Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Tag: visit scotland

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

11 Fun and Romantic Dates in Edinburgh

With its spectacular skyline and historic buildings, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world; making it the perfect location for a date! Who needs Paris when we have Auld Reekie? But what are the most fun and romantic dates you can undertake in the city?

  1. Catch an Edinburgh sunset. Get up high to a vantage point to see the best views of sunset over the city. My favourite spots are the top of Arthurs Seat or Calton Hill. Dress for the weather and perhaps take a picnic and a bottle of bubbles. You can check the sunset times for each month here https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/uk/edinburgh. If you don’t fancy an uphill trek, you can still see a good sunset from some bars and restaurants.
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    View from Arthurs Seat

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    View from Chaophraya Restaurant

  2. Toast your date with a romantic cocktail in one of Edinburgh’s many bars. Heads and Tales bar have created this special love themed cocktail using Edinburgh Gin’s limited edition Valentines Gin, Orange Columbo, Pamplemousse Rose and Campari.

    Heads & Tales Valentines Cocktail

    Heads & Tales Valentines Cocktail

  3. Take in some culture together. Both the National Museum of Scotland and the National Gallery have free entry and are brilliant for a wander around. See if you can find any faces that look like your date amongst the portraits hanging on the gallery walls!IMG_4155
  4. What could be more romantic than star-gazing? Experts at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh will talk you through the wonders of the night sky and (weather permitting) you will get the chance to look through the powerful telescopes. http://www.roe.ac.uk/vc/public-events/astronomy-evenings.
  5. From lemurs to lions, Edinburgh Zoo has an amazing collection of wildlife. Don’t forget to check out the Penguin Parade. Bonus points of you spot any of the animals involved in their own ‘romantic liaisons’!image1
  6. There are hundreds of options for a romantic meal in Edinburgh. If you are feeling extravagant, push the boat out and visit one of the city’s four Michelin star restaurants; Restaurant Martin Wishart, The Kitchin, 21212 or Number One at The Balmoral.

    Scallops with escargot butter at The Kitchin

    Scallops with escargot butter at The Kitchin

  7. Share a sweet treat with your sweetheart. If ice cream is your thing then check out Mary’s Milk Bar. Mary’s soft gelato is freshly made each day and comes in wonderful flavours like Goats Cheese & Honey and Whisky & Pecan.
  8. Edinburgh has a spooky and at times gruesome history! A ghost walk will get the heart racing and give you the opportunity to cosy-up to your other half. There are a number of guided ghost walks that allow you to experience Edinburgh’s closes, graveyards and underground vaults.
  9. If you or your other half are cat lovers then Maison de Moggy is the must visit cat café in Edinburgh. Have some tea, cake and share your date with the prettiest kitties in town.
  10. Camera Obscura is a fun date with six floors of illusions and interactive exhibits. The rooftop chamber contains the camera obscura itself where you will see live images of Edinburgh projected onto the viewing table.
  11. Share some laughs together at The Stand comedy club. The Stand has seen some famous faces perform over the years including Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle but regardless of who is on the bill, you’re in for a great night.

Which other favourite spots would you include on the list? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Monachyle Mhor and Mhor84, Balquhidder

Balquhidder is 35 minutes drive north of Callander but feels about a million miles from anywhere. Peace, tranquillity and beautiful surroundings. The Lewis family have two venues in the area – Monachyle Mhor and Mhor84. Monachyle Mhor is a 14 bedroom boutique hotel set in a 2,000 acre estate on the shores of Loch Voil. Our budget didn’t quite stretch to the Monachle room rate so we opted for two nights in sister venue, Mhor84. The motel opened two years ago and has seven simple rooms and a restaurant and bar.

We were greeted warmly by staff on arrival and had a lovely surprise awaiting us; a glass of fizz that a friend had arranged to welcome us with. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the £80 room but I was suitably impressed with the Scandinavian-chic minimalist room.

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On our first night we had dinner in Mhor84. The dining room, like the rest of the motel was quirky and relaxed.

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To start with I went for the haggis croquette with turnip, potato and whisky sauce while my husband opted for half a dozen Loch Creran Oysters. Both got a big thumbs up. The oysters were fresh and the haggis had just the right amount of peppery kick.

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For our mains we both opted for venison; I went for the venison curry while Mr GvF chose the venison haunch. I think the venison haunch just won the battle of the mains. It was perfectly cooked and the anchovy mustard was delicious. The venison curry with cashew nuts and saffron rice was really flavoursome but the meat could have been a little more tender to make it even better.

