Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

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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.

Scotch Beef and Haggis Wellington Recipe

The lovely people at QMS (Quality Meat Scotland) asked me to come up with a recipe in honour of Burns Day which combined haggis and Scotch beef. Since these are two of my favourite ingredients, I was excited to get my thinking cap on! As much as I love haggis, neeps and tatties, sometimes it’s nice to use ingredients in a new way. So here’s my Scotch Beef and Haggis Wellington. I’ve used Scotch Beef PGI which is beef that is specially selected and sourced from Scottish farms that adopt best practice regarding animal welfare and natural production methods.

 

Serves 4 – 6

For the Wellington

700g of Scotch beef fillet

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp English mustard

2 pre-rolled packs of puff pastry

2 beaten egg yolks

8 slices of Parma ham

300g of good quality haggis

100g of mushroom pate (Castle Maclellan is good)

Sides

3 large new potatoes per person

400ml chicken stock

3 sprigs of thyme

2 peeled garlic gloves

150g butter

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 – 8 asparagus stalks per person

Whisky Sauce

1 onion, finely chopped

10g of butter

50ml whisky

50ml of chicken stock

400ml double cream

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Salt and pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

 

Method

  1. Heat 1tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sear the beef for 30 seconds on each side.Remove the beef from the pan and brush all over with the mustard. Leave to cool.
  2. Mix the haggis and pate together in a bowl.
  3. On top of a sheet of cling film, lay out 4 of the slices of the Parma ham with them slightly overlapping. Spread some of the haggis and pate mixture on top of the ham. Place the beef fillet on top of this and spread the other sides of the fillet with the remainder of the mixture. Drape the other 4 slices of Parma ham over the top of the haggis covered beef. Pull the edges of the cling film up and wrap the beef top. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the pastry out of the fridge.
  5. Peel the potatoes and cut them into barrel shapes.
  6. Dust your work surface with flour and unroll one of the packs of puff pastry. Place the Parma wrapped beef in the middle of the pastry. Drape the other roll of pastry over the top. Smooth the pastry down to get a tight seal with the bottom layer of pastry, expelling any air as you go. Trim around the base of the wellington with a knife, leaving a small border. Press all the way around the border with a fork.
  7. If you have pastry left over you can cut it into strips and create a decorative lattice pattern on the top of your wellington. Brush the pastry with the egg yolks.
  8. Place the wellington in the fridge for 10 minutes and preheat your oven to 200C.
  9. Put the wellington on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes at 200C then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for a further 15 minutes. The meat needs to rest for 15 minutes before you carve and serve it.
  10. While the meat is cooking you can make the whisky sauce and the fondant potatoes. Melt 150g of butter in a pan and once the butter is foaming, add the potatoes. Cook them for 7 minutes on one side over a medium heat without moving them. Turn the potatoes over (they should be golden brown) and cook for another 7 minutes on the other side.
  11. Add the chicken stock, garlic gloves, thyme and salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer. The potatoes are done when they are tender and slide easily off a fork.
  12. For the whisky sauce, melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onions. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes until the onion softens.
  13. Add the whisky and flambé the mixture to burn off the alcohol (carefully turn the pan to the side over the flame until it catches alight).
  14. Add the chicken stock and the cream and bring up to a simmer. Stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
  15. Drizzle the asparagus will olive oil and season will salt and pepper. Cook in a hot griddle pan for about 4 minutes.
  16. Carve the wellington and serve on a warm plate with the potatoes, asparagus and whisky sauce.

Beef Wellington

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Beef Wellington

12 Ways to feel festive in Edinburgh 2016

  1. The spectacular Street of Light is back for 2016 and this time it can be found on George Street. Between the 21st of November and the 24th of December there will be a twice nightly shows where the lights will synchronize to the music of local choirs and bands. This is a free event but you need to book your tickets in advance here http://www.edinburghschristmas.com/whats-on/street-of-light#calendar-11-2016

