Blonde Happiness

A Travel and Lifestyle Blog between Manchester and Munich


Living only a four hours drive away from Italy and enjoying the vast influence of Italian cuisine in Munich on an almost daily basis I do know a thing or two about Italian cooking and food. The typical recipes of the Northern Italien Südtirol region, a few sentences in Italian and what a traditional Italian restaurant look like.

The assumed simplicity of the Italian cuisine has lured many into opening restaurant chains, that mostly serve Italian inspired pasta dishes and the odd tomato and mozzarella salad at most. Yet traditionally the Italian Kitchen brings a lot more flavour and variety to the table.

The Italian restaurants I´ve tried so far were setting the bar fairly high for this evening of the new menu launch of Avalanche. Rio Ferdinand´s Rosso is one of my favourite places to go for a new meal, yet it lacked the friendly, homely and cozy feeling I got accustomed to in Italy, with waiters ranging from just ignorant to arrogant. Just a stone´s throw away Croma and San Carlo are doing an impressive job at good quality food and atmosphere. 

For our blogger evening, the crowd was a good mix between all blog topics, from mummy bloggers to beauty, fashion and obviously food. The reception was nice and friendly, my coat was taken care off and I was handed a glass of wine. Good start. Having a quick look around, the kitchen offered an impressive display of fresh catch and some not so happy looking lobsters were waiting to be rescued from their imminent journey into one of the cooking pans. After a quick welcome drink, we were seated with a cooler of prosecco ( DOC quality ) and our starter was served quickly afterwards.
All tables were set beautifully, complementing the sleek white decor, that seems a tad bit 80s with the blue lighting at some times ( but hey every Italian bar looks a bit like that ). 








For starters we were offered a sharing plate of three different kinds of bruschetta: classic ( delicious fresh tomatoes! ), red pepper antipasti ( not too greasy, still fresh ) and one which I presume consisted of a paste of aubergine, artichoke and courgette. The salsa it was served with tasted slightly but not overpoweringly of sweet fennel. The fried rice ball (arancini), was crisp outside and yummy hot and flavorful on the inside. I could eat more of those. 

For mains we were presented with a Surf and Turf sharing platter. Sole, scampi, lamb and chicken were all to the point. Especially the lamb is to mention here, which certainly is among the best I´ve ever had ( and my mum does a pretty mean shoulder of lamb !). If there is one point of criticism here then it would be the peppercorn sauce. I get that delivering a high standard of sauce for 100 people on the night is tough and chefs are tempted to not do everything from scratch but a) the sauce was not even necessary as the quality of food was outstanding enough and b) you can ALWAYS taste an artificial flavour and c) it is not really an Italian.

Dessert was a trio of cheesecake, chocolate cake and tiramisu. The cheesecake was kind of tangy and not too sweet which I like, the chocolate cake was dense and full of rich dark chocolate flavors. I would have happily just had a giant slice of tiramisu here or maybe some panna cotta instead of cheesecake or profiteroles. 















What really made the evening for me was how absolutely professional, welcoming and attentive all staff were. The manager was not tired of checking on every table, making sure we were ok, but also clearing dishes himself. The waiters were incredibly friendly and provided top class service. 

If there is one thing I would like to pass on to the team of avalanche here, then its that food can be never too Italian, but it can certainly be to "international". Cheesecake and chocolate cake is not necessary when panna cotta, profiteroles and tartufo is your heritage.
Other than that this is certainly in my top list for Italian restaurants in town, now all I have to do is try their pizza!


My third Yelp event already! Time flies when you are having fun and this was my favourite so far. 
I´m not a huge drinker and not a general fan of rum but this place has almost changed my mind. I´ve loved our little cordoned off area at the bar to have a little welcome drink. I asked to change my Cuba Libre to something more fruity, still mixed with rum which tasted like a tipsy strawberry smoothie- yum! No artificial flavours or colouring there. 

After finishing off our drink wewere guided to the downstairs area. I´ve been here once before for a fashion blogging event and I must say it´s a lovely space for any kind of function. Tropical vibe, clean and pleasant with a separate room and bar. 