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On to the desserts. With my sweet tooth I opted for the chocolate brownie with ice cream. It was so rich and fudgey and definitely one of the best desserts I’ve had this year! The cheese board was fine but I noticed there wasn’t as much emphasis on provenance as there had been with the rest of the meal.

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The presentation throughout was good, portion size was generous and staff were friendly. Overall, an excellent meal which came in at around £80 including drinks. The bar was a lovely place to relax afterwards for a nightcap though being a gin-enthusiast I’d love to see a wider selection of Scottish gins next time I visit.

Breakfast at Mhor84 was fantastic and featured fresh sour dough bread from the family bakery in Callander. I went for scrambled eggs on sour dough toast while my husband opted for the full cooked breakfast. A great start to the day and just look at that view from the breakfast table!

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Guess what else they have at Mhor84? Cakes! Delicious, homemade cakes! The weather was quite wet during our break so after a visit to Loch Katrine we retreated to the lounge area for a game of Monopoly and a huge chocolate hazelnut meringue. Bliss (apart from the fact I was thrashed twice at Monopoly)!

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Our second night in Balquhidder featured dinner at Monachle Mhor which has a set price of £55 per person for three courses. Next time I visit, I’d love to see an option with matched wines for each course. We enjoyed a glass of champagne as an aperitif with some delicious amuse bouche while browsing the menu in the bar.

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We were then taken through to our table, where I tried my first ever oyster, courtesy of the chef, which was in a shallot and 10 year old Glengoyne whisky dressing. And what views to enjoy my first oyster; breath-taking even on a dreich Scottish evening!

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For starters, Mr GvF chose the monkfish tail with Parma ham and cauliflower while I went for west coast crab with black pudding. Both dishes were well-presented and did not disappoint in the flavour-stakes.

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Our mains were outstanding – lamb for me and duck for my husband. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and the accompaniments were perfectly matched.

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Our deserts were a pineapple tarte tatin topped with homemade ice-cream and another chocolatey one for me! The chocolate ganache with coffee ice-cream was really good but I think the chocolate brownie at Mhor84 was still the winner for me.

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Whilst both restaurants used high quality, locally-sourced ingredients, we noticed a step change in the level of complexity and presentation at Monachle Mhor. Monachyle is definitely in the fine dining category but this doesn’t take anything away from Mhor84’s relaxed gastro-pub feel. Both venues are truly an escape from everything and I’m looking forward to a return visit to Balquhidder; next time we may even have saved enough for a night away in a gorgeous room at Monachlye Mhor!

 

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The Cook School Scotland

How excited was I to open a voucher for The Cook School Scotland on Christmas Day? Brownie points to Mr GvF! Located in Kilmarnock, The Cook School Scotland offers an ever-changing range of half-day, full-day and evening classes where you can learn to cook anything from Italian cuisine to Thai street food. Since one of our favourite things is entertaining, we chose the Friends for Dinner course.

We arrived just before 10am to tea, coffee and warm scones. The group of 18 was a mixture of couples, friends and some people on their own. They were a sociable bunch and everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the day ahead.

After being issued with a rather fetching orange apron it was time to get started. We were looked after by Head Chef Andy Beattie, Chef Bobby and a magical behind the scenes team who whipped away our dirty dishes and tidied up during the day. No washing up! Best news ever!

The recipes were broken down into manageable chunks which were demonstrated to the group, before we each went off to our kitchen stations and recreated the steps. There were some laughs along the way as a few people managed to interpret the recipes slightly wrong, but the chefs were on hand to rescue their dishes. During the demos, the chefs shared anecdotes and helpful tips and techniques. They were also happy to answer any food related questions from the class.

Preparing slow roasted duck legs

During the course of the day we made a fantastic three course meal which included ham hock, lentil and porcini soup, slow roasted duck legs with smashed root vegetables for the main and a dessert of an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel sauce. The chefs also demonstrated fresh bread making and created a side dish of cauliflower and macaroni cheese with a herby crust.

Cook's privileges!

Cook’s privileges!

The day went surprisingly quickly and before I knew it, it was 3pm and time to sit down, relax and enjoy our delicious meal over a glass of wine. The course was informative but also loads of fun and whatever your level of experience, I would highly recommend a day out at The Cook School Scotland.

 

Ice Cream sandwich ham hock, lentil and porcini soup


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