as well as recommending portion sizes and what else to order.

Okonomi-yaki is a Japanese savoury pancake that is made in front of you on your table (which has a massive hot plate in the centre!). From what I have briefly researched it originates from two key areas, Kansai and Hiroshima and is a batter mix made with vegetables and served with a number of different meats/fishes or additional ingredients. All I know is that it is amazingly tasty and super fun! Don’t be fooled, the portions may look small but you come out feeling stuffed!

Prices: Okonomiyaki £15.95 – £49.95, Sides £2.80 – £12.90, Desserts £2.80 – £6.50

Great for: Something a bit different

Vixxy P’s Menu faves: 

Buta Kimchi Itame (Pork Pelly stir-fried with beansprouts, spring onions and kimchi, absolutely delish!)
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Goma-ae (if you are up for something a little different try these! Our waitress told us it was like the Japanese Marmite – I think she means that some people love it and some people hate it!… Go on, try it! They are certainly not gross but definitely interesting!)IMG_2805

Natsu-no-Omoide (this was a summer limited edition Okonomi-yaki but if they have it, then try it, it was so tasty and the veg really gave it a real edge compared to my dining companions which were just meat based)

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Contact Details:

Address: 47 Museum Street, Bloomsbury, London, W1D 3RP

Telephone: 0207 405 3211 (reservations recommended)

Website: http://www.abeno.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abeno.okonomiyaki

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Abeno_Okonomi

Google +: n/a

Pizza Pilgrims, Soho London

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P 

One of the street food successes, Pizza Pilgrims have set roots down in Soho and nested in their own quirky (and very cosy!) corner premises dishing out fabulous Napoli inspired pizzas to the people. They have a number of different locations, some permanent as well as setting up at some of the city’s popular street food locations.

The best things these guys have done with their offerings and menu is that they (in the words of my own father) ‘keep it simple’. Simple in that there are 9 pizza choices, each one as unique as the next which does cause some serious consideration issues for me and my lovely friend Camilla who popped in for an after works long overdue catch up!

We arrived about 6.30pm and there was a light crowd surrounding the restaurant, we groaned with the prospect of being told there is at least an hour wait. We braved the crowd walked in and talked to a very friendly maitre’d who wrote our names on to her very organised clipboard and invited us to enjoy the evening outside and order a drink while we waited for our table. Not a problem!

After being told a 30min wait we were called after 10mins, we were shown downstairs to their ‘cyrpt’ which was buzzing like a true napoli pizzeria. Tables covered in oilcloths and simple chairs from school assembly halls fitted the purpose perfectly. We ordered quickly as the temperature down there was fairly ‘close’ shall we say, so we were eager for liquid to ease our thirst.

The Ruby Juniper cocktail was delish, it packed a punch and not for the faint hearted but certainly a welcome tipple on a hazy Tuesday evening after a hectic day in the office. Literally minutes after our drinks came pizza. My wonderful friend Camilla had the ‘Nduja’ spicy sausage pizza which we would thoroughly recommend for anyone with a cold who is wishing to clear their sinuses – dat waza spicy a pizza! (sorry couldn’t help myself). I chose the ‘Calzone ripieno’ which was superb. Fresh ingredients and served quickly. You couldn’t go wrong!

All in all this is a great little place for a quick little bite, don’t expect to be able to stay and drink the night away over a lengthy meal here, if you are sat upstairs you may be death stared by the queueing patrons waiting for their seat! But it is definitely worth a little visit. The one thing we didn’t get to try (as to be quite honest we felt like we were eating in the pizza oven it was so warm downstairs) is the desserts. The ones that intrigued us both were the Lemon Sorbet served in its own skin and of course the infamous Nutella & salted ricotta pizza ring. An excellent excuse for us to go back to ensure the full menu is sampled! I have given it a 4 P’s out of 5 rating in hope that they get some proper Air Conditioning installed down there!

Prices: Pizzas £5 – £11, Sides £3 – £6, Desserts £4 – £6

Great for: Weekly speedy catch ups (but be prepared to have a drink and wait for your table … its worth the wait!)

