Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Category: Reviews (page 1 of 5)

Places I’ve been and products I’ve tried.

7 Unmissable Food & Drink finds in Angus

Angus is a wonderful region full of treats for the food and drink lover. Here are a few of my top recommendations.

1.One of the most famous foods from Angus has to be the Arbroath Smokie. The Smokie has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. In a similar way to Champagne or Parma Ham, this means that the smokie has to be processed within five miles of Arbroath. The haddock is washed, salted and then wood-smoked in a traditional process that dates back to the 1800’s. My personal favourite is having smokies served simply with butter for breakfast but have a look over on http://www.asapsmokies.com/recipes/ for some brilliant recipe ideas.

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2. Who knew that Kirriemuir would be home to an artisan chocolate maker? Johanna Woodhead and her husband have run the gorgeous 88 Degrees café for more than 13 years and I hear that the communal bench seating has led to more than one marriage proposal! As well as being a bit of a Cilla Black, Johanna creates THE most amazing handmade chocolates. She was kind enough to let me sample the Adult Snickers (yep, as good as it sounds!) and even let me have a go at making my own truffles. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to give up my day job quite yet!

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3. Angus loves a food and drink event. I attended Taste Angus at Glamis Castle and it was a brilliant day out with artisan food suppliers, celebrity chef demos and live music. Look out for its return next year. Later in 2017 there’s also Brechin Beer & Gin Festival  in September and Angus Brewfest in October to look forward to. Also the Farmers Market Montrose is held on the first Saturday of every month and the Farmers Market Forfar is held on the second Saturday of the month. Lots of great opportunities to try and buy local produce!

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4. I couldn’t talk about Angus food and drink without mentioning the famous Forfar Bridie! Whilst there are conflicting stories about the origin of the bridie, there’s no denying just how tasty they are! The delicious shortcrust pastry, the hot beef filing…. nothing quite compares! The first time I visited Forfar for work, when 12 o’clock came, I was asked the most serious question of the day “Are you going to McLaren’s or Saddler’s for your bridie?“.  One not to miss out on when you visit the town!

5. For whisky lovers, this 360 degree bar in Edzell has to be a little piece of heaven. Situated in the Glenesk Hotel, the bar is home to over 1,000 varieties with the most expensive dram setting you back a cool £195. For those less partial to Scotch, the bar also has a great vodka corner and an excellent gin selection. The lounge is the perfect place to unwind with a drink after dinner in the stunning Fairways Restaurant.

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6. Angus is home to not one, but two of my favourite gin producers! Both Arbikie and The Gin Bothy are based in the county. Arbikie has two gin varieties – Kirsty’s Gin and AK’s Gin. Both distinctly different but equally delicious.

The Gin Bothy currently have four full strength gins as well as a number of fruit infused gins which are liqueur strength. The Gin Bothy is the brainchild of Kim who gave me a sneaky peak of the brand new tasting rooms where you can enjoy a guided group sampling session. She also let me try out the full range; tough job I know! What stood out for me was how ‘real’ the fruit gins tasted. There’s no synthetic flavours added so the Raspberry Gin, my favourite, tastes like real Scottish raspberries. I also fell in love with Gunshot Gin which has won a triple star in the Great Taste Awards

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7. If, like me, you are a fan of fine dining, then Angus and the surrounding areas have a number of restaurants sure to tickle your fancy! The Tayberry in Broughty Ferry was created by award winning chef Adam Newth in 2015. Adam, from Abroath, is also Head Chef at the stunning Kinnetles Castle near Forfar and has recently opened a second Tayberry in St Andrews. My experience at The Tayberry was outstanding – you can read the full review here.

Or how about a visit to one of Chef Graham Campbell’s restaurants? The youngest person in Scotland to have received a Michelin star; he is Head Chef at both Castlehill restaurant in Dundee and the Glenesk Hotel in Edzell. I watched Graham demonstrate some of his favourite dishes recently and I loved his passion for using locally sourced produce and letting the ingredients do the talking.

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Scallops with Corn

Scallops with Corn

Review: Kinnettles Hotel, The Tayberry Restaurant and Eden Spa

St Andrews is known for being the home of golf and the famous university. It’s also home to a stunning new boutique hotel, restaurant and spa which I have been lucky enough to be invited to check out.

