Falling Forward: A Girl & Her Lists

The Best Places to Eat in Cardiff – The Chains

Posted by in Food Exploits

Last week I wrote a post on my favourite places to eat in Cardiff. I’ve split it into two posts, the Independents and the Chains, altho I have fairly loose rules for what constitutes a chain! This week it’s the turn of the chains – there are plenty in Cardiff to choose from, but some are definitely better than others.

The Chains*

*I say chain, I mean “has at least one other location outside of Cardiff, usually more.

Wahaca

 St David’s Dewi Sant Cardiff, 7 Bridge Street, Cardiff CF10 2EF | 02921 670 414

Oh, Wahaca. You only moved in recently but your sweet potato taquitos have totally stolen my heart. Their first location outside London, the Cardiff branch of Wahaca is beautiful inside and out and is a great addition to the city centre (if you like Mexican food). Bonus points for the Gluten Free menu they have and the totally amazing hibiscus water.

Bill’s

27-39 Wyndham Arcade, Mill Lane, Cardiff CF10 1FH | 029 2023 1524

I know some people who find Bill’s a bit hit and miss and while I can understand that I normally enjoy myself, so it’s going on the list. They’re not so  great if you’re going for a GF diet – some of their staff are more knowledgeable than others and their hollandaise sauce inexplicably contains wheat – but the majority of their food is solid, tasty fair. Ignore their breakfasts and go for lunch or dinner, your stomach will thank you.

Mission Buritto

The Friary, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF10 3FA | 029 2022 6677

I am so happy that Cardiff finally has a city centre burrito place, you have no idea. Doubly happy that they also offer rice and salad boxes and that you can basically have as much guacamole as you can fit in the box for a nominal price. I hear their burritos are pretty good, too ;) There’s not a huge amount of eat-in space, which makes it more of a summer eatery for me (burritos are way too messy to eat on the go), but otherwise two thumbs up for Mission Burrito. Nom.

Cosy Club

St David’s Dewi Sant Cardiff, 1 Hills Street, Cardiff CF10 2LE | 029 2022 5998

Cosy Club is another Cardiff chain that has a great Gluten Free menu – hurrah! They’re sometimes a little slow with service, but the food is worth the wait, I promise. They also have an amazing cocktails menu if you’re into that kind of thing (I am 100% into that kind of thing, fyi).

The menu changes fairly regularly and there’s a great selection of tapas, so if you’re a fan of the small dish revolution that seems to be happening everywhere these days then Cosy Club is a good one to check out.

Bangkok Cafe

207 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF11 9AJ | 029 2034 0455

Last but by no means least, we have Bangkok Cafe – purveyors of the best Thai food in Cardiff (in my opinion at least). Technically they were  chain since they also used to have a restaurant in Swansea, but not really a chain chain, if you get what I mean, especially since that venue has now apparently closed. (Sad times for Swansea residents. Move to Cardiff, kids).

I love the food at Bangkok Cafe – it’s fresh, vibrant and pretty reasonably priced. It can be a little on the spicy side so be careful what you order if spice isn’t your thing (it’s not mine either, don’t worry). Fret not tho, there are plenty of things on the menu for non-spice lovers, I urge you to check it out. & maybe take me with you? Thx.

So that’s it – my totally informal, 100% bias guide to eating in Cardiff. Let me know where I should try next! :) I’m looking forward to Five Guys opening next week…

The Best Places to Eat in Cardiff – The Independents

Posted by in Food Exploits

I’ve lived in Cardiff for just over four years, and in that time I’ve had the chance to eat at over 50 restaurants, cafes, diners and eateries. (Yes, I count. You should not be in any way surprised by this by now.)

I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of my favourite places to eat in Cardiff, for people who’ve never been, or haven’t visited for a long time. If anywhere is missing from here it’s probably because I haven’t eaten there yet (an idea for another list, perhaps!).

I’ve split it into two posts, the Independents and the Chains, altho I have fairly loose rules for what constitutes a chain!

First up:

The Independents

The Potted Pig

27 High Street (underneath Zizzi), Cardiff, CF10 1PU | 02920 224 817

Situated in a former bank vault, The Potted Pig is my all-time favourite place to eat in Cardiff. Not only is the food delicious, but the lunch menu is reasonable, the Sunday roast is out of this world and they have 21 different types of gin behind the bar. Sold.