    Last year's Street of Light

    Last year’s Street of Light

  1. Sample some festive cocktails. How about a Hot Buttered Rum containing dark rum, muscovado, butter and cinnamon? Try Dine on Cambridge Street which has a great selection of Christmas cocktails starting at £7.50
  2. The Signet Library is one of the most beautiful venues in Edinburgh and it’s also one of the top places for afternoon tea. A Festive Afternoon Tea in this glamorous setting includes mini game pies, turkey club sandwiches and coconut snowballs http://www.thesignetlibrary.co.uk/news-events/festive-afternoon-tea/afternoon tea
  3. Get wrapped up and take to the circular ice rink in St Andrews Square. Tickets from £5.
  4. Try something a bit different to the usual Christmas night out. Yuletide Games is new for 2016 and involves your group moving through a series of fun rooms where you will play mini golf, take part in a sensory game show and race mini buggies http://yuletidegames.co.uk/
  5. Dinner, cocktails and a classic Christmas film… sounds like a perfect night! Every Monday in December, Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Bar are offering the chance to enjoy festive cocktails, a three course meal and a feel-good movie like ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ in their very own micro cinema http://www.harveynichols.com/news/2015/08/26/movies-shakers/?restaurant=edinburgh-dining
  6. He’s behind you! It’s not Christmas without a panto. Jack and The Beanstalk is on at The Kings Theatre this year http://www.edtheatres.com/jack
  7. Dine in the Grill Room of The Dome on George Street and enjoy the view of one Edinburgh’s most famous Christmas trees. http://www.thedomeedinburgh.com/christmas/IMG_0412
  8. There are two fabulous Christmas markets to choose from. This year the Scottish Market will be in West George Street, next door to the Street of Light, and will showcase some of the best gifts, food and drink that Scotland has to offer including local gin and craft beer. The Scottish Market runs from 26th November – 24th December. Opening hours are Monday – Thursday12pm -10pm and Friday – Sunday 10am – 10pm.   The European Market is located in East Princes Street Gardens from 19th November until 7th January and has over 140 stalls from Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Belgium. From bratwurst and Glüwein to handcrafted jewellery, Christmas ornaments and carved wooden gifts, there’s lots of goodies to try and take home. The market is open between 10am and 10pm daily.scottish-market
  1. Foodies Christmas Festival brings Scotland’s top chefs and award-winning producers to Edinburgh for a fabulous festive feast. The show takes places between 25th and 27th November at the EICC http://www.foodiesfestival.com/xmas-edinburgh/
  1. Want to brush up on your Christmas cookery? The Edinburgh New Town Cookery School have a range of classes from Christmas baking to sessions demonstrating the perfect canapes http://www.entcs.co.uk/calendar
  1. Do something fun for charity and burn off a few of those mince pies – The Christmas Charity Festival takes place over the 3rd and 4th of December in Inverleith Park. You can take part in a range of events from the Santa Parade to the Tinsel Walk http://www.christmascharityfestival.com/

10 reasons to visit the BBC Good Food Show 2016

This year will mark the tenth BBC Good Food Show Scotland. It’s always a cracking day out that showcases the very best in food and drink which is why I’ve attended the last five years in a row! So whether you’ve been before, or are completely new to the show, read on to hear what to expect from the 2016 BBC Good Food Show.

 

Oh and exciting news! I have six pairs of tickets to give-away to the show courtesy of Supertheatre sponsor Aldi. If you’d like to win a pair of tickets for Saturday 5th November, just sign up to my newsletter here.  Entries close 6pm Sunday 30th October,

Here are my top 10 reasons to visit the show 4th – 6th November 2016:

  1. Some of Glasgow’s best restaurants are coming to the show this year in pop-up format; The Finnieston, Gamba and Porter & Rye will all be making an appearance. This is a brilliant opportunity to try their signature dishes in taster size. The Bone Marrow Mac and Cheese from Porter & Rye is legendary!
  2. The Finnieston will also be hosting a pop-up Boutique Bar every day of the show with amazing sounding cocktails like Tiki Down featuring Sailor Jerry, Charred Pineapple, Lime Solution, Coconut, Apricot Brandy. Yes, please!finnieston
  3. It’s easy to get there. The SECC has its own dedicated railway station and there are 6 trains an hour from Central Station so you can leave the car at home. Alternatively, there’s ample parking in the multi-story car park. Check out the travel page for more info https://www.bbcgoodfoodshowscotland.com/visit/opening-times-and-travel
  4. From cheese to craft gin, there’s samples galore so it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new. Lots of the stands have special show prices and offers so you can pick up a bargain.
  5. Get inspired watching demonstrations from celebrity chefs like John Torode and Michel Roux Jr in the Supertheatre sponsored by Aldi.
  6. Great British Bake Off fans, you can meet The Blue Eyed One in person and have him sign your book. Paul Hollywood is one of a host of celebs taking part in book signings over the weekend. See the line-up here.
  7. And while we’re on the subject, did you know there’s a whole area of the show dedicated to all things baking? See demonstrations and source all sorts of specialist ingredients and equipment in the Cake & Bake Village.Bakes--26-Cakes-Village
  8. The Producers Bursary Awards helps small-scale local producers to attend the show. This means that we all get to try tasty treats like Venison Haggis made by Lanarkshire based Servus Haggis and Seville Orange and Malt Whisky Marmalade by Wild Fig.
  9. The Show Guide you’ll receive has a floor plan which is great for making sure you don’t miss any gems! It also has lots of tasty recipes to take home and try out.
  10. Looking for some top tips to impress your dinner party guests? Now’s your chance to ask the experts for their advice on the Interview Stage. Amongst those taking questions is Scottish chef Tom Kitchin, who was the youngest ever winner of a Michelin star for his Leith restaurant, The Kitchin (which also happens to be my favourite ever place to eat).