Kinnettles Hotel on North Street opened this summer and has nine beautiful suites. I stayed in Kingsbarns which is a Deluxe Suite on the first floor and it definitely has the ‘wow factor’. Entering the room, the first thing that caught my eye was the separate lounge area which had two huge comfortable chairs, a table and a flat screen TV. The colour pallet of classy greys and neutrals continued through to the spacious bedroom area. There was so much attention to detail throughout the room; from the coffee machine to the fluffy robes to the ESPA toiletries, every little detail had been considered.IMG_6980IMG_6974

So after getting ready in our gorgeous room, it was time for dinner. The Tayberry is sister restaurant to the original of the same name located in Broughty Ferry. Award winning chef Adam Newth is the man behind both restaurants and I was super excited to sample the food here.

My friend is coeliac and I had forgotten to mention to the restaurant in advance that she would need a gluten free menu. So I was a bit nervous when the waitress asked about dietary requirements or allergies but they honestly couldn’t have been more accommodating! She was delighted at how easy they made her dining out experience.

There were lots of delicious sounding options on the menu but we decided to put ourselves in the hands of the kitchen and try the five-course surprise tasting menu with matched wines. My friend was able to have a gluten free version which only had slight changes to accommodate her needs.

Amuse Bouche – Pressed Ham Hock, fois gras butter, pickled walnut, apple pureeIMG_7029

First Course – Scallops, pigs head fritter, soused radishes, herb emulsionIMG_7031

Second Course – Confit Duck Leg Terrine, pickled mushrooms, orange curd, ginger, fois gras briocheIMG_7045

Fish Course – Pan Roast Monkfish, chorizo & borlotti cassoulet, garlic butterIMG_7048

Main Course – Braised Ox Cheek, creamed potato, burnt leek, pearl onionsIMG_7057

Dessert – Pittormie Strawberries, white chocolate, elderflower sorbet, baby basilIMG_7061

As you can see, the presentation throughout was perfection! The quality of the ingredients and the flavours really came through. From the juicy scallops to the melt in the mouth ox cheek, each dish was a taste sensation. If I really had to pick, then I’d say the monkfish and chorizo dish was my favourite; the fish was cooked perfectly and worked really well with the cassoulet. The matched wines were very good; we enjoyed a selection of red, white and fizz selected to compliment each dish.

After dinner we moved through to the beautiful bar area and checked out the cocktail menu which I’m pleased to say has a good number of gin cocktails! A nightcap in the bar was the perfect end to the evening before retiring to the suite to find there had been a turn-down service with slippers placed by the bed and bottles of water on the bedside tables. Nice touch!IMG_7079

Breakfast in the restaurant was another treat to look forward to and staff didn’t need to be reminded of my friend’s coeliac; they already had the gluten free bread on hand. From the cooked selection, I opted for eggs benedict which was just the way I like with runny yokes and thick, good quality ham.IMG_7086

Eden Spa within the hotel is definitely worth checking out. The spa is not huge but is perfectly formed with a sauna, steam-room and Jacuzzi which have been finished to a really high standard. There are a great range of ESPA treatments available so my friend and I decided to treat ourselves. Our lovely therapists, Carly and Ruby, first gave us a Jessica Geleration manicure (the most difficult part was choosing from all the pretty colours) and then an ESPA back, neck and shoulder massage. As the treatment rooms are spacious, we were able to have our treatments together. This is ideal for friends/couples etc. The massages were soooo relaxing, we almost felt like we could float out of the spa – what a great end to our visit!IMG_7093

Apart from the sheer luxury of it all, what really stood out for me was how lovely the staff were at Kinnettles. From Grant, the General Manager, to the restaurant staff, to the therapists in the spa; everyone was so welcoming and enthusiastic about the new venue. It really made for the perfect getaway and one night here felt like a proper holiday!

*I was a guest of Kinnettles and The Tayberry and received a complimentary stay.

Edinburgh Festival Food and Drink Experiences 2017

August is one of the most exciting months in Edinburgh’s social calendar. With The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe all going on, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to comedy, music and theatre options. 2017 is an extra special year as it marks the 70th year of the Fringe Festival.

If you’d like to include some food and drink themed fun in your plans, here are my top tips for the 2017 Edinburgh festival.