Best for: Sunday lunch or a boozy lunch meeting.

Riverside Cantonese

44 Tudor Street, Riverside, Cardiff, CF11 6AH | 02920 372 163

My second favourite place to eat in Cardiff – Riverside restaurant is just outside the city centre (in Riverside, funnily enough) but it’s only a 7 minute walk from the train station, so still a reasonable place to grab lunch if you’re in town. Riverside is a Chinese restaurant but the magic lies in their Dim Sum menu, so make sure you visit between 12-5pm to partake.

This is where we eat with Q’s dad when he comes over from Macau. If that’s not a good enough recommendation I don’t know what is!

Best for: Eating so much dim sim you have to roll yourself home, while still getting change from a twenty.

The New York Deli

20 High Street Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BB | 02920 388 388

Nestled in the High Street Arcade, the New York Deli is practically a Cardiff institution. Giant hoagies (a soft baguette to you and me) filled with all manner of fun like salt beef, pickles and swiss cheese (the Rueben is my favourite in case you haven’t guessed), you can also get salads, soups and bagels if you want something a little less gut busting. The menu is diverse and flexible, so don’t be afraid to substitute or go completely off piste. Their Christmas bagel is particularly amazing and, best of all, the sell Snapple. Hurrah!

Best for: MEAT. They have vegetarian food and it’s good, but their meaty fillings are superb. (Wait, that sounds rude…)

Wally’s Kaffeehaus

38-46 Royal Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AE | 029 2022 9265

Wally’s is great for buying lots of strange, intriguing foreign foods that you want but don’t necessarily need. If that sounds like a negative, it’s not – I love all of their products with a (perhaps) slightly unhealthy obsession with their chorizo. Mm.

They also have a coffee house, tucked away up the stairs where the breakfasts are filling but light. There’s a slant towards Austrian food and it’s great, so if you’re a fan of sausage (watch it) then I’d really suggest you give it a try one day. Their hot chocolate is also top notch.

Best for: A lazy breakfast, people watching over the Royal Arcade.

The Corner House

25 Caroline St, Cardiff CF10 1FF | 029 2022 8628

The Corner House is one of those places that we don’t eat at often, but when we do it’s good. It used to be our local of sorts before we moved house, and we’d often stop in with friends to grab a drink or two – they have a nice cocktails list and offer mulled cider in the winter, a Mia fave.

Their menu has moved more towards upmarket British classics recently, which is a move I wholeheartedly approve of, although steer clear of the deep fried halloumi, Sarah wasn’t a fan!

Best for: Drinks that turn into dinner that turns into ordering two puddings each.

Cafe Citta

4 Church Street, Cardiff CF10 1BG | 029 2022 4040

Cafe Citta is a firm favourite with my (half-Italian) boss, so I’m surprised that it took me so long to eat there. In fairness, we’d tried a couple of times before only to be turned away at the door – Cafe Citta is really, really tiny so try and go at a quiet time or book ahead if possible.

The food is delicious without being pretentious  – hearty Italian fair (you’ll find all the usual pizzas and pastas here) but far, far better than anything Pizza Express and Prezzo have to offer.

Surprisingly, there’s also some quite decent food for gluten free eaters like myself – I had the aubergine bake and it was amazing.

 Best for: Cosy, authentic Italian food.

Madame Fromage

18 Castle Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BW | 029 2064 4888

If you live in Cardiff, love cheese and haven’t been to Madam Fromage yet then I really don’t know what to do with you. Tucked inside Castle Arcade, they have a wonderful cheese counter full to the brim with local and international offerings. They also have a tiny cafe, where you can orders platters of their beautiful cheeses. Do this often, they are delicious.

Best for: Indulging your love of weird cheeses.

Pen Y Lan Pantry

72 Kimberley Road, Cardiff, CF23 5DN | 07854724980

Pen Y Lan Pantry is situated a couple of miles outside Cardiff City centre, but is on plenty of bus routes so don’t be afraid to go exploring for it one day. They offer a great selection of artisanal cheeses and meats, with homemade cakes and pies thrown in for good measure. It’s quite a small venue, but it’s full of charm and they even have a small shop section if you’re feeling inclined to recreate their goodies at home.

Best for: A quiet brunch when you’re tired of the city.

