Archive | April 2017

La Favorita – the favourite Pizzeria in Edinburgh .. and the best in the UK.

Classic Margherita Pizza

Who doesn’t like pizza?  The original, classic fast food created in Naples from the late 19th century, transferred across Europe to America and is still a perpetual favourite dish around the world.  Baked in a variety of thick or thin methods, with a myriad of toppings,  the modern concept of pizza is largely inspired by the Neapolitan version: the base should be soft and pliable, yet charred and chewy around the edge.

The city’s famous Da Michele pizzeria opened in 1870, with just one choice, Pizza Marinara – tomatoes, garlic and herbs. After Queen Margherita visited the region, the chefs invented a new recipe– tomatoes, mozzarella and basil – the popular Margherita of today.  The best pizza should have the perfect balance between a soft chewy dough and crispy crust and eaten within five minutes of coming out the oven, or it will become soggy and spoilt.

Since 1970 the Crolla family has built a reputation for Italian food at their group of restaurants – Vittoria, Divino Enoteca  and also La Favorita which opened in 2005. As a third-generation Italian family restaurant, their motto is all about preparing and serving the finest pizza and pasta fish and meat dishes, as well as delicious ice-cream and desserts.

The multi award winning La Favorita, located half way down Leith Walk, is a well established Pizzeria.  The warm and welcoming ristorante featuring several small dining rooms, is colourfully decorated with painterly murals, pictures of sunflowers, artwork, with seating for two or large booths for families and friends.

The ‘master pizzaioli’ uses the freshest, authentic ingredients –  the ham comes from Brescia, parmesan from Bologna, tomatoes from Campania and flour from Padova.  Chicken is corn-fed.   The dough is handmade daily, with no additives and left to mature for 48 hours. The log fired oven has a temperature of 300 degree centigrade to give the pizzas a special crispiness, soft base and rustic smoky flavour.

My partner Ken and I visited La Favorita a couple of weeks ago.  The menu is so extensive to suit all tastes, appetites and ideal for children too.  An extraordinary selection of Pizzas take centre stage, not surprisingly – under titles such as Classic,  Sfiozse (Specials), La Blanche (no tomatoes), and Cambiare – (something different), with highlighted “Recommended” varieties. For special diets, the chefs can prepare vegetarian, gluten/ nut/ lactose-free food including Vegan cheese pizza.

As we sipped a glass of Prosecco and studied the menu, we nibbled fat oily olives and deep fried pizza balls.  For starters we shared a fishy feast of delicious, tender Calamari Fritti and a dish of Crocchette di Merluzzo – Salt cod fish cakes.  These were both superb in quality, texture and taste.

Pizzas with every delicious dream topping

Then I ordered a softly baked Pizza Genovese (prawns, peppers, sun dried tomatoes) while Ken selected the Puttanesca pizza, (anchovies, olives, capers).   There is a choice of a 10 or 14 inch pizza, but chatting to the couple beside us, they advised that a 10 inch was perfect unless you were very, very hungry.  After appetising gourmet Starters and (10 inch) Pizzas, no room for dessert.

The Wine List is very informative with a map of Italy to show region and grape variety.  We selected a bottle of Primitivo Salento from Puglia (juicy fruity plums).  We ended our meal  with a sharp tasting shot of Lemoncello, the perfect Digestif.

Definitely the best Pizza in town in our opinion but also voted the best in the UK according to PAPA (Pizza & Pasta & Italian Food Association) at their annual industry awards. In 2014, 2015 and in 2016, La Favorita was presented with the Gold Award for Best Independent Pizza Restaurant in the UK.

Visit La Favorita soon for a fabulous meal with your lover, friends or family.  The Restaurant is also a perfect place for a private dinner party, up to 25 guests.  Alternatively the fleet of cute little Fiat yellow cars will deliver your favorite La Favorita pizza to your home. Ciao!

The “La Favorita Delivered” Fiat cars

 Happy Diners, April 2017

I’m a sucker for a good Italian restaurant and I would have stayed in La Favorita all night if they hadn’t needed the table back. My pizza was the nicest I’ve ever had and my partner’s pasta was delicious. If you’re in Edinburgh, go – you will not be disappointed.

Happy friends – Happy Kids, April 2017

Our group of 10 – 6 adults and 4 children – had the best service. Our waiter was great, patient, helpful and attentive.  Everyone enjoyed their meal – the desserts were mouthwatering.  Lovely & relaxed.

La Favorita,

325 – 333 Leith Walk,

Edinburgh EH6 8SA

tel.  0131 555 5564

http://www.vittoriagroup.co.uk/lafavorita

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“Funny Girl the Musical” comes to the Edinburgh Playhouse: Sheridan Smith is a shining superstar in this fabulous 5 star show

It is extraordinary how the storyline of many Musicals is about the fine art of show business.  “ A Star is Born,”  the hit movie about an aspiring actress, Esther Blodgett who arrives in Hollywood to make her name;  “42nd Street”  tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a talented young performer with gets her big break on Broadway;  “Cabaret” where Sally Bowles tries her luck in a Berlin nightclub; “A Chorus Line” dramatising the tough audition for 17 hopefuls to be cast in a Musical …. the list is endless.