Vixxy P’s Menu faves:

Ruby Juniper Cocktail IMG_2388Nduja Pizza   IMG_2390Calzone Ripieno IMG_2389 Contact Details:

Address: 11 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3RP

Telephone: 0207 287 8964 (reservations taken)

Website: http://pizzapilgrims.co.uk/pizzerias/dean-st-soho/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pizzapilgrims

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pizzapilgrims

Google +: https://plus.google.com/104325088801262550164/about?hl=en

L’Orchidee, The Village, Westfield London

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P P

As we braced ourselves, we knew it needed to be quick. Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush on a Saturday is no easy task, and when it is the only place that we could get to that has most of the retailers we needed to visit, we knew there was no option. We took a deep breath and dived in. Mission was almost complete and we could see the end in site, then the dreaded loo stop. Always at the wrong time and always just when you don’t want it. In the search for the holy ‘Ladies Loo’ I discovered Westfield’s latest and best addition – L’Orchidee.

For those who don’t know about L’Orchidee it is a luxury boutique patisserie set up by two amazing patisserie chefs who supply a number of high end venues including Fortnum & Mason and other fine hotel establishments. The offer an stunning range of macarons, cakes and many more you can drool over. The staff are lovely, ever so friendly and are knowledgeable. They will recommend based on your taste and are lovely and helpful.

Just in case you were wondering, we did find the loo in time!

Prices: Individual Macarons start from £1.80, they offer selection boxes (like the one below), cakes are individually priced per types. For the placement of the cafe, the prices aren’t that bad, but lets face it, it’s a posh cafe in the posh area of Westfield, but I can recommend for a moment where you just need to indulge, choose L’Orchidee.

Great for: When the shopping gets too much (for medicinal purposes only I recommend a glass of Prosecco and a few of these beauties – see below)

Vixxy P’s Menu faves:

Amazing flavours to try: Kia Royal, Salted Caramel, Raspberry, Peanut Butter,

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 Macaron vs. Macaroon

What do you say? This is a hot debate between me and my friends, we have many different sides to the argument, and even though Wikipedia states it is Macarons there is room for regional and diversity in terminology! What’s your favourite – Macarons or Macaroons?

Contact Details:

Address: First Floor, The Village, Westfield London, Ariel Way, London W12 7GF

Telephone: unknown

Website: http://uk.westfield.com/shop/stores/lorchidee/london?retailer=53418

Facebook: L’Orchidee

Twitter: L’Orchidee

Google +: L’Orchidee

VIET on Greek Street, Soho

Vixxy P rating:  P P P P P

Had my bi-monthly fix of this place last week.  And again it is just as good as always. It is a small kitchen style restaurant with friendly staff. The food is quick and delicious. In the year’s I have been coming it is consistently good food, and I am yet to be proved wrong to my claim it is the best place to have Pho in London. They recently have branched out and offer more than just vietnamese dishes, there is a selection of Thai dishes including curries.

It has had a little makeover recently. Gone are the shredded, biro scribbled priced menus and basic cutlery, but the sentiment and simplicity stays the same.

Queues can occur here, but I swear it is worthy of the wait.

Prices: Starters come in approximately at £3-£5 and Main Courses £5-£9

Great for: Weekly after work catch up dinners,

Vixxy P’s Menu faves:

Summer Rolls

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Special Pho:

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Contact Details:

Address: 34 Greek Street, London, W1D 5D

Telephone: 020 7494 9888

Website: No known website (if you do know of one get in touch!)

Google +: Viet Pho

Sylvia’s Super quick Stir Fry recipe

One of those dishes that your mum does that you can never get quite right. I have had this recipe in my possession for more than a few years now, and after countless tries I still can’t get it as good as I remember my mum’s being when we were younger!

It’s not an authentically accurate dish, but it is a wonderfully tasty one.

Sylvia's stirfry

Nevertheless this is still such ridiculously simple recipe, so easy for a weekday dinner and so tasty (it is also great the next day as something you can take to work for lunch!). This recipe will serve 6 people.

You can use any kind of meat or fish for this dish- cooked shredded chicken/strips of cooked steak/slices of grilled pork or cooked prawns/cooked flaked salmon.

