Happy New Year! And what a year 2017 has been. I don’t really know where to begin – the word whirlwind springs to mind. There’s been food, travel, campervan fun, experiences I never thought I’d have, and a whole lot of eating. As you read this, I’ll be on my latest break, taking in Hogmanay in Scotland on a roadtrip that seems fitting both to finish 2017 and begin 2018.
As I look back on the last year it’s fair to say that since going freelance with my ‘day job’ in mid-2016, there have been times where my blog has suffered from the general chaos of life and our newfound lack of routine. One of my big aims for 2018 is to get back into more of a routine and post more regularly and promptly after amazing foodie experiences.
Then again, that lack of routine has also helped us embark on some wonderful food-filled adventures and travel around more than we ever have before. Like skiing in Italy in January where we enjoyed the delights of the Aaritz Hotel in Selva, cruising with my mum, or taking two-and-a-half weeks off for a jaunt around Europe in our campervan, which I haven’t even finished telling you about yet!Aside from the trips abroad, we’ve had some great adventures right here in the UK, driven partly by a huge part of 2017 – our dog! Brandy has completely changed the way we live our lives and the way we holiday too. We find ourselves seeking out dog-friendly restaurants and pubs, dog-friendly hotels, and places that will impress her as much as us (sad, I know).
The wonderful thing about that is that it’s led to us finding a whole new load of places, and fortunately also hasn’t prevented us going to some places that we wanted to try. It’s actually amazed me how many places allow dogs in or will try to accommodate people with dogs who also happen to like good food.
A few highlights include The Gallivant, The Mash Inn where we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, and The Woodstock Arms where my mum joined us for a night away. That’s before you even get to places like the Crab Shed and the Salcombe Harbour Hotel in Salcombe, where we enjoyed a fab dinner with our friends, along with Prawn on the Lawn in Padstow and Rick Stein’s Cornish Arms nearby in St Merryn.
We may have missed out on some of the festivals I wanted to go to (Big Feastival, Meatopia and Padstow Christmas Festival – you are on my list for next year), but we still managed a few. Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park was great, as were the Foodies Festival and the Gin Festival in Birmingham, but it was Sear and Smoke that stole my heart. I predict this one will go from strength to strength after such a fab start!
As well as numerous meals and opportunities to try things, this little blog has given me all sorts of other opportunities, from visiting the Balti Triangle as part of a partnership with Travelodge to checking out new restaurants or revamps like the recently-refurbished Lasan where we enjoyed an AMAZING meal. And let’s not forget Mr M’s wonderful birthday meal, courtesy of Stuart Brown and La Belle Assiette. I can thoroughly recommend this dude for any celebration right there in your own home.
There have been afternoon teas galore, like the fab one recently at Ivy’s Vintage Tea Rooms in Lutterworth, as well as a gorgeous spa break at Ye Olde Bell Hotel in Barnby Moor near Retford. Earlier in the year I tried Rudding Park Spa and finished 2017 with a visit to Ragdale Hall so it’s definitely been a good one for relaxing.
While I started this blog post talking about how my work as a journalist had meant I couldn’t focus as much on my blog as I’d like to, 2017 has been the year where I’ve also had opportunities to combine the two. There are experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have that have come my way because of both of my ‘hats’ as journalist and food blogger.
How about the time I spent a day with Jimmy Docherty learning all about what makes Sarsons vinegar so special? Or a jaunt up to Scotland to stalk a deer and learn where Sainsbury’s source their venison from. I feel so lucky to have had these experiences, and I haven’t even got round to telling you about my mushroom foraging with Glynn Purnell followed by lunch at his restaurant. Wowsers!
In short, it’s been a wonderful year. I’m still so grateful to those of you out there who take the time to read my ramblings and just hope that they’re interesting, useful and fun to read. I’m endlessly grateful for the opportunities I get through my blog and some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had thanks to it. Of course, I work pretty hard at it and spend a fair chunk of my own money on a lot of this fun, as do lots of other bloggers out there, but it’s satisfying to see it pay off. So thank you!
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions as I inevitably fail at them but as far as Eat with Ellen goes, the plan is to keep on giving you great reviews of restaurants, foodie rants, travel posts and lots of dog-friendly info for those of you who love food and have a four-legged friend to please at the same time. I’ve also got plans to try a few different posts to make it even easier for you to find places to go.
Big plans – because I’m a firm believer that you should never stand still! I’m still amazed at what Eat with Ellen has become in the past few years, and want to see it be even better. So watch this space!
Happy New Year one and all, here’s to a great 2018!