A quintessentially British and dog-friendly afternoon tea

It doesn’t take much convincing to go out and enjoy afternoon tea at the Egerton House, a luxury hotel with history that dates back to 1627. So when my lovely pal Emma of the brilliant Adventures of a London Kiwi  blog suggested we meet to experience high tea in their elegant and dog-friendly Drawing Room, I marked the date in my diary and organised the appropriate attire for Olly: a blue bow tie courtesy of Matt’s closet. It wasn’t long before the day arrived and so with the pitter patter of some very posh paws, we made our way over to London’s stylish Knightsbridge district to experience what it is like to have afternoon tea accompanied by your furry friend.

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Like most places Olly ventures out to, he walked up to the five star establishment with a worrying familiarity; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about what trouble he might find at the Egerton House. Would they discontinue their dog-friendly afternoon tea because of a badly behaved Border Collie? Would Olly startle the staff that surely were only used to hosting the most refined and well mannered of English dogs? Needless to say I was very wrong.

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Sunlight pours into the Drawing Room where Victorian portraits adorn the walls and beautiful decor like the antique clocks match well with the original elements of the townhouse hotel. We met Emma as well as the darling Annie from MontgomeryFest blog and were greeted by staff with a welcome glass of Champagne. We opted for the traditional afternoon tea, a selection of traditional British finger sandwiches and pastries with freshly baked scones and clotted cream. Their selection of sweets did not disappoint; I enjoyed the blackberry macaroons and toffee caramel cupcake!

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After accepting some free pets and initiating some flirtation with the lovely staff, Olly opted for the doggy afternoon tea menu which included three tiers of deliciousness: an assortment of chicken and beef meatloaf, peanut butter biscuits and ice cream. He was also gifted with a special chew toy to take home!

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I’m not quite sure how the Egerton House manages to balance a refined elegance with its relaxed atmosphere but they do it so well. I’m completely smitten over the hotel and all of their charming staff that look after both their human and animal guests so well. We will be back soon!

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Life on the road: Driving the Emerald Isle

The promise of spring has put a pep in my step and a recent road trip through southwest Ireland has me inspired to start planning out more stories for Olly and the Bee. But first, I hope you enjoy this witty little post written by the Bee who was equally inspired after returning home from our little adventures abroad with Olly.

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Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way. Cliffs, seafood, Guinness and toasties.

Our first stop was a small pub called Connolly’s in Kinvara. Christina and I strolled in with Olly, as usual we were in the bar before asking if dogs were allowed. We later learnt that’s not how it is done in Ireland.

It wasn’t long before we got chatting to a very nice Irish chap who took an uncomfortably long, awkward pause before returning conversation. It’s true, alcohol slows reaction time. Nonetheless he, like everyone else we met, was very friendly and welcoming. Also like many other locals we met, he had connections with the U.S. and owns a border collie. I’ve never seen so many border collie’s in my life. Luckily Olly is part border collie, so between his genes, my ginger beard and Christina’s US-ness, we fitted in pretty well. That is, apart from our GB number plate, so I made an effort not to over take anyone or draw any attention to my London driving skills.

I had my two pints of Guinness and we called it a night.

Thanks to our first Airbnb host Linda, we started off day 2 with a hot tip for hot chocolate. Within the impressive landscape of The Burren, we found Hazel Mountain Chocolate. It was wonderful. I’m a 31 year old man and I like hot chocolate surrounded by shabby chic furniture, I’m man enough to admit it.

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The following few days were shaped by the spectacular south west coastline; the Cliffs of Moher (€6 per person), Rossbeigh beach (free) Bray Head (free), Mizen Head (€7.50 per person)

What was most spectacular about this coastline, was how easy it was to fall off the edge if you wanted to. International students, young families, old families, all jumped the wall to stand on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher. There was a guy playing the flute, possibly subconsciously luring tourists towards the edge. The only thing standing between them and a long fall into the Atlantic Ocean was a sign suggesting they keep to the path. Christina, Olly and I very briefly swayed from the path, before retreating to safety.

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We almost walked through the gale force winds to the end of Mizen Head, until I remembered the lady who sold us the tickets said don’t go that far. It made me wonder, have there been fatal accidents? Was this why they called it the Wild Atlantic Way? Christina and I like our lives, so we held hands and sped walked back over the bridge.

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At times it was blustery, at other times sunny, we saw beautiful rainbows, but no tiny ginger guys with pipes and gold.

These conditions actually worked in our favour throughout the trip, most of all when our ferry got cancelled.  Alas, what can you do with an extra night in Dublin? Obviously find a good pub and drink as much Guinness as possible.

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The next morning we checked in to the ferry port with 5 minutes to spare. One final thing to note, parks in central Dublin seem to be locked in the morning, who knows when they open.

The real treasure of the trip was getting in some much needed family time in this fast paced world. I reluctantly head back to 10 hour work days and 6 hour sleeps until the next adventure.