 

1. Ice Cream from Mary’s Milk Bar

Sometimes the sun shines in Edinburgh. Mostly it doesn’t. Either way, make sure you sample the delights of Mary’s Milk Bar! The soft gelato is freshly made each day and comes in exciting flavours like Fried Bananas in Butter or Fig & Goats Cheese. Check out Mary’s Instagram page to see the mouth-watering treats https://www.instagram.com/marysmilkbar/?hl=en

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2. Fine Dining and Enchantment

If you only do one thing at the festival this year, make it this. The Illusionist’s Table was my highlight of the 2016 Fringe.  The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a brilliant venue and you can look forward to an evening of food, whisky and enchantment. Always a sell out so make sure you get your tickets well in advance. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/at-the-illusionist-s-table

3. Fresh Seafood

Stop by Odine for Oyster Happy Hour! Oysters are only £1 a shuck (5.30 – 6.30pm Mon – Thur, 5.00- 6.00pm Fri – Sat).

https://www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk/oyster-hour/

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4. Have a dram

Scotch whisky is famous across the world and with good reason! We have over 100 distilleries in Scotland so why not take the opportunity to try out the national drink during the festival this year? Here are some of the planned tasting sessions available:

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5. Foodies Festival

I’ve been along to Foodies Festival a few times and it’s always a great day out with loads to see and samples to taste. This year is set to include appearances from top chef Mark Greenaway, a Vintage Tea Tent and even a Chilli Eating Competition! The festival takes place at Inverleith Park between 4th and 6th August. http://www.foodiesfestival.com/edinburgh-food-festival/

Foodies Festival fun

Foodies Festival fun

6. Dram & Smoke Pop Up Dining

Meet new people and try some Scottish seasonal delights at this pop-up dining event in a former biscuit factory. You can expect a welcome cocktail and a four course dining experience followed by live music. The coolest way to have dinner during the festival! https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dram-smoke-the-campfire-feasts-pop-up

7.  Picnic in Princes Street Gardens

Princes St Gardens were created in two phases in the 1770’s and 1820’s following the draining of Nor Loch (where they used to drown Edinburgh’s witches…. go on a ghost tour to hear more about this).  The Gardens are a lovely place to sit and people watch while you have a great view of Edinburgh Castle. Why not stop off Valvona & Crolla for some gourmet picnic ingredients? Remember to tweet me with your picnic pics @girlversusfood

8. Dining and Cabaret Show

A four course meal and evening of traditional Scots fiddle and bagpipes will make for a great night out at Prestonfield House. I’ve visited Prestonfield before and I was really impressed by the grand 17th-century building and the delicious food. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/famous-taste-of-scotland

Prestonfield House

Prestonfield House

9. Visit a Farmer’s Market

There are weekend Farmers Market in Stockbridge, Leith and the Grassmarket which stock a wonderful variety of local produce. Check out the website for details. http://www.stockbridgemarket.com/

10. The Gin Whore Tour

Historical tales of hooch and harlots, paired with the very best gins….sounds like my kind of thing! The one-woman show is back for a second year and will be running from 21st to 27th of August (four gins are included in the ticket price). Here I am with the fabulous Gin Whore herself: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/gin-whore-tour

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11. Thai Cookery Class

Get hands on with this Thai cookery workshop from executive chef Rujira Herd where you will make an autherntic three-course lunch. Rujira has been running the Thai cook school from an Edinburgh town house for nearly 20 years and has a wealth of knowledge about the traditional cuisine of her homeland. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/thai-cookery-workshop-with-lunch

12. Sample Some Sweet Treats

  • Check out The Marshmallow Lady for the fluffiest of marshmallows made from Scottish butter, cream and Fair Trade Sugar. Most are gluten free. Prosecco and Rose Petal Flavour? Yes, please! http://www.burghbakes.com/
  • Shortbread has a long tradition in Scotland. Try this biscuit at its best at the fabulous Pinnies and Poppy Seeds bakery; will you go traditional or try the butter pecan? http://pinniesandpoppyseeds.com/
  • Mimi’s Bakery on the Royal Mile is a great place to go for cakes, traybakes, brownies, cupcakes, muffins and scones. Mid-afternoon sugar fix sorted! http://mimisbakehouse.com/pages/mimislittlebakehouse-oldtown

13. Bring Your ‘A’ Game

Highland estate distiller Arbikie will be back with their ‘A Club’ this year bringing the most delicious artisan cocktails and best live music to Merchants Hall. Hop over to Arbikie Club for the full low-down. https://www.arbikieclub.com/

14. Spend time at Summerhall

It’s not just the Fringe that turns seventy this year. Pickerings Gin are celebrating 70 years since their 1947 recipe was created. That makes it a great time to head to their distillery at Summerhall. You can hang out in the gin garden, take a tour of the distillery or even play the gin-themed escape room.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/pickering-s-gin-jolly

https://www.pickeringsgin.com/tours-tastings/lockedin-the-distillery/

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Chaophraya Edinburgh – £35 Graduation Menu

I’ve visited Chaophraya (pronounced chow-pry-a, in case you were wondering!) before and always had delicious food so I was really excited to be asked to go along and sample their special Graduation Menu. The menu is running between the 19th of June and 30th of July and offers three courses plus a glass of Prosecco for £35.

