Monday, 23 May 2016

Take the dog for a cuppa at Wags and Whiskers

I don't actually have any pets, although I did grow up with them. We had dogs, cats, fish, birds, lizards, rabbits and guinea pigs. At its peak, our house was described as a zoo! Now I've moved out and Mum has the house to herself she has two dogs, two cats and is also looking after my sister's dog. It's always nice to pop round and see the animals as I can't see myself getting any of my own anytime soon. I get all the nice aspects of the dogs without having the bad bits!

Recently the pet shop that Mum frequents, Wags and Whiskers, opened a new cafe. The cafe is special in that it not only allows dogs, it welcomes them, offering a dog-only section of the menu. On Saturday we popped along with Mum's chihuahua Peggy to see what it had to offer. 

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

Wags and Whiskers Dog Canine Cafe Stockton

We arrived about 10.30am hungry for some much needed breakfast. The cafe is located in Stockton, down Finkle Street, a popular little patch for small hearty cafes. When we arrived there were many wet noses and waggy tails enjoying their grub, eager to greet us. The cafe was bright, airy and very clean. Dog bowls were dotted across the floor to cater for customer's furry friends.

We got a seat and had a pursue at the menu whilst Peggy became acquainted with the other dogs visiting the canine cafe. I was really in the mood for some beans on toast so was a little disappointed to see no beans on the menu. Despite my initial disappointment I settled for a cheese and tomato toastie with a pot of good ol' Yorkshire Tea.

Peggy had a bit of choice on her menu with a selection of treats including doggy beer, pupcakes and cookies. Once she'd quelled her initial excitement she finally decided on a doggy doughnut. Although a bit tough to get into, once Mum cut it up for her she was thoroughly enjoying it.

Our toasties came and they were lovely, just what we needed. This cafe is such a lovely addition to Stockton bringing together lots of dog lovers and their four legged friends. It's such a lovely environment will all the other customers.  You definitely can't come in for a quiet brew with your pup as everyone wants to see everyone else's dogs. This is great though as it is so different from other places where everyone would be silent, on their phones or unresponsive to other diners. Even if you don't have a dog, but love them, you can come down have a scone and a cup of tea and be surrounded by other people's dogs!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Being fancy at Angelina

Before we jetted off to Paris I'd been researching where we should visit, what we could see and most importantly, where we would eat. One place came up that I knew we HAD to visit. Boasting amazing cakes and desserts as well their infamous hot chocolate, Angelina was high on my list of places to visit.

I'd first come across Angelina whilst browsing places to eat in Paris over on Andrea's blog. She raved about their thick, luxurious African hot chocolate. As I'd heard Anglina was a popular place with queues out the door on most occasions I decided to book us a slot before we landed in Paris. This was super easy and could be done through their website. There are two Angelina's in Paris, one which I think most people will know about as it's not far from the Louve and another which is a little out of the main centre within a shopping centre.

Without knowing which was which when I booked, I decided to look at the map and book the one closest to our hotel. That happened to be Porte Maillot which was located about 10 minutes from the Arc De Triomphe in a very fancy quaint little shopping centre. When we arrived it was very quiet, a real contrast from the other Angelina we'd past the day before. Although we were early for our reservation we were sat down and given our menus.

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

Angelina Porte Maillot Paris France Tea Room African Hot Chocolate

As we were here for a late lunch we browsed through their food selection knowing that ultimately my beverage of choice was going to be hot chocolate. They had a good selection of lunch options, although not extensive, and in the end I decided to go with a french classic, Croque Monsieur with truffle oil. Different to the usual ham and cheese, this one contained chicken which was a lovely change up. It arrived very swiftly with a nice fresh side salad.

Now the hot chocolate. When this arrived we had our two tea cups, a bowl full of fresh cream and a jug of the good stuff. The lady poured out our hot chocolate and then we tucked in. The hot chocolate was VERY rich and oh so dark it was a little bitter. I definitely enjoyed my first cup and mixed in a bit of the fresh cream to take the edge off. After I'd finished my lunch I went in for a second cup. The lady kindly warmed up our jug of hot chocolate as it had gone cold during our meal. She then poured us both out the remains (no time for a pouring shot which saddened me greatly) and we began sipping again. Now this hot chocolate is amazing but after a while it can get very sickly and samey so unforutnaly I didn't manage all of my second cup. I think this is a treat to be enjoyed but one cup will do!

After our food we were so full that we didn't get chance to try a dessert even thought they looked STUNNING. Now that I'm back in the UK I'm disappointed we didn't just get one and put ourself through the pain of being stuffed just so we could have tried one. Oh well will have to find another way to try these pieces of beauty.

So overall I wouldn't definitely say to visit. This place is classy and backs itself up with great food, dessert and hot chocolate. It's a little pricy but when you are in Paris you want the best, am I right? Also my biggest tip, go to Angelina Porte Maillot! It may not be the fanciest one in the best location but it's quiet, easy to get to and still serves up everything the other does. It also has a takeaway part to it where you can buy their hot chocolate, cakes and macarons. Its definitely a hidden gem.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Sunday lunchin' at Canteen and Cocktails

When you usually venture to somewhere that's known for it's burgers and cocktails, you don't think they're going to do a good Sunday Roast. But if you head to Canteen and Cocktails you're in for a treat. I've been previously and tried their burgers and can with absolute certainty tell you they are a thing of beauty. 

