Parklife… the Brightest and the Best

I’m aware that there is little point in letting you all know about a wonderful, top notch cafe that is sadly no longer, but I need to share, and let go >.< And not in the immortal words of Queen Elsa this time…

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For nearly 10 years, the centre of Worthing has been treated to the most vibrant, bubbly, and creative cafe it has ever seen, and ever will see for a while. Parklife started out as a little pink coffee-mobile in Homefield park, though it wasn’t until they set up shop in the centre of town that I first became aware of them. The initial draw was legendary variety of milkshakes on offer – one of those shops which let you put pretty much whatever sweet treat (amongst other things, gherkins for example!) into a milkshake. There were 3-4 boards with the options crammed in, and Parklife had instantly put itself on the Worthing map. My favourites were always Terry’s Chocolate Orange & Ferrero Rocher – especially as you got the straws with the spoon on the end to eat up all the chocolate debris that wasn’t completely blitzed! 😀

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But that wasn’t all the Parklife had to offer – there were almost as many different options for the most amazing sandwiches & paninis, all made fresh to order right in front of you. If there wasn’t anything you particularly fancied on the menu, the always friendly and helpful staff were happy to make something up for you out of the ingredients they had to hand. Not to mention of course the ever changing specials! My personal favourite was ‘The Italian Job’ with tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto, but there were other such crazy names along the lines of the mad-cow, billy goat’s gruff – all with ingredients I’m sure you can guess. I feel bad for not remembering the names exactly, but I never thought I would have to 😥 The only downside to this perfect lunch spot, was that there was rarely enough room to sit down, there was always a queue out the door!

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But still, the best was yet to come. Parklife was an immediate hit with it’s signature cupcakes – the brightest, boldest, biggest cupcakes you’ve ever seen, and as time went by, the only ever got brighter, bolder, and sparklier. I have honestly still never seen such colourful and beautiful cupcakes at a cafe, with such an ever changing array of flavours and combinations. It wasn’t even just the cupcakes, they offered a cake making service for birthday parties and weddings, with layer cakes bigger than you could dream of! Indeed Parklife was the only option for us when it came to our wedding cake, and we will always remember the chocolate orange topper cake with ivory swirls and sugared doves, alongside simple and perfect vanilla cupcakes in ivory and pale blue, with deep purple cupcake cases.

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Parklife was well known for for doing everything bigger and better, including the often experimental and always successful bakes and cakes on offer. But what Worthing will be missing out on most, is the heartwarming, community spirit that filled the little shop and spilled out into the street on even a grizzly drizzly day. For any kind of festivity, Parklife was always decked out in the brightest and most fun decorations, they were always supporting local artists and events with posters and art on display, and there was always a friendly smile and chat for anyone who came through the door, no matter how busy they were.

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I am honest to god getting a little choked up writing this – but, I am so happy for the owners to be doing whatever they have decided to do, they have more than earned it. I want to thank them on behalf everyone who feels the same way I do about about the happiest, brightest spot in town, and wish them well for the future. Whilst they are still out and about with the good old little pink coffee-mobile, there will never be anything quite like Parklife Cafe, but there will never be anything to replace the wonderful memories I have of that place.

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We’ll miss you.

Lotsa Love, Abbie x

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BBC Good Food Show Summer

As any of my Twitter or Instagram followers will know, yesterday I was at the Good Food Show up in the NEC Birmingham. I went with my mum and dad, and what a lovely day it was! This was my second Good Food show, having been to the Winter show last year, and whilst this one was smaller, as more of an add on to the Gardener’s World show, there was still so much to see. After making it into the arena, battling through some fairly heavy rain and feeling very sorry for those who had mainly come to see the Gardener’s World part of the show outdoors, we gathered ourselves and started making our way round the stalls.

