thegrumblingtummy

"No love sincerer than the love of food"


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Amulree – Restoring Faith in Human Nature

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Let me tell you about a charming little place that has restored my faith in human nature.  The name of this place is the Amulree , located somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  http://amulreetearoom.com/

Fresh from our trip to Northumberland and desperate to maintain a holiday vibe we had taken a trip to Dunkeld to introduce the wee one to Peter Rabbit and friends.  The Beatrix Potter Exhibition & Garden  in Birnam tells the story Miss Potter and offers a fully interactive experience for children.  We visited Mrs Tiggy Winkle in her house, saw Jeremy fishing and Ns favourite – the Gentleman Fox.

To be honest food was the last thing on my mind.  Following our Northumberland curry quest (more on that at a later date) I felt like a foie gras duck and the scales were backing me up.  however B had been on Trip Advisor and had sourced a tea room nearby that got cracking reviews and never one to let a new foodie find slip through my fingers, I agreed that we should seek it out for lunch.

We drove out of Dunkeld into the hills and after about ten miles we reached the middle of nowhere – the Amulree .   This charming little whitewashed cafe,  complete with bunting floating in the breeze, was surprisingly busy considering the location.  I had that tinkly feeling that told me it was going to be good.

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The interior was spotless, tasteful and modern with local art (for sale) adorning every wall.  There were about five tables for customers and a little area with toys to keep children amused.  The menu was very small – soup, paninis and home-made cakes.  It may be small but let me assure you that it was absolutely perfectly formed.

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We were just about to place our order when we clocked the sign up on the wall ” we don’t accept cards, cash only”.  BUGGER! Like the Queen we had no actual real money with us.  We got up to leave whilst explaining our predicament to the waitress when she stopped us in our tracks with this ” Oh that should be fine just send a cheque in when you can”.  Once we collectively scraped our jaws up from the floor and tried to take in this astoundingly refreshing trust in ones fellow-man, we ordered …

We both chose the home-made mushroom soup.  This could be served with either soda bread, rice cakes or oatcake.  I opted for soda bread – good choice!  The beautifully “meaty” mushroom soup was beautifully flavoured and laced  with cream.  Comfort in a bowl – all was right with the world.  The soda bread was unlike any soda bread I have ever tasted before (in a good way).  It was light with a lovely sweetness which loved lashings of salty butter.

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It should have been enough but there was a cabinet of cakes that could not be ignored. B proclaiming his body a “template” did abstain – how disturbingly unusual!

I justified my cake consumption by announcing that I was actually having two of my five a day in choosing a moist and delicious looking frosted courgette and lemon cake –  don’t judge me!  This cake was to die for – so moist with such a beautiful lemony tang balancing the sweetness.  I am always surprised at how delicious cakes using vegetables are – a bit like the famous Peter Kay sketch – Garlic …. and Bread.  Courgette …. and cake!!!  But delicious it was.

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So if you fancy a trip to the middle of nowhere to take in stunning views, sample wonderful food and meet some lovely people with a refreshing attitude – you can’t get better than the Amulree.  (cheques in the post!)


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My Highland Show

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A week has gone by since I donned my wellies (just in case) and headed off to the Royal Highland Show, searching for a festoon of foodie delights.

Shamefully by-passing many of the wonderful things the show has to offer,  we headed straight for the food hall.  Only one stall  stopped me in my tracks en route and that was the Rocpool restaurant from Inverness, who were serving scallops and Mediterranean cous cous.  The aroma was divine and it was only the fear of peaking too early that stopped me from tucking in.

The Food Hall at the Highland show is busy, noisy and brilliant.  Lovely husband agreed to take the mini grumbling tummy on an adventure for an hour to give me time to try & buy to my heart’s content.  The timer was on and posh supermarket sweep began.

great glen game

First stop was Great Glen Game http://www.greatglengame.co.uk/    Great Glen Game sustainably source wild venison from estates located in the Great Glen.   I have tasted their products before and admit to being a  bit of a fan.  After trying out their venison chorizo, venison salami and a venison & pork mix salami, I settled on a packet of the latter and the beginnings of my Highland Show tasting dinner was born.

essential sauces

Sharing space with Great Glen Game was Grantown and Spey based company Essential Sauces  http://www.essentialsauces.com who were flogging their spectacularly wonderful range of tomato based sauces. These guys blend the freshest tomatoes, chillies, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and make them into a variety of spicy sauces ideal for dipping or marinading.  Unable to choose I bought three bottles.  Spicy Ketchup which has a wicked Scotch Bonnet kick,  Special Ketchup which is similar but with a gingery warmth and finally the Saucy Chutney which is as it says a lovely date and apple chutney in a sauce form.   Its been a week since the show and I have used the spicy ketchup as a dip on quite a few occasions – it went very well with my lamb koftas.

