Tuesday
Mar312015

Chef Alastair Fullerton's new menu at the Fitzwilliam Belfast

 

 


Eating in the restaurant of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast is an intimate and lovely experience.  It offers fine dining with a relaxed casual feel.  Recently appointed Head Chef Alastair Fullerton brings a commitment to local produce, well sourced, perfectly cooked and served to create a menu full of excellent taste combinations.

The Fitzwilliam’s Head Chef Alastair Fullerton has used his some 30 years of restaurant experience to create a menu that focuses on using fresh local produce, cooked well and beautifully served.  

We started with smoked salmon, thin flavoursome slices were presented cleverly in a shell, with fresh salad and wheaten bread, the food was as beautiful to look at as it was to taste.  Crispy breadcrumbs hid soft oozing balls of goat’s cheese.  The smooth flavour of which was nicely complimented by crisp hazelnuts and earthy beetroot.

The dinner menu offers traditional dishes made from the freshest of local ingredients; fish from Keenan’s Seafood, beef from K&G McAtamney, Goat’s cheese from Boile in Cookstown, and potatoes from Comber in County Down; with a slight twist.  Pork Belly is slow cooked and served with Pear and Blue Cheese salad, and chorizo, grilled mackerel comes with an Japanese influence in pickled vegetables and horseradish cream, little balls of deep fried goats cheese are served with their natural partners beetroot and hazelnuts.  Provenance of the ingredients is readily available from the staff but is not listed on the menu.

The soft cool wood and subdued pink upholstery, booths and open dining with funky high backed chairs, creates a room that is contemporary and a pleasure to spend time in. 

The wood holds the sound meaning that conversations can be private in secluded booths, or full of laughter in the open tables.  The space is split into two rooms, using clever wooden partitioning.  When we dined, our side of the room had couples and small groups, while on the other a large group of ladies were celebrating an upcoming wedding.

Tables are dressed simply with strips of starched white linen, with place settings at either end and sparkling glasses.

 

 Sarah one of the Salt and Sparkle associates was the perfect dinner guest.

We began our evening with glasses of Louis Roederer which were served interesting in glasses dipped in lime cordial and topped with sugar, a smart touch for cocktails but perhaps unnecessary with such fine champagne.  Our waiter for the evening was Gabor, a handsome and interesting young man from Hungry with a great knowledge of food and wine.

Wine is served in fine stemware which allows the flavours to breathe and come alive.  We sip Irish sparkling and still water throughout the evening. 

The Fitzwilliam’s commitment to serving excellent produce be it wines, water or food and supporting the best producers is to be highly commended.  Their food and wine are consistently good, and I have  no hesitate to recommending the restaurant to anyone wanting a relaxed special evening, with great food, where they will be well looked after.

 

The fillet of beef was succulent with a depth of flavour that comes from a long hanging.  The woody mushrooms and the soft potato mash created a smooth mouthful.  

The Potato and Herb Gnocchi had an array of strong flavours all used with precision and thought, to create a rich dish with lots of flavour.  The Fitzwilliam’s main course menu also included a selection of great combinations such as Confit Duck leg with black pudding, pork fillet medallions with sweet potato and cider, Salmon with mussels and vegetable chowder and butter roast chicken.  

The selection on the menu is good offering firm favourites well interpreted in Chef Alastair’s own style.

The Fitzwilliam’s wine list is one of the gems of Belfast, filled with carefully selected boutique wines that really compliment Chef Fullerton’s dishes.  

Combine a wine list like this with staff like Gabor’s excellent knowledge, and what is on offer at the Fitzwilliam is something really very special and very enjoyable to guests.  It makes me smile to see how the Fitzwilliam invest in their staff to bring the guest the best experience when they spend time in the hotel.  

Gabor is currently doing his wine exams, and what is so lovely about his wine knowledge is that he does not try to show off, instead he shares what he knows to enhance our evening.

We were particularly impressed with our waiter Gador’s knowledge of Northern Irish cuisine and his expertise in choosing wines to perfectly compliment the dishes we ate.  

