The thin white duke

I have lived in Leeds my entire life and as a passionate foodie, been to my share of restaurants and cafes and delis in the quest for yummage. Most of which are now very dear to my heart.

From being in my early 20s and thinking Bibis was the height of Friday night food porn, or urging mid-week dates to take me for an intimate meal at Sous Le Nez, I have branched out and embraced the perfect vegetarian curry at Hansa's, a scrumptious lunch at Pickles & Potter or take out from Salt's Deli and been completely underwhelmed at Brasserie Blanc. We have lots of great places to eat that are unique to Leeds, in addition to the consistently nice chain restaurants like Browns, Piccolino's, Chaophraya or Jamie Oliver's restaurant that you could find in most major cities. Yorkshire chefs like James Martin have even returned to us, opening The Leeds Kitchen at The Alea casino.

Yesterday we went out for dinner with friends to The New Ellington, just down the road from Baby Jupiter; one of my favourite bars which will always be famed for the place I first experienced Sailor Jerry's... before they changed the recipe to the bottle of swill it since became.

But I digress... the New Ellington is a 35 room boutique hotel - named after Duke Ellington of course with a gin bar at street level, a restaurant in the basement and the hotel rooms above.
The gin bar was candlelit, decorated with pictures of The Duke and Ella Fitzgerald and decorated in muted hues and rich wood accents. A great place for the quiet sophisticate.

The restaurant decor was a nod to New Orleans with glazed mirrors, claret coloured velvet banquettes and hanging beads wherever the eye could see. Beautiful Tamara de Lempicka paintings on the walls and on the back of the gender-specific menus (Girl With Gloves for the ladies, Portrait of the Marquis Sommi for the men) set the art-deco theme perfectly.

One of our guests, Alex, remarked to me that she loved the grown up fantasy of the place which is exactly how I felt. Going out to dinner somewhere special where the food is so lovingly prepared and presented does make one feel rather inspired to behave ones self and be very nonchalant about it rather than bounce up and down in your seat saying "LOOK! LOOK! MY BEEF DRIPPING CHIPS ARE IN A LITTLE JENGA TOWER!"

To start I ordered the roasted globe artichoke with goats cheese which was served with a roast tomato, olive and samphire salad - absolutely stunning, the samphire was perfection and the goats cheese was beautifully rich.

For my main course I had vermicelli with a spinach and parmeggian sauce which could not have been more delicious had it been spread onto Robert Downey Jr for my licking pleasure.

For dessert I had the warm pistachio cake with sour cherries, chocolate ganache and a goats cheese and vanilla cream - words cannot describe the goats cheese and vanilla cream, I am definitely going to experiment with it for Everything Goes With Toast.

My companions had lamb cooked four ways, scallop risotto served in a clam shell, lobster ravioli, rose veal osso bucco, gnocchi... the menu was wonderfully varied and everything was both stunningly presented and absolutely delicious.

If you're ever in Leeds... in fact COME to Leeds, stay in the hotel and eat dinner there. It's absolutely spectacular.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title: The Thin White Duke by David Bowie

Black Tie White Noise

I'm going to write something which given this previous post, you might find a little shocking.

I'm getting married.

Like anything in life, quitting being single, independent and let's face it anti-wedding is going to be an ordeal which starts with the first step... acceptance. I am getting married. I actually HAVE to do the bride thing. I'm coming out.

I thought I would put my OCD and organisational skills to good use so within the first 4 days of us picking the date (naturally there was no big romantic proposal because I would have puked all over him - we just talked about what we wanted for the future, namely that he would like to get married and I am more than happy to commit to the man I love for life so we picked a month next year based on when we'd like to go on honeymoon. The honeymoon will naturally be in Paris and April is the ONLY time to go. *laughs*) I have picked my wedding dress, my wedding band, the Christian Louboutin shoes, I have started designing the new bathroom that I want instead of a honking big engagement ring and we have reserved the date at Leeds Town Hall for Friday 13th April 2012. It's going to be a family only ceremony, streamed online for any friends who want to watch and then there will be a huge party in the evening for about 250 people.

There, I said it.

Now all I need is for the world to understand that for me, getting married is NOT about a wedding. I don't want to be a Disney bride. I don't want bridesmaids and speeches and a big sit down dinner with place settings and napkins and flowers and themes and names and favours. I don't want a wedding car or big hair or a veil. I don't want people gawking at me all day. I don't want to toss a bouquet and shame all my single friends. I don't want to treat getting married as some sort of competitive sport or a club that I'm desperate to enter. I don't want to be a princess for a day.

