Cocktail in hand – 2017, a year in review

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but hopefully you’ve been following on Instagram!  This week, Facebook did it’s year in review video for me and reminded me of a few things which happened this year, but here’s a highlight for the blog.

NYE eve fireworks at Magic Kingdom
NYE dance party at Italy, Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off January 2017 partying at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, USA.  We arrived a few days earlier and saw the NYE fireworks the night before New Years Eve, this was a great tip so to see NYE fireworks in both parks.  Epcot celebrated when it turned midnight in each country and I would definitely do it again, of course the speciality glow cocktails and Grey Goose slush cocktails in France certainly got the party started!

Enjoying the speciality glow cocktail in France, Epcot, NYE
NYE fireworks at Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d took a trip to Disney World to carry our wedding planning and menu tasting sessions and whilst there enjoyed our favourite theme parks.  After Florida, we flew back to the UK to see friends and family, we’d flew in from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and then Germany, so although the flights were getting a bit much, it was lovely to see them for a little longer after being away over a year.  Of course we enjoyed plenty of cocktails with them!

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in January, we headed back to Australia.  We spent most of the year in Sydney whilst saving up for our wedding.  Although we managed a few trips such as the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay.  We enjoyed going to Vivid, tourist attractions, some trance nights and bunny sitting, plus getting a city centre apartment.  For my birthday weekend we enjoyed various cocktails including at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 360 Dining and the dry ice skull cocktails at Assembly Bar.  Many more cocktails were of course consumed at the various happy hours I managed to find!!

Birthday cocktails at 360 Dining above Sydney
Working my way through the various skull dry ice cocktails at Assembly Bar, Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Martini photo at the Tower of Terror Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, courtesy of Misty Miotto Photography 

In October, we headed back to the UK to catch up with family for a quick trip prior to the wedding.  We enjoyed the rest of October and early November in Florida celebrating our Disney World wedding.  Our favourite wedding cocktail was a Bramble for the early evening, and at the after party we had a Purple Martini, a sweet and sour twist on a Cosmopolitan, complete with glow cubes.  Later in the trip we enjoyed various visits to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a firm must do for my year!  This year it was super fun with our family and friends

 

November also saw us take a trip to New Orleans, were I sampled the famous Grenade cocktail and drank Love Potion No.9 shots in a Vampire Speakeasy.  They helped ease the fact that my unbacked up iPhone broke and I lost all my photos from the last few months.

 

We followed that by a trip to New York, of course many cocktails were consumed there, and I loved checking out the small bars.  Following that we headed back to the UK, were I tested out a few new places.

Today’s view of the Sydney city skyline

 

December sees us just arrive back in Sydney, writing this I have a perfect view of the city skyline complete with the Harbour Bridge.

 

Who knows what 2018 will bring, my life has most definitely become less organised!  But one thing’s for sure, it will certainly involve more cocktails and travel!

 

Darling Harbour happy hour cocktails
Working our way through the Hard Rock happy hour cocktails!

The perfect Cosmopolitan at home

I never used to drink Cosmopolitans, but I’ve got totally into them at the moment!  Saving for that holiday, or want to quit your job to go travelling?  One tip to save money on drinking out is to drink at home, or even pre-drink before you go out so you don’t spend as much.  For instance, organise a girls night in, get each friend to bring a different bottle of spirits and supply the fruit, ice, snacks etc to make your own.  Host a party where people bring their own drinks or have a movie night and ask friends to bring a bottle.

If you haven’t got a cocktail shaker, you can pick one up here, of course lovely cocktail glasses go down a treat too!

Here’s a cosmopolitan recipe to get you started.

Ingredients:
25ml vodka (if you want to mix it up a little you can try citron vodka)
25ml triple sec
75ml cranberry juice
25ml fresh lime juice
Orange peel or a lime slice
Ice

Method:
Add the ice to the cocktail shaker and pour in all the ingredients, except the fruit. Shake well and strain into a cooled martini glass. Garnish with orange vest or a lime slice. If you’re a perfectionist, rub the edge of the glass with the citrus for each flavor.  Enjoy!

 

48 hours in Sydney: Coastal walks, scenic views, city sights and cocktails of course!

