Tea and ballet at Kew

Thank you for all your entries into my Kew giveaway. I enjoyed reading about all your favourite herbs and flowers in the comments, and was only sorry that just one person could win – that was Sabina of Shade of Red, and I hope she enjoyed the night. Just thought I’d share some photos of the evening. It had been pouring with rain all day so I was a bit worried the night would be a washout too, but luckily it held off and was a very nice evening.

First we had a tea tasting in the palm house, the splendid Victorian iron and glass structure at the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We also had short talks from Kate Halloran, senior tea buyer of Taylors of Harrogate, and Monique Simmons OBE, Director of the Kew Innovation Unit, who worked together on the new range of herbal and fruit teas.

All the teas were delicious, but I especially liked the sweet rhubarb; an unusual flavour but appropriate given how much rhubarb is grown in the Yorkshire area. The tea smelled just like warm rhubarb crumble and would be great after dinner in place of dessert. I’ve also been drinking a lot of the lemongrass and ginger as a soothing digestiv.

After the tasting, we wandered around the palm house, admiring the tropical plants.

As dusk fell we headed outside, where Betty’s were offering more tea and some of their amazing baked goods. I had a tiny delicious Victoria sponge and a macaron that tasted just like chocolate brownie.

We took our lakeside seats for the performance and wondered how the ballet on water would be performed. It turned out to be a 3d hologram, projected into a spray of water in the middle of the lake. The effect doesn’t photograph well but was stunning! Thanks to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Taylors for a great unusual night.

Giveaway! Tickets to moonlit ballet at Kew

Kew gardens

Wanna win two tickets to the world’s first ballet on water at the beautiful Kew Gardens, with a tea tasting from Taylors of Harrogate thrown in for good measure? Read on…

Kew gardens
Taylors of Harrogate has collaborated with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to launch its new range of fruit and herbal tea infusions with an exclusive moon-lit, tea-tasting experience. Hosted in the magical setting of Kew Gardens, the evening will feature a unique, first-ever performance by Northern Ballet, on water.

ballet

They’ve kindly given me two tickets to give away to the event, which takes place at Kew on Thursday, 8th May at 7.30 – 10pm. You’ll also get a taste and take-home supply of the new fruit and herbal infusions from Taylors of Harrogate, which is certified by the experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and consists of six blended infusions: peppermint, lemongrass and ginger, chamomile and vanilla, spiced apple, sweet rhubarb and blackberry and elderflower.

KEW-LINE-UP

To enter just leave a comment on this post; tell me your favourite herb or flower to make it more fun. A winner will be chosen at random, and entries close at midnight on Thursday 1st May. Get an extra entry by tweeting, just include my handle @whatkatiedoes and a link back here so I can spot it or retweet the below.

The competition is closed. Congrats to the winner, Sabina of Shades of Red.

Good luck, and hope to see you there!

Terms and conditions
Taylors of Harrogate and What Katie Does reserves the right the select the winner at random. This is a one-off VIP event and tickets are not exchangeable or redeemable at any other venue. The winner will receive a ticket for themselves and friend only. Attendees must be available on Thursday 8th May 2014 between 7.30pm and 10pm to attend the event at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew London. The winner will be notified via email on Friday, 2nd May 2014. Travel and accommodation will not be provided as part of the competition package.

Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Dim sum masterclass at Ping Pong

