Friday 25 November 2016

Tuesday @ Y Fabrica

When I first moved to Didsbury, Mudcrab was one of my favourite restaurants. I especially loved their signature burger and fries (perfect hangover cure with friends), but was also a place I brought my parents, and I thought they'd got that balance as an all-rounder down to a T. They've recently re-branded to Y Fabrica: still under the Mudcrab umbrella, but branching out to offer chilled, Cali-Mexican food. Think tacos, stuffed jalapenos, margaritas; sharing plates and cocktails - oh yess.

I got invited to come down and sample their tacos & margaritas and so last week, we made our way over for what I hoped would be a spicy, flavoursome affair to warm me up on a cold November evening.

I've got to say the furnishings give the place a lovely vibe - big wicker chairs (a bit like the furniture at the old Grand Pacific?) dominate the front area, and I imagine in the day light it would look beautiful. We were sat a bit further back so excuse the photos as some of them are a little dark (sorry).

The team at Y Fabrica were so lovely, our waiter Orion (I think that was his name!) was chatty (but not 'fake' chatty), made us laugh and feel at home. He recommended a load of dishes and asked us our favourite flavour combinations and how hungry we were... which resulted in this for starters:

Chicken Tinga Taco - pulled chicken soft flour tacos, with crumbled feta, pomegranate slaw and pico de gallo (Mexican chopped salsa, I learnt..)

Pork belly soft flour tacos with apple slaw and pico de pina (fruity salsa!)

Breadcrumbed and fried jalapeno poppers with a salsa verde

I'm known for being over dramatic but these were hands down the best pulled chicken tacos I've ever had. You'd think that the tacos themselves would be nothing to write home about, you know, the meat and filling should be the main affair? But take it from me, I've never tasted such fresh, "homemade" tasting soft flour wraps. You could just tell they'd been made moments before. Their plumpness worked well to scoop up all the pulled chicken (delicious), pomegranate and feta. I was gutted as James and I had agreed to go halves on each others starters, and so reluctantly handed over my plate.

The pork belly was gorgeous too, so swapping really wasn't so bad!

The jalapeno poppers were right up my street too. Whole jalapenos, injected with creamy, warm cheese. SO NAUGHTY but so good. A gorgeous salsa verde accompanied it. I'd highly recommend getting these to share.

When it came to the mains, Orion was really good at advising on portion sizes, and recommended that we get the nachos to share with our mains, as James's dish wasn't huge, he said.

I went for the slow cooked lamb tagine (obviously), with pomegranate couscous (pomegranate's really having a moment isn't it?) and yoghurt. It was delicious; full of flavour - rich and tomatoey, and very generous with the lamb. The size was perfect too, although I couldn't eat all the couscous.

James was content with his fruity choice too; fried chicken on a bed of chunky chilli watermelon - it sounds odd but in all honesty, it really worked! The watermelon was fresh and a perfectly unassuming partner for a plate of crispy fried chicken. It's definitely a good wild card option.

We also got the pulled chicken nachos to share (the pulled chicken was so good in the tacos I was so excited to know we were having more..), and oh my word, they were massive. Our waiter brought out a huge tray of nachos smothered in pulled chicken, avocado mash, jalapenos, salsa and cheese.

We could've just eaten these and been full! They were devilishly moreish and we had a pretty good go at eating them all ("just one more..").

I didn't have a margarita due to 'dry November' reasons, but James got the 'Smokey and the Bandit' - a spicy, oaky margarita with a Maldon salt rim. He said it tasted delicious, so I'll have to take his word, and try them for myself in December.

We really didn't need it, but we got dessert. I saw something with Snickers in and couldn't get it out of my head! Icecream, Snickers, chocolate sauce and torched meringue - it was LUSH.

You can check out the full menu here. I remember seeing a sign outside offering 2-4-1 cocktails during the week before a certain time, so it would be a perfect place for mid-week drinks and dinner.

They invited me down to try just their tacos and margaritas but when we went to pay the bill, our waiter told us that it was all on the house - which sweetened our evening even more. Such a lovely touch, they really didn't need to do that! We were expecting to, and would have gladly, paid for the rest of our meal, but it was a lovely gesture.

