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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

5 Questions - Adam Handling, Head Chef at Caxton Grill, St James Park, London

After starting eight years ago as a small event in Edinburgh, the Foodies Festival has grown into one of Scotland's main food and drink events. Next weekend, the festival returns to Inverleith Park where over 200 artisan producers will be joined by a host of premium brands, pop-up restaurants and cookery demonstrations from some of the countries top chefs.
Adam Handling, who is head chef at London restaurant Caxton Grill , will be headlining the event in Edinburgh. Adam will be familiar to those how tuned in to watch MasterChef - The Professionals, where he was narrowly beaten to the trophy by Steven Edwards. Since then, Adam star has been on the rise as he settles into running his kitchen. The good people at MasterChef have clearly been impressed in his progress as they sent in a team of this years competitors (including eventual winner Ping Coombs) to spend a day under the watchful eye of Adam.
Here's Adam's story;
How did you get started?
I got my love for cooking from my mother, and it was from the age of around 10 that I started to really watch her and learn from her. I then started my official culinary training at 16, as the first ever apprentice chef at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. I then went on from there and worked as 1st Commis Chef at Rhodes 24 in London, and then headed up my first brigade as Sous Chef at the Malmaison Hotel, Newcastle. After this I then took up my first Head Chef position at Fairmont St Andrews where I was the youngest ever Head Chef within the Fairmont group. Last year I took part in and got to the final of MasterChef The Professionals. Then, after a year travelling in Asia, I took on my current position as Head Chef at the Caxton Grill in St James’s Park, where I now lead a team of 22 and have recently been awarded BCF Chef of the Year 2014.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but when you make them learn from them and don’t let them happen again.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I would like to have my own small restaurant along with a big brasserie in London. I would love for one to have a star!
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
It would definitely be my Chocolate Orange dessert. It’s the most popular dish amongst my customers and it’s sort of become a signature dish for me now, and one that a lot of people associate with me. I gradually created and perfected this dish as I trained and progressed so it’s special to me on a personal level as well, and I know it will always be on my menus and will never change.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Michael Jackson, because I have always been a huge fan of his (and he could teach me how to dance!).
I would want us to eat something really innovative and exciting, that I have never seen before. Or, we would go to Sra Bua in Bangkok, as that’s where I had the best meal of my entire life.
As mentioned earlier, Adam will be taking a break from the kitchen to be at The Foodies Festival in Edinburgh over the weekend of 8th-10th August where he will be joined by some of the best chefs in Scotland as well as previous contestants from Great British Bake Off and MasterChef (The Celebrities & The Professionals), who will all be demonstrating their skills to the watching crowds.
So if you're free next weekend, why not buy your tickets and head along to Edinburgh's Inverleith Park and see Adam doing what he does best!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adam for taking time out to answer 5 Questions and hopefully manage to catch up with him at the show.
Keep up to date with Adam Handling in Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Beers of the World Cup - #20 Algeria - Casablanca Lager Beer (Substitute from Morocco)

My #beersoftheworldcup challenge is coming to an end and there have been a few of the competing countries at the FIFA World Cup 2014 that I have really struggled to source beer of lager from. Algeria actually produce quite a number of beers with Tango being the most popular, but once again the lack of an export business has resulted in me having to call up another substitute. When Jack Charlton was manager of the Republic of Ireland he made great use of the 'grandparent rule' in order to clear eligibility rules, I'm using the 'next door neighbour rule' and calling up Morocco' Casablanca Lager Beer to fill the Algerian gap.
Beer was introduced to Morocco by the French in the early 20th century with beer production and distribution in the North African country overseen by Brasseries du Maroc. The most popular beers in Morocco are Speciale Flag, Stork and the premium beer Casablanca which is more expensive than the other two.
The labelling on the Casablanca conjures up memories of Humphrey Bogart and Rick's Bar and I'll admit to being a little excited about cracking open the bottle. The beer pours with a deep amber colour and a slim foamy head. There are pleasing aromas of honey, lemon and sweet malt which also carry into the taste. The Casablanca has a medium carbonation and is fairly easy to drink, although maybe a little too sweet to drink a lot of it. There's nothing about this beer that makes it stand out from other mass produced lagers but it's not offensive either. Pleasant enough to drink but just a touch too sweet for me.
Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and you can let me know which Algerian beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup

 Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Beers of the World Cup - #19 Russia - Baltika 8 Weizen München

