26/06/2016

GELATO FESTIVAL!

When I heard the Gelato festival was coming to London I knew I had to go. So I spent yesterday evening at Old Spitalfields Market breaking my fast in style, with some equally excited friends.

Those of you wanting to attend the festival is on for the rest of the week so hurry up and get down there. Also they are open fairly late so plenty of time to go after work.

As it's not very clear on the site or at the event, buying a Gelato card let's you try 8 specific flavours - which is a pretty good way to spend an hour. Do note the more cards you buy the cheaper they get so take friends with you.

I'm not going to review all eight flavours but I will say that number 4 coffee and fig was divinity in a cup.


03/05/2016

Samson had the right idea

Yesterday my ponytail hit me in the face with a fair old whack, so after about 8 months I finally gave in and got a hair cut.

To most people this isn't a big deal, I absolutely HATE getting my hair cut - "With the Fire of a Thousand Suns".

Bear with me as a walk you through this trauma.

A few things to note, firstly I have no irrational attachment to long hair or anything like that. In fact once I'm in the chair I'm inclined to get everything taken off. Unless its winter, my ears get cold you see. I honestly don't know how men aren't in ear muffs all year round. The other thing stopping me going pixie short is that you then HAVE to get it cut more often, lest you resemble some type of Fraggle.

Secondly this has nothing to do with cost, well OK maybe a little, £50 a pop is a slight turn off. Sadly I don't have afternoons free anymore to attend the great £5 Vidal Sassoon Academy haircuts I used to get as a student - which were all fantastic so thank you.

What it boils down to is that I don't like being to focus of anything for too long. So a person with sharp point objects pawing at me, makes me uncomfortable. Then I end up looking myself for an hour, while they examine my head (for defects I fear). To make it worse they insist on talking as well.
It feels like being under a microscope and is there anyone who really enjoys that?

While I understand that it must be really boring to the stylist, one person after another sitting there, glum. I just can't cope with the small talk. The older I get the more I hate it. They are of course lovely, interesting people but I frankly don't care. And really I don't think they care either so why can't we just all accept it, stop being polite and embrace quiet.

While I do almost always appreciate the result - the whole experience is mildly disturbing. The way I tackle this is to just go to the nearest Salon on a day I can cope and let anyone who is free hack away until you can see my face again. If no one is free then I walk away and wait for the next window. The longest I left it was two years, it was so long it kept tucking it into my jeans. My mum walked passed me when I got it cut because she didn't recognise me anymore.

And did I mention the fact they now massage you too - insult to injury.

Oh well I guess until they invent some sort of instant laser cut process I shall endure but I don't have to like it.

29/04/2016

11. Mantovani

Mantovani



Just when I thought I'd run out of Gelato places to review my friend find this gem, It is so good that it is on a par with the best so far - Gelupo.

Firstly I am very pleased that this shop is open until 10pm on most days, because I'll usually visit after the cinema. Which is exactly what we did. While the film we saw was mediocre this was not. I had a Dark chocolate and Coconut, yes they let me have two flavours in a small cup. A small that is a decent size I should add. So essentially I ended up with the BEST Bounty you could have. And this was better than a place in Sardinia I ate the same combination in two weeks ago.
The Chocolate was beautifully rich which just enough bitterness. The coconut was frankly the best I've ever had, so I'll be back for more.

While we arrived late the staff were still friendly and the seats comfortable. The shop was warm and pleasant and the fact they do an afternoon tea did not go unnoticed.

They also had vegan friendly flavours for those of you who don't get to indulge as much.

My friend had an Almond gelato which was divine and almost made me buy more. This place is fairly hidden away but worth seeking out.


Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 4 | Coconut - 5
Texture: Rich and Delicious - 4
Price: £3.50 (2 scoops) - 3
Experience: 5
Venue: 5
Total Score: 4.3

19/03/2016

Things you realise


Friendship is a difficult thing.
People come in and out of your life, some making a lasting impression in just moments. Others are with you forever, like fixed points of safety in a vast ocean. The only truth is you never know who you'll be friends with and how long it will last.
There is a false idea that the longer you know someone the closer the bond. I'd argue you can find a bond with someone you've just met, and it might be more meaningful than all of you can fathom.
Friendships like romantic relationships need maintenance. The degree can vary person to person. I know I have some special people in my life that it doesn't matter how often we speak or how far away they are, I can pick up the phone, write a letter or see them after years of silence and some how its like nothing has changed.
Others can be so important in one period of your life and then suddenly vanish, never to be seen or heard from again. And that's natural, some friendships run their course, its no ones fault, nothing happened and there is no point even chasing after it.
Some people are by your side, sharing tears and laughter, no matter what. These are the rarest of all and we are lucky to have them. The family that you choose.
And then there are the painful ones. The ones we let close to our hearts but one day betray us, and when these start to die, the pain is a crippling as any break up or bereavement.
The sad fact of like is, that when you like someone, you can become blind to who they are. When that faith is broken, its hard to face the all too sore reality. This person is not who you thought they were.
There is nothing as cold as reaching out to someone you are invested in, only to find they don't care. This goes for family and lovers but especially friends. Why? Because we chose them.
Dealing with that rejection, coupled with the embarrassment and disappointment/disillusionment is not an easy task.
There are friends who I thought the world of, who abandoned me when I needed them the most. These still, despite the logic, the passage of time and new friends. Mainly because I'll never know why. Unlike a relationship they didn't fall out of love. Its more calculated, and therein lies the truth. Friendship is difficult. Its rewarding, enriching and endlessly unpredictable but also heartbreaking.

