Living Social: The case of the Devilled Egg

Regular readers of my blog might have noticed that I have been on a few Living Social Events during my time. I’ve taken to blogging a few of these, Fat Attack, CSI weekend and a Newquay weekend. These blog posts were noticed by the guys at Living Social and they offered me a free Bloggers Breakfast event to showcase one of there cookery deals they do.

The cookery event was run by the Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy. Don’t worry it wasn’t all about eggs but they did feature prominantly! Bear in mind that I am only a Foodie in that I like to eat food. I have been known to burn beans on toast although I can make a wicked fairy cake.

Location: Bristol. A quiet residential street where all you can hear when you arrive is birdsong!

Verdict: Brilliant. The course was basic enough for me with clear explanantions while detailed enough for my husband who has been on a residential cookery course before.

Value for Money: Great. well it was free. Seriously though, the price I think for what we had is £135 from the Devilled Kitchen website so if you take into account Living Social discounts I think you could keep your eye out for a bargain here.

The Course:

When we arrived we were shown into the dining room while the rest of the party arrived. The house was gorgeous with large chandeliers and high ceilings – I wouldn’t mind living there!

We had time to chat and find out a little about each other before we started. The lady in charge was Barbora Stiess. Normally she would have had an assistant but she had been in an accident that morning so she couldn’t make it, I hope she is better now! No offense to the assistant though but the course went wonderfully and I didn’t realise there was supposed to be help until the end!

We all had to wash our hands or use the gel in the little dispenser as shown in the picture. I was paranoid about spreading germs because I was suffering from hay fever so I used more than my fair share of the gel. We would all be eating each other’s food so I wanted to make sure that no one would be grossed out.

There were a number of recipes but I won’t put them on here out of respect for the owner although she said it would be alright … except for one. We adored the bread rolls we made so this is going on here so I can find it again later (I tend to lose bits of paper).

Bread Rolls

This was the first recipe we followed and when volunteers were asked for, my husband stepped up to the plate (well bowl actually) and started the measurements. Here’s what was needed:

  • 500g strong white flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  •  300ml water
  1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl
  2. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well
  3. If the dough seems a little stiff add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead.
  4. Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.
  5. When risen, gently mould the dough into small buns and fill with olives and feta
  6. Place the buns on a baking sheet to prove for a further hour until doubled in size (cover with a clean tea towel).
  7. Heat oven to 220C, glaze bread with egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped underneath.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

We ate these later with ham, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I, of course, had non-dairy hollandaise sauce because of my allergy to milk. On its own it wasn’t very nice but mixed together with the egg, ham and bread – it was like heaven on a roll.

By the way if you are allergic to gluten or dairy products the Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy does do courses which cater for these. Cool huh?

Anyways, after this was the soda bread and guess who volnteered for this? Oi, it was me. Ironic really, the only person who couldn’t eat the soda bread was the person making it! She gave a great tip. If you don’t happen to have buttermilk in your fridge, but let’s face it who doesn’t these days, then all you need to do is put a bit of vinegar in milk and voila, homemade buttermilk.

I could go into great detail about all the amazing food we created but really you would need to go on the course to get the benefit, by which of course I mean you get to eat it!

Here’s a quick list of the things we made:

Blinis with beetroot and salmon
Soda Bread
Profiteroles
White Bread
Shortcrust pastry
Scrambled eggs
Eggs Benedict
Scotch Egg (the highlight of the course)

We got eat most of the things we made, the only proviso was that we were stuffed by the end so some people took their scotch eggs home.

Would I go again? I always ask this question at the end of a blog post and I would say yes. I learnt an awful lot and it wa a good laugh too. I highly recommend this course for novices and experienced cooks alike.

Here are a few pictures from the day to round this post off:

Living Social Deal: CSI Weekend – Who murdered the Lord?

Another great Living Social Deal attracted my friend to pester me with emails asking if I would like to go. When I saw what it was, how could I possibly refuse?

The CSI deal was for a night in the sumptious Down Hall with dinner and breakfast included. The dinner also included the case files of the poor late lamented Lord.

Getting there

The journey to Down Hall was a nightmare. Totally our fault as we decided in our infinite wisdom that Mothers Day would be an excellent day to do a trip. In our defence, we didn’t KNOW it was Mother’s Day when we booked it. Coincidentally I bet my mother would have loved this trip, but I digress.