Heck

it wasn’t long before I was accosted by the smell of freshly cooked  sausages.  Heck sausages http://heckfood.co.uk/sausages/ are made by the Yorkshire based Keeble family and they are bloody tasty.  They have eight products including ‘chicken Italia’,  ‘Pork and Proud’ and ‘Smoky Chorizo Style’ and I had to try a few  …. really quite a few before settling on smoky Chorizo.  They are a  sausage to be reckoned with and were devoured back at base with a bowl of hot buttery cous cous which complimented them perfectly.  I am told that you can buy these in Tesco and even if you are not a Tesco shopper these sausages are worthy of a special trip.

best lunch

Time for a bite to eat.  This was easy!  I headed straight for the stall selling hand dived Islay scallops on a black pudding roll.  I don’t need to say anything about this.  Check out the picture, it says it all.

Gusto

I have a bit of a thing for flavoured oils for drizzling and dipping and was delighted to come across two stands which ticked all of the oily boxes .  Mackintosh of Glendendaveny http://www.mackintoshofglendaveny.co.uk/ and Gusto http://www.gusto-catering.com/ who are based in Leith.

mackintosh ofglendevanay

Extra Virgin “cold pressed” rapeseed oil  from Mackintosh of Glendaveny is grown, pressed and bottled on their farm in Aberdeenshire.  There are lots of health benefits to rape seed oil which is great but to be honest I would buy it even if it had the health properties of a doughnut – it is very tasty stuff.  After spending far too long dipping wee bits of bread in a multitude of flavoured oils including chilli and ginger – I elected for a lemon infused oil.  I often use olive oil and lemon juice as a simple salad dressing and this seemed like a sensible short cut.  I used this oil a few days ago when hosting a girls lunch and it got the thumbs up all round – I do declare that it can bring any salad to life.

Gusto lovingly makes a selection of dressings, aromatic oils and specialist vinegars using local Scottish ingredients. I didn’t need another oil did I?  Probably not but I couldn’t resist their chilli oil which had a real kick.  So far I have drizzled it on hummus and dipped half a blooming loaf in it.  It really is yummy and has a multitude of uses.

bread

My Highland Show tasting dinner had lost focus – oils, sauces,  venison salami – I needed bread to bring it back on track.  Mhor Bread based in Callander was my next stop.  Mhor http://mhor.net/bread/  makes “artisan bread at affordable prices”,  I actually think they are a wee bit pricey but the bread is hand-made using flour milled from Scotland and besides that  it tastes pretty good.  There are so many varieties to choose from but I settled on a sour-dough which was used to dip into my various oily acquisitions later that evening.

Organic Blend

Last but not least, one the stars of my Highland Show …. drum roll!  The Organic Blending Company http://www.organicblending.com/.  Their product is just so damned clever.  The blends look like jars of dried herbs and spices which is pretty much what they are.  You can use these blended herbs and spices for marinading, cooking and the like  BUT that was not the clever part.  The stand displayed small pots of  mayonnaise which each had a teaspoon of blend mixed in to make a tasty dip.  So simple, so clever and honestly so tasty.  I ate my bodyweight in bread sticks dipped in a mix of mayo, yogurt and Italian Herbs and Spices Blend that night.  I love this concept of an instant and easy dip.

So with a full tummy and an empty wallet we emerged from the food hall of the Royal Highland show and made our weary way home.

We love you Royal Highland Show – see you next year

neave at show


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Hi Ho Hi Ho – to the Highland Show we go

Highland Coo

I am not a fan of tractors or coos and was never keen on the idea of going to the Royal Highland Show. For some inexplicable reason the sheer enormity of the show had entirely passed me by. That was until one sunny weekend (they can be a bit of a rarity at the Highland Show) a few years back, when I was kindly given a ticket and thought, ‘what the hell’.

Have you been to the Highland Show? If not then you really must go. Feel free to bypass the coos and the tractors and the impossibly cute little sheep, but please do not pass any of the amazing opportunities to stuff your face full of the most splendiferous of Scottish produce. It is definitely one of the best food shows in Scotland and I for one am very excited about going along this year.

I will be returning fresh from a week of eating my way round Northumberland and will probably be as fat as a pony, but that will not stop me taking full advantage of all the foodie treats the show has to offer.

A little birdie tells me that the Highlands & Islands region forms the central theme for the food area this year. So what does that mean for my grumbling tummy?

First  I plan to visit a whole host of fantastic artisan producers from the Highlands & Islands who are showcasing the luscious larder of their region. Particularly exciting is Great Glen Game ( fingers and toes crossed that they have some of their salami left for me to taste). Cheeses, pies and preserves are other weak spots for me as well as some beautiful smoked salmon. The trick is to enjoy the samples but leave enough room for part two.