Ingredients

450g Long grain rice

1ltr water

Meat/Fish (I used leftover Roast Chicken shredded)

1 Medium Onion (peeled and chopped)

2 Carrots (peeled and thinly sliced into Juilenne style slices)

0.5 Small Broccoli (chopped up into small sprigs and chunks)

5 White Mushrooms (chopped up)

1 Red Chilli (chopped up finely)

1 bottle of dark soy sauce

1 tbsp oil (I used vegetable)

Handful of raw cashew nuts

Method

1. Cook the rice as per your preferred method, I use my trusty steamer from Lakeland

2. Put rice aside

3. In a frying pan or wok add the oil and gently fry the onions till soft

4. If you are using raw meat or fish add this to the wok/pan now and use a little bit more oil to help coat the meat or fish

5. Once the meat has cooked through add the carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and chilli and stirfry until everything is tender (if you are using already cooked meat or fish, add this with the vegetables)

6. Add the cooked rice to the stirfry and start adding soy sauce

7. Mix the stir fry with the soy sauce tasting as you go. Some people prefer a little bit of soy sauce, others prefer a lot. Add some, mix it through the stirfry and then taste it, keep adding bit by bit till you are happy with the taste. It should be just salty enough from the soy but not too much you can’t taste the rest of the ingredients.

8. Enjoy!

Easy Gingerbread cake

Although the weather in London this week’s has become fairly mild, we are officially in the depths of Autumn. I know this as my craving for sweet deep and warming flavours like ginger, nutmeg and other spices has started creeping in to my mind.

This recipe I worked on with my fellow baker Sam and I have to say is now a firm favourite. This tray bake is a winner not only because of the taste but also it is  multi-purpose! Hot, cold, fresh or a few days old it still tastes wonderful. The rich flavours are so warmly wonderful you almost want it to be cold outdoors so you can snuggle up with a hot drink and a slice of this gingerbread cake.

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Gingerbread cake I made for Halloween 2012

Last year I prepared these for my annual Halloween party and used ready made icing to cut out little ghosts to put on top which were very popular! This is definitely also something you could do for Christmas, and replace the little ghost with a little christmas tree or holly leaf. I love versatility in a bake!

Ingredients

425g Golden Syrup

115g Unsalted Butter

65g Dark Brown Muscavado Sugar

50g Orange Marmalade

2 Large Eggs

160ml Milk (I used semi skimmed)

115g Self Raising Flour

115g Wholewheat Flour

1.5 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

4 tsp Ground ginger (This is for quite spicy gingerbread cake, if you don’t want it quite as spicy use only 2 tsp)

0.5 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

A pinch of salt

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160c

2. Line a traybake tin or any tin you have (I used a foil traybake tin from Lakeland) with greaseproof paper or parchment

3.  Put the butter, sugar, golden syrup and marmalade in a pan together and heat over a medium/low heat until well mixed. Put this aside to cool for 10mins.

4. Whisk in a bowl the eggs and milk and add* to the liquid mixture whisking these both together. *Make sure the liquid mixture is cool enough other wise the egg mix will scramble!

5. In a large bowl or alternatively in your food mixer mix together all the dry ingredients – all flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt

6. Add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients mix thoroughly till fully combined and smooth

7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin

8. Bake for 50-60mins, check after 50mins just in case. You will know when it is ready as the cake will be springy and when prodded will come out clean

9. Keep the gingerbread cake in the tin to cool on a wire rack, it may shrink away from the sides of the tin, don’t worry that is ok!

10. Whilst this was cooling I rolled out some ready made icing, cut out the ghost shapes and then used black icing colour to dot on the icing to make the eyes.

11. Once the gingerbread cake had cooled I cut the cake into 15 pieces

12. I used orange marmalade to brush on the back of the cut out ghosts and then fixed one per square of cake

After a few days if you still have some of this cake left, I recommend taking off the icing shapes, placing in a dessert bowl, heating up in the microwave for 1 minute and serving with custard! YUM!

Lime Chicken Salad, Szechuan Style

I have to reblog this recipe, my very good friend Katie here has posted this recipe in her fantastic blog, which i tried and was absolutely delicious. A great low fat chicken salad rich with flavour and zing. Great post Katie!

Reidbury's Kitchen

So as you will probably know by now, I’ve been half-doing WeightWatchers for a while and lost half a stone. But since my trips away to Spain, New York and Scotland, I got firmly out of the habit of point counting. And now I can’t be bothered with it. Meanwhile Paul has been on the 5:2 (or Intermittent Fasting) diet for about 3-4 months and has lost over a stone. So I decided to convert. And I think I must be the only person who seems to have put weight on doing this. It’s only my third week though, so hopefully my body will catch up soon!

