Month: April 2014

Inverness Round-Up…Beer, Cheese & Baking

A little round-up of some places that I have been this year during Inverness trips to visit the good people. I’m not going to lie, I spend most of my time drinking cups of tea and catching up on the Sneck gossip but occasionally I have time for other things…

 

A positive element to blogging is that companies follow your blog, so often I find places that I would never have known about. Even those that I already know about that follow me draw my attention to them once again. I first tried The Cromarty Brewing Company Happy Chappy pale ale at The Allangrange Arms and I’ve been drinking it any time I see it on a menu ever since. After following The Cromarty Brewing Co on twitter I made a point to visit next time I was in the area. It was a Monday and my sister and I were Cromarty bound when Google maps told me the brewery was shut. I phoned them and Google was lying…phew! We were greeted by a lovely little Jack Russell and spent some time choosing a selection of bottles to take back to the house.

 

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After collecting  the important stuff, we went to Cromarty Bakery to pick up a picnic lunch of bridies and cakes then drove to Rosemarkie beach. We had planned to eat outside but it was cold and windy so we sat in the car and ate the delicious baked goodies. Chanonry point is nearby so we were dolphin spotting but the water was too rough too spot anything.

 

Rosemarkie

Rosemarkie

 

On the way back we stopped in at the Highland Bottle Shop for a few more beers. This pint sized place (da-dum) has a great selection of Scottish beers and also an around selection, including my favourite Little Creatures from WA.

 

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I grew up living nearby to Culloden Battlefield but I hadn’t been in years so mum and I took a jaunt up to the new shop and centre. The shop is full of tartan, walking books, jewellery, ceramics and other Scottish pieces. The battle of Culloden was the final battle from the Jacobite rising in 1746. You can walk out on to the battlefield as I have done many times before but it was a windy day so we gave it a miss this time.

 

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We also paid a visit to Connage Highland Dairy out at Ardersier to get some cheese for my birthday meal. They have a big, cold cheese pantry with their own organic cheeses on display as well as other British and Continental offerings. This is where to go if you are a cheese lover that’s for sure. There is a massive selection and you can try before you buy. They make their own natural yoghurt for you to buy and if you go at the right time you can even watch them making cheese.

 

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After choosing what cheese we wanted we picked up some baby gherkins and oatcakes then had a cappuccino in their adjoining coffee shop. In the shop they sell local foodie items like oils, biscuits, chutneys, cheese boards and accessories.

 

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Harry Gow’s bakery is an Inverness institution & my parents work right next to their original premises so growing up our favourite treat was a dream ring. It makes me sad that we don’t have them down here – a Harry Gow sausage roll or even morning roll is a thing of beauty!

 

 

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The girls and I also went for afternoon tea at Culloden House so I will be writing about that in a separate post soon.

 

 

You can read about other Inverness posts here:

The Allangrange Arms

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I’m Racing… For Life

Next Sunday is the Glasgow 5K women’s only Race For Life. Basically hundreds of ladies, usually dressed in pink, bother people they know for sponsor money, do lots of practice runs & complete a 5K course in the centre of Glasgow. Race For Life is the biggest ladies only fundraising event in the UK. You can walk, jog or run but I will be doing something between a jog and a run. In fact, let’s be honest, maybe more of a red faced, arms flailing jog.

I had been planning on doing a 10K this year but the one I wanted to do coincides with my holiday. Then a lovely chap from I-Prospect got in touch with me through the blog saying that Scottish Power would like to invite me to do the Glasgow Race For Life 5K. Those fantastic people at Scottish Power are donating £250 sponsor money to Cancer Research UK for me doing the race. Best incentive I’ve ever had!

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2010 Race For Life

So now it’s a mad scramble to go out running as much as I can before the big day. I have run this race three times previously so I know what to expect & unless they have changed the route I know where I’m going. It starts at Glasgow Green & goes up High Street, along Argyle Street then up Glassford Street and goes over George Square. After pelting down Buchanan Street it is back on to Argyle Street & over the Clyde to The Gorbals. Eventually we come back to Glasgow Green at the opposite side where there is lots of cheering to spur you on for that last bit of the race.

It is a fantastic event because it raises so much money for cancer research but also because it gets so many people out running. The atmosphere on the day is always electric – a flurry of excitable, upbeat females determined to finish the race in the best time that they can.

