Friday 30 October 2015

A wine tasting at Bretta & Co Liverpool...

Attending a wine tasting can often conjure up images of stern sommeliers and talk of complex terms which are beyond the understanding of a novice wine enthusiast like me, or at least that is what I used to think, but I am happy to say that none of the wine tastings I have attended have been anything like that. 
In fact the wine tastings I have attended recently have been fun, relaxed and informal occasions and when they are done right, I think there is no better way to spend an evening than to learn all about the fascinating aspects of wine whilst trying several different varieties!
I really enjoy learning all about one of my favourite things, so I was delighted to be invited along to Bretta & Co in Liverpool recently for an evening of excellent wine, food and company.
Bretta & Co is an independent deli and bistro in Liverpool owned by brother and sister team Gary and Bretta Adlen, who have combined their talents to open a deli and restaurant which serves (and sells) fine foods and wines. The all-day menu includes sandwiches, deli boards and afternoon tea. and there is also an evening menu featuring delicious options such as homemade chicken and ham Charter pie, aubergine curry and whole baked fish of the day. 

Bretta & Co serve fine dining style food in a cosy and relaxed environment and they pride themselves on sourcing a superb selection of wines from small vineyards as well as selling a large selection of Vegan wines. Many of the wines they sell are stocked exclusively at Bretta & Co, and the large range of competitively priced wines from countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Italy ensures that customers have a diverse choice.
Co-owner Gary really enjoys recommending new wines for his customers to try, based on what they usually enjoy drinking and his enthusiasm for wine is reflected in his relaxed and informative approach towards the topic, which immediately put everybody at ease. We chatted about the fact that people usually stick to what they know in terms of wines and I confessed to being stuck in something of a ‘wine rut’ myself, with my usual go-to wines being Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir! 

Gary explained that by identifying the wines people usually drink, he can give Bretta & Co customers new and exciting recommendations, often for wines they have never tried before. He also enlightened me about pairing wine with food, explaining that whilst many wines are great enjoyed on their own, they shine even more when they are paired with foods which complement their flavours and draw out their subtleties. He was inspired to open Bretta & Co after a trip to New York ten years ago during which he came across a deli, food hall, bar and restaurant and he was inspired to recreate the concept back home in Liverpool.
It was an intimate wine tasting, with a few fortunate guests and we were seated at a table already set with notes about the tasting.  Gary welcomed us warmly and told us a little about himself and the inspiration behind Bretta & Co. We started off with white wines, which had been carefully selected by Gary and his friend Ian Clarke, a wine merchant and expert who has many years of industry experience. 

First up was a Viore from the Rueda region of Spain which was a pale yellow wine with notes of white blossom and fennel. This was a very fresh and light wine which was so drinkable! Next up was GrauBurgunder Pinot Gris from the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany, which reminded me of many of the wines I used to drink when I lived in Heidelberg, due to its crisp nature often typical of German wines. 

As we tried the white wines, we tucked in to a beautiful cheese platter filled with varieties of cheese sold at Bretta & Co, alongside crackers and fruit. A Cornish cheese was particularly good with some of the sharper white wines and the mild nuttiness of the cheese really drew out the notes of the wine.

A Terra Remota Blanco from Spain, was a revelation as it was a blend of Garnacha Blanca, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc which is stored in French oak barrels. This was one of my personal favourites of the whites, with outstanding flavours of vanilla, white flowers and dill with white peach adding a pleasant layer of fruit.
Many of us have tried a Gewurztraminer over the years, but the Rene Mure we tried during the wine tasting was quite something, a medium bodied style with exotic notes of rose petals, lychee and gingerbread. The slight acidity to this wine balanced the sweetness of it well and it makes an ideal companion to smoked fish or meats. I do not usually like sweet wines, so this showed me that some sweet wines can be a pleasant surprise.
A St Laurent from Germany started off the selection of reds with a flourish. A feisty red made from a rare grape, this wine is enjoying a resurgence in popularity across Germany and Austria with a full bodied hit of cherry flavour which everybody raved about. It was great served with red meat, and Gary was kind enough to serve us an excellent charcuterie slate with a selection of cold cuts including duck which complemented the selection of wines. 

