Halloween often leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I’m never entirely sure what I should be doing. I’m a little mature for trick or treating, but I still like to take part in celebrations in some way. I like getting into the spooky “spirit” – no pun intended. So this year I have made a conscious effort to search out my perfect Halloween night.
Many of the cities around the country are holding ghost walks or tours, which delve into the murky past of some of Britain’s oldest and supposedly haunted areas. I love a good ghoulish story so I was heartened to find that so many events are happening. Here are some of my favourites.
The Trial of Dr. Knox (from the Burke and Hare story) at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh .
Malloween at the Liverpool Malmaison, complete with monstrous munchies and creepy cocktails.
The Clink Prison, London, is Britian’s oldest prison and was a place of torture and suffering. Tour it if you dare.
Witching hour at Oxford Castle, home to a 900 year old crypt and a curse.
And if you’re slightly more faint of heart or have children in tow, the Halloween Disco and Ghost Tour for kids in Edinburgh may be more your thing? And if you’re anywhere near Cambridge, pop into Hotel du Vin for some pumpkin cheesecake with cinnamon ice cream. The staff have a pumpkin carving contest between themselves and all the pumpkins will be displayed in the library and lit at night.
Perhaps you prefer to stay indoors and scare yourself with a movie.
Here are my top 5 films and top 5 dishes to get you into that Halloween state of mind.
- Halloween – setting the precedent for many horror films that followed. Still makes you shiver with the feeling that you’re being watched.
- Nightmare on Elm Street – Making the comfort of sleep horrifying
- The birds – maybe that’s where my fear of pigeons comes from!
- Final Destination series – turning every day happenings into terrifying events.
- Stephen King’s IT – Clowns. Need I say more?
- Pumpkin soup. After spending hours carving out a pumpkin, the least you can do with it is make a superb soup for those chilly nights.
- Spicy batwings. Chicken wings with a twist.
- Apple pie. All those bobbed apples have to go somewhere, right?
- Spaghetti. A worm inspired pasta main – not for the faint hearted.
- Risotto. A maggot like dish can easily be created here.
Do you agree? What’s your favourite scary movie and what will you be eating while watching it?
Whatever you choose to do, whether it’s dressing up as a pumpkin and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or hiding in darkened room with a scary film, be sure to have a stupendously spooky time.
Celebrations are in order. We’ve been given another chance to appreciate the sunshine and relax a little with the arrival of this beautiful Indian summer. So don’t shelve the barely worn shorts and sandals just yet, there’s still plenty of alfresco dining, Champagne afternoon teas on the terrace and maybe the odd barbecue still to be had.
If you were a little disappointed with the summer and missed out on that holiday feeling, think of this as a stroke of good fortune. Steal a moment at lunch to sit in the warm air. Take the opportunity after work to dine alfresco with friends over a bottle of chilled sparkling wine recommended by the sommelier. Set your alarm clock a little earlier to catch the most stunning sunrise to inspire you for the day ahead and grab a coffee and some you-time before nine.
It’s not often we get a second chance, so let’s grab this one with both hands and have a most wonderful Indian summer. After all, autumn is just around the corner.
Ross Bootland. Head Chef at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Newcastle
Ross trained at the prestigious Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh for 2 years, winning Scottish Junior Seafood Chef of the Year, before moving down to London to add to his experience at the Manderin Oriental for a year. It was after this that he joined the Malmaison group in 1997 for 5 years – beginning in Edinburgh opening Newcastle, Manchester and Leeds and returning to Edinburgh.
He has also previously held position of Head Chef for Dakota Hotels in Glasgow and then for Forth Bridge Edinburgh achieving several awards in a short space of time including:
Hotel Restaurant of the Year 2008
Restaurant of the Year Scotland 2008
Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2008
and nominated as one of the top ten in Scotland.
Ross has been inspired over the years in particular by Keith Shearer, Executive Head Chef of Hotel du Vin and Malmaison and by award winning Roy Brett, Head Chef of Ondine Restaurant.
Ross is now Head Chef at Hotel du Vin Newcastle. Take a look at his favourite dishes and take part in the Northern Face-off on Facebook Hotel du Vin Newcastle.
It is fair to say that the British climate is sporadic at best. A patch of warm weather brings a flurry of wardrobe rearrangements to find the summer dresses and bare leg exposing shorts. But it also gives the ideal temperature to sit outdoors, take in some fresh air and dabble in a little after work tipple or have a nibble on something straight off the barbecue. We are great fans of all things alfresco – Veuve Clicquot in the Courtyard Champagne Bar at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, the garden at Tunbridge Wells or sitting under the sails at Poole with an ice-cold beer. There is something that makes you feel relaxed and free when you’re able to wine and dine outdoors, as if on holiday. We say bring on the Indian summer and plenty more balmy nights. Of course, if the sky looks temperamental we’d just head to Hotel du Vin York who are prepared for every eventuality to prevent dampened spirits with the brilliant installation of a retractable roof. Indoors outdoors or outdoors indoors, you choose. Just one question to ask – who’s up for a spot of alfresco?