The Thai restaurant is located on the corner of Castle Street and George Street and is up on the third floor which means you get the most amazing views of the city. You can see all the way from the coast, right round to the castle. Just look at this sunset:878FFF8E-CD23-43C4-B893-33CE3A7CB784 (1)

When making your reservation, I would request a table with a castle view, but the restaurant interior is beautiful too. You can always enjoy a pre or post-dinner cocktail on the roof top terrace.

There are three or four options to choose from for each course. My friend and I opted for the Chicken Satay and the Soft Shell Crab with Prawn Tempura. Both starters, particularly the seafood, were generous in size and well presented. The batter on the prawns and crab was light and crispy and it was also served with tempura asparagus and onion rings.IMG_6583

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For our mains we opted for the Thai Green Chicken Curry and the Chaophraya classic – Weeping Tiger. There is a choice of rice or noodles as a side dishes to go with the main courses. The Green Curry was perfectly balanced, not too spicy and contained plenty of chicken as well as aubergine and courgette. Jasmine rice was the right choice of an accompaniment as it soaked up all the lovely curry sauce.

The Weeping Tiger (£5 supplement) is a sirloin steak which is served on a sizzling platter with an accompaniment of different Thai sauces. It really is quite impressive as it arrives at the table in all its sizzling glory. It came medium to well done (I would normally have my steaks medium/rare) but it was still tender and the different sauces were so tasty.IMG_6589

On to dessert, and we ordered a Sticky Toffee Pudding and the Trio of Sorbet. The sorbets were light and refreshing, I preferred the Peach & Prosecco and Mango flavours to the Lemongrass one. The Sticky Toffee Pudding looked very pretty, topped with ice cream and an edible flower. It was an indulgent and delicious finish to the meal.

The graduation menu at Chaophraya is good value and you can look forward to great service and dinner in a beautiful setting.

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The Spanish Butcher Review

I’ve been keen to try The Spanish Butcher since it opened on Miller Street, Glasgow in December 2016 so I was delighted to be invited along this month to sample the pre-theatre menu. The people behind The Spanish Butcher own two of my favourite Glasgow restaurants; Hutchesons and The Butchershop so I definitely had high expectations!

My first impressions of the restaurant were good; I received a warm welcome and I really liked the stylish décor; dark green walls, lots of wood and plenty of candlelight. Even the toilets are swish looking!

While we looked at the menu we enjoyed some warm sourdough bread and THE most delicious olives I’ve ever tasted. The green gorda olives were juicy and perfectly marinated. There’s a big focus on produce and provenance at the restaurant; from the beef sourced from 12-14 year old Galician cattle from northern Spain to the 30 month matured authentic Jamon Iberico de Bellota. I found staff to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu.

There’s an extensive wine list with bottles ranging from £19 up to £425. There’s also a good selection available by the glass. We took a recommendation from our waitress and went with a nice smooth bottle of Rioja which was very enjoyable.image1

So on to the meal. To start, I had the confit pork belly stew with chorizo, morcilla, butterbeans and charred bread. My friend went for the Shetland mussels which were sautéed with chorizo, lobster stock, fennel and also served with charred bread. Both starter portions were generous. The pork belly was melt in the mouth and really tasty, if just a touch salty. The mussels were fresh and flavoursome and it was nice to have the bread to dip in the juices at the bottom of the dish.IMG_4816

Pork Belly Stew

Pork Belly Stew

For the main course, my friend chose the Galician hogget stew served with charred bread. In texture and flavour this had similarities to my starter and again was a little bit salty, but very tasty.IMG_4817

I opted for the Secreto Iberico de Bellota which comes with truffle manchego fries and Mojo verde. Secreto means “the secret cut” and comes from the acorn-fed Iberico pig. The meat was super tender and I would describe it as tasting like somewhere between bacon and steak.

