Saturday, September 28, 2013

One week in the Amalfi Coast || A day in the romantic town of Positano

“ A dream place that isn’t quite real when you get there and becomes beckoningly real once you have gone” – John Steinbeck

Seeing Positano from a distance is almost dream-like. It’s perched on the side of a cliff, with pastel coloured houses and winding little streets lined with fuchsia pink bougainvillea that cascade all the way right down to a sandy beach cove by the stunningly blue water.

Positano GinFizzGirl Amalfi Coast

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Flavrbox: A Unique Monthly Food and Drink Delivery Box Service

I first heard about Flavrbox, a gourmet food and drink delivery service, when it appeared in the Guardian last year as one of the top 10 Christmas presents to give someone. And then I met Seb, the founder at a Melba supperclub event where he told me about how he started Flavrbox. I instantly loved the concept: connecting consumers to high quality, award winning products from independent producers in the UK. I found it a brilliant gift idea to give friends for birthdays – they loved getting a surprise package in the mail full of goodies. Yet despite thinking it was such a good idea, I never actually got a package for myself. In my head, I felt it was too much of a luxury – my rationale was that it was alright to spend £20 as a gift for someone but not as a monthly treat for myself. 

But after hearing from my friends how they enjoyed their Flavrbox, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for their subscription service where I get billed £20 a month and get a box delivered to me at the end of every month. I figured, in addition to being a fun treat, this might give me an incentive to try new recipes and get some variety by discovering new and interesting products. And if I’m not happy or feel I’m just getting stuff that I don’t like or use much, I’ll stop. 

There is a bit of flexibility available: you can either say you want to know upfront what’s going to be in the box before it gets delivered and if you’re not excited about the contents, opt out for that month’s service or you can just choose not to know and get a little surprise package in the mail. I opted for the latter – it’s nice to have a little excitement every now and then!

Since Flavrbox delivers via Royal mail, I’ve opted to get it sent to my work address rather than have to worry about if I’ll be home when the postman comes around. And oh what a treat it was when it arrived at work. I was was giddy with excitement and opening it up. And here’s what was in the box:

1. The Pelagonia Aivar Sauce

I was most excited when I saw this. My friend got one in her gift box and said it was incredibly tasty and addictive. I opened it when I got home and it totally lived up to the all the hype. A sweet roasted red pepper sauce that can be used as a dip or spread for sandwiches or sauce with pasta.

2. Seggiano Fennel Brigantini Savoury Wheat Snacks

To be honest, when I first saw these I  wasn’t too enamoured. But then they were quite nice when I tried them - light crunchy wheat snacks with a delicate fennel flavour. I then suddenly realized I could pair these with the Aivar Red Pepper as a dip and the combination was so good! I spent the evening gorging on both as my dinner!

3. Spicentice Moroccan Spice Blend Mix

I wasn't quite sure initially what to do with this. I’m not one for making tagines and cous cous – bit too daunting for me to attempt. But inside the tin, is a little booklet with ideas on how to use the spice mix – which was a nice touch. I’ll probably use it as dry or wet marinade for when cooking fish or chicken in the oven which is one of my staple weeknight dinners. Oh and this won a Great Taste Gold award in 2011. 

 4. Ouse Valley Pineapple Lime and Lemon Marmalade

This citrus sweet marmalade and winner of a 2007 Great Taste Gold award intrigued me. I couldn’t help but think of my father – I know he’d love this. He’s quite partial to a nice marmalade with little orange bits in it. It’s one of his favourite things to eat at breakfast – spread thickly on a buttery slice of toast. Nonetheless he’s in India and I’m tempted to store this away and bring it along on my next visit.

5. Inspiral Raw Purple Corn Kale Chips

These sounded so promising – could they really be a healthy alternative to snacking on those horrible addictive prawn cracker crisps from the vending machine? I’ll never really know – they were unfortunately crushed to bits during transit and the bag is full of powdered bits of kale which aren't very appealing. I guess packing them with fairly heavy glass jars was not in the best interest of the chips.

So all in all, a decent haul. One jar of delicious red pepper dip, one bag of crunchy wheat snacks, one jar of intriguing lime and lemony pineapple marmalade, one tin of morocco spice mix that will test my cooking skills and one bag of doomed kale chips crushed to bits.

Till next month’s Flavrbox, Adieu!

In case you’d like to learn more about Flavrbox or to order a box, here is their website:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One week in Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast || A Day trip to the Alluring Island of Capri

It seems that beauty does come at a price. Visiting Capri to feast on its splendour is wickedly expensive. I was expecting it to be pricey but nothing prepared me for just how much. The only way to get to Capri from Sorrento is either by ferry boat that takes half an hour and costs 13 euros or a slightly faster ferry at 20 minutes for 17 euros. And that's just one way! The cheaper boat runs less frequently and tickets seem to be mysteriously not available so you send up spending 34 euros on a round trip just to get Capri and back. In a bid to cut cost, we decided to avoid eating out in Capri and packed a light picnic lunch with us. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

One week in Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast || Staying in Sorrento to explore the Amalfi Coast

After a day in Naples, we headed to Sorrento for six days. We picked Sorrento as our base to explore the Amalfi Coast, though technically not on the Amalfi coast, it is very well connected by bus and train to other towns.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One week in Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast || Things to do in Naples when visiting for a day

This summer I spent a glorious week in the beautiful Amalfi Coast. I had heard the rave reviews from friends who had been there, read the guidebooks and seen the pictures but still, nothing prepared me for how magnificent the Amalfi coast is - I have never seen such beauty like that before. We couldn't get enough of the views and I think this is the first vacation where going to the beach or finding a nice restaurant to eat was not a priority at all. All we wanted to do was visit as many pretty towns as possible, wander around winding paths, soak up the Italian sun and let our eyes feast on the views.

But first, the easiest way to get to the Amalfi Coast is to go from Naples and so we ended up spending a day in Naples. I wasn't expecting much but the short time I spent there had me changing my mind. There's more to Naples than just pizza and we really enjoyed our time there. Here are the things I recommend you do if you're there for a short visit:

Via Toledo

1. Walk around the Historic Centre

Wander around Centro Storico - the historic centre to get a feel for the heart and soul of Naples. We had heard so many stories that Naples was a 'rough' city -but I found walking around to be rather nice and pleasant - sure it wasn’t as picture perfect as the streets of Rome or pretty as Verona but there was a sort of dark romantic film noir element to it and all the things that people warn you about are just same precautions you should take for any big city. In Naples, be aware of your purse, watch out for the scooters that zip past you and you’ll be fine.