The FIFA World Cup finished two weeks ago but I've still not worked my way through all of the nations on my #beersoftheworldcup challenge. Over the last five weeks I have worked my way through 18 different countries so far and next up is Russia with Baltika 8 Weizen München.
The Baltika Brewery was only founded on 1990, producing a wide range of different Baltika brand beers and as they are now part of Carlsberg Group, the brewery also produces a host of other branded beers for sale across Russia and Eastern Europe.
Wheat beers have been well represented in my challenge so far and when I spotted that Russia's largest brewery offered a German style wheat beer, I added it to my list.
German wheat beers are fantastic and the Russians have created a pretty decent imposter. The Baltika 8 Weizen München pour with a hazy amber colour and a foamy head that reduces to leave a little lacing around the top of the glass. There are noticable aromas of bread yeast and citrusy lemon plus a faint smell of cloves and bananas. Not exactly what I was expecting but not unpleasant either. To taste, there is a sweet banana flavour but not overpowering as clove and cardamom work well to balance the Weizen München.
I really enjoyed Baltika's take on a German wheat beer and would put Baltika 8 Weizen München into my top five so far. Shame that the Russian national team didn't do quite so well.
Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and let me know which Russian beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup

 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Pre-Launch Write-Up - Topolabamba, St Vincent Street, Glasgow

Last week a New Mexican restaurant opened in Glasgow City centre and myself & Nicola were invited along to a pre-launch night to try it out.
Topolabamba is housed inside the old 'El Banco De Mexico' building on St Vincent Street, next door to The Drum & Monkey, and owned by the same group behind the popular Di Maggios and Cafe Andaluz restaurants.
Myself and a few other Glasgow food bloggers had been invited along as way of thanks for helping share publicity for the restaurant prior to its opening , with the pre-launch night aimed at putting the staff through their paces as well as to help iron out any problems that might I rise before the doors one properly for business.
We were the first of our group to arrive and were quickly shown to our table. The restaurant is a cool mix of leather, wood and brickwork, interspersed with various nods to the Mexican obsession with death - there are skulls everywhere, including on the custome made wallpaper in the toilets!
After being welcomed into the restaurant, we were advised that we should do our best to order as wide a selection of food and drink from the menu in order to truely test the kitchen, bar and waiting staff - so that's what we did!
As we waited for the rest of our table to arrive, we were served our first of many drinks with me supping back many a bottle of Mexican craft beer Dia de Los Muertes Pale Ale and my designated driver Nicola relaxing with a can of grapefruit Ting.
The menu is a mix of small tapas dishes, sharing platter and a few larger plates with Topolabamba trying to bring the true taste of Mexico to the Glasgow restaurant scene. In fact many of the ingredients used across the menu are imported straight from Mexico. With no shortage of options on the menu, we struggled to decide on what we were going to order. As we took our time to read over the menu, we were served up some of the finest nachos and guacamole that I've tasted - the guacamole had a fantastic punch of chili and lime - I could have eaten them all night.
We ordered an assortment of dishes from across the menu starting with the Barbacoa Beef tacos. The soft corn tortilla were stacked high with beautifully tender pulled beef and topped with peppers, red onion, coriander and soured cream. This was a great introduction to the Topolabamba menu.
Next up was the Shrimp, Butter, Garlic & Paprika tostadas - crispy corn tortillas topped with loads of juicy prawns. The prawns were great but unfortunately this dish lacked any other real flavour.
Nicola and myself love calamari and we weren't let down by the Salt & Pepper Ancho Chilli Squid. The squid was cooked to perfection - the ancho chilli giving a good punch of heat whilst the accompanying chipotle alioli added a cool smokiness to the dish.
The spiciest dish that we had on the night was the Pescado Empapelado, a firm piece of fish baked in a paper bag with a potent chilli red guacamole. We both loved this dish but felt that at £6.95 it was a little overpriced for the portion size.
Our favourite dish was the Tangy Cactus and Marinated Chicken taquitos. Deep fried corn tortilla tubes filled with chunks of tasty chicken and cactus and topped with crumbly cheese (not sure if it was feta, but it certainly tasted like it) and soured cream. The combination of flavour and texture in the taquito was fantastic, definitely one that we would order again.
The last dish to arrive was the Smoky Stuffed Pepper - We both enjoyed the charred poblano pepper that was stuffed with crumbly cheese, potatoes, spicy cactus shallots and chipotle peppers, however we also agreed that there was too much melted cheese over the top of the dish which resulted in the flavours from the stuffed pepper were overpowered a little.
Overall, the food was pretty good although there were maybe a few issues with some dishes needing a heavier hand on the seasoning. In addition to this, with the exception on the fish dish, there wasn't a great amount of chilli heat on show. If I was expecting anything from a Mexican restaurant, it was spicy chilli heat, unfortunately Topolabamba failed to deliver on this level. That said, I have had some feedback from the restaurant to say that a number of the dishes have been tweaked in order to deliver a bigger flavour/heat punch - I suppose that's the benefit of having these dry runs before the actual opening?
As I continued to enjoy the Dia de Los Muertes Pale Ale, my designated driver decided to try a bottle of Lime Jarritos, especially imported from Mexico. For any of you old enough to remember when the Alpine Lorry used to deliver 'pop' to your grannies, the Jarritos tasted exactly the same but without the massive sugar hit!
We were both stuffed by this point but our waitress encouraged us to order desserts so Nicola opted for the Churros, a traditional Spanish/Mexican dessert of deep fried doughnut batte which is usually sprinkled with sugar and served with melted chocolate on the side. We've had churros in Spain on a number of occasions and always loved the crispy strips of light batter, unfortunately the churros at Topolabamba weren't great - no sugar and far too dense. On a plus, the chocolate sauce on the side was wonderfully rich.
My own dessert of Pueblan Flan wasn't great either. Somewhere between a Creme Catalan and a Creme Brûlée, the Pueblan Flan was far too sweet with a noticable fake vanilla taste running through the custard base. To top it of, the burnt sugar crust was about 4mm thick and so chilled that it was almost impossible to break through the solid surface.
In all fairness, there are only four dessert on the menu which leads me to thinking that the primary focus of the kitchen staff isn't serving pudding!
So to sum up, we had a very enjoyable night with some really tasty dishes and some that aren't that far away from hitting the right notes. The management and waiting staff looked after us all night and the kitchen were more than capable of getting a huge number of tapas dishes served up with little fuss.
The whole evening was complimentary and I would like to thank the team at Topolabamba for their hospitality. I would also like to say that my report above is an honest report of our experience on the night and was not influenced in any way by the fact that the meal and drinks were free.
I'm sure that myself and Nicola will return to dine at Topolabamba to see how the little tweaks to the menu change the overall dining experience, however we will be waiting until after the Commonwealth Games have finished as Glasgow is just too busy right now!
Keep up to date with offers or news at Topolabamba on Facebook and Twitter.