I'll definitely be back - I want at least two pulled chicken tacos next time around!

Sunday 20 November 2016

How I stay motivated to train throughout Winter - Movember 10k

Last Sunday's gym... loveee running when it's crisp outside
I've been reading a lot lately on how to stay motivated throughout the winter months, as it's something I can really struggle with. My newsfeeds have moved away from beach photos, people getting stronger and more confident for their summer holidays, and instead has been replaced with cosy fire scenes, mulled wine and hearty, warming food photos. It's the most cliched thing, but the dark and rainy mornings, cold (and even darker) early evenings, and a hectic social life can really play havoc with my desire to get out and train.

I was really struggling for motivation mid-October, just before the clocks went back and when the mornings were exceptionally black. I wasn't training half as much and when I was, it was half-arsed. I could see my progress slowing and became agitated with my attitude.

credit: Pinterest
Over the past month, I've really made a conscious effort to up my training game and get back on it in the run up to Christmas.

I've not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have made a conscious effort to maintain a regular exercise routine, and am actually happy with how I've managed to keep at it.

So if you're looking for that little bit of extra help with some motivation before Christmas, here's what I've been doing to stay on track...

1) Giving up alcohol

Yep, I've been 'that' person this month, giving up alcohol throughout November to do 'Dry-November' ("is that a 'thing'?" people ask. No, and I am well aware of that, and it's been hard!) I promised myself I'd be kinder to my body before the madness of Christmas kicks in and I'm 20 days in so far! I'm going to do a separate blog post dedicated to this, so keep your eye out for it but as I'm sure you've guessed, a lack of hangover has meant it's been far easier to train.

2) Indulging in 'the best' 

So I might have given up alcohol but believe you me the treats have been non stop this month. Knowing my social life was going to pick up means I've eaten out loads, which has also kept me motivated to keep on training.

Whilst I usually make a balanced choice eating out, for me, it's also important to treat yourself. Hannah from Wedges and Weights passed off some great advice at her festive supper club last year, and one of the key pieces of advice was about indulging - indulge in the best treat that you want every now and then, so that you don't constantly feel like you want more.

3) Preparation 

I've mentioned this in a previous post about fitness motivation (FYI this has a list of morning gym motivation tips if you're struggling here...), and I still stand by this one. It's so important!

If I'm going to the gym in the morning, I pack allllll my gym kit, work bag, work clothes, spare clothes (if I'm out after work) the night before, and make my lunch and breakfast for the day ahead the previous evening too.

Choosing my outfit for the next day is such a time saver as I faff about what to wear all.the.time. I also like to have everything packed up and ready to go as usually, I'm the only one awake and don't want to wake anyone up! Packing ahead also (perhaps more crucially) means that I can spend more time in bed asleep so is always a winner for me.

4) Pre-book

In a similar vein to preparation, booking on to various classes, races, events (whatever floats your boat!) is a great way to keep you in check.

At the Men's Health 10k Survival of the Fittest
In the past month, I've done the Men's Health Survival of the Fittest 10k and today, the Mo Running Movember 10k, which has 100% absolutely played a part in motivating me to train!

My motivation for training for this was definitely increased as the Movember PR team asked me if I'd like to take part in the run to raise awareness for the charity (I still bought my t-shirt to donate to the charity, it's a great cause!).

The run was at Heaton Park but the Mo Running team have organised 17 runs up and down the country throughout November to support, raise awareness and money for the Movember Foundation, which aims to 'stop men dying too young'. It's an amazing umbrella charity that wants to take on key global health issues that are affecting men worldwide - prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. It's not just about trying to grow a mustache!

We did really well in the race (which was muddy, slippy, narrow and hilly! ~getting those excuses in now~), coming in 62nd and 63rd out of over 400 runners, at 50mins 31secs - a time I'm happy with! I'd love to get this down to sub 50 though, 45 minutes would be insane.