This will involve sourcing lunch from one of the many  ‘Street Food’ stands dotted around the showground and choosing will be tough. Helping showcase this produce are a host of great chefs from the Highlands & Islands involved including Muji Rahman from the Michelin recognised Cafe India in Dingwall and Steven Devlin of the highly acclaimed Rocpool Restaurant in Inverness. Mmm.

If there is time then I will also try to catch some of the chefs cooking up a storm on the cookery stage – this is a particular favourite of the mini grumbling tummy, who will be in attendance. Hates food but loves watching people cook – odd child but we love her.

Finally I will hit the plethora of stands selling innumerably lovely products  and moon over lovely trinkets before heading home – full and happy.

So roll on the weekend of the 22nd June and everybody please please do a sun-dance for the day!

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/rainbirder/4694795906/”>Rainbirder</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>


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FESTIVAL DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

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Festival season is upon us, but forget T in the Park, we are talking food here.

As soon as the sun puts his hat on (okay okay …  I am sure he will soon) it’s time to get out and about in the fresh air and sample the fabulous local produce Scotland has to offer.

Here is a list of just some of the fantastic foodie events going on this summer and beyond.  So grab your diary and get planning.

Apologies to my friends south of the border –  your events are too many to catalogue!!  Maybe these Scottish events will encourage you to pack your weekend bag and take a trip …

I will set up a special events page on the blog so that this information is easily accessible – if  you want me to include any festivals that I have missed then let me know and I will add them.

TASTE OF GRAMPIAN 1 JUNE  THAINSTONE CENTRE, NEAR ABERDEEN  http://www.tasteofgrampian.co.uk

One day event giving you the opportunity to meet local producers and sample the food from Grampians larder.  Expect beautiful smoked salmon, creamy fudge, shortbread and much more.

OPEN FARM SUNDAY  9 JUNE  http://www.farmsunday.org 

This is free and takes place in locations across Scotland.  Farms open their doors or should I say gates to allow visitors to experience the smells of the farmyard and really get in touch with the land that feeds us. So come and feed your senses on Open Farm Sunday. At a farm near you.

CRAIL FOOD FESTIVAL 15-16 JUNE  http://crailfoodfest.co.uk/

This great two-day festival includes an indoor food market, music events, local producers and a lobster shack at the picturesque harbour PLUS wild food walks and foraging.  It’s a cracking one to go along to and this blogger has been part of their innovative 2013 blogging project this year (very proud!)

AFTERNOON TEA ON A STEAM TRAIN – throughout the summer http://www.bkrailway.co.uk/

Ok so not a festival but a great thing to do and worthy of a mention on my summer food list.   Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea of freshly made sandwiches, cakes and homemade scones with clotted cream and Scottish jam served with a pot of coffee or tea aboard a lovingly restored steam train.

FALKLAND FESTIVAL  – 17 – 23 JUNE

This festival in the charming village of Falkland includes a family picnic, street fair and tea dance amongst other family fun activities.

ROYAL HIGHLAND SHOW 20 – 23 JUNE http://royalhighlandshow.org/

Its an institution!  I tend to bypass the tractors and the coos and head straight for the food hall where there are almost 100 companies featuring their quality products as well as a line-up of some of Scotland’s top chefs demonstrating their culinary skills.  The Highland Show is a fantastic day out (especially if the sun shines)

PITTENWEEM ARTS FESTIVAL  3 – 11 AUGUST http://www.pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk

Calm down I know it’s not actually a food festival BUT it is one of my favourite festivals of the year (not only because it was where I grew up long before  there was a sniff of an arts scene).  In between seeing the art EAT some food.  There is a big tent selling top-notch grub down at the harbour and various fabulous places to hang out for cake and coffee too.  Finish your day off with fish and chips from Pittenweem’s chippy.  It was always known as the best in Scotland when I was young.  Just as good as the now famous Anstruther Fish Bar‘s suppers but without the queues and the price tag.

FOODIES FESTIVAL 9,10,11 AUGUST http://foodiesfestival.com/event/edinburgh-inverleith-park/

Not to be missed! This huge event held in Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park is into its seventh year now and it really is a stonking day out for any foodie.  As well as hundreds of stands showcasing fabulous local produce there is a cake and bake theatre, chefs theatre, a children’s cooking theatre,  pop up restaurants and so much  more.  I am hoping they have their little beach in situ again this year and mini grumbling tummy loved it.

CRIEFF BERRY FESTIVAL 10 AUGUST http://crieffberryfestival.co.uk/

I love a berry I do and where best to taste berries than smack in the middle of fruit farm country.  This one day event is held in Strathearn at the peak of growing season.  As well as a large selection of berry based produce you will find breads, chutneys, baking and more – it’s a good un’.

