Monday, 20 June 2016

St Albans: 1st Annual St Albans Street Festival

St Albans, Hertfordshire does love a good street fair, farmers' market, french market or Christmas market so it was no surprise to find the St Albans Street Festival was so popular.  The whole town centre was taken over by street food stalls, children's activities and family fun.
The street was closed off with tables and chairs lining the main St Peter's street, I have lived here 12 years and never known them to do that before!
The children were looked after with lots of activities like a giant sand pit in the middle of Market Square!
Face painting
and even the new ones were catered for.
There was a plethora of different street foods available, more than I had time to put here but a good representation is:-
Riverford Organic Farmers Vegetable Service
Food from Indonesia
mobile pancakes - what's not to love about that ...
Local Bar Meze treating us to some authentic Cypriot food
The Caribbean was represented by Carmen's Caribbean Kitchen
German sausages no 1 ...
and further down German sausages no 2!
Pop over to Brazil for a taste of The 2016 Olympics!! (a regular in the town centre)
From the same side of the world Mexican cuisine was represented
St Albans' very own Smokehouse Deli invited people to stop by for a delicious, slow roasted lamb in a bun and a quick gyrate of hips from Facebook video sensation and owner Gels!
Local Heaven is a Cupcake tickled our sweet tooth with her beautiful and delicious creations
Well known Tiptree jams came all the way from Essex to join the festivities - introducing St Albans to the new Plum gin and Strawberry gin! They were delicious!!
The stage was set at the top of the town with live music and entertainment -
so grab a locally brewed beer and sit and enjoy:- Farr Brew, brewed locally in Wheathampstead
3 Brewers, brewed right here in St Albans (watch out for a post coming about both of the local beer brewers from St Albans the home of the Campaign for Real Ale)
I loved this eco-friendly and avant guarde Christmas tree!
There were many more stalls and street foods available. The atmosphere was really lively and up beat.  I even heard a rumour that there will be a 2nd Annual St Albans Street Festival next year.  Worth coming out for on a Sunday!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Harvester Restaurant Review - Perfect Family Meal Out

Even the most intrepid foodie has to have some down time.  Sometimes on a Friday night, when I am too tired to cook, Mr R will suggest we pop into our local Harvester Restaurant for some chicken or ribs and salad bar. Mr R will often have a steak and salad.

I was asked to review a Harvester with The Little People recently to highlight how perfectly suited Harvesters are for a family meal out.  If you don't want to have loads of children around when you eat there it is better to go a bit later in the evening however from late afternoon to early evening it is a perfect spot to eat out with the children.

When my children were little we used to go to places like Harvester so that they could get used to eating out and behaving in a restaurant environment which I believe had a positive impact on their social eating out skills.  Mr R and I like to treat the grandchildren to Harvester from time to time for that very same reason.

Upon arrival you are taken to your table and the little ones given a goodie bag with crayons and a nice colouring booklet and a packet of sunflower seeds to take home and plant.
The boys didn't see me write their names on the bags and thought it really cool that the restaurant had known their names!
The children's meals are easy for the child to pick their own favourites with lots of scope for smaller appetites or fussy eaters.
And of course every meal comes with a trip to the salad bar.  'Big' is quite able to help himself at the salad bar - it is lovely to see him pick healthy choices, his own salad dressing and sprinkle of seeds or bacon bits on top.  He gets a kick of being a 'grown-up' and helping himself.
'Small' still needs help but loves to hold his salad bowl himself and makes his own decisions as to what may be placed in the bowl.
The Harvester we visited is situated in the Roaring Meg Retail Park in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. The decor was clean and modern with signs giving loads of information.
With the children settled down and eating their supper us adults were free to tuck into ours.  They do fantastic rack of ribs and I had sweet potato fries instead of regular ones.  When they first arrived the fries were cold.  Our waiter quickly brought us new really hot ones and took the cold ones away.
We received great service, the food was good and most importantly the Little People had a great time and we went home ready to have baths and bed as soon as they were home!

Many thanks to Harvester at the Roaring Meg Retail Park.  We were given a voucher towards our meal. As always all opinions are my own as well as the photos.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Grenada: School Time: - They Need Your Help!

Last year I attended the 2nd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival and had a really fantastic time. Before I went someone told me that a trip to Grenada would be life changing experience - little did I know how right they were.

Whilst we were there I had the pleasure of visiting a local primary school set high in the hills in the village of Vendome.  I was eager to make a return visit last month when I visited Grenada again. It took about half an hour to drive to the school, twisting and turning up the steep and windy roads. The host of the hotel we were staying in had taken this school under his wing and tirelessly fund raised to help them raise money for a new building and better conditions.

The Head Teacher (with one of her staff on her left and Russ Fielden who own and runs True Blue Bay Resort, on her right) was so happy that we had taken the time to visit and to bring books and equipment they just did not have.
At the point that I went last year they had just completed the new library however had very few books to put into it.
The government of Grenada do not support schools to the same extent as they do in the US or the UK coupled with the fact that even everyday essentials are very expensive on the island, this leaves the schools with just the very basics to teach with.

The children were so lovely, polite and inquisitive and I really enjoyed spending time with them. Their eyes lit up when I asked them questions and they were very keen to show off their environment.
However I found the experience heart breaking.  I couldn't stop thinking about how much they needed books and the usual school materials even to the point of some children coming to school in flip flops or bare foot as their parents couldn't even provide them with shoes.