Gabor bought two very different, and lovely glasses of wine, for each course, perfectly chosen to compliment the dishes we were eating.  The wines when sipped on their own, were really enjoyable, but when drunk with this food, took on a whole new level of interest, complexity and depth.  The Fitzwilliam Hotel have an excellence in their wine and food pairings.

A coche was placed over a dish to keep it warm when guests left the table for any period of time, this is a very professional touch, and something I have not seen done elsewhere in Belfast.

The waiting staff at the Fitzwilliam Belfast have been superbly trained, welcoming and all with bright smiles.   They are pleasant, knowledgeable and polite, knowing when to offer comment, and when to refrain.  How they treat us is evidence that they enjoy their jobs and working environment.

The cheese board comes on a slate board with a selection of two Irish Cheeses, Cahill's Guinnes Cheddar, Cashel Blue and an applewood smoked. An interesting addition to the cheeseboard is mango chutney which goes surprisingly well with the Cashel Blue.

We finish our meal by sharing cheesecake and a cheeseboard.  Gabor who is from Hungry produces glasses of Tokaji, a Hungarian desert wine which is really a nectar of the gods, it has flavours of citrus, apricot, nuts and a fresh finish.   He carefully explained how it was made using late harvested grapes and those affected by botrytis to create a concentrated wine with complex flavours.

 

Gador shows us a cocktail list, for a nightcap, but says we can order anything we like, having heard us talk about Margaritas, he appears with two of the best Margaritas, we have ever tasted.  One on the rocks, the other frozen, these cocktails are smooth and spikey with a citrusy kick.  The secret we discover is that they are made by the Fitz’s head barman who also happens to be American.

The Fitzwilliam Belfast is a beautiful boutique hotel, with a restaurant that offers well thought out menus, using local produce were possible, an excellent wine list and a setting that is sophisticated.  The staff are some of the best we have encountered they want guests to really enjoy their time.  This is a wonderful place to spend an evening, sip a glass of wine, eat delicious food, celebrate with family and friends, take a date.  The Fitzwilliam Hotel is one of Salt and Sparkle's favourite places in Belfast.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Salt and Sparkle dined as guests of the Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast

Tuesday
Mar312015

An sweet and sour Easter Cocktail - Caipirinha

The best drinks are a perfect balance of sweet and sour, and simplicity just like this Caipirinha pronounced ‘cay-per-REEN-yah’ which uses the Brazilian Cachaça pronoucned kah-SHAH-sa spirit, limes and sugar.  

This organic Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça from Marks and Spencer, when muddled, stirred and poured over ice creates a cocktail refreshing and perfect for the lengthening evenings.

Brazilian’s don’t like cachaça being called rum – even though it is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane, and a cousin of white rum.  The difference between the two spirits is the way the ingredient is handled.  White rum is traditionally made from processed cane molasses and cachaça is made from fresh-pressed, unprocessed sugarcane juice, giving it the clean grassy smoky flavour and a herby nose.

The Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail and it is made with the sugar cane liqueur Cachaça.  The drink is made by muddling the fruit and the sugar together, and adding the liquor Cachaça, then pouring over ice.

This Cachaça from Marks and Spencer has a sharp smoky flavour, that is almost textured on the tongue.  Muddled with sugar and lime it becomes and sublime and smooth.  A very enjoyable and easy to sip cocktail.


Abelha Organic Silver Cachaça stands out as a really well-made cachaça with a typical fresh, crisp delivery and light grassy notes.  

Recipe (makes one cocktail)

Ingredients

  • 50ml cachaça
  • Juice of two freshly squeezed limes
  • 3 teapsoons of granulated sugar (or three dashes of sugar syrup)

Method

Muddle the sugar and lime, add the cachaça, then ice and stir well, serve in a squat old-fashioned glass. 

This fresh, herby just slightly smoky cocktail is a taste of the summer to come, and a celebation of the  longer evenings.

It can also be served in large jugs with plenty of ice for people to help themselves.

