Christmas pick’n’mix

img_0686Blueberry muffins • recipe from Gail’s bakery • blimey, the last few days have been such a blur that I am revisiting a special day last week before it disappears from my mind under feuilletines of wrapping paper • [also needing to move along from that rather toxic post-Christmas analysis whereby I morbidly dissect all the less than perfect elements of a day built up to so impossibly perfect that these little flavourings of spice and spike ought rather to be considered enlivening to an otherwise overwhelmingly saccharine festival] • but back to the real joy • we celebrate Garrys birthday on the 22nd December, perfect for falling always after the children have finished school and with every excuse to blow out and do something extravagant as a family, a show, a restaurant, a night away, reflecting now as I write I think it’s one of our best days of the year • I was a bit worried I might not be up for it all this year having only had my operation the week before but it was exactly the motivation I needed to get me up and out • we booked a barge through airb’n’b, which for one nights stay and a family of 5 was so utterly cool [well 4 of us thought so, one left his sea legs at home but we’ll be laughing about that in years to come], we went and saw Stomp, which was fun, noisy, not too long, and then took the kids to Benihamas for a bit of knife wielding, flame throwing artistry [although the food was nothing’s like as good as I remember … getting old] • just one of those really fab kind of days • seeing all the Christmas lights and generally soaking up the exuberance and effervescence • we slept on our barge waking up to the unfamiliar rocking and creaking of the boat [one still desperate to have his feet back on dry land] so we set off for brunch and a sleepy morning start to our day • first stop Gails bakery in Battersea square • sublime cinnamon buns, take home mince pies, sourdough and cranberry twists, steaming hot coffees and I came away with the beautiful cookbook inspired to recreate at home • these were my blueberry muffins (didn’t quite have the right muffin tins so the shape is more cupcake but the flavour was sublime] • now that we had had our shot of post-sleep ‘sweet and caffeinated’ we headed back across London to Garry’s favourite brunch haunt at La Lantana, a tiny café tucked behind Charlotte Street serving the freshest, tastiest artisan brunch, duck hash, detox smoothie, the kids had mouthwatering hot chocolates and freshly squeezed orange juice but best of all we got to share, with Garry, a secret haunt, to share, with the kids the thrill of perfect ingredients, freshly cooked, I go home reinspired by how good food can make you feel: flavour, flair, community, love • 20 years ago it was the feeling you got when you walked into a great bar with all your mates and you knew it was going to be an epic night • with even more excitement today it is sharing little foodie pockets of heaven with the family, being relaxed to have the time to be present in that moment, anticipating the days ahead and feeling the spirit of togetherness around a table of incredible food • so this is my reflection after Christmas, the very best bits aren’t always the obvious moments and the very worst bits don’t have to overshadow the whole • it is the balance of all these flavours that makes for a happy holidays