Last year I made the pledge to myself to do something to help fill the library with books.  Back home I got in touch with some of the young mums on one of my Facebook groups and within minutes the offers of books and shoes that had been outgrown poured in.  Before I knew it I had a suitcase full ready to take with me on the following trip.

Fast forward to the 3rd Annual Grenada Chocolate Festival which I have just recently returned from. British Airways allowed me to take the extra suitcase without charge once I stated where it was going and who would benefit. This was a great help to me saving me the extra suitcase charge of around £100!

When I visited the Vendome School again the Head Teacher was so happy with the books that I brought (I also stocked up on crayons, coloured pencils, rulers, pens, paper and other basic stationery).
The class rooms are very basic with blackboards separating the classes.  This is not the best environment for concentrating however the spirits and the cheeky faces were uplifting!
Currently the children play in the area where the old building was and they have nothing to do except throw stones into the field,
or climbing around the old building whilst on their recess break. They need footballs and skipping ropes to play with and space to run about with wild abandon and be children.
The first time I visited it was lunch time.  Class by class they come in for their lunch.  This day it was a bowl of broth with a small piece of chicken and a few pasta pieces.
For many of the pupils this would be the only proper meal they would have until lunchtime the following day!  How distressing do you think this information was for a foodie, mother and grandmother. Let me tell you it broke my heart.

Next year when I visit I want to spend some time cooking with some of the children.  I asked the Head Teacher if they would like that and she enthusiastically ensured me that would be a great idea. Could you make pizza with them or maybe spaghetti and meatballs she asked me.  Both of these are very expensive and considered a real treat and to make it themselves would be amazing.

I am already planning what utensils and ingredients I could take with me - I am able to get things in my local pound shop which would be very over priced there and even though the Head offered to get in the ingredients etc I couldn't allow this.  This is my treat!

I asked what I could bring the next time and she said "anything, we need everything".  Some of the basics are available on the island but are so expensive like a simple, basic stapler costing EC$60 which is approximately £15.00!

A suitcase just isn't going to be big enough. I have been told that a lot of people ship barrels to the Caribbean.  I am going to source a barrel, have it delivered to my house and fill it up with donations of used books and shoes and essential school equipment.  I also want to include footballs for the boys to play with at break time and skipping ropes for the girls. And stickers - they love stickers!

What I can do for this school is only a drop in the bucket of what is needed in not only this one school but all of the primary and secondary schools in Grenada.  What they really need are computers but I have to start somewhere and hope that I can make a difference even if it is only a little one!

Please leave a comment below to tell me how your heart has been touched or what has made a difference to your world.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Grenada: Sugar and Spice Ice Cream Company

Most people like ice cream but I LOVE it!! I especially love it homemade or made by small producers - there seems to be so much more depth and flavour to the finished product.

After dinner on our first night in Grenada I ordered the three scoops of ice cream for pudding.  There was one scoop Grenada Chocolate, one Coconut and one Nutmeg.  They were so lovely I asked if the waitress had the details of who made it.  The following morning I got reception to phone and ask if I could get an email address with the prospect of doing a write up.

Half an hour later reception phoned the room to say that the man from Sugar and Spice Ice Cream was there and would love to have a chat with me!

I met Jerry and his son Gerard, really nice people who were amazed and flattered that I wanted to visit their factory and see the ice cream being made.  Gerard arranged tocollect us the following morning, take us to the small, family run factory and then to their retail outlet near the University for some tasting. 

The Sugar and Spice Ice Cream Company is a small, family run business and for the last 31 years have been producing lovely treats to sell on the island to hotels and restaurants. 

The retail outlet was a relatively recent addition in the student food and drink area near St George's University.
The ice cream is made from a whole milk powder imported from The Netherlands (there is no dairy industry on the island) to which they re-hydrate, pasteurise, homogenise and add natural flavourings before freezing. 

Sons, brothers, brother-in-laws, wife and other family members make up part of the team of 16 who all work in this compact factory churning out gallon after gallon of this delicious product.
It was a blistering hot day and inside the ice-cream factory was really warm but Mr R and I seemed to be the only people noticing the heat!

Jerry told us in order to be called a premium ice cream it must contain at least 10% butter which their product does giving the end product a definite high quality with very distinct but not overpowering flavours.

It was a real treat to try the basic vanilla ice cream as it was just made before it goes into the huge walk in freezers to await distribution.
One of the flavours being mixed when we got there was Hurricane. It was named after hurricane Ivan which decimated the island in 2004. When you scoop into the product you should be reminded of the chaos and turmoil of hurricane Ivan! 
Mr R loved this flavour and later on at the retain shop he had a huge cone with Hurricane ice cream. He said "This is the first time I am looking forward to a hurricane!"
The company use local and natural ingredients like fresh nutmeg, cinnamon and Grenada chocolate.

We were able to pick our flavour from such celebrities as Soursop, Nutmeg, Grenada Chocolate and of course Hurricane!

Sugar and Spice Ice Cream are also importers and distributors for Marley Coffee produced by Bob Marley's son from Jamaican coffees.

Many thanks for the hospitality and enthusiasm, for taking the time to tell us all about Sugar and Spice Ice Cream for keeping the method of making Sugar and Spice Ice Cream virtually unchanged.  I was not required to write a positive review and as usual all opinions and photographs are mine or Mr R's.