Happy Easter,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Mar292015

Our favourite chocolate Easter 2015 picks from Marks and Spencer

This giant Chocolate Easter Bunny from Marks and Spencer its about a foot and a half high, and it makes a fantastic centrepiece for any Easter table. Children will love to break it up and eat it after dinner - in fact I doubt there is an adult in existence who won't enjoy that either.  It has a rich chocolate scent and smooth taste. 


I love to place glasses of these brightly coloured foil eggs around the house over Easter weekend, and enjoy a nibble or two as I walk by.  They are perfect for an indoor or outdoor Easter Egg hunt - which again is equally good fun for children or adults.

These little jewel eggs are filled with beautiful smooth milk chocolate, and the half eggs are filled with rich runny caramel.  Opened out of their net bags and filling coloured glasses they make beautiful hostess gifts, or Easter presents for children's teachers.

Marks and Spencer product develop team have cleverly placed this hollow milk chocolate eggs in a traditional egg carton to great effect.  They come in sets of 30 eggs and are brilliant for Easter Egg hunts.  They also work really well as gifts from teachers to children or if you have any little people visiting your home this Easter, they will love to pick an egg for themselves.

 

These chocolate eggs with painted faces make fun replacements for normal boiled eggs for an Easter egg breakfast with a difference.

 

These are mini praline eggs in an exquisite gold and turquoise box are brilliant little eggs for adults.  They can be served in place of desert, with coffee or as an delicious pick me up during a rather tiresome afternoon.  They go down really well in the office as an Easter treat.

This 69% chocolate tasting Easter egg is shaped like a cocoa bean and comes wrapped in turquoise ribbon, with six tasting bars of chocolate from different countries and in various strengths.

 

The new honeycomb range of chocolates from Marks and Spencer are really rather lovely.  Who doesn't love honey!  A life giving property that is a great filling for chocolate.  These Belgium made chocolate Easter egg, is has pieces of caramel honey crunch, and the bee like yellow and black sweets have a soft honey caramel centre.

This is an Easter egg for coffee loves.  Dark cocoa dusted truffles, alongside a stunning looking egg which is filled with golden coffee beans.  

Marks and Spencer have a good Easter eggs.  There is a chocolate lattice one which is very special.  Percy Pigs, and Easter Bunnys and chicks.  Whether you want something very grown up or perfect for children.

Easter is a time to celebrate, new life, the triumph of life over death, light and the joys of Spring.

Happy Easter,

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Tuesday
Mar242015

Hadskis Sunday Brunch, Belfast

 

The scent of grilling meat greets us on the pavement as we walk towards Hadskis, Niall and Joanne McKenna's bristo in the cathedral quarter of Belfast.

Hadskis a few centuries ago was an iron mongers, owned by a Mister Hadskis.  The name is clever and memorable, as is spending time in the restaurant.  

Stewart Hadskis in 1760 opened an iron foundry where the present day restaurant is, he made boilers for local bleachers and pots and pans.  The tie to the history of Belfast in the name of the restaurant is clever and McKenna has done well here, creating a clean space with a laidback vibe.  That is lovely to spend time in.   

Lots of steel and slate grey, with soft leather banquettes are accented by bright red pepper grinders.  

The room is long and thin, a steel bar counter runs through a third of the room, Head Chef David Scott and his team work quickly, their concentration and passion, for what they are doing etched on their faces.  Upstairs there is a private dining room, which can be booked for parties of 12 to 24 comfortably, it has a private bar and waiter service.

Seating at the bar or at high tables are at the Donegall Street end, or normal height tables on the Commercial Court side, of the restaurant offer a variety of dining sitting positions, opening up the welcome to people wanting a variety of things from their dining experiences.  

A man reading a paper sits at the bar, while a young couple hold hands sitting side by side just by him.  The restaurant buzzs with energy, there are couples and groups of friends enjoying the laidback Sunday vibe, while others are celebrating.  A family with young children are welcomed warmly.  Everyone has a place at Hadskis.