Booking onto an event and committing to it gives me a set goal to work towards, which helps me focus and gives me a kick to keep it up at the gym. Crucially, it also gives me purpose which in turn makes training feel worth something. This definitely works for me.

Like I said I'm not perfect and there have definitely been a days over the past few weeks where the morning gym alarm has been snoozed (or called off altogether), so if you have any other winter workout motivation advice, pleeease share them with me!

Franks x


Saturday 5 November 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Windermere - Getting away from it all

Credit: Beech Hill hotel
Well, this is it. My third and final post in the #LakeDistrictSeries (you can read the other two here and here) - a handful of posts dedicated to getting away from it all and chilling the hell out. I'm absolutely a Lake District convert after this trip. I've always known its beauty but didn't fully appreciate just how lucky we are to have this unspoiled corner of the world on our doorstep - I can't wait to go back!

I'd left my last post just as we got in the car to drive back down to Windermere to the Beech Hill Hotel & Spa, a luxury hotel and spa on the water's edge.

We arrived just as it was getting dark, which made the hotel seem even more luxurious, with the pool lights glinting in the moonlight and big pillar candles in the ornate bar and restaurant, welcoming us in.

As much as hiking up a waterfall is relaxing and good for clearing the mind, you and I both know that sitting in a Jacuzzi watching the sunset over Lake Windermere is also pretty up there when it comes to chilled vibes.

There were only two other people in the spa when we arrived, who happened to leave quite soon after we got there, meaning we got the entire pool and spa to ourselves.

We spent about an hour and a half flitting between outdoor pool, sauna, steam room and main pool. It was absolute bliss; the sauna and stretching out in the pool worked wonders on my legs from the park run and Buttermere hike!

The sauna was my favourite room by far. It was floor to ceiling gold stones which gave such an exotic feel to it, and I loved the idea of the glass wall looking out on to the pool.

The original hotel itself is beautiful, a gorgeous house with gardens and terraces spilling down to the waterfront. I've taken these photos from the Beech Hill website as mine really didn't do the hotel justice!

We were booked in to eat at 8.30 that night which came round really quickly, so we hurriedly got ready and made our way up to the restaurant.

Wow. All I can say is that they really know how to do evening dining. First up, you're served canapes and drink of choice (g&t, obviously), in the bar area (if it was any warmer we would've been on the terrace with fairy lights I can tell you that - instead we sat on huge comfy sofas next to an open fire... bliss), whilst you peruse the menu.

After we'd chosen our food, we were led to our table. There were lots of groups of people eating celebrating birthdays, and I think it would make a really good 'special' birthday restaurant.

It's really no surprise that the restaurant is award-winning. The food was absolutely spectacular. This time, James and I really didn't want to share our courses they were that good.

To start, I had tuna steak with a soft boiled egg and wilted greens, which hit the spot perfectly...

James went for mussels mariniere with garlic, herbs and chardonnay... served in a baked beef tomato. It sounds strange but it was delicious.

We were then presented with our obligatory sorbet, to cleanse the palate before the main course (I told you, the Cumbrians love their sorbet).

I went for crispy duck confit, with red cabbage, a gorgeously creamy mash and rich jus. The portion size was MASSIVE but I struggled on... leaving just an artichoke heart, which I'm not a fan of.

James was on the lamb cutlets with fresh veg and a potato fondant, which tasted insane too.

It was quite dark in the restaurant, so please excuse the photo quality in some of this pics!

Rather like our stay in Keswick, I was so excited for morning to be able to pull back the curtains and see the view properly.

It's so beautiful and calming to wake up to a view like that, and if I'm honest, the only thing that prevented us from having a massive lie in, as we wanted to go and explore!

But first, we had to make room for breakfast. I was still SO full from the night before but I couldn't turn down poached eggs on toast, nor a cheeky bit of granola and yoghurt (and *maybe* a croissant too)...

We wandered into Bowness on Windermere and had a good old potter (who doesn't love a little potter) around all the shops and looked in all the cafe windows, before walking down to the water's edge.

We decided to go on a boat cruise to Ambleside, and tick another town off our Lake District list!