The conversation flowed and we were having an amazing time trying all of the wines and learning all about their history and how they are made.
Old School Languedoc from France was a rich blend of biodynamic young vine Syrah as well as Grenache, made from fruit which is Estate grown, handpicked and fermented with natural yeast. This packed a real punch of flavour and it was the type of wine which is dangerously drinkable! I could have imagined sipping this outside beneath starry skies with a chiminea burning away to take the chill off the night. Incidentally, we also discussed that certain wines have a real warmth to them which make them infinitely drinkable in the winter months. It certainly seems like a good excuse to drink more of them to me!

A Terra Remota Red Emporda from Spain was a beautiful dark crimson colour which really drew the eye, this wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and the nose of cherry conserve, vanilla, undergrowth and garrigue was really something whilst the flavours were elegant and complex with a smoothness which continued to surprise long after you had taken the first sip with a finish of liquorice and red fruit.
To round things off, there was a beautiful Le Cerradilla from Rioja in Spain, although most of us have tried a Rioja at some point, this one reinvented the wheel in so many ways. It was fascinating to learn about the estate where this is grown, which has some vines over 40 years old! The wine is aged for 18 months in 225 litre barrels and the winery aims to marry old techniques in wine production with more modern methods. The complex production method really pays off and the result is a superb Rioja which is very fruity and nothing like Riojas I had ever tried before.

The bottle had a beautiful large font on the label and we learned that this style of script had been used for the very first translation of the Spanish language, a fact which certainly appealed to me and took me back to my degree and Masters studies in languages.
I love wines like this which surprise the palate and educate you at the same time, it is a winning formula if you can learn something whilst having your senses lulled by incredible flavours and aromas!
The whole evening was a great success and everybody had such a good time learning all about the wines, many of which we had never tried before. It was a fascinating odyssey through the world of wine, with plenty of insight in to the cultural and historical side of wine. It was so interesting to learn about the old and new methods of producing wine too. I did not know much before about the different ways wine can be produced and aged for maximum flavour, but I learned a lot. I would definitely recommend a wine tasting at Bretta & Co to anybody who enjoys wine and finds it interesting to try new varieties in a relaxed and fun environment. I had such a lovely time and I would like to thank Gary and Bretta for their hospitality.

Bretta & Co
5 Heathfield Street
L1 4AT

0151 709 6369

What do you all think, would you like to attend a fun and informal wine tasting at Bretta & co? Which are your favourite wines?  As always, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post! 

Until next time,



Saturday 24 October 2015

The Grill On The Alley...

I love to head over to Manchester and explore the many options for dining out there, the city is just thriving at the moment and there have been numerous additions to the dining scene. Amidst all of these new restaurants opening, it is always nice to visit a well-established classic which has been around for some time. 
I recently dined at Grill on the Alley* which is tucked away on a corner of Ridgefield Street. It is a Blackhouse restaurant which is part of the Living Ventures brand, who operate many superb restaurants and bars. The Grill on the Alley has a charming appearance and it feels warm and welcoming as soon as you arrive, with soft lighting and a sweeping bar area. 
It was a grey and chilly October evening and we felt immediately relaxed as we walked in to the restaurant, which has design features such as exposed brickwork, an open kitchen and a cool illuminated neon sign spelling out the restaurant name. 
We were warmly welcomed by restaurant manager Lee and seated at a booth which gave a good view of the bustling kitchen where a busy service was well underway. We perused the excellent wine menu and chose a Kleine Rust fair trade South African 2014 Pinotage Shiraz, which was an exciting and bold wine with plenty of fruit and a rich deep finish. 

Nibbles of warm baked loaf with salted butter and chorizo butter as well as marinated olives were appreciated as we looked over the extensive menu. The crusty warm baked loaf fell apart and was such a treat with the butter, I love salted butter but I had not tried chorizo butter before which was delightful with a smoky and piquant flavour.

My starter of smoked haddock fishcake was perfect, a large fishcake with a rich golden breadcrumb which fell away to reveal a well-seasoned filling of flaky smoked haddock. An excellent tartare sauce complemented this dish as did the garnish of salad leaves, dressed with a lemon oil which enhanced the entire set of flavours. 

 My dining companion enjoyed spiced honey glazed chicken skewers which were cooked to tender perfection and the chipotle mayonnaise added a lovely sweet and smoky finish whilst the bacon crumb gave yet more flavour and texture. 

The restaurant was filling up and a great atmosphere of chatter and laughter filled the air whilst I could see the kitchen team seamlessly working away, plating up numerous dishes.

