Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Talking 'Nashville' with Sam Palladio


Sam Palladio in Nashville

Nashville is buzzing right now, and it's partly down to the TV show of the same name. Showing over here on TG4/More 4, the show is a whirling dervish of feisty women, stetsons and a whole heap of country music. While I was in Nashville, I sat down with Sam Palladio, the English actor playing Gunnar, to talk about the show, his move to the states, and the city itself.

On winning the role of Gunnar...

"I auditioned on a little old webcam on my cheap laptop in England. I’d just started working with an American manager and it was the first script that she’d sent me that I thought “this could work out – this sounds like a part that’s up my street".

"They wanted actors who were real life musicians and had that understanding of the creativity involved in being a songwriter. They wanted that to be real. I didn’t think I had a hope in hell, because it was a massive, American TV show and I hadn’t been here before, so I just filmed myself playing some James Taylor songs and a Tom Paxton song and sent them off and didn’t think much about it. I think it was about four in the morning as well, I stay up late.

"Then about five days later, my manager got a call saying "We really love what you’ve done"

"It was one of those fateful moments where they said "We don’t need to see anybody, that’s the guy."

On moving to Nashville...

"I’ve loved it, I really have. The community is so welcoming. You know, coming from a small town (in Cornwall), where you see a lot of familiar faces, you know everybody’s business, that was my upbringing. And here the southern hospitality is very much like that. So London was great, but I kind of like this community feel here. Even though it’s still a large town, a 'little big town' they call it. Even last night at the CMA awards, all these incredible artists like Brad Paisley came up to me at one point and were like "Hey man, I’ve just got to say I love the show, I love what you’re doing" And then like Vince Gill comes past and is like "Good to see you man!" It feels like it’s so strange that we’ve been accepted in this country music royalty circle. It comes from the locals who are just friendly, and then it extends to the superstars. So it’s been a very easy adjustment, actually.

On the Texan accent...

"They didn’t tell me where the character was from to start with, so I did a very general kind of “Hey man, what’s up” Cali accent. Then I got the job and about three days before I got here they said “Oh, he’s from Texas” So last minute flicking back through my old notes from drama school!

"We have a dialect coach on set, she’ll work with us before an episode. My routine will be working through it with her a few days before, working out any kinks. She listens to me do my version and then if there’s something that needs a little work, I do my homework and hopefully it’ll be sounding good on the day.  Then I just stay in my accent throughout the working day, so it doesn’t slip, and I don’t start sounding like this! (- ie, English)

"I think they were very cautious to make sure the accents weren’t too over the top, so if anything it’s been rein it back a bit. Sometimes you can get real Texan, so the notes have actually been the opposite of that.

"I ended up fooling one of our directors who was from Texas. He did episode 9 or 10 in the first season. We were just having a conversation and I asked him what part of Texas he was from and he asked what part I was from. I said "I’m English" and he said "What?!" For some reason he hadn’t picked up on the fact, or our backstories. That made me feel good!

On country music...

I was a big fan of Americana folk and Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash, that sort of 70s era and then the older country, Johnny Cash, Willy Nelson, that sort of thing. And that tends to be what my tastes go towards. So I really wasn’t aware of the modern day country music, Brad Paisely, Keith Urban and those guys. So getting here was this big education. The first night I went to the Grand Ole Opry, I was like, Vince Gill, who’s this guy? Now, I know exactly who they are!

On filming in Nashville...

We’re all here. Everybody’s relocated. We’ve bought houses… Chip and Connie have got properties, now moved their families out. Eric Close and I live in the same building over here, he’s brought his family out now. It was very much a relocation for a lot of us. There was talk of it potentially moving to LA at some point… but it’s so well received by the Tennesseans and the Nashvillians that they all fight to keep it here. And I’ll speak for myself, I love being here.

On Nashville's best venues...

There’s a cool one over here called Third and Lindsley. They have some great bands. Mercy Lounge is just round the corner. The amount of people they have on at the Ryman, it’s amazing. I’m playing the Grand Ole Opry this Saturday, at the Ryman. It’s going to be my seventh time. It’s ridiculous, I can’t believe it. I get to play my own music as well, which is an amazing showcase.

