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Friday, 31 May 2013

Review - Afternoon Tea @ Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh


After a fairly stressful April when we were jumping through hoops trying to sort out a first time mortgage, and with LittleGems Jewellery feeling under pressure at work, the early May Day bank holiday couldn't come soon enough. With both of us with the day off and the weather on the east coast expected to be better than on this side of the country, we jumped in the car and made our way through to Edinburgh. As a little treat for Nicola, I had booked afternoon tea at Hotel Missoni, the wonderfully styled hotel owned by the Italian fashion house of the same name. We were supposed to have had afternoon tea at Hotel Missoni back in December but after a night before of beer, wine, rum and cocktails, we had to cancel as neither if us were feeling classy enough the next morning for the fine surroundings of Missoni.

The sun was shining in Edinburgh when we parked up although it was still cold in the capital. We made our way to The Dogs (reviewed previously) for a quick coffee and a chat with the owner David, before Nicola dragged me over to Multrees Walk to look at the pretty things in Harvey Nichols, Mulberry and her new favourite shop, Michael Kors. We worked our way towards Greyfriars Kirkyard and the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the most dedicated and loyal Skye Terrier ever to live, before checking in for our afternoon tea at Hotel Missoni. Our table wasn't quite ready so we began to soak up the exuberant surroundings of Bar Missoni, with a draught Peroni in hand for myself whilst Nicola cooled down with her Spritzer Melagrana, a union of chilled white wine, fresh pomegranate and pomegranate liqueur churned through crushed ice and topped with sparkling water.

Missoni are renowned for their striking patterns involving stripes, geometrics and abstract florals, all of which were clearly on display from the moment you walk in the door. Missoni kilted doormen and giant 10 foot tall zigzag patterned vases were followed with fantastic monochrome crockery at the table. Once seated our waiter talked us through the afternoon tea menu and took our tea order, before leaving us to relax and finish off our drinks.

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Missoni is traditional but served with an Italian twist. When our tea was served, our attention was drawn to the mini tubs of homemade Amaretto ice cream, which our waiter suggested that we tuck into before moving onto the main event. The bottom tray of sandwiches consisted of Brown Bread with cheddar cheese with pumpkin chutney, Ciabatta with cured pork neck, rocket and baby balsamic onions (this was my favourite), Focaccia with mustard cress, egg and mayonnaise, and Brown Bread with Scottish smoked salmon, soft cheese and chives (Nicola's favourite). Each of the sandwiches were well presented and loaded with plenty of toppings.

With the sandwiches finished, we moved onto the fresh scones with clotted cream and Italian strawberry jam. We had two fluffy scones each, one plain and one fruit which were still warm to the touch. There was plenty of clotted cream for the four scones, and whilst the individual jars of jam allow Hotel Missoni to prove that the jam is indeed Italian, I would have preferred that the jam be served in a bowl alongside the cream.
I am always puzzled as to how deceptively filling afternoon tea can be. Yet once again, after four little sandwiches and two scones - not forgetting a pot of tea each - we were both stuffed. So stuffed in fact that we couldn't make it to the top tier of the cake stand where there was an attractive selection of pastries awaiting. The Salted caramel macaroons, creative Frozen mocha ganache with a white chocolate topping, Chestnut cake with custard and marrons glacés, and Mini orange and Grand Marnier babas with candied orange zest, all looked wonderful but we would have been been eating them for the sake of it. In the end we asked for the pastries to be boxed up in order for us to enjoy later in the day when we would appreciate them all the more.
Our afternoon tea cost £20.50 per person which I thought offered good value for money, providing us with high quality sandwiches and pastries served in a modern and styling location. The highlight for me was the savoury cured pork neck ciabatta, whilst Nicola loved the salted caramel macaroon which she enjoyed with a cup of tea when we got back home later that night.
So the next time that you're in Edinburgh, why not treat yourself to Afternoon Tea at Hotel Missoni? Go on, you're worth it.
Keep up to date with Hotel Missoni on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Craft Beer Review - Caesar Augustus, Williams Bros. Brewing Co.