For a special occasion recently we went along to their Norton restaurant on what happened to be on a Sunday. Our eyes were all drawn to the amazing sounding Sunday Lunch, so that's what we all chose. Well bar one, the birthday girl, who chose a burger. Who can blame her though!

Canteen and Cocktail serve their Sunday Lunches on platters either with one meat (£9pp) or a choice of two (£10pp). You let them know how many of you are partaking in the platter and they will size it up. It's accompanied by cauliflower cheese, roasties, parsnips, creamy mash, seasonal vegetables, yorkshire puddings and C&C secret recipe gravy.

Canteen and Cocktails Sunday Lunch Teesside Stockton

Canteen and Cocktails Sunday Lunch Teesside Stockton

Canteen and Cocktails Sunday Lunch Teesside Stockton

When our food arrived we were pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount that was placed in front of us. There were plates and bowls everywhere on our table filled with amazing looking food. I instantly got stuck in piling my plate high with beef, chicken and all the other sides. It was all delicious. Like seriously. I was in heaven eating this plate of food because all the sides were just so nice. There was a little hint of spiciness and I'm not sure if if came from the mash or their secret recipe gravy but it was subtle.

I can honestly say it is one of my favourite roasts on Teesside. Everyone else on our table loved it too.  I think I was just surprised that somewhere that specialises in burgers could have such a good Sunday lunch. They certainly delivered and there is nothing like it anywhere in our area.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Getting Sassy in the Noughties

I'm still absolutely in love with the songs from my youth as I know most of you will be. Songs these days have nothing on what we used to listen to. Yes, yes, I know this is what our parents used to say to us when we were growing up but for me it's completely true. I grew up in the age of squeaky clean pop bands, choreographed dancing routines and everything in between. Still today I love all of that and much of my iTunes is full of it.

There are certain songs that I turn to when I'm in certain moods. I got thinking recently about the songs I listen to when I'm in a particularly sassy mood. Either when I feel like I can take over the world, or when I think that no-one can get me down. Usually the songs that fit this mood don't come from the recent years, rather the good old nineties and noughties. For today's post I thought I'd list my sassy soundtrack from yesteryear and hope that I can take you down memory lane!

Sassy songs soundtrack from noughties nineties

Definition of Sassy - lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky.

Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That - Dolly Parton (1989) - A real oldie, but still a goodie. Everyone's heard Dolly's classics including 9 to 5, but if you haven't had the pleasure of listening to this one you are in for a treat. Dolly gets riled up asking why ex is always looking so good.

There’s Your Trouble - Dixie Chicks (1998) - Another country song, because county is always so sassy, but this one is from a girl group. The girls are singing about a man missing out on them and what a loss it is.

I'm Gonna Break Your Heart This Time - Kaci (2001) One of my favourite artists from the noughties. I was obsessed with Kaci, 'I Think I Love You' was my particular favourite which I'd play ALL THE TIME. This one is a more sassy song that you can't help but sing along with.

Watch Me Shine - Joanna Pacitti - (2001) - If you've seen the first Legally Blonde film then you'll know this song. It plays as she storms out of the party in her Playboy bunny costume and gets her study on to prove she can succeed in Law School. This is great if you need some extra courage to do something out of your comfort zone.

Independent Women, Pt.1 - Destiny's Child (2001) - You can't talk sassy songs without the Queen's of sass. This features on the Charlie's Angels soundtrack and just encapsulates the Angels attitude in one song.

Boys - Britney Spears (2001) - Another icon I couldn't leave out of this list of sassy songs was Britney. Although she has a back catalogue of great songs, this one is quite sexy and empowering.

As If  - Blaque (2002) - A song from one of my all time favourite films, Bring It On. If you grew up in the noughties and didn't see Bring It On you must watch it NOW. This plays as Missy shows off her new cheerleading uniform and it's just such a good tune.

Ladder in My Tights - Amy Studt (2003) - The album this song features on was a favourite of mine. I don't think Amy Studt went on to do much more popular music, or if she didn't I didn't catch it, but this is such a good song about not needing, or wanting to fit it. It's all about doing your own thing no matter what people think.

Hesitation - Stacie Orrico (2003) - I'm reliving my childhood through all these songs! Stacie Orrico was another of my loves. This song is all about doing what you want right now and not hesitating.

Leave (Get Out) - JoJo (2004) - This song just recently came back into my ITunes Library but it's still as sassy as ever. Such a good song to sing along to when you're in a particularly angry mood.

Fergalicious - Fergie (2006) - I wish that Fergie had continued with more music as her first album was just brilliant. Full of fun and energetic tunes like this one. This is a great one for working out in the gym, just try not to sing along...

Mariella - Kate Nash (2007) - This comes from another album that I was, and still am, pretty obsessed with. I know all the words and I'm proud. I like this song as it's all about Mariella who did what she wanted to do and didn't let anyone tell her what to do.