The side of fries were something else; crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and the truffle flavour was complimented by the grated Manchego cheese.image3image2

So did The Spanish Butcher live up to my high expectations? Absolutely! Delicious food, a great selection of wine and enthusiastic staff. The lunch and pre-theatre menu is also excellent value at two courses for £15.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Edinburgh Review

The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse in Edinburgh is the new kid on the block amongst some well-established steak places in the city. As a steak-lover, I was delighted to be invited along to check out the menu in the new Edinburgh restaurant last week.

The restaurant is located within the Carlton Hotel, located on North Bridge. Marco Pierre White has a number of steakhouses across the UK but the only other one in Scotland is in Glasgow. Now operated by Hilton, The Carlton recently underwent a £17m facelift and I must say it is looking very swish! Check out this grand staircase leading up to the restaurant which is situated on the first floor.IMG_4281

There were some rather imposing signs inside and outside the hotel advertising the restaurant with larger than life photographs of the celebrity chef. However, the décor in the restaurant itself was modern and classy with a grey and neutral colour palate. I really liked the spacious booths as they gave a sense of privacy without feeling too enclosed.IMG_4235

The MPW staff were friendly and made me feel welcome. Our waiter was confident in answering questions about the menu and attentive throughout the meal.

So onto the menu itself. There were eight starters to choose from including three vegetarian options. As a major cheese fan, I couldn’t resist going for the warm baked Camembert with toasted sourdough and roasted vine tomatoes with vintage balsamic. My friend opted for the crispy devilled whitebait served with tartare sauce. It was a generous portion of whitebait and the batter was nice and light. The baked Camembert came served in its box with two big slices of sour dough. This was a simple dish but well-presented and very tasty; what’s not to love about bread and melted cheese?IMG_4242IMG_4245

Given we were checking out a steakhouse, we were always going to order steaks for our main course! However, there were a lot of tempting alternatives; the lamb sounded delicious, as did the burgers.

I opted for the 10oz Ribeye steak and my dining buddy opted for the 16oz T-bone steak.  The beef is 28 day aged steak and comes from Campbell Brothers Butchers. The 100-year-old butchers based in Bonnyrigg have a Royal Warrant so you can be assured you’re receiving excellent quality produce. The steaks are served with skinny chips and a green salad and there are also a selection of sauces to choose from. I picked the escargot in garlic and parsley butter. The meat was cooked perfectly and had a lovely char on the outside.

One of the ‘Chosen by Marco Pierre White’ wines on the menu is Syrah but our waiter said that the Argentinian Malbec was also very good. I sampled both and my preference was for the fruitier Malbec.IMG_4254IMG_4259

The selection of desserts was traditional with options including Eton Mess, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Knickerbocker Glory. I picked the Cambridge Burnt Cream and my friend chose the Warm Chocolate Brownie. The desserts were generously portioned and indulgent. It would have been great if there had been dessert wines available to match this final course.

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A good steak dinner is a thing of beauty and you’re sure to find this at the MPW Steakhouse in Edinburgh. If you want to check out the restaurant for yourself, the Pre-theatre Menu is really good value at three courses for £19.95 including a glass of Processo. Check out the website for details http://www.mpwrestaurants.co.uk/restaurants/steakhouse-edinburgh/offers/pre-theatre-menu

December in Pictures

A summary of a fabulous month in pictures!

 

December started off with making some home made Christmas gifts like this Prosecco Pineapple

December started off with making some home made Christmas gifts like this Prosecco Pineapple

Once the tree was up, it was time for a festive toast!

Once the tree was up, it was time for a festive toast!

A Christmas night out at Copper Blossom, Edinburgh

A Christmas night out at Copper Blossom, Edinburgh

Then it was time for five days in Las Vegas!

Stopped by Carlos Bakery for some canollis!

Stopped by Carlo’s Bakery for some cannolis!

Enjoyed the wonderful tasting menu at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Enjoyed the wonderful tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Breakfast with a view at Mon Ami Gabi

Breakfast with a view at Mon Ami Gabi

White chocolate, caramel and macadamia nut cheesecake was an absolute treat!

This white chocolate, caramel and macadamia nut cheesecake was an absolute treat!

The steaks at The Capital Grille were HUGE!

The steaks at The Capital Grille were HUGE!

Sterling Brunch at Bally's with bottomless champagne and seafood = heaven!

