Tuesday
Nov152016

q&a with artist Peter Collins

It gives me great joy to welcome the wonderful Belfast artist Peter Collins to the Salt and Sparkle Q&A. Peter's work is full of a viseral power.  It is capivating and powerful all at once, he is suprenely talented.  His use of light and colour lingering in the mind's eye long long after you have first seen his paintings.  I met Peter through his brilliant fiancé Deborah Swain and am really delighted to feature him and his work.  You can contact to commission a piece by shooting him an email, or checking out his Facebook page.

Who are you, what’s it like being you ... 

Hi my name is Peter Collins and I’m a recovering IT professional. I’ve worked in IT for the last 20 years but did my degree in Fine Art. My whole team and I were made redundant recently which for me was a blessing in disguise. It was not a bad occupation but it was soul destroying working in a role that didn’t make use of my talents. It’s given me this amazing opportunity to get back to my art. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in a year’s time but my worst nightmare would have been to look back in another year and still be in the same job.


Where are you from, where are you based ...

Born and bred in Belfast. Love watching it reinvent itself having grown up in the seventies and eighties.

Talk about your work ...

I’m enjoying learning to paint in oils again after a long hiatus. The creative process of bringing something into the world out of nothing is an incredible feeling and is about as close as I get to spirituality. However it is only hard work that pays off. There is no such thing as the artistic genius –there are just those people who work much, much harder than everyone else. I try to remember this mantra but it doesn’t always work!

I’ve adopted many styles in the past for commissions and so never really thought I had a style but I hope I’m now closing in on a personal signature in my work.


 

 

 

 

 


What are your future plans ...
I’ve set myself the goal of getting some paintings sold in a gallery –after that…

How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...   

From my own experience and from what I’ve read of other creative people, inspiration tends to come while you are working so the most important thing is to be constantly working at your craft - whatever it may be. Being productive will take you in directions you will never be able to predict by sitting around thinking about it. “You can't plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind” 

That said, Van Gogh, Cezanne and John Singer Sargent are heroes for me. Colin Davidson’s work is superb and adds fuel to the fire every time I see it! Pascal Vilcollet and Conor Harrington are amazing artists who are also very comfortable working at a large scale. I admire people who have enthusiasm for what they do. Jamie Oliver taught me to cook over the years but it’s his genuine enthusiasm that is infectious. The same applies to Prof Brian Cox (on Astrophysics not cooking!)

Describe your space .. 

I’ve converted an unused front room into a studio. The light is great but I’ve also rigged up lots of daylight lamps for a boost due to our erratic weather. Years in the I.T. business has taught me the “clear desk” philosophy which actually applies very well to an artist’s studio. So I try to keep the clutter to a minimal by clearing up at the start or end of the day. (My fiance may dispute this!)

How are you feeling today ...Great! The the sun is shining!

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Coffee; and the dogs! I’m lucky to have two amazing dogs who know how to keep me fit!

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

It’s not what happens to you in life but how you deal with it that counts. I used to stress a lot about things which inevitably turned out to be pointless and trivial.

Your work life philosophy is ...

Do whatever you want but work hard at it. What defines you is not your chosen calling in life but how you do it. For me happiness and fulfillment come from being creative and productive which lifts your mood and in turn lets you appreciate life and the people in it. I happiest when free time is coming up and I know I’ve achieved or created something good.

What is your favourite smell ...  

 Peat fires. Preferably in Cork or Kerry! Also Italian pine trees. Preferably in Italy! Did I mention coffee?

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...

Anonhi – “Drone bomb me” -very different. When I’m really concentrating or experimenting I need chilled out music like Massive Attack or even Classical music, but if I’m on a roll it’s got to be something more “full on” like Queens of the Stone Age or some Dance/HipHop.

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

I love to cook so that’s a tough one. But my “go to” comfort food dish would have to be pasta Puttanesca. 

3 ingredients? Basil, Lime, Garlic: For homemade Pesto, Margaritas and everything else, in that order!

Three things or products that have changed your life...  

My Fiancé Deborah: (not a thing!) One of the most positive and open people I’ve ever met and a joy to be around!

Travel: everyone should do it. When you are young it is literally mind blowing. Every child in this country should be sent abroad for a few months at the age of 14 or 15. It would solve a lot of problems.

The Internet: Having grown up pre-internet it still astounds me how empowering the internet is for expanding your knowledge and for practical research. Alas if only more people would make use of it rather than watching cats and indulging in public displays of ignorance.

How do you relax ... 