Our main courses arrived and we were wowed by the beautiful presentation, I chose the grilled supreme of corn-fed chicken with truffle butter, summer greens and sorrel cream. The dish was a feast for the eyes with the chicken set in the centre surrounded by the truffle butter and cream, with the greens piled on top.  This was a perfect main course, the chicken was tender whilst the sorrel cream added a wonderful bite and the truffle butter brought in a hint of woody autumnal depth. The greens were the perfect accompaniment, as they added a summery crunch and freshness. This is the type of dish I could happily eat every day, rich and comforting with a real finesse to the choice of ingredients which very much complemented each other. I also chose a portion of home-cut chips to accompany this, which were cooked with the skin still on, and they were perfect with a simple sprinkling of sea salt. 

We also shared a side of onion rings which were crispy and delicious with a slightly sweet taste to the onion which was irresistible. 

My dining companion chose a T-bone steak, served with home-cut chips. The steak was quite something to behold, dominating the plate like a small planet! It was perfectly cooked medium-rare as he had asked, and the meat was wonderfully matured and succulent.  The addition of tomato and mushroom went perfectly with the steak and the B√©arnaise sauce was excellent, rich and creamy with a subtle flavour profile which allowed the steak to take centre stage. 

Dessert time arrived and we were tempted to order the cheese board but instead we chose two wonderfully sweet dishes to share. The raspberry Pavlova with Amara cherries and summer fruit was simply sublime. The freshly made meringue was wonderfully crunchy as well as slightly chewy and the berries added sweetness and tang in equal measure. Sticky toffee pudding is without doubt one of my favourite ever desserts and this one was faultless, a divine freshly made sponge was surrounded by rivers of an amazingly rich toffee sauce, whilst vanilla ice cream was the ideal accompaniment. We rounded off the meal with a coffee and soaked up the relaxed ambience which was reminiscent of a restaurant in New York, as live music filled the air and plates piled high with delicious food were whisked past us. 

I should also mention the amazing cocktail list on offer at Grill on the Alley, I was impressed to see some really unusual options such as Carrot Cake Martini, Eton Mess, Cherry and Thyme and Chestnut Manhattan alongside more familiar classics such as Cosmopolitan, Mai Tai and Espresso Martini. 

There is a superb selection of dishes on offer at Grill on the Alley, with a wide range of seafood, steaks, burgers and salads alongside classic dishes such as fajitas and chicken kiev. All the beef is premium quality and 28 day aged to ensure a depth of flavour and tenderness. There is even Wagyu beef on the menu for something a little more special, and it is available as either a Wagyu fillet steak or a 100% Wagyu burger. 

 We had an amazing time at Grill on the Alley, the charm and sophistication of this restaurant makes it clear to see why it is such an established stalwart of the Manchester dining scene. The food was second to none in both flavour and presentation whilst the service was excellent throughout. It was a lovely evening and I would thoroughly recommend this restaurant to everybody, it makes a wonderful place to dine when in Manchester with a timeless charm which ticks all the boxes. 

What do you all think, would you like to soak up the atmosphere at Grill on the Alley and try some of these incredible dishes ? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post. A big thank you to Grill on the Alley for a lovely evening. 

5 Ridgefield Street
M2 6EG
0161 833 3465

Until next time, 



We were kindly invited to dine at Grill on the Alley, the meal was complimentary for review purposes. All opinions expressed herein are my own and honest. 

Sunday 18 October 2015

Autumn indulgence...

Hi everyone, I hope that you are all well and that you have had a good weekend. It is that time of the year when the nights draw in, it gets a little colder and the leaves turn that wonderful spectrum of russet and gold indicating that autumn has arrived. I think of autumn as the twilight of the year, just before the night of winter falls and the year draws to a close. This time of the year holds a lot of special memories for me and I always love to wake up on those crisp autumn days when the sun is shining, the mellow light filters through the trees and the whole world looks almost too beautiful to be real. Before I get too carried away with narrative descriptions of autumn, I want to tell you a little more what this post is about! I think that this is the perfect time of the year to indulge yourself and to make a little more time to unwind, and I wanted to share with you a few of the products I have been loving lately as well as talking to you a little about what I like to do to relax when I go home to see my family for the weekend. I love going home to Derbyshire, seeing the hills and the rolling fields fills my heart with happiness because I know that I am home. I grew up living in a farmhouse in the shadow of Kinder Scout, and going home is still my sanctuary even though I moved out many years ago.