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Last week Ping Pong invited me to take a dim sum masterclass at their Westfield Stratford restaurant. The restaurant only opened there last month, and I’m glad to have one close to home as I love their food. So I was excited to go and learn how to make their tasty dumplings myself…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Armed with a delicious – and rather potent – cocktail (which may or may not have hampered our dim sum success) we first got an introduction to the art of dumpling from Ping Pong’s head chef, before being let loose on the ingredients. The dough for these steamed dumplings is made from fine wheat flour, potato starch and water, which gives it the characteristic chewiness. You can also add colouring from natural vegetable sources (spinach for green, beetroot for pink, carrot for orange etc) and they are then stuffed with a meat, seafood or vegetable filling before being steamed to plump deliciousness.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There’s a technique to getting the perfect little scalloped shape: tuck, fold, press. Naturally the chefs who make up to 3,000 dumplings a day are pro at rolling out perfect ones each time, but us mortals struggled a bit to get the hang of it. With their encouragement, I got a few looking quite neat.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Some of us took it more seriously than others…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There was a friendly competition for the best dim sum roller amongst our group. I won, and got a bottle of bubbly for my efforts! I have to confess, I probably had a head start as I learned a similar technique on the Japanese cooking class I did a while ago.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

After our handmade efforts came back from being steamed, we got to enjoy them, then we were treated to several more classic Ping Pong dishes too. We all went home pretty stuffed and merry from the cocktails. If you fancy taking a class yourself, they can be privately booked for a group at a cost of £40 per head, which includes the masterclass and meal afterwards. Check Ping Pong’s site for details.

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at the Tate Modern

Lichtenstein, Tate Modern

Lucky me – the Tate Modern invited me to a press preview of their new Lichtenstein retrospective on Monday. He’s one of my favourite artists so it was quite a treat to get a quiet(er) viewing of the show before the crowds. Oh, and I was allowed to snap photos!

Lichtenstein, Tate Modern

Besides the comic-strip ‘war and romance’ pieces he’s best known for, this show does a great job of displaying the other sides to Lichtenstein’s work, and across 13 rooms charts out the many phases he evolved through during his life’s work.

Continue reading Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at the Tate Modern

We Feast

We Feast

I think We Feast is one of the best street foody eat-ups I’ve been to in a while! It had all the great vibes of the food truck meetup we went to in San Francisco, with bonus Christmassy touches that made it feel lovely and festive.

We Feast
We Feast

Firstly, it was in a perfect venue – a wonderful semi-derelict old Victorian sorting office in Islington, decked out with cool huge globe lights and twinkly fairy lights.

We Feast
We Feast

Organisation-wise it was spot on, not too crowded or queue-heavy with plenty of seating and a big bar. I had a delicious lemongrass Dark and Stormy.

We Feast

Great live music added to the festive vibes.

We Feast

And of course the food, with stalls from all of London’s current best and brightest…

We Feast
We Feast

I started with Anna Mae’s mac & cheese, levelled up with jalapenos and sour cream…

We Feast

Then went for a delicious mushroom, walnut and miso Yum Bun

We Feast
We Feast

Sweet treats from Meringue Girls, almost to pretty to eat

We Feast

Pakoras from Delhi Grill

We Feast
We Feast
We FeastWe Feast
We Feast

And the rest… The only slight downside was that a fair proportion of the stalls didn’t have a veggie option so I didn’t get to sample Rainbo’s gzoyas, Tonkotsu’s ramen, Mishkin’s, or a Lucky Chip (veggie)burger. But I think I did pretty OK anyway.

We Feast

Looking forward to the next one already!

Global Feast

I was invited to spend a night eating at the Global Feast on Friday, a series of suppers running alongside the Olympics which celebrate the cuisines of most of the competing countries. The nightly dinners each feature guest chefs cooking alongside Kerstin Rogers, the location of each night’s origins moving west round the world. A hugely ambitious project combining my loves of food and travel? How could I resist…

Global FeastGlobal Feast

The evening started with a gin and tonic in the pretty setting of Stratford’s Old Town Hall, just a skip away from the Olympic Park.

Global Feast
Global Feast

The stunning banquet table, dreamed up by Alex Haw of Atmos Studio, who we had the pleasure of company with for the meal, is laser-cut into the shape of the world complete with longitude lines, topographic accuracy and a hole bored in to mark each large city. We were sat on the coast of Brazil facing the Andes!

Global Feast
Global Feast
Global Feast
Global Feast

Besides the amazing table itself, the effort put into the presentation was really impressive. I loved the map flowers and mini herb gardens sprouting up.