Along with stoves and rings, the chefs have a closed BBQ to grill on in their galley kitchen, allowing meats to be seared at the highest temperatures, meaning the meat starts to carmelise immediately and infuse with a smoky BBQ flavour.  Although we were there for brunch Salt and Sparkle team members have since been back for steak, and were very impressed with the meat's succulence, and tender taste.

Hadskis Brunch menu is refreshing in its simplicity.   Fruit, yogurt, different ways with eggs, and waffles or French Toast, sit alongside juices, herbal teas and coffees.  Produce is mainly locally sources, provenance is not listed on the menu.  Rashers and sausages are juicy and full of flavour, eggs have bright yellow yolks.

 It is compelling to watch Chef Scott his focus is intense and he works silently, defly and smoothly to cook tasty real plates of food, that have been carefully thought out.

 I opt for eggs sunnyside up on grilled rosemary foccacia with juicy rashers of Irish smoked bacon, the dish is plentiful and delicious.  The bread is charred rather than toasted offering another layer of smoke flavour, which compliments the bacon, the spikey rosemary flavour is warming.  There is layer upon layer of flavour in this dish, soft sweet smoky meat that oozes through my fingers, on crisp bread, and smooth rich eggs spill runny yolks across my plate.

 

 Cranberry mixed with orange is refreshing.

 Staff are knowledgable, pleasant and very welcoming, they want you to have a good experience, and enjoy your time in the restaurant, nothing is too much trouble for them.  Niall himself pops in and its great to talk to a man with such passion and enthusiam for what he does.

 Bright ruby grapefruit, drizzled with honey mixes sweet and sour.

Granola is a mix of rich plump dried fruit - cranberries, black and golden raisins, roasted oats and seeds.  It us served with a berry granola, and runny yogurt.  The combination of smooth silky yogurt, chewy fruit and crisp oats is delicious, and very morish. 

 

Running natural yogurt and sweet berry compote have complimenting sweet and sour flavours, soft and chewy at the same time.  Served in rather striking concial bowls, there is a sense that everything at Hadskis's has been well thought through, I especially like the teapots with their little rubber handles.

 Hadskis have a great wine list, and currently hold a Wine Mondays event, diners eat three courses with three specially chosen wines - a rather fun way to spend a Monday evening, and something to look forward to, as you make it through the workday.

The Hadskis cooked breakfast with two eggs, rashers of smoked bacon, large field mushrooms, pieces of black and white pudding and a tomato, although missing its friends soda and potato bread, the sheer quality of the ingredients shine through on the plate.  The sausages and puddings are full of flavour, the rashers rich and the eggs have a full rounded taste.

 Although busy Chef Scott makes time to chat to me about making foccacia giving me some tips about knocking back twice, he sends down a portion of the grilled bread to our table, it is served with a ramkin of Abernethy Butter.  Thick creamy country butter, on fresh bread, you can't beat it with a big stick.

 

 

 Waffles, deliciously crisp on the outside, with soft fluffy centres, were delicious, served with syrup and a freshly cut fruit salad.

 

Its atmosphere and energy from the open kitchen make it a pleasure to spend time in, everyone including children were welcome at brunch.   Food is served with style and knowledge.  Niall McKennas vision for simple, delicious and well cooked accessible food is executed with percision and excellent by Chef Scott and his team and the waiting staff.  

Hadskis is a good restaurant, offering brunch, lunch and dinner, as well as drinks and cocktails, you can smell it before you see it, and the smell will wet your appetite, we hope you will enjoy your dining experience there as much as we did.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Monday
Mar232015

q&a with Julie Cameron-Hall and Nigel Cameron

I am full of joy to welcome dear friends Nigel Cameron & Julie Cameron-Hall to the Salt and Sparkle q&a, this is our first double interview where questions are answered stimultaneously by two together.  