Y Mochyn Du

Sophia Close, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF11 9HW | 029 2037 1599

Y Mochyn Du is another one that’s a little bit outside the city centre but don’t let that put you off. It’s a bilingual pub, with Welsh speaking staff and menus so it’s a great place to go if you want to practice your Cymraeg! :) Their food is also delicious, especially the Sunday roast. Trust.

Best for: Practising your Welsh while stuffing your face.

Truffles

2-3 Church Street, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF10 1BG | 029 2021 0242

Truffles is one of those places that seems to have been in Cardiff since the dawn of time (in reality it’s been around since the 80s I think) and it doesn’t seem to have changed much since it was first opened. I like that tho – there is something wildly comforting about the lack of pretension at Truffles. The menu is honest and traditional, their roast is another one to seek out if you’re visiting / hungover (or both). It doesn’t look like much from the outside but it’ll be worth it, trust me.

Best for: Time travelling to the 80s (in a good way).

This post ended up way longer than I expected, ha. Look out for the 2nd part in the next few days, featuring the so called ‘chains’ of Cardiff. They’re still good, I promise.

In the meantime, let me know where else I should be eating – I’m a big fan of food in case you haven’t noticed ;)

31 for 31: Learn How to Make Delicious Cookies

Posted by in 31 for 31, Food Exploits, Projects

I’m a good cook, but a lousy baker. I can just about manage cakes and cupcakes but biscuits and cookies have always alluded me. Since going gluten-free I’ve found it even harder – the science of baking is even more difficult to tame when you’re dealing with tapioca starch and xanthan gum!

Last time I made cookies, this is how they turned out. Not great. I mean, they actually tasted okay but they looked like an absolute mess, ha.

My friend/boss Rob decided to help me out of my biscuit dilemma, and taught me how to make delicious cookies last month. I’ve made them twice now and both times they’ve been great so I’m counting this as a skill learnt! :) Thanks Rob!

Delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe

(adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 60g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 60g dark or light brown sugar
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 1 medium egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 90g gluten-free flour (I use Dove Farms self raising, usually)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Maldon, rock or sea salt is fine. Don’t use table salt!)
  • 100g coarsely chopped dark or milk chocolate

1. Beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth and creamy
2. Add in the egg and the vanilla
3. Stir the flour and salt into the beaten butter until combined, then mix in the chopped chocolate
4. Cover and chill the batter until firm. It’s preferable to let it rest overnight, apparently, if you can wait that long for delicious cookies. Give it at least 4 hours in the fridge or freezer if you can fit the bowl in
5. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat
6. Form the cookie dough into balls about the size of a large walnut. Place the balls evenly spaced on the baking sheet, and press down the tops to flatten them so they are no longer domed
7. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway during baking, until they look about set, but are not brown
8. Remove from oven. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then remove them with a spatula to a cooling rack

The only thing left to do after that is eat the delicious cookies. Om nom nom!

31 for 31: Make My Own Jam

Posted by in 31 for 31, Food Exploits, Projects

One of my 31 for 31 goals was to make my own jam.This was actually the first goal I ticked off the list, waaaay back in July, ha. I just forgot to, um, blog about it for a while. Oops?

I’ve always loved the idea of bottling and preserving my own foods, but wimped out every time the recipe got to the ‘now sterilise the jars’ bit. I’m not even sure why, really, it’s not like sterilising jars is at all difficult – I think I just got snagged on it and convinced myself it was way more difficult than it was!

My mum had some rhubarb in her garden, so rhubarb jam it was. It’s ridiculously simple really – boil up a load of fruit and sugar and shove it in a jar. Jam tarts optional, but delicious. Still, knowing how easy it is has boosted my confidence with preserves. Next stop, marmalade…

Rediscovering Breakfast

Posted by in Food Exploits

I’ve finally hit on a breakfast that I’m happy to eat every day. It only took me 30 years, which is a bit, uh, ridiculous, but hey – better late than never, right? (Granted, I usually eat breakfast between 10-11am so maybe I should just call this the first meal of the day, but still. Regular eating habits, I’ve got ’em!)

It might not seem like a big deal to regular folk, but I stopped eating breakfast when I was a teenager – partly because I wanted more time in bed, partly because I was a borderline (undiagnosed) anorexic – and I never got back into the habit. Eating early in the morning makes me feel kinda ill, so I normally don’t eat until at least lunchtime, and sometimes if I’m working from home then I won’t eat until about 4pm, which is pretty unhealthy, I think.