Australia is such a vast country, there is so much to explore, so you can be forgiven if you only have a short time to explore Sydney. Here’s my guide for 48 hours in Sydney to get to see some of the top sights, whilst enjoying some cocktails and exploring more of Sydney than the city centre.

Saturday:

9:00am

Enjoy a light snack and a drink at one of Sydney’s many cafes and coffee shops. I’m not a coffee drinker, but from what I hear Australia’s coffee is the best, so make sure you check it out!

9:45am

Head to Coogee (the bus is easy from the city). Enjoy the beach and have a stroll around.

10:30am

Take brunch at Coogee Pavilion to set you up for the day and your walk ahead.

11:15am

Walk the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi Beach. Make sure you bring your camera to capture some scenic shots as you pass Gordons Bay.

12:00noon

Stop off at Clovelly Beach, enjoy watching people swimming.

1:00pm

Pass by Waverley Cemetery for some atmospheric shots.

1:30pm

Carry on, stopping for photos at Bronte Beach and Tamara Beach.

2:00pm

Arrive at Bondi and head to Icebergs for some lunch, to enjoy seasonally inspired modern Australian food (they have a cocktail menu too if you enjoy an afternoon drink!). Make sure to take photos of the pool! If you fancy a dip, it’s $6.50 for swimming or $4.50 for spectators, which includes sauna entry.

3:45pm

Head back into the city, stopping in for an hour at the Paddington markets which are open to 5pm. Every Saturday there have over 150 stalls offering Australian fashion, art, jewellery and food stalls. Perfect for those souvenirs, much better than the tacky kangaroo balls you’ll find around the city!

5:00pm

Head back to your accommodation to freshen up before dinner.

7:00pm

Head over to Cockle Bay Wharf at Darling Harbour to enjoy a meal at Café del Mar, enjoying relaxing but upbeat music whilst dining on their tasty menu. I’ve enjoyed the sharing lamb ($64), their menu changes regularly so I’ve actually tried a few flavours of this dish! Just this week I’ve enjoyed this season’s menu of slow cooked Merryland lamb shoulder accompanied with salsa verde. If like me, you’ve managed to snap up a groupon or scoopon voucher for this restaurant you’ll need to make an earlier booking for the first tables of the night, but it’s well worth the saving. Along with fries ($9), it’s far too much for two people and could easily feed three!

8:30pm/9:00pm

If you’re lucky you’ll have timed your visit to co-inside with the Darling Harbour fireworks.

9:30pm

Next it’s time for some views, take your pick of the Shangri-La Hotel to enjoy the stunning views whilst drinking cocktails at their rooftop bar, or head up to the Sky Tower to the 360 bar, to sample their cocktail menu.

11:30pm

If you’re not yet feeling ready for bed, make the most of the evening, head to one of Sydney’s clubs such as Chinese Laundry, Home to check out Sydney’s night life, or test out a backpacker’s bar such as Scary Canary.

Sunday:

7:30am

Early start today! Grab a light bite and head to the Opera House to capture your photos of this iconic building in all of it’s glory before the morning crowds arrive.  make sure you snap the Sydney Harbour Bridge too, it’d be hard to miss it’s looming presence.

8:00am

On a Sunday using an Opal card only costs $2.50 all day! So next head to Circular Quay to take the ferry to Rose Bay, make sure you take some shots of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

8:15am

Head from Rose Bay up towards the Hermitage Foreshore Walk. If you didn’t get chance to eat breakfast, Sonoma in Rose Bay has some tasty treats! Take the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, where you’ll pass Hermit Bay. There’s some stunning views of the city in the distance, look closely and you can see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

9:15am

Snap away some more photos at Milk beach and if you like head for the grounds of Strickland House, before arriving at Shark Beach for a break

10:00am

Carry on, making sure you take in views of the boats at the Beach Paddock. If you fancy it, hop off the track and head over to Vaucluse House and wander around it’s gardens.

10:15am

Head over the bridge at Parsley Bay, this is one of my favourite sights in Sydney, the green blue water is so inviting. Take a dip if you like!

11:15am

Explore Kutti Beach and Gibson’s Beach reserve before arriving at Watsons Bay.

12:00pm

After all that walking you’ll have worked up a thirst, stop in at the Watson’s Bay Hotel. Take a seat overlooking the bay, sit back and enjoy people watching in the sunshine.