I love cooking. Especially for other people. I only worked out recently that I somehow find it relaxing! Walking the dogs in all our beautiful parks and green places, reading a good book or some quality TV.

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ... I’m definitely happy when I’m being creative as it defines who I am and so gives me that fulfillment. My happy place is either on the sofa with, or travelling with my wife to be Deborah.

What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...

 My favourite journey is heading Cork and Kerry. It’s where my family are originally from and I haven’t really explored it properly. I would love to see Machu Pichu in Peru and also a long road trip around France. 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

The absence of expectations and the Craic.

 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now 

Favourite words: “We’re booked!”

I’m reading Moby Dick at the moment. I’ve a long list of classics that I thought I better start working through!

 

Share some words of wisdom ... 

Personality is how you behave around others. Character is what you do when you think no one is watching.

 

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Thank you Peter it was such a pleasure to have you at our place.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Nov082016

q&a with writer and journalist Fiona McKenzie Johnston 

It is such a joy to welcome my friend and University of St Andrews pal the fabulous writer and journalist Fiona McKenzie Johnston to the Salt and Sparkle Q&A.  Fiona has always had a superb sense of style both on and off the page.  I remember the most beautiful embroidered antique silk shawl she used to wear on nights out at St Andrews that always makes me smile. A fount of knowledge on Russian literature my conversations with her would always send me to the library to try to get to grips with this great genre. Fiona is a wonderful writer and her pieces have been featured in all the best places such as Vogue, Tatler, The Sunday Times and Russian Vogue among others.  You can find out more on her website or email her to commission a piece, or follow her on Instagram (trust me its a beautifully curated account).  Fiona it is such a pleasure to have you here today.

 

Who are you, what’s it like being you ...   

I’m a mother, a wife, and a writer – not necessarily in that order – indeed they are each roles that are re-ordered and re-prioritised, often hourly.

Where are you from, where are you based ...

I grew up all over the place – my father was in the army, we moved every year or two - but am now based in Notting Hill, in London, at least during term time. 

Talk about your work ...

I write for publications such as Tatler and Vogue Russia, on a variety of subjects.  Over the course of a fortnight I might be researching how single sex schools are dealing with transgender pupils, interviewing a major artist, actor or fashion designer, and finding out about a new scent or line of make-up and how it was made. I love that I’m always learning something new, and most of all appreciate that writing is something that has allowed me to be at home with my children when they’re little, to do the school run, and to travel, a lot (though I did more before I had children.)

What are your future plans ... 

A novel. 


How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  

Because of the topics I write about, and because I’m interested anyway, going to exhibitions, art and design fairs, the theatre and the cinema are all regular appointments, and I often come away with new ideas.  But talking to my friends and the exchange of ideas is vital.   Mostly I’m fascinated by human behaviour.  The writers I return to most often – Evelyn Waugh, Edith Wharton, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, Laurence Durrell, Nancy Mitford – they write about people, and I love that.  

Describe your space ... 

I write anywhere – at the hairdresser, in the café at the gym, the departure lounge of an airport – but at home I write either propped up in bed, or at the kitchen table.  There’s stuff: stacks of books, jugs of flowers, ceramics, and pattern on all the curtains and chair covers and cushions – but it’s ordered. And I like a view: our flat is the top floor, so my view is of the tops of trees, and sky.  

How are you feeling today ...  

Happy. Busy.  The two are related.

A non-negotiable in your life is ... 

Exercise – most often running. It’s how I order my thoughts.


Most encouraging words you have ever heard ... 

I read them, rather than heard them.  It’s Dostoevsky, from The Idiot: “Beauty, though, will save the world.” 

Your work life philosophy is ... 

Don’t procrastinate, on either.  In the words of Marvell, “But at my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot hurrying near . .  “

What is your favourite smell ...  

Hyacinth, hoof oil and horse on a hot day, the heather on the Yorkshire moors just after it’s been burned, fresh bread (we have a breadmaker), Mitsouku by Guerlain.

Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...  

Leonard Cohen. I wrote my Masters dissertation to him, the first dance at our wedding was Dance Me to the End of Love, and he was who was playing when both my children were born. I saw him the year he played at Glastonbury:  the sun was going down, birds were circling overhead, I was with someone I thought I was in love with – it was perfect.  But right now, nothing is playing.  I quite like silence.


Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 

Lobster thermidor, spinach and sweet potato chips followed by something exceptionally decadent with a lot of cream.  As for my favourite ingredients, I really only make cakes – my husband is a brilliant cook and does everything else.