After taking around 3 hours for an hour’s trip we arrived only vaguely stressed. It didn’t help that the road that the Sat Nav wanted to send us down was closed and it refused to give us another direction. Note to Sat Nav makers, ‘Turn back now’ is not helpful when the road is closed and you are faced with the choice of going in two directions. As it turns out we are excellent navigators as we chose the right direction. Hah, who needs maps, a toss of the coin can do wonders.

We parked in the complimentary car park and first impressions had us impressed with the building. I would include lots of pictures here but I was using my phone camera which seems to have had a hissy fit and produced quite bad pictures but I will soldier on with the review and beg for your forgiveness.

As I mentioned Down Hall is quite impressive. If you ever had delusions of being Lord or Lady Muck then this is the place to have them. The reception however was confusing with two counters and no idea if we were skipping the queue but anyway no-one complained and we were given  our keys quite quickly. Quite efficient really.

The Room

How can I say this, the room was gorgeous but to my horror there was one double bed. I am used to posh and semi-posh hotels having two beds in the room and was a little put out, but my friend and I have been friends for years so I put aside my prudishness away for the night. I mean what was I expecting? Her to turn into some sort of bed monster in the night? Who knows? I can be weird sometimes.

I should probably mention the lift/elevator to the upper floor. This was almost worth the trip. The walls looked like they were lined with books. As a librarian and author I loved it. Way to go Down Hall, you got that bit sooo right.

Whe we arrived in our room we immediately looked to see what sort of view we had, which you can see for yourselves to the left of this post. We thought it was quite nice but the bathroom was enormous and even more impressive.

Down Hall also (apparently) has a spa. I hadn’t really noticed  this when I booked the CSI weekend but I was quite excited when my friend told me and made sure I packed a swim suit. I have never been so disappointed in my life.

The ‘Spa’

First we went down to get the code for the Spa. Why can’t they give this to people during check-in? Heaven only knows, maybe it is to discourage people from using it?

We went down to reception and ahh, there was a wedding on. I love weddings but I wasn’t going to this one and sort of resented losing half an hour of my life waiting for the queue for the receptionists to go down just to get access to a spa, which a) could have been given at checkin or b) put in the guest book in the room.

Eventually we got what we needed and were given directions to the spa. Problem number 2, the signage was next to useless, we had to ask three employees to find the way to get to it. You have to go through a lounge and go outside through the fire doors, walk outside for a minute and reenter the connected building.

Now I understand the info said there was nowhere to put your stuff in the changing rooms, but there was nowhere to put anything! The changing room for the ladies was tiny. There was a Sauna, also on the small side and a pool which was really just a puddle full of excitable children. We went tnto the Sauna and I backed out of trying the pool, I headed back up to the room while my friend jostled for space in the pool.

To be fair you wouldn’t go to Down Hall for the Spa, so any criticism should be taken in context with the rest of the trip. The evening started at 7.30 and we arrived on time, and waited, …and waited in the bar in the room across the hall for it to start.

The prices were average London prices, we worked it out from the drinks we had bought the night before, so no worries about that, we were expecting it. However there were no chairs and to be frank I was getting a bit grumpy. I don’t like standing for any length of time and although those drinks were reasonably priced for London, I wasn’t used to them and was getting more frustrated and annoyed by the minute. It began to feel like a tactic to get more money out of us. I don’t mind paying if it is part of the evening but frankly it was boring. Standing up in a room of strangers wasn’t conducive to chatting for us.

The Dinner and event!

Then the doors opened and the night began.

The event was put together from a guy from Right Angle. It was very well organised. As soon as they took over the evening, it went without a hitch. We piled in, all trying to grab a chair that we could sit next to our friends and we introduced ourselves to our new team mates who were all interesting people and the meal was off to a swimmingly good start – unlike the swimming pool part earlier. Seriously I wouldn’t have been this bitter if the hotel hadn’t made us wait for an inordinate amount of time to get a poxy code.

Anyway, there was a metal case in the centre of the table and a folder with information on the crime, witness statements and other evidence. The more enterprising of our team had already opened them and were coming out with theories before we actually sat down!

