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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Campo Colour Lab Wine Tasting x Norte

A note from Joelle... 
The Colour Lab by Campo Viejo is an interactive wine tasting experience that launched in March at Spanish restaurant Norte (Regent St, Piccadilly). 
I was lucky enough to be invited down last month to try the unique wine tasting experience and some tapas. 
Allow me to *spill*... (sorry - I really couldn't come up with a better pun!)
We assembled into a small room and were seated with three black wine glasses in front of us. The opaque glasses masked the colour of the wine, making it a bit harder for us to know what we were drinking.
After a little test, we were divided into two types of taste bud characteristics. This would fine distinguish the way we taste wine and what we get from them.
We did the traditional swirling of the wine and then smelling before taking a sip and discussing what we could taste. We were all certain that we knew the colour of all the wines (red, white, rose, etc.), but things were about to get interesting...
To be honest, I didn't think a change in the mood lighting would make a difference to the taste of the wine, but it did!
We started off in a bright but tame white lighting and the wines tasted relatively normal. No one noticed anything strange and we were all sure that we knew the types and colors of the wines in front of us - easy stuff.
The lighting changed to a soothing blue, and the flavour was less intense and more fruity instead of fresh.
We were all in agreement that the green lighting made us feel uncomfortable and this resulted in the wines tasting very intense - almost like vinegar. 
The whole idea sounds bizarre, but they have found the perfect mood lighting to match the relaxing dining experience without compromising on the wines and food. My best lighting was the red - everything tasted better in my opinion.
The tapas is pretty nifty too - all the meats, peppers and other ingredients are of excellent quality and the owners go to Spain almost weekly to source out the most authentic Spanish foods.
This wine tasting experience is not to be missed, especially if you're looking for a fun thing to do before a meal at Norte. 
Many thanks to Farrah and the team for having me!

Norte
2 Regent St, St. James's, London SW1Y 4LR
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Monday, 3 April 2017

My Favourite Theatre Experiences

A note from Joelle... 

Hello and happy April! This year is whizzing by and I'm quite happy about that because London has a really nice and more relaxed vibe in the sunshine.
With bank holidays and Easter breaks approaching, it's a busy time for theatres, as they usually get quite busy around these times.
The theatre can open your eyes to incredible stories, productions, and actors, as well as immersing yourself in their world of music and dance - a few hours of blissful escapism!

You know I love going to the theatre and try out different genres, so in collaboration with www.boxoffice.co.uk, here are my top 3 favourite theatre moments from the last few years:

3) On my birthday weekend, I tried to get tickets for Uncle Vanya at the Almeida, but after failing miserably, I stumbled upon another show. This was a smaller fringe show at the Pleasance Theatre and performed by two best friends. Scary Shit was really, really powerful and intense - not what I was expecting at all.
The show was an emotional journey for not only the performers but for the audience too. I laughed a lot and shed genuine tears over their true stories. They were vulnerable and strong at the same time and it rubbed off on me. I left the theatre feeling refreshed and a few feet taller and it' a show I'll never forget.
It led me to seek out more non-West End shows and for that, I'm most grateful.
untitled (68 of 72)

2) Sticking with the "weird" theme, I saw a show in 2015 that left me with so many questions. On a whim, I booked tickets for a new Simon Steven's play, Carmen Disruption at the Almeida and managed to get a pretty good box seat for the first preview show. I had no idea what it was about and went alone. 
It certainly divided opinion, but I loved it - but I honestly pinpoint why. If you read my review, you'll see that I was left almost disturbed by the whole storyline the first time. A week later, I took a friend to see the show and it was like seeing it in a new light. I finally 'got it'.

1) It's a bigg'un! 
All the way back in 2010, my sister and I hopped on a tube and landed at the Gielgud Theatre to see the revival of HAIR. When it opened in the 60s on Broadway and the West End, people were outraged by the drug/sex/religious references as well as the onstage full nudity of the entire cast right at the end of Act I.
All of this was kept in the show when we watched it, but the best bit about it was the audience participation during the finale.
My sister and I were in the peasant seats in the Grand Circle, but cast members climbed on top of the balcony, inviting us down onto the stage! We were not going to miss this opportunity and jumped out of our seats, heading for the stage to join in singing The Flesh Failures/Let The Sun Shine In.
It's one of those moments I'll never forget because it was inclusive and vibrant. There were real flowers being tossed into the crowd, strangers joining hands and peace signs being thrust into the air unapologetically. 
It was the kind of feel-good escapism that draws so many people to the theatres every day and in these dark times, we need more of it.

Next up, I'm looking for some good shows to see over the Easter period. I've currently got my eye on An American in Paris, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and School of Rock.
Got any shows you're keen to see? Let me know!

This post is sponsored by www.boxoffice.co.uk.

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Saturday, 25 March 2017

"Sally Cinnamon" Rolls

A note from Joelle... 

