Happy New Year

Happy New Year – and 2016 in review

Happy New Year! Here it is, 2017 and all the fun and frolics it holds. Christmas and the festive season seems to have passed in a whirlwind of visits and madness, and plenty of food of course.

You might have noticed there haven’t been many blogs recently – I decided to take a bit of a break so I can come back with some even better foodie fun for you in 2017. This year has been a great one for Eat with Ellen, eating amazing food, getting the chance to attend great events, meet top chefs, and even branching into reviewing places to go and lovely little hotels.

It’s hard to believe sometimes that this little hobby of mine has become such a big part of my life. But at the same time, you’ll know if you read this blog regularly that 2016 has been a mad year for me after quitting my job to go self-employed. I’d be lying if I said Eat with Ellen hadn’t suffered a little bit as I try to rebalance everything and do what I love as well as earn some money for the bills to be paid.

It took me a while to clear a backlog of posts I had stocked up earlier this year, and some of them were sporadic to say the least. But hopefully you enjoyed it all the same. My New Year’s blog resolution is to be a bit more consistent, but also to put less pressure on myself.

As we go into what will be the third full year of my little blog, I’m excited about making this blog better than ever. More restaurants, new experiences, hopefully a bit more cooking, and more new places already in the diary.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a new addition to the Manning clan in the form of our little puppy Brandy. She’ll be coming on lots of our adventures with us, and I’m keen to prove that it’s possible to find plenty of dog-friendly places to eat in and stay in that also do great food.

Brandy

But before we hit 2017 hard with plenty of food and fun, I thought it would be nice to have a bit of a look at some of 2016’s fun. There were tonnes of adventures, as you know – and plenty of memorable moments – but here are some of the highlights:-

January

We started 2016 with a break away in a gorgeous shepherd’s hut near Welshpool. Mr M hadn’t been well and it was the perfect place for a bit of R&R. We haven’t made it back yet, but it’s on the list for sure!

Shepherds Hut

February

As part of my exploration of all my own lovely Midlands, I have been gradually working my way through some of Birmingham’s great places. And in 2016 I finally made it to The Karczma. It’s been praised by some of the nation’s top food critics and they’re not wrong when they say it’s great.

Meat pierogi at the Karczma, Birmingham

March

In March Mr M and I headed off for our annual ski break – this time to Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, Italy. It was a gorgeous place and we had a week exploring the pistes together, as well as treating ourselves to a meal at Michelin-starred Tivoli, possibly one of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to.

Tree-lined runs in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Lobster tartare at Tivoli, Cortina d'Ampezzo

April

While I go into Birmingham a lot and try places in Warwickshire, it’s less often that I go elsewhere in the Midlands, so when I was invited to Five Rivers in Walsall, it was a great opportunity to go somewhere new. And while it’s a bit of a hike for me, it was well worth it – especially for a night hosted with Laurent Perrier. One of the highlights of 2016 I’d say.

Tandoori Monkfish at Five Rivers, Walsall

May

I’m not the only foodie in my family – my big brothers aren’t just food-lovers but great cooks too. So to celebrate my biggest bro’s birthday we headed off to Tom Kerridge’s pub The Coach in Marlow, where we enjoyed a raucous night and some fabulous small plates. Next stop, the Hand and Flowers I reckon!

Rotisserie quail at The Coach, Marlow

June

The summer marked the step-up of some hotel reviews for you on Eat with Ellen. It makes sense to me to tell you about places you can have a sneaky night away along with great food – after all, the two often go hand in hand don’t they?

Our trip to the Ragged Cot in Minchinhampton was a memorable one because it came just after I went self-employed. It was a time of making big plans in the sunshine and of hopes and dreams and seeing what the rest of 2016 would have in store.

Bedroom at the Ragged Cot, Minchinhampton

On our way home, we stopped at Upton-upon-Severn for lunch at The Boat House, a rather unsuspecting place doing fabulous tapas that really did blow us away.

Beef and pomegranate tagine at The Boathouse, Upton

July

Rofuto was one of the big hypes of the summer in Birmingham, and definitely lived up to it – so much so that I’ve already been twice. It’s different to a lot of the mainstream places you’ll find and the chance to try all sorts of dishes in beautiful surroundings.

Black cod at Rofuto, Birmingham

July also saw us finally get to Lasan – another one that’s been on the list for ages – where we enjoyed an evening of food and frolics with friends.

Duck main course at Lasan, Birmingham

August

In August I finally told you about a few places we stopped at in July during a merry tour of the south-west that took us to Bristol for an epic meat-filled meal at The Glassboat, followed by a weekend at Grillstock.

After that, instead of heading home we carried on down to Cornwall where we ate our way around the Roseland Peninsula, including a spectacular tasting menu at the Driftwood Hotel.

Cote de boeuf at the Glassboat, Bristol

Amuse Bouche at Driftwood, Portscatho

In August I finally got round to telling you about our stay at the High Field Town House in Birmingham, a gorgeous boutique hotel in Edgbaston and the perfect place for a city stopover.

High Field Town House, Edgbaston

September

In September my mum and I toddled off to Resorts World near the NEC to try out the High Tea at Robata. Slightly different from your average afternoon tea, we left on a sugar high after a fabulous afternoon of sweet indulgence.

High Tea at Robata, Resorts World

October

As part of my ongoing efforts to get my cooking skills slightly more befitting of someone who claims to love food, I got myself over to one of my local area’s newest cooking schools at Mousley House Farm. I had a wonderful evening there, meeting new people, learning new skills, and generally having a ball.

I can thoroughly recommend it – George and Charlie are lovely and it’s such a great, personal experience. I meant to make it back for my birthday but was too busy, then Christmas, and again was too busy, but am definitely hoping to drag Mr M and some friends and family back in 2017.

Mousley House Farm Cookery School

November

Continuing on the cooking theme, in November I met Omar Allibhoy, the guy behind Tapas Revolution, at a blogger’s event in Birmingham. We walked away with his new cookbook, Spanish Made Simple, so I got my cook on at home and made some of the recipes. Here’s to using my kitchen even more in 2017 hey!

Chicken livers with sweet sherry wine and spices

December

And here we are in December. From learning to lay the perfect Christmas table with Arthur Price cutlery to telling you about Mr M’s birthday trip to Tuscany and an overnight break to the Fat Fox Inn in Watlington, the blog wasn’t exactly quiet.

But it was the Mushroom Evening at The Cross in Kenilworth that we went to in November, which had come just after the death of our poor little cat, that was probably the most popular post. An evening of epic food, all based around mushrooms, in wonderful surroundings and even a chat with chef Adam Bennett. An evening to remember.

Meringue, chestnut and truffle at The Cross, Kenilworths Mushroom Dinner

And there you have it! Amid all that stuff (and there’s plenty more, take a look through if you fancy it) I managed to mix my passion for food with my career and have been writing plenty of food-focused pieces for the likes of The i, Belle About Town, Yahoo Style and Guardian Small Business. So yes, 2016 has been pretty good.

Here’s to even more from 2017! And don’t forget, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and I’m always up for hearing your thoughts on stuff I’ve written. Nothing like a good food chat to get the tastebuds tingling!

Happy New Year one and all!!!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR – AND 2016 IN REVIEW

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