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My first impression was that this Summer show was better organised – last Winter we came in to find all the alcohol stalls grouped together at the very beginning, which not only was a disappointing start to the morning for us who were there much more for the food aspect of the show, but was also a little short sighted considering people were trying all of these tipples at once, instead of spread out throughout the day! It was also much easier to zig-zag our way up and down the aisles, making sure we didn’t miss anything.

What I enjoyed seeing most however, was how the foodie trends from show to show affect the stallholders in attendance – last year you couldn’t move for baking stall, be it cookware or the finished goods themselves, whereas this year saw a huge rise in the health food and clean eating stalls which was really lovely to see. I saw a stall selling various protein powders for smoothies, some coconut water stalls as well as a few stalls selling the latest food gadget – spiralizers!

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The Hemsley Sisters (huge advocates of the clean eating lifestyle) were doing several demonstrations at various points around the show, displaying the virtues of the spiralizer and of course the benefits of clean eating. The gadget they were using was available from the Lakeland Ltd mini store, as well as a cheaper handheld version being available for those who weren’t so sure of investing in this particular food trend. Myself, I think it’s a wonderful idea for those with Gluten intolerance, but I won’t be jumping on this particular foodie wagon any time soon – it just doesn’t do enough for me and I’m not convinced this food trend will last. But we shall see!

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Top stalls of note for me were Bluebird Tea Co. – funnily enough from my own neck of the woods in Brighton! I’ve been meaning to stop in to their shop based in the North Lanes for a while now, but each time we’ve been in to Brighton really we’ve been on a bit of a mission, so it was really nice to be able to get a good look at what they do. The variety of leaf teas they have is amazing! From your basic essentials like English Breakfast and Earl Grey (Dave will be happy!) to much more unusual blends like Elderflower and Champagne, and Candyfloss! Not only do these gorgeous varieties smells fantastic, but they all look so beautiful too – my danger would be trying not to just have bowls on display and actually drink them :p Can’t wait to pop in again and start stocking up and trying so many new flavours 🙂

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Another favourite stall was Sponge – selling a wide variety of teeny tiny little sponge cakes, only for £1 each! They had classics like Victoria Sponge and Carrot Cake, as well as more interesting combinations like Millionaires and Caramel & Peanut! We went all out and bought one of each flavour, though to be fair this was so my dad could take some in to work :p I managed to sneak a chocolate orange cake, and it was so beautifully moist and flavourful, not overly sweet or dense at all. A real winner and just the right size!

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Finally, I was very impressed by Sunburst – a company which supplies Marks & Spencer with their nectarines. I’ve actually been going off nectarines for a little while now because the regular supermarket ones seem to be getting very bitter, but the Sunburst Nectarines are without a doubt the best I have ever tasted. They were so beautifully sweet and just the right amount of tang – they really did taste like a little sunburst in your mouth! By tweeting my appreciation of the delicious fruit, I got a goody bag with four extra nectarines in, and I plan to try out a nectarine crumble recipe later on today – watch out on my Instagram account for the result!

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As me and my family are all serious foodies, there was only one way we could possibly do the Good Food Show – and that was to experience the Good For Kitchen! It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the stalls, take the weight off your feet and enjoy a top notch sit down meal. The whole menu looked fantastic, we were really spoilt for choice with the selection of starters, mains and desserts. Dad opted for the Crayfish Cocktail to start, whilst me and mum chose the Ham Hock Terrine with Malt Loaf. All three of us went for the Buttermilk Roasted Poussin with Polenta Chips as our main, and then we all split our decisions for the dessert, tackling one each – dad with the Chocolate Brownie, mum with the Salted Caramel Popcorn Pot, and me with the Meringue Amaretto Cake with Berries and Cherries.

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They were all absolutely delicious, fantastic quality for the price we paid for all three courses, and a fantastic experience to add to the day being at the show.