Thank you so much for all your comments, feedback and dinner party lists, we have really enjoyed the discussion of who to invite to the ultimate dinner party and had some excellent suggestions. Although there are no right or wrong answers, as promised there does have to be a winner. Congratulations Teresa Barnard you are our winner (your name was pulled out of the punchbowl first). We hope you enjoy your dinner party with whoever you choose to invite.
I’m organised for once. I’ve bought my card in advance. Isn’t this one of those dates to remember, that unlike Mother’s Day, often gets forgotten? I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the macho versus emotions thing. Well this year, I want to make sure it and he gets remembered. He deserves to be put on a pedestal. It’s the perfect opportunity (or excuse) to have a family get-together over dinner. I’m thinking of surprising him with a whisky tasting too. A bit of quality time over some quality drams. A little treat is the least I can do. He makes me laugh. He’s always in my corner on any of my battles and my biggest supporter in any of my achievements. He nurtures the most amazing plants with the greenest of fingers. Has the innate ability to fix a car over the telephone line. And he’s always made the most perfect boiled eggs with soldiers. And that just skims the surface of my appreciation. So here’s a little reminder for those who feel the same as me. June 19th let’s fly the flag for fathers and for all the loans, taxis, advice, laughs and dippy boiled eggs, take some time out to say thank you.
I should do this more often, Father’s Day or not.
I’ve been asked a few times over a glass or two of vino, who would be the top ten people on my invite list to a dinner party hosted by moi. The rules are: they need to be famous, well known or historical and can be from any time/any era.
Now most of these don’t take much pondering over – I have a list as long as my arm I’d like to invite, full of the people that intrigue or inspire. The key is collating the most cunning mix of characters that, to me, bring something to the table. Here’s my list and why (in no particular order):
1. My first invite goes to the iconic Marilyn Monroe. A classic beauty and with poise rarely seen these days. I imagine she has a fair few secrets to tell.
2. Bill Murray – the sense of humour to break the ice and of all the comedic guests – he’s one of my favourites.
3. I’ve always had a great respect for Richard Branson – his business mind mixed with daring ‘live life to the full’ attitude inspires that anything is possible.
4. Mark Zuckerberg – A lucky find or a stroke of genius – whatever the answer, he’s current and happening – I’ll FB him his invite.
5. Seth MacFarlane – I’m obsessed with the work of this master of many trades: animator, writer, comedian, producer, actor, singer, voice actor and director. He makes me laugh a lot.
6. Banksy – Graffiti art with substance, humour, meaning and summons a reaction – I’d be interested to hear the conversation between him and my next guest – how art movements differ.
7. Van Gogh – a different emotional impact with his work than Banksy, but a reaction nonetheless.
8. Stephen Fry – for more witty humour and topical discussions – and an avid tweeter – I can perhaps poach some tips to multiply my following.
9. Elvis – The King (hopefully he won’t be leaving the building).
10. Coco Chanel – Ultimate style and inspiration, whether she meant to become the icon she is or not. Her story is one I’d like to hear first hand – as well as a few fashion tips.
So, picture the scene. We meet in the bar for cocktails and canapés first, for introductions and some jovial quips from Bill and Seth. Coco, Marilyn and I are having a giggle over the fashion faux pas in the bar. Then to the private dining room, a large table beautifully set for dinner. I make sure I’m sat in the middle. And as the dishes are served and the Champagne and conversation flows, my ideal dinner party inspires me: I must have more.
However, just in case Banksy and Zuckerberg don’t show face – I’ve got a few on the reserve list.
(Mary Quant, CS Lewis, James Dean)
All seems calm. St John Street, Clerkenwell. But there’s something bubbling away behind the scenes. Car chases, mystery, action… and ‘Gotham city police station’. All directed by Christopher Nolan (of the massively successful Inception). So bat fans, it’s time to check out Gotham’s finest. You might not catch a glimpse of the Dark Knight himself, but as I sink a spoon into one of the temptingly gorgeous cheese soufflés with a glass of Merlot at hand, I wistfully smile to myself. Forget Batman, I prefer our local food heroes. Sitting right amongst the buzz of the action, behind our trademark green canopy and wine barrels, keeping an eye out for Mr Bale et al on one of their breaks, I look forward to the movie release and will always remember, in the wise words of his super onscreen lady friend Rachel Dawes, “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you”.
What are you going to do tonight? (eccentric billionaires welcome)