Julie and Nigel are musicians and singer songwriters.  Their music is hauntingly beautiful and moving.  It releases healing to all who hear it. They play a suite of intruments each including the harp, fiddle tin whistle, bodran, piano and guitar. Nigel's album Get Real is available from his website, alongside a range of his sublime photographs.  Julie's latest album Warrior Bride availabe from her website features this song 'Surely I am with you' which brings me great comfort.  Julie and Nigel travel across the world releasing their music to global audiences.

I met Julie and Nigel through Joanne Hogg when we all spent a morning sharing conversation and coffee on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.  It was around the time of Chinese New Year, and I invited them to my house to celebrate, we had an incredible evening together.  Julie and Nigel are very special people who's music awaken's the soul of all who hear it.  Nigel and Julie inspire me, their story is one of grace and healing. You can connect with Julie and Nigel on Facebook.


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

Nigel:  I am Nigel Cameron. It's not that long ago that I came to the realisation that it's actually ok to be me.  For many years I struggled to live up to who I thought I should be, and never quite made it.  Now I realise and celebrate the person God has made me to be...and I love my life.

Julie:  I am Julie Cameron-Hall, and my life is really interesting!  There are so many different roles and passions in my life, and two weeks rarely look the same. 

 

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

Nigel:  I grew up in Belfast, but last year moved to England to marry.  I've spent my whole life in Northern Ireland, so it was a big move.

Julie:  I am based in the South East of England, just north of Brighton.  My family are all from the Midlands, and I still have a brummie accent when I phone them.

 

Talk about your work ...

Nigel:  After many years of dull office bound administration, which everyone referred as "what I do", it was always what I did after "work" that I was most passionate about..like making music, leading worship and photographing God's creation.  But it was like I was doing three jobs.  Now in England I have the freedom to do the things I was created for.  I have just finished recording a long dreamed of album of all-age worship songs and the end result has exceeded my expectations in every way.  

 

Julie: I feel very blessed to have the permission in my life right now to concentrate on creative things...I am a musician, violinist & singer, teacher of pre-school music and worshipper, amongst other things!  I've recorded 5 albums to date, and hope there are some more to do before I'm finished.  Recording is one of the most fun things you can do...hearing songs come to life and knowing they could go to the most remote place is a really wonderful thought.


What are your future plans ... 

Nigel:  In the short term, lots of european travel to play in performance and at worship gatherings over the next month or so!  I am going to continue writing music, and I've been encouraged to make the recording of a solo Irish whistle album my next project.  Combined with my wife Julie's fiddle playing, The celtic sound we create has brought real healing to people as we've played, and we now we want to bring that into people's homes and cars as well.

 

Julie:  I seem to have met some really interesting and influential people recently, and opportunities to travel and play have been unfolding all the time..its amazing.  For example, recently a film maker asked if it was possible to use my song "Warrior Bride"..so film music may be a new area for me!  But immediately, the next month will see me in Israel, Germany, Belgium and Northern Ireland..as well as playing at a conference in England about how worship changes atmospheres.  It's a great season for me at the moment. 

 

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

Nigel:  The extraordinary beauty and detail of God's creation never ceases to capture my imagination, and is like a constant source of fuel for my own creativity.  I am never happier that when I am in wide open spaces, surrounded by the wind and the sun and the sky, with a camera in my hand.  I'm always inspired by excellent music, and by artists who are unafraid to do the unexpected.  I also often return to the psalms, because I always find exactly the thing I want to say written there.

 

Julie:  I think my inspiration comes from my relationships with other people...when I feel other people's love, and feel love for them, I see God's beauty, and that inspires me.  I love watching other people relating to each other; the mums and babies in my classes, people around a table, people listening to our music and conversations we have afterwards.  Nigel is a real inspiration to me...he is relentlessly positive and presses through, and he is endlessly encouraging.  I am so blessed to live with someone like that..

 

Describe your space ... 

Nigel:  Very soon after we were married and I moved into Julie's house, she felt it was very important for me to have a space just for me.  So she made a little snug room where I can hide away with my laptop and headphones. The little music room in our home didn't feel fully mine until it was transformed by a lovely acoustic piano. This has made all the difference to me as I have such a connection with it and it gives so much back.  The sense of home I have here in our wee house is something I have never felt before.