Sterling Brunch at Bally’s with bottomless champagne and seafood = heaven!

Beautiful cocktails at the Chandelier Bar in Cosmopolitan

Beautiful cocktails at the Chandelier Bar in Cosmopolitan

A Pate Party

A few weeks ago, I got some fantastic news; one of my best friends got engaged. In Vegas, no less! Very exciting! So what better way to celebrate than by getting the girls together for some delicious food and wine?

Of course we got the evening started with a customary glass of bubbles!

The lovely people at Castle MacLellan had sent me out five different pates from their range to sample and have my very own Pate Party. The pates we tried out were:

  • Orkney Crab Terrine – enriched with crème fraiche, lemon juice and Galloway mustard.
  • Chicken Liver Pate – smooth creamy chicken liver pate enhanced with Scottish heather honey.
  • Oven Roasted Mushroom Pate – with full fat soft cheese, crème fraiche and a hint of garlic and thyme.
  • Scottish Smoked Salmon Pate – a blend of smoked and poached salmon enriched with cream, lemon juice and horseradish.
  • Rannoch Smoked Duck Pate – smooth duck liver pate with pieces of Rannoch smoked duck complemented by apple jelly and aromatic tarragon.img_1794

I served the pate with butter, oatcakes, fresh bread, red wine and a selection of other nibbles. The delicious selection of pates were definitely a welcome addition to our girly get together and made a change from the usual ‘crisps and dips’ cliche.

The pates had a lovely texture and the quality of the locally sourced ingredients really came through. Castle MacLellan have long term relationships with lots of their suppliers like John Mellis who produces the heather honey for the chicken liver pate.

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My guests loved the variation in the selection from Scottish seafood to the creamy mushroom pate. What really surprised me was that each of the five girls picked a different favourite. Personally, I was torn between the smoked duck pate and the Orkney crab terrine. They were both so different but equally flavoursome.

I really like that there were recipes ideas on each pack, which you can also check out over on the Castle MacLellan website.  I’m definitely going to have a go at making the Spiced Monkfish en Croute.

Oh and given that we were celebrating an engagement, it would be rude not to include a final photo including The Ring. So here we are… duck pate and diamonds!

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Chocolate, Gin and other reasons to visit Fife

Being invited along to enjoy a ‘Feast of Fife’ has to be one of my blogging highlights for 2016! I’m always excited to try local produce, so I was intrigued to find out what delights Fife had to offer. I took the train from Edinburgh and the journey itself was a pleasure; crossing into Fife over the iconic Forth Bridge and along a coastal track, contemplating a day of gourmet treats ahead.

Starting the day with cheeseJane Stewart

Jane Stewart from the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company was an absolute pleasure to listen to. I loved hearing about how Jane and her farmer husband had branched out to start making cheese from their dairy herd in 2008. Myself and the other foodie bloggers got to sample four different cheeses produced on the farm; Anster, Red Anster, Smoked Anster and St Andrews Farmhouse Cheddar. They were all delicious but the smoked cheese really did it for me! The crumbly cheese is smoked nearby at St Monans using oak and beech chips. A great place to try St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese is at the purpose built coffee shop; it’s light, bright and has gorgeous views out to the Firth of Forth. If you visit on a cheese-making day (3 days out of 7) then you’ll be able to watch the action through the viewing gallery. I’m also definitely going to have a go at making the cheese scone recipe which is featured on their website http://www.standrewscheese.co.uk/our-cheese/recipes/

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Lunch in a barn

Next up was a visit to The Balgove Steak Barn. I’d never seen a restaurant quite like this before! The rustic looking barn has walls made of potato crates and a shrubbery lined entrance. Inside there are long communal benches and a fire pit which adds to the cosy atmosphere. Along with my fellow food writers, we started by sampling a selection of the Steak Barn’s tasty starters including chicken skewers and battered prawns. Then it was time for the mains, which of course included fantastic 28 day aged steaks, as well as burgers and huuugee onion rings! The meat is all cooked on the wood fired barbeque which provides a focal point for the restaurant. Whilst I’m normally a red wine with steak kind of gal, I took the opportunity to sample three different beers from the St Andrews Brewing Company. The Crail Ale, a crisp pale ale was my pick of the bunch.

I really enjoyed looking around the Balgove Farm Shop too. It’s a proper foodie paradise with lots of locally produced gourmet ingredients. I couldn’t resist taking home a jar of Venison and Cognac Pate.

