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!
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