 

Julie:  I like white walls, flowers and being organised..I don't like clutter and have organised Nigel's CD collection into labelled boxes!  I love good art and we have some beautiful paintings.  Of course there are musical instruments everywhere.

 

How are you feeling today ... 

Nigel:  Full of the joys of spring!  After I listened to the final mixes of my new album I was literally skipping down the street...the sense of completion and satisfaction is priceless today.  Also reflecting on a challenging weekend, I am celebrating how God turned it around...in the words of James Brown..I feel good!

 

Julie:  I'm a bit sleepy!  Also, feeling faintly nervous about a big trip to Israel later this week.  I know it'll be great though, so I'm excited too.

 

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Nigel:  Brown sauce, (never ketchup) mint sauce with lamb, chips must never be without salt and lots of vinegar,(balsamic where possible) and scones must be fresh from the oven (daily if possible).

Julie:  God knows best, He wants the best and He's always right..so my non negotiable is that His plans always come first, even when people around don't get it (and neither do I sometimes..!)  

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

 Nigel:  I have an overflowing box filled with letters and emails of encouragement, which are always greatly appreciated, and mean so much to me. The most encouraging words I have ever heard though, came to me during the night, at a time when my self-worth was under attack.  I woke up to hear myself saying the following words, three times:  "My child, I love you, and accept you for who you are."  To me, this was very clearly God's voice, even though it was through my lips, but these words changed my life.

 

Julie:  "Your most important job is to be 'The Beloved'."

 

Your work life philosophy is ...

Nigel:  Rest is so important, and I've realised that many things I used to think were ways to relax actually involve me doing work.  Now I'm married to Julie I've discovered how freeing it is to close the laptop and not have to be doing things all the time.

 

Julie:  There is joy in doing small or domestic things, even if they are mundane.  The satisfaction from seeing a cut lawn or a pile of freshly ironed shirts is not to be underestimated!  Things that the world thinks are important, and the way people measure "success" often give weight to things that really really aren't that valuable.  But time given to your baby, singing to him or talking to your mum on the phone will last forever.

 

What is your favourite smell ...

Nigel:  Scones, fresh from the oven, of course.

 

Julie:  The smell of a roasting turkey, because it reminds me of christmas morning in my mum's house.  It was the only day we ever roasted a turkey, so the smell means everyone being happy and being together.

  

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

Nigel:  I love music that pushes boundaries, especially fusing different genres and cultures.  Celtic artists like Davy Spillane or Iona, who create soundscapes that take you on a journey, instrumentalists like Phil Keaggy..and at the moment a lot of classic jazz, like Oscar Peterson.  Just now, my own album is in the CD player, being analysed and celebrated in every detail!

 

Julie:  It's strange to admit it, but I don't actually listen to much music.  There have been times though, when certain albums have been on a loop, even through the night, especially after I was bereaved.  Rob Stroh's brilliant instrumental albums saved my sanity during that time.

 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

Nigel: Roast lamb and mint sauce.  No idea what the ingredients are apart from lamb and mint and vinegar…

 

Julie: My best meal is eaten outdoors, in the sunshine, with people I love around me.  I love too many dishes to single out one.  It could be chips on the beach, or a picnic at the zoo, or around a table in the garden.  Three favourite ingredients...chocolate, strawberries and cheese.

 

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

Nigel:  I never thought I'd adapt from conventional film cameras, but the truth is, the invention of the digital camera has transformed my experience of capturing scenes of wonder though a lens.

 

Same can be said of my laptop. Hard to believe that less than 10 years ago I didn't even own a computer.

 

Finally, cheese on toast was completely transformed forever by the discovery of worcester sauce…..

 

Julie:  Hate to say it, but facebook has opened up a world of news and connection I'd not have thought possible.  Being connected and informed changes everything...and all my personal technology..ipads, internet bank, phone and everything has become kind of vital.