FLAVOUR FORTNIGHT 31 AUGUST – 15 SEPTEMBER http://www.flavourfortnight.co.uk/

Dumfries & Galloway’s celebration of local food and drink returns on 31st August till 15th September 2013, giving you 16 days of delicious experiences to indulge in.  The full programme is not available just yet but keep an eye on the website.

DUNDEE FLOWER AND FOOD FESTIVAL 6 – 8 SEPTEMBER https://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/event/42

This is one I definitely shall be attending!  This three-day (ticketed) event  is Tayside’s top lifestyle event.  The Festival offers the best in food, horticulture and live entertainment, with a packed weekend programme including free cookery and gardening demonstrations, children’s activities, a craft fair, live music and TV celebrities. Now what’s not to love about that.

ABERDOUR FESTIVAL  JULY 29 – AUGUST 4 http://www.aberdourfestival.org.uk/

This is the second non specifically food festival I have included. I briefly lived in Aberdour and really liked this festival and it does include food – honest.  There is a beach day where you can partake of the BBQ whilst watching the fabulous regatta, the great Aberdour Bake Off is a highlight this year and it is always nice to watch people struggle on the Donkey Brae Run whilst you sip on pimms and munch a puddledub burger (hope Puddledub are there this year – they normally are!)

LOCH LOMOND FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL 14 & 15 SEPTEMBER  http://www.lochlomondfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/

This festival, now in its eighth year promises “tasty trials, sumptuous suppliers, festival fun and interesting information” .  20,000 folk flock to the area for this festival  – that in itself speaks volumes.  Definitely going into my diary.

SCOTTISH FOOD AND DRINK FORTNIGHT 7 – 22 SEPTEMBER  http://www.scottishfoodanddrinkfortnight.co.uk/

A luscious fourteen days celebrating all that is fabulous about Scottish produce.  There are tastings and special events across the country so keep an eye out on the website for more details nearer the time.

GOLDEN SPURTLE PORRIDGE MAKING CHAMPIONSHIPS  5 OCTOBER http://www.goldenspurtle.com/

The 20th annual World Porridge Making Championships will take place in the Scottish Highland village of Carrbridge. So good it has to go on the list.

BBC GOOD FOOD SHOW 18 – 20 OCTOBER  http://www.bbcgoodfoodshowscotland.com/

Head over to this blinding event at the SECC. Its huge and you should get your elbows at the ready but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  It is one of the best places to try and buy the best of Scotland.  Gregg Wallace and John Torode are among the celebs there this year which to be honest is enough for me to buy a ticket!  I blogged about it last year – have a read.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlt/5804898499/”>j l t</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>


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Girls, Fizz and The Pantry

Photo 04-05-2013 13 40 36I was very pleased when my friend Katie suggested The Pantry as a possible venue for our girls lunch.  The Pantry, a relatively  new kid on the Stockbridge block,  made it onto my hit list after a number of fellow foodies noted that it was an excellent lunch option,  known for serving fresh, locally sourced food.

The general criteria for a successful girls lunch is good food, a great atmosphere and bountiful wine supplies.  This time round we were keen to lunch in a BYOB restaurant to save the coffers just a little bit – another tick for the Pantry.

And so it was on a (relatively) sunny Saturday that four girls took their seats  in the lovely light and airy Pantry.  I must mention at this point that I was feeling a slightly embarrassed and a little amused about the the quantity of wine we had plonked onto our table.  You see The Pantry was awash with Stockbridge families out for coffee and cake, nice couples having lunch washed down with healthy bottles of water and lots of very cute babies.  What is was not awash with was groups of girls about to pop the cork on a few bottles of Prosecco, in fact we were actually the only people who were drinking.

We soon forgot about offending the cake eating community of  Stockbridge after the first glass was sunk and we concentrated on the food.  The menu is made up of some tasty brunches and breakfasts, light bites and some more substantial additions.

Fond of ‘dibbly dabs’ we decided to select a few light bites to start of with, before moving on to a more substantial main course.   We ordered BEETROOT  TATIN, CORN FRITTERS WITH SPICY TOMATO CHUTNEY and some CRISPY PORK BELLY.

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The corn fritters were fantastic and my only regret was that we didn’t order more of them – a lot more of them.  They were beautifully crisp on the outside and soft and flavoursome on the inside and sadly they were gone in seconds.

The Beetroot Tatin was made up of  very delicately  slices of layered beetroot and looked very pretty on the plate.  I am a bit of a fan of beetroot so what was there not to like?  The flavouring was very delicate and I may have drowned it with liberal gulps of prosecco (shame on me)

The crispy pork was the most controversial part of the meal as  it was not really what any of us expected.  It came as very large triangles of  very very crispy crackling.  I actually liked the taste and crunched my way through one of the big triangles but it was not the highlight of the day – that was still to come!

Move over ‘dibbly dabs’, the main courses were undoubtedly the highlight of the meal!

