Sunday, 24 February 2013

{Let Them Eat Cake.. In Leeds}

With my final few months in Yorkshire approaching, I've started to panic about places I haven't been and things I haven't done. For this reason, I've started a Bucket List of cafés, restaurants and venues to visit before my University career ends. So far, however, most of my time has been focussed on finding the perfect cake in Yorkshire. Good for the soul, not so good for the wallet/waist. Here's my pick of the bunch so far.. 

Love Rouge Bakery in Headingley, Leeds

Whenever I've popped in (i.e. whenever I can conjure up a valid excuse to meander past and enter 'on a whim'), this tiny gem has always been packed to the rafters, so I'm yet to enjoy some afternoon tea and cake in the café itself. This has not stopped me from ordering many a 'take-away' cake, especially with my new-found talent for thinking up excuses for celebratory cupcakes. Good mark in an essay, nice weather, it's Friday... these all come under reasons why I need to get myself a delicious cupcake ASAP. News that the café is expanding falls on very excited ears! So far my Yorkshire pal and I have been able to make our way through this long list in search of our favourites, but the task is (fortunately) endless..

Chocolate Brownie
Strawberry Cheesecake
Chocolate Orange (the current winner!)
White Chocolate and Raspberry
Red Velvet
Strawberry and Champagne

Patisserie Valerie in Leeds City Centre

I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with the sponge in Patisserie Valerie. It is the lightest, fluffiest piece of heaven you will EVER taste. Don't take my word for it, go and get yourself some ASAP! For my 21st Birthday party, my dear mother surprised me with the 15-inch cake shown below. Of course we had to recreate the magic and get a mini white-choc version for my Dad's Birthday this year. The power combo of sponge, cream, fruit and chocolate will send you over the edge.


Pickards Pop-Up Tea Room by the University, Leeds

Pickards is a special treat for when essays in the library just get too much. We drop our highlighters and chewed biros with glee and dash across the road into the welcome respite that is Pickards. It's small but beautifully decorated, and the tea comes in bone china cups which make you feel (reasonably) posh. For around about a fiver you can get a gourmet sandwich, a generous pot of tea and the most delicious victoria sponge cake I've ever tasted. I know I said Patisserie Valerie has the best sponge, but it does come at a price. Pickards is excellent value and the great piece of sponge is generously loaded up with jam and cream. Enough to fill a poor student up 'til tomorrow (or until the next Victoria Sponge craving hits).

Betty's Tea Rooms, Harrogate & York

Betty's is a special occasion visit, but you have to do it at least once if you spend anytime in Yorkshire. I've had the good fortune to visit both the Harrogate and York cafes, and both times I've come away full but very content. They serve tea the proper way (in metal pots with a strainer), and the selection of cakes from the trolley is incredible. Or, you can opt for a traditional afternoon tea like in the photo below, and feel very old-fashioned as you make your way through the three-tiered cake stand of scones. A perfect way to wile away an (all too often rainy) afternoon up in t'North.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

{Sunday Evening Suppers}

We have a tradition in my (University) house. We've held to it since 2010, every Sunday that we've been up in Leeds. Mid-week, amidst our copious deadlines and seminars, someone will suggest a main and accompanying dessert. The desired outcome? Simple, cheap and delicious food. Think bangers and mash, apple crumble, Thai curry, Victoria sponge cake. There will then be a mad scramble to be on shopping/cooking/baking duty because otherwise.. it's the dreaded washing-up duty for you. If we have guests, they usually bring with them a couple bottles of red wine to prolong that weekend feeling. 

Why do we insist on this weekly tradition for our little quasi-family? Increasingly, our lives are consumed by dissertations, coursework with the occasional added bonus of socialising with course-mates. The weekend is then usually devoted to a generous level of merriment and debauchery  all of which requires  a lengthy post-mortem (aka gossiping). By the time the dreaded Sunday evening rolls around, it's a delight not to hole ourselves up in our rooms in a state of hungover melancholy but instead to gather round the table to dissect the weeks behind and in front of us. 

It's usually a raucous affair, and many a landmark conversation has taken place at our dining room table. We may not be resolving the state of the world, nor creating gourmet cuisine, but I firmly believe our little dinners are good for the soul. After graduation you'll be sure to find me, of a Sunday evening, still sneaking my way into my dear friends' houses to mess up their kitchens.

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

{Heidelberg en Hiver}

Now I know it's very late to be posting about Christmas (or very early?!), but what with the current chilly atmosphere back home I thought some snowy scenes from Heidelberg would be quite appropriate.

I went for a whirlwind visit in December, to see a French friend who is studying there + a German pal who I studied with in Montpellier. Cue a weekend of cracking out the rusty French!

I would heartily recommend a winter weekend in Heidelberg to anyone who is feeling a bit scroogish come December this year. The Germans KNOW how to do Christmas! None of the tacky crap that the UK seems to specialise in, the entire city was beautifully and tastefully decorated. There's something about that cold, crisp air too that gets you in the Christmassy mood! We drank plenty of Gluh Wein (mulled wine) to warm our bones after long strolls around the city.

Our Gallic pal took us out to a typical French bistro where we cracked open the red wine and feasted on casseroles mopped up with copious amounts of French bread. Such a treat!

If my weekend is anything to go by, an important part of a German's Christmas experience is frequent pauses for tea and biscuits. I'm not complaining!

In the evenings, we'd head to the famous Christkindelmarkt (Christmas market) in the city centre to enjoy pancakes washed down with more Gluh Wein. We'd then make the trek up what felt like 1000s of steps (while I peeled off layer after sweaty layer and silently cursed my Nutella and Baileys crepe). The view from the top of the hill made the struggle up worth it though, as you can see below.

We would all huddle around the fire and warm ourselves with... even more Gluh Wein! It goes down a beaut.

Late in the evening, with our bellies full and our bones sufficiently warmed, we'd waddle tipsily down the stone steps towards our cosy beds! A perfect weekend.

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{Off t'York with a Yorkshire Man}

An unusually beautiful Saturday up in the chilly North recently called for a day trip to York. It's always been on my list of places to go while at Leeds, and now I've reached the final semester of my final year it's time to start ticking things off the Bucket List..

York is an absolutely charming city, and I had the benefit of a local to show me around. While the old city walls and ancient architecture was stunning, my favourite part of the city was The Shambles, one of the most famous streets in Britain. It's as if someone took a normal street over time and pressed the ends together like an accordion. The result is a mish-mash of timber-framed buildings (like the one above), and modern day shops and cafés. Charming!

The York Minster, the city's cathedral, is spectacular and well worth a visit, even just for the outside architecture. We got lucky and were able to hear a choir in full swing when we peeked inside!

As dusk settled over the old city we walked along the river and were serendipitously greeted with a beautifully blushing sunset. We also got to see a wedding ceremony in a Tudor house lit up by candles.

No trip to York would be complete without a visit to Betty's tea rooms. The cake and tea was well worth the chilly wait outside! 
Passionfruit and Raspberry Cheesecake = Perfection.

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