Wine Tasting at Veeno Chester

Veeno, just opposite Chester’s cathedral, is an Italian wine cafe and a foodie heaven, offering a great selection of fine wines and gorgeous Italian food.

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Based on the concept of Italian Aperitivo, the ritual of drinking, nibbling and relaxing after work, Veeno was established in Manchester by two Italian guys Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino.

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We were invited along to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting: a two hour feast for the senses which involved tasting six fabulous wines from the family’s own vineyard in Sicily, accompanied by a platter of meat, cheeses and appetisers, all from exceptional quality Italian producers.

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We were guided through each wine selection by Anna, the restaurant manager, who explained the provenance of the wine, tasting notes, and guidance on which of the foods to sample with each of the wines.

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I’m no wine expert so I won’t presume to give you my thoughts on each (after all you can taste them all yourself for £26.90) but in summary this is how it went:

We started with a classic Sicilian Grillo: a slightly oaky dry white to match with the light and fluffy buffalo mozzarella.  Next up was a more floral and fruity Zibibbo which perfectly matched the sharp Pecorino cheese.

At no time did we feel under pressure to move onto the next wine too quickly.  Anna was attentive and came back to our table with the next selection when she could see that we were ready.  This made for a very relaxed experience.

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Alongside the meats and cheeses, we had several breads – great for dipping in the excellent quality olive oil and balsamic.

The third wine was a Syrah rose.  Light and fruity with notes of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate, this accompanied the speck (smoked ham).  Speck is quite a spicy ham but it didn’t overpower the wine.

Moving along the spectrum, we then got to the reds.  The first red, a Perricone had a definite taste of red fruits and was robust enough to live with the strong tasting Bresaola.  The second red, my favourite of all, was a deep and rich Nero d’Avola Riserva  with notes of cocoa.  This was matched with a rich and creamy Gorgonzola with walnuts.

Of course, no Italian feast would be complete without tiramisu, which was served with a shot of Limoncello and a sweet and soft dessert wine, Tagos.

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This made for a pretty perfect Friday night out.  It works as a couples experience, but Veeno also offers group wine tasting sessions which would be great for after work, or a Saturday afternoon treat.   They do gift cards too – just in case you are stuck for ideas for Christmas, birthdays or an anniversary treat.

Of course, it’s not just wine on offer here.  There are oodles of cocktails to choose from and coffees too.  While we were there, people were just popping in for a glass of wine and being just opposite Storyhouse I can see it as a great venue for a pre or post theatre drink and nibbles.

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*I was invited to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting in exchange for my honest review.  It was fabulous!

 

 

 

Making The Right Food Choices

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to fully understand why I constantly make the wrong food choices, or why I always seem to be hungry, but the penny seems to be dropping at last.

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Let’s take today for example.  I had a healthy breakfast of porridge made with almond milk, a tablespoon of seeds, a handful of blueberries and a teaspoon of honey.  So far so good.

This morning I was accompanying a relative to a hospital appointment and gave absolutely no thought to lunch.  As you would expect, the appointment was a good hour late, lunchtime came and went, and I was hungry with a capital H.  Normally this would signal a quick trip to the hospital café to buy a sandwich, but today, for some reason I fought against this quick fix impulse and waited.

Now, my heart doesn’t like me being hungry, and tends to jump about a bit as a reminder for me to eat, but no matter, I persevered until I got to a proper shop where I bought some pre-cooked beetroot, some smoked salmon and a banana.  Quick and tasty. So now I have a happy heart and hunger is abated.

So what’s the lesson here?  Planning!  Why didn’t I just take a banana in my handbag? So, using this lesson as a guide, I looked back at the rest of my dodgy food choices this week

  • a burger at Tatton park (excuse – couldn’t find anything healthy)
  • toast and jam (excuse – nothing in the fridge)
  • bread and Philadelphia cheese (excuse – had forgotten to get food in for lunch and the corner shop had  virtually nothing healthy)
  • a 99 from the ice cream man – (excuse – had nothing healthy in for pudding)
  • a scone and jam with clotted cream – (I was out and it was lunchtime and couldn’t see anything healthy in the café)

It seems to me that eating in the middle of the day is the biggest hurdle: -breakfast is always the same and planned for, dinner is planned each weekend for the following week, but lunch is left in the lap of the gods – which leads to all sorts of trouble.