 

Its also important to me that I love my current handbag and purse..I see and use them every day!  and last of all a really good moisturising cream helps my face feel better, especially when I haven't had enough sleep. 

 

How do you relax ... 

Nigel:  Walking has a way of helping me put everything in perspective.  Also, good music, sunshine and freshly brewed coffee all at the same time is perfection.

 

Julie:  Escaping into a good book, a good movie, shopping with girlfriends or a lovely hot bath are some of my happy ways to relax.

 

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

 Nigel:  Enjoying a lovely meal with my wife. Also love a good coffee shop.

Julie:  It's hard to imagine how happy Nigel makes me...he really is brilliant..funny and so kind.  Love being silly with him.  Also, I am never happier when all of my kids come home at the same time and I have an overflowing house.

 

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

 Nigel:  It's hard to beat the Antrim coast road on a good day.  I'd like to visit the Grand Canyon…

 

Julie:  Bit of a cliche, but my favourite journey is usually the one when I'm coming home from somewhere.  Even though I travel such a lot at the moment, I'm actually really a home bird.

 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Nigel:  Honesty, being real, and genuine support.  Being on the same wavelength and being able to celebrate where I am without having to explain things.

 

Julie:  Knowing that someone does not compete or judge you and that you are safe to trust them.  That they actually can celebrate the person you are and you can do the same for them.

 

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

Nigel:  Psalm 139.  And "Its dinner time..!"  I'm reading a devotional for animal lovers right now, as I want to write some songs for children about animals!

 

Julie:  "Hi, mum, how are you?"  "Do you want to jam?"  "Have some chocolate."

I'm trying to read and prepare for a study trip to Israel at the moment...

 

Share some words of wisdom ...

Nigel; Less is more, (musically speaking) Celebrate the journey and the destination is a bonus.  When faced with slander and dishonour, respond with grace and see things turn around.

 

Julie:  Love and honour the person in front of you.  Seek influence and you will end up frustrated and bitter.  Seek God's Kingdom of love and you can't avoid influence.

 

Julie and Nigel, thank you for joining us, it was an honour to interview you at Salt and Sparkle.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Tuesday
Mar172015

Writer's Tears Whiskey from Marks & Spencer

The fire crackled softly warming my toes.  I sat in an easy chair, pulled in close watching the flames, a book of poetry resting on my knee and a glass of whiskey in my hand.  A drink I would enjoy over the hours of the evening.  

Whiskey is not a drink to be rushed or knocked back in quick succession, it should be savoured and enjoyed.

The Whiskey I am drinking this St Patrick's Day is Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.

Whiskey should be drunk from good glasses - crystal if possible. I love these antique tumblers that once belonged to my Gran.  

Writer's Tears is a light whiskey, that is firey on the tongue which rounds out to a smooth mellow honeyed flavour, with strong notes of vanilla, bourbon and butterscotch.  It is a beautiful whiskey, which should be drunk patiently.  Allowing the story of the liquid to tell her tale as it is drunk.

Writers Tears Pot Still Blend is a combination of pure pot still and malt whiskeys from Walsh Whiskey Distllery Ireland.  This soft, sweet easy drinking whiskey, with just a little fire, is best drunk with the tiniest drop of water to release the oils, hidden in the amber liquid, and let the flavours created in the barrel come through. There is a hint of oak, and a flavour of candy apples as the finish is long and sweet.

Writers Tears, is an artisan boutique brand stocked by Marks and Spencer that has captured the attention of whiskey enthusiasts worldwide.  It goes perfecly with the words of John O'Donohue's latest book Walking on the Pastures of Wonder.

If you are knew to whiskey and would like to rise a glass tomorrow, here is our 7 point guide on how to taste whiskey.

How to Taste Whiskey - a 7 Point Guide

 

  1. Swirl the whiskey in the glass to release its flavours
  2.  Put your nose into the glass and take a good sniff
  3. Take a sip and swirl in your mouth as if eating the whiskey like a mars bar for 15 seconds before swallowing
  4. Swallow, take a deep breath, let the breath out as the whiskey goes down
  5. How does the whiskey, smell and taste to you, where does it hit your palate
  6. Remember - There are no right and wrong answers, it is about your personal taste
  7. Add a drop of water, swirl in the glass to mix, then repeat steps 1-6 - has the flavour of the whiskey changed, if so how?

