I have been getting back into reading lately - of the non-academic variety, and one of my recent-ish reads (okay, this was probably about 6 months ago) was Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Having read Fingersmith, I was eager to see if the other books were as good. Although Tipping the Velvet was okay (don't mention that horrific dramatisation on TV, that basically cut out half the book) it still wasn't as good as Fingersmith. However, I finished the book with a real craving for...oysters. The story focuses on the lead character Nan, or Nancy, from Whitstable, Kent (on the east coast). The way that Sarah Waters describes the hustle and bustle of Nan's family's oyster restaurant - the sounds and smells from the cooking, made me really want to eat oysters. As I was reading the opening and closing pages, I could literally smell and taste the salty, slurpy morsels.
So, whilst on a visit to my friend - and fellow TTV reader - Emma's abode, I jokingly mentioned that one day we should visit Whitstable in honour of Nan. Low and behold, the Whitstable Oyster Festival was taking place from the 23 July! So, what did we do? We went to Whitstable to scoff oysters! Now, I have to say that this was incredibly brave of Emma as she'd never eaten an oyster in her life. I am glad to report that she is now a fellow oyster slurper!
Man shucking our oysters
Whitstable at twilight
We also ventured to Wheelers Oyster Bar which is the quaintest oyster establishment ever (not that I've been to that many). The restaurant itself had a tiny seafood bar (seats about 5 people max.) and a little restaurant which seats about 12. I know, micro business or what? The service was lovely, and they answered all of our random questions. I tried brown shrimp - which delicious by the way- and a hake dish with some Kentish paella! I felt completely virtuous for eating a week's worth of omega 3s in one sitting!
Wheelers (a bride was having her wedding pictures taken at the time!)
My yummy hake dish with Kentish paella
Of course a 'break' wouldn't be a break without some baking...Rachel and Vicki paid me a spontaneous visit the other weekend and my immediate reaction was 'ah, an excuse to bake something new'. This coupled with the anxiety of what to serve for breakfast, I decided that brioche would definitely be a winner. Dough = good. Butter = good. And I was right. It went down a treat with some sweet strawberry conserve. I used Rachel Allen's recipe which was easy to follow, apart from the actual assembly of the dough to get the classic brioche shape. Hence why mine look a little lop-sided. The loaf however, I was quite impressed with. I even got approval from an actual French national who said that 'you could sell this in France, just don't tell them that, er, you know...' 'that I've had absolutely no training whatsover?' 'yes, and that you're not French'. Nuff said.
Loaf of brioche
Things would not be complete without some cupcakes now, would they? Inspired by the ice cream man, I bring you Vanilla Dream Sundae and Strawberry Sundae! A yummy vanilla sponge topped with vanilla buttercream (with lots of vanilla bean paste - almost too much!) and strawberry-vanilla buttercream! I couldn't believe how ice-creamy they tasted!
Mmmm, creamy Vanilla Dream Cupcake
Hurrah for Strawberry Sundae!
I'll leave it at that for the moment. I have some exciting news in store some time this month so watch this space!