I guess it’s time for the Barbarians’ year end review. 2018 has treated us well. We had more wondrous and wonderful collaborations in New York, Malta, Frankfurt, London, Cambridge, Kent, and our prime weekend destination: the Cotswolds. We met up with some lovely fellow bloggers in person and made friends on social networks.
Our 2018 started with a few fun days in Vienna. It was our fourth time together in Vienna in winter. In our book there’s no better place to enjoy this time of year than Austria’s glorious capital. We made a point in ordering Viennese schnitzel every time we ate out and our favourite turned out to be Cafe Englander.
Gobbling like a Gourmet
We also started shopping for discount deals at Michelin-starred restaurants and on average dined at such culinary temples twice a month, sometimes for less than £20 per person, hardly ever for more than £35. Just because we regularly get asked, here you are: The most expensive meal we had (excluding collaborations) was at two-starred Lafleur in Frankfurt for €580 (for two persons, including wine). We had done a collaboration with them in 2017 and paying for this meal was also a way for us to say thank you to them. This collaboration made our life as food bloggers a lot easier.
Indulging in so much haute cuisine was hugely enjoyable. We’re still very much at the beginning of our journey to become proper food bloggers, but we certainly sharpened our palates and improved our knowledge of cooking techniques, ingredients, flavours, trends. It was only this year that we started to read larger amounts of other food bloggers’ and of professional food critics’ reviews, and we’re trying to learn as much as we can from them.
The most exciting collaboration was just two weeks ago at one-star Carmelo Greco (also in Frankfurt), a truly unforgettable experience. The post will go live some time in January.
Hell is Getting up at 3:30am
Since mid-2017 and until last Friday, I was mainly based in Frankfurt during the week, only seeing Ms B on the weekends, which was hard on both of us. Every Monday morning I would get up at 3:30am, then stay at a different hotel each week, then fly back to London on Friday night. So glad this is now over. I’m still working for the same client, but from my London home office, only visiting Frankfurt for a day or two every now and then. So much better!
Commuting took an enormous chunk out of my time budget, on average just under 20 hours per week, if you include the commute within Frankfurt and take into account the regular delays. Early in the year I also did a three-month online course that took another 15 hours or more out of my week. In hindsight it was silly to do the course while commuting, it nearly broke my spine.
Family Feuds & Friends
As if that had not been enough, my closest family started fighting on a constant basis about an issue that I had burried more than twenty years ago (nothing too serious, just a thing that hurt a lot of feelings big time). It led to extended periods of radio silence and the remainder of time filled with harsh words.
Due to lack of time, I hardly saw my friends during the year. Many of them started or extended their families this year and probably wouldn’t even have had time for me, if I would have been available. Ms B, on the contrary, became a bit of a social butterfly and – which of course is great – started to make more time to meet up with her buddies, make new friends, get out there, do courses, go to the gym.
After one and a half years of mostly working abroad, living out of a suitcase, with no kitchen at my disposal, I’m really looking forward to picking up on my cooking. I even bought a sous-vide set half a year ago, which I intend to finally start using.
The Worst Response
A restaurant we had heard about for years and always wanted to visit responded rather rude to our polite inquiry if they’d be interested in doing a collaboration. We were called “parasites” and told we wouldn’t even be welcome as paying guests. This is the first and only time this has ever happened to us, and with several Michelin-star collaborations under our belt, it didn’t touch us. Our guess is that the restaurant in question had been let down by some blogger in the not too distant past, leaving some deep cuts and bruises. On internet forums you can read some shocking stories about bloggers accepting collaborations, then tearing the respective place in question apart in their reviews, which is not good for anyone, least of all us honest bloggers.
We will never post a review that we do not believe in, but equally we will never accept a collaboration and then rubbish the place. We research all collaboration partners very thoroughly. Usually they rank in the top ten percent of their peer group. Should a partner ever under-deliver (which has not yet happened), then we would simply insist on paying the bill and bin the review.