And speaking of experiences, no Good Food Show is complete without a trip to the Supertheatre! This year we wanted to see Tom Kerridge, well known for his excellent quality, homely cooking with the extra ‘chefy’ twists. With that in mind, his demonstration was showcasing how to make an extra special, extra simple rice pudding, along with a fool-proof way of cooking a very expensive cut of beef to perfection – by replicating the water-bath cooking method of bringing the meat up to a low core temperature first in a 60degree oven. It was a really informative demonstration, it was nice to have things explained a bit more as he went along instead of it just being for entertainment’s sake – and Tom’s enthusiasm and passion for cooking and food is positively infectious. And as if to prove how fool-proof his beef cooking method was (I’m still not sure if this was a genuine mistake or part of the ‘act’) – even when the oven had somehow been turned up to 160degrees for a short time, the beef still came out perfectly pink!

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We had an absolutely fantastic time looking at all the different food producers and gadget stalls, it really is a wonderful day and I would thoroughly recommend keeping an eye out for the next show!

Lotsa Love! Abbie x

Wish I was at Wahaca…

I’ve been sitting on this blog for a couple of days, as I didn’t want to overload you with my need to write after I got back from holiday! But I simply cannot hold back any more, I have got to share with you my current favourite restaurant of all time – Wahaca. The Mexican chain was set up by 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, and each restaurant showcases every bit of her funky, eccentric and passionate personality, as well as a keen knowledge and understanding of real Mexican food. I get so excited just thinking about this place – does it show? :p

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The closest restaurant to us is at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, about an hour away. It is now our go-to when we go shopping, and luckily it is also on the way back home from visiting my sister in Hull so we tend to stop in for dinner on our way through :p The varied menu means it is absolutely perfect for either a light lunch or dinner – there are a selection of fantastic sounding mains such as their MSC Fish Tacos (Wahaca is well known and award winning for their sustainability), Slow-Cooked Pork Burritos and Pasilla Chicken Enchiladas.The names of these dishes simply aren”t enough – the descriptions of them is astounding, and watching them come out of the kitchen and seeing people’s delighted faces as they prepare to tuck in.

You will note however that I say these mains sound amazing – and this is down to nothing other than our weakness for the fantastic street food menu, and our lack of resolve to try any of the ‘normal’ meals! We have always loved the idea of sociable food – from Spanish tapas to Middle Eastern style food where everything is dished up in the centre of the table and everyone helps themselves. Mexican food is all about the sharing, and the friends and the family coming together. Their street food menu makes all of that so easy – in the same way you order a variety of different tapas dishes for the whole table, so do you order a variety of these street foods for everyone to dive in, get messy and involved, and enjoy the experience together.

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We do have one staple choice that we order – each, so we don’t have to share – and that is the Tender Marinated Chicken Taquitos. The flavour of the smokey, earthy chicken inside the crisp fried tortilla, wrapped tightly and sprinkled with wonderfully fresh salad and tangy cheese… I don’t think I need to say much more? Except go eat it!!!

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The hardest part with this menu is the choice – it’s nice to have a variety of the different types of street food, as well as trying to mix up the fillings you get too. Slow Cooked Pork is always an excellent choice, along with anything involving their Frijoles or re-fried beans. The Black Bean Tostada is a really light and refreshing option, something nice and crispy to break up the flavours of everything else. As Dave put it very nicely, it’s like a tasty, filling palette cleanser!

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This time they were testing out a new menu, so we had even more than usual to choose from! We opted for the Chorizo & Chapulines Memela, which was basically a pizza-like dish with chorizo, black beans and feta sprinkled on top (grasshoppers optional!?!) This was absolutely incredible, the flavours in every single bite were amazing, but unfortunately we found that this dish is not being included in the menu anymore because of the complicated process in the kitchen resulting in delays with serving – which is a shame but completely fair enough. Another fantastic thing about Wahaca, they are ready and willing to give something new a try, but if it doesn’t work they listen to the staff and the customers.