Whilst one part of our group enjoyed the rum tasting, we were watching Ben working his magic behind the bar, sharing the secret of the perfect Mojito and Raspberry Mojito before giving us the chance to have a go. 

Magically some trays with nibbles appeared ( I wish this would happen at home more often), with some olives, salsa and guacamole. The salsa was super tasty, the tortilla chips nice and fresh and with the homemade guac on top an easy addition to our drinks.













The rum tasting, lead by Coco was super interesting and it was actually one of the classes where I could taste the differences between drinks ( strangely wine will always be wine for me) and I never knew how extremely different the types of rum were. If you are a lover of rum and want to experience the real deal, try some different brands with your friends, this is definitely the place to be. 


De Cuba is getting a lot of things right in this place, the chic tropical decor is great, everything is spotlessly clean and the bar staff super friendly and well informed about their products. At no point it ever feels like some cheap cocktail tiki hula hut, selling sugary sweet drinks. The fact that the prices are moderate for Manchester paired with a fairly strict bouncer on weekends to not attract the wrong crowd will certainly help to sell this concept on. Its simply great and I will be back to try some more of the food!

P.S. I´d love to see you on twitter or instagram @IsabelMunich! If you enjoyed reading this feel free to share this with your dearest friends! Love, Isabel
A beauty review that was long overdue but hasn´t lost its relevance in the colder months: Fake tan.
A few weeks before embarking on my Florida adventures I was approached by St- Tropez to try out their air brush fake tan pods at Debenhams.

What would sound like a godsend to most girls sounded absolutely frightening to me.
For those who know me I´m pale as a ghost and barely tan in summer, my friends often asked me after coming back from a hol when I was going abroad. GREAT. You all remember the funny meme of the Irish girl sunbathing- just change caption to German girl sunbathing and that´s me.


On holidays I mostly stay in the shade after some heave sunburns in the past and I use SPF 30 religously all over with SPF 50 on face. Nothing worse than forcing a slight tan for two weeks and then still getting a wrinkly face at 30.


I would definitely lie if I´d say I had not wished for golden bronzed skin all over with no patches and streaks but I have never really used self tanning products for any other parts of my body than my legs. I just found the super dark colours some girls go for in their faces a bit too much and not matching to their eyes, hair and natural skin.

To put it short: I was too curious to try if St. Tropez could give me a slight bronze so I booked myself in two days before the holiday after they confirmed that they even managed to get a tan on Tilda Swinton.


" INITIALLY I WAS JUST SCARED "

Before my trip down Market Street I exfoliated throughly and put my hair in a pony tail. If you have super sensitive and irritable skin, it is also advisable to book an allergy check the day before.
On the day I was fairly nervious, stripping down to my undies being spray tanned is not a pleasant idea but everyone was so nice and chatty it was easy to completely forget about it once I was in the little backoffice cabins.
My St.Tropez tanning girl ( do they have an official name? Tannerettes? StTropezians?) applied moisturiser to my cuticles and hands to not stain them and started to apply two layers of the liquid all over me. I had to stand and move according to her choreography so they get every detail of your body. During the treatment in the capsule that looks a bit like a shower, warm air is blown on you to make it more comfortable but also to dry off the tanning lotion straight away.

I wore some black leggins and a plain black longsleeve from H&M to not have the colour guide rubbing off. The full development of the actual tan then takes around 6 hours, after which you can go shower and are presented with the final result. Hooray!
I´ve opted for a medium shade, as I wasn´t sure how it would look on me as a first time user and I was absolutely surprised by the results.

·      Easy application and procedure
·      Good smell
·      Natural looking tan (no orange or green)
·      No patches or streakes
·      Reasonable price
·      No staining on clothes

The tan looked best on day two and three but was visible for just over a week. After that I had to use exfoliator to get rid of some patches on my ankle that developed after sandals rubbing on the tan.
During the week no clothes and bed sheets were stained, I only noticed minimal colour on my bra straps, but I have to add it was in 30 degree weather with 80% humidity.