On his preconceptions of Nashville...

I thought it was going to be a little more country. A little more like hay bales and tractors and things. I had no idea it was going to be quite so cosmopolitan, and it’s a real melting pot of cultures and people, really. There’s a ton of people that are moving here from LA, and NY, and the south, and Chicago. It’s obviously a mecca for music, so that’s what brings in the artists and the talent, that way. I think that’s why the community is so cool, because the majority of people are creative, here to do a creative job, and that has a cool energy to it.

On the show's impact on the city...

I think it’s been amazing for the city. To open people’s eyes to it. I wouldn’t have had a clue what it was like. I would have had no idea it’s so vibrant, that there’s so much music here and not just country music. Just a wide range of Indie Rock, folk, anything you could ask for. I think the show tries to make the city look good, and I think if I was watching it back in the UK I’d think that looks like a cool place to visit. That’s what people say, and I meet tons of tourists who have come just because of the show.

I pop down to the Bluebird Café now and again, and it must be kind of weird for fans who are there. I’ve met loads of fans there that have come to the Bluebird because of the show. A group from Chicago drove down, and the first place they stopped was the Bluebird, and I happened to be standing at the back by the sound board. My buddy Jimmy works there so we’re all just hanging out.

We do shows there ourselves, so it must be strange. I can’t imagine walking through Albuquerque and seeing Bryan Cranston dealing some crack, so it’s great! But here, we’re playing gigs and we look like our characters, and it’s funny. And I’m in publishing houses writing songs with people like Billy Montana. And you could just film it, and minus my accent it would just be exactly like the show.



Nashville is on TG4 on Tuesday nights at 9.05pm (you can watch on their ad free TG Player too) or on More 4 on Thursdays. You can follow Sam on Twitter @sampalladio

You can catch up on all my other Nashville posts here, from my tips on where to eat, to my songwriting adventures with Billy Montana.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Memory Dish - Pan Con Tomate recipe, inspired by Spain


There are some things that are so simple, and yet so effective. Pretty much guaranteed to hit the spot no matter when you knock them up. Pan con Tomate is one of those things. A popular Spanish breakfast dish, it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. All you need is some super fresh tasty ingredients, and you're most of the way there. 

This is a great dish for a simple brunch, or an emergency snack. The key is really good tomatoes - preferably still on the vine, and not those rock hard orangey globes you find in supermarkets. If you're lucky enough to have a great farmer's market near you, then you'll likely get lucky in the summer months. Otherwise, trust your nose - there's nothing like the smell of real tomatoes. 

Ingredients
2 slices of sturdy bread (I used a country loaf from the French bakery in Sligo, Il Fournil - try a crusty sourdough or similar)
Two tomatoes
Olive oil
1/2 garlic clove
Salt
Parsley or basil

1. Slice your bread, and pop it in the toaster. 


2. Grate your tomatoes. It sounds a little weird, but it will leave you with all of the pulp, and none of the skin.


3. When you're done, push it quickly through a sieve to get the watery juice out, without losing too much of the pulp.


4. Cut a garlic clove in half, peel and rub on your toasted bread. I was a little heavy handed with this, because I love garlic. I practically grated it on, because I didn't trust that rubbing it would release a big enough hit. But it did! So if you're wary of raw garlic, be gentle.




5. Drizzle with olive oil.


6. Spoon on your tomato mush, and finish with a good sprinkling of salt and some herbs, if desired. To be honest, they're not really necessary, and not very traditional. But they make a better picture!






Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Brighton Festivals: An Ultimate Guide


Brighton has long had a reputation as a city buzzing with life, charm and the sense that anything can happen. Seen by many as London’s cooler sibling, it’s a vibrant seaside town with plenty going on. But come May, the action is multiplied with the start of festival season. Between the Brighton Festival and the more avant-garde Brighton Fringe, there are countless events throughout the month that are sure to please all.

What to see
So much happens that it’s worth planning your schedule well in advance. There are huge musical productions, with orchestras filling the majestic Brighton Dome. A big top tent with burlesque performers and acrobats swinging from the rafters. Small performances from dance troupes not in a theatre, but in the middle of the train station. There’s nothing too small, or too obscure, for the festivals.