Have you got any other good sassy song suggestions that I've forgotten?

Also let me know if you remember these songs and if they've brought back some good memories!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes - Strawberry Cream Inspired Recipe

At Christmas-time my favourite sweets are Quality Street's Strawberry cremes. I become obsessed with them stocking up before the big day and then ultimately receiving more from friends and family that I've convinced to buy me some. So in an ode to my love of strawberry cremes I made these cakes hoping to recreate the flavours!

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes Recipe - Strawberry Cream Inspired

To make these chocolate strawberry cupcakes here is the method:

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe (makes 18 cupcakes)
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
125g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and put your cupcake cases on the tray.

2. Put the butter, caster sugar and eggs in a large bowl then sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together until smooth then transfer to the cupcake cases filling them two thirds full.

3. Bake for about 14-20 minutes making sure to check on them towards the end to make sure they don't burn. When you take them out, put them on a cooling rack before icing.

Strawberry Icing
280g icing sugar
150g butter
4 heaped tsp of seedless jam

To make the strawberry butter cream whisk the butter until soft and pale. Gradually sift in the icing sugar and whisk. When you've mixed all the icing sugar in you can add your jam. Dollop it in and whisk it up. Your icing will go pink and taste of strawberry!

These cakes were super easy to make and tasted so yummy!

Do you think you'll try these?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Sampling world foods in Paris

Whenever I go away I'm not ashamed to say that the thing I get most excited about is the food. I love to go away and not have to think about preparing ingredients and cooking, rather my only worry is where are we going to eat. Recently we took a trip to Paris and of course I was on the look out for places to eat as soon as we stepped off the plane.

I didn't really know what to expect from Paris. With it being a city I expected a lot of choice and good quality food. We stayed near the Arc de Triomphe, a few streets away from the Champs-Elysees, and there was certainly a lot to choose from. We didn't venture too far from our hotel for a lot of our eats, unless we were away sightseeing, but we found some brilliant gems. As my post title suggests, we managed to find a lot of different restaurants with food from a number of countries.

Trionfo Italian Pizza Restaurant Paris France

Trionfo (Italian) - 11 Rue de l'Étoile, 75017 Paris

This cosy restaurant is tucked away out of sight down a side street. We were enticed in by the big illuminated pizza sign and the authentic fire pizza oven. On the Thursday night we ate there it was very quiet with only ourselves and another man in the restaurant. There were so many choices for pizza toppings but in the end we both picked super cheesy pizzas! Both were deliciously fresh and so very tasty. Although we didn't manage to finish our pizzas we decided we could have dessert as we were on our jollies after all. I went for a chocolate mousse and Mum went for tiramisu.

Mi-Va-Mi Middle Eastern Restaurant Paris France - Falafel

Mi-Va-Mi (Middle Eastern) - 23 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris

In an effort to try new food, when we stumbled across this Middle Eastern restaurant we decided to try it out. There was quite a line to take away food so we knew this had to be good. The main item on the menu was pitta bread filled with different items including falafel, chicken, beef and other meats. I decided to go for a falafel as I'm quite fond of them when I have the chance to eat them, whilst mum went for breaded chicken. 

Our pittas came with our chosen filling as well as lots of juicy salad, hummus and grilled aubergines. We got a cheeky side of chips and found that both were really filling. There were lots of sauces going around so we had a try of these too and they only added to the great food. If you want to try something a little different, this is a definite must.

Laudrée macaron store paris france

Laudrée (French) - Av. des Champs-Élysées, 75008 Paris

Okay so we didn't 'eat' here but we took lots away to eat at the hotel. Laudrée is a well-known macaron 'bakery' in France which has grown seeing it open stores, or houses as they refer to them, across the world. Although you can get these little treats in London or online, getting them from their home country is always going to be best. These macarons are incredible. Although a little more pricy than others in Paris, you can't beat their quality and taste. These are by far my favourite and you must try when you visit Paris.

El Mercado Mexican Restaurant Paris France

El Mercado (Mexican) - 17 Rue du Colisée, 75008 Paris

Last but not certainly not least is this cheeky little Mexican place we visited on our second night. Whenever I see a Mexican restaurant I'm always all over it like a rash. I'm obsessed with the flavours and combinations you can get. Like the other restaurants this wasn't a massive space. Boasting a margarita bar with a selection of varieties, El Mercado has a good sized menu ranging from nachos, to burritos and quesadillas. 

We chose nachos to start with which came with a green salsa, guacamole and pico de gallo. Then for our main dish we both chose the 'Batata' burrito which included sweet potato fries, rice, cheese, red beans, sour cream, pico do gallo. For ours we added chicken but there was a choice of meats/veggies you could pick from. The burrito was delicious, everything you could want from a burrito, full of yummy fillings that worked so well together. For Mexican food lovers you have to give this a try!


So now when you jet off to Paris you've got a few ideas under your belt for your meals. 

Let me know your favourite places to eat in Paris or if you get to visit any of these restaurants! 
© gingerbread smiles.

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