Three things or products that have changed your life... 

It transpires that I owe a lot to social media: my husband and I were at school together but had lost touch – he found me through Facebook. 

My iPhone enables me go to the beach all day with the children and still answer emails.

Finally, a little girl called Margot Martini who was almost the exact same age as my daughter, Esmeralda, but who developed leukaemia just after her first birthday.  Not only has she made me realise the enormous value of the time I spend with my own children, but her parents – who are amazing – founded a charity called Team Margot, which encourages everyone to join the Stem Cell register and then encourage just one more person to do the same, so that, in the future, other people with leukaemia will be able to find a match more easily, and have a greater chance of survival. It can be so easy to save a life.  You can go to www.teammargot.com to find out more.

How do you relax ... 

Swimming.  Or a hot bath and a good thriller.  

What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ... 

The place is less important than the people – I’m happiest when I’m with my family.  But I’m absolutely at my happiest when I’m with my family on the north coast of Cornwall, which is where I holidayed as a child, and where we were this summer.  It was heaven.


What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...  

I’m not sure I have a favourite, but there are certainly memorable journeys that I have undertaken, such as the Trans Siberian Railway from Moscow to Ulaan Baatar, and possibly every train I’ve ever taken in India.  It feels as though time is suspended – on the Trans Siberian because one is going through different time zones and yet the train stays on Moscow time throughout, and it’s a five day journey - and in India because one never really knows what time the train might arrive.   And also because the landscape that one passes through is so spectacularly beautiful that one almost doesn’t want the experience to end.  The East Coast line, from London to Aberdeen, has moments of staggering beauty, but because I know what lies at either end it seems less exciting.  I have more patience for journeys into the unknown; with familiar routes, the longing to arrive eclipses the enjoyment of the scenery.

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Reliability. It’s one of the most underrated virtues. 

What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ... 

I love all words.  I’m currently reading about three books and five magazines and today’s newspaper, which is standard, but the books I’ve read this summer that I’d recommend are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, which is set in 1960s Nigeria during the Biafran war and is brilliant, Emma Cline’s The Girls which is set in 1960s California and centres around a Charles Manson-like cult and is brilliant, and James Hilton’s Goodbye Mr. Chips which is very short and is the story of a school teacher and his 43 year tenure at an all boys boarding school, and which is essentially perfect.

Share some words of wisdom ...

My father used to tell me that ‘the day is made, won or lost, before seven’.  My grandmother insisted every day should have a plan and an aim.  Their words echo in my ears. Thinking about it, it’s Marvell re-phrased. 

 

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Fiona it was a joy to have you at our place, thank you for hanging out with us.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov012016

q&a with Mummybird


1. Who are you, what’s it like being you ...
 I am Mummybird to three boys. All have additional needs that require 24/7 care. To include type 1 diabetes, autism & epilepsy. I am mum, wife, carer, crafts woman, photographer, over thinker, coffee addict!
2.  Where are you from, where are you based ...
I live a few miles north of Cambridge in a fenland village. I run a market stall in the heart of Cambridge on an arts & crafts market.
3. Talk about your work ...
I started making Jewellery around 17 years ago...after spending a small fortune on necklaces for myself! I make vintage style Jewellery using various quotes, characters & other media. 
4.  What are your future plans ...  
I want to set up something where I can employ my boys after they've leave their special school. Something along the lines of a small holding/petting farm and a tea room with gift shop with local produce/crafts
5.  How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  
My inspiration is thought my children. through the battles they face. Dr Seuss is featured heavily in my pieces! I find words to be so powerful, hence the use of them in the majority of my pieces.
6.  Describe your space ...
I have a little workshop in my garden. It has antique furniture, bunting (lots), a beautiful Roberts radio to listen to. It's quite a sanctuary!
7.  How are you feeling today ... 
I am feeling blessed today. I have just returned home from a successful and very lovely day at the market
8. A non-negotiable in your life is ...
I can't really think of a non negotiable other than that I would never let anything or anyone come before my children 
9.  Most encouraging words you have ever heard
 'She believed she could, so she did' -Kobi Yamada (so apt in so many areas of my life!)
10.   Your work life philosophy is ... 
Cram in work where I can. The kids will always come first. But there is something decadent about working in the wee small hours. Work hard for what you want!
11. What is your favourite smell ... 
Coffee
12. Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...
I love Hozier, classical, disco, anything really!  sadly at the moment, all I can hear is Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom via an iPad 
13.  Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ... 
I love seafood and fish. Garlic, lemon & salt 
14.  Three things or products that have changed your life...
The three things that have changed my life: children of course ;-) wouldn't have it any other way....well....maybe a little more help! 
15. How do you relax? 
I like a lovely glass of wine, but that's my limit. Sam (youngest son) suffers with epilepsy and can have a drop seizure at any time. I have to have my wits about me. I find photography is probably the way I most unwind...its when I'm simply 'Claire' 
16. What makes you happy - where is your happy place?
So many things make me happy and I find a happy place in so many places! Saturday's is a respite day for me when I'm at the market, yet, I'm so happy when I'm surrounded by my beautiful boys.
17. What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...