It’s not too late to sign up ladies – still one week to go. For my Inverness followers the 5K Race For Life is on the 25th of May so there’s plenty of time to get signed up and practicing. You can also download the app so you can keep track of how much you’ve raised so far.

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If you are running the race then Scottish Power are doing a High Five Wave, in which they are donating £30,000 to Cancer Research. You can find their Facebook page here so even if you aren’t running then please like the page to spread the word. You can hashtag it on twitter as #high5wave

If you want to sponsor my efforts then I appreciate every penny. You can do this here

I hope to finish in about 35 minutes so here’s hoping & thanks for the continued support. I’ll keep you posted!

For further information on Race For Life please click on this link.

Casse-Croûte – A Slice Of Paris In London

During our time in London we were meeting friends that work in Bermondsey. On our last day we decided to meet them for lunch and when I was researching where to go in the area I came across a little French restaurant called Casse-Croûte. It immediately interested me because they don’t have a menu as such – they just update a blackboard with that days offerings and there’s only three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from. Fresh & seasonal, I like. Sometimes no menu puts me off because I like to get a feel for a place before going, but Casse-Croûte update their Twitter with the days menu every morning so I could pour through past days food. How I wish that restaurants would use their twitter more to display daily specials. Anyway, I mentioned Casse-Croûte to our London locals and they said that it’s a great choice and near their work. The last lunch had been decided!

 

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Casse-Croûte is very small and booking is highly recommended. In that traditional French way the tables are close together and there are no low fat labels in the kitchen. It reminded me of the cute places in Paris. The menu is in French and our waitress was French but she kindly translated everything for us without asking.
We tried everything on the menu between us but I could have enjoyed any single dish that they were serving.

There was a classic tomato soup – blitzed so you get no pesky bits and with a slight acidity.

 

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A starter of smoked haddock with leek and a soft egg was another demonstration from the chef of classic cooking done well. What I would do right now to be sitting there eating this dish again!

 

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The third starter on the menu was cheese soufflé. For some reason I am always suspicious of soufflé. Puffed egg with a side flavour, I’m not too sure about this. And what if I get bored of egg halfway through and have to leave it. I tried a bite of someone else’s and clearly I’d misjudged this soufflé. I can’t speak for other soufflés because I never choose them but this particular one definitely made me rethink my self imposed soufflé ban. It was light with a crunchy outside and had just the right cheese level.

 

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By now I was feeling smug with myself that I’d spent so long researching London blogs & found Casse-Croûte. For my main I chose the baked ham with potato purée and mustard sauce. Next time I am choked with the cold this is what I will be dreaming about. Comfort food of the highest order.

 

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A simple dish of sole in a buttery and caper sauce arrived with a couple of steamed potatoes but lacked any other vegetables. It still got the thumbs up from the two gents at the table.

 

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The creamy veal stew was served with rice & was another wintery dish with great flavouring.

 

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Ordinarily we would not have eaten dessert but because this was the last London meal (and the last time we’d eat in a long time!) we had to try them. I had the Pavé De Faubourg, which was a slice of chocolate cake with mandarins in the middle & a drizzle of mandarin & black pepper sauce. I liked the idea of the dessert and the mandarin element was tasty but the cake itself was lacking in moisture for me.

 

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The tarte tatin on the other hand, was simply terrific. The apples were not hard nor sloppy and the pastry was not too thick. The sweetness level was perfect and the dollop of cream was just enough.

 

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The final dessert was visually one of my favourite things that I had been served in a long time and it also delivered on taste. The Saint Honoré started with thin pastry then there was a sturdy crème pâtissière (crème chiboust I presume) and a choux ball filled with cream and dipped in caramelised sugar on the side.

 

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Casse-Croûte was the perfect way to end our London gastronomy trip for my 30th birthday. It has a buzzy atmosphere and fine solid cooking that took me back to my Paris trip. The presentation was of a high standard and I like the personalised plates. The service was superb and speedy for those going back to work. I love the vibe that I got from the place – it was such a strong ‘this is what we are, like us or not’ with the menu and such. There were a couple of niggly negatives but the whole experience made up for them and I will certainly be back here.