Being outside on the boat was crisp and a little chilly, but the views were incredible and the autumn sun was out in full swing.

Getting to Ambleside takes around half an hour / 40 mins on the boat, and to walk up to Ambleside village from the dock is about a 20 mins brisk walk away (you can also get a bus)- so, if you're pushed on time just keep this in mind!

We trekked on up on foot once we'd docked and headed for Ambleside waterfall, which is through the town and up a steady hill. I'm so glad we made the effort to explore it as the town was beautifully quaint, chocolate box style cottages and gift shops.

Windermere would be the perfect town to explore over Christmas, I can imagine the lake is stunning in winter - Beech Hill would make a great place to stay (think of the sunset in that Jacuzzi!). If there are any must-see places you'd recommend in the Lakes, pleeease let me know because I'm desperate to go back!

When we got home, we both felt like we'd been away for much longer than two days. To me it felt like nearly a week. It felt a little contradictory really as we'd done sooo much, packed in seeing and doing so many things but equally, I felt so calm and relaxed, completely chilled out the entire time. It's amazing how getting away from your everyday surroundings can ground you and make you get perspective.

I'd really like to say thank you to both Beech Hill hotel and the Highfield hotel in Keswick for giving me the opportunity to have such a beautiful weekend, I'm really grateful.


The Beech Hill Hotel & Spa kindly paid for my stay and food, but as ever, thoughts and opinions are my own!

Thursday 20 October 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Buttermere - getting away from it all

If you've read my last #LakeDistrictSeries post, you'll know that we were on our way from Keswick Park Run to Buttermere, in hunt of a good walk.

A friend had recommended we head that way and we ended up roughly following this walking route :
We started off a little outside of Buttermere (it's a tiny hamlet), about a five minute walk to the main sheep farm and cluster of pubs, and set off for a walk around the lake.

If you're looking for a decent walk that's got flat ground, a few hills, forest, water, sheep, and stunning scenery, this is the one.

We went the wrong way at first and headed towards Crummock water but turned round after about 20 minutes, which added to our total 'hike' time. We were walking from 12pm to 3pm, so it was a pretty decent hike!

About half way, we stumbled across a waterfall and decided to climb it. How incredible is this view from the waterfall? I took this on my iPhone and I'm soo impressed with the quality - I've not edited this at all. Our world is beautiful sometimes!

I cannot explain how beautiful it was - it was serene and really calming. It felt like we were in the Alps or somewhere remote in Scandinavia.

After the climb back down we followed the track round and after twenty minutes or so came to an icecream / sorbet / coffee shack and got a little tub of sorbet (told you before, they love it up here!).

Walking back down the other side of the lake takes you to the water's edge which is beautiful:

We got back to Buttermere village and headed straight to the Bridge Hotel for food and drinks in the sun. A pint of Thatchers, soup and a sandwich later, it was time to head back to the car and set off down to Windermere, for the final stop in our trip...

Buttermere is definitely a perfect walk for those people who don't have 'full on' hiking gear (poles etc). I also think it would make a perfect winter walk route - yes, it was exceptionally beautiful when we went and we were so lucky with the autumn sun, but because there aren't any real hills (along the lake, anyway), it means that bad / wet weather wouldn't put you off. I'd definitely recommend going if you fancy a big walk in the Lakes!

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Negroni tasting with House of Peroni @ Harvey Nichols

Well. If ever there's a cocktail that can help solve a sore throat, I think I had it tonight. I was invited to Harvey Nics by The House of Peroni, to celebrate bringing a little bit of Italy to Manchester.

House of Peroni create cool, quirky pop up events around the UK to celebrate Italian lifestyle, culture, food and drink. If you've read my posts on Rome or Elba Island, you'll know how much I'm absolutely in love with the country. The food, culture and lifestyle absolutely resonates with me and I love the quote "buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici", which roughly translates as good food, good fine, and good friends.

House of Peroni are offering lots of quirky events throughout November, and tonight for us was all about 'The Love Of Negroni' - trying five different negroni cocktails before choosing our favourite.