So, when I am home for the weekend, the last thing I feel like doing is spending ages on a complex skincare routine. During the week I follow a more thorough routine, but at the weekend I love Nivea face wipes for removing my make-up quickly. These 3 in 1 refreshing Facial Cleansing Wipes are quick and convenient, plus they leave my skin glowing. I would not use them everyday but as a quick solution they are great.
At the moment I love Olay Complete Care Day UV Fluid, which is a softening and light moisturiser. It has SPF 15, which is essential to protect your skin from the sun. 

Speaking of the sunshine, I love Garnier Summer Body which is a great way of faking a healthy summer glow when I cannot face the effort of using a more intense fake tan. This product is easy and efficient, plus it gives you that post-holiday slightly tanned look.

I have got a few new make-up goodies and cosmetics lately, as well as buying some old favourites.

Boots Vitamin E gentle eye cream is a new favourite of mine, it is very softening and it has SPF 15, it seems to work wonders on my under-eye shadows! I love this Nails Inc nail polish in Victoria and Albert, it is a classic red which looks just beautiful at this time of year.
Maybelline the Eraser eye, is an amazing concealer with extract of Goji Berry. I use it all over my face, not just on the eye area because the sponge applicator is so convenient. I find that it is exceptionally good at covering dark under-eye shadows when you have had a lot less than eight hours sleep. 

Rimmel Wake Me Up anti-fatigue foundation in ‘true ivory’ is an all-time favourite foundation of mine. It has SPF 15 and Vitamin C, it gives great coverage and it makes me look more awake which is a definite bonus! I love Collection lipstick in Cupcake Pink, which always makes me feel ready to face the world, I am slightly obsessed with pink lipstick and I just love how it perks up my face if I am looking pale. 

 I really like Dove Beauty Finish compressed deodorant, which smells so good. This is a handy product because it is small enough to keep in my bag, so I always have it with me during a busy day of meetings.
Herbal Essences Bee Strong Strengthening Shampoo and Intensive Mask are great for my dry hair and they give it a lovely honey scent, which is gorgeous. I like to leave the Intensive Mask on my hair for a while whilst I sit and read a magazine, because it is so good at repairing my dry hair.
Palmolive Mediterranean Moments shower gel smells amazing as it contains Argan oil and almond and it leaves my skin so silky too. I am a shower gel addict and I always seem to buy more when I go to the supermarket! 

 It is getting too cold to have breakfast outside, but this weekend it was mild enough so I threw a jacket on and sat outside on the lawn to enjoy a lazy breakfast of croissants and coffee whilst reading the latest issue of Vogue. The croissants were Tesco Finest, the coffee was Taylor’s of Harrogate Lazy Sunday and the butter was Pr√©sident, I just loved having this time to myself whilst the rest of the family were still sleeping. I treasure time alone because I feel that we live in such a busy world these days, it is important to allow yourself time to just enjoy solitude occasionally.
I feel that if you are being extra decadent, adding a touch of Baileys to your coffee is a real treat too, though perhaps not first thing in the morning! 
This was a simple yet indulgent breakfast, and I firmly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I cannot function without it! I usually have granola or oats during the week, so there is nothing nicer at the weekend than to sit down and have the time for a cooked breakfast, some pastries or even just some toast. 

There is nothing better  than a little chocolate every now and again to lift your spirits and I love a whole array of chocolates! I popped in to Hotel Chocolat in Liverpool recently and I purchased a few bars for  gifts. I saved the Milk and Cookies bar for the weekend and it was amazing. I love Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites and also Galaxy Salted Caramel at the moment too, but really I struggle to think of a variety of chocolate I do not like!. A little chocolate every now and again is such an indulgent treat and it never fails to cheer me up. 

I don’t get the time to read as much as I would like at the moment, but I love reading so much. Some of my favourite books are classics such as Wuthering Heights and The Count of Monte Cristo. In terms of contemporary authors, I recently loved The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, I like Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins novels, I adore Alexander McCall Smith and I love the Victor Legris series by Claude Izner (who are actually two
 sisters writing under the pen name Claude Izner), which are amazingly evocative mysteries set in Paris. Also I love Vogue of course. 

So that is a little autumn indulgence for you all, when the going gets tough I just reach for the chocolate! I also love to write lists, take a long bubble bath, light scented candles and go for long walks as additional ways to relax when I am under stress. Having a glass or two of good wine and of course going out for a meal are also some of my favourite ways to switch off from life, food for me is always linked to happiness which is why I am so lucky to write about food.