There’s so much media attention on the 5:2 at the moment, with magazines, newspapers and websites dedicating space to appropriate ‘5:2’ meals. But really it’s just a super low calorie diet – women reduce their calorie intake to 500 calories a day for…

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Vixxy’s Secret Valentine Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting

Secret Valentine Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting recipe

With the annual gushy-lovey day approaching and a spare rainy Sunday I decided to attempt a recipe I have been thinking about for a while, trying to work out how to get a secret little cake within a cake (inspired by The Great British Bake Off, and also that well known baker of cake Lauren Conrad!)
Have to admit, my man and I do enjoy an excuse to go out for a nice meal and some time together but we don’t really ever celebrate on the day itself. I’m a bit of a miser with money and hate the inflated for one day only prices and also gushing love really does put me off my meal when I am surrounded by couples declaring their undying forevers to each other whilst I’m tucking into something utterly delicious… bleurgh.

Anyways, on with the recipe and not my ranting!

So here they are in all their glory.

Image of Secret Valentine's Cupcakes with Champagne frosting recipe

Secret Valentine’s Cupcakes with Champagne frosting recipe

I was rather chuffed with the outcome and hope yours will turn out the same.

Secret Valentine Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting recipe

Secret Valentine Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting recipe

The recipe I used for the batter mix was from another post I made The best Vanilla sponge recipe ever!

Method

1. Prepare sponge batter mix as per the recipe in the link above till no. 8 in the method.

2. Divide the batter mix. I separated a third of the mixture in to a separate bowl, and the other two thirds I put to one side (even in the fridge if your kitchen is quite warm)

3. Then add red food colouring. The density of the colour is up to you, but I definitely think the more you dare, they more you are rewarded as the stark difference in colour of the sponges really adds to the secret heart in the cupcake!

4. Prepare and line a baketray (one that you would use for making flapjacks or brownies)

5. Pour the red batter mixture in to the baketray, smoothing the batter down. The aim is to have batter mixture of about half an inch or less.

6. Pop in the pre-heated oven at 180c for 15/20 mins, keep checking on it as it will cook a lot quicker than you think! (it will be slightly under cooked so will feel quite ‘wet’ but make sure it is cooked through by using a clean cocktail stick or a skewer in the middle of the tray

7. Bring the red sponge out the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely

8. Once this has cooled completely, you can either buy a mini heart shaped cutter or you can use a knife and cut out round a heart template you can cut out from paper/card

9. Cut out 12 hearts and place to one side

10. Get the plain sponge batter you have set aside

11. Set out your cases in a cupcake tray and spoon 1 spoonful of the plain mixture in each case

12. Place your red heart sponges in the middle of each cupcake case, standing up to attention rather than flat down with the pointy bit of the heart at the bottom. Press the sponge carefully down into the batter mixture. It should hopefully hold in the middle as the wet batter will hold it in place

13. Once you have placed all 12 of the hearts in the centre of the cupcake cases, divide the rest of the mixture around the all 12 of the hearts in the cases

14. Put the cupcakes back in the over and bake at the same 180 for another 20 mins. This was a little tricky as I left mine in for about 5/10 mins longer after I checked them, but use a skewer/cocktail stick to check after the initial 20mins first.

15. Once they are fully baked, place on a cooling tray. The top of the hearts may be peeping out the top of the cupcake but that is ok

16. Prepare a buttercream made up of icing sugar and unsalted butter, I don’t really have a recipe for this as I just whip room temperature/soft (not too soft!) butter and then add icing sugar till I like the taste!

17. I used flat room temperature champagne and added it very slowly so I wouldn’t ‘curdle’ the buttercream. I used about 3 ‘generous’ tablespoons! 😉

18. Once mixed together use a teaspoon to decorate the top of the cupcake, I used just enough on each one so they covered the little peeping hearts in the cupcakes.

19. Chill for half an hour so the buttercream sets, then enjoy these little surprises or give them as gifts to your Valentines ( there are 12 so I am not judging anyone on how many people they give one to!)