11/11/2015

Incidental Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a rich and diverse branch of literature and cinema.
From the days of H.G. Wells and Mary Shelly to the genius of Phillip K Dick, Issac Asimov and Stephen Baxter we have diverse and plentiful bounty of worlds to explore.

When I was a bookseller a long time ago, part of my job was to recommend titles to customers. I'd occasionally try and get them to read something they might not have thought about trying. As I'm an avid sci-fi fan of course I'd point people in that direction. I was told by many customers that the problem with sci-fi was too many spaceships. I even had another bookseller claim, if they put a book with a spaceship on the over face out, it sold. This, frankly annoyed me for many reasons but mostly because it took this broad genre and simplify it to one tiny component.

Whether I then lectured these people on the virtue of sci-fi goes without saying, however I still hear naive comments like this from time to time, usually from people who refuse to try out anything they perceive as being different. And yes it still raises my blood pressure. Life is about trying new things so don't knock something until you've at least looked beyond the cover.

What I find fascinating about sci-fi isn't the brilliant stuff - you know the things Doctor Who, Star (Trek/Wars/Gate) love exploring but more the times when the sci-fi elements are incidental to the characters but still vital to the overall story.

Incidental Science Fiction.

What do I mean by this? Well let's take a perfect example, Donnie Darko (2001). While many found the film confusing and others got into endless debate about the time travel element, at its core the film is about a boy and his effect on the people in his life. Simply put there is nothing fantastical or inaccessible about that. Which is probably why it was such a huge cult film, each character had depth and Donnie's interactions in turn were interesting, all of these were more important than the sci-fi elements.

Another more main stream example is The Lake House (2006), based on a Korean film, the movie is about two people falling in love over letters. OK the letters are traveling through time but again its is fundamentally a love story and that is what kept everyone watching.

This isn't us limited to cinema, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a novel about a girl who is coming to terms with her own eventual death. She happens to be a clone and her body will be harvested for its organs but again, rather than focus on the huge sci-fi element, Ishiguro has us the reader invest in the protaganist Katy, we know her, understand her, see into her life and that is the point of the novel. The author poses many pertinent moral questions but its subtle enough to slip under the radar of the space ship haters.

However let's flip this around, if we look at Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, a book with all the overt sci-fi elements you would typically associate with the genre - spaceships, aliens, explosions, war, future tech etc we have many interesting moral questions that make the subject a lot deeper than one might assume. Child soldiers, xenophobia and the impact of genocide are some very current topics tackled by the book.

The point I'm laboring is that science fiction is more than just space ships or shallow assumptions. The best science fictions uses the fantastical to explore themes that are familiar and poignant, sometimes posing and exploring very candid and dark questions or current ethical issues. The point of most of the best science fiction is to get people thinking and that can never be bad.

My favorite example of incidental science fiction is a film called Another Earth (2011). Its a moving story of redemption and a visual treat. If its your first foray into sci-fi I hope it surprises you.







05/11/2015

10: Gelato: Gela.ti.amo

Gela.ti.amo


This is my last gelato review and I'm happy to end on a high note.
Just when I thought I'd run out of Gelato places, I find a gem hidden away in Hammersmith. Gela.ti.amo is a delight, the staff are wonderful, the shop is cozy and the gelato is excellent.

I got so carried away I went back a week later.

We wondered in in around 7pm and found the place to have a happy influx of people but only a 1 minuet wait. The person who served us let me try about 5 flavours before settling on the three I narrowed it down to. In fact this was the most passionate I'd seen the staff be in all of my visits this summer. I must say the recommendation of pistachio was so good, I can affirm I've never had better in that flavour anywhere! I didn't love the chocolate but it was still very tasty.

The staff were in no rush to push us out so we enjoyed our treats in leisure, had a long natter on comfy seat and enjoyed the entire experience thoroughly. The fact they are 5 mins walk from work is already effecting my waist line.

If you in are in West London - especially at the cinema next door, do not miss this.


Flavour: Chocolate - 3 | Pistachio - 5 | Starwberry - 3
Texture: Smooth and flavourful - 4
Price: £3.50 (2 scoops) - 3
Experience: 5
Venue: 5
Total Score: 4

30/10/2015

9. Gelato: Scoop

Scoop

After a whole summer of eating my way around London it seemed that the time had come to review Scoop. For those who love gelato I'm sure you all know all about this chain. They have been on the scene for years and years and offer gelato cakes and delivery.