 

Casse Croute on Urbanspoon

You can read more about my trip to London in other posts here:

https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/chez-bruce/

 

 

Field Of Light In Photos

Bruce Munro’s Field Of Light installation is currently in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square until the 27th of April.

A sea of optical fibre lights fills the square creating a gorgeous sight and a good friend of mine caught some amazing shots of it on her camera.

Photographer Iona Spence regularly captures Edinburgh at her finest and here is her take on the exhibition…

 

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What better excuse for a day/night trip to Edinburgh

 

You can find more images here https://www.flickr.com/photos/ionaspence/sets/72157644060160114/

 

and her facebook is here https://www.facebook.com/ionaspenceimages?fref=ts

 

All images are © copyright Iona Spence Photography

 

Three Courses At The Gannet

Every so often a restaurant opens that I get really excited about – somewhere that I know in my gut will be marvellous. In 2013 this restaurant was The Gannet on Argyle Street. I love the name and we were looking forward to being Gannets for the night. It’s hardly surprising that it is located in Finnieston where all the cool kids play. Two renowned chefs, Ivan Stein & Peter McKenna, got together with a business partner to open this dainty bar and restaurant. I heard much about it online before it opened but there was no pre-opening blogger night that I know of so I never found the right time to visit until February.

 

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The reason for my delay in writing is because I felt I needed more time to weigh up my thoughts on the place and then March madness happened and suddenly it was almost two months ago. So now I’ve decided to just write and see what comes out.

 

We booked our table almost three weeks in advance because we were going on a Saturday night and on the Saturday at noon we received a voicemail to confirm the booking. I like efficiency so this was a plus but when Mr S phoned back we were told that the table was to be back in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Now, I’ll just get the rant out of the way now because this really gave me a negative impression before I had even visited. If we had been told when we originally booked the table then I completely understand but telling us on the day is a bit like when you get a letter from the bank changing the terms and conditions on your bank account and suddenly charging you for something new – you never signed up for that and feel hard done by. After a discussion we called back and asked if it would be possible to come in half an hour earlier than we had booked for so that we didn’t feel rushed and they said that was fine.

 

On arrival the place was buzzing and is obviously popular. We were seated upstairs in a cosy little bit with four tables.

 

Now the important food stuff. A starter of scallops, celeriac, chicken wing and sauce stuck out for me in the menu. I like all of them individually but would they taste as good on one plate? In my opinion yes they did. Rich celeriac purée muddled with the meaty, salty wing and the almost sweet scallop. There was also a ring of celeriac on the plate that provided a bit more bite but I would have preferred more purée. Saying that, I thought this was a fabulous starter.

 

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Scallops £9.50

 

Crisp rabbit croquettes with piccalilli arrived as 6 bite sized squares of rabbit with the piccalilli around about them. They were indeed very crispy little game bites and the piccalilli was robust enough to match them.

 

Rabbit Croquettes £6

Rabbit Croquettes £6

 

The special starter when we were visiting was langoustines and, if I remember correctly, were priced at £11.50. What was on the plate was good – it was simple so displayed the fresh seafood at its best. It was just a tiny portion and this eclipsed all else because you were left feeling unsatisfied. Three langoustines came out of the kitchen instead of the usual five or six that restaurants dish up. There was also no tools offered to help get the meat out from the claws so it was difficult to take advantage of what was there.

 

Langoustines

Langoustines

 

We had a delicious Sauvignon Blanc to wash everything down with and to keep us happy whilst waiting for the main courses. I was looking forward to my slow cooked loin of Ardunan farm pork, potato, spinach, crisp salsify and pork sauce. When it arrived I tucked straight in and knew straight away that I had made the right choice. The pork itself was shoulders above any pork loin that I had tried – it had a beautiful flavour and was cooked perfectly. The plate was expertly balanced and really showcased the chefs cooking.

 

Pork £17.50

Pork £17.50

 

There was a fish special ordered but I forgot to write the description down so fish lovers can just lust over the photo. It was met with positive reviews anyway and that is the important thing.

 

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Last to reach the table was the Perthshire venison, red cabbage, butternut squash and game sauce. We had enquired and told that it also came with potato, which arrived as a semi-circle of creamy tatties with a crispy exterior. Again the meat tasted top notch – they are obviously using excellent suppliers and proud of it. The dish was sweet and intense so maybe this was the reason for the small portion size. The general consensus at the table was that it was a ladies portion size and needed that wee bit extra for a man (as terribly sexist as that may sound).

