Clever Catalan small plates and a newly cultivated crush on all things tapas – this is Rambla…

Rambla aka the place that made me like octopus.

Not love it mind you – baby steps and all – but definitely like it more than I ever did after past tastings or recent viewings of ‘Blue Planet II’ where, let’s face it, they come across a bit mean, a bit beaky and a bit grumpy. In all fairness I’d probably spend my life looking pretty peeved if the threat of being fished, fried and served on earthenware pottery in the heart of Soho was ever present but I digress…

Catalan cuisine takes front and centre stage here at the place named after the leafy, bustling boulevard in Barcelona where chef Victor Garvey grew up. I’ve never been the world’s greatest fan of tapas – too many rubbery rings of calamari and over-cooked potatoes limply floundering in smeary tomato puddles – but Rambla offers neither of those things and has subsequently left me wondering how many years of very fine tapas I’ve missed out on and how exactly I’m going to rectify that situation now because these tapas, these tapas (cue finger jabbing at photos) I kinda have a thing for.

Eating at the bar has rapidly became my favourite way of dining; there’s something delightfully yet effortless cool about sitting across from the chefs and watching a parade of dishes strut past. Here you’ll find an abundance of doe eyed, dark haired staff all in possession of disgracefully long lashes and delightfully charming spirits, each one happy to genially chat through a menu split into land, sea and field, raw, cured and sweet. A small but decent wine list gives you the chance to try something new and fizzingly sweet or fall back on old favourites, as comforting and nostalgic as your dad’s worst jokes.IMG_4834Snacking whilst selecting has always made sense to me. Pan con Tomate arrives thickly spread and nicely straddling the line between squishy and chewy while Blistered Padron Peppers are softly charred & heavily crunchy with sea salt.IMG_4835 Read More

A Mission with Clint Eastwood and an unforgettable evening…

Sometimes an evening is so perfect you wish it would never end.

If any destination in the rest of the planet, the galaxy, the universe was offered to you right then, there isn’t anywhere you would rather be and you fear that if you leave that place and that moment in which you have fallen in love with everything about it, you may never be able to recreate whatever it is that has cast you under this spell.

Such is the magic of the Mission Ranch, Carmel.

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Finding a gem in the rubble of an earthquake…

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Napa Valley is renowned for being one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s also famous for being one of the most well-known wine producing regions in the world, delivering 5% of California’s wine each year. Some of the most acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignons on the planet come from Napa and 3m+ visitors each year come to the region to drink, eat & enjoy some of the very best local produce.

After a solid 12 hour drive from Portland, stopping only for a little lunchtime magic at the culinary delight that is Denny’s – judge me not, there’s a hell of a lot of nothing between Oregon and Napa – J and I arrived in Napa around 9.30pm on the Saturday night, ready to hit the hay and wake in the morning, refreshed & ready for our adorable vintage wine trolley tour.

Hmm…

Y’know what else Napa can lay claim to? Earthquakes. Ask me how I know…

I’ve only ever been in one earthquake before; a little 2008 5.4 in Chino Hills that I experienced mid-morning in a classroom with many other people. There was a little rumble, the walls vibrated, everyone stopped…then everything carried on as normal. Scary? Not really. Exciting? Little bit.

Now imagine going to sleep and waking up at 3.20am in the pitch black, in a place you’ve never been before and barely looked at when you arrived 6 hours earlier. Imagine being woken up because the walls are shaking the headboard which is shaking you. Imagine feeling the bed move and lift you up. Imagine feeling like the cabin you are in is about to lift off the ground and take you with it. Imagine not knowing how long this is going to last or whether it will stop and start again or if something will fall on you. Imagine holding onto the person beside you and literally clinging to them because you have no idea what to do or where to go. Scary? Yes. Exciting? Err, no actually. Not at all.

Not quite the welcome to Napa we were expecting and after getting up, seeing drawers slung out of their chests and a fridge several feet away from where it started, learning that there was no electricity or wifi, going back to bed, undergoing two aftershocks and then waking in the morning to learn that the quake had been a 6.1 and the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989 and that so many vineyards had been damaged that the trolley tour was cancelled, we were faced with an unusual prospect…

…what exactly do you do for 24 hours in Napa when there’s no power and no wine?

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