Sam Smith’s top three favourite days out

Well firstly, if you’re from Yorkshire you may well associate the name Sam Smith with a particularly tasty pint of beer brewed by the Sam Smith brewery in that historic horse-racing town of Tadcaster near York.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. No, this post is about the world-famous blues and soul singer Sam Smith, and what he likes to get up to when he’s not wowing the crowds with his amazing voice.
But just in case you’re still confused, here are the two Sam Smiths side by side for you to compare.

Beer
Beer
Singer
Singer

 

 

 

 

 

Now being a true Yorkshire lad, Sam does quite like the odd pint of his namesake’s beer, but we quizzed him on what is his favourite special treat when he gets time to himself. And the answers will astound you!

At number 3 comes a Day at the Races. If you knew that Sam’s dad was a steward at the local racecourse in Tadcaster, and Sam learned to ride before he could walk, then you would see why this is.

At number 2 is Driving a WW2 tank across rugged countryside in all weathers on the custom-made tank courses up and down the country. And with Sam’s military background – did you know that he qualified as a para before turning to music? – he really misses the action side of things.

And at number 1 – this will REALLY surprise you – for his top treat of all, Sam just loves to sneak into Harrods to savour one of their incomparable Champagne afternoon teas. The scones with clotted cream, the smoked salmon sandwiches, the mouthwatering cakes accompanied by a pot of aromatic Earl Grey tea are worth more to him than all his Gold Discs and music awards.
Which is why he makes a regular reservation to treat himself at least once a month at this most prestigious of cafes in that most prestigious of London stores.

So while you imagine yourself sitting in the very same room as Sam, tucking into the famous Harrods Champagne afternoon tea, check out the lad himself singing just for you.

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Monty the penguin or a meerkat?

I was just sitting here eating a slice of key lime pie and listening to the Dylan 1965 Classic Love minus Zero (No limits)

when I got to wondering which really are the best, penguins or meerkats?
Now I know most people have wondered that at one time or another, so I thought I’d run through a few of the pros and cons, and perhaps you’d comment and let me know what you think. It’s by no means a sure thing one way or the other.

Key lime pie - Dylan's favourite cake
Key lime pie – Dylan’s favourite cake

First you have to compare the cuteness – that little penguin face immortalised in the John Lewis advert Monty the Penguin finds a mate, compared with the little meerkat desperate to buy insurance at all costs. And the way that the penguins walk is just to absolutely cute that even the little old meerkat standing up and looking around loses out.

Then there’s the cuddliness, and here the meerkat wins hands down as he’s all furry and cute and will run up and down your leg and climb all over you, while the penguin is covered in waterproof feathers and smells very fishy.

But then meerkats do have a great bite, with their sharp little teeth that they use for ripping the tails off scorpions, savaging giant millipedes to death, and fighting off meerkats from other tribes. Penguins will take a fish out of your hand, but there’s no record of anybody being pecked by one, so on the health and safety front that’s another one for Monty and his penguin race.

Of course, if we’re talking stuffed toys, then it’s all down to which you like the look of – I’d have one of each if it were me – but then who wants a stuffed toy when you can go and get up close and personal with the real thing? Believe me, seeing these little fellows in the flesh (or fur and feathers to be more precise) is an experience to treasure and it’s now surprisingly easy and cheap to fix that up.

There was a time when you had to go to Antarctica or South Africa to see a penguin, and to the deserts of Africa to try and catch a glimpse of a meerkat as he rushed away and hid in his burrow. But now with the rise of some fabulous wildlife parks where they really care for their animals and create really sympathetic environments, wherever you live in the country there’s probably a whole bunch of them on your own doorstep.

Cute little meerkat
Cute little meerkat
Cute little penguin
Cute little penguin

 

So here they are side by side for you to have a look and decide. If you’re still not sure, then why not treat yourself to a real life animal experience and get all the fun of seeing them for real.

 

Amazon echo and chocolate swiss roll

First the important bit: a light fluffy chocolatey Swiss roll packed with fresh whipped cream.

Chocolate Swiss Roll - The Queen of Cakes
Chocolate Swiss Roll – The Queen of Cakes

The chocolate Swiss roll is truly the Queen of Cakes – or the Cake of Queens, assuming that Her Majesty loves this culinary wonder just as much as I do.
BUT it is absolutely vital that it is very very chocolatey – intensely so – and that the filling is abundant and rich and real fresh whipped cream. Swiss rolls with butter-cream go to the bottom of the class. Ugh! How on earth can anybody eat one of those?
So while I’m savouring this mouthwatering treat – in fact up to my third slice – I happen to come across Amazon’s latest big idea that I feel I must share with you. But get your CSR ready first, as this is such a crazy idea that it will take your breath away.