Global Feast
Global Feast

The food was equally impressive. After canapes and a started of curried egg, the main was a thali-style combination of paneer biryani (chicken for the meat-eaters, and a spiced lamb chop) with peanut aubergine and a little glass of yogurt soup called khadi, complemented by brilliant pink beetroot raita and warm chapattis. It looked as good as it tasted, the spicing containing Persian-influenced ingredients like rose and pistachio which are often found in Pakistani cooking.

Global Feast

After an interlude of brilliant Northern Indian dancing for entertainment, dessert was a trio of chocolate tarts by Pistachio Rose, each spiced with a warming background of chilli, fennel and chai. The white choc with fennel and rose was my favourite, yum yum.

The Global Feast runs every night of the Olympics, so there’s only 8 days left. Read more about the Indian night on Kerstin’s blog and grab tickets to the remaining nights here. Much more fun than that sports malarkey, eh?

Coffee workshop at… Workshop

Coffee workshop

Last week I spent a very enjoyable morning learning all about the sourcing, roasting and brewing of coffee at a session put on by Clerkenwell coffee house Workshop (previously St Ali). As well as putting on a mighty lovely all-day dining spread, Workshop also take their coffee very seriously, with an in-house roaster at the rear of the shop and a brisk takeaway trade.

Coffee workshop

Our host and coffee manager, Tim, started by telling us a load of fascinating stuff about coffee that I never knew. For example, did you know that the skins of the coffee cherries (the beans are the inner ‘pip’ of this fruit) are caffeinated because it’s a natural insect repellant, and the dried skins can be brewed into a tea called cascara? And that’s just the start – we discussed the different varieties of coffee and the effect that altitude, location, processing and volume have on its quality and flavour.

Coffee workshop
Coffee workshop

Tim then explained how they go about sourcing and selecting coffee for Workshop – often they only get a 100g sample which they have to carefully roast and brew in order to decide whether to spend £60,000 on an order. Workshop ensure that they pay a fair price for their premium beans and try to have as open and transparent a relationship with their importers and farmers as possible.

Coffee workshop
Coffee workshop

We then saw the roasting process: raw beans are tipped into the roaster and a laptop displays the ‘recipe’ that each variety is to be roasted to. The temperature is painstakingly monitored and data-entered each minute that they roast to ensure a completely consistent result – a variation of just two degrees means the batch is no good. Workshop roast their beans very lightly to just bring out the subtle natural flavours – a more typical coffee chain might over-roast to mask poorer quality beans.

Coffee workshop
Coffee workshop

After 14 minutes of roasting, the beans are cooled and then bagged. They have to rest for a week to release any trapped carbon dioxide that can make the coffee bitter. Workshop’s head roaster Richard spends two days roasting approximately 300kg of coffee per week, which is sold via drinks in their two London locations, and also a small proportion as wholesale and retail beans.

Coffee workshop
Cofee workshop

Finally, we experienced a sample ‘cupping’ session. Tim and Richard do this every week to ensure consistency in the newly roasted beans, and also when tasting new additions to decide how they should be roasted and brewed.

Coffee workshop
Coffee workshop

The cupping session is almost ritualistic, like a Japanese tea ceremony, but this is to make sure the coffee is tasted with as few variables as possible. Beans measured into precise 12 grams, ground and added to bowls; kettle boiled and cooled; water poured; coffee stirred; wait for brewing; skim the top and taste a teaspoonful with a slurp.

Coffee workshop

We finished with a lovely brunch in Workshop’s restaurant, washed down with yet more coffee. This was a ‘beta’ session to see if the concept worked, which I think it most certainly did. I left with an even greater understanding and appreciation of coffee, along with a long list of wonderful facts to bore people with – I didn’t even share half of what I learned here. Tim plans to schedule in more sessions for the public to book onto soon: keep an eye on their Twitter for news.