Thursday, 5 December 2019

Trying alternative parmos at the Prickly Pear Bistro, Middlesbrough

Today I've got my first food review as This Northerner, and I'm pleased to say it's a good one.  Last night, I went for tea with my friend to a fairly new restaurant which is a based out of town in a local business centre. The Prickly Pear Bistro, located in the TAD Centre in Middlesbrough, has not been open very long and has already made my hit list of places to try. I've been following their Instagram closely over the past couple of weeks and I was excited when an opportunity to visit recently came up.

We went to the restaurant straight from work and it was relatively quiet until around 6.30pm. The space itself is beautifully decorated with lots of greenery, wooden beams and well-placed lighting.

As well as its normal menu, the Prickly Pear Bistro has a separate menu that displays its 35 different parmos which take inspiration from locations across the world. There's even a map on the back which shows you the place each parmo hails from. Among the countries which inspire the humble Teesside delicacy to step it up are the USA, China, Italy, Greece and Japan.

For any readers outside of Teesside, the parmo is a Middlesbrough staple which involves deep-frying a chicken breast covered in breadcrumbs, slathering it in bechamel sauce then covering it with cheese and sitting it under the grill to make it oozy and gooey. They are so delicious but so very bad for you.

After much deliberation, I decided to go for the Tropicana inspired by Hawaii, which is topped with ham and pineapple, whilst my friend chose the Mac Attack, taking inspiration from the UK, which was topped with macaroni cheese and bacon.

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Tropicana Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Menus

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Mac Attack Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Tropicana Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Bar

I try to be quite cautious when it comes to picking items from a menu as I've had some terrible meals when I was trying to be adventurous, so I was worried about my choice. I've never had any other parmo than just an original and I thought the extra toppings may have ruined it. How wrong I was.

When it arrived the portion size was massive and it was accompanied by chips and a decent-sized salad. Although a bit pricy for a regular-sized parmo at £13.50, you really did get value for money with the quality and quantity of food. On request, we were provided with garlic sauce, although it was a shame to learn this was an extra 50p. When I dug into my parmo, I was so pleased with my choice. The chicken was fresh and perfectly cooked and it was topped with thick ham, bechamel sauce, two pineapple rings and heapings of cheese.

I'm already a fan of pineapple on pizza, so pineapple on parmo seemed like the obvious next step. Oh my, it was so tasty. The combination all worked so well together. I don't know if I can go back to a normal parmo ever again. The parmo topped with macaroni cheese that my friend ordered was also delicious, so I'm told, although I didn't actually get a bite! It definitely looks like one I would order myself in the future.

Although a bit out of the way, I would recommend a visit to The Prickly Pear Bistro. Although the menu is heavy on the parmo-front, there are a few other options that should keep everyone happy. With so much choice, I'm already planning my next visit and whilst I do, I'm whittling down the parmo that I want to try next.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Crafternoon Tea at Daisy Doodle Paint a Pot Parlour, Northallerton

As you can tell, I've rebranded my blog. Gingerbread Smiles started in 2013 when I was 21 and a lot has changed since then, so I think it's time to have a more grown-up name. I'll definitely miss my old name, but we're starting fresh with This Northerner. I wanted to ensure my name had some relation to where I live, and this seemed to fit the bill. Now we've addressed that, on with today's post.

Daisy Doodle Paint a Pot Parlour is a quaint store/workshop located in the small market town of Northallerton, about half an hour from me. Here you can paint all sorts of different ceramic 'pots' however you'd like and the staff will get this fired up for you so you can keep your creation forever. The store is filled with lots of different options at different price points so there is something for everyone to get involved with.

As someone who loves a craft, we visited last month for Daisy Doodle's first 'crafternoon tea' which involved painting your 'pot' whilst enjoying a lovely afternoon tea. Two of my favourite things mashed together, how could an afternoon get any better? We enjoyed it so much that we went back for a second time.