You’ll definitely want to catch a show in the outlandish Spiegeltent, an eccentric venue home to cabaret acts and a plush bar. And you won’t want to miss Sh*t Faced Shakespeare (23rd – 30th May), where one of the Bard’s plays is performed by classically trained actors. The twist? One gets rip-roaringly drunk before they tread the boards. If you’re with the kids, they’ll love the huge Children’s Parade on 3rd May.   
                                                                                                                                  
Where to go
The heart of the city is in the Laines, a hotchpotch of streets where you’ll find the best independent shops, bars and restaurants. This is also home to the majority of the venues – shows are as likely to take place in a tiny room above a pub, as they are a theatre. In between shows, grab a coffee and head to the lawns around the Pavilion.


Where to eat
Vegetarians will have no problem finding great food in Brighton. Terre a Terre (terreaterre.co.uk) is a veggie spot so good that carnivores won’t even miss their meat. You’ll be well fed at The Courtyard (courtyardbrighton.co.uk), where hearty steaks and burgers are served up in the heart of the Laines. For a quick bite, grab some authentic Japanese from Pompoko (pompoko.co.uk), a hole in the wall that satisfies busy appetites.

If you time your visit right, the real food heaven happens from May 3rd – 5th, when the Foodies Festival (foodiesfestival.com) hits nearby Hove. Tents and trucks park up by the sea and overflow with artisan food, doled up to happy patrons. Tickets are £12pp.



Where to drink
There are countless great drinking spots around the city, from tiny pubs to stylish cocktail bars. When the sun is shining, punters spill out from the numerous bars on Jubilee Street to sip a pint al fresco. Riki Tik is a Caribbean hotspot on Bond Street, where the dancefloor stays hopping ‘til the early hours. For a more sophisticated scene, Merkaba is on the ground floor of MyHotel, but a million miles away from your typical hotel bar. Cocktails are expertly mixed up from an extensive menu, and enjoyed by a chic crowd.

Where to stay
As well as being home to the Merkaba bar, MyHotel Brighton (myhotels.com) is a great option if you want to be in the heart of the action. The curved and spacious rooms are bright to the point of dazzling, with a space age feel and stylish touches throughout. Each morning, you’ll find local hipsters meeting up for a flat white in the coffee bar downstairs, also home to some excellent pastries. Rooms start at £70 (€84).


Gripe
With so many shows happening at once, it can be hard to tell the ones worth a watch from those definitely worth skipping. The crowds can also get a bit overwhelming over the weekends.

Getting There
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) fly from Dublin, Cork and Knock to London Gatwick, a thirty minute train ride from Brighton.

The Brighton Festival (brightonfestival.org) runs from 3rd – 25th May. Brighton Fringe (brightonfringe.org) runs from 3rd May to 1st June. More information on the city can be found at visitbrighton.com

This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville


I can honestly say that prior to heading to Nashville, I'd never given Johnny Cash much thought. I have some of his music. If you'd have asked me if I liked him, I would have said yes. I'd seen Walk the Line (and had also worked in Blockbuster's when it came out, so knew the words to the trailer off by heart). 

I was interested to learn more, but I had no idea that this little museum in downtown Nashville would blow me away. 

It only opened its doors a few months ago, but the museum has already made a huge impression. The collection is mostly the work of Bill Miller, and old friend and lifelong fan of Cash. When he was a boy, he caught his harmonica at an early gig, and then dedicated his life to building an astonishing collection of Cash memorabilia. 


The space is small and intimate, with stations set up to listen to his music through the decades. It begins with his childhood, where you'll find snippets of his adolescent experience. 


Then comes the story of his time at war, his musical experience and his loves. I knew nothing about his first wife, Vivian, who is often a forgotten element of the Johnny Cash story.

There's nothing like reading old love letters.



But the bulk of the love story is told with June Carter as the star. Here's a gorgeous picture of their wedding day...


And a chair from their home.


