Okay, you obviously can't have a dinner party without cooking. But you don't have to be the one doing the cooking. At least that's what I discovered last month. The lovely folks from La Belle Assiette offered to send a chef to my house so that I could host a dinner party with minimal effort. You all know that my kitchen skills are basic, and this service seemed to be made for me. So I invited three of my lovely mum friends over for some dinner and plenty of party.
When you book with La Belle Assiette, you choose your date and time as well as the menu you'd like. Menus start at £39 per person for up to six people. And that's the most work you'll have to do (apart from making sure you are well stocked on wine and Prosecco). The chef will contact you to confirm arrangements and menu. As I am lactose-intolerant, I made sure the menu would have milk substitutions.
January was so cold and grey. And I was off the booze, which didn't help. But come the 31st January, it was time for some fun. Some of my mum friends and I went to Wimbledon Park to check out the opening of NYEAT - a new restaurant and cocktail bar. We were quite eager to enjoy American cuisine and sample lovely cocktails.
Actually, after over four weeks of abstaining from alcohol, I was afraid to try a cocktail. I had a gin and tonic (with Brooklyn Gin - amazing!). My friends were drinking mojitos and porn star martinis, and I have to admit being a bit jealous. But as I felt buzzed off one G&T, I knew I made the right choice. NYEAT offers a huge array of cocktails. I'll need to go back when I can handle booze again.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to go to Pizza Hut all the time. We loved their salad bar and personal pan pizzas. But I haven't been to Pizza Hut much since my early 20s. A few months ago, we happened to be near one and had dinner there while my daughter was at a party. We were surprised at how good it was and vowed to take her (Moozles loves a salad bar). So last weekend we went to the new restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames to try out the new menu.
First of all, I noticed how family-friendly Pizza Hut looks. There is lots of banquette seating, the colours are bright without being garish, and the artwork shows pizza-related superheroes. The children's menu has a little and bigger option. My five-year old had the smaller meals and my nine-year old had the bigger one. And while we waited for our food, we all enjoyed the salad bar.
I'm not the only one, am I? Who cooks dinner on a two-weekly rotation? I'm not a confident cook. I make nice dinners, but there isn't a huge amount of variety. I feel uncomfortable trying new recipes. And even if you have everything you need, it is always tougher and takes longer than expected. Recently, in an effort to add variety to our family dinners, I have been trying out the HelloFresh family meals. And I wanted to share how we got on.
Husband and I are acually already big fans of HelloFresh. We normally get a box every other week. Husband loves cooking but gets stuck for ideas. The weekdays are so busy, that it feels easier to cook the same things over and over. But I want my children to try new things and to expand their tastes. So I'm trying to be more adventurous. And that's where the HelloFresh family box comes in.
Dining in London is equally difficult and easy. On one hand, you have a huge array of restaurants to choose from. On the other hand, there are a huge array of restaurants to choose from. The choice can be overwhelming. There are a few websites and apps out there that help find restaurants in London, but I've recently come across a new app with a twist. I recently booked a meal, and paid with it using Cake.
Let me be clear. I didn't bake a cake and use it to pay for my meal. Obviously that would be amazing. What I did was to download the Cake app onto my smartphone and use it when I was meeting up with a girlfriend a few weeks ago. Now booking a restaurant isn't tough, but Cake offers more than that.
One of the things I miss most about living in the UK is that I miss the wonderful 4th of July celebrations in the USA. You get a day off to spend with your friends and/or family, eat BBQ and other delicious food and then finish the day with fireworks. I have only been to one expat BBQ in 15 years, and it is really tough to celebrate the day when it isn't often on a weekend. But this year, Jackson + Rye invited me and some friends to celebrate the 4th of July.
I grabbed my two favourite American expat friends (strangely, I know quite a few expats in my neighbourhood), and off to lunch we went. We would have loved to have our 4th of July meal on the actual fourth of July, but it was Sports Day, so we had our celebration on the fifth of July. Besides the joy of a mid-week meal, it was lovely going out for cocktails and great food with wonderful girlfriends.
Oh, I do like to be beside the riverside. And if I can be sitting by the river, enjoying some delicious food, then even better. My new favourite riverside restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames is Jackson & Rye. And I don't just like the location. The food is pretty damn tasty too.
As an American expat, I am always keen to try a restaurant that claims to serve American fare. But normally I'm left with overpriced burgers or non-fluffy pancakes. You can't imagine how a disappointing pancake can ruin my day. That is obviously a personality flaw. But rather than seek counselling, I've decided to just focus on finding better restaurants. Jackson & Rye definitely fits the bill.
When I think of a family meal, I think of lots of yummy food in the middle of the table and everyone helping themselves. But normally, when you go to a restaurant, everyone gets their own meal. Though sometimes I end up sharing my dessert (against my will, of course). But Prezzo have brought the family-style spirit from our homes to their restaurants with the new La Famiglia menu.
Simply, 'la famiglia' is Italian for 'family'. The name says it all. It is a meal fit for a family. When our generous plate of spaghetti bolognese arrived, the kids oohed. They were so excited by such a big dish. And when the waiter handed Dubz the tongs to serve the pasta, he was thrilled. Imagine being five years old and being in charge of the food. With some help from his daddy, Dubz served us our spaghetti.
My family and I love eating out. And the only thing better than going to a restaurant is going to a new restaurant. So we were quite excited to visit Poor Boys this weekend. Tucked along the side of the market, Poor Boys serves New Orleans street food to the people of Kingston-upon-Thames. Kingston is already known for its extensive array of dining (and shopping) venues, but I was thrilled to find out that there was a great new independent restaurant in my town.
Our first impression of Poor Boys was fab. There was a southern/bayou decor with Dixieland and country music playing. Dubz particularly enjoyed Dolly Parton and spent most of the meal dancing in his chair (like mother, like son). Rather than traditional colouring, the kids received mini backboards and chalk to keep themselves entertained. Moozles and Dubz spent ages drawing animals and then we moved on to the classic game of 'hangman'. It's such a relief when children are catered for, beyond food.
Last year, my daughter had a Pizza Express party for her 8th birthday. She had a great time. But when I heard that Pizza Express offered pizza-making parties for adults, I didn't think it would actually be that fun. Fast forward to last week when I was invited to a pizza party for bloggers at the new Pizza Express at Gloucester Road. And as you can see from my face above, I was having a pretty good time.
The evening started off with Prosecco and olives, which of course set the tone for a lovely evening. I was a little nervous as I didn't really know anyone, though had met a few of the bloggers once or twice. But all the shyness went away with the Prosecco and we soon got stuck into some dough. Talk about an ice-breaker. After shaping an tossing some dough, we were all feeling relaxed. And giggly. This was mostly due to Alex (the branch manager) and Gianmaria, who made sure we were learning in an entertaining way.