When we arrived at around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, it was very busy but luckily our table was secure, so we scoured the room for our next pot to paint whilst we eagerly awaited our afternoon tea. I decided on a pen pot to use on my desk at work, whilst Mum chose a milk jug to accompany the teapot and sugar bowl she painted last time. Unless you have a specific vision going into this kind of thing, it is a struggle to first pick what you are going to paint, and then how you are going to paint it. I had a little Google for inspiration and finally decided on the tried and tested galaxy effect.

We picked our colours and got to work painting our chosen pots whilst being supplied with copious cups of tea, and before long it was time to tuck into our afternoon tea. We had a selection of mini sandwiches including Coronation chicken, ham and chutney, and cheese and chutney along with a cheese scone and fruit scone each and a selection of treats. These included a sponge cake with jam, a mince pie and a meringue sandwich with a cream centre. Per person, Daisy Doodle charges £10 for this fantastic feast which you pay as your deposit to secure your place. The only additional cost when you arrive is the cost of the pot you chose to paint.

As with the last afternoon tea we had here, it was all delicious. Made by the owner's mother, who is a fantastic cook, she bakes and makes everything herself. Mum especially loves her Coronation Chicken recipe, so was happy these were on the platter once again. Even though I'm not much of a meringue fan, I do love these little sandwiches, they're so light and chewy. My other favourite was the fruit scone, a great texture which didn't break when we applied our toppings, but wasn't a rock either.

Once polishing off what we could, we wrapped the remainder ready to tuck into later at home. We then finished off our pots ready for them to be set aside to finish up in the kiln. This, unfortunately, isn't done straight away but is usually done within a week of your visit. They just ask you to leave a name and number and they will contact you when it's ready to collect.

I can't wait to see what mine turns out like and I'm sure I'll post it on Instagram when I finally get it back. If you are interested in going along to Daisy Doodle for one of their crafternoon teas or just to simply paint a pot, check out their facebook page. The people who work there are great and super friendly.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Starting a new chapter...becoming a software developer

An update.

If you are an avid reader of Gingerbread Smiles or know me in 'real-life', you'll know my life story and that I had been working in marketing. I'd been doing that for the past eight years and for a while now I've known that I needed a change. Although I did enjoy what I was doing, what I needed was something new. A new challenge. Something that would play to my strengths.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. I had to look around to see what I liked the look of, and what I was really going to enjoy on a daily basis. As I'm a homeowner and someone who likes the luxuries of life - like our holidays to America and going out to eat - I knew that taking too much time out of employment was not really an option. So, unfortunately, a three-year degree was off the table. Don't get me wrong, if that's what I needed to do, we would have found a way.

However, in my searches, I came across a coding Bootcamp (Northcoders, located in Leeds) which looked right up my street. I'd learn Javascript, the only main language to run and browsers and servers and the most popular programming language across the world. The course would equip me with the skills to *hopefully* take up a career as a junior software developer.

My first day at Northcoders

Well, I stumbled across this in January this year, and as they say, the rest is history. I'm now right in the midst of it, in week five in fact. It's been a fast-paced and exciting few weeks and I can't quite believe we've progressed so quickly and that we've learnt as much as we have. For the first three weeks, we took on the fundamentals. Although we had to undertake a 'pre-course' to ensure we were all on the same level, the fundamentals really delved into the basics and ensured we could all write what we needed and have the building blocks for our next modules.

Polaroid photo on the wall

For the past five weeks, I've been so into the world of coding that I've been going to sleep thinking of solutions to problems we've been working on. But... I love it. I think that is what matters. I have not been dreading any day. I feel so much happier and I've got all my fingers and toes crossed that at the end of this I get to start a career in the tech world.

Show and tell with drinks - Northcoders

As I have plenty of time to waste on the train to and from Leeds every day, and there is only so much Netflix one girl can take, I want to start keeping my blog updated regularly. So I'm looking to do an update on the course after every block and throw a few food blogs in there too. Oh and maybe write about last year's American trip...

Monday, 8 April 2019

Flying to the West Coast - Los Angeles

Following our previous trip to America in 2017, we have quickly become obsessed with America and doing trips where we visit multiple locations. That meant that we had to book up to now go and see what the West Coast had to offer. To be honest, I think I was more excited about this trip than the last because of how amazing the first one was.