But of course, the bulk of the exhibition is dedicated to his music. And if there's one thing I love more than nosying at old love letters, it's seeing hand written song lyrics.





When I reached the end of the trail, I was alone in a red brick corner. We'd reached the end of his journey, and a television screen was playing the music video for 'Hurt', produced at the end of Cash's life.

Maybe it was seeing him in his later years. Maybe it was because I'd spent a good hour fully immersed in his life story. Maybe I was just a little tired. But I couldn't help shedding a little tear as I stood alone and watched him sing.


The only thing that could cheer me up? Brilliantly titled soaps and candles in the shop. Puns! PUNS! 


A Bar Named Sue found its way home with me. 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Deep Aquarium in Hull


I've been fooled so many times by aquariums. Brimming over with excitement, I've skipped my way through only to be saddened by cramped fish, overheated penguins and animals performing at feeding times.

So I was healthily sceptical about The Deep, an aquarium in Hull. One of the Millennium Projects in the UK (in fact, the only one still open), The Deep stands tall over the Humber river bay, shaped like the bow of a ship.

The name stems from the arrangement of the interior, known only as the world's first submarium. Instead of walking around walls of water, the fish are homed in a gigantic column of water that runs up the centre of the building.

I was lucky enough to walk around with a guy who used to work there, who knew the answer to almost every inane question I asked (aside from "Can we cuddle the penguins?")

Ah, the penguins. New to The Deep, the Gentoo penguins are a huge attraction. I visited early in the morning, and still had to elbow an army of small children out of the way before I could get to them. I've actually never seen such an excited child as the one who stood, wide eyed and shouting, nose pressed up to the glass, waiting for one to jump in the water.

"Jump! Jump! JUMP! JUUUUUUUUUMP!"

The penguin jumped, and the child's head exploded with joy.

I should point out that the penguins can't hear the absolute racket taking place on the other side of the glass. This, I'm afraid, is the best picture I could get of the leaping penguins. Boy, were they quick on their flippers.



Brilliant as the penguins were, I was transfixed by the array of jellyfish. They were hypnotic, glowing blue and dancing inanely through the tank. I could have watched them all day. We also saw the tiniest jellyfish babies ever, part of the breeding process at the aquarium.





I was also thrilled to see a wee Nemo fish, actually brushing himself on an anen... anon... annem... anemone. I tell you, what that film has done for aquariums is insane.


Tickets at The Deep cost £11.50 for adults, and £9.50 for kids over 3. Brilliantly, this ticket can get you access for a full year (some dates excluded)

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Memory Dish - Green Smoothie inspired by California




When I was in California, juice bars were everywhere. Even waaay back in the day, when I was there as a baby 18 year old, they abounded. Though more of them were a Jamba Juice, and therefore no healthier than a Coke.

Nowadays, you can't turn a corner without finding a juice over there. And none of your boring apple/orange combos either. Amazingly fresh vegetable juices, vibrant in colour and packed full of goodness.

It makes me sound so annoyingly healthy, but I do start every day with a kale smoothie. This happens for a multitude of reasons. Initially, it was to fit into a bridesmaid dress. Soon after, it was because it tastes so good that I actually go to bed craving it. It starts the day on such a good note that I don't feel as bad about ending it with a tsunami of minstrels. Mmm. Minstrels.

When I sink back to my old ways for a few days, I can see the difference. And not because a breakfast of, say, weetabix, is bad. But because this is so good, such an injection of pure green energy, that I am lacking when I go without. It makes a vague improvement on my awful skin, and is amazing for the gut.

So I start the day right, and then I'm onto a winner.


My recipe is just what suits me, but it goes without saying that it's easily tweaked to suit you. If you don't fancy something as leafy (I do think it can take some getting used to for some people) then up the fruit content. I always put a banana in, which gives me sweetness and bulk, but pineapple would be a great source of sweetness. I personally don't like milks/honey in my smoothies, but I'm only the boss of me, so do whatever you want.


