Category Archives: Review

Dark Beer on the Brain

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The beer side of my blog has been rather neglected over the past couple of months, possibly because my work-life-balance is a bit hectic at the moment and I’ve also been exploring wine more and more. However over the last couple of weeks I’ve tried some FANTASTIC beer that I just have to shout about. All of these beers are available to buy around Edinburgh and I’d seriously suggest giving them a go if you like Real Ale/dark beers.

Dark Island Reserve, Orkney Brewery

If you’re a Real Ale drinker in Scotland you’ve probably heard of Orkney Brewery and if you drink dark beer, you’ve probably heard of Dark Island. Orkney Brewery have used their hugely popular Dark Island Ale and matured it in Orkney malt whisky casks to create a beautifully strong, incredibly rich aged ale.

The high ABV of the ale (10%) means that the ale is designed to be enjoyed much like a liqueur or whisky and the bottling of the beer reflects this. The beer therefore has a much longer shelf life than a usual beer. Dark Island Reserve still has all the desirable flavours you’d expect from the original ale; dates, spices, heavy chocolate, coffee and a hint of acidity but also has the added richness and woodiness from the whisky.

Dark Island Reserve is a truly beautiful beer and although I’ve finished the bottle there is a 100% chance I’ll be buying another bottle closer to Christmas. It’s the perfect ale to savour after a long winter walk with my spaniel and I would recommend this beer to anyone that likes whisky and dark beer.

Icelandic Toasted Porter, Einstok Brewery

I saw this in a shop window and was firstly intrigued by the idea of an Icelandic brewery and then realised it was a toasted porter and HAD to try some, I’m so glad I did! The Brewery is located only 60 miles from the Arctic Circle and the water used in the brews run through prehistoric glaciers which produce some of the purest water in the world. This element could explain the clarity and crispness of the ale.

The Toasted Porter is absolutely beautiful, a thoroughly enjoyable beer.  There are obvious notes of toffee and chocolate but the beer appears to remain light and extremely smooth. It is malty and very easy to drink, I’d recommend this even to those that don’t drink dark beer. My fiance for example is not a fan of ale at all and found this really enjoyable.

We bought a couple of other Einstok beers too; Icelandic Dopplebock and White Ale, both of which are definitely worth trying but my heart lies with dark beers so the Toasted Porter was my favourite.

Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co

This is one of the most awesome beers I’ve had in a long time, seriously! I bought a milk stout a couple of months ago from a brewery I’d never heard of and it really wasn’t good, I mean it was rank. So I was a bit dubious when the shop assistance recommended another milk stout. I’m not one to judge so I thought I’d give it a go.

This milk stout is sweet, totally smooth and incredibly drinkable – even pouring it into a glass was a great experience! Left Hand Brewing Co is based in Colorado in the US and I’m quickly coming round to the idea that America are making some incredible craft beers.

Back to the beer – the stout is really, really creamy without being TOO creamy and the more you drink the more you get of a lovely warming coffee flavour, I love a beer that develops! I promise you’ll be able to drink bottles and bottles of this but be careful because its medium-to-high ABV (6%) is amazingly disguised. After having a look on their website I discovered that the beer has won a load of awards, apparently it’s not just me that thinks this beer is brilliant.

Coconut Porter, Maui Brewery

I spotted a can (yes, a can) of this in one of the fridges at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh and couldn’t resist. The can was rather expensive but you only live once and how often do you see a beer brewed in Hawaii.

I really enjoyed this beer but I must admit I was a tiny bit disappointed by the depth of taste. I’ve tried a couple of Coconut Porters in the past included the brew by Stewart’s Brewery, which is really good. I have to admit I compared it a little. I think the thing that threw me the most was the fact that it was heavily carbonated, I think the coconut flavour is a lot more evident in a cask beer. The beer did however have a wonderful texture, especially considering it came out of a can! You still get hints of everything you should, malt, coffee and of course coconut.

There you have it, as you can see I’m having a bit of a moment with dark beers – I think it’s the impending winter and cold weather. Hopefully the response to this blog post will encourage me to blog more about my adventures with beer (and then I get to drink more beer too obviously).

Let me know if you’ve tried any of the above beers and tell me what you thought, beer tasting is very subjective and I’m always interesting to see what other flavours people get from the beers. Happy beer drinking!

September Cooking Challenge: Chai Pumpkin Spice Thumbprints

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The last recipe from my September Cooking Challenge is a dessert courtesy of food blog, Pass the Sushi. I did actually make these in September, just – so I successfully completed my September Cooking Challenge, go me! I probably shouldn’t have left this recipe until last, or I should have read the recipe more carefully as I didn’t realise that some of the ingredients couldn’t be bought at my local Tesco.