I'll admit. I don't think I've ever knowingly drank Negroni, so I was intrigued to say the least. I had a stonking cold and headache, and was brought a really warming Winter Garden cocktail upon arrival (their take on mulled wine - Peroni, Brandy, Falernum, lemon, apple and sugar) - and it was lovely.

If like me you aren't too familiar with Negroni, allow me to introduce you... 'sweet vermouth and bitter notes define this bold yet refreshing drink' - a classic recipe would involve;

20ml gin
15ml Peroni Nastro Azzurro
20ml sweet vermouth
20ml Campari
Garnished with an orange peel twist.

It's sophisticatedly sip-worthy and would be the perfect pre-dinner palate cleanser.

After the Winter Garden cocktail, we had some beautiful canapes, including beef tartare, salmon & avocado mousse.

We then moved over to the bar to learn about the history of Negroni and got to try the five variations of the cocktail. Peroni's Master of Mixology, Simone Caporale, talked us through the different notes and flavours in each cocktail.

My favourite two were the Negroni Secco (lime, Peroni, rum, campari & sugar) (pictured below), and the Fruttato (bllueberry extract, Peroni, Vermouth, gin, campari).

It was such a lovely evening, and affirmed my amorous feelings towards Italian culture. Maybe it's the Negroni talking, but regardless - it's definitely worth a visit!

It's not just Negroni tasting though, there's a private dining experience with a 'feasting' menu, Italian brunch (including something called Purgatorio - spicy baked eggs with njud, YUM), a pasta making course and more.

To grab your own slice of Italian action, you need to book on to the events:

The House Of Peroni's Amare l'Italia pop-up from the 9th - 12th November at Harvey Nichols Manchester, here's the link:

The guys at Peroni kindly paid for my Negroni experience - but as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Sunday 16 October 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Keswick - getting away from it all

Sometimes, I'm such a contradiction to myself. Here I am, writing a post about getting away from it all, the beauty of escaping busy life and chilling right out, but at the same time feeling at a loss because my phone is broken.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the impact not having my phone has had on me. The top three emotions I feel are paranoid, isolated and really disconnected from everything. And yet, last week, feeling disconnected was exactly what I wanted. So, I guess I'm writing this for my present self, to look back on last week and try and think a bit bigger, to think outside of the iPhone box.

So. To take you back with me... Last Friday after work, James & I drove up to The Lakes to Keswick, to stay at the Highfield Hotel.

We arrived bang on 8.30, just as the kitchen were taking their last orders, and so we scrambled through to the dining room to quickly place our orders. I'd tried (and failed) to order over the phone, but the phone signal was pretty bad. The hotel manager was really accommodating and ushered us straight through so we could place our order. Living in Manchester, where food is pretty much 24/7 ‘on’, you forget that more remote places don’t have the need to function until really late on in the evening. 

The dining room is split over two rooms, and we were in the quieter of the two, with just one other couple. We were definitely the louder couple, and it did feel like we had the room to ourselves, which was nice. I thought it might be a bit awkward but actually it felt like we had hired caterers into our house! The staff were really lovely and despite the initial rush, let us settle down and set the pace for a really relaxed meal. 

Scallops & King Prawns
Wood Pigeon
We started off with a really rich bottle of Rioja, and gorgeous canap├ęs - including a lovely paprika hummus crisp bread. For our first courses, I opted for wood pigeon, and James had the scallops and king prawns. The kitchen at the Highfield pride themselves on using locally sourced, seasonal food, which is always a winning act with me.

My pigeon was amazing. The meat was so tender it almost melted in your mouth, and the chorizo and vegetables that accompanied it were gorgeous. 

We swapped half way through (much to my dismay), but I wasn’t disappointed with James’s choice. It was light and fresh, very easy on the ‘palate’ and the prawns were a) huge and b) really, really juicy. You could tell a lot of care had gone into the presentation of the food, and it didn’t go unnoticed. 

We were then brought a sorbet to cleanse our palates, which was a nice, refreshing twist (and the first of three sorbets over the two days… I think it’s a Lake District thing?!). 

When our waitress brought the mains out, I couldn’t believe the size of our portions - hearty to say the least! It would definitely set you right after a long day’s walking in the Lakes. I always associate high end restaurants with small portion sizes but this blew expectations out the window. 

Anyway. I went for the beef with sticky red cabbage, mash root vegetables and carrots.The mash was incredible, rich but not overpoweringly so, and the gravy was perfect - excellent shout with the wine too, it went down a treat! I'd describe mine as a really good, ’posh roast’. Beautifully presented, and with substantial portion size to boast.

Roast Beef
James went for the Venison, with dauphinoise potatoes, carrots and green beans. Again, we halved it, and I was so glad we did - this was insane. The meat was beautiful and tender, and the crunchy green beans worked well with the creamy potato layers.

I was so full after the two courses, but James was swayed by the Thunder & Lightening ice-cream, so he got that. Again, this was huge, with a decent helping of a hot chocolate bomb (with delicious molten hot chocolate sauce in the middle), ice-cream and berries. 

I instead ordered coffee, which came with a little selection of petit fours; Lake District specialties including tiny bites of flapjack and fudge - which was just enough for me. 

The Highfield Restaurant has won lots of national awards and it's easy to see why. I love the fact they use locally sourced, seasonal food (the dinner menu changes daily - but you can view a sample menu on the website). 

Our room was gorgeous. We were told by the manager our views were something incredible, and arriving at night gave it that extra special feeling, wondering what was beyond the dark. The room itself was done up really nicely. 

It was your typical old English style (it was built in 1885!), cute bed and breakfast hotel, with a big bay windows, high turrets, and balconies in the front rooms (one of them being ours!). Our room had been nicely re-done, with a huge bed at the centre piece. 

I found some info on the hotel in the welcome pack - in the 1950s it functioned as a Vegetarian hotel (?!?) but before its use as a hotel, the property was two houses bought for two sisters. The character of the hotel didn’t disappoint in this respect, and I had a newfound appreciation for its quirky stairs and ‘homely’ feel. I'd definitely recommend staying here if you're looking for an independently run, homely feeling hotel. The food is absolutely outstanding, too.

Our bed was beautifully comfy. But before it was time for shut eye, I had a present for James! Debenhams had got in touch a few weeks before to ask if I’d like to promote their men’s gift guide, and I thought it would be a really nice idea to get James a present. The present was to say thanks in advance for having to take a load of photos of me in the Lakes for the blog (Instagram girls, and blogging pals whose boyfriend's take pics, you know...). The team let me choose a gift for James and I got a bit silly and ordered a really (really really) big remote control red La Ferrari (he loves cars).

He got it up and running in no time (it was soo loud and we did wonder whether the staff would be up to check on us..), and it's now happily on our dining room table. Ha. Anyway. Thanks to Debenhams for keeping James happy as I spent ages snapping our food for Insta before we were allowed to eat it...

THIS was the view we woke up to!

You can see right out onto Derwentwater and the valleys either side. How beautiful is that? It was absolutely stunning and the photos really don't do it justice. It felt like we were in the middle of the alps. 

Breakfast was a hurried affair, on our behalf, as we overslept and wanted to do the Keswick Park Run which started at 9. James still managed two rounds of cereals and fruit, and a hot kipper and toast. I opted for granola and yoghurt, which hit the spot as a pre-workout treat!

Keswick park run is beautiful by the way. Really picturesque and not too hilly - as I expected. It was a gorgeous dry morning and a perfect way to see Keswick. The run is along Keswick Railway Path and if you don't fancy jogging it, would also make a really nice walk (it's 5km in total and you turn round at the 2.5km mark).

We ran back and packed up, and then it was on to Windermere via a walk round Buttermere... the adventure continues!

The Highfield Hotel kindly paid for my accommodation and food for this review, but as ever, all views, thoughts and opinions are my own. Debenhams very kindly gifted me with the present for James, again - opinions are my own - you should check out their guide if you're stuck on present ideas for your partner / dad / brother.
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