The event began with an explanation of who the organiser was and how the night would progress. I was very excited to find I was going to take my own fingerprints! Unfortunately I can’t remember if the starter arrived first or if we did the finger prints first. In fact I can’t remember the order of the food vs parts of the evening at all! Maybe we had too much red wine? The starter was cheese tart, which I couldn’t have, being highly allergic to milk, so I had a fig/melon combo – yuk. I ate it though because I was hungry but I have never wished I could eat cheese more than then.

The fingerprints part was brilliant. We all had a piece of paper with a square for each finger and we shared a pot of ink. We put our fingers in the pots and then rolled it onto the paper. My friend accidentally rolled the tips of her fingers but she soon had the knack. We then compared the fingerprints with patterns on a laminated sheet.

The main meal, thankfully was the same as everyone else’s and I thought it was delicious. There were complaints from around the table that the food was dry, but I say, Bah Humbug, I LIKE dry chicken. Stick that up your pipe and smoke it.

On our chair when we arrived we were given white boiler suits which we were allowed to keep. Along with the fetching suite, was a mask and gloves. Another one of my allergies came into play. It’s like a computer game, you think you are doing well, and you go back a level. Still, what amazed me was, the organiser was prepared for this. He produced a pair of blue latex free gloves. What a star!

In the corner of the room was a CSI crime area as seen in the picture at the top of this post. We were to pick up a piece from the crime area and take it back to our table. We would then along with the other evidence in the case put them through some forensic tests. Cool huh?

I got a saucer and swizzled some powder on to the saucer. A pair of fingerprints appeared as if by magic. The team then worked out whose fingerprints they were. We also had a hammer and various other pieces.

There were hairs in an evidence bag and one of our team members went to discover what they belonged to. There were two netbooks set up in the corner and I am assuming some sort of scanning or magnifying equipment was there. That part of the room was packed so I couldn’t get close enough to see.

The evening progressed and the pudding arrived! Humph, I got blackcurrent sorbet, which I actually thought was gone off raspberry until someone pointed out what it was – oops.

Then the big reveal. Who killed who. Who did the fingerprints belong to and why was he killed?

I won’t give away the answers in case it is the same the next time they do it but not one table got the answers completely correct! Here’s a hint though, wild rabbits do not have all white hair apparently.

Conclusion

So in all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable event and one I would go to again, possibly with my husband or mum. If you have any reservations, don’t listen to them – just go for it – it’s a laugh.

 

Living Social holiday, elements of amazing with a dash of disaster – the EPIC journey to Newquay

I probably should do a few more present day posts so this one is about my recent visit to Newquay.

How long do you think it would take to go from Newport in South Wales to Newquay? 3 hours, 4? Well, if you believe National Rail around 4 hours, however if you actually go there you might think differently…

The day started out nicely enough, we’d packed the night before with the usual essentials like pillow, camera, phones and laptops, hopped outside in the morning at 8.15 and took the bus which was bang on time. Well done Newport!

We arrived in sunny Newport and popped to Greggs for a healthy breakfast, yum, hot sausage roll. Well I say we popped in for breakfast Nick popped over to a certain fast food restaurant on the other side of the road and got bacon, cheese, hash brown wrap. Not too sure who was healthier there – although he had a wrap so that beats anything.

We bought a couple of sandwiches and headed for the train station. The train was on time, or maybe a couple of minutes out – nothing to be alarmed about. We found some nice seats and settled back for the ride.

About five minutes before we hit Exeter, St Davids there was an announcenent that there was a problem. To be fair it wasn’t National Rail’s fault, there was a fatality on the line. So there we were two hours later, after wolfing down our Gregg’s sandwiches getting ever more desperate for the loo. I eventually gave up and looked for it but I hate using loos on trains they are just eww.

Once the British Transport Police cleared up, we were on our way and within five minutes we were at the Train Station where we believed we were half an hour late for the train.

The thought of coffee was swirling in my mind, visions of the black elixir was making my throat really dry so we popped in to the little Cafe. It was gooood – that and the Victoria Sponge Cake – the holiday was back on track.

…but wait, Nick was fiddling with his phone, the train waited? and it left a minute ago? Nooooooooooo. No announcements, no information nothing. There was nothing for it but to wait for the next train to Par. (Yes it’s actually called that!)