Happy St Patrick's Day, I hope you will enjoy your glass of Writer's Tears from Marks and Spencer.

Sláinte

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Mar162015

q&a with Captain Todd Williams from Private Island Charters

It gives me joy to welcome Captain Todd Williams from Private Island Charters, Palm Harbors Florida, to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Captain Todd is the skipper of a private charter boat, a 23' Pro-line sport that my sister and I had the pleasure or sailing with last year.  

Todd is laidback, knowledgeable, an excellent skipper and someone who is a pleasure to spend time with.  A musician, singer and cook, as well as a skipper, he is a pleasure to talk too.  

Private Island Charters with Captain Todd at the helm specialise in one day trips to the islands and beaches just offshore in the Palm Harbor area, on the Florida Gulf Coast, which are accessible only by boat.  These are magical trips, that take you to islands where your only other company are birds and fish.  Contact Todd organise your own private boat trip when your on the Florida Gulf Coast.  Todd's family also own a beautiful house right on the water which they rent during the season.

What I loved about sailing with Captain Todd, was that he takes you to places that are free from hoards of people, full of wildlife, and only discoverable by someone with local knowledge.  These islands with their lapping lapaiz waters are sublime, a place to while away the hours and rest.  As Todd powers his bought forward dophins jump in the late afternoon sunshine.

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

I’m Captain Todd Williams with Private Island Charters, and Gulfcoast Heaven Vacation Home.  I’m also a musician, husband, and father of a 2 ½ yr old son.  I’m blessed to have a business that I love especially when my friends tell me about their “real” jobs!

 

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

Originally from Melbourne Australia, based in Palm Harbor Florida.

 

Talk about your work ... 

I have the greatest job. I get to guide our guests around to the different beautiful islands, along the Florida Gulf Coast watch dolphins and other wildlife, and spend the day on the water while meeting some really cool people. We also have a beautiful gulf front vacation rental home where our guests often stay. It really is Paradise!

 

What are your future plans ...

To continue to grow our business, to stay healthy, take care of my family, and to enjoy life!

 

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

I get inspiration from a lot of places, but business wise I would say my guests inspire me. Everyone who has gone out with us has said what a great experience they have had and how glad they were that they did it. That inspires me!

 

 Describe your space ... 

What space, I have a 2 ½ year old ! lol

 

How are you feeling today ... 

Optimistic!

 

A non-negotiable in your life is ...

Having fun.

 

Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...

“You can do it!?”

Your work life philosophy is ...

Work hard when you work but enjoy life and don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel!

 

What is your favourite smell ...

hmmm either good food, or the salt air. I also like the smell of a wetsuit. It’s very nostalgic.

 

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

I like a lot of different music but I do listen to a lot of Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, that kinda stuff. Especially on the boat!

 

Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...

I like to cook so I could go on forever but probably steak, crab cakes, fresh seafood.

Three things or products that have changed your life... The Surfboard, the Windsurfer, and the Electric Guitar!

How do you relax ...

I like to get away from the hustle and bustle. The islands are great for that!

 

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

Being in and on the ocean is my happy place whether it be surfing, boating, windsurfing or on a beautiful white sand beach listening to the ocean!

 

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

I really enjoyed living in Australia but New Zealand, Hawaii and Costa Rica are also great places to be! I would like to check out Tortola and the BVI,  and Italy and Greece!

 

What do you most value in your friends ...  

Sense of humor!

 

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

I dont read many books etc, but at the moment have been reading lots of emails regarding boat charters which is always great. My favorite words? - anything my son says...

Share some words of wisdom ...

Have fun life is short!

 

Captain Todd, thank you for joining us on Salt and Sparkle, it was great having you at our place.  Until the next time we get to sail the high seas with you.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable