Wednesday 14 December 2016

Stila Launch at Harvey Nichols Birmingham

Forget diamonds, this year I'm asking for Stila for Christmas!

I was lucky enough to be invited to Harvey Nichols recently to celebrate the launch of the new counter, have my makeup done by pro artist Sascha Jackson and also take a sneak peek at some of the new product launches, just in time for Christmas.

Heading to the beautiful new Harvey Nichols store, I sat down to see Sascha and talk through some top trends for AW16, what she's been up to this year and also try out some of the fabulous new products.

First off, we caught up and I discovered Sascha has been a busy bee travelling to New York for the M&S Beauty Conference, and to make up the models for the Alice and Olivia shows.

At AW16, skin was flawless and dewy, with a real focus on graphic eyeliner and glitter eyes, with plenty of colour!

Back to the makeover. Sascha started off by asking what kind of look I wanted, and I opted for something bronzed with a very seasonally appropriate lip.

To get the look, Sascha used Correct and Perfect All in One Colour Correcting Palette to correct the skin followed by the new Aqua Glow Serum Foundation and Aqua Glow Serum Concealer. Perfect for dry skin, this moisturises and hydrates. The concealer has all the same benefits of the foundation, but in a thicker consistency, with light reflecting pigments.

Next, products from the newly launched Perfect Me Perfect Hue Eye and Cheek Palette in shade Medium Tan were used on the eye to create a beautiful bronze look, with shade Curious as the base, Feisty in the crease, Magnetic used as a wet liner blended in with more Feisty and the same shade underneath.

The eyes were finished off with Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Colour in Medium and Huge Extreme Lash Mascara in Black.

Back to complexion, the same palette was used to blush, and Stay All Day Bronzing Powder in medium was used to buff over the face.

Finally, the lips were lined in Stay All Day Lip Liner in Cabernet and finished off with Stay All Day Matte'ificent Lipstick in Framboise.

I adore what Sascha did and especially fell in love with the lip colours she picked for me; these are going to be perfect for Christmas!

How beautiful are all the products used too? These make such perfect presents, especially the palettes which start at £28 for Perfect Me, Perfect Hue.

With such beautiful packaging and standout products, any girl would love to receive some Stila for Christmas! Have you tried any Stila products before? 

Thursday 1 December 2016

Event: Nosh and Quaff First Birthday

Nosh and Quaff is already an iconic part of the foodie landscape in Birmingham. Famous for it's lobster, Nosh and Quaff recently celebrated a whole year of trading with a party. Although there were no paper hats, there was food and drink aplenty, a band, and a party atmosphere that made it a fun night.

After a reception drink at the bar, we were led through to our tables or in our case, booths, and presented with an almighty platter of everything from wings to ribs and burgers.

The reception drink was a Pornstar Bellini; good choice.

Onto the platters; there were some serious gasps at the table when these bad boys arrived. Full to the brim and fully loaded, our platters included burgers, pork ribs, beef ribs, hot dogs, chicken wings with stilton mayo, coleslaw and fries.

It's at times like this that I wish that a gym membership came as standard for any food blogger!

Blooming Onion

Mini N&Q Burger, ribs and salted fries

Mac and Cheese

Beef Ribs, Pork Ribs, Mini N&Q Cheeky Burger, Mini Apple Dog, Chicken Wings, Coleslaw

Most of the above food wasn't suitable for me as I'm gluten free, but I was able to try the Sweet Potato and Chickpea burger (minus the bun) as a replacement. As you can see, it came served with salted fries, tomato chutney, onion, tomato and lettuce.

For dessert, there was Rocky Road all round, although I couldn't try this as it contains brownie pieces. It did however look amazing and I could hear plenty of appreciative noises.

Now it was time for a nightcap. I was able to try an Espresso Martini in a shot glass, which was extremely moreish.

Nosh and Quaff is a great place for Southern style food. From ribs and wings to hot dogs and burgers, it's a really great spot for indulging in your favourite treats.

*With thanks to Nosh and Quaff for inviting me to dine as part of their birthday celebrations.

Monday 28 November 2016

Event: New Cocktail Menu Launch at Bar Opus

Anyone who loves cocktails will agree that being given the chance to try 12 cocktails on a school night is an exciting, and dangerous prospect.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a winter cocktail menu tasting at Bar Opus and got to try their new menu. With 12 different cocktails on the list, it was a mammoth task, but someone has to do it!

Bar Opus is just around the corner from Snow Hill station, making it a great option for anyone who wants to forgo a taxi. As it's in the Colmore Business District, it's great for anyone who works in the area and is always a lively choice for after work drinks.

We were given the Bar Opus cocktail masterclass experience, and following a demonstration of how to make each cocktail, we were then able to try a sample of each. 

First up was the Milk Punch, made from Maker's Mark, Kraken rum, vanilla syrup, half and half and nutmeg. As you can imagine, this was quite a sweet and creamy drink, and personally I tend to avoid dairy. However it was a very festive drink so perfect for the time of year.

Next, I thought I'd share with you my favourite of the bunch, the Hereford Scrambler. With Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Chase Blackcurrant Liquer, lime, lemon and soda, this absolutely hit the spot for me. A combination of sweet and sour, this is just right for my tastebuds.   

My second favourite was the Clover Club. A combination of Martin Miller's Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth, lemon juice, raspberries and egg, this had the same combination of sweet and sour that I enjoyed in the Hereford Scrambler. It did however come in a slightly more photogenic glass!

Here's the Missionary's Downfall, made from White Rum, peach liqueur, lime juice, syrup and pineapple. For me this was a great combination of sweet and sharp.

How about the Old Kokonut? I love Koko Kanu and this is the first time I've tried it in a cocktail. Here it's served with Prosecco, Angostura bitters, mint, lime juice and syrup.

The Opus Manhattan is Bar Opus's take on the Manhattan, featuring Nikka Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Japanese Plum Liqueur, mulled spices and Angostura Bitters. 

When was the last time you saw Port listed as an ingredient in a cocktail? In the Port Cobbler it takes centre stage and is served with Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, Grand Marnier, lemon and syrup.

This is the Cowboy Hoof Martini. I'm not sure why it's called this but it was a very good, strong Martini nonetheless.

The Pear and Cardamom Sidecar includes Cointreau, pear brandy, lemon and Cardamom, and although unusual, really works. 

For Prosecco lovers, there is of course the Ginger Bellini, which is again a great drink for the festive season. 

Sadly, I wasn't able to try the English Collins or Beggar's Banquet due to time restrictions, but hopefully you'll have a good idea of what to expect from Bar Opus.

There was a great selection of cocktails for all tastes, with some sweet, some sour and some dry cocktails on the menu. I loved how inventive the drinks on offer were and the way that the team have found creative ways to use old favourites such as port and Cointreau.

A huge thanks to the team at Bar Opus for having us! 

Thursday 17 November 2016

Event: Cafe Rouge Secret Steak Supper Club

Cafe Rouge is one of my go-to spots for dining. As naughty as the menu can be, I try to pick a steak with salad if I'm in need of a treat.

I was recently invited down to try out the new Autumn menu at Cafe Rouge at The Mailbox as part of their Secret Steak Supper Club series.

Greeted with fizz and canap├ęs, I held out on these as I knew we were in for an evening of dining.

Sitting down at the long banqueting style table, I sat down next to the lovely Sian Victoria and her mum, and we spent the evening talking all things blogging.

After an introduction to the Supper Club, we were invited to choose a starter from the menu before the team from Matthew Clark came around to go through the wine list.

I ordered the Pate, with gluten free bread, my mum ordered the same but not gluten free, and Sian had the Crevettes.

My pate was perfection; a huge portion that was more than enough to cover the two small slices of gluten free toast it was served with, alongside some fabulous spiced apple and pear chutney.

Sian's prawns were large and meaty and had really beautiful colour too.

Next, we were educated a little in wine, with the team explaining that all the wines were picked to be easy drinking styles. We were able to try three reds; a malbec, merlot and cabernet, and these were all native to south France.

By now, it was time for steak tasting! We gathered round to try cuts of sirloin, fillet and cote de boeuf, alongside dauphinoise potatoes, green beans, and more sauces than you can shake a stick at.

Cote de Boeuf



Dauphinoise Potatoes

There was a mad rush for the steak and many approving sounds coming from the assembled audience! Thankfully, I was able to try all three steaks as well as some of the fabulous sauces. I love any kind of steak, but I have to say it was a rare treat to try the fillet; a perfectly pink piece of perfection. 

As for the sauces, if you haven't been ordering them you've been missing out. There are six sauces o accompany steaks on the menu including bordelaise gravy with bone marrow, beef dripping Merlot gravy, snails and garlic butter (I didn't try that one!), peppercorn, Bearnaise and Roquefort. Most of these are gluten free too.

After all this, we were still only halfway through and went back to our seats to order our mains. I went for the Confit de Canard, as it's something I wouldn't usually try. Mine was served without the cherry or orange sauce, as I assume this is not gluten free, but it did come with gluten free dauphinoise potatoes (shock!) and green beans. My duck was beautiful, crispy on the outside, but a rare indulgence. The dauphinoise potatoes were divine, however, and I will definitely be ordering these again.

I also tried some further sides for extra vitamins, including the Spinach and Green Beans.

My mum opted for another steak and Sian went for the tart.

I did of course steal a few chips, and I adore the crispy french fries served at Cafe Rouge.

If you thought we were skipping dessert, you'd be wrong, and we did manage to try some of the desserts thanks to a mini sharing platter. This contained the Rum Baba, Tarte au Citron, Creme Brulee and Tart aux Pommes.

Incredibly, the Creme Brulee and Tarte au Citron are both gluten free, and it was a real pleasure to enjoy the lemon tart as it's so rare to find this made gluten free.

The whole supper club experience was really fun and friendly, a great way to meet people and socialise, and a good opportunity to try out new dishes.

I'd really recommend trying out the new autumn menu, especially for any gluten free readers as there was plenty of choice, and the main menu itself is marked G or GO to indicate dishes that are gluten free or can be made gluten free.

*Thank you to the team at Cafe Rouge for inviting us to dine complimentary.