"FOR WHOM CAN I RECOMMEND THIS"

·      If you want to look bronzed for a special occasion
·      If you don´t tan naturally at all
·      If you don´t want to damage your skin by exposing it to sunbeds
·      If you are looking for a quick and high quality result
·      If you don´t need a very long lasting tan
·      If you are not a Pro at applying it yourself
·      If you are going on a winter holiday in the sun and don´t want to arrive pale
  
Some handy tips at the end:
·      Exfoliate exfoliate exfoliate a lot before going!
·      Still use a high factor SPF, the tan does not protect you!
·      Wear black loose fitting cotton clothing when colour guide is developing
·      Avoid wearing super tight fitting, rubbing straps / belts etc to make your tan last
 Use the St. Tropez daily moisturizer with a gradual tan to keep the colour up



Thank you for this wonderful experience St. Tropez!

This post was written with no contentual influence of St.Tropez PR, besides providing the product, and reflects my true and honest experience.




Today I´m gonna introduce you to a true Mancunian gem, I have fallen instantly in love with. Pie & Ale in Manchester´s Northern Quarter, who have launched their new summer this week. 
Before I´m gonna chat you through some of the new items some words on my first ever visit there in Feb this year. I know super late to review now, but somehow these pictures were just hiding in my TO-BLOG folder.

We booked a table at Pie and Ale at the weekend, to all get to know each other a bit better on my uni course- and whats better for bonding than a pie and tasting some beers? The interior at Pie and Ale is absolutely lovely and very welcoming. You can chose between a quick pint at the bar, a comfy booth or just have your table outside on a little terrace-y area. If you like to watch football they also do a beer hall now with screens, which looks a million times better than what Bierkeller is doing. 

The selection of beers seems to be ever changing and is absolutely excellent. Doing an international course we took the chance to try different beers from our respective home countries and went of the recommendations of our fellow uni mates. Also the waitress seemed to be very knowledgeable about the taste of the various brews and ciders. To my delight I could introduce my friends to some of my Munich favorites and also try a pint of new independent brewery. The prices are fairly decent and Erdinger on draught is always a plus for me.

To wash our beers down we all ordered some pies, and were absolutely stunned by the presentation ( how cute are the little dough cut outs on top??) as well as the quality. If you have ever had a Holland´s pie the difference could´t be bigger- it literally tastes like fresh from your mum´s kitchen. Between us we sampled the entire menu and after having a bite of everyone´s choice I can truly say they were all delicious.
So far so good. Since that night we came back a few times for drinks but it was only until their launch offer on twitter ( 50 % off their new Gourmet Pies on the summer menu) that we decided to go back as a group for food, to celebrate the end of our term with a nice dinner.










The Gourmet Pies are supposed to be open pies, with various fillings, from kangaroo, venison and salmon to wild boar and a super food option for vegetarians. 
I went for the soy salmon with chili, wasabi mash and raw beetroot. To my surprise, my pie was made of filo-pastry, rather than short-crust. If I had known before I definitely would have changed my order, and its a shame that this isn´t indicated on the menu- I reckon I won´t be the last one to be surprised by this. My marinated soy chilli salmon, tasted of nothing but soy and I couldn´t even make out the slightest heat from any chili in there which made it taste rather bland. The salmon skin was completely soggy unfortunately and not crispy. The wasabi mash was nice but lacked salt. The beetroot seemed a bit lost in the dish and for me was unnecessary, especially as it wasn´t spiced or seen any salt. 
All our pies where fairly small portions and we all really felt like having a starter rather than a main course. Given the mark-up on price, the portion size should be reconsidered. We were´t too bothered as we only paid around 6 pound per dish, but it would´t have been worth paying the full amount for it. I get the idea of a "lighter pie" in a summer version but I just couldn´t warm up to it fully, also the dishes didn´t seem to be well balanced and could do with a bit refinement.



Still for me Pie and Ale is one of my go-to places for a nice meal in Manchester and I will definitely return for the usual pie selection and my favourite beers. 

