Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Beach Books

For me, a beach book is just any book you take to the beach, just like a beach body is just your body -but on a beach... It doesn't have to be a specific genre or type of book, just one you want to read! So I'm going to share with you the books that I took on holiday with me last week. Of no particular genre of course.

That being said, I actually did choose some 'lighter' books to enjoy in the sweltering heat. But I am quite snooty with 'chick lit'. Admittedly, the heat does tend to make it difficult to focus on a difficult and convoluted plot line, which is why I chose to take Mirand Hart's 'Is It Just Me?' with me instead. I had been meaning to read this one for a while but never felt like shelling out for the hardback. Instead I picked this one up along with Caitlin Moran's 'Moranthology' in a Waterstone's 'Buy One Get One Half Price Offer'.

Hart's book is a kind of memoir/general musings on various topics kind of book. I did enjoy a lot of it and laughed out loud on public transport as the blurb predicts, but I did find some of it a bit un-funny in between. In her book Hart speaks to the character of her teenage self, filling her in on what the future holds. Whilst this did work at some points, at other times it felt a bit forced and didn't quite work. However, it stays true to the voice of the Miranda we enjoy on screen and makes us feel less alone in the awful embarrassing experiences of life. Like falling into a bin or having a Spanish man shout 'Too white! Too white!' at your pale legs. No? Just me then...

Following Hart, I swiftly moved onto Moran's 'Moranthology'. I was almost expecting a similar book to 'How to Be a Woman', so I was surprised to find that it was just a collection of some of her old columns, even though this isn't explicitly stated on the book jacket. I just picked it up because I thought I would enjoy it, and I wasn't wrong. Although I haven't seen Sherlock or much of Doctor Who (both of which Moran is a very big fan) I did enjoy a lot of her writing on various topics, both nodding emphatically and laughing throughout. HOWEVER, sometimes it felt like she was being a bit too kooky and wild and try-hard funny. I think reading the entire book in one day was a bit of a Moran-overdose.

Then I plunged into the depths of some glorious fiction. Like many books I eventually get around to reading, I've probably had them on a big 'To Read' book for a very long time, and Alex Garland's 'The Beach' was no exception. I'd watched the film when it was first released on DVD many moons ago (I was probably too young to have watched it) but I found it fascinating and (rightfully) horrifying. I didn't realise it was based on a book until many years later, and I'm glad that I'd finally gotten around to reading it. The main character, Richard, is definitely an anti-hero of sorts - at times you're repulsed by his actions but then pity him in the next paragraph and root for his survival. A great take on the idea of an idyllic utopia with a hard focus on travelling and tourism. A great read which I raced through.

Finally I picked up 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern. I'd seen this do the blogger rounds a while back, but I was sceptical as to whether I would actually enjoy it or not. I read the majority of this on the plane back, and whilst I did find some parts rightfully magical and fascinating, I found the central plot a bit messy and half-done. In the acknowledgements, Morgenstern admits that in the original draftings the plot was messy, but I felt that this was still true in the final cut. The fact that some of the characters still aren't sure what's going on, and that this is passed off as part of the magic didn't really settle for me at all. And although the female protagonist is written as a strong character with her own magical abilities and powers, the romance aspect was all too 'damsel in distress' for my liking. However, I don't regret finishing it to the end.

And there we have it - my four beach books from a week in Spain. It definitely broke my 'book fast' where I didn't really feel like picking up a book for a while! I didn't even read this much at uni where I had to read (blag) 2-3 books a week. Not sure what to tackle next in my 'To Read' pile, but there's plenty in it!

Wooo books!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Red Hot World Buffet – Head Chef’s Table

A couple of weeks ago I was kindly invited to dine at the Head Chef’s table at Red Hot World Buffet in Leeds. Now for me, buffets tend to be more of a ‘eat as much as you can up until you can’t anymore’ affair, so I was interested to see what else Red Hot had to offer away from the usual ‘quantity over quality’ that’s usually associated with buffets.

Even though I arrived late to the table and had missed the cocktails and the first two courses, the serving staff and chef made sure I caught up with everyone else and brought out everything that I had missed. Nothing greater than people encouraging you to eat with plate after plate of food!

I really enjoyed the fruity cocktail (from Red Hot’s new drinks menu) and it tasted just like holiday, if that’s possible! This was followed by salmon sushi (delicious) and a potato tikki (a tad too spicy for me). Both plates were just the right size for starters and began to show off the wide variety of the menu.

The next course was a seafood risotto, but I opted for the vegetarian option (asparagus and sundried tomato) as I’m really not a big fan of prawns anymore. The risotto was just the right consistency – creamy enough but not too heavy, with a handful of steamed vegetables making a perfect accompaniment. Chicken teppanyaki with noodles followed (a favourite dish of mine) but it didn’t particularly wow me – just a nice standard sweet yet sour chicken dish.

A palate cleanser of fresh raspberry sorbet soon followed this, which was delightfully tart and refreshing. I thought the sorbet was the dessert, so I was surprised to see another dessert dish making its way towards me. This time it was a plate of pancakes with each of us having a different topping. My pancakes had the black forest gateau topping, which everyone else was eyeing up! (I saw you Sammie *wink*) The dark chocolate shavings were delicious and contrasted well with the sweetness of the cherries – always a winner combination.

It was at this point that I was getting quite full, but the waiters just kept on bringing out more desserts! Out came a course of petits fours with mini crème brulees, brownies and cheesecakes. These are my top three desserts so I just had to power through. The crème brulee was deliciously crunchy on top, whilst the passion fruit cheesecake had just enough zing on top of a buttery biscuit base (sorry, couldn’t help myself…)

This was then followed by a midori jelly shot and mini macaroons, but I think I’d had quite enough alcohol and sugar by that point. These extra additions definitely added that holiday feel to the experience, where the friendly waiters really want to show off their cooking and make sure their guests have a great time – with added alcohol!

Overall I was pretty impressed by the offerings from Red Hot World Buffet, and I definitely felt like I’d been taken on a world tour of their menu. The six courses showed a balance of quality and quantity, and it has definitely made me think again about asking the chefs to specifically cook up a dish the next time I visit. These are expertly trained five-star chefs we’re talking about!

My only criticism would be the décor of the restaurants, which I’m not a big fan of as I find it too garish and mismatched. The toilets in the Leeds restaurant are also in need of some work and upkeep. But other than that, the food was really well prepared and the staff were very attentive. My wine glass was never empty *hic*.

Thanks to Red Hot WorldBuffet for the invitation and I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. I think I’ll try out one of the take-home cakes next time, but that could be dangerous...!

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