 

Tickets can be bought at the door or online here https://www.bbcgoodfoodshowscotland.com/visit/ticket-info

 

Hope to see you there! GvF x

 

 

£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.

ham hough

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

 

The Periodic Table of Cocktails

Does the periodic table might bring back some school memories for you? Arranging the chemical elements based on their atomic numbers reflects over a century of research. I bet those scientist could have done with a stiff martini after using all that brainpower!

So in this post I wanted to tell you about the slightly geeky but uber-cute cocktail book ‘The Periodic Table of Cocktails’. From Mojitos to Moscow Mules, there are 106 cocktails which you can navigate by spirit, style or flavour. There’s loads of fun anecdotes and historical titbits in the book; I particularly enjoyed learning that a “Scofflaw” was someone in Prohibition USA who ignored the drinking ban. I’m not a particularly rebellious person but I feel there’s a good chance I would have been a Scofflaw!

I’ve picked a more modern cocktail from the ‘The Periodic Table of Cocktails’ to feature in this post. ‘The Penicillin’ was created in New York in 2005. With the ginger, citrus and whisky, this reminds me of a hot toddy and I’m pretty sure a few Penicillins would have a similar effect on your well-being.

Ingredients

60ml single malt or blended Scotch whisky

10ml Islay whisky

30ml lemon juice

30ml honey-ginger syrup (to make this put 100ml of honey, 100ml of water and 25 – 30g of sliced fresh root ginger in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and strain to remove the pieces of ginger)

Method

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake hard over ice and strain into a rocks glass, preferably with one large ice cube or ice ball. Garnish will candied ginger if you can get your hands on some.

The book has been written by Emma Stokes a.k.a. Gin Monkey who, as well as having a Pharmacology degree, is also an expert on all things cocktail. With an R.R.P. of £9.99, it would make a great stocking filler.

Good news! I also have three copies to give away. To enter, simply sign up to my Girl Versus Food newsletter here. Winners will be drawn on Sunday 22nd November 2015.

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4 Places to Eat in Barcelona

My recent visit to Barcelona was full of foodie delights that I want to share with you. I’ve picked out four to give you a flavour of my trip….

Elisabet’s

It wouldn’t be a trip to Barcelona without some fantastic tapas and the one I would recommend is Elisabet’s; a relaxed tapas place in El Raval area of the city which is popular with locals. The restaurant opened in 1962 and has walls adorned with old radios and black and white photographs. One of their specialities is patatas bravas topped with bolognese. The little green padron peppers covered in salt are so moreish that we had to order a second serving. This place is very affordable; we had plenty to eat and drink and the bill was around €15 each.

table

Bacoa Burger

There are a couple of Bacoa Burger restaurants in Barcelona. I went to the one near the Universitat but also noticed one at the beach near W Hotel. This is casual dining where you place your order at the counter and your burger is cooked to order. I opted for La Bacoa which is topped with smoked bacon and Manchego cheese. The burger was very good quality and tasted great. Highly recommended and open until 1am so great for some late night food!

Petit Pau

Alongside the tapas and street food, Barcelona has a thriving fine dining scene. I wanted to have one really special meal during my four day break and after some online research I came across Petit Pau. The restaurant is located in the rustic Sants area of the city and seats just 16 people.

Proprietor, Pau, welcomed us with a glass of cava and talked us through the mouth-watering menu which was written in Catalan. The menu is small but perfectly formed with six starters and six mains to choose from. The decision was quite painful as every dish sounded delicious!

Some of the highlights of our meal were octopus salad, fois gra with apple puree and sea bass in a muscle broth. Each dish was cooked to perfection and the flavour combinations were just amazing. Pau carefully chooses local Catalonian wines to go with the regularly changing menu and as a result, there is one variety of red and one variety of white wine available (priced at only €12 a bottle).