I want to get married to the man I love as myself. A simple dress, walking up the aisle to David Bowie wearing some fabulous shoes. My amazing photographer friend Adele of Blue Lights Photography will take some pretty pictures and then I'd like to go have a nice quiet meal with my husband and meet everyone for a big party in the evening.

I want for our families and friends will be happy to celebrate our love without focussing on all the trimmings of the day that I simply cannot bear the thought of. I don't want to ever lose sight of what is important to me - him.

So the thing that's keeping me busy and excited at the moment is not wedding planning or bridezilla obsessing, it's my recipe blog Everything Goes With Toast which is going from strength to strength and I'm having the most fun working on it. This weekend I will be experimenting with tempura bacon and a Wensleyday and cranberry dip and working on some Teapigs recipes for next week. I also made 3 batches of jam last night to ship out to the most recent 10 likes on the Facebook fanpage for Everything Goes With Toast. Off I go to the post office!

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.

Title: Black Tie White Noise by David Bowie

This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place

"I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me." ~ Elizabeth Bennett

How often do I think to myself, it would have been so much simpler to have lived in a time when women didn't have as many choices as they do now. 
To be honest I don't think attitudes have changed that much towards women - there are some which support our right to have choices, but on the whole there is still that air of expectation and that bitter aftertaste that comes with not being able to reduce us to body parts or fit us into gender-biased roles. 

I hate the stigma attached to feminism. Some men flinch at the word, associating it with militant, aggressive man-hating women. Just like I for example dislike religious extremists or those who push their beliefs onto others be it vegan diets, VLCDs, political beliefs or those species of mothers who treat it like a competitive sport. I love passion but there are some levels of ferver which encourage a person to convert others and discriminate against those who hold steadfast in their own beliefs.

I recently read Caitlin Moran's amazing book How To Be A Woman and though I was not unfamiliar with her - I follow her on Twitter, I read her Lady Gaga interview... I am now definitely a huge fan. And you're all getting this book for your birthdays ladies!

She proposes that we be honest about those aspects of being a woman which we have through history become conditioned to repress, and even more refreshingly for a feminist she suggests that we "be polite".

Manners are a big thing with me. I have them and I respond well to others who use them. I think that those who have charming manners are pleasant to be around and that those who are respectful and courteous are far more powerful than those who rule with aggression and dominance. Humility is also an underrated quality. How often do we say "they're SO down to earth!" ? its never used negatively.

Given that the Harry Potter films are about to conclude (moment to get excited about THAT please!!!) I can think of no better example than Dumbledore. Impeccable manners and a sense of humour make his immense power no less formidable, in fact that degree of control and discipline suggests even greater strength.

it can only be beneficial to women. In business men don't like us to be emotional or aggressive. We're not respected if we are - so in being polite will it encourage others to be polite in return? 

When in a conversation with someone who uses measured tones, its impossible to have a heated argument without sounding ridiculous. Respect is not given to the ridiculous.

I recently re-read The Female Eunoch and The Second sex, two books I read at the age of 12 when my thirst for knowledge and search for female role models began to set in. Germaine Greer is astoundingly intelligent. There is no question that she leaves no stone unturned in her research and continues to evolve. But can you imagine having a laugh and confiding with her over a bottle of wine and a slice of chocolate cake?

I'm sorry did I say slice? I meant whole cake.

Caitlin Moran's book is like discoverig a new best friend and a Depeche Mode style personal Jesus that you wish to god you had as a teenager so you'd feel normal and not otherworldly.

Speaking of "the other" and Simone De Beavoir... "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman" this is true. I have always wanted to have a daughter first and whilst I'll buy her gender neutral toys and clothes I will also teach her what it is to be feminine because whilst some argue that we're conditioned to be Women by society and this is A Bad Thing because of course we do tend to have to fit into or compete in a man's world...  I think being a woman is something which is earned - literally with blood, sweat and tears. 

I will strive to be that voice of reason that gives her the confidence that comes from knowing that you're normal but also celebrates your potential to be exceptional. That being different is ok. That finding out what makes you happy, unconnected from anyone else is important to enable you to make others happy.

Simone suggested that our greatest challenge was in not being "the other" in not being a mysterious second sex but in sharing what it is to be a woman, what our problem are and allowing other men and women to help us with them.

That is why women in history wanted a vote, that's why they wanted equal pay, that's why Caitlin Moran wants to be honest about and celebrate being a woman.

Ladies be honest with the world. Stand up, be counted and be proud. I wrote a blog earlier this year, a manifesto for life and I would like to expand on my insistence on qualifying what you want - it helps you commit to achieving it and it helps others to support you.

And more importantly buy How To Be A Woman, it really is a rollocking good read! 

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr

Title: Suffragette City by David Bowie