I’ve started a new exercise habit (a 10 minute HITT workout every morning, unless I’m doing some other exercise that day) and while I don’t eat before it, I’ve found that I’m hungrier now afterwards so I needed to find a breakfast that I could have post exercise.

The criteria:

  • Ease. If it’s not easy to make then I know I’ll fall out of the habit of doing it because I’m lazy.
  • Cost. Anything too expensive is out since this is something I’m going to be eating every day.
  • The sogginess factor. I hate cereal because I often get distracted and when I come back to it it’s soggy and mushy. Bluergh.
  • Wheat free. Since 2014 is wheat free year it had to be something that fit with that.
  • Light. Anything too heavy makes me feel sluggish and tired, so it needed to be light.
  • Cold. See sogginess – I leave things for ages, anything warm will be cold by the time I finally get around to eating it.
  • Minimal washing up. I hate doing the washing up, so the less I have to do the better.

So, what did I settle on?

20140410-222714.jpg

Greek yoghurt, with honey and at least two types of fresh fruit.

Yup.

Sorry if you were expecting something more, I dunno, interesting? I’ve been eating this daily for the past couple of weeks and I’m actually enjoying breakfast, which is a nice change. It’s filling but not over filling, it won’t go cold or soggy, is delicious, relatively inexpensive and it’s stupidly easy to put together. Whoop.

Here’s to making responsible health choices. Win! :)

Help, I Need Recipe Ideas

Posted by in Food Exploits, My Life In Lists

Laksa Lemak

One of the items on my Life List is make at least one meal from 25 different cuisines. I’m currently up to 20, and I’m stuck. (That photo is our Laksa Lemak recipe – it’s delicious and has become a staple at Chez Chong over the years)

So far we’ve cooked:

  1. Belgian: Carbonnade of beef
  2. Chinese: Egg fried rice (& many others)
  3. Cuban: Lechon asado
  4. French: Tuna nicoise
  5. Greek: Feta and lamb burgers
  6. Hungarian: Pork paprika
  7. Indian: Lamb rogan josh curry
  8. Indonesian: Beef rendang curry
  9. Italian: Tomato, butter & onion pasta sauce
  10. Japanese: Sushi & katsu curry
  11. Korean: Korean sizzling beef
  12. Macanese: Minchi
  13. Malaysian: Laksa lemak
  14. Mexican: Huevos rancheros
  15. Mongolian: Mongolian beef
  16. Moroccan: Tagine
  17. Polish: Golonka
  18. Spanish: Chickpea, chorizo and spinach stew
  19. Thai: French bean and duck thai curry
  20. Vietnamese: Vietnamese lamb shank

Some of those cuisines we’ve embraced and now cook from regularly, which is fun. I have a list of cuisines I’d like to try, but I’m struggling to find traditional recipes for some of them, or recipes where I’d readily be able to access all the ingredients. Putting pineapple and coconut in something and calling it Carribean isn’t going to work here, I think.

These are the cuisines I’m considering but I’m happy to be given other options:

  • Antiguan
  • Austrian
  • Brazillan
  • Carrribean
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Dutch
  • German
  • Irish
  • Lebanese
  • Middle Eastern (I’m not sure if this really counts – does this count?)
  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • Welsh

I suppose if I was being really lazy I could say that we already know how to cook English cuisine and probably something American but that feels like a bit of a cop out.

So! I’m turning to you. Do you have any tried and tested tasty recipes that I can borrow to help finish off my list? :)

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Posted by in Food Exploits

I decided to give up wheat and dairy in 2013 because although I love them both they do not seem to be all that fond of me (*sob*). We cook a lot at home and it’s very much been a trial and error process working out what recipes we can adapt and which ones we’ll have to relegate to the back of the recipe folder for now. I haven’t really found a good substitute for cheese or double cream yet (although I’ve finally found some soya single cream so I can make carbonara again, horray!) – it seems far easier to replace wheat than dairy at the moment.