They call it Amazon Echo and if things go to plan, practically everybody in the world will have one of these in their house very soon.

Big Brother is watching you - though there's no video yet, just sound
Big Brother is watching you – though there’s no video yet, just sound

Why is it crazy?
The Echo is an always-on internet-connected device that listens to you in your house 24/7. Yes, they think that you’ll be happy to pay $199 for a device to snoop on you and report back to them what you are doing, saying, probably even thinking.

And in return, if you shout out “Alexa, what is the weather like?”, it will tell you and save you the trouble of looking out of the window.
It will also let you buy music, videos and probably anything else that Amazon sells without the hard work of going to your laptop, tablet or phone to do it.

How amazing is that?

There’ll be all kinds of “safeguards” and promises of confidentiality built in of course. And it wouldn’t surprise me if people are happy to trust that Amazon is not listening in when you don’t want it to, or recording and saving your data to sell on or use against you at some embarrassing moment in the future.

I’m not sure either what happens if your OH is called Alexa and you cry out her name in the height of passion. Will it record your most intimate moments too?

And of course the daftest thing of all about this little gadget apart from the fact that it’s just a black cylinder standing in sinister fashion in your room, is that all your info goes straight over the net, to “the cloud”.

So goodness knows who can intercept it at any stage on its way from your router, through to the exchange and beyond to this fabled “cloud” which really means somebody’s server probably in a third world country because it’s cheaper to keep it there, or purloin it after it’s arrived.
This little beauty is available only in the US at first – and another daft point is that you can get one “By Invitation Only”, but there’s a button on the Amazon website for you to click and get an Invitation. Doh!

I must admit I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.

So anyway, that’s all the CSR gone and all the spare cream and chocolatey crumbs licked up. Wonder what cake to go for next. What do you think?

Monty the penguin and chocolate eclairs

monty
Monty the £95 penguin

So John Lewis have now got the media waiting every year at about this time to be the first to admire their new Christmas video and give them millions in free publicity.
You’ve got to admire them for it, and cast beside the oodles of free publicity from the papers, internet and even national news channels the production cost of a rumoured £7 million looks like a bargain.
All JL is trying to do of course, is raise its profile at the buying season to empty your pockets, and boy does it do that well.

Yet each time, doesn’t the video get gooier and gooier? Less and less subtle?
A little penguin looking for a mate? Give me a break. At £95 a time (cost on the JL website, except they’re out of stock) little Monty can stay single.

The only thing that kept me calm when I saw this video was the chocolate éclair I was eating – and it’s very fitting that the spellchecker has put in the accent for me on the word éclair (look it’s done it again) as this is a high ranking member of the Royal Family of cakes.

Eclair
Chocolate éclair, the Prince of cakes

Let’s assume an average price of £1.50 for a top quality one of these, meltingly light choux pastry, gleaming luxurious and luxuriant rich dark chocolate topping, crammed full of enchantingly wholesome whipped cream. Yes, I mean a real quality one, not one of those finger-thick imposters you get from the bargain boxes or freezers. So at £1.50 a throw, that means that a stuffed penguin would cost the equivalent of 63.1/3 of these big fat beauties.

Now could you tell me that a stuffed penguin can bring as much delight as 63 pukka chocolate éclairs, even ignoring the spare third? No, I didn’t think so. Case closed. Q.E.D. as we used to say in maths classes.

I’m certainly not going to post the video on here, as you’ll have already seen it, and in the time it takes me to put the Youtube code in, I could have eaten another third of a delicious choux pastry cake.

And for next year’s video, I predict a lovely soft bed full of little kittens with big ears and big eyes, mewing pathetically, and a voiceover saying “Give us all your money or these kittens get it”.

Cake, cake and more cake

Ok. I’ve written a bit about music over the last few days, so now it’s time for something far more serious. Cake!
Now the Great British Bake Off has finished for another year, I’ve been looking around for a way to satisfy my love of cake, and what better way than eating cake? As much cake as I possible could?

Today has been my fist three-cake day for a while. Don’t judge me, I just love cake!