That is all from me for now, I would love to hear what you like to do to relax and what products you have been loving lately. Also, feel free to recommend some good books to me,  as I am trying to read more often again! I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post!

Until next time,



Thursday 15 October 2015

Liverpool Food and Drink Festival...

Hello everyone, I hope that you are all well. This is a little bit of a 'Throwback Thursday' post as I have so much content stacked up for Coco Cami at present. Some weeks ago I went along to the Liverpool Food & Drink Festival and I had such a good time. I wanted to share some of the highlights of it with all of you because it was such a super event and being in a field surrounded by delicious food and drinks is definitely my idea of a good time!
It was a surprisingly hot day on the Saturday, so I wore a simple sheer black top and pencil skirt (yep, I know, I wore black yet again...!) we arrived just before lunchtime and there was already a real buzz at the festival, which was spread over a huge area of the park. I collected my press pass and off we went to find as much delicious food as possible!

 I was so impressed with the trouble everyone had gone to staging the event, there were fun areas to relax in complete with hay bales and blankets! I spotted a smoker full of delicious smoked kippers and then my first stop was at the Amalia restaurant stand where  I had a quick chat and sampled a portion of risotto which was full of flavour.

 The Amalia restaurant team hard at work 

 Risotto from Amalia Liverpool 

Since it was such a hot day I decided that a couple of beers were in order, so I headed to the Kingfisher truck which was so eye-caching and the guys there were super friendly. I had a chat to them before I went to find a little spot where I could relax and enjoy the refreshing beer in the sunshine.

 The guys from Kingfisher beer were so nice!

I had the chance to catch up with Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley , also known as Hemsley + Hemsley, who I recently interviewed for Exclusive Magazine where I work as Food and Drink Editor. They are brilliant chefs and food writers and they are so kind and friendly. Their book The Art Of Eating Well is amazing and they have a new book coming out next year which I cannot wait for! Interviewing them was a real privilege and one of the highlights of my career so far! 

Me with my recent interviewees, the talented chefs and food writers Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley who are so lovely. 

Restaurants and bars from across the city and beyond had set up stalls to show off their food and drinks at the festival, and there were demonstrations from talented chefs such as Paul Askew of The Art School and Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley. Alongside the demonstrations and stalls, there were fun events such as cocktail competitions and also the chance to sample more food than even I could manage (and that is saying something!) what can I say...I just love food! I spied this stall of amazing pastries, wow!

Amazing artisan French patisserie from The French Corner

After all of this wandering we had worked up quite an appetite. My partner Tim had an amazing gourmet hot dog from the company Meet Frank who serve up fab hot dogs and hand cut fries. The options they have on offer are all so mouthwatering, such as The New Yorker and The Polish. He tried the Classic Frank, which was a gourmet version of a classic hot dog, with mustard, ketchup and crispy onions. Yum! 

 The Classic Frank

I was in the mood for something a little more fiery, I love spicy food and curry is one of my favorite things to eat. Mowgli in Liverpool serves Indian street food style dishes and they do hands-down some of the best Indian food I have ever tasted. Mowgli now also have a restaurant in Manchester too, so check them out if you have not dined with them already. Rest assured that you will fall in love with their sublime Street Chat, Tiffin Boxes and Lassi! 

 Goodies from Mowgli! We got a chickpea curry and a chicken one, both of which were amazing and perfectly spiced with plenty of flavour. They went so well with the Kingfisher beer too, you can never go wrong with a good curry and beer, it is one of my favorite combinations! 

Stunning curries from Mowgli

Of course you cannot go to a food festival and only have a couple of dishes, so we also decided it would be in order to try a wood fired pizza from Little Furnace. I am sure from my constant obsession with ordering pizza, most readers have gathered it is a favourite food of mine. I especially love wood fired pizza because I find that it has a much more authentic Italian taste than many other pizzas. Cooking it in a wood fired oven gives it that slight charring and incredible flavour which I find irresistible! 

Perfect pizza from Little Furnace

All of the food we tried was just amazing and you can tell that I was full from the fact that I managed to resist desserts such as churros, waffles and artisan cakes. Alas even I have a limit! 

 Little Espresso Co

We enjoyed the live music at the festival too! We had a great time at the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival and I cannot wait to visit it again next time! What do you all think, have you ever been to a food festival and which of these foods appeals to you? As always I cannot wait to hear your thoughts and thank you so much for reading this post!

Until next time,