I've been saving a visit because I really wanted to see what London had to offer.

Last Friday the ban was lifted and off we went to South Kensington. I of course got carried away and had two flavours, chocolate and strawberry as well as a brownie. Considering a small is £4 (with one choice) and mine was about £5 I think I got the best value for money.

Firstly I must say the brownie was gorgeous! best brownie I've had for months, so rich in fact I had to give some away because I couldn't physically finish it.

The chocolate ice cream was nice and really that is all I can say about it. Nothing stood out and nothing irked me. There was a slight coffee taste to it, which was unexpected but not unwelcome.

The strawberry was another affair, this was possible the worst strawberry gelato I've ever had, so much so that I couldn't bring myself to eat more than half before giving up. My guests felt the same and declined to consume anymore.

While I'd happily go back for the brownie the rest left me rather unsatisfied. Given the high price I'd probably only eat the brownie next time.

Flavour: Chocolate - 3 | Strawberry - 1
Texture: Creamy - 3
Price: £4.00 (2 scoops) - 2
Experience: 2
Venue: 3
Total Score: 2.3

24/10/2015

8. Gelato: Gelato Gusto


Gelato Gusto

I was visiting a friend in Brighton and he suggest we give Gelato Gusto, as the sign looked inviting and we happened to be next door, it seemed rude not to pop in and sample their wears.

Now as I am given to do, I may have gotten a little carried away and ordered a waffle along with my gelato (dark chocolate). For £5 I didn't think I would be disappointed. However after a little while a plate appeared with a giant anemic waffle. Sadly the quality of this waffle might have tainted my experience somewhat. Mainly because it wasn't very good.

The chocolate gelato was of a mediocre quality and tasted a little akin to Nesquik. This was pleasant enough and better than some others I'd had, but on the whole nothing special. I did sample some wild berry and this was delightful, a little too sweet for an entire scoop but yummy none the less.

The shop itself is very cramped but there are plenty of tables, the decor is cute and the staff are most pleasant. We still had a fun time and I'd be happy to go back and try more flavors. Do note, they charge by the number of scoop, not cup size, and the cups are not filled like most of the other shops I've reviewed.

Flavour: Chocolate - 3 | Wild berries - 3.5
Texture: Heavy and milky - 3
Price: £4.00 (2 scoops) - 2
Experience: 3
Venue: 3
Total Score: 2.9

02/09/2015

7. Gelato: Joe Delucci's

Joe Delucci's

Last week I headed over to Westfields Stratford to give Joe Delucci's a try. I've seen a few of their parlors before - with the distinctive scooter style stools but never had the inclination to buy. I can't say after this tasting I'll be going back.

I ordered Chocolate and Strawberry and as I dipped in, something struck me.

I'd had this exactly same taste before.

Not the combination or the texture but the exact same taste to the very last morsel. I'm afraid to say this tasted like a perfect replica of Wall Neapolitan soft scoop. I was transported back to being about 8 years old again. While I enjoyed it I can't say I was overly impressed. I can buy a giant tub of Walls for about £1.80 - at £3.50 I was feeling a tad over charged.

My guest wasn't overly enthusiastic about the flavours either. She'd gone for Chocolate and Creme brulee. While the Creme was an improvement on the strawberry, it didn't taste much like what it professed to be.

The experience and venue left a bit to be desired. A slow queue and a super crowded shopping centre. With only about 5 seats on offer. We did manage to grab a perch but you feel very exposes and don't get to enjoy the experience. Maybe on a quieter day it might be more fun. Thankfully my companion was wonderful and more than made up for the mediocre gelato.

Flavour: Chocolate - 2 | Strawberry - 3
Texture: Heavy and milky - 3
Price: £3.00 - 2
Experience: 2
Venue: 2
Total Score: 2.3

06/08/2015

6. Gelato: Oddono's

Oddono's


Last week I had the pleasure of sampling Oddono's for the first time. We went to the branch in Bayswater which seems to stay open late. The staff very patient and jovial (I was being very indecisive) but I settled for chocolate and peanut butter.

Given that the prices are so cheap £2.45 for a small - the cheapest we've found so far, I went for a medium because why not have more for my money. I'm happy to report it was scrumptious. This might be a new favorite combination.

The taste was very good, while not my favorite chocolate, the peanut butter was excellent and I'll be back hear again to try more soon. The texture was very good, one of the best I've had and the overall expereince most pleasureable. As this branch is in a shopping centre it doens't have a lot of character but it more than makes up for it in other ways.
There are several branches around London so I certainly suggest a visit is a good idea, my guest also concurred. I completely taste why this place is award winning.

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 3 | Peanut butter - 4
Texture: Creamy and smooth- 4
Price: £2.45 -5
Experience: 4
Venue: 3
Total Score: 3.8