Kale Smoothie inspired by California

3 big fronds of kale, thick stem removed
1 huge handful of baby spinach
The flesh of 1/2 lime
1 banana (or apple)
3 inch piece of cucumber, chopped
Small glass of water (substitute for nut/rice milk, or apple juice if you need something sweet)

Pop it all in a blender and whizz until super smooth. Add your water in bit by bit, and add more if it's too thick. Enjoy with a sense of smugness.

Optional extras - grated ginger, chia seeds, spirulina, probiotics etc etc. Basically any of that healthy stuff you have knocking around. If I feel a cold coming on, I whack enough ginger in to burn the tail off a donkey.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Five reasons to love the Marker Hotel


1. The Rooftop Bar
When the Marker opened on this day last year, little did they know they were about to see one of the best summers we'd ever had. One in which all of Dublin wanted to head to a rooftop bar, and enjoy an ice cold cocktail with amazing views of the sea, mountains and all of Dublin city. I'm sure they couldn't believe their luck. The rooftop bar is open all year round (though only at weekends in the winter) and will thrive again this summer, I'm sure.

2. The Chef
Savvy executive chef  Gareth Mullins sure knows how to get people talking. When the cronut craze hit New York, he was quick to rustle up his own version for Dublin. And now they've kicked off Le Drunch, a Sunday afternoon lunch/dinner hybrid, complete with (more) cocktails and an in house DJ.

3. The Location
It's a little out of the centre of town, a good 20 minutes I'd say, but it's smack bang in what I like to call the Hot Rich Nerd district, home to Google, Facebook and ask those clever tech types. New, funky restaurants are popping up all the time, and I'm sure more will follow.

4. The Pool
It's small but perfectly formed, in a dark cocoon next to a gym that you can pretend you'll go in later. There's also a sauna and  eucalyptus infused steam room, as well as cool chill out spaces. You get access as a guest of the hotel, but also if you visit the spa, which has some great offers available.

5. The Rooms
It's the little things that make a difference. A plant in each room. Unique art work and commissioned photographs. Black marble bathrooms with exclusive toiletries. But really, it's all about the light. Some of the starting rate rooms don't face out towards the square, but the ones that do are flooded with light from the huge windows. Even on a cloudy day, you'll be blessed with a light room (though they do have good black out curtains)

The Marker Hotel
Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2



Friday, 28 March 2014

The Memory Dish - Banana and Nutella Gelato inspired by Rome




When I was 20, I spent a few weeks hopping around Italy, seeing Rome, Florence and Venice, before flying over to Barcelona. Many memorable things happened on that trip. A swift visit into a Roman A&E after a ferocious insect bite started to paralyse me. A heat wave so strong that the only thing I can recall from the Roman Forum is a powerful desire to faint.

But most memorable of all, the gelato. Each afternoon (and evening) we'd stroll the streets to find the windows of gelaterias piled high with multitudes of creamy delights. We'd get a little tub, sometimes double scoops, and watch others do the same, from tourists like us, to svelte Italian model types.

It's hard to replicate, of course. But I've discovered a banana ice cream recipe so easy, so quick and so delicious that it's become one of my favourite things. People won't believe you when you tell them how it's made, mostly because the prime ingredient is frozen bananas.

And that's IT.

You add other bits and pieces, if you like, but all you need is that one frozen food hero. So technically, it's a vegan dessert. Dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, fat free, everything free. With heaps of potassium.

But if there's one thing I like to do, it's taking a raw health food and making it piggy. It's a hobby of mine to eat something vegan and say "You know what would be great on this? Bacon."

I've made this before with just almond nut butter, and it was amazing. The same goes for peanut butter, and you can also add a dash of coco powder to make it chocolatey (though be light handed, as it can go a bit bitter)

Previous recipes I've seen include a sweetener, such as honey or agave. But honestly, it doesn't need them.

It also doesn't need Nutella but let's face it, there's nothing that can't be improved with Nutella. The banana/Nutella combination has long held a place in my heart. It reminds me of crepes in Paris, of ice cream milkshakes in Shakeaway, and of me regularly eating a banana dipped into the Nutella jar.

So here is your Roman inspired, easy as pie...

Banana and Nutella Gelato (no churn)

Ingredients
3 bananas
1 tablespoon Nutella

1. Slice your bananas and place in a Tupperware tub. Put in freezer for at least 10 hours. Those suckers need to be rock solid - don't do as my friend did and think a couple of hours will do it. You'll be left looking a fool.