This was a fantastic dining experience from start to finish and I cannot recommend it highly enough! Pau was knowledgeable and so welcoming. The three course meal and wine came in at less than €50 per person.

Due to its size and popularity, you need to book Petit Pau a few months in advance. You can book by sending a message to their Facebook page here.

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With Pau and Chef

With Pau and Chef

La Boqueria

Barcelona is famous for its food markets and the most famous of all is The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, known simply as La Boqueria. It is, of course, a tourist trap, and if you are a serious foodie you might want to go off the beaten track and explore one of the less well known markets. However, La Boqueria is right on Las Ramblas and I think definitely worth a visit to take in the sights and smells. We grabbed some delicious fresh oysters and razor clams from a stall while we wandered round. When we got peckish again we found a tapas bar towards the back of the market and ordered a few dishes.

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Barcelona has everything a food lover could want from cheap and quick eats to luxury Michelin star restaurants. There were so many places on my list that I didn’t get a chance to try that there’s only one thing for it – I better start planning my next trip!

Melting Chocolate Bombe with Peanut Butter Mousse

After seeing some melting chocolate bombe desserts on YouTube I knew I needed to have a go! The recipes I could find online had a variety of options for what to put inside the chocolate sphere from sponge cake to ice cream. I opted to combine my favourite flavours by putting a peanut butter mousse inside. The desserts turned out really well and my dinner guests were impressed! It definitely adds a bit of a spectacle to end a meal.

There are four elements to this dessert; the chocolate sphere, the peanut butter mousse, the salted caramel sauce and the peanut butter brittle. Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream. None of the techniques are particularly difficult but it is a time consuming dessert so I would prepare as much as you can in advance. The recipe makes 6 desserts.

 

Peanut butter mousse (based on this recipe)

Ingredients:

200g smooth peanut butter

100ml whipping cream

50g icing sugar

140g Philadelphia whipped

3 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Whip the cream with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the peanut butter, Philadelphia, vanilla extract and milk. Mix in the icing sugar until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Fold in the whipped cream gently into the peanut butter mixture, a third at a time.
  4. Leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

 

Chocolate spheres

Ingredients:

300g of good quality chocolate (around 75% cocoa solids)

Utensils:

70mm half sphere silicon moulds – I got mine on Amazon. You need two sets of the moulds to make 6 desserts.

Pastry brush

Method:

  1. Melt 150g of the chocolate in the microwave. You don’t want to let the chocolate get too hot, so make sure about two thirds of the chocolate is melted and the rest will melt with the residual heat in the bowl.
  2. Spoon the chocolate into the moulds and spread around with the back of the spoon
  3. Once you have filled each mould, turn the tray over and shake out any excess chocolate.
  4. Run a knife over the top of the mould tray to remove any chocolate spills
  5. Place the mould upside down on top of a baking sheet in the fridge and leave to set for an hour.
  6. Melt nearly all of the rest of the chocolate, keeping a few squares back for later.
  7. Use a pastry brush to apply another layer of chocolate. Make sure you spread the chocolate evenly, right up to the edges of the mould.
  8. Place upside down in the fridge again and leave for another hour.

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Peanut brittle

Ingredients:

100g salted peanuts

100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Roughly crush up the peanuts using a rolling pin or pestle and mortar.
  2. Put the caster sugar in a sauce pan and cook on a medium heat.
  3. Wait until the sugar is a deep amber colour then stir in the peanuts.
  4. Pour the mixture on greaseproof paper. Be careful as the molten sugar can cause a nasty burn.
  5. Leave to set at room temperature.

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Salted caramel sauce (based on this article)

Ingredients:

200g caster sugar

125ml water

100g unsalted butter

100ml double cream

1 tsp sea salt

Method:

  1. Put the water and caster sugar in a sauce pan and cook on a medium heat and cook until the sugar is a deep amber colour
  2. Take off the heat and stir in the butter until it is totally melted.
  3. Then stir in the cream and add a teaspoon of sea salt.
  4. Allow to cool and transfer to a microwave safe jug.

 

Assembling the dessert

  1. Carefully pop the chocolate shells out of the silicon mould.
  2. Fill half (six) of the shells with the peanut butter mousse.
  3. Melt the last remaining squares of chocolate and use a teaspoon of melted chocolate to stick each peanut butter filled chocolate shell to the dessert plate.
  4. Carefully place the other halves on top of each shell to finish the sphere. This can now be kept in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
  5. Break up the peanut brittle with a rolling pin and put a shard into a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  6. Heat up the salted caramel sauce in the microwave until it is piping hot.
  7. Allow your guests to pour the hot sauce over their chocolate bombes and watch the magic happen!