Fanny Brice

“Funny Girl” is based on the true life of Broadway star,  Fanny Brice (1891-1951), who was born Fania Borach, daughter of Jewish Hungarian immigrants, from the lower East side, New York City. When she was just 13 years old, she won a talent contest at Keeney’s Theatre, soon leading to a long, successful career on the Vaudeville stage.

The premiere of “Funny Girl” opened on Broadway in March 1964 with Barbra Streisand as Fanny,  a dazzling performance which won her an Oscar as best actress in the film version. After phenomenal 5 star reviews for the recent revival of the Musical in London, Sheridan Smith brings her equally dazzling performance as Fanny in this touring production at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Sheridan Smith as Fanny Brice

The action begins is 1927, in Fanny’s dressing room at the New Amsterdam Theater, New York. Sitting in front of a brightly lit mirror, she reminisces on her long journey to stardom.  We travel in flashback to her childhood home, where her mother observes the young Fanny, in pigtails, baggy sweater and knickerbocker pants, day-dreaming a life in showbusiness. But Mrs Brice believes this is out of her reach.  “Fanny, when people buy a ticket for the theatre, especially the male element, they want something to look at, …. if a girl isn’t pretty, like a Miss Atlantic City, all she gets is pity and a pat.” 

But undeterred, she has a passion for life in the spotlight: “That’s where I live, on stage,” says the young wannabee,  “I’m the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it.”

Fanny Brice trying to join in the dance ensemble

At an audition for a show, compared to the prettty, slender, size zero chorus dancers, Fanny is smaller, plumper and ungainly, as she attempts to join in a slick ensemble number. Sheridan is simply marvellous, with flailing arms and clumsy footwork, her dance steps are out of time and kilter.  But she has a cookie, quick witted talent as a bright, bubbly comedienne.

“Being a funny person does an awful lot of things to you. You feel that you mustn’t get serious with people. They don’t expect it from you. You’re a clown.”  Fanny Brice.

The narrative follows her struggle on and off stage, trying to be treated seriously as an all round  Burlesque – Music Hall performer at Keeney’s Theatre, Brooklyn, then moving on to be leading lady at the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.   Her unconventionality as a natural entertainer warms her to Producers and audiences alike.

Fanny (Sheridan Smith) and Nick (Darius Campbell)

She also attracts the dashing Nick Arnstein, a successful (or so it seems) gambler dealing in cards, dice and the horses, brilliantly portrayed  by Darius Campbell as a sophisticated, suave, smooth operator. In an hilarious seduction scene,  Fanny tries to escape his clutches on the velvet “casting couch”,  but quickly falls for his charm, reflected in a deliciously romantic duet “You Are Woman, I Am Man.

The entire company is excellent with some delightful cameo character roles (e.g. Mr Ziegfeld, Mrs Brice and her card sharp friends, Mrs Meeker and Mrs Strakosh),. Slickly directed and crisply choreographed, the fast paced scene-changes are neatly done, from restaurant to railway station, with luggage, tables, sofas and  stage props magically sliding on and off, with a wardrobe of glamorous costumes shifting through time from c.1910 to the late twenties.

Fanny and Nick with the company

From the opening bars of the Overture, the melodious score flows along  with several well known numbers such as ‘People”  and the stunning torch song, ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’.  While Fanny’s story is dramatised as a light and frothy comic caper, the heartfelt songs bring a truthful poignancy, unveiling the mask of a clown to show her private feelings through a lifetime of memories.

Centre stage is the brightly shining Sheridan Smith, who  acts, dances, sings, and makes us laugh out loud.  This very Funny Girl is utterly flawless, an incomparable actress, comedienne and musical superstar; Sheridan Smith is the new Judy Garland of our age.

Funny Girl,  Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 April, 2017

http://www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh

UK Tour

http://www.funnygirlthemusical.co.uk/uk-tour/

 

“The Man & the Monarch” – Sir Edwin Henry Landseer unveiled @ Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) is synonymous with the powerful depiction of animals, from Queen Victoria’s hounds and horses to lions and polar bears. However, more than any other animal, the Highland Red Deer is most associated with his art, notably ‘The Monarch of the Glen’, painted in 1851.

“The Monarch of the Glen” Sir Edwin Landseer

This majestic portrayal of a royal stag against the moody backdrop of misty mountain peaks led to numerous reproductions, engravings and marketing images from whisky to shortbread and even butter,  spreading the image worldwide.