This is mostly for my record so I can keep track of what we’ve tried, but I’ll try and write up some of these recipes soon for anyone who’s also trying something similar. If anyone has any favourite wheat free and dairy free recipes feel free to share, we haven’t got a large stock at the moment and I’m getting bored of salad ;)

Wheat free and dairy free recipes we have successfully made:
Chocolate chunk brownies
French onion soup
Cherry jam and apple crumble
Pizza dough
Walnut and rocket pesto
Chocolate mousse

Wheat free and dairy free recipes that were a bit of a disaster:
Bread (so many times. Sigh)
Bread rolls
Cookies
Whipped coconut cream (apparently it’s supposed to be just like double cream but it bloody wasn’t for me and I was pissed)

I’ve got a whole board of wheat free food to try, and I recently bought this wheat free and dairy free cookbook so hopefully we’ll be able to find a few more things to add to our repertoire. I must admit, I thought it’d be harder to give them up (it always has been before) but this year I think it finally clicked – the only person who can do for me is me. If I want to feel better I need to avoid the foods that make me feel bad, instead of knowing that and then eating them anyway.

Well gosh, wasn’t this dull? Sorry kidlets.  My blog my rules ;)

What I’ve Been Up To Lately – In Photos

Posted by in A Little Conversation, Food Exploits

I’ve been absent from here for quite some time. Mostly wedding, job and life stress has made me less inclined to post – rather than try and catch up on six months of updates I’m going to catch up from now and try and update as I go. 

We went to London a little over a month ago to eat burgers and catch up with some friends pre-wedding. It’s been a while since I went to London to see someone other than the best friend (our visits normally revolve around pubs and chinese food) so I wanted to take advantage of it and get my grubby paws on a doughnut and a burger. We spotted:

Tiny Singers in the Sea

Singer In The Sea

We popped over to the Tate Modern whilst we were in London and spotted this guy doing an impromptu performance (complete with a mike stand and an electric guitar) whilst standing in the Thames. Like you do.

Doughnuts at St Johns

Doughnuts

Doughnut Eating

Leni

The Boy & Lady Velo

We met up with Ian, Jools, Leni and Owen for doughnuts at St Johns Bakery and Coffee at Monmouth Street before heading to Meat Liquor and meeting up with Aaron to consume some delicious burgers and deep fried pickles.

Alexandra Palace

We also met up with Amy, Anna and Andrew (triple A!) for a wander around Alexandra Palace.

Deer

There are deer there. Who knew?

All of these were shot on the Minolta 35mm. Dreamy little camera. There are more on my Flickr stream if anyone remotely cares.

It’s nice to be able to introduce people to each other before the wedding – it’s only 15 weeks away now but it still feels like a complete dream at this point. It’ll feel real eventually, right?

Things I Learnt To Cook At The Weekend

Posted by in Food Exploits

* Fudge
* Bacon jam
* Mussels in an aromatic coconut broth
* Braised pork with pak choi and leek
* Banana and butterscotch ripple mousse

Dinner party for nine was ambitious but a lot of fun. (phew)

Recipes to Try

Posted by in Food Exploits

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a ‘foodie’ (altho I don’t associate anything negative with the title) but I do love food. I like to cook and I like to find new recipes. I spotted these three on What Katie Does a little while ago but haven’t gotten around to actually making them yet. If anyone has any experience of them, feel free to give me a shout :) Katie’s pictures looked delicious.

Raspberry and white chocolate blondies
I’m sort of ashamed at how long it took me to work out what a blondie was. I had heard people talking about them, and seen blog posts mentioning them and in my head I was imagining a sort of yellow biscuit, I think. It wasn’t until I saw the picture that I realised, duh, they were just a yellow batter brownie.

I’ve never actually made brownies so I’m not sure how good I’ll be at making their lighter counterpart but I’m pretty desperate to give it a go.

Butternut Hummus
I love butternut squash but I never really know what to do with it past making it into a soup or roasting it stuffed with some other veg and some cheese. I like the idea of making a cold dip with it so I couldn’t really pass this one by since I’m seemingly obsessed with hummus.

 As an aside, why are there so many different spellings for hummus? Houmus, houmous, hummus. It makes my head hurt.

Aubergine dip and barbecued poppadums
Q isn’t a fan of aubergine (or dips in general for that matter) so this one might have to wait for a night that we have company. (Maybe Amy would like to come over and try it, I know she likes aubergine :) She did a lovely stuffed aubergine recipe, here). I quite like aubergine but often find the skins a little greasy so I think blending it into a dip might be what I need to really start to love them. Nom.

 I have a folder full of favourites from the BBC Good Food website so expect another one of these in the near future and if you have any suggestions for recipes in the meantime don’t be afraid to let me know them :)