Just returned from the Scottish highlands. I'm desperate to return there, on a 'proper' wildlife tour! I would love to go to Iceland & Alaska...the list goes on and on and on.....
18. What do you most value in your friends ...
I most value my friends time. Their shoulder and ear.
19. What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now .... 
 I love so many books and I am a hook hoarder! I have around 24 unread! I am currently reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon anything that might relate to history, and I'm there!!! 
20. Share some words of wisdom ...
Have courage & be kind   

 

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Claire - it has been a joy to have you at our place, thank you for hanging out with us.  It is wonderful to start our new series of q&a interviews with yours, check back soon to hear from artists, journalists, designers, makeup artists and musicians.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Nov012016

If you fall, we fall. a guest post by photographer James McCourt


West Belfast has seen an increase in suicide and drug related crimes on the streets.

Over the weeks I’ve lost childhood friends to suicide.

 


Recently, I’ve been working with the local community group, St James Fight Back. A group organised to get children and residents together to release the stresses of life through martial arts.

 

 

James McCourt.

Today's powerful post comes from a photographer who's work has not stopped speaking to me since the moment I laid eyes on it.  Jame McCourt is talented.  He had vision.  But also he wants to bring hope to his community whether that is through tirelessly working on a the West Belfast City Farm or through bringing hope to a community ripped apart.  First through violence and murder; then through suicide. James is a man who sees a situation many see as completely hopeless and he brings life to it.  Through his lens.  His words.  And through his ability to say NO MORE.

McCourt is a man who's vision bring hope and life to a place where life has been for too long, far from precious. He uses his creativity as a gift.  He is a Brave with his love for life and his desire to see others realise the potential and gift of their lives to others.

I stand with him and am honoured to publish these pieces of his work.   This is a post that has moved me to tears time and time again.

To choose to support him and a community riped apart by death contact him on his websiteshoot him an email if you have a project you'd like to hire him for, and check out his insta. 

Thank you James for sharing what you are doing with us.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Thursday
Oct202016

Treat or Treat

It always seems odd to me that people celebrate all the trappings of death, rather than remembering those who died at Halloween.  The fascination with darkness is not I feel good for our souls.  Halloween for me is a time to remember those that have passed to think about their lives and the effects their life had on ours.  There are so many who are not here now who I miss with a deep yearning.  I think of my Gran & Grandpa, my friend Ze, Auntie Bell come to mind immediately.  Death is a part of life albeit a very sad part.  

I don't think death is something we celebrate.  However, Halloween is a holiday, a time in the liturgical calendar, a time when people like to party, or spend time remembering.  It is a time for year for those of us in the western hemisphere when the harvest has been brought in, life in the natural world is starting to wither and die in a blaze of colour and glory, animals begin to hibernate as winter comes upon us.  In the natural world things change and in our bodies we notice the shift in the atmosphere.  This is a time to hunker down with friends, to sit around a fire share stories and live life.  A time to be together.  

Hallowe'en for me is a time for getting my family together, carving pumpkins, lighting sparklers and eating delicious food.  It's a time for friends, for dressing up if that's what tickles your fancy and for being together.  We will even have some fireworks because I LOVE LIGHT.

 This Halloween I am throwing a 'Treat or Treat' party.  One where there are lots of puddings and sweets.  Delicious things to eat while sharing a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with friends.  Food that can be eaten on the sofa and doesn't need a rigid dinner schedule.  There will be children with buckets of sweeties from Marks and Spencer, lots of sparklers and puddings from the new Marks and Spencer dessert range.  Its a time to treat ourselves and enjoy being together.

We'll have some traditional Irish Halloween games like ducking for apples and pin the face onto the pumpkin.  We might even tell an Irish Ghost story or two.