P.S. I´d love to see you on twitter or instagram @IsabelMunich! If you enjoyed reading this feel free to follow me on bloglovin or share this with your dearest friends! Love, Isabel
What a lucky find in Camden!  Ok it wasn't my find at all- as I had a friend living in London recommending it to me, after lusting after some sushi all day. Overall we had to 2 hours to kill before our late evening train back up to Manchester, and with it only being a sone´s throw away from the station it was a perfect final stop of our day. The restaurant itself is spotlessly clean, full of members of the asian community and the menu small- for me the first things I check in asian restaurants. Bento Ramen claims to be slightly Japanese but the selection is rather on the Pan-Asian-Fusion side. 

Although praised for its Ramen, we decided to order various cold dishes after a super hot day out. Between us we order fried baby squid, the chef´s dumpling selection, baby calamari, sashimi salad, hot summer rolls, prawn skewers and rice as a side. All dishes arrived after just a short wait, all freshly prepared and more or less at the same time- perfect for sharing. The fried items, had different batters and were fried in fresh oils. No greasy stinky crust. The summer rolls ( salmon roll, topped with scallops and caviar) were excellent and we actually just ordered them after seeing the lovely picture of a fellow yelper. 

The service on the night was very attentive and friendly, which often is an issue at asian restaurants, and also the reason I´m not setting in RED CHILLI any time soon. All dishes were cleared straight away, with a smile and double checks if we liked everything. Yes I liked everything here and would definitely return. 
Overall we paid just about 55 pound including drinks ( beer/ water/ coke), wich I find really good value for money given the freshness of the dishes and the location











P.S. I´d love to see you on twitter or instagram @IsabelMunich! If you enjoyed reading this feel free to follow me on bloglovin or share this with your dearest friends! Love, Isabel
I know some of you follow me on twitter and have already seen my endless tweets about #mypugliaexperience and the amazing opportunity Puglia´s Tourism board is putting out there for a bunch of european youths: A one week tour through Puglia ( for those of you who are not that familiar with Italian geography- its right down at the imaginary heel of italy-), with 8 people from each country embarking on different tours to discover food, music, tradition, landscape and all the sights in between.

As an avid traveller I just had to sign up for it - and before you give me your vote I quickly wanted to share the reasons I NEED TO GO!




1. I´ve always loved Italy and have the best memories of my childhood spending summers in our little apartment at the Lido di Jesolo or autumns hiking in South Tyrol or skiing in winter. But for some odd reason I have never managed to travel further south than Verona, which is an utter shame seeing all the pictures on WeAreInPuglia´s Facebook account. So make me expand my Italy map all the way down south!

2. My love for food and locally sourced produce has grown over the years and we all know how good the italian cuisine is for your health and look, so I´m pretty sure I can find lots of inspiration for new dishes besides the usual "Penne Arrabiata" and "Spaghetti Bolognese". I´ve just read that fishermen actually kill squid on their boats, eating it raw- which for me is fascinating as I´m currently living in a country where I find out that the Morrisons chicken which I had for lunch  is actually from Thailand, yummy right? This approach to freshness and tradition and not being infested by food multinationals makes it so appealing for me to go!

3. Nature, nature nature. Seriously have you seen the pictures? I´m probably spoiled, having spent so much Florida and I consider myself rather difficult to impress but I have truly never seen a coast line so rough and beautiful at the same time. It looks so peaceful and tranquil that I can actually see myself getting up really early to catch a sunrise and have a swim before breakfast. Oh and I definitely would´t say no to a little horseback ride ending in a picknick around a campfire.

4. I´ve just finished university- yay the first time I´m actually mentioning this on here but I´ve finished my masters and can´t wait to write a new chapter of my life. But before actually heading into the business world I reckon it´s the perfect moment to take a little time out and step back from everything. Just me, new travel companions and my camera so I can make sure you can follow every aspect of this journey!





Convinced? Click www.mypugliaexperience.eu RANKINGS / GERMANY and VOTE IsabelMunich

P.S. I´d love to see you on twitter or instagram @IsabelMunich! If you enjoyed reading this feel free to follow me on bloglovin or share this with your dearest friends! Love, Isabel

Pictures courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/weareinpuglia?fref=ts