The Sweetest Compliment
One of our collaboration partners gave us the sweetest compliment we ever received. As usual, we had emailed him after our post had gone live on this page here. Then we didn’t hear back from him for several weeks and started to wonder if perhaps we hadn’t hit the right tone with him. Finally, he emailed and told us that his mom had died, which is terribly sad. But it did make our hearts shine when he said that our blog post helped him during this difficult time, cheered him up.
BBC News and the Michelin Guide
A large number of our photos (usually from Instagram) were re-posted and re-used. The highlights were Ms B’s photo of the Guy Fawkes fireworks, which ended up (with credit) on the top of the BBC News webpage, and my photo of the veal steak at Imlauer Sky Bar & Restaurant, Salzburg, which ended up on the Michelin Guide’s webpage. We’ve also regularly been re-posted on Instagram by accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers and more. The photo of the doughnuts led to our invitation to a full-day French baking course.
Tired of Travel?
Ms B & I won’t lie: at times we felt like we had booked ourselves onto too many trips and made plans to travel a lot less. Regularly I would travel from Frankfurt and Ms B from London to meet up somewhere in-between, such as Paris, Malta, New York, Scotland, or Berlin. Even when only one of us travelled and visited the other half in either London or Frankfurt, we’d still typically do lots of things, go on day-trips or weekend-trips to nearby places. At some stage I got real sick with a misdiagnosed ear infection that triggered further complications, leaving me lying in bed for a straight two weeks. My perforated eardrum still hasn’t healed completely and I’m taking plenty of medication for another few weeks.
We were a bit unlucky with the weather at times. On four consecutive trips the weather was so atrocious that collaborations and other activities got cancelled, including two helicopter flights, the path up to Ben Nevis, a quad tour, and four boat trips (one of them would have been with a twin jet engine powered speed boat, very cool).
We still had a ton of fun. My favourite of 2018 was New York, where we met with an old friend of mine, Nils, who also wrote two guest posts (here and here) and with fabulous fellow bloggers Lynn and Justin from Madhatters NYC. Nils and I had met for the first time in New York City, when we were helping to renovate Manhattan’s oldest Jewish synagogue as part of a German-Jewish friendship project. Ms B’s favourite trip of the year was to Paris, which is a close second for me.
While she was taking the photo of the Louvre pyramid from the terrace of Cafe Richelieu, I was taking a leak next to Vincent Cassel at the restrooms upstairs. Very cool dude. I was initially going to try to start a conversation, but it just felt too weird considering the situation haha..
(c) all BSqB except Vincent Cassel (c) Frostsnow.com
An Action-Filled Summer
Our summer was filled with fun activities. This is not what we normally do. It was our first time and almost certainly a one-off, but boy was it fun. We went on a seal safari in a decommissioned Vietnam War amphibian vehicle, did some horse-back riding, hiking, rode a jetski, a jetlev, a segway (off-road), a jeep (off-road), a powerboat, a Ford Mustang, a V12 convertible Jaguar, and went on a ride in a hot air balloon. From mid-July to mid-September we were out and about every single weekend. The highlight was my tandem jump with North London Skydiving, followed closely by the jetlev and jetski rides.
Our Plans for 2019
Ms B has already started working out regularly (and Mr B is very proud of her). I will start working out again, now that I have so much more time at my hands. We’ll still continue to travel a fair bit, but mostly during the second half of the year. For now we’ll be taking it fairly easy. We’ve booked our flights and hotel for the carnival in Venice in February, and will probably visit friends and family in Sydney in April, doing a three-day layover in Tokyo. I can’t wait to see friends and family in Sydney (we haven’t seen little Chloe, our niece, in nearly two years!!) and to show Ms B my favourite city destination on planet earth, the absolutely mental capital of Japan. I could never live or work there, but for a few days it just blows your mind, I find.
All photos (c) BSqB except where otherwise indicated
Ellie and I are very grateful to you for reading our blog! Thank you. We hope to see you again next year, stay in touch, and a Happy New Year to you!