Pumpkin Spice Hershey’s Kisses for example are a Halloween/Thanksgiving themed seasonal American chocolate treat and are unavailable in shops around the UK. I spent a couple of hours searching the internet and finally found a UK-based website that sold American groceries and sweets, phew!

The recipe also called for chai concentrate which I’ve never seen in any of my local shops. I did a little Amazon search and found bottles of chai concentrate, but nothing smaller than a litre bottle which I thought would be a waste of money. I decided to improvise, I bought a box of chai tea and infused quite a few tea bags in water with some brown sugar to sweeten my concoction, I used this instead of chai concentrate.

The recipe was easy enough, mix everything together and leave to chill for an hour. Making the chai seasoning was fun and I had left-over for future recipes. The smell of the seasoning was gorgeous and filled up the kitchen, it did however make the dog sneeze! One thing I would say about the recipe is that when rolling out the cookies, be sure to leave large gaps between them on the baking tray. Mine mushed together a little and caused some of them to be oddly shaped, not the end of the world but just a little tip!

Also, after you place on the Hershey’s kisses after baking the cookies DON’T touch them at all for at least an hour. The recipe tells you this but I was curious and poked one which ultimately melted and lost its shape straight away. You’ve got to know your failures to know how to do it right!

So thankfully my final September Cooking Challenge recipe was a success and the cookies were spongy yet solid, spicy and sweet and the Hershey’s kisses added a lovely velvety pumpkin-flavoured finish. I’ll definitely be making these again, possibly for Halloween.

Thanks to all those who have been checking in to see my progress over September, hopefully one of the three recipes have appealed to you and inspired you to start your own cooking challenges! Please let me know if you cook any of the three recipes, I’d love to hear your experiences!

September Cooking Challenge: Baked Cheesburger Egg Rolls

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For my second cooking challenge of the month I decided on a recipe I found through Pinterest from a cute little mumsy food blog called Does Not Cook Well With Others. I picked this recipe purely because I thought my finance would absolutely love it and I thought I’d probably love it too. I mean it’s cheese, beef and pastry, what’s not to like!

So the recipe is pretty simple, it calls for cheddar cheese, red onion beef mince, worcestershire sauce, egg roll wrappers (I used filo pastry) and sesame seeds.

I’m proud to announce that my second September Cooking Challenge was not a disaster or a disappointment (like the last), it was really, really tasty! Making the filling was easy enough, it consisted of frying the mince and onion then combining that together with the grated cheddar, sauce and some herbs such as oregano and basil (my own addition to the recipe).

The only fiddly part was actually making the rolls. I imagine egg roll wrappers are a little thicker and sturdier than filo pastry so I eventually realised I had to be very gentle with the pastry in order to avoid it splitting and ripping. It look a while to get both the proportions right as well as the shape of the actual roll, I think maybe 2 of the 15 I made actually looked like they should. One thing I would say is that I overloaded the rolls with sesame seeds, which resulted in them falling off the rolls into the oven and creating a lot of smoke! I think next time I’ll put a tray underneath to catch the stray sesame seeds and potentially not use as many.

I’m so glad that this recipe worked out much better than my last cooking challenge as I chose both recipes because of their simplicity. It just goes to show that sometimes simplicity is the key! I served the cheeseburger rolls with a variety of dips and made a salad to go along side them to turn this into a main meal. Here are the dips I’d suggest go best with the rolls:

  • Barbeque sauce (plain and simple)
  • New Zealand’s Rocket Fuel Sauce
  • Burger sauce (basically french mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together)

I’m so so glad that this was a success, the crispy pastry worked so well with the juicy, tangy, cheesy filling and dipped in the sauces it made the perfect alternative to a spring roll! Next time I have a dinner party I’m going to serve these up to see what the larger public think, but go, spread your wings – make baked cheeseburger egg rolls!

Please give me a shout if you give this recipe a go and if you found different things that didn’t work or worked better! Thanks.  

Burgher Burger #7

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Last night was my first experience of Burgher Burger. I’ve mentioned this is a earlier post but for those of you that don’t know Burgher Burger is a guerilla dining experience where several different chefs produce a menu (including a burger, obvi) and host an evening at ‘greasy spoon’ cafes around Edinburgh, oh and the menu is matched with beer.

This is the third time we’ve tried to get tickets for the event as the tickets sell out in under a minute, the current venue only holds about 35 people so trying to get a ticket is pretty competitive! The evening was brilliant, the food perfect and the atmosphere buzzing, the beer was pretty gorgeous too (supplied by Harviestoun Brewery). Here is the menu, along with tasty, tasty photos.

Starter: Sweet corn, mussel and coriander chowder served with Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted

The starter was lovely and flavoursome, the peppery mussels and fresh coriander tasted great alongside the battered sweet corn rosti that was served on the side. It also went great with the citrusy Bitter and Twisted.

Main: Buffalo burger & mozzarella with marinated tomatoes, pesto, sweet potato chips and leaves served with Harviestoun Wild Hop IPA

Oh my gosh, this was amazing! The burger was perfectly rare, the chips were crispy and salty and the buffalo mozzarella was to die for. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting burger on paper but it definitely works, especially with the Wild Hop IPA which was fruity and fizzy!

Dessert: Edinburgh Mess served with Harviestoun Mr Sno’Balls

Plums, cream, nuts, milk – you can’t really go wrong here and served with one of my favourite dark winter beers. They did really well serving this dish as it wasn’t a huge portion and complemented the rest of the meal perfectly.

All in all my boyfriend and I had a really great evening and would definitely do it again, soon if possible! The food, service and atmosphere were all enough to make the evening a success! Thanks for a great night Burgher Burger!

I’ve got my Anorak on, have you?

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I know, I know the blog has been severely neglected over the past couple of months and my only excuse is that I’ve been extremely busy with weddings, family dos, doggy-sitting and work.

Truth be told, I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately and as I’ve got to do so much writing in my day job sometimes I don’t have the energy to come home and write even more. I promise I’ll be better though.

To celebrate a long, healthy working week I decided to treat myself by spending some of my payday money on some nice beers I haven’t tried before. I’ve found a new beer shop down the road from my flat that has a great selection of yummy-looking beers.

I was in a hoppy mood so I picked a couple of my favourite hoppy beers and a couple I hadn’t tried before. Anorak, one of the beers I chose, promises to be a thirst quenching summer wheat beer, naturally cloudy and was exactly what I was after on that particularly stuffy and humid day.

Well what can I say about Anorak? It was everything I expected in a good way, and had a lovely full palate with a mouthful of citrus, tangerine and grassy goodness. It also had some lovely notes of wheat and yeast without feeling too heavy. The best thing about Anorak is the mix of juicy flavours combined with a gorgeous clean, crisp finish. This beer was so tasty that boyfriend even had a sip and he’s not a fan of hoppy beers at all. Anorak actually tasted slightly lager like, fizzy and refreshing.

Whilst I was supping on my tasty beer I had a little look at the label and discovered that Anorak is part of the Natural Selection Brewing project. The project has been set up by some Heriot-Watt MSc students at the International Centre of Brewing and Distilling. The project is designed for the students to produce, brand and market a beer that will ultimately be sold in and around Edinburgh. How cool is that!?

Anorak was produced at Stewarts Brewery and launched in July at the Stockbridge Tap. They also released a one off cask of ‘snozberry’ Anorak, don’t ask me what it would taste like but the Anorak guys assure us that:

This cask has been packed full of fresh snozberries which Willy Wonka has assured us will complement the refreshing characteristics of Anorak with a delicious fruity flavour and aroma, never before seen in a Scottish beer. Anorak website

The beer is made using several different hops and is dry-hopped to produce and extra hoppy beer (wow that’s a lot of hops in one sentance). You’ve got to love it, a tasty wheat beer made by beer geeks and produced in my own home, Edinburgh. Very impressed with this beer, well done guys!

Anybody else tried Anorak, what did you think? If you’ve got any recommendations for nice hoppy beers I might not have tried please let me know!

Treat Discovery | Burgh Bakes

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The Marshmallow Lady is popping up here there and everywhere at the moment and I’ve finally got my hands on some of her marshallow-y goodness. Burgh Bakes is based in Edinburgh and make homemade gourmet marshmallows in a variety of lovely flavours and styles. They boast no additives, preservatives or unnatural colourings and are naturally low in fat, there are endless amounts of excuses to eat these lovely morsels of sweetness.

I heard of Burgh Bakes first after learning about the new guerilla dining pop up restaurant experience, Burgher Burger which matches different Innis and Gunn beers with a 3 course meal. The Marshmallow Lady had created Innis and Gunn marshmallows which were served at one of the events.