Cakes I’ve eaten today, in order brilliantness

1 – Chocolate pudding

Chocolate puddingDo you remember when they use to make puddings? Proper sponge cake puddings, with custard. It might seem a bit school dinnerish, but personally, I don’t think you can beat rich, moist chocolate pudding with thick Birds-Eye custard. It’s so stodgy that it’s almost a meal in itself, but boy, I’d choose it over any other food any time.

I had this cake after dinner in the evening, and ended up so stuffed I felt like Henry the Eighth. If Henry the Eighth ate puddings, instead of chickens and larks tongues and jugged hare.

We actually baked it ourselves using this recipe, which means there’s plenty more if I get a bit peckish. And I will keep getting peckish as long as there’s some chocolate pudding left 🙂

 

2 – Tiramisu cupcake from ‘Cupcakes by Charlie’

cupcakeSo I was wandering around Harrogate, and passed a lovely little cake shop called Cupcakes by Charlie. The display looked gorgeous so I popped in, in search of cake, and I’d come to the right place. Now you might not like this, but I still call cupcakes ‘buns’. Maybe it’s a northern thing, but to me, they’ll always be buns.

In the same way as I ask for a ‘large chips’ in McDonalds, instead of fries. It’s partly me being annoying, but I also resent being made to call things by stupid American names. Anyhow, buns now seem to be called cupcakes, so I’ll go along with that for now.

So, how was it? Chocolate sponge (again), topped with coffee and Baileys buttercream, and a jaunty little wafer. it was very nice thank you, and a great addition to my cup of coffee. The buns (cupcakes) are works or art, and I’d love to be able to make them myself. maybe the shop could get involved with cupcake making experience gifts, and charge people to learn how to do it, because they know what they’re doing.

I’ll be going back there again, but probably be buying a box of four, so I can scoff them at home too.

 

3 – Tarte au citron

tarteLemons – they’re brilliant aren’t they? From Italian Limoncello on its own or in cocktails, to lemon drizzle cake, and my favourite, the tarte au citron. Like a zingy lemon curd dream inside a delicious pastry case, I picked up this tart au citron from Marks and Spencer. It wasn’t this specific one cos you have to order this, but it’s exactly the same product.

Interestingly, this was by far the highest calorie of any of my cakes, but then I probably ate enough for four people. Never mind, it’s not like I only had cake to eat that day.

 

As a final thought, I was recently reminded about the UK Pudding Club. where a club gathers every now and then to eats dozens of different sorts of puddings. It’s my idea of heaven, but based in the Costwolds which is a fair old drive for me.  I might start my own ‘Robert’s pudding Club’, where I eat lost of puddings, and cakes, and biscuits, and anything else I can find.

How come I’m not the fattest man in the world? It’s probably only a matter of time 🙂

My wonderful experience of Yo! Sushi – a review

I love sushi. Have I mentioned that before?

So I was excited to go along to the new branch of Yo Sushi in Leeds, in the equally new Trinity shopping centre.

On entering the restaurant, there’s the familiar styling that’s made Yo! the huge brand that it is – from the little dishes tootling around the conveyor belt to the soy sauce and wasabi waiting patiently to be dipped.

yo sushiIt was a Sunday, and the ‘Sumo Sundays’ promotion was running. If you’re a sushi fan you’ll know that this means all you can eat for £19.50. Quite a lot for one meal, but what a meal I had! It was busy when we arrived, so we joined the queue and it went down surprisingly fast. Within 15 minutes we were seated by the conveyor belt, waiting to start shovelling the plates onto our table.

With a little help from the menu, I’ve managed to track down some of the delicious morsels that I had. Here’s a list of the plates that I can remember, but I’m sure there are a few that have slipped my mind:

  • Tuna Tataki & Ponzu
  • Salmon & Yuzu Salsa Sashimi
  • Tuna sashimi
  • Coriander Seared Tuna
  • Avocado Maki
  • Inari & Chive Futomaki
  • Salmon Maki
  • Tuna Maki
  • Spicy Chicken ISO
  • YO! Roll – woohoo
  • Salmon Dragon Roll
  • Inari Pocket
  • Salmon Nigri
  • Kaiso
  • And loads of random handrolls

You could be forgiven for thinking that an all you can eat sushi meal would be more about quantity than quality, but this was both. As well as gorging on fish and rice and chicken and veggies and soy sauce and everything else, it was the same high quality that you get day in and day out at Yo!

I suppose that’s the benefit of it being such a big chain, but every experience I’ve had of Yo! has been amazing.

The staff were really friendly, the food was lovely and we had a great time.