Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Degustabox | May Box


I was so busy writing up my holiday posts that I totally forgot to review May’s Degustabox – in fact I’m so late, June’s box arrived on my doorstep at the end of last week. May’s box wasn’t themed but contained a really good variety of products.

·         A bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s honey barbecue sauce
·         A packet of Schwartz red wine & garlic marinade in a bag
·         Two packets of Maggi So Stirfry noodles
·         A box of 9 Bar Fruity bars
·         A box of Daelman’s Stroopwafels
·         A bottle of Sarson’s balsamic vinegar
·         A packet of Slim Pasta lasagne
·         A carton of Green Coco coconut juice with banana
·         A box of Fuel 10k wheat biscuits
The first two products are definitely for the health conscious among us. I’d been meaning to try 9 Bars for ages, having previously seen bits here and there on social media and searching the web. They’re basically bars packed full of fruit, nuts and seeds, containing natural sugars to boost energy. I wasn’t a fan of the fruit variety which was in the Degustabox, but I’d definitely still be inclined to try another flavour. At just over 200kcal, they make a great alternative for those seeking breakfast on the go. Talking of breakfast, the Fuel 10k protibricks are basically Weetabix with added protein and less sugar/salt. I’ve been eating mine with blueberries or strawberries and the tiniest drizzle of honey. They’ve kept me full until lunchtime and in all, I’ve been so impressed with this product.
Every month, there’s a product you can share with your family and the May box was no different. The Maggi So Strifry noodles make a meal for four in minutes – all you need is some extra fresh ingredients. I’m yet to try the 3 spice chicken noodles, but the Singapore ones were lovely. I added chicken, prawns, carrots, peppers, spring onions and beansprouts to mine and then stir-fried the noodles after boiling them (as per the instructions). They were a huge hit with my parents and brother too! The Slim Pasta is something I’ve heard mixed reviews about but never tried. I’m yet to sample the lasagne but I’m sure when I do, I’ll take to Twitter to give my thoughts. In fact, if it’s decent, I’ll blog a recipe!
Sweet treats this month included a box of caramel waffle-style biscuits, by Daelman’s. Similar to the Fox’s ones or even the ones you can buy in Starbucks, these are not only amazing straight from the packet, but even better when you rest them on the rim of your mug for a minute or two. Or, if you can’t wait, 20 seconds in the microwave should do the job – they go all soft and gooey. Unfortunately, they’re far too moreish and don’t last long in our house! No kids chez Waldon anymore, but the coconut juice with banana cartons would be perfect in a packed lunch. A healthy alternative to fruit juice, the flavour was strong and was so refreshing. You could even freeze them to make ice lollies.
I’m still ploughing through the BBQUE barbecue sauce from March’s box, but I can’t wait to try the honey barbecue sauce by Sweet Baby Ray. As well as the full size bottle, we were treated to a sample sachet of the original barbecue sauce. Are we ever gonna have barbecue season, I fancy some ribs and chicken! Since coming back from Italy, I’ve been obsessed with balsamic vinegar, although it’s nowhere near as good as some of the local varieties I tried. You can’t go wrong Sarson’s though! And finally, yet another product I’ve not tried, although I’m hoping to cook with it this week and it’s the Schwartz marinade in a bag. I’m loving these kinds of products at the moment, as they’re so easy to use, fuss- and mess-free and the meat always cooks really well, evenly. I’m thinking beef, with mash and veg... what did you cook with yours?


Friday, 26 June 2015

Splurge vs Steal IV



This month, it’s all about eye creams.
Splurge vs Steal
Splurge vs Steal
Splurge –
Benefit It’s Potent eye cream (£25.50 for 14.2g)

Steal –
Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening eye cream (£5.99 for 15ml – currently £3.99)

First impressions?
Benefit – this is typical Benefit: cute but eye-catching packaging. I’m not too keen on pots when it comes to facial care and I can only just stick my chubby fingers in the pot – this will be more suited to apply by cotton bud. If I didn’t own so much stuff, this would look lovely sitting on my dresser

Superdrug – this is standard Superdrug, quite basic and the packaging is plain in design. As this product is in a squeezy tube, it looks as though it would be easier to apply and as it stands up, there’s no chance of cream ever getting caught at the wrong end of the tube

Consistency?
Benefit – it isn’t very runny, which is a good thing as it makes it much easier to apply. It’s similar to a night cream or general moisturiser

Superdrug – this is quite runny and although you can get the right amount from the tube, it’s harder to apply

Scent?
Benefit – is it me or does this have an alcoholic smell; it’s kind of like whiskey, which is so off-putting. You don’t notice it so much when it’s on, but it’s quite an unpleasant smell in the pot

Superdrug – this product is totally unscented, which is a shame because it contains mulberry and kiwi extracts like the serum, which smells amazing! At least it’s better than smelling like alcohol...