 

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Venison £20

 

Three chocolate fondants and a pear & almond tart with ice-cream were coming our way. The chat stopped on arrival and did not resume for a few minutes – the desserts got the thumbs up. The chocolate fondant was gooey (if I hear on one more cookery show how hard this is to do then I will scream at the tv) and chocolatey, exactly what I wanted and expected. It was served with an ice-cream that tasted like lemon but the pear tart was served with vanilla. we all preferred the vanilla so if I chose it again I’d ask for that.

 

Chocolate Fondant £6

Chocolate Fondant £6

 

Coffees were coming (they also got the thumbs up) but time was getting on and we had to drink them quickly to vacate the table for the time we were told. It was a busy Saturday so there was a fair wait between courses and I don’t mind this at all providing we are given the time to allow it. I did not feel that we were particularly slow at choosing or eating so I’d recommend that you check at the time of booking about their table back by procedure.

 

Pear Tart £5

Pear Tart £5

 

Presentation of every dish was excellent and I found it refreshing that there was not a slate or wooden board in sight.

 

We ended up five minutes over our time but would have stayed longer and ordered more drinks. Instead we nipped along the road to three different bars that were all stowd before jumping in a taxi to the bar at the Grand Central for a cocktail.

 

It was an expensive meal but the quality of the food and the cooking were of a very high standard. Mr S would not rush back because of the portion sizes and booking service but I really want to go back to see if this was an isolated experience because I see such potential. New restaurants are constantly tweaking things and I am sure that The Gannet is no different.

 

 

Gannet on Urbanspoon

Shop Local With Original T

Supporting local businesses has always been very important to me. My parents run a local business in Inverness & I’ve grown up watching them put their life and soul into doing so.
I generally think of supporting local as going to my local fishmonger, butcher, greengrocer, florist, dry cleaners, newsagent, curtain maker, baker and so on but there are hidden ways to do it too. I recently came across a Glasgow company called Original T, run by an ex Glasgow Academy student. Relying on word of mouth and social media to spread the word, David Brown started the business from his bedroom.

 

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There are times when I think I could do things better myself (i.e make trousers from women with short legs!) & make throwaway comments about starting a business but 26 year old David actually did. He was disappointed by companies selling printed t-shirts – the pixelated images, short-term quality, terrible colours & sizing and high costs for shoddy work so he did something about it. The first step was to set up an easy to use website (www.original-t.co.uk) to get orders in. You can buy t-shirts, hoodies, jumpers and bags designed how you want them. Quality is key so he bought a direct to garment digital printer that prints at double the resolution of most places. They focus on higher quality so a longer lasting product and hope that this will bring people back again and again.

 

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Orders are generally shipped in 3-5 days or you can do Glasgow pick-up for those last minute ideas. It all starts with a photo or design that you want to wear or you can choose from a selection on their website. They can do one t-shirt or more if you need – I automatically think of hen parties but it could be anything. It’s no surprise that I love the nessie baby grow below as a highland girl.

 

Some t-shirts/hoodies that they have printed

Some t-shirts/hoodies that they have printed

 

You might have already seen some Original T’s out and about in places like Soul Barber Room, The Brunswick Hotel & Bikram Yoga Glasgow, where they have printed corporate orders for.

 

Brunswick Hotel Staff

Brunswick Hotel Staff

 

In fact, they just finished an order for Johnnie Walker for 150 t-shirts. To celebrate the re-launch of Johnnie Walker red label, the folks there asked Original T to design some t’s for them and this is one of them…

 

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There is a ‘collections’ section on the website for designers to sell their own designs for a commission. Great for new designers wanting to get exposure and for those customers wanting a more individual design.

 

There’s been a few times when I have got photos printed for hen parties and such so I’m happy that I’ve now found a local business to do it for me. Support local!

 

 

http://www.original-t.co.uk

 

N.B I contacted David after seeing a friend in one of his t-shirts & decided to write about it. I received no payment for this post.

Chez Bruce

Those who follow me on twitter or Facebook will know that I went to London last month for my 30th birthday. And what a birthday trip it was! I have always wanted to go to a Michelin starred restaurant, even more so when I spotted Chez Bruce on a previous visit. We spent our first two nights in Wandsworth with friends and my birthday was a good excuse to go to Chez Bruce for a decadent Sunday lunch.