A good substantial portion of  SAUSAGE AND MASH for Rhian,  KOHLRABI AND SHRIMP SALAD for me and for Kate and Cat KEDGEREE & EGGS BENEDICT WITH SMOKED SALMON which they chose to share (fickle creatures found it hard to choose!)

Photo 04-05-2013 14 26 14 Photo 04-05-2013 14 23 31 Photo 04-05-2013 14 23 02 Photo 04-05-2013 14 22 50My salad was fresh and tasty.  Kohlrabi was new to me.  It looked like a close relative of cucumber but it is in fact closer to the cabbage family – it was interesting and I liked it.  Nestling on top of the Kohlrabi were a cluster of little brown shrimps which were juicy and bursting with flavour – again this was a first for me and an experience I would love to repeat.  Next in this rustically layered salad came ….. well the salad, which included lots of peppery rocket tossed in a beautiful dressing which made a path all the way through the dish.  It was lush.

My dining companions all loved their respective main courses, especially the mash, which we all had a good taste of.  I have no idea why this mash was so damned good – it just was.  The kedgeree was really smoky and the fact that it was from good quality (non coloured) fish was obvious.  The Eggs Benedict was an impressive looking beast and although I didn’t taste it myself it definitely got the thumbs up.

The rest of the crew were very good and resisted a third course but this sugar lovin’ blogger was powerless to the lure of a flour-less chocolate cake perched on the counter, I swear it spoke to me.  My light salad had left plenty of room for such indulgence, and indulge I did.  It was absolutely divine, bitter sweet and gooey in all the right places.

So a few pleasant hours later, four every so slightly giggly girls waved goodbye to the Pantry to go and  find Cocktails (a story in itself for another time).

The Pantry was a  lovely venue, the food was excellent, the staff  friendly and the prices  reasonable.  For our feast we  paid around £15 each.  I will definitely be back although I think next time I will take B and mini grumbling tummy and perhaps ditch the wine.


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Rufflets Country House Hotel – A little taste of luxury

Photo 30-04-2013 13 46 34 Photo 30-04-2013 13 45 43Rufflets Country House Hotel was the  venue for our very first romantic lunch after little  Grumbling Tummy burst into our lives.  We had a wonderful time then, helped along by a marvellous setting, great food and the thrill of a few hours of freedom. We returned to Rufflets last week for another romantic outing, in the hope that it would live up to our memories.

It was a lovely day and Rufflets looked resplendent in the sunshine – it was a good start.  Although not far from the hubbub of St Andrews you feel a hundred miles away from everything as soon as you step inside – think understated elegance and serenity. This is one of the oldest and most established country houses in Scotland and its pedigree shows.

We started off with a glass of wine (me) and a coffee (the chauffeur) in the lounge.  Relaxing by a picture window looking out onto the impressive and well manicured gardens, I felt the outside world melt away –  just a little bit.

Sat in the  elegant dining room idly musing about how I could possibly move in without the management noticing,  I munched on a tasty seeded roll and waited for the arrival of our first course from a menu which I would describe as traditional British with a twist.

Photo 30-04-2013 12 43 16 Photo 30-04-2013 13 05 14 Photo 30-04-2013 13 05 01I started with the Chicken, Cheese and Walnut Terrine.  The delicate flavour of this dish surprised me.  I had expected a strong cheese suh as  a stilton to feature, instead of which mild cheese and understated nutty walnut notes allowed the flavour of the chicken to shine through. It was served with small thin toasts which I am sure have an official name,  however this humble blogger has no idea what that is.  Mr Grumbling Tummy had a ham hock dish which was set in a cider jelly.  He was not quite so keen on the jellied element but the tastes were wonderful – each to their own.

Next up was a my wonderful Cajun Salmon with Crushed Peas, hand cut chips and Hollandaise Sauce.  The salmon was cooked to perfection and the cajun spices delivered just the right punch.  I love a crushed pea and hand cut chips are always  a winner in my book.  Apart from the Salmon the highlight of this dish for me was dipping all of my chips liberally in Hollandaise sauce much to the disgust of my fellow diner – delish.  Mr Grumbling Tummy indulged in a steak pie which was surprisingly refined when plated, and belied its bold flavours  with beautiful cinnamon notes.

Photo 30-04-2013 13 30 42 Photo 30-04-2013 13 30 26I don’t know why I even bother to pretend I’m not eating sugar, it is just getting a little bit on the silly side now.  Bring on the Dark chocolate Brownie smothered in chocolate sauce with an interesting side of Rhubarb Ice Cream.  I asked our waitress if I could have it warmed up even though the chocolate sauce was also warm – she obliged.  Oh My God – I could have eaten that dish again and again and again.  The brownie had a lovely crunchy top layer yet was beautifuly moist and squidgy inside .  The chocolate sauce was sweet and bitter and perfect and as for rhubarb ice cream – who knew!!! I was so impressed with the ice cream that I plan to have a go at making my own version.  Now what did my dining partner have?  Who cares frankly – I was a bit busy mooning over a brownie.  I think it was a treacle sponge with custard which through my brownie haze I  seemed to notice that he liked very much.