So this week I’m going to plan my lunches as carefully as my other meals so that I avoid being hungry and choosing the wrong thing.  Quite often I’m out during the day so I need to find portable choices that don’t take too much prep. Better get those recipe books out.

A night out in Alcudia: Port or Old Town

From our hotel, right on the edge of Playa D’Alcudia, it’s about seven or eight euros in a taxi into either the port, or the old town of Alcudia.  They each have a different vibe: the old town is full of courtyard restaurants and posh shops and the port is more of a playground with cocktails and lots of people promenading along the marina, browsing in the market stalls.  We enjoyed both, and had different dining experiences.   In the port, we dined at Bistro Mar, right on the marina, where they serve chunky steaks, paellas and fish dishes, accompanied by lovely alioli.

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In the old town we chose La Taverna, a courtyard restaurant where we had a selection of tapas served on a turntable.

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This broad bean and jamon salad was delicious.

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There’s some really good wine to be had here – we went with the Maitre D’s recommendation.

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After dinner we usually have a wander around. The old town is particularly pretty in the evening when the crowds have gone home.  There are lots of boutiques and pottery shops to browse and I almost always come home with something.

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Eating Clean Week Two Progress

Week two, another pound down (six pounds in total) so I’m very pleased, especially considering this fortnight has included a hen party and a wedding, with two indulgent overnight hotel stays.

Seabass with roasted veg
Seabass with roasted veg

I’m not going to say I’ve been cheating, but I have obviously adapted the KSFL plan to my lifestyle and going forward this is how I want my weight loss plan to continue:

  • I’m loving the variety of vegetables I’m eating and this is a keeper.
  • I aim to try a new vegetable dish each week.
  • Cooking from scratch? Love it.
  • Sugar – well, I’m not giving up honey, but happy to say goodbye to processed sugars.
  • Potatoes? Don’t miss ’em.
  • Bread? Surprisingly not missed it.
  • Porridge, seeds and nuts – no way am I cutting these out.  I love them.
  • Dairy.  A bit of a compromise here.  The only milk I want is with my morning (decaff) PG Tips – happy for all other drinks to be milk free.  Don’t miss cheese or cream.
  • Chocolate? Green and Black’s 85% will appear on my menu.
  • Alcohol? A couple of drinks a week as per usual will feature.  White or red wine and the occasional cognac.
  • Puddings, cakes, biscuits? Haven’t missed them.
  • Fruit – in week two, craving sweetness I’ve eaten strawberries and blueberries.  Fruit is coming back on the menu.
  • Holland & Barrett is my new friend – finding lots of foodie things there to experiment with.
  • Fish is appearing much more frequently on the menu.
  • I’m reading lots of clean eating blogs for inspiration.

I accept that this will slow my weight loss, but I’m actually now only two pounds away from being in the ‘normal’ weight category for my height.  As for exercise, I’ll continue with yoga, Zumba, Pilates, swimming and walking, but running and HIIT has to go as I’ve had to come to terms with my heart related limitations.  Palpitations and strenuous exercise don’t mix.

Let’s see what next week brings!

Kick Start Fat Loss Week One Progress

Well I’m a week in and I’ve lost four pounds…not a bad result considering I gave into porridge cravings.   I’m happy with this, given that losing just one pound is normally an uphill struggle for me.

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The things I’m enjoying are the veggies.  I’ve eaten loads this week of all different types and colours.  Cooking from scratch has been no problem as I’ve been doing this for a few years now.

I’ve found it really hard not to eat carbs – in fact, as you know I’ve given in and just done it anyway.  But, at least oats are complex carbs which keep your blood sugar stable.

Funnily enough I’ve not missed bread as I thought I would, although I did look longingly at Steve eating thickly buttered toast yesterday. He’s lost weight too!

The one issue I’ve experienced is tiredness.  I was dog tired yesterday despite going to bed really early all week to avoid the kitchen.

I’ve enjoyed the exercise classes although they were tough.  Made my usual zumba class feel a lot easier!

Premature atrial contractions have been not too bad this week, although my heart had a bit of a grumble at me after class on Thursday, so need to be careful not to overdo it.

So onwards and upwards into week two.  My motivation this week? Reducing my risk of type 2 diabetes, having better heart health and having loads more energy.  Oh and fitting nicely into the dress I’m wearing to a wedding on Friday.

Reasons to Visit Torremolinos

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When you tell people that your holiday destination is Torremolinos, you tend to get one of two reactions.  Either ‘oh, isn’t that high rise, fish and chips and British bars?’ or ‘we love it there too!’.  At a risk of letting everyone into the secret, I have to tell you that Torremolinos is very authentically Spanish and a fabulous place to spend a week out of season.  This is why I recommend it:

Parrots

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I just love these little guys.  My holiday starts as soon as I see a flock of them flitting from tree to tree chatting to one another.  Their presence is controversial as they are not an indigenous species, but they are very cute!

Chiringuitos

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If you like to spend an afternoon eating and drinking with a sea view, then you won’t go far wrong in a chiringuito, or beach restaurant.  There are dozens to choose from, all with a huge selection of fish dishes.

Hotels

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Over the years we’ve stayed in every class of hotel, from the charming one star Cabello, to the elegant four star Riu Nautilus (don’t think there are any five stars). Last month we stayed at the newly refurbished Sol House which has a bit of an Ibiza vibe going on.  There’s something to suit all budgets. We usually book our flights and hotel separately through Alpha Rooms as it saves money and gives us more choice of flight times.

Beach

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The beach is huge, well kept and clean.  Still lots of traditional fishing boats knocking about.

People

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These very kind people let me try out my Spanish when shopping and don’t smirk when I get it wrong – they are happy to chat to help improve your conversational Spanish skills too.

Sun

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It’s not called the Costa Del Sol for nothing! We go out of season March, April, October, November and it’s usually 20 degrees plus and sunny.

Shopping

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So many shops, so little time! I always come back with unusual pieces of jewellery.

Food

Best fresh fish you can get anywhere at a reasonable cost.  This whole fresh turbot cost e25 for both of us.  Less than a tenner each.

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Anyone else been to Torremolinos?  I’d love to know what you thought!

Kick Start Fat Loss

So today, I started the ‘food’ part of the Kick Start Fat Loss programme at Bodywork Pilates in Chester.  This is a clean eating programme which eliminates processed foods, wheat, dairy, caffeine, sugar and alcohol.  Sounds a bit extreme when you say it out loud and only time will tell if I can actually do it, but some foods will be more difficult to kick than others.

  • Cooking from scratch – easy.  I do this anyway.
  • Wheat – I love bread, so anticipate this will be a challenge.  Not bothered about pasta, pizza and all that stuff.
  • Dairy – no milk, not an issue, but I use butter to flavour meals, so will need to find alternatives.
  • Caffeine – not a problem seeing as I ditched it a couple of years ago to help minimise palpitations.
  • Alcohol – I was only having a couple of glasses of wine a week, so no loss.
  • Sugar – the hardest ask for me.  Love honey in particular and expect I will crave good quality chocolate.

My ‘go to’ comfort foods are porridge with banana, seeds and honey, thickly buttered bread, rice cakes with almond butter and Green & Black’s chocolate.  I won’t be giving these up forever, but I do need a kick start so they have to go for now.

I started the exercise part yesterday and found it OK, so anticipating that I will be able to keep it up in addition to my weekly swim, zumba and yoga classes.

So, here’s what I ate for lunch and dinner today.

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Sirloin steak with roasted aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and asparagus.

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Lunch was asparagus and omelette.

It’s now 8:30 and am I hungry? Yes.  But I’m not sure if it’s real hunger or a craving for something sweet. Oh well, you can’t blog and eat at the same time!

Wish me luck guys!