2. Put your frozen banana slices into a food processor or blender. Blend.

3. At first, you'll think nothing is happening. You'll be worried that your blender is about to break. The banana will just look like weird chunks of wax. But keep at it. Check out the GIF below to see it magically take form...



4. ... And after a few minutes of blending, you'll be left with a smooth, whipped, vegan banana gelato. Taste a bit! Tastes good, doesn't it? There's nothing that could improve it. Unless...

5. Crack into that Nutella! Enjoy the moment when you break into the seal with a spoon, like it's a fancy creme brulee.

6. Dollop a tablespoon into the mix, and either pulse with the blender or beat in by hand. Lick the spoon.

7. Enjoy!



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A vineyard pilgrimage in Galicia

Pazo de Galegos

I met Dan when I was walking the streets of Santiago. A former NYPD cop, he had just completed El Camino, a pilgrimage which stretches for hundreds of kilometres. He was about to take his ‘pilgrim’s passport’ to be stamped for the final time, after a long and arduous journey.

“So how do you feel? Was it everything you thought it would be?” I asked.

“It was an amazing experience. But I met so many people who weren’t taking it seriously. They only walked parts of it. They were more interested in drinking, to be honest.”

I nodded sagely, thinking about the certificate I had in my bag, which commended the fact that I had walked for a grand total of one hour. It was a bit of a joke certificate, in fairness, but it marked the occasion nonetheless.

I also neglected to tell him about the wineries I had discovered on my trip. For mine turned out to be more of a vineyard pilgrimage, one in which I relentlessly journeyed to find the best wine the region had to offer.


You’ll find the local white, Albariño, all over Santiago and Galicia, a region where good food and great wine go hand in hand.

Manuel García

Pazo de Galegos (pazodegalegos.com) is a small, family vineyard and guesthouse run by Manuel García and his sons. He’s a dangerous man to meet at 10am in the morning – it’s not long before a glass is in your hand, with a more than generous sample of his delectable wine.

The Palacio de Fefiñanes (fefinanes.com) is an architectural gem dating back to the 16th century. Located in the pretty seaside town of Cambados, the palace has been home to great wine for hundreds of years. You can tour the beautiful gardens as well as the cellars, and the wine is divine.



Paco and Lola is a wine you’ll see in numerous and bars and restaurants across Galicia. The quirky polka dot bottle is easy to spot, and apparently a celebrity favourite in LA (it was the wine of choice at the premiere of Vicky Christina Barcelona).



You can see more about the Rias Baixas Wine Route here -http://rutasdelvino.xunta.es/en/rt_riasbaixas_sintesis.php

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Memory Dish - Strawberry Balsamic Martini inspired by Nashville





You can expect to see a lot of Nashville inspired posts for the Memory Dish. Maybe I'm just a fool for mac and cheese, but I adored everything I ate there. I went back home filled with inspiration for future experiments in the kitchen (I also went home a little bit fatter)

First up is this signature cocktail from the Tavern Midtown. I adored this restaurant. It was full of dark wood, dark corners and the glow from candles. Each table seemed to be a nook which you could hide away in. Plus, it was home to the single best burger I've ever eaten in my life.

But to kick off, I had the Balsamic Martini, as recommended by the waitress. Yum. It packed quite the punch, but was overcome with sweet, fresh strawberry, and a tangy kick of balsamic.

I've had a little experiment, and come up with a recipe that is pretty damn delicious. But if you do find yourself in Nashville, be sure to try the real thing (and the burger. Oh God, the burger...)


Strawberry Balsamic Martini

4 ripe strawberries
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
50ml vodka
20ml Martini Rosso

(makes one)

1. In a blender, obliterate your strawberries with the sugar and balsamic vinegar.

2. In a martini shaker (or jar with lid screwed on tight, as is my preference) shake up the strawberries with the balsamic syrup, the vodka, Martini Rosso and ice cubes. Shake shake shake. Shake shake shake.

3. Pour out into your glass.









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