Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Month: October 2014

Gin heaven at Heads & Tails, Edinburgh

On Friday night I tried out Heads & Tails, a new Edinburgh gin bar. The place opened this summer and is situated in the basement of the beautiful Rutland Hotel. Talking about underground – this venue feels like a trip back in time to an illegal speakeasy in Prohibition America. From the outside, you would never know the bar was there and descending the stairs to the entrance, I was nervous that I might need to give a secret password at the door!
The interior is very cool with wooden barrels for tables, dim lighting and comfy leather and fabric upholstered chairs. It also has some intimate side rooms (as pictured above) which would be brilliant for a group gathering. The unisex toilets were a bit of a surprise but thankfully there were cubicles – no urinals in sight!
The bar provides table service (no queuing – yay!) and has one of the most original cocktail menus I’ve seen. I loved the PB & J – a cocktail containing two of my favourite things – gin and peanut butter! The delicious Bees Knees was made with honey and came in the cutest teddy bear glass; what a relief that I only had a clutch bag with me! Staff were knowledgeable and friendly which made for a very relaxed evening. There are a selection of light snacks available and I would definitely recommend trying out the meat and cheese platters along with a teacup full of olives.

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The light entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of cackling banshees on the next table who had been drinking prosecco (in a gin bar, pffft!) since they finished in the office. There was a lot of over-sharing going on at that table. Maggie, if you’re reading this, I really hope your colonic irrigation went well today, sweetie!
Heads & Tails is home to the two Edinburgh Gin stills which are a prominently displayed behind glass. I loved that Flora and Caledonia (what else would you call your gin stills?) were busy distilling the good stuff while I was busy drinking it! Will I return to this gem of a gin bar? Definitely. And no need to toss a coin to decide!

Edinburgh Gin still

BBC Good Food Show Scotland

I had the opportunity to attend the BBC Good Food Show Scotland this weekend; what a brilliant day out! There were dozens of food related stalls along with demonstrations from celebrity chefs including my personal heroes Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry from The Great British Bake Off.  Just as well I didn’t bump into either of them; I think security might have had to escort me off the premises!
I met lots of lovely exhibitors who were clearly passionate about their products. Most stall holders I chatted with were relative newbies with products less than five years old. That’s one of the things I love most about food shows; the chance to sample products from small businesses that aren’t available on the mass market.
There were businesses from across the UK and further afield but I’m always most drawn to the Scottish producers. I couldn’t go home without some delicious locally sourced Heather Honey from Plan Bee. I also picked up some Truffle Oil from Pethshire based Summer Harvest which I’m going to use as a finishing touch for rissotto. Continuing on the Scottish theme I bought some wild venison from the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle (nope, I can’t pronounce it either) estate on the isle of Harris. I’m really looking forward to cooking this and surprised that it wasn’t even that deer ;)

 

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My sweet tooth wouldn’t let me walk past Edinburgh chocolatier The Chocolate Tree where I was intrigued to see their collection included HAGGIS chocolate! The organic chocolate bar doesn’t actually contain meat but has all the traditional spices you would find in the Scottish delicacy. It did leave me wondering if chocolate covered bacon might be the next big thing! Could I start a trend here? I settled for a tub of their Salted Caramel Spread which I’m looking forward to pouring over ice-cream (or maybe just eating straight from the tub!).
I enjoyed meeting Edward and Chris from Glasgow-based Drygate Brewery. They are newly established and producing an IPA, a lager and an unusual apple ale in very cool packaging. Their IPA is light and smooth, I would recommend it to lager drinkers who fancy a change.

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There was a huge gin trend at this year’s food show with offerings from seven different producers. I started drinking ‘mothers ruin’ about five years ago and have noticed a massive surge in popularity of the spirit in this time. My favourites at the show were Warner Edwards Gin and Edinburgh Gin. I’ve also found that using a good quality tonic makes a massive difference – Fever Tree is my preference.
I gave the gadget stalls a wide berth – the back of my kitchen cupboards are testament to the fact that most kitchen aids are the equivalent of fad diets. My garlic peeler is in there right beside the cabbage soup diet!

I had one final stop off to try the most DELICIOUS white chocolate liqueur from Irish producers Coole Swan – yum! Forget Baileys, this is what I want to be enjoying as an after dinner treat this winter.

I headed home slightly tipsy from free booze samples, weighed down with bags of foodie goodies and with a considerably lighter purse.  Safe to say I’m already looking forward to attending next year’s BBC Good Food Show!

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Fussy to foodie – my journey

Until the age of 23, I was the fussiest eater you could ever meet. By the age of five I had decided to become a vegetarian; a vegetarian that didn’t eat vegetables. Or fruit. My diet consisted primarily of chocolate spread sandwiches, plain cheese pizzas and tinned spaghetti.

Where did this weirdness come from, I hear you ask?  And why am I writing a blog about food? In this, my first post, I take a walk down memory lane and explain how I have come from fussy to foodie.

A typical Sunday dinner, by me, aged 4

We’re off to a bad start as Mum burns the mince, the acrid smell hanging in the air. My mother has many qualities. Cooking is not one of them. Dinner is scraped from the blackened pot onto our plates. Cue the teasing from my older brother. Like many 9 year old boys, one of Alan’s favourite past times is tormenting his younger sibling. He proceeds to make ‘moo-ing’ noises and tell me that the cow I’m eating has left behind a poor wee orphaned calf that’s now looking for its mummy. As an animal enthusiast, he soon has me in tears. Mission accomplished, my brother tucks into his cremated cow – now smothered with brown sauce to mask the taste.

I push the lumpy mashed potatoes, watery Bisto and blackened mince around the plate. The Sunday stand-off is in full swing. Mum tells me I’m not leaving the table until I’m finished my dinner as I force another forkful of now cold, burnt mince. Boak. “If you don’t eat it now, you’ll get it for your breakfast” Mum says. A threat which I’m happy to say was never carried out.

Fast forward to my late teens and after years of fussiness-induced vegetarianism, I have my first encounter with bacon. Bacon, I find out, is the magical cure for the effects of my other recent discovery – booze. Friday nights spent in Bathgate’s finest establishment, Room at The Top, drinking sugary alcopops and dancing until 4am tend to leave you feeling a bit worse for wear. These after-effects, I quickly realise, are best combated with salty slices of fried piggy, nestled inside a soft white roll and lightly seasoned with half a bottle of HP.  It goes without saying that there is no better accompaniment to this delicacy than our national drink – Irn Bru.

Through my early twenties my progress stalls and I point blank refuse to try anything new, convinced I’ll hate it. Friends are forced to put up with endless visits to Italian restaurants, the only place I’m able to eat out and have something other than chips. I am 23 years old and have never tried a banana. This is CRAZY! So I make a concerted effort to expand my diet. It’s the textures that I struggle with most. Onions are like slimey slugs and grapes like eyeballs, bursting in my mouth….

At 24, I meet Eddie, my now husband, and my food journey begins to pick up some pace. Not wanting to seem like a complete weirdo, I push myself out of my comfort zone, trying a well-done steak. With his support, I begin to sample wide and varied dishes from across the world. Some I love, others you could not pay me to try again. Celery and brussel sprouts are the devil’s spawn. Salads are for rabbits.

I’ve also learned to cook and I discovered I love the buzz of experimenting with new recipes and one of my favourite things to do is have good friends round for a meal. Going out for dinner is now a pleasure and finally, at 29, I’m at a point where I don’t need to read a menu online first. Although there’s always that little part of me that worries about turning up to a restaurant where they only have burnt mince and tatties!

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