I've  caught the baking bug again! It's great news for everyone and everything except my waistline. 
video

Now, I've made Swedish cinnamon buns before (kanelbulle) but this was the first time making American-style ones. These are much bigger, made to tear apart, fluffy and soft in the middle and are made in a big pan altogether. Once cooled a little bit, they are drizzled
(more in my case, drenched!) in vanilla cream cheese frosting - perfect!
Impress yourself and your mates with this really easy recipe that can literally feed like, 100 people.

Ingredients

Roll:
100g plain flour
A splash of milk
4 tbsp Melted butter (unsalted)
Softened butter (unsalted)
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
4tbsp white sugar
1 packet or 1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp baking powder 
A pinch of salt

Icing: 
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp milk
2tbsp cream cheese
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the bread, pour the milk, melted butter and sugar into a bowl, add the dry yeast and let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes. Add the sieve in the flour and then fold the mixture. It will be very sticky and maybe a bit lumpy but that's just how it is!
Place cling film or a kitchen towel over the bowl and allow it to rest for 1 hour. PLEASE don't skip this step, the rolls won't get that airy rise if the dough doesn't prove at room temperature.
When the hour is up, admire your beauty! My dough tripled in size but once you then work in the baking powder, salt and another half cup of flour, you'll notice it shrink back to size.

Roll out the dough into an oblong and try to get it evenly thin (around 1cm)
Spread some softened butter on the dough first, then sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar.
Start rolling from the long end of the oblong until you get one giant roll and then cut the roll every 5cm or so. Don't worry if the whirls are super-tight, as we are baking them all together, they won't spread too much and lose shape.
Place all the rolls in a dish and allow them to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking at 180C for
Whilst the rolls are baking, it's time to make the delicious icing!
In a bowl, add the soft butter, soft cheese (I used Philadelphia), vanilla, milk and stir until smooth. Then add the icing sugar and stir until all is incorporated. Boom - you're done!
Once golden brown, take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then drizzle on the icing, whilst the rolls are still warm.
Eat straight away, but they are amazing cold too!
video

Let me know if you make these - they are totally worth all the faff! The perfect Sunday treat!
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Monday, 20 March 2017

Honeymoon in Vegas, Palladium

A note from Joelle... 
For one night and one night only, the concert performance of the hit Broadway musical, Honeymoon in Vegas came to London for the first time.
Freddie Tapner's London Musical Theatre Orchestra was conducted by the musical's composer, Jason Robert Brown and it was their first performance in their 2017 schedule.

The original film, starring Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker was released a bit before my time, so I had never heard of it before! And as you probably know from my other theatre reviews, when I get tickets for a new musical or play, I never google it or read reviews in advance - I need to see it with completely fresh eyes.
image: Nick Rutter
If like me, you've never heard of the film or musical, let me break down the synopsis for you (it's so bizarre):
The story follows Jack, a New Yorker who promised his dying mother that he would never get married. However, his girlfriend, Betsy is sick and tired of the "curse" and Jack's fear, so is keen to get married, even if it means eloping to Vegas. And that's what they do!
But after losing a game of poker to a Vegas gambling boss, who takes a liking to Betsy, the elopement goes really, really wrong - and of course, it's bloody hilarious.
Oh, and there are parachuting Elvises (Elvi (?)), a ghost of a dead mother, and a Hawaiian temptress - you know, your usual musical.
 image: Nick Rutter
What I noticed straight away was the diversity of the audience. The West End often gets a bad rep for only drawing in middle-class, middle-aged white people to shows, but tonight, Palladium was packed to bursting point with people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Before the live band (who were not in the orchestra pit, but in full view on stage) took to the stage, I knew there had to be something really special about this show.
We all know Samantha Barks (BETSY) is an incredible actor and singer (she played Eponine in Les Mis, both in the West End and in the 2012 film!), but it was her co-star that stole the show in my opinion.
Arthur Darvill (JACK), who you'll know as the vicar in Broadchurch or Amy Pond's boyfriend in Doctor Who has a wonderful, earthy voice that marries so well with a large ensemble behind him. He was the real star of the show with not just his voice, but his comedic timing.

I also feel I need to give a special shout out to Simon Lipkin, who sang the part of Elvis. He really brought the house down with his charm and charisma.

The energy from the LMTO (including Jason Robert Brown), the supporting cast and the main cast was electric and that was the most refreshing thing about the performance - they all bounced off each other so well. When that happens, the usually stiff and reserved British audience relaxes more!
 image: Nick Rutter
With Brown's dazzling score made up of swing, rock 'n' roll and Hawaiian-inspired island numbers gave the show a varied vibe that people of all ages in the audience were tapping their feet to.
We gave the cast and band many standing ovations and they were so well-deserved.
(*)
Now, the only question left is: when is the full production coming to the West End? London is in desperate need of a funny, feel-good show like this.
4.5/5 stars.

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