Happy birthday, Love to Dine!

It was almost by accident that I realised that today is the first anniversary of Love to Dine, as I was looking at blog stats and realised I had a full twelve months’ worth. It’s 365 days since I asked my Facebook friends what the best blog platform was and, never being one to waste time once I’ve decided I’m going to do something, I took the plunge with setting up my WordPress site and publishing my first review. So, with a new look for Love to Dine on its way (more on that later!), I thought it would be a good time to review the past year as a blogger and tell you a bit about my plans for the next 12 months – and beyond!

An inauspicious launch

In some ways, it feels a little bit fraudulent to mark it as a big occasion, because when I started, I had no clear plan for the blog and was just using it for somewhere to publish a few reviews I’d already written. I’ve already told the story of why I started blogging, so I won’t bore you with it again! As with all these things, if I’d known then what I know now, there are undoubtedly a few things I’d have done differently, but when you’re doing something that’s for fun, life seems too short to spend hours, even weeks, planning meticulously and setting out strategies – and so it came to pass that I dived (dove?) straight in and launched the blog in a very unceremonious way. Research, learning and exploring came afterwards.

A permanent move!

Happily, as time has gone on, I’ve learnt a bit more and have managed to evolve the blog a little bit, and my stats seem to reflect that I’m doing something right, as readership is growing, although my main objective, first and foremost, is to enjoy it. Anything else is a bonus! I’ve also moved from Bournemouth to South Wales permanently to live, so rather than my reviews alternating between two seemingly disparate locations, I’ve been able to focus a little bit more on the Cardiff and South Wales area – which is great, as it seems to have an enthusiastic community of both bloggers and foodies, which it’s good to be a part of, not to mention an ever-growing range of diverse and exciting food businesses!

Highs and lows

Over the course of the year, there have been many highs, and thankfully relatively few lows, of dining! The good thing about being independent and doing this for fun is that I can choose where I dine, so generally my experiences have been good, as I wouldn’t knowingly spend my own money on something I thought was going to be bad! Even the invitations to review that I have had have, happily, been mostly positive.

Particular highlights included an out of this world Sunday lunch at Koffmann’s, for my birthday weekend in London, a lovely return to the Michelin starred Le Mas Candille in France, a week of foodie indulgence on the Queen Mary 2, and the discovery of some fantastic places in and around Cardiff and the Vale, including Purple Poppadom, The Meating PlaceThe Hardwick and The Potted Pig. I’ve also had some great experiences I’ve had thanks to the blog, with Supper Club at the Park Plaza and Masterchef at the Radisson Blu being particularly noteworthy.

Restaurants – and more

Up until now, I’ve focused mostly on restaurant reviews, which will continue to be the main focus of Love to Dine, but I’m planning to diversify a little, whilst still focusing on my ultimate passion of dining and all things related to really good food!

Coming up in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be running a series of interviews with local people behind an eclectic mix of food businesses, talking to them about their passions, their use of social media to promote their businesses (as a marketer by day, this is something very close to my heart!) and hopefully revealing a few lesser known and quirky facts about them too! I’ve already carried out a few of the interviews and it has been fantastic talking to such passionate people.

I’m also planning to run a few product reviews – focusing on higher end food and ingredients, preferably with a local angle. If you have any recommendations for me, or if you’re a food producer with a product you’d like me to try, then please get in touch.

I’ll be continuing, too, with my occasional series of posts on cafe culture in my home town of Penarth, and the pursuit of perfect pub grub in and around the Vale!

Love to cook

There’s a chance I might even share some recipes and cooking secrets from the Love to Dine kitchen – perhaps using some of the new ingredients I’m hoping to discover. Sadly, I don’t normally have the time to attempt elaborate meals during the week, but I always cook from scratch, so I focus on dishes that can be accomplished with relatively little fuss, and that take no more than an hour to cook from start to finish (preferably less than that because otherwise we don’t eat until gone 9 o’clock!)

Facelift time

Finally, and most excitingly, a new look and logo for Love to Dine will be coming soon – so watch this space!

Let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas for what you’d like to see me writing about in the future – and I hope you continue to enjoy reading!

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