So phase one of the journey was complete, and apart from the little incident of the girl who fogot her art portfolio we got on the train in time. Woohoo. Until they decided to change the train staff unexpectedly in the middle of nowhere. This meant that we would be late getting to Par. dah dah, DAH.

We were getting more and more worried as we had worled out we were going to be late AGAIN but this time because of (it seemed) incompetence, we should already have been there! Anyway soon after the conductor came down and asked if anyone was going to Newquay so of course my arm shot up like an arrow. She smiled and said don’t worry the train would wait or we would get a replacenment bus service at St Austell. Great but she didn’t tell us what was happening after this. Did the train wait? Were we supposed to wait for the next stop and get the bus? Again, no information was given to us.

We decided to chance our luck and get off at Par, which we did and she was on the platform saying the train had waited. Trouble is you would have had to know to get off the train to know this. I wonder if anyone got caught out?

We’re there and it is now 6pm, remember we have been travelling since 8.15.

We made it, queue dramatic music and huggie scenes. Our hotel was the Bay hotel two miles out and I would love to tell you we walked for hours but we didn’t forty minutes of gorgeous stroll with amazing views and we were there.

The Bay Hotel seemed a bit of a disappointment when we arrived. It was right next to the beach but it had scaffolding over the front of the hotel. Ok we got a deal right? I can live with this.

Check in was efficient and we arrived at our room which I would describe as cosy. There was no fridge or minibar and the bathroom was miniscule but I don’t go to a hotel for the bathroom.

We stepped over to the window and had a breathtaking view of the beach marred by the scaffolding directly outside our window. What time would the workman come we asked out loud? Being as we were talking to each other there was no answer.

The phone rang and the reception called and asked if the room was OK. As we are typically British we said it was lovely.

We were absolutely starving at this point and headed down for our free meal which was part of the deal. I had no complaints about THAT. The meal was absolutely delicious apart from the tingly lips which worried me that I was going to have an allergic reaction but Nick had it too so there was some kind of tingly garnish thing on the starter. By the way, the steak was to die for.

The next morning the light blazed into our room and we woke with cotton mouths. I am a person who really feels the cold, but this place was way too hot. We opened the window but had to keep the curtain closed because of the scaffolding – nightmare.

Breakfast was excellent as you would expect – they even had soya milk! I was impressed. I was getting more and more sneezy each time I entered the restaurant and it turns out it was the flowers on each table by the window.

So we had a walk along the beach, which was beautiful. The light had a magical quality to it that I haven’t seen anywhere else. We had a coffee at the other end of the beach and walked back for lunch where I had the steak sandwivh and NIck had a freshly squeezed… sorry made pizza which I am told was delicious. These guys sure know how to cook.

We hung around, went in to the spa where the pool was amazing. The spa was clean but just a little perplexing.

There was a guy where you had to sign in but he didn’t say anythng. We clearly did not know what we were doing and the least he could say is, that we could take a towel from the open air shelving as we walked by. But no, we snuck past the towels like thieves, throwing anxious glances around, taking one before darting in to the changing rooms with our prize.

There was a sauna, steam room, large pool and jacuzzi. As I said before it was clean and while we were there they took samples of the water to test. Very efficient.

Dinner was in the restaurant again and I went for the duck and Nick went for the steak – a complete switch from the previous night. This time we asked the waitress to move the flowers and this time I wasn’t sneezing and snotting everywhere. Ahh romantic.

Another night of extreme heat and we packed ready for the road before going down for breakfast. Rather than ask the waiter who was busy with customers, we moved the flowers from our table so I could eat in peace and went to pick up breakfast. We got back and the flowers were back, taunting me as if they had never moved!

So again, as typical Britishers we just shrugged and carried on, the only difference was that I had a tissue tucked into my palm.

After breakfast we went to checkout. Nick had put stuff on his credit card which was a mistake. They accidentally put the room on the bill. As it was early and I am not a morning person I didn’t spot this so it was lucky it was Nick’s card. We questioned it and the bill reduced by £200, phew!

The journey back was uneventful, we stoppped to get our hair cut in Newquay but we caught the train we booked and we were home at the time we expected.

Would I recommend Newquay? Absolutely. Would I recommend the hotel, yes with reservations, if you know what to look out for then it was lovely. Don’t put things on a tab as the bill was confusing at the end and you’ll be fine.