1:00pm

Head over to the Gap to take some photos looking over the cliffs, before heading to the ferry wharf.

1:30pm

Jump back on the ferry at Watsons Bay. You’ll get some more amazing views as the ferry takes you back to Circular Quay.

1:45pm

Wander through The Rocks, this historic area of Sydney’s city centre on an interesting jaunt.

2:00pm

After all that walking you’ll have built up quite an appetite. Stop into El Camino Cantina, where you can sample their Tex Mex Sunday brunch. For $29 you can add a bar package for 1 hour in addition to your brunch. Go on, after all that exercise I think a few margaritas are in order!! Make sure you check out their monthly margarita flavour. Out of the standard choices, my favourite is the frozen mango margarita, and it’s great to cool down on a hot day.

3:00pm

Head through The Rocks to Darling Harbour via Barangaroo, enjoy a leisurely walk around Darling Harbour and stop off at Mediterranea restaurant for happy hour (usually 3-6pm) for $10 cocktails or jugs of lager. With all that walking it’ll be nice to chill out.

5:00pm

Head over the bridge and off to Meat District Co. at King Street Wharf, to catch happy hour ($8 cocktails, $5 wines, beers and spirits) before it ends at 6pm. Enjoy a delicious meal, my favourite is the Lamb Hook – tender lamb rump, full of flavour marinated with rosemary and garlic, skewered as a hanging kebab with capsicum (pepper to me!), onion and corn on the cob accompanied with a creamy garlic sauce, served with French fries, sprinkled with rosemary and thyme salt ($35). Or if you’re feeling healthy swap the fries for salad.

8:30pm

By this time I think you’ll be worn out, but if you’re not wander around Darling Harbour and stop off for a drink or too, cocktail in hand is usually where you’ll find me!

Have a few extra days to explore Sydney? Then I’d suggest taking a trip to Manly, head to the Blue Mountains for the day or Taronga Zoo.

Need a hotel in Sydney?  Click here

 



Eating and drink ‘around the world’ at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

I love the Epcot World Showcase at Disneyworld, Florida, but between September and November it becomes super special as over 30 stalls are adding selling additional food and drinks, Disney describes as ‘a culinary adventure’.  For 2017 it runs from 31 August through until 13 November.  If you’re not local to Florida, I’d suggest visiting Monday to Thursday as weekends can be really busy. This year if you are on the Disney dining plan you can even exchange your table service and quick service credits for 3 snack credits to be used on food (unfortunately not alcohol)! Admission to Epcot is required to attend the festival and guest must be over 21 to purchase alcohol. You can pick up a passport with details of the food and drink available and have fun getting it stamped around ‘the world’! In addition, there are also ‘Eat to the Beat’ Concerts and culinary displays, in addition to Halloween, this truly makes fall my favourite time to visit Orlando.

We’ve visited the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, Disneyworld a few years running, 2016 was the first year we didn’t attend since going on our first trip together there not attending. This year is a definite for sure, since we’ll be getting married out there we get to take our nearest and dearest!  Here’s a look back at our previous eats, I believe mostly still available.  We’ll definitely try and feature the countries we’ve missed when we get to go back. I’m not going to cover restaurant* meals in this post, but they will definitely feature on the blog at a later date, I mean, who doesn’t love Disney food?!

Australia:

Prawns and lamb at Australia

Grilled lamb chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies – I always thought this belonged to New Zealand, but apparently not! This was tasty lamb, topped with potato chips (or crisps to fellow Brits like me!). Yum, I could just eat one of these right now, definitely a winner!
Grilled sweet and spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, peppers, onions, and snap peas – These prawns were pretty tasty, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth a go! I prefer my prawns with garlic (plus sometimes chilli), but the accompaniments were fine for something a little different.

Belgium:

Potato and leek waffle with beer-braised beef and smoked gouda cream – I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one but I was pleasantly impressed. I can’t remember there being a strong taste of gouda, but would definitely get again.
Canada:

Canadian cheddar cheese soup – If you haven’t been to Le Cellier, this is definitely worth a go, extremely rich and tasty, full of flavour. I believe for 2016 it also includes a pretzel roll would be a lovely welcome addition for dipping!
“Le Cellier” wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce – At one of the more expensive samples of the festival this is definitely worth using a snack credit for. Whilst I’m not a major fan of mushroom, this was just lovely. All in all based on the offerings we’ve tasted at Canada, I’m definitely needing to make a reservation at Le Cellier!  (Edit since writing this we’ve been and it was amazing!)