I will make it easy for people to chose their puddings by setting everything out on a buffet table and allowing them to chose what they want.  This luscious jelly with autumn fruits and plum flavours from Marks and Spencer is soft and slippery.  With a bright tart and cooling flavour.  I love it serve with the creamy white chocolate cheesecake.

These Marks and Spencer Ghost Crisps are crunchy and perfect for those wanting something more salty as a reprive from all the sugar.

The Marks and Spencer Sicilian cheesecake is tart and smooth.  Its light pastry crust is crisp.  It is a refreshing pudding to eat.

Doesn't this Marks and Spencer Chocolate and Pear Tart look stunning?

It is a very impressive finish to dinner or lovely served buffet style for people to serve themselves.  The rich smooth chocolate and sweet pear that has a little bite with a  make great combination.

 

These Marks and Spencer Melting Chocolate Domes are really spectactular and children as much as adults will love looking at them, as the hot chocolate sauce is poured over and the domes melt.  Inside there’s an indulgent chocolate brownie, which sits on top of crisp feuilletine layer, and is filled with creamy milk chocolate ganache.  If you need to serve any shop bought puddings make it these they are brilliant.  This pudding was designed by M&S product developer Daniel Fletcher who has previously worked as a top pastry chef for both Gordon Ramsey and Jason Atherton.  Its three star food in my kitchen!  And I love it.

 

 

These billionaire buillio bars are really spectactular. I recommend serving several of them on a plate piled up just like gold bars from a cowboy movie.  They have a glittery glittery gold sheen and embossed with the M&S logo so they look sparkly and shimmery when you bring them to the table.  The chunky gold ingot is made from thick Belgian chocolate, filled with caramel mousse, a layer of gleaming salted caramel sauce and chocolate-covered shortbread pieces.

The Billionaire Buillion Bars were created by M&S product developer James Campbell who travels the globe eating in restaurants, patisseries, food markets and high-end department stores .  He's looking for inspiration and ideas for bring back to the M&S test kitchen in West London.  Where he turns his ideas into reality which ultimately end up on our tables.  James is a former head pastry chef at London’s Michelin Oriental hotel and the Michelin-starred City Rhodes and Rhodes In The Square restaurants, and I feel a genuis.

 

 

 

Have a wonderful Halloween folks, celebrating life, remembering and enjoying light.

This is a time to treat and treat your family and friends and yourself with these amazing puddings from Marks and Spencer.

Fancy dress is optional but oh what fun.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Tuesday
Oct042016

Pizza Express St Anne's Square

 

Good pizza is back in Belfast.  I have been eating at Pizza Express for over a decade and my experiences have always been good.  The food is consistent, the service excellent and the atmosphere enjoyable.  The latest Pizza Express in the centre of Belfast at St Anne's Sq is no exception.  It is a glorious restaurant.  The setting is sweeping with heaps of natural light on both sides of the rectangular room.  The room has an edge and a funk to it.  Mixing brilliant lighting features, dipped copper pieces, and graphic art.  There is an outside section on the Square, with boxes of lavender and rugs to keep out the chill. 

 We visit on a Monday evening and the room feels full, not packed.  Funk jazz comes out of speakers creating an energy that is enjoyable to sit in.  There are couples very much in love, friends gathered in booths and a continous trade of takeaways.  I like the atmosphere which the room lends itself to with its high ceilings.  We sit at a table in the middle of the room, as much to see everything that is going on, as well as to truly absorb the vibe of the room.  if you want to truly get a feeling of a place always sit in the middle.  The chairs are very comfortable.

We have walked by over the past month on our way to and from Flow Belfast, wondering what is this space going to be.  We watched the building be transformed and then the signs went up.  Pizza Express was coming.  And we all breathed a sigh of relief.  A brilliant restaurant chain where the food is good, the wine selection enjoyable and the atmosphere a place we want to spend time in.  We made plans to visit and then it was open and we were there. 

 

The marble topped tables are set with distinctive blue glasses and red pepper pots.  Pops of colour that are pleasing to look at.  I really like this room and having visited at different times of day and on different days I really enjoy how the room lends itself to being packed or more relaxed.  There is always a fluid feeling where you are very welcome and served delicious food.

 

 Prosecco and Strawberries always a fun thing to sip on a Monday evening.  The staff heard it was my birthday and soon glasses of bubbles arrived.  Prosecco is always delicious with pizza the fizz cutting through the fats of the cheese and the fresh dough.