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What I love most about Wahaca is the vibrant and exciting atmosphere – it’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind but everyone around you is happy, having a great time and enjoying some truly superb food. This goes for the staff as well – they are always bright and eager, passionate about Wahaca and it really has the most amazing affect on the restaurant experience itself. We always leave with a massive grin on our faces, also helped by the cooky colourful decor! This really is a place that any Mexican foodie must try out, or even someone who hasn’t experience the beauty that is Mexican cuisine yet – this really is the best of the best. Put it this way, I’m writing this in my PJs at 10am and I’m hungry already…

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Lotsa Love! Abbie x

Quick Picnic Bite

Today marks the start of the glorious Witson Bank Holiday! Ok yes, it’s now a little grey outside, but the true marvel of this Bank Holiday, is that it’s here, me and hubby are together, and we don’t really have much planned! We were hoping that timings (solicitors) would sort itself out in time for us to be moving into our new flat this weekend, so as to make use of the extra day to get settled in, but as we’re not even exchanging contracts yet I think we’re going to settle for after we get back from holiday. But more on that later… 😉

We’re trying our best this weekend to make the most of the time we have together, as we’re both really bad at not just taking the time out, stopping and relaxing with each other. Sunday Dave has band practice, but other than that we have precious few plans which is lovely 🙂 So today, we decided nip out to Shoreham, pick up a picnic bite to nibble on and sit outside Shoreham airport and watch the planes flying around. Simple pleasures 🙂

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We went to The Real Patisserie, a wonderful French bakery (funnily enough) with an amazing selection of all kinds of pastries, from delicate macarons to spectacular mini manage cheesecakes. We’re planning on trying out a few of these gorgeous treats so we can decide what larger version to get Dave for his birthday later in the year! They also do some pretty amazing savouries too – the fattest sausage rolls I’ve ever seen and a beautiful bacon baguette that’s saved our hunger pangs on more than one occasion! Today I opted for a grilled apple and cheese tartine, which worked even better than I could have imagined, and Dave had one of their selection of baguettes, pesto chicken salad. It should also be noted that their ‘croque’ toasties are to die for, with various fillings all smothered in good, tangy melted cheese 😀

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We thoroughly enjoyed our little picnic in the car, and Dave loves anything where planes are involved :p The long weekend is certainly off to a good start 🙂 Hope you enjoy yours! Let me know what you’re all doing and eating! ;p

Lotsa Love! x

Coffee Haven

It’s been an absolutely manic few weeks, with the end seeming no nearer in sight, what with the house move still going through the motions and a bucket load of other stuff I just won’t even go into. Whilst it’s important to focus on the good things and get yourself through these difficult times, it’s also so so essential to have some time to completely and utterly switch off and let the stress leave you like steam rising from freshly brewed coffee…

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And as such I’ve been thinking about the best coffee I know of in our area (short of travelling to South America or Italy). Chocaffinitea – a wonderfully cosy and cool cafe with a specific menu detailing the flavour differences between different coffees from around the world. I myself am partial to their Brazilian brew, with its particularly nutty flavour. I’ve been imagining its smell all week at work, so much richer and more intense than the slightly burnt smell we get from the pantry machines.

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They do so much more than coffee too, as the name might suggest, with all sorts of beautiful leaf teas served at your table with individual egg timers to let you know when it is steeped to perfection, and – here it comes – the best hot chocolate in Brighton. It is basically just liquid chocolate; warm, smooth, liquid pleasure. They also specialise in creating cakey delights for those with various allergy or dietary requirements, largely dairy and gluten, from salted caramel brownies to dairy free key lime pies. I am completely converted to raw cacao, and avocado as a substitute for butter and cream and other unhealthy bits in some pretty decadent desserts (as my recent Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles can testify!)

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All of these things are adding up to a pretty perfect afternoon, and the setting is what completes it. With beautiful and peaceful rustic decor, a gorgeous window opening out onto the bustling North Lanes of Brighton, there really is no other better spot to sit and just chill out for a while. Coffee makes me happily sleepy anyway, so I really cannot think of anything more relaxing right now.

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Counting down the hours till the weekend… 😉

Lotsa Love x