Venice ¦ Part 4

I don't think I need to blab on about how hot or how beautiful Venice is again in this post (you can find those posts here and here, respectively). Instead I'll tell you that we went out for dinner on Wednesday night and watched the sun set while tucking in pasta for me and sliced beef for Mikey. At least one of us was getting stuck into some typical Italian cuisine, huh!

This post is mainly picture heavy (you're welcome). And it seems like Venice was such a long time ago now even though it was technically still last month. WHERE does time go!?

Let me know what you think of this post...or Venice...or life in general (!) in the comments.
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Venice ¦ Part 3

In Venice you'll either be walking on foot or hopping onto a water taxi. Yep, a water taxi. Sounds fun, huh? Try going on one in mid July when the lovely idea of a water taxi turns into the horrendous reality of what is essentially a green house on water. The things are nasty hot in July and absolutely unbearable unless you can stand outside where there's a slight sea breeze. Me and Mikey would quite happily never set foot on one again.

Back on the ground however and without our spirits dampened, we headed up the tower in Saint Marks square to get some aerial views of our surroundings. I could almost say Venice is as beautiful by air as it is on foot, but actually - it's not. You can't see any of the canals or bridges or burnt English people or Chinese people with selfie sticks - and no one wants that. But it is worth going up because the views are breathtaking nonetheless.

But that's enough of the aerial views. Back to street view where we wandered and drank prosecco and wandered and drank more prosecco and wandered and ate some ice-cream. Bliss. Time for some more of that sweet Italian loving firmly on the ground starting with this piece of geometrical heaven in Saint Marks square...

Have you ever been to Venice? How did you find it?!

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The Great British Bake Off: E01 Review

Photo courtesy of The Guardian
How good does it feel to see them all walking single file and nervous into the baking tent again? Almost too good to handle. Thirty whole challenges for us arm-chair bakers to sink our teeth into.

Mary “Bez” Berry is back in her staple matching-hot-pink attire and Paul['s smouldering eyes don't look like they've lost any heat since last season. Not to mention, our first sight of Mel and Sue is of them doing exercise the only way I know how – when I’m lunging for cake. Those girls know what’s what and I’m loving this so far.

So, first challenge: Madeira cake and our first opportunity to get to know our bakers. Like normal. there’s a vast array of jobs here - none of which lend themselves to the archetypal cake baker. There's a photographer, a nurse, a prison governor, a trainee anesthetist and a singer in a band to name a few (and is this the first time the tent has seen tattoos?!). But, of course, all outside professions are left at the door when the oven gloves are on.

The first bake goes past rather uneventfully. No serious disasters yet and I can’t tell whether I’m happy about this or sad. What I have learned from this round however, is that my Madeira cakes have been lacking gin up until this point. Lots of gin. 7 shots of gin in fact.  Genius, Mat, genius.

Onto round two, queue shaking knees because it’s the filling of the bake off sandwich: the technical challenge. Since when was a tiny piece of paper so scary!? When Mary and Paul smugly look upon their own perfectly coiffed cake - that’s when. But seriously, Mary’s cake looks a jolly sight better than any cake ever made EVER (how does she do it?! Is it made of plasticine?! Are the angels in heaven not missing her?!).

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

It's now that we have our first minor issue of the series – a wonky cake. Rookie error and armchair baker syndrome kicking in all around the country because obviously we’ve never, ever baked a wonky cake…what a total school boy. (Ahem).

Round two is also time for Sue to whip out one of the first tragically fantastic GBBO jokes of the season: as Tamal’s hands shake while he pops on his caramelized walnuts, she quips “Thank god you’re not a surgeon”. Barf, she’s at it again because, obviously, he’s a trainee anaesthetist. Classic top class BBC1 humour that you only ever get once a year on bake off. I’m so comfy in my seat right now.

It is Lithuania's very own, Ugne, who wins the technical challenge. Almost too quickly I might add because the squirmy-nervous-stool moments are my favourites. But there’s 12 contestants to get through and we’ve only got an hour so…

It’s 1970s, it’s black Forrest gateau, its show time. Do I feel bad that some of the bakers weren’t even alive when this little baby came out? Most definitely not.

Baker’s get baking, SMEG refrigerators get their air time and Mel and Sue continue proving why Ant and Dec are overrated.

With one throw away comment I already know who I’m backing this year. It’s Dorret, and I quote: “I like working with chocolate, I like working with alcohol”. Yep, I’ve found my champion.

My faith in dear old D is short lived, however, as we begin to witness our first tears in the bake off tent. And sadly they’re running almost as much as her cake is. I’m laughing because if I’m not laughing I might be crying. Much like #Alaskagate of yester-year, it’s sloppy, it’s upsetting and it probably should be going in the bin.

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

But luckily not everyone’s Black Forrest Gateau is quite as squirmy as Dorret’s is and I spend the next 5 minutes with my jaw on the floor wondering how people ever have the patience to make a tree (let alone an elephant) out of chocolate. I take my hat off to them, cake doesn’t last long enough to be decorated in my household and I am very, very impressed.

Personally, the winner for me in this showstopper is Flora. Her cake is perfectly symmetrical, beautifully coloured and with only nineteen years of experience (assuming she’s been baking from the womb - not entirely unlikely) it really is a wonder to behold. Paul and Mary, however, go with another fully deserving candidate: Marie. She didn’t put a toe out of line either so I’m not too mad just yet.

The tent then claims its first victim, and regrettably it’s Stu. Obviously bowler hats are bad luck in the baking world and his musical talents don’t quite transcend to baking. I'm a little bit sad because I didn't want those tattoos off my screen juuuust yet.

But it’s only round one and I don’t know anyone well enough to cry at departures yet (give me till week four at least…) so happy smiles all round and a warm feeling in my heart that Wednesday nights just got 10 times tastier.

The first bake off of the year has begun and I for one am already counting down the days until next week. Biscuits, baby!

Did you watch the Bake Off? Who are you backing?! Have you missed Mary as much as I have? (No.) 

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