Following lunch we rolled out to the sunny garden to sit on the patio and finish off our drinks.  I would have been perfectly happy to sit there all day long but there were parents to visit and St Andrews shops to re-explore.

I disappeared off clutching a Rufflets brochure and hatching the beginnings of a plan for an overnight stay  – watch this space!

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Eating Northumberland

On Thursday the Grumbling Tummy ensemble headed down to Northumberland to spend some time with the lovely Pettinger-Thomson’s who were holidaying for a week in Embleton.  The PT’s are brilliant at sharing their  holidays with us and food and wine always plays a starring role in proceedings.

The weary travellers arrived at 6 on Thursday to the welcome call of “cheese straws anyone” from Senior PT,  who has a  penchant for these buttery treats.  Cheese straws down the hatch, followed by a much welcomed glass of red and it was time to get the kiddy’s  to bed and tuck into the feast being prepared.

I am a strictly one pot cook who flaps at the idea of juggling timings of several dishes.  Cat, chief cook of the PT brigade is however the queen of cooking many dishes at once and producing an array of scrumptious dibbley-dabs.  The whole kitchen was bathed in the aroma of exotic spices as Cat nonchalantly cooked up an Indian feast.

Photo 28-03-2013 20 35 40Using a lethal Delia/Jamie combo we were treated to two different types of rice, home-make vegetable pakora, chicken and chickpea korma, red onion salad, chappatis and naan bread.    It was to quote the youngsters “amazeballs”.  Spicy, zingy and moreish!  The pakora had some surprise hunks of chilli lying in wait to blow your head off but that was brilliant too and there was plenty of the red stuff to dilute any spice shocks we encountered.

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After staying up till 2am putting the world to rights over far to many glasses of red wine with Cat, I was what one might call crispy the next day, otherwise known as hungover to buggery!  Food was going to be a kill or cure experiment.  Following a bracing walk along Embleton beach we found ourselves in Seahouses which is a slightly faded wee Northumberland coastal town.  Extreme temperatures mixed with tiny tots led us to the indoor play area, much to the horror of senior PT!  Soon however there was happy faces all round as we sipped hot chocolate and watched our mad children throw themselves around the soft play area.  Too hungover to move we decided to stay in the indoor play emporium to eat.  This may surprise you considering my horror of food in soft play areas but this was an entirely different proposition.  You see,  it was owned by the same folk that had the fish and chip shop next door and guess what the soft play menu consisted of?  Result!

Three fish and chips and one scampi and chips set things right for the weary troops.  I had the scampi which was crisp and golden on the outside and all roasty toasty and soft on the inside, with oodles of tartar sauce to dip.  The chips weren’t the crispiest but I was hungover so they were a gastronomical delight as far as I was concerned.Photo 29-03-2013 13 24 36

A quick look at the beautiful Bamburgh Castle and it was time to bid farewell to the PTs.  We had only travelled a few miles however when we felt the need to stop off once again for re-fuelling.  This time in a tiny and rather odd little farm tearoom called ‘The Oxford’.  It was off the beaten track and the sunny conservatory was empty but for one lovely local couple.  This little tearoom was a gem – tea served in lovely big flowery pots and a limited but tasty choice of sweet and savoury treats all made on the premises, using produce from the farm.  Millionaires Shortbread for me which hit the spot and a rather  impressive meringue and ice-cream with a strawberry coulis for B.

We were so impressed with the beauty of Northumberland that we are looking at going back in September for a week of  beaches and gastronomic pleasure!


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That’s Amore

THAT’S AMORE!

Despite what you may think, I don’t actually live in St Andrews but I am there a lot at the moment – hence the many reviews that pop up on Photo 10-03-2013 13 18 29my blog about restaurants there.  I would actually love to live in St Andrews if I could afford it,  but for now I will content myself with regular visits to the folks,  who are fortunate enough to live there.

For quite some time my parents have been raving about an Italian restaurant in St Andrews called Little Italy.  It’s the place they choose time and time again to impress visiting friends and relatives and is a restaurant which, in their eyes, can do no wrong.

Now when comes to dining out my parents are just a bit critical and my interest was piqued. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long to try it out for myself – the traditional Mothers day food and wine extravaganza!

Tucked away in Logies Lane it is quite easy to miss Little Italy and even if you do stop to have a gander, the outside betrays little of what is in store for your taste buds.

Once inside it is hard not to get a warm fuzzy feeling. All of the dining takes place in one square area which is filled with the buzz and Photo 10-03-2013 13 42 52chatter of happy diners.