 We starting with the Dough Balls Doppio created to share with dips of a pungent pesto, a nicely balanced garlicky butter and a harissa that is sweetly hot.  All the balls come dusted with parmesan.  For hungry

 The striped shirts  of the pizza chefs move and flow around the ovens, tossing dough, adding finishing touches to the pizzas that go in and out of the oven.  They are a feature of the restaurant at the end of the room with an open faced kitchen.

 Staff are plentiful and very pleasant.  Friendly without being zealous they are knowledgable about the menu and fun to talk to.  Their smart red aprons also highlighting the pops of red throughout the room - it's vibrant.

We ordered a bottle of Gavi di Gavi DOCG from Piedmount, Italy.  Pale gold in colour with a fresh mineral finish.  It had a crisp, floral, peachy, flavour with a smooth aromatic bouquet.  It arrived in a wine cooler.  

 

 With a glass of wine we  plump juicy garlic green olives.  Perfect finger food as we looked through the menu. 

 

 There were the right ratio of staff to diners, we were looked after by Alicia and Ellen; and always felt like we were being looked after without feeling like we were being watched and pounced on.  Pizza Expresses' service could be bottled and sold.  

 

 

 

 We ordered the Padana and the American Hot on Romana bases.  These were thin and crispy with a good ratio of toppings to base.

 The Padana has goat's cheese, mozzarela, tomato and carmelised onion, with spinach, red onion and garlic oil.  It is a sweeter pizza perfect for those who are not fans of spice.

The menu although pizza focused has a range of other dishes pastas and salads.  There is plenty to chose from without it feeling overwhelming and the food is made from fresh produce.

 I asked for extra rocket on my American Hot - always one to add extra peppery flavours to spice, I added chilli oil as well - I love the variety of flavours of the hot green and Roquito peppers, pepperoni the fresh chilli, and spicy soft nduja sausage.  This is my favourite pizza - hot and full of flavour.

 

 

 

Our sides were the Superfood Superboost Salad and the Polenta Chips. 

 THe Polenta Chips were spiked with rosemary and finished with Grand Milano cheese, they were hot and crisp.  

 The desserts in Pizza Express are among the best in Belfast.  They like everything else the restuarant serves are consistently excellent.

I had the Brownies - never one to turn down chocolate.  These did not disappoint, they were rich and full of flavour, made with gluten free flour they had a nice denseness without being heavy.  They were served with a light vanilla gelato.

 The  Leggera Tartufor Limoncello mixed crunchy meringue with a crisp limoncello flavour.  It was sharp and sweet in perfect balance.

 Finishing the meal with properly made mint tea was delightful and fresh.  

Great pizzas and superb desserts combined with good service, consistency, and this great space at Pizza Express St Anne's Sq create a really enjoyable restaurant to eat out in. One I highly recommend.  This is a place that knows its strengths and plays to them without mucking about or trying to be something they are not.

The funky vibe, the friendly staff and the great food - it is a winning combination and one I will visit again and again.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Sep282016

Monty's Gin and Tonic

Monty came to visit this summer.  After a day walking on the beaches of the North Coast and climbing on the Giants Causeway we sipped some Spanish style Gin and Tonics, served in large balloon like glasses.  Monty who is Spanish Scottish told me the big fishbowl glasses are to allow the gin to breathe and release its flavours.  The next evening at home I cooked and we made gin and tonics.  Sitting around the big table we chatted, told stories and enjoyed time together.

Sipping gin and chatting make for a great evening.  

We have been drinking what has come to be known as Monty's Gin and Tonics all since she visited, served in fishbowl glasses with fruit, herbs, ice and gin.

 These are the simplest drinks to make and the large glasses make them really enjoyable.

 This Spirit of London Dry Gin small batch from Marks and Spencer is light and refreshing with a good juniper and botanical flavour.  It is distilled at the Thames Distillery near Clapham in Central London.  Master Distiller Charles Maxwell who created the gin especially for M&S is the 8th generation in an unbroken line of London gin distillers that began with his forbearer George Bishop in 1700, giving him a unique 300 years worth of knowledge.  It makes a perfect base to layer with fruits.

 In each glass I added a handful of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, slices of peach, a sprig of rosemary and a piece of orange rind, covered with ice and poured in some Marks and Spencer Spirit of London gin and topped them up with tonic.

 You can add any type of tonic you like, I particularly enjoy the one's with a hint of lemon.

 You can add any combination of fruits you like - grapefruit and rosemary with blackberries tastes fresh.  Rose petals, a drop or two of rose extract, elderflower cordial and slices of lime and blueberries work really well.

Monty this one's for you.  Slainte.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable