There’s something about the end of September that brings about a certain nostalgia. Perhaps it’s that feeling that lingers from our younger days, where going back to school would signify excitement for some, and dread for others. And even if those days are long gone, the start of a new season, anticipating the cold, certainly brings a need for added comfort.

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Enter tea. The British notoriously use tea for most situations, and I’m starting to appreciate their point. Tea makes you pause for a moment, and let’s face it – most of us do with a little pause several times a day. Take a minute, sip, decide on your next move without rushing. Yes, I’m starting to catch on to that frame of mind.

The name is striking – Celestial Seasonings – and the packaging artistic and attractive. In fact, with a history behind each iconic painting used for the packaging, you just feel that you’re on the right track trusting these tea producers. The boxes are printed on 100% recycled paperboard with 35% post-consumer content. The botanicals are purchased ethically, supporting the people and places in the world that produce their ingredients. These issues are increasingly important nowadays.

The good news doesn’t stop there – there are so many different teas to choose from. Today I’ll focus on two that have made me happy. I’m looking forward to discovering more and adding to my collection!

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Dirty Chai Tea

For those times when you could do with a refresher and a gentle boost, whilst still enjoying a comforting taste… meet the tea with added coffee. Yes, that’s right – this special blend contains 40% black tea, a mixture of spices and 10% espresso. That means that you can get 46mg of caffeine in each brew, with a delicious flavour that you can enjoy while it perks you up. Incidentally, this tea bag will give you two cups of tea (or a pot) and infuses very quickly. Now what did they mean when they said that you can’t have your cake and eat it?

Sleepytime Vanilla and Sleepytime Blackberry Pomegranate

My beef with teas that are meant to promote sleep has always been the taste. If I cannot drink it, then it’s not going to get to work. The clever people at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder Colorado have managed to infuse this tea with a vanilla (and blackberry pomegranate) flavour that lulls you into a gentle sleep without any hangover sleepy feeling. I would recommend this if you have trouble sleeping, or even if you feel that you need help winding down after being on the go all day. A restful sleep will set you up to be able to better face the day ahead.


There’s a new cat in town

 My foodie antenna first caught a whiff of Fredy’s diner thanks to a picture posted on social media. This depicted the interior of a new eatery, looking shiny and new, and dare I say it? Reminiscent of what in my mind the 70s TV series Happy Days represented.

The mustard and orange seating and the cartoonish wallpaper helped, but I think that what greeted me most were the smiles. Is it just me who is surprised by good service nowadays? Pleasantries that don’t take much effort but that make the largest difference? An attitude that shows your patrons that you actually enjoy your job? (Shock, horror, etc.)

I took a seat towards the back, with my mental soundtrack starting to play “These days are ours, Happy and free. (Oh Happy Days)” obviously eyeing the other patrons’ plates on the way. The menu was vast and it was difficult to decide, so I opted for something light that time (prawn and avocado salad) and then proceeded to plan what I’d order on my next visit.

In the mean time I spoke to chef and owner Chris Stellini. Chris has trained and worked in high-class hotels for some years, but opening a casual diner was a dream that he finally got to fulfill. Fredy’s diner gets its name from his late father, Fredu, whom his mum liked to call ‘Fredy’. Fredy has been immortalized in the company’s logo and on the walls of the diner, and under his ‘supervision’ the family works in tandem, all putting their different skills to good use.

I’m curious to know what this kind of shift in lifestyle meant for Chris. One conjures images of long, stressful hours, kitchen disasters and flying food. While it certainly is a tough job with long hours, he tells me that the joy of fulfilling a dream and creating a project together with this family, with attention to detail, soaks up so much of this stress. And I’m assured that there is too much respect for the food for it to be thrown around!

He describes the choice of serving American food as ‘easy’ but after examining the menu I cannot help but notice the variety, and how he has been applying his acquired skills to old favourites as well as recipes developed over the years. The chef is serving food that he enjoys eating, recipes that have been enjoyed by friends and that have been perfected to be served in his restaurant. Sometimes the easiest way is the best way.

The menu tends to be carb-heavy, which perhaps is something you could expect from this type of theme. You would only be slightly limited in terms of choices if you’re vegetarian or want to avoid a heavy meal – I have my eye on that butternut squash steak for mains.

Diving into the menu which promises to ‘smack hunger out of you’ (easy, tiger!) you will notice some unusual language, which is funny but also a bit disturbing at times. I squirmed when my partner order ‘The Sock’ pizza, but luckily it did not live up to its name. Actually, it was rather light and tasty, a pizza I’d be tempted to order, and I’m very snobbish about my pizza.

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The pièce de résistance for me were the Smoked & Baked BBQ Back Ribs!, which I am told are cooked slowly in a smoker. And you can tell. They fall off the bone and somehow you end up eating through all of them, too many of them most probably, with ease. Yep, they’re good. They don’t do halves, so go hungry.

A favourite with the staff seems to be the ‘Grilled Chicken & Mash’ ciabatta. I couldn’t understand the fuss; although the pesto makes it interesting, the potato in bread thing doesn’t really do it for me, it’s too heavy especially served with more potato (fries) at the side. In my opinion there are better things on the menu (like the hot dog! Try the hot dog!).

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Finally, I can never get myself to write a review without tasting the desserts. I do it for you, dear readers.

My pumpkin, pineapple, pecan concoction not only pleased by alliteration-loving self, but it made me stop in my tracks. Truly delicious. I love the fact that they are also made from scratch at Fredy’s diner. Points. I found the Peanut Butter Cake to be great too, but far too rich in buttery taste to be finished by one person (have this on a first date). I hear that the Key Lime Pie is great too, so I’m looking forward to trying that one!

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Fredy’s Diner is found at 111, Triq San Bartolomew, Qormi

And here or here.

Ambience: cheerful and fun, great for meeting your friends

Service: excellent, attentive without being intrusive. A mistake in the order was redeemed quickly enough for us to barely notice it had happened (now that’s where you can actually see just how the service is..)

Wine list: short, but with some good choices

Value for money: some dishes are slightly over-priced, others are good value

Quality of the food: overall great, some dishes might do with a little improvement

After chatting with Chris about future possibilities and giving my suggestions (for ever-so-slightly selfish reasons of course!) I’m looking forward to more visits at Fredy’s Diner.

 

 


A foodie goes to New York City –  there are several delicious things to eat. Too many, in fact. Do you know how they say ‘The sky’s the limit’? I guess it was born here.

Places that look like well-kept secrets, with hidden entry-ways and dark atmospheres, are always intriguing.  We met up with a local and went to Decibel. Finding the entrance is tricky, but look for a little ceramic flask drawing (what is known as a tokkuri) and climb down a couple of steps. Once inside, if you can get a crammed table in some dark corner, you’ll barely be able to see the menu, or each other. It gets quite loud at dinner time, but go with it. Just go. Go for the long list of sake and the tasty food. In fact you might feel quite comfortable with a glass of overflowing sake inside you. You might not be able to tell what’s in your dishes, but you’ll care less and less once you’re there. IMG_20150820_023447 IMG_20150820_023741I couldn’t quite get shots of the food, but here are a couple just so you can get a rough idea of the atmosphere. We had a seaweed salad, wasabi pork dumplings, some Japanese pancake of sorts (we couldn’t understand the flavours, but it was delicious), sausage, dried fish, warm tofu, and tuna sashimi accompanied by sake of course.