For this one, I got back on Skyscanner and scoured the website for great flight prices and times that would fit with the time we could get off from work. Once I'd manipulated our schedule within an inch of its life, we had our final itinerary. This was a big trip as it would be Matt's 30th Birthday when we were out there. First stop L.A, second stop Las Vegas and finishing up in San Francisco. Literally typing that makes me smile and want to desperately go back ASAP. I should add, we had one special item that we had to fit into the schedule and what made finalising our schedule so difficult, we were adamant that we'd make it to UFC 229. If you're into MMA at all, you'll know that this was a massive card for UFC in which Connor McGregor was defeated by the Eagle, Khabib Nurmagomedov. So with the dates boxed in, we awaited our first flight to L.A.

If you've grown up as a 90s child like me, you know that L.A featured in a lot of the TV programmes of our generation. I'm thinking Beverley Hills 90210, The OC and The Hills. We were finally going to step foot in the places that these iconic shows were filmed. For our stay in L.A we got our first Airbnb, and what a precious, amazing and fantastically located one it was. We stayed near West Hollywood, close to Fairfax and Melrose, and we couldn't have picked a better spot. We were right next to The Grove which had some great shops and restaurants as well as a TRADER JOE'S (can you tell I was excited about this) and a Whole Foods.

Our little Airbnb was basically someone's garage that they had converted but it was away from the main house and had lots of privacy. It had a bed and lounge area, a bathroom with a shower and a kitchen area too. Everything you need for a short stay and our host was super nice.

So what did we do whilst we were in L.A?

On the first night we got there, we did exactly as I had planned - went to THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY. If you know me, you know I love food, especially anything faddy that I will have probably seen other American's eating on Youtube. The Cheesecake Factory was definitely one of these places. The food didn't really live up to the hype, but oh wow, the cheesecake certainly did. I got some sort of heavenly smores one and it took me two days to eat because it was so sickly sweet.

After we ate, I obviously insisted we went to Trader Joe's. I watch too many American's on Youtube and they always go to Trader Joe's and talk about the amazing stuff they get here, so I really really wanted to go. It was everything I dreamed of and more and I did not get to spend enough time there. We picked up some cereal and on another trip there I got some funky Mexican salsa (that I then had to pack three times over as we went between locations - clearly a great idea...).

The next day we went hiking up to the Griffith Observatory so we could pretend to be in Charlies Angels 2 (or maybe not). It was a short hike but it gave your amazing views of the city and you could even see the Hollywood sign - probably the closest we got to it all trip.

The next day was pretty cool as we decided to spend our morning in Beverley Hills (you bet the Weezer song was in my head whilst we were there) and we spent an extortionate amount of money on candles and fitness gear. We also got attacked by a GIANT bug whilst eating our lunch which was pretty horrific.

However, after this, we took an Uber to Hollywood Boulevard to see Jimmy Kimmel Live! If you are going to L.A and want something free and totally unique to do, I definitely recommend trying to get tickets to a TV show filming like this. I realised we could do this a week or so before and was lucky enough to get tickets to the one we wanted in which we saw RYAN FREAKING GOSLING and Dana White (UFC President - very apt for our trip). There aren't many people allowed in for each taping so you feel so close to the guests. It's definitely a great experience.

Then on our final day in L.A, we decided it was time to head to the beach. Get the real West Coast experience. We got an Uber to Santa Monica, which I might add was super easy, and then we had a good old wander. Took in the pier, the beach and the shops. Had taco's on National Taco Day on the seafront and then took ourselves on a walk down the coast to Venice Beach. We kind of which we hadn't as it made us feel quite on edge. I wouldn't recommend it really if I did it again, I'd stay in Santa Monica.

Overall our trip to L.A was so incredible, made better by our fantastic Airbnb and the use of Ubers - they are a must in America. As I'm having such a great time reliving this trip, I will be looking to write up the other two destinations on our trip, Las Vegas and San Francisco - and maybe a couple of hints and tips posts. Hope you enjoyed the read!
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