Results?
Benefit – I found the Benefit eye cream really did help to reduce dark circles under my eyes, which is good, ‘cos I’ve been feeling so tired lately. This was okay for the first couple of weeks, but after then, my eyes started sting when applied it – I’ve read lots of people have had that problem too

Superdrug – Although my eye area felt smoother, I didn’t feel as though my skin was brighter. This didn’t irritate and I found this was more effective both above and under the eye

Verdict?
I love the Naturally Radiant range by Superdrug: it’s affordable, it’s effective and it’s great for any type of skin. This product is no different and it’s such great value for money too. Although some may like to splurge on a product they know will last, I’d much rather buy this based on results. The Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening eye cream is this month’s winner.

Potential saving = £21.51

My saving so far = +£35.02

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Restaurant review | Cantina del Baffo


I know in my previous post, I mentioned the pick of the restaurants in Limone and beyond, but I simply had to post this separately. Hand on heart, this was the best meal I’ve ever had and it will take something special to surpass. We booked at Cantina del Baffo a couple of weeks before we travelled to Lake Garda, so I’d been looking forward to it for a long time, especially as they have a five course taster menu, priced at 40. I apologise in advance for how image heavy this post is, but I don’t think words couldn’t even do the food justice (not that iPhone photography is excellent either).

Cantina del Baffo is a beautiful restaurant, built into one of the cliffs, offering spectacular views over Lake Garda from its al fresco terrace seating. The owner, a former Michelin-starred chef uses local and fresh product to create taste sensations – with wines paired to each dish. Our waitress for the evening was so friendly, speaking perfect English and talked us through every plate of food and the wine she recommended to accompany our meal. The taster menu, which changes weekly was fish-themed and as well as five courses, an aperitif and petit fours were also served – yes, that’s right, I ate SEVEN courses! Jake doesn’t like fish, so he selected from the a la carte menu (excellent that not all of the party have to choose from the taster), but more about those dishes later – I want to talk to you through my meal!

Aperitif – selection of homemade breads and breadsticks

Antipasto – sardine on fried bread, with leaf salad and a balsamic vinaigrette

No image of this one as I wolfed it down. A great way to start the meal: it was light, the flavours complemented each other well and it was executed with precision. I love grilled/barbecued sardines and the toast was so thin and crisp – it was beautiful.

Entree – Carpaccio of tuna, with goats cheese, leaves and a lemon olive oil dressing
Carpaccio of tuna, with goats cheese, leaves and a lemon olive oil dressing
Lots of fresh flavours together – the lemon oil wasn’t acidic and was lovely over the leaves and fish. I would never have thought to pair cheese and fish, especially something delicate like tuna but it really worked. Like every dish, this was presented perfectly. The fish was sliced so thin, it melted in the mouth and required no chewing.

Primo – chub with capers and olive oil, served with polenta
chub with capers and olive oil, served with polenta
I’d never even heard of chub, but it was a nice soft, flaky white fish. This dish was simple, but presented well, which made it enjoyable. There were so many flavours and textures, every mouthful was different. I actually like capers and polenta, which I didn’t know before.

Primo – ravioli three ways: with parmesan, with goats cheese and with red wine & goats cheese, served with herring caviar and basil puree
ravioli three ways: with parmesan, with goats cheese and with red wine & goats cheese, served with herring caviar and basil puree
Incredible, fresh pasta, packed with filling. The caviar was amazing – it really isn’t as fishy as people make out, nor did it really pop. My favourite was the goats cheese & red wine, which was oozing bright purple and went so well with the basil. Look how big it is though, I couldn’t manage it all (the only food I left *oink*).

Secondo – white fish (caught in Lake Garda), served with wild greens and wild flowers
white fish (caught in Lake Garda), served with wild greens and wild flowers
The waitress explained how the chef had paired each piece of fish to a wildflower he had collected in the mountains, to enhance the flavour – and it really did! The greens were a cross between kelp and samphire, quite salty but really healthy (not the right adjective). Another simple dish, executed well and incredibly tasty.

Dolce - vanilla ice cream with babà al rum
vanilla ice cream with babà al rum
Desserts seriously don’t get much better than this. I got to choose from the a la carte menu and as I was almost unable to breathe, we shared – which was good, as the bowl was huge! Two pieces of boozy baba were surrounded by a mountain of vanilla gelato (which tasted like and had the consistency of clotted cream). The perfect end to a perfect evening.