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Spice up your life with this easy pumpkin cheesecake recipe

It’s November 4th and It finally feels like fall. While it does mean shorter days with less sunshine, it compensates with a cold crisp air and golden leaves that tumble through the streets catching the tip of Olly’s nose. Maybe because I grew up in a climate that’s perpetually hot and sticky, summer is my least favorite of all the seasons. In contrast, fall comes with a sense of feeling reborn. When I was young, I eagerly anticipated the start of fall as it signified the start of a new school year, a fresh perspective on new beginnings, something that year after year still rings true through today. As the leaves fall, I feel renewed in every possible way. And as it specifically relates to food, it gets me excited to whip up something delicious with this season’s most delicious produce on offer, understandably starting with pumpkin.

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In preparation for the annual gathering we put on for Thanksgiving, I have started to test out some new recipes. Preparing and cooking the traditional feast usually takes me an evening and a full day’s worth of time. While all the traditional fixtures like mom’s cornbread stuffing and sweet potato casserole will remain on the menu, I have been looking for a few recipes that will save me some time and came across this easy pumpkin cheesecake recipe, which takes minutes to prep and simply requires you to blend all your ingredients together! I’ve included a slightly tweaked and adapted version for those in the UK looking to make this delightful pie across the pond.

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Pumpkin cheesecake recipe adapted for the UK

Ingredients

250 ml canned pumpkin puree (While I’ve had trouble finding canned pumpkin in previous years, I found it at the front of a large Waitrose being promoted along with all their other fall produce.)

250 g of Philadelphia cream cheese

125 ml cup of sugar

3 eggs

60 ml soured cream

A sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

15 g agave nectar syrup

Real cream for topping (optional)

Homemade Crust

80 ml melted butter

125 ml sugar

Graham cracker crumbs (you can get them online from Notting Hill’s American Food Store. Or, you can buy two packages of McVitie’s Ginger Nuts and crush them down in a blender.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 176 C

Mix the melted butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs together. Press graham mix into a 9-inch pie pan

Filling

Place all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust and leave ¼ in from the top for baking.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for about 4 hours in the fridge before serving. Top with real cream before serving.

From Farm to Dining Room Table

Lightly frying fresh farm eggs with the kettle on, it’s Sunday morning and I’m coordinating the same weekend brunch I’ve been cooking for almost five years now. As soon as I finish slicing up a fresh loaf of sourdough and mashing up the avocado, I scour Pinterest and start to plan out what meals might look like for the rest of the week. I take requests from the Bee on what he’s been craving lately. We don’t have many routines, but this is one of them. The weekend eggs and avocado brunch is a long standing favorite in our household. I love cooking with simple ingredients and London life sort of lends itself to that. Flats are petite and come with little to no fridge and storage space, forcing you to shop weekly versus stocking up frozen produce.

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This weekend’s food conversation is unlike most conversations we’ve had around the topic and this is what it’s been like ever since we decided to go meat-free in July. This means no pork, chicken, turkey, red meat or game. To be honest, I have no idea whether being Pescatarian will be shortly lived or more of a permanent lifestyle change, we’re taking it day by day! Also, I love traditional meals and am a bit panicky at the thought of not being able to cook a turkey at Thanksgiving.

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Burrata cheese with garden peas and roasted pistachios at Legs Restaurant.

With the exception being those grand celebratory feasts rich in tradition that I always look forward to, a lot of my own food inspiration comes from chefs and cooks who are inventive in their approach to cooking, who rely on what’s in season to develop their recipes. Like the exquisite dish my friend Ella and I recently tasted at Legs Restaurant in East London. Created by the talented Australian Chef Magnus Reid, he offers a daily-changing menu in a small, unassuming wine bar out in Hackney. Paired with a glass of the spiciest wine unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, we tried the burrata on a plate piled high with fresh garden peas and roasted pistachios. Or this group of ambitious Miami chefs I had the chance to write about recently for Travelspective on how they work with their local farmer to bring in the freshest produce to their kitchens.

All of this and more inspired me to order my first Farmdrop, a locally-based company that delivers fresh food to your door from local producers. It’s fresher than buying from your local supermarket as they pick up your foods from a local farmer and deliver it straight to you within 19 hours. Prices are cheaper or competitive with your local grocer. They offer a lot of simple recipes on their website too and I opted for trying out the Sweetcorn & Feta Fritters as well as their Tomato & Thyme Tart, both were delightful and tasted so fresh. You can get these recipes and more on their website. If you’re locally based and would like to give Farmdrop a go, head on over to their website and at checkout, use the code FARMOLOGY to get £20 off your first order of £35 or more.

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Sweetcorn & Feta Fritters, recipe at Farmdrop.

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Tomato & Thyme Tart from Farmdrop.

Summer Picnic Dreams

A few weeks ago, our furbaby Olly ended up getting stung by a bee on our walk back home. Yes, I’m aware of the strong irony here…

While he’s completely recovered now, cravings for honey hit me hard. I’ve even had DREAMS of this sumptuous spread paired with fromage on freshly baked artisan bread – it’s my summer obsession, and I can’t get enough of it!