Shunning the fashion for contemporary Italian restaurant design that is popular these days, Little Italy is refreshingly retro/authentic.  Red and white chequered tablecloths, wooden chairs, red candles in wine bottles and flowers on the tables.  It is familiar and charming and you know that here, it is all about the food.

ALL ABOUT THE FOOD

 To begin I chose one of my perennial favourites –  Melanzane Parmigiana.  This dish was a sight to behold and I am pleased to say that the taste didn’t disappoint.  The aubergine was velvety, the tomato sauce rich and the hot bubbling cheesy topping perfectly alternating between crispy and “gooey” (I am not sure if gooey is a good description of luscious mozzarella, but I am sure you get my gist).

Have you ever eaten a dish and found yourself audibly groaning with pleasure – I am sure you know what I mean?  Well that was the response prompted by my second course, Tagliatelli Boscaiola. Brilliantly cooked pasta coated with wild mushrooms, white wine, cream, Photo 10-03-2013 13 58 26fine Italian sausage and all seasoned to perfection.  It was to die for!

Unfortunately I remained on my diet wagon (wine has no calories you know) and so skipped dessert.  Next time Tiramisu, you will be mine.

I am often told off for forgetting to mention the choices of my dining companions and this review is no exception (must try harder). The truth is that I am usually so eager to dive into my own food that I forget all about what my companions are having until it is too late! Suffice to say that mum thoroughly enjoyed her food as she always does in Little Italy, and she is a harsh critic indeed.

Little Italy is a restaurant that does not rely on trendy websites (it has none), fancy frontage or elaborate interior design.  They know that week after week they will be full because they have the most important thing just right – the food.


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A Review of The Wee Restaurant

forth bridgeDespite what some may think (yes it’s you lot over the water I am referring to) Fife has some cracking restaurants, cafes and farm shops.  In hubs like St Andrews you are tripping over great places to eat, but right across the region there are hidden gems to be found.

The Wee Restaurant, nestling beneath the Forth Bridge in the sleepy village of North Queensferry is a gem right enough,  but it’s great reputation ensures that it is not so hidden, with foodies from Fife, Edinburgh and beyond flocking to sample the food served up by Craig and Vikki Wood.  The Wee Restaurant has been around since 2006 and since opening has won a clutch of awards including the Bib Gourmand Award from Michelin for restaurants offering “good food at moderate prices”  one of only a few restaurants to currently have this award in Scotland.

As I live in Fife it is scandalous that I have not visited The Wee Restaurant before now but to be honest its Michelin recommended status led me to assume that the prices would match and as I seem to  be continually on a budget I have always sidestepped it for somewhere I believed to be more in my price range. My assumptions were way off the mark and as the award suggests, they are indeed very reasonably priced.  Besides these days (thankfully) you can eat at the most posh restaurant in town for a decent price if you are going for lunch and going for the set menu – hurrah!

The occasion was a girls lunch. I did think North Queensferry was an odd venue for the girls (where are the cocktail bars!!) but it was a Sunday and wild drinking was not on the menu due to a mixture of hangovers from the night before and that fact that my companions are a little more sensible about drinking on a school night than I am.

The Wee Restaurant isn’t ridiculously ‘wee’ as I feared it might be.  Seating 40 on two different levels, it felt very spacious.  The walls of the interior are painted brightly, there are wooden floors and white-painted wood with wooden tables and brown leather chairs.  The overall effect is charming, bright and contemporary.  The restaurant was busy but didn’t feel crowded, there was a really nice buzz about the place without anything too loud or obtrusive getting in the way.

THE STARTERduck egg

Fried Duck Egg on Toast with Mushroom Duxelle and Micro Herb Salad

All four of us opted for this starter.  The presentation was beautiful – a large proud duck egg perfectly balanced on top of the Duxelle,  which is basically a very tasty mushroom and shallot mix,  all topped off with little fronds of greenery.   I don’t normally like  runny egg yolk  due to the slightly bitter taste (don’t know anybody else who finds yolks bitter).  To my surprise there was no bitter after-taste to this lovely big duck egg, it was a bit of a revelation truth be told.  This was a tasty, rounded dish which made me excited about the main event.

THE MAIN COURSEvennison

Roast Kirrimuir Venison with a Tortellini of Venison  on Puy Lentils & wilted spinach with a cep jus

I love Venison so I was onto a winner and this was a double Venison whammy.  The portion was on the small side (or am I just greedy) but absolutely perfectly formed and the taste did not disappoint.  The venison was juicy and tender, just as it ought to be and the ‘paste’ in the tortellini was divine.  Apologies to the Wee Restaurant if I make the filling sound like something from Shiphams , not my intention. It was just one of these really well put together dishes whereby every flavour stood out yet no flavour overshadowed another – really beautiful.