Piccola pasticceria – orange cherries in cherry liquor, sugared red & green grapes, sugar-coated rose petals and angel cake cube
orange cherries in cherry liquor, sugared red & green grapes, sugar-coated rose petals and angel cake cube
As if I could eat anymore, we got a plate of little treats to finish with. Despite all the sugar, nothing was too sweet. I loved the rose petals which were crunchy but not overly floral. The boozy cherries were very nice too.

We paid 150 for my taster menu, Jake’s three courses, two drinks, two bottles of water and a bottle of wine (and tip) – more than reasonable. This was the only place in Italy which didn’t include service charge, which I thought was incredible – but I’m glad as it let me give what I thought the meal was worth and the staff deserved.

And I’ll leave you with Jake’s meal, he ordered from the a la carte menu – and wrote little captions in my notebook... someone’s watched too much Masterchef (ha).

Carpaccio of beef with asparagus, served with mango, parmesan and a passion fruit drizzle – a very fresh dish; a good contrast of flavours
Carpaccio of beef with asparagus, served with mango, parmesan and a passion fruit drizzle
Chicken breast in filo pastry – grilled chicken in a hay bale of string-like pastry. Served with dehydrated vegetable chips and pickled beetroot
Chicken breast in filo pastry
Veal in a cereal crust – expertly cooked, with finely diced potatoes, side salad and mustard dressing. One word: incredible!
Veal in a cereal crust
I hope I’ve not made you too hungry and if you've got this far, thank you and well done!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Restaurant review | Lake Garda & beyond



Limone
 
Our Thomson Lakes & Mountains advisor, Joe, recommended this place after our orientation tour; he wasn’t wrong when he said they serve the best pizza in Limone! It’s round the other side from where the port is, but you need the walk to burn off those calories! With plenty of al fresco seating, it’s perfect for people watching and the canopies are great for when the midday sun is too strong. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, speaking good English and never rushed us. To drink, I had a Hugo (prosecco with elderflower, mint and sparkling water), which was one of my favourite holiday drinks – so refreshing. And to accompany it, just a prosciutto pizza. Our advisors weren’t lying when they said the pizzas are dustbin lid size, they were huge! Thin, crisp, light and packed with flavour. I did add some chilli-infused oil to mine though; it certainly gave it a kick. In all, the meal and ambience were excellent and it’s a shame we didn’t go back.

Venice
On our daytrip to Venice, we decided to eat here, because it was slightly cheaper than the places at San Marco’s and it looked busy (always a good sign). Opposite Grand Canal, we were blessed with gorgeous views. Having had pizza the day before, I opted for pasta and chose one of my favourites: seafood spaghetti. It was really lovely, packed with clams, mussels and squid and finished off with a giant langostine (which I couldn’t actually peel!) – there was loads of fresh pasta and the sauce wasn’t overpowering, or too much. At only 16, this was great value – and I struggled to eat it all (I blame the heat). The service was good and despite some negative reviews, I had no complaints.

Verona
After our guided tour of the city, our guide gave us all vouchers to eat at this converted church. A main meal and a drink for 11 seemed ridiculously good value and it’s definitely a tourist trap, but at the same time, has a weird charm about the place. Because we had vouchers, we weren’t given menus but asked to see them anyway. Good move as the margherita pizza was only 5.5 - we both opted for mixed meat and red onion, priced at 10.5 (I definitely felt like we cheated the system!). The pizza was divine, on a par with the one I’d had a couple of days ago in Limone – thin, crisp, lots of topping; exactly how a pizza should be. I accompanied it with a traditional Aperol spritz, which again was one of the best I’d had on holiday. The service wasn’t great and you have to go up to pay; no bill, you just point to your table. But good food at even better prices, in somewhere a little different, it gets my thumbs up.

Malcesine

If you read my Lake Garda post, you’d know we took a boat to Malcesine – and found this place on Trip Advisor. Everything about it was quite simply, perfect: setting, service, atmosphere, food – it ticked every box. It’s a shame we were the other side of the river, or we would have definitely returned. Our waiter Emilio (from Gateshead!) was so friendly and efficient; you’d have thought he was the owner the way he spoke to every customer. To eat, I chose the white fish and asparagus risotto. I’m not usually a fan of risotto, but when in Italy... it was lovely and delicate in flavour, creamy, but not rich or salty. It was like summer in a bowl, heaven. While we ate, we even saw a wedding party arrive – English weddings are really popular in the area because of Malcesine Castle which can be hired out. It’s a great spot to people watch and the free shot of limoncello at the end was a lovely touch as well.