Birthday dining atop the City of Angels…

Dear, darling readers, how are you all?  I hope this post finds you well rested after a weekend doing – and more importantly, eating – lovely things.

I’d like to take you away for a few moments if I may, take you somewhere special, somewhere you may have the same knee-jerk-love-or-hate reaction to as chilled red wine, Ben Affleck movies or Honey Boo Boo, somewhere fondly known as La-La Land, the Big Orange, the City of Angels, that’s right dearies – ooh I heard the voice of Mrs. Doubtfire when I said that! – we’ve arrived at the last destination on our epic road-trip, the place that is both J’s and my spiritual home, a city sweating slightly at a mere 100 degrees and climbing…say hello to Los Angeles.

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From frosty beer & NY pie to organic salad – Santa Barbara, a town of contrasts…

Many places on this beautiful planet are well-known for a particular culinary style. Whether this descends from the people who live there now or the historical & geographical references of a specific locale, there’s often one dish or type of food that you can be guaranteed to find. So far on the trip we’ve had amazing re-inventions of classic dishes in Seattle, street food to mow down your own best friend to get to in Portland and a burrito that was a credit to it’s south-of-the-border roots in San Francisco.

Now here’s the thing about Santa Barbara…after 24 hours in this college-student-come-eye-wateringly-rich-residents town, I have no idea what it’s traditional or local food is because, frankly, you can get whatever you want, pretty much whenever you want it. That’s true of lots of places you might say and yes, to a point it is, but even in places like London, New York & Paris where the food offerings are diverse, there is also something in each place to call a culinary trademark. Here in this pretty Spanish Colonial styled town, we dined twice, we dined well and we dined in two places that could not be more varied in their menu, their environment and their specialties.

Let’s start with the one we all have a craving for now and then…pizza. I’m not talking one you pop in the oven on a Friday night and watch hungrily through the glass fronted doors as cheese bubbles & makes a break for freedom over the side of your baking tray. I’m not even talking the really naughty one that you order from Papa John’s when nothing but a hot, crispy, doughy, cheese smothered disc of deliciousness will do. I’m talking New York style pizza – a vast expanse of thin crust (unlike its chubby Chicago cousin) which is coated with the ripest, sweetest tomato sauce and smothered with creamy mozzarella. I’m talking Uncle Rocco’s NY Pizzeria on State St.

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Sampling a summer of flavour one diced, shredded or sliced grill dish at a time…

Percy Pigs.

Melt-in-the-middle chocolate puddings.

Handcooked crisps.

Fish and chip pies.

Everyone has a favourite food from M&S. You might not love their clothes, you might not like their ranges, you might never have set foot into the general shopping areas but I’d be amazed if you couldn’t find anything in the Foodhall that made your eyes widen and your tummy rumble.

Earlier this year, M&S introduced its new Summer of Flavour range to their devoted customer base, to the demanding foodies both on and offline and to the general public across the streets of the UK. Taking inspiration for this collection from food markets, bars, stalls and restaurants across the globe, it promised to bring inventive, creative, fabulous flavours to life on your plate, your BBQ or even, as we are British, your grill.

So how was it? Does it live up to that? Could you choose any of the range, throw it on the grill and impress both yourself and your friends?

Grab your napkins and let’s find out… Read More