Over the last few weeks, Gerry's Kitchen has been sampling different craft beers from across this fine land. Williams Bros Brewing Co are widely regarded as one of Scotland's largest independent brewers of craft beers and are perhaps best known for the ancient and legendary Scottish Heather Ale back on the shelves. In addition to this flagline beer, the guys at Williams have a fine stable of supposing beers that I have been working my way through.
This week I picked up a bottle of Caesar Augustus, my attention gained by the 'Lager/IPA Hybrid' tagline that was emblazoned across the label. Over the last few months I have enjoyed a number of quality India Pale Ales so I was keen to see how this hybrid worked out.
Williams Bros. initially use a cold fermentation process using classic lager yeast and malt which is then stored for four weeks before adding the hops creating the hybrid.

The beer is very pale in colour, straw gold is probably the best description and pours with a light creamy head which disappears quickly. The glass has plenty of floral notes on the nose but but a slight honey aroma pushing though, resulting in an eagerness to put the glass to my lips.
The Caesar Augustus is very refreshing, like a lager should be. Sharp, crisp, and zesty flavours are recognised straight away but soon subside to be replaced by a nice bitterness from the hops, leaving the mouth with a dry finish.
The guys at Williams Bros Brewing Co claim that this lager/IPA hybrid is a revolution in refreshment and flavour, promoting the crisp notes of the finest lager with the discrete bitter finish of a well balanced IPA.
I think they might be right! I enjoyed this beer immensely, in fact I'm becoming a big fan of the blonde beers from Williams Bros Brewing company having tried Harvest Sun, Scottish Joker IPA, Birds & Bees, Scottish Session, and the wonderfully named 7 Giraffes.
The roman emperor Augustus served a four decade long age of peace and prosperity, I'm wondering if the Caesar was serving up this eponymously named beer on tap as a means to keeping the natives far from restless?
Keep up to date with Williams Bros Brewing Co on Facebook & Twitter.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Recipe - Spiced Butter Bean Soup

So it's almost the middle of May and we are still waiting on spring turning up. Let's not kid ourselves, the weather has been awful this year. In fact the weather has been so poor recently that when this soup recipe caught my eye when I was flicking through my Olive Magazine, I knew that I had to try making it for lunch this weekend.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1" piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 375ml chicken stock
  • 400g tin butter beans

Method


  1. Heat a little olive oil then cook the onion, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until softened. Add the carrot and spices for a further two minutes.
  2. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes. At this point, add the butter beens and cook for 10 more minutes. Ladle half of the soup into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth before pouring back into the pan and gently reheat before serving.

To serve, split between two bowls and swirl a little soured cream over the top before scattering with some fresh chopped coriander. Delicious!

 

Soup making isn't something that i'm usually that good at so I am please to say that this was a tasty, quick and easy recipe that i was able to prepare using ingredients that are always in the fridge and cupboard that I will definitely be making again, regardless of the weather. Next time I might leave the soup chunky, or maybe try using cannellini or berlotti beans instead of the butter beans.

This recipe has become my current favourite soup recipe but I would be interested in hearing what soup recipes get your taste buds buzzing?

 

Craft Beer Review - Oxford Gold, Brakspear Beers

As my quest to try different beers continues, I am thankful that my local Morrisons supermarket has a massive selection of bottled beers from a wide selection of independent and craft breweries from across the UK.
This week I picked up a bottle of Oxford Gold from Brakspear Beers. The Brakspear name has been synonymous with brewing for over 200 years from the days when William Henry Breakspear bought a brewery on Bell Street in Henley on Thames. Following the closure of Brakspear Brewery in Henley in 2002, a £1million redevelopment of the Wychwood Brewery site was undertaken to move the brewing of Brakspear beers. This included moving and re-installing at Wychwood much of the original Brakspear brewing equipment, including the original Brakspear Copper, dating from 1779, and the famous Brakspear ‘Double Drop’ fermentation vessels, used to brew Brakspear Bitter & Brakspear Triple.
I was attracted to the packaging of the beer with its red, gold and blue labelling giving a very traditional look to the bottle. With the increasing number of bottled beers leaning towards gimmicky labels, it was nice to see something that looked like a good old fashioned beer.
The Oxford Gold is a dark amber colour and pours with a tight foamy head that settles quickly leaving a creamy ring around the top of the glass. The beer is described on the label as zesty and there is definitely citrusy notes competing with the malty aromas on the nose.
On first taste the Oxford Gold has a slightly sweet honey flavour, before being replaced with subtle hops. The flavours are simple and clean, and left my mouth with a dry finish. I found the beer very easy to drink, not too bitter, with medium carbonation. As a fan of blonde beers, the Oxford Gold was a welcome addition to my beer fridge and will be welcome back anytime.
Keep up to date with Brakspear Beers on Facebook.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Recipe - Easy Chicken & Bacon Pie