I then saw that she was opening up a shop 5 minutes walk down the road from where I live (I know, dangerous). The shop is going to stock her range of marshmallows but is also going to sell lovely vintage milkshakes in a range of flavours and a variety of other cute cafe products. The shop is definitely something to be excited about!

Then yesterday I was wondering around the Stockbridge Market and came across the lovely Marshmallow Lady’s stall! We had a wee chat and I had a couple of tasters of the various marshmallow flavours. I had a taste of the key lime pie marshmallow which was really interesting as it had a biscuit base which is so unusually for a marshmallow. I also tasted her lemon meringue marshmallows which were lovely and light, exactly like meringue actually!

She said said “Ooo have you tried the beer marshmallows?”. So I had a taste of the beer marshmallows and golly gosh, they are tasty. They are made using the Innis and Gunn Rum Cask Beer so are lovely and sweet with a slight spiciness. They are buttery and fluffy in texture and have a lovely ‘squidge’ to them. Despite having such a heavy ingredients such as beer in them they are light and airy. It is very difficult not to munch the whole bag down and would probably go very well with a nice cold beer.

I’d definitely recommend checking out her online shop or stopping by her stall or shop if you’re in the area. I’m thinking that these marshmallows would be a fantastic wedding favour or a lovely birthday or anniversary gift. Most of her collection are gluten, dairy or fat free so are great for picky eaters too. I can’t wait for the shop to open to treat myself some more and explore her expanding range.

The Kitchin: An Unforgettable Meal

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The KitchinIt has been my goal for some time now to visit a Michelin Star restaurant, not because I’m a food snob that wants to pay stupid amounts of money for a plate of food, but because I want to experience the service of a Michelin Star restaurant (as well as the food). I was curious to see if I would feel awkward, out of place and out of my depth. I finally got the opportunity to visit one when my boyfriend got himself a new fantastic job, a reason to celebrate. 

I’m pretty blessed living in Edinburgh which is absolutely any foodies dream, there are independent cafes and restaurants on every corner and you can pretty much get any cuisine your heart desires. We decided we’d visit The Kitchin as he is a local Edinburgh boy, born and bred, not to mention that we’re constantly hearing incredible things about this restaurant. Weekends were booked up until June but they had a table available during the week so we went with that.

Tom Kitchin is bit of a celebrity chef now after a couple of appearances on Masterchef so we weren’t quite sure if he’d actually be there. After a couple of tweets on the day expressing our excitement for our first visit to the restaurant he replied saying ‘Looking forward to seeing you guys tonight’, so we guessed he would be there!

Gav put on a suit and I (reluctantly) put on some high heels and we jumped in a taxi to the restaurant. We’d already decided that we would go with the tasting menu, basically so we could try as many different things as possible – it’s not like we go to these kind of places every day! We got the wine tasting menu alongside, I know – ambitious on a school night.

I’m not going to go into huge amounts of detail about each dish but can I just say, The Kitchin is a truely incredible experience. From the minute you walk through the door you are met by a number of people ready and happy to cater to your every need. We were so happy we got the wine tasting menu because it opened our eyes to some incredible wines we didn’t even know existed. This was particularly eye opening for Gav who isn’t much of a fan of white wine but was shocked at how beautiful their choice of wine was.

So, the food. The tasting menu was a whopping seven courses long including an amuse bouche, pre-starter, starter, middle course (take a breath), fish course, meat course and dessert. There were a couple of dishes that really stood out for me. Tom Kitchin’s signiture dish Pig’s Head & Langoustine was on the tasting menu, I’d heard of this one. This was absolutely stunning, the pig’s head tasted like pulled pork but ten times richer and the ear salad had the most delicious dressing, this was a favourite of Gavin’s too. Then there was the Razor Clams starter: razor clams from Arisaig served with these gorgeously cooked diced vegetables with chorizo oil and lemon confit. This was so moreish and I can’t even describe how good it was! It was creamy yet light and delicate but so flavoursome, so yummy!

Obviously we had a load of other food but those were my highlights. The service was something we’d never experienced before either, an extremely knowledgeable sommelier presented each wine with a brief description of each without over pushing it or interrupting our meal. Each meal was perfectly timed and we were left to enjoy, and digest our food before the next course (I love it when you’re not rushed).

This experience was well worth the money and I don’t know how I am going to eat anywhere else now! I think Castle Terrace will be the next place on our list as Kitchin had a hand in starting up the restaurant. The Kitchin’s ability to present beautiful Scottish produce so perfectly and seasonally and in such an exciting way was inspirational and the experience was truly a pleasure. Here are some sneaky photos I took whilst we were there, just to make you all jealous!