China:

Beijing roasted duck in steamed bun with hoisin sauce – I think the reason we’ve rated so highly on what we’ve chosen is because we usually stick to what we think we will like. In future years we need to be more adventurous and of course that just means more trips to Disney!  This one however was a disappointment, at home in England we really enjoy Chinese crispy Peking duck with pancakes and hoisin sauce, so this one seemed like a winner. However the duck was very fatty so we felt short changed. Also we didn’t enjoy the consistency of the steamed bun, it felt a bit sloppy. I feel I should give this another go, we might of just had bad luck with the fatty duck, but won’t be racing back to eat this one again.
France:

La Passion Martini Slush – Whilst I really

The orange and citron slushes available all year roundenjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

enjoyed this 2015 addition, the flavour could not beat the usual Grey Goose Orange Slush made with Grand Mariner which is sold year round at France. Definitely worth a taste though if you’re at the festival – I love these slush cocktails and great to cool down from the Florida heat.

Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush – I’ve got a big crush for Cosmopolitans at the moment and would love one of these 2014’s edition right now! Again couldn’t beat the Grey Goose Orange Slush, but definitely worth checking out, especially if you are partial to sweet and sour tastes.

This was made with Grey Goose Le Citron vodka, cranberry and passion fruit juice.

Greece:

Spanakopita – This vegetarian offering was one of John’s favourites. Whilst I enjoyed it, I did not feel quite the same way. I felt it was a bit greasy and would have benefitted from the addition of meat. I would try it again, but would prefer to try other offerings first we haven’t yet tasted.
Hawai’i:

Kālua pork slider with sweet and sour Dole® Pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise – I was really expecting to enjoy this, however found it a bit sloppy. I’m really not into wet burgers and repeatedly in Australia keep eating burgers lately which a soggy bottom bun, it’s my pet peeve. To improve this, I think they need to ditch the mayonnaise, but put a little more of the pineapple chutney on, would add to the flavour.
Mexico:

Tequila Flight – I don’t recall eating at this stall as we go a bit nuts for the quick service restaurant in Mexico*. However we did choose to share the tequila flight – 3 shots of different flavoured tequila, including silver and gold. On this occasion I was pretty tipsy later on after experience (plus a few margaritas of course!) – mostly due to the tequila flight, which me and John were supposed to share. However after the first sip he chickened out, turns out the first one was the nicest, the other two could put hairs on your chest, so I definitely got the raw deal! Unless you’re looking to get shit-faced, I’d recommend avoiding this, I’m sure in Cava Del Tequila you could purchase better quality shots.
* I feel the need here to mention and explain the quick service restaurant La Cantina San Angel, which is open all year round. The nachos there are a huge hit for us, which are a staple every trip, and are a great use of a quick service credit. Great value, you can choose what you add, plus then there’s more sauces to help yourself to. Time it right – early before the fireworks and you can enjoy watching them with a seat and of course a few margaritas! We have also had the tacos, however have not found quite as enjoyable as they were quite sloppy.


 

 

Patagonia: 

Grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce and boniato purée – this was pretty tasty and whilst didn’t make it into the favourites, was definitely worth testing out. The chimichurri sauce was a nice addition, although not as spicy as what we’ve had elsewhere.
Scotland:

Seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon – I’m often really fussy about scallops as I like them over cooked and not ever had them in a cheese sauce before this offering. We really enjoyed this, it was an unexpected surprise and the sauce and bacon complimented it really well. Definitely one to try again!

 

Sustainable Chew:

Pork Spareribs with red wine, fennel, and cheesy mascarpone grits – A new addition in 2015, this doesn’t quite fit with idea of countries, however it was a busy weekend evening and the queues were rather large, this one not so much, so we decided to give it a go. I’m not usually a fennel fan so wasn’t expecting to enjoy this, however it was actually pretty good. The ribs were fall off the bone soft and the grits were a welcome accompaniment I wouldn’t have thought to pair. Happily surprised.

 

I can’t wait to get back to Epcot again in October 2017 to get tasting some more!!