An early advertisement for Dewar’s Whisky

Shortbread tin

This iconic image of Scotland’s wild, natural landscape encapsulates its sense of tradition, heritage and romance.  As one critic noted, ‘Landseer may be said to have mastered other animals, but the deer mastered him”.

Having been on loan for seventeen years to the National Gallery of Scotland, in 2016 the owners Diageo, decided to put the painting up for auction through Christie’s, which sparked the very real threat of a sale to an overseas gallery or collector.

Following an urgent appeal by the NGS to save the Monarch for the nation, Diageo agreed a partnership deal offering a £4 million purchase price, half its market value. Financial support came from Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund, Scottish Governnent,  private trusts and an international fundraising campaign (#loveitdeerly), with generous donations from art lovers around the world.

On 17 March 2017, it was announced that Landseer’s famous Stag had been secured, now in public ownership to remain in the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Scotland.

To celebrate this extraordinary painting, an exhibition entitled “The Man and the Monarch” is on display throughout April in a pop up gallery at the Peacock Alley, the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.

The Art Consultancy firm, Artiq advises on and selects works of art for private homes and public spaces.  Companies and clients can also lease artworks on a regular revolving basis. It is the perfect opportunity for restaurants and hotels to enhance ambience and decor for the benefit of guests:  “In the hospitality industry, a great piece of art can leave a lasting impression and resonate on a deeper level than any other aspect of design or service.”  Hotels which have collaborated with Artiq on art collections include London Heathrow, Marriott, and Gleneagles, Perthshire.

Katie Terres, art consultant, with Franck Bruyere, Deputy Manager, Waldorf Astoria, delivering a Landseer painting to the hotel.

Kate Terres, an Art Consultant from Artiq,  is the enthusiastic curator behind this fascinating showcase of prints, photographs and portraits with works by Landseer, John Ballantyne, Albert Mendelssohn and eclectic range of contemporary artists.

A stunning, stark photograph is “White Stag” by Kristian Bell. Perhaps snapped at dusk, the pure white of its coat illuminates the soft tones of green and brown foliage with the two central deer staring directly at the lens.

White Stag, Kristian Bell

As Kristian explains “I had heard a few rumours of a white stag hanging around the Arne RSPB in Dorset so was pretty pleased when we came across a group of deer including two white stags…. they were flighty and this was the closest I could get.

The award winning London-based German artist, Alma Haser specializes in carefully constructed portraits using imaginative paper-folding techniques which distorts the face, Picasso-esque style, such as in her series Cosmic Surgery.

“I hope that people find them beautiful but at the same time are taken aback because they are so awkward and weird. I just want them to look closer.”  Alma Haser

Thistle Face, Alma Haser

Haser also alters the shape of a head and facial expression with decorative adornments in a series entitled Brainstorm, and here you can see her powerfully enigmatic portrait “Thistle Face,”  showing  a man’s face obscured by the flower of Scotland.   Landseer suffered bouts of depression throughout his life and this vibrant image of sharp, spiky leaves and purple tone, subtlely reflects the blocked mind and dark thoughts of mental illness.

To complement a fine print of “The Monarch of the Glen” itself, there is also “Scene in Braemar – Highland Deer”.  In 1888, this Landseer painting was purchased  at Christie’s for 4,950 guineas by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, remaining in the family, (on loan to the National Gallery of Dublin) until sold to a private collector over a century later. The dramatic painting, nearly 9ft high, portrays the artist’s most familiar subject, the Red Stag, surrounded by young fawns and a cute little hare with a soaring eagle overhead against menacing grey storm clouds.

‘Scene in Braemar, Highland Deer” Sir Edwin Landseer

This small yet comprehensive exhibtion captures the essential spirit of Landseer’s life and work: a violent scene of eagles attacking three swans, portraits and photographs which illustrate his close association with Queen Victoria (who commissioned numerous pictures), and his epic project to model the lion sculptures for Trafalgar Square.

It would have been fantastic to have also included a print of Sir Peter Blake’s own striking interpretation, “After The Monarch of the Glen” (1966), hanging side by side Peter Saville’s dynamic tapestry, “After, After, After The Monarch of the Glen,” (2012).

Within the former Caledonian Station concourse, the Peacock Alley is a most elegant Salon for hotel guests and non residents to relax over afternoon tea or a coupe of champagne. The Bartender has invented a special Scotch Whisky, Earl Grey and orange-flavoured “Monarch” cocktail, the perfect tipple as you browse around this artwork.

It makes you wonder that if Landseer were alive today, he would be invited to work for fashion houses and jewellers to create promotional advertisements .. you can just visualise Landseer’s Stags, dogs and lions joining Cartier’s Panther as a symbol of artistic style and luxury.

Peacock Alley, The Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh, The Caledonian,

“The Man and the Monarch” is on show until the end of April 2017

The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Princes Street, Edinbugh EH1 2AB.   tel. 0131 222 8888

http://www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com