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Gin and chocolate

What does everyone need after lunch on a Saturday? Definitely gin and chocolate. We headed to Eden Mill to sample the range of gins paired with chocolates from The Highland Chocolatier. What a treat! The Eden Mill range of gins are recognisable by their ceramic bottles and bold branding. I had the chance to sample four gins; the Original, Love Gin, Hop Gin and Oak Gin.

  • The Original Gin is a London dry gin which was paired with a White Lime and Chilli Truffle. The chilli flavour was subtle and the lime worked really well with this classic style of gin.
  • The dark chocolate Ginger Truffle was an excellent accompaniment to the Oak Gin. The caramel and vanilla flavours in the Oak Gin along with the ginger in the truffle made me think of cosy autumn nights by a log fire.
  • The pale pink Love Gin was served with Rose Lemonade and this made it a little sweet for me, but I have tried it with tonic previously and it was delicious. The White Raspberry and Heather Honey Truffle was just beautiful with a thistle pattern on the outside. It tasted just as good as it looked!
  • Last up was the Hop Gin with a Passionfruit and Mango Truffle. The Hop variety is definitely the Marmite of gin and there were some mixed reactions around the table. Eden Mill have a great range of craft beer and this gin is a bit of a cross-over product which features Australian galaxy hops. I found the smell of this one a bit overpowering but the flavour definitely grew on me.

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Fife Foraging

Over the last year, I’ve developed a growing interest in foraging, mostly brought on by my experience with The Botanist Gin which you can read about here. I had mixed results at the beginning of the summer in my attempts to make elderflower cordial and champagne but that hasn’t put me off! A great way to finish my day in Fife was a guided foraging trip. Along the way we found lots of edible plants and berries and also learned what to be wary of. It’s amazing what you can find on a country walk. I’m now inspired to make some elder berry wine and sloe gin…. stay tuned!

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This was an absolutely brilliant day out in Fife and I would definitely recommend checking out all the fantastic producers in this area! Throughout the day, I saw so much passion from the producers; theyare quite rightly extremely proud of the fantastic food and drink scene in Fife.

£20 lunch with bubbles at 111 by Nico

I recently tried out a hidden gem in the West End of Glasgow that I just had to share with you! 111 by Nico has been my favourite lunch this year and it is also incredible value. Their Taste lunch is available Friday to Sunday and for £20 you get an amuse bouche, three courses and a glass of prosecco. The menu is inspired by nature and designed to give you a taste of the garden, land and sea.

I started with a glass of fizz and an amuse bouche of mushroom consume. The consume was silky smooth; I could easily have had a full sized bowl of it and still asked for more! The restaurant had a great atmosphere and I enjoyed watching the open kitchen.amuse bouche

Next up was a goats cheese salad. The goats cheese mousse was incredibly light and fluffy and the walnuts and summer vegetables were a great accompaniment. You can add matched wines to the lunch for an extra £20 and I was served a fantastic South African white with the goats cheese dish.IMG_0811

It was then time for a taste from the sea in the form of a beautifully cooked piece of stone bass with mussels, pak choi and sweet potato. The fish had a nice crispy skin and I loved the slightly spicy Thai sauce. The matched wine this time was a refreshing white from Sardinia which was a great alongside the stone bass.

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The final savoury dish was a piece of pork belly and ham hough with apricot and beetroot. The slow cooked meat was really flavoursome and the crisp Cotes du Rhone red served with the dish was a perfect match.

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For a small supplement, you can add dessert to your lunch. Fresh strawberries, meringue, cream and prosecco jelly; what’s not to love? The dessert was not too heavy and satisfied my sweet tooth at the end of the meal.

dessert

The restaurant has only been open for a year but has quickly built up a loyal fan base, the table next to me during lunch told me that they regularly travel from the other side of Glasgow to sample Nico’s delicious menu. Not only is he turning out exceptional food, Nico is an all-round good guy who is passionate about giving an opportunity to young people who’ve not had the best start in life. A prime example is Modou who is now head chef at the restaurant. Modou had been sleeping rough when he applied for a job as a kitchen porter and Nico, seeing his work ethic and determination, trained him up to be a skilled chef.

The Taste lunch is a great concept which translates even better on the plate. 111 by Nico is most definitely worth a visit; and is now a firm favourite on my list.

Chef Nico

Chef Nico in action

 

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