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Dublin: Irish Whiskey and Fine Dining

Can you believe I went to Dublin and found a bar with locals in it? Quite an achievement when the city gets more than seven million visitors a year! The Palace Bar is a wee gem just a five minute walk from the tourist throng at Temple Bar. The traditional Victorian pub, located on Fleet Street, has an excellent range of Irish whiskeys which reflect the recent resurgence in the industry which had all but died out. Walking into the pub, I got the feeling that the world had been put to rights here many a time. This was a talking pub. Where generations have met and tall tales have been told.

Palace Bar

We were served by Willie Ahern, whose father owns the bar. Willie’s grandfather bought the bar in 1946 and it has stayed in the family since then. One of the things that makes The Palace Bar stand out is that it boasts its very own whiskey. In years gone by, it was common place for bars to distil their own spirits.  My husband is a whisky fan, so between pints of Guinness, he tried out Palace Bar Whiskey. The 14 year old single malt (which contains malt of up to 21 years in age) got a big thumbs up and compared favourably to some of his favourite Scotch. In fact, it was so good he had to have a second nip to be sure he really liked it. There are only 1,000 bottles being produced in this run and you can pick it up online here.

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After checking out a few of the city’s bars, it was time to cross the river for dinner at Chapter One restaurant. The restaurant is one of five Michelin star eateries in Dublin and I chose it based on a recommendation from a friend. The restaurant is very popular, so booking is essential.

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Upon ringing the bell, we received a warm Irish welcome from co-owner and maître d’, Martin Corbett. The basement level restaurant is still surprisingly bright with a minimalist feel and some beautiful pieces of art.

From the Wicklow lamb to the Kilkenny veal, it was clear from looking at the menu that the restaurant had put a great deal of thought in to using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The pre-theatre menu is fantastic value at £27 (€37.50) for three courses. At our request, the wine sommelier chose some excellent wines to accompany each dish for us.

menu

To start, I opted for Parmesan ravioli with asparagus and a lemon emulsion. My husband went for the carpaccio of rose veal which was served with black beluga lentils. Both dishes were beautifully presented. I was pleased to see the chef had taken advantage of the relatively short asparagus season; my pasta dish tasted like summer on a plate.

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For our mains, Mr GvF chose the loin of pork with cabbage and smoked buttermilk mash, while I went for the short rib of beef. The beef was slow-cooked to perfection and came with a side of the best cheesy gnocchi I’ve ever tasted. I literally could eat that gnocchi every day; the best comfort food ever!

Pork loin

Rib of beefGnocchi

 

To finish we went for the organic ice cream with honeycomb and the chocolate mousse. The desserts were indulgent but not overly heavy and there was a lovely variation in texture and flavour.

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From start to finish, the Chapter One experience was a delight. The personal, knowledgeable service and the wonderful food mean that the restaurant is definitely in my 2015 dining highlights. It is also, without doubt, the best value Michelin star restaurant I’ve visited!

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With proprietor Martin Corbett

 

Gin Foraging Event, Glasgow

I’ve decided that Bear Grylls has it all wrong. Drinking reindeer blood and snacking on bugs to stay alive? Nah, I’ll pass! Foraging for gin garnishes, on the other hand? That sounds right up my street! So I was super excited to hear that The Glasgow Gin Club have teamed up with The Botanist Gin to hold a foraging event on the 4th of July 2015.

The Botanist is one of my favourite gins. It’s made on Islay from hand-foraged botanicals and has a clean, citrus flavour.

Over the last year in particular, I’ve noticed a trend for more interesting gin garnishes. In parallel to the rise of craft gins, people have become much more adventurous when it comes to finding great accompaniments. Why limit yourself to lime or cucumber when there’s a whole world of possibilities out there?

What I love most about the idea of foraging for botanicals is that it means your G&T will change depending on the season and what you’ve been able to find that day.

The event will start with a scenic walk from the Botanic Gardens to Kelvin Grove Park and along the way there will be an opportunity to learn about botanicals that can be found growing wild in the area. Then it will be on to the Kelvingrove Café where there will be the chance to participate in a drinks workshop and try out The Botanist with a variety of foraged garnishes, syrups and tonics. The day will end with nibbles and a delicious cocktail made by the professionals. All in all, this sounds like my perfect Saturday afternoon!

The Glasgow Gin Club hold monthly events which are a great chance to meet like-minded gin lovers! You can buy tickets for the foraging event here http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/event/182875

Hope to see you there!

GvFforage

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