THE NON DESSERT

The Mellis Cheese Board

cheese boardHarumph!  Still on my ‘I am not eating anything sweet’ bandwagon (I have got to fall off sometime soon – it’s getting beyond a joke!) I, SHOCK HORROR, opted for the cheeseboard.  I NEVER opt for the cheese board. To me it is just the most dull thing on a menu, and thats from a cheese lover.  I do think I would have enjoyed the sweet treats on offer more but the cheese board was not actually dull.  I didn’t note down the types of cheese but they were all delicious and served up with a lovely chutney and mini oatcakes.  I won’t be quite so dismissive of cheese boards in future.

We left the Wee Restaurant happy and for a change not tipsy in the slightest (next time!).  Although a nice venue for a girls lunch this time around I think I would rather return with BC for a more romantic tryst.  The location next to the bridge is stunning and the restaurant is intimate and perfect for an evening of romance – if you are reading this BC – this is a hint!

The Wee Restaurant also does 4 course wine tasting dinners for only £45 which is an absolute steal (again BC – are you listening?)

http://www.theweerestaurant.co.uk/


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Hot Date at the Bonham

chicken liver parfaitLast week I was lucky enough to be taken on a hot lunch date to The Bonham; a boutique hotel which houses one of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh.   I  therefore make no apologies for the fact that this review might be a bit on the gushy side.

The Bonham is one  of the marvellous Town House Company hotels which also includes the wonderful Blythswood Square in Glasgow.

Situated in Drumsheugh Gardens , The Bonham is easy to miss.  No neon signs or a-boards hint at what lies beyond the elegant frontage.  Understated elegance continues inside the Bonham where the interior decoration  is  simple and contemporary with more than a hint of luxury. There is a lovely feeling of space in the restaurant, beetroot tart finpossibly because they have not attempted to cram every available space with tables.

I must have eaten in the Bonham around ten times now and I have never once been disappointed in any aspect of my dining experience –  this lunch was to be  no exception

We chose to eat from the Festive Menu as it was our Christmas ‘date’. This was an amazing £25 per person for three courses which includes half a bottle of wine per person.  We normally opt for a “Boozy Snoozy Lunch” which is even more remarkable value at £22.50 a head for three courses and half a bottle of wine each.  The quality of the food makes this the best darned deal in the city as far as I am concerned.

Christmas dinnerTalking about quality food …

I wanted everything on the menu as usual, but in the end decided to start with Beetroot tart fine with horseradish cream and goats cheese.  BC went for the Chicken liver parfait with crispy shallots, truffle jelly and toasted brioche.  Oh my goodness what a fine start to a meal.  BC’s Chicken Liver parfait was in my humble opinion worthy of awards  –  superbly smooth with an intense flavour and a  crispy shallot surprise.  I did prefer BC’s starter due to the intensity of the flavours but my more delicate starter was also a sure-fire winner.  The goats cheese was delicious and this is something I plan to emulate for this year’s New Year’s lunch.  Watch this space!

Slow cooked rib of beefWell it was Christmas so for my main course I opted for  Roasted brown turkey with duck fat roast potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage and cranberry.  The serving of meat was generous and cooked to perfection.  I am not the biggest turkey fan but I do like it when its done well and it was.  The cranberries were terrifying at first.  After popping a fork full in my mouth I realised that these sour little critters were best smeared ‘sparingly’ on my meat where they served their purpose beautifully.  The lightly spiced red cabbage tasted amazing and is definitely something I would like to add to my Christmas repertoire.

BC opted for Slow cooked rib of beef with smoked potato puree, wilted greens and a bourguignon sauce – wowzer!  This dish was something special. The super succulent meat (of which there was a lot)  effortlessly slid off the bone.  The potatoes were extremely smoky and I have no idea how they achieved this but hey ho the Christmas pudding parfaitresult was lovely.  The wilted greens were green and wilted and very nice indeed.  Again god dammit I liked BC’s main course a teeny tiny bit more than my own.

Surprisingly there was still room in my ever-expanding Grumbling Tummy for a dessert.  Vanilla rice pudding with caramelised pears was the truly triumphant pudding which I opted for.  Rice pudding is so old school and brings back memories of my granny’s cooking,  however granny Hill never included vanilla, and any pears were straight from the tin.  This version of the retro classic was divine.  Can’t be that hard to make, can it?  Might give it a go.

Finishing as he started BC chose a parfait – Christmas pudding parfait with warm brandy custard.  It lrice puddingooked stunning and tasted lovely but I was far too engrossed in scoffing my own dessert to take much more notice than that  I’m afraid.

So another hugely successful Bonham lunch was complete and we happily rolled out of the restaurant bidding farewell to the marvellous staff  and continued rolling to the wonderful Bon Vivant in Thistle street where we finished off our date with a couple of glasses of Tempranillo wine.

Happily sated and a tiny bit tipsy we headed home to plan our next trip to the Bonham.