 

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They change their menu all the time so I was eagerly checking it every few days in anticipation. I couldn’t even decide then what I’d have so it was not a quick process on the day. We arrived at noon and were seated at a table at the back of the restaurant. This helps me in social situations – my hearing aids don’t pick up background noise so I can hear who I want to hear better. After being presented with the menu and much chatter about what to eat we all picked the same main course. A bit of a cop out maybe but I had read so much about the chateaubriand that we couldn’t not.

We ordered food and a full bodied white to go with our fish starters. At some point before ordering we were given a little hors d’oeuvre or nibble that I can only describe as a cheesy biscuit. This massively downplays it because it was the best cheesy biscuit I’ve ever had the delight of sampling. It was melt in the mouth, buttery and strong with cheese but in a soothing way. It did exactly what it was meant to – left us wanting more.

Then they gave us a bread basket that had (if I remember correctly) focaccia, sourdough and a nut bread. When Mr S enquired about nuts in the bread and told them of his allergy they came over with a nut-free bread basket just for him & a nut-free version of the menu. Excellent service. They could have just given him the focaccia because he raved about it, as did the rest of us. By this point we were laughing about how many ‘this is the best (insert food here) I’ve ever had’ sentences were going to be said during the meal.

A starter of turbot fillet, black rice, squid, chorizo, aioli & basil oil did nothing to quash our enthusiasm. Saltiness from the squid & chorizo blended with the freshness of the fish with ease. The table was happily silent.

 

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Sticking with fishy starters, the normally drab cod was brought to life with an anchovy hollandaise, samphire and roasted garlic. Such a rich dish but perfectly so. The naturally salty samphire & anchovies, the crunchy garlic slivers bounced off the poached egg and cod with precision.

 

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And then there was beef. A man portion of beef at that, none of this dainty portioning on this dish. Medium rare so it still retained the flavour, or practically still mooing as my (well-done) dad would say. The accompaniments weren’t an afterthought either. The chips were a cut above, the green beans had a crisp bite and the stuffed mushroom could have been served as a meal on its own. A lightly caramelised onion held its own among the peppercorn jus which I barely used because the meat was so juicy. Celeriac provided the last non essential but utterly delicious piece of the puzzle. The meat itself was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – it was ten times better. We were dining with friends who work in wine so we left them to choose what would match. The Chateauneuf De Pape that the sommelier had helped select was wonderful.

 

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Unfortunately I started to feel faint at the end of the main course. A combination of the hot dining room, a busy week & a food and drink extravaganza the day before finally caught up with me. Nothing was going to stop me having dessert. After a breath of fresh air, we carried on like troopers.

Chez Bruce has an array of cheeses that you can see from the window that had been taunting me every time we walked past. A cheese plate was ordered between the four of us & the array was brought to our table. Moments like this are why I am not a waif, and why I smile so much. What struck me is how knowledgable the cheese man was; it was an art and vocation to him, not just a job. Seeing passion like that brings me into the fold & make me feel in safe hands.

We reached dessert. The citrus fad that I’m currently going through was satisfied by the blood orange sorbet. Bitter yet somehow sweet, it was a great palate cleanser to end the meal. I had ordered it on the basis of it being light but it arrived with not one but three accompaniments. There was a citrusy soft Madeleine, a rolled brandy snap and an almond biscuit. It was like they knew what I wanted without me knowing.

 

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A traditionally rich creme brûlée did it’s job – it was unapologetically typically French with no messing about with added extras.

 

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And then there was rhubarb. Stewed rhubarb with citrus notes, an almond cake for texture then silky natural yoghurt sorbet to freshen the dish.

 

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Finally, a chocolate pudding with praline parfait was drenched in shiny chocolate sauce like a present being wrapped.

 

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Even the homemade truffles that arrived with coffee were the best truffles I’ve ever had.

It’s fair to say that I thought Chez Bruce was incredible – the service, the food and the whole experience. I was also struck by how unpretentious it was. So much care and passion went into every aspect. The perfect start to my 30th birthday trip.

 

 

Sunday lunch at Chez Bruce is £35 for 3 courses.