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So what to do then? Prepare a summer picnic (obviously) starring this unpasteurized raw artisan honey I found in Putney Market, handmade in Hungary. Specifically, unpasteurized honey is an antioxidant and in general is packed with a ton of nutrients so you need not feel guilty for having it, like everything else, within moderation! I like to drizzle it over my morning granola, and lately, I’ve topped off my brie on bread with it. The forest flowers used by this small producer are said to also help with insomnia so it’s a nice honey to take with your bedtime tea too.

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For me, the simplicity of brie on bread with honey is the perfect way to taste each of these flavors and if you’re as crazy about them as I am, it’s an absolute textural delight. It pairs nicely with Champagne or Prosecco with a splash of honeysuckle or elderflower cordial – whatever you fancy for your aperitif!

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*The honey bear pictured with Olly is also from Raw Artisan Honey and you can purchase him as well as other cute jars of honey online from their website – the honey bear NOT the dog. 😉

Pack this simple summer picnic:

One jar of locally produced unpasteurized honey
Brie cheese – I prefer a smooth and soft brie with an edible rind. More cheese that way!
Sourdough bread (I buy Gail’s potato & rosemary sourdough bread via Waitrose.)
Champagne with honeysuckle and grapefruit cordial, or your own fizz and cordial of choice

If you’re at home:

Slice your bread and spread with butter. Top with the brie, honey, salt and pepper. Heat up in toaster oven for about 5 minutes for melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness!

July 4th feast: Pulled pork, baked beans & potato salad with Lynchburg lemonade

Growing up in Florida and having lived in England for nearly three years now, I’ve had my fill of ‘firsts’ and it sure does keep things exciting. It’s a good laugh for the people around me, and I like to think it keeps things interesting. Like celebrating my first UK pancake day with my brother-in-laws and cooking them the only way I knew how – big, thick American diner-style portions piled high with whipped cream, syrup and Nutella. If you’re British or live in the UK, you’re probably shaking your head right now… or salivating.

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Any expat living abroad knows that there are true hardships that come along with living in a country that isn’t your own, but when they tell you that the good times outweigh the bad, they are in my case telling you the truth. When the occasional case of homesickness kicks in, I’ve learned it’s good to stick to your roots. Whether it’s catching up with an expat friend for a coffee and a chat or calling home to just talk about the day you’ve had. But for me, nothing soothes a home-sore soul more than cooking a dish that’s nostalgic to your own culture and home.

 

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Growing up in my family house, the Fourth of July included every patriotic cliché imaginable – barbecue, sunshine, a swimming pool and country music blaring over fireworks. Say what you want, but it’s a cracking good day and it’s up there as far as food is concerned. Living in London, I’ve learned to embrace the ‘American’ and it has served me well. For the most part, I think people appreciate that and expect certain things so it’s exactly what I give them. Dished out and served up in the form of the annual Thanksgiving dinner I put on for my British friends and family. Or my mother’s homemade pulled pork, potato salad and baked beans dish…


Mom’s slow cooker pulled pork with homemade baked beans and potato salad 

yield: about four servings

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork 
You’ll need:
One Boston Butt (pork shoulder joint)
Mojo Marinade (You can buy this or make your own. I used this simple recipe for it here.)
Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce (You can order online in the UK here.)
Brioche buns or pretzel buns
Onions

INSTRUCTIONS
Pour mojo marinade over the meat and slow cook on high for four to six hours, or until tender. When done, pour out marinade leaving a small amount in the slow cooker for taste. On a separate dish, pull pork apart then transfer back into the slow cooker. Add your favourite BBQ sauce to the slow cooker (mine is Sweet Baby Ray’s!) Then let warm for about a half an hour or until you’re ready to serve. 

Southern U.S. Baked Beans

INGREDIENTS
2 cans or one bag of navy beans also known as haricot beans
Bacon (optional)
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 medium sweet onion
1/4 cup unsulphered molasses (or maple syrup)
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard
INSTRUCTIONS
Pre-heat oven to 325 f or 160 c. Pour beans into a medium pot. In a skillet, add diced bacon, onion and garlic. Cook until bacon is crispy and onion is tender. Add to the beans and mix. Then add the Worcestershire, unsulphered molasses, dark brown sugar, ketchup, mustard and stir. Pour everything into a deep dish and cook for 45 minutes. Increase temperature to 425 f or 220 c for 10 minutes. Let cool and serve! 

Southern U.S. Potato Salad

INGREDIENTS
3 hard-boiled eggs
7-8 potatoes
2 large pickles
1/3 cut red onion (or substitute for green onion)
Yellow mustard, mayonnaise (mix to taste)
INSTRUCTIONS
Bring pot to a boil and cook your potatoes for about ten minutes or until softened. Peel your potatos then cut into small chunks and throw into a mixing bowl. Chop up your pickles, onions and eggs to mix in with potatoes. Add in mayonnaise, yellow mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

 

You can get the recipe for Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade directly from their website. It’s a classic and favourite cocktail of mine!