As most of you will know from previous posts, during the week I like easy to cook dinners that can be served up in 30 minutes or less. I spotted this easy chicken pie recipe in a recent Olive Magazine and as i had all of the ingredients in the fridge, I decided to give it a go for last nights dinner.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • 2 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 rashers streaky bacon
  • 4 chicken breast, cut into large pieces
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pack croissant dough, I used Jus Rol
Method


  1. Heat a little olive oil in an ovenproof dish before adding bacon, shallots and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the shallots are softened and the bacon starts to crisp up a bit.
  2. Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes until the chicken is browned on all sides.
  3. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 2 minutes before removing from the heat and stirring in the crème fraîche and parsley.
  4. Check the sauce for seasoning then set aside to cool. Unroll the croissant dough and cut into strips. Cover the surface of the pie with the strips then place into a preheated oven, 180C and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.
Whilst the pie was baking, it gave me time to boil some new potatoes and sugar snap peas that would accompany the pie. The combination of chicken and bacon is one that always works and the croissant pastry topping is a great alternative to puff pastry.
I think that this pie could make a great alternative to the traditional Sunday roast, especially if you don't have the time needed to roast a joint of meat slowly in the oven. Who would have thought that you could have Sunday dinner prepared and served in less than half an hour?
You could also play about with the ingredients by adding your favourite herbs, or why not add a little wholegrain mustard or chopped mushroom or leek?
Give it a go and let me know how you get on and feel free to post your results on Gerry's Kitchen Facebook Page.
 

 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Craft Beer Review - Crail Special, St. Andrews Brewing Co.

In recent month I have taken a step back from the mainstream brewers in favour of sampling some of the wonderful craft beers that are produced by a growing number of independent breweries across the country. After drinking many bottles, (not at the same time), I thought that it made sense to introduce beer reviews to the blog and help raise the awareness of these skilled brewmasters.

After a visit to my local farmers market at Clarkston and a chat with Stuart of online beer merchant AleselA, I was armed with the first beers that would be up for review. Stuart knows that my own preference is for fresh, zesty Blonde beers so recommended LightNESS from Loch Ness Brewery, Crail Special from St.Andrews Brewing Co, and Pale 90/- from Luckie Ales.
The first beer to make its way into Gerry's Kitchen is Crail Special from St. Andrews Brewing Co. The original Crail Ale was first brewed to celebrate the Crail Food Festival 2012, which is a bright golden ale with long lasting citrus and floral flavours. In less than a year over 5000 bottles have been sold and this ale had gone on to be crowned Champion Beers of Fife at the Kingdom of Fife Real Ale, Cider & Perry Festival last week.
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The Crail Special is a double hopped version of the popular Crail Ale. The bottle conditioned beer pours cloudy, (almost like a wheat beer) with a thin soapy head that dissipates quickly leaving a thin wispy foam. Strong grapefruit and bready yeast aromas fill your nose and the grapefruit flavours come through in the tasting balanced with a slight sweetness. The Crail Special is very crisp although not as zesty as I like, but does have a strong bitter finish, which comes from the use of the American Columbus hop. I apologise for the slight blurring of the above photo, but that may be down to the hefty 7% abv punch that comes with the Crail Special. In all seriousness though, it's smooth enough that you would never know that this special run beer is a higher strength offering.
This was the first beer from St. Andrews Brewing Co. that I have tasted and although I enjoyed the flavours, it's not one that I would rush back to buy again. That said, I am interested in tasting the original Crail Ale to see what all the fuss is about, as well as a few of the other brews from the East Coast Brewery.
I will continue to post up small review pieces on the bottles or draught craft beers that I will be drinking over the coming months. Of course, if anyone has any beers that they think I should be trying next, feel free to get in touch.