Searching Ayrshire, Arran And Argyll For Scotland's Secret Ingredients

Mark Greenaway has teamed up with foodie flagship event of the autumn, Eat Drink Discover Scotland, and they are on a mission – to discover Scotland’s secret ingredients! This week they have been searching Ayrshire, Arran and Argyll for their answers.

It’s no surprise that Ayrshire, Arran and Argyll offer a vast amount of mouthwatering secrets – with over 80 miles of unspoiled coastline, glittering sea lochs, hills and glens to be explored. Divided into different areas, each has a distinctive character and unique treats to be experienced - from freshly caught seafood and succulent meats to mouth-watering cheeses, local beers and whiskies.

The public is being invited to reveal its favourite Scottish ‘secret ingredients’ by detailing what they are and where they’re purchased. The criteria range from herbs to condiments, alcohol to meats and even vegetables, providing they are either grown or produced in Scotland. Applicants are being encouraged to be as unpredictable, creative and unusual as possible. Mark and the Eat Drink Discover team will draw up a shortlist of the best entrants who will be invited to join him in a ‘cook off’ at the event, where the winner will be chosen. The producer or retailer who supplied the winner with their ‘secret ingredient’ will be given a free exhibition stand at next year’s event.

The Eat Drink Discover Scotland team discovered that this week's region is a highlight for traditional Scottish ingredients, such as Ayrshire Potatoes, which are currently applying for Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI). It is also famed for its haggis, which is always a popular addition to menus across the region. A firm favourite is haggis from Barbreck Farm, with their secret spice-mix ingredient!

With freshly caught langoustines, crabs, lobsters, hand-dived scallops, oysters and a range of white fish, perhaps seafood from this area is the perfect secret ingredient for a tasty fish pie?

The Island Cheese Company on Arran stocks award-winning cheeses due to the rich farmland and soft climate of the area. Taste of Arran stock a fantastic range of locally produced oatcakes, mustards, chocolate, and preserves. Alastair Dobson from the company said that its Arran Ice Cream is used by chefs all over the country and even as far afield as Dubai’s 7 star Burj Al Arab hotel, whose Executive Chef, Chef Maxime, commented that the last time he had tasted something similar was in Switzerland, comparing the subtle tastes of dairy and wild mountain flowers.

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, which is taking place at the Royal Highland Centre between 12th and 14th September, will bring to life the rich diversity of Scotland’s brimming larder by featuring exhibitors from the length and breadth of the country. One for the foodies, it will be offering something for every palate, plate and price range and, with a regional focus, it will be providing opportunities for smaller rural food producers to share centre stage with more established brands. The weekend will also include demonstrations and master classes such as chocolate workshops, cocktail making, game butchery and craft bakery.

Mark Greenaway said: "It’s all too easy to keep using the same ingredients for the same dishes, so this competition is all about discovering new ingredients and new ways of using them. I’ll be sharing my favourite products from the length and breadth of Scotland on my website’s blog, suggesting ways to make the most of them. But I want others to follow suit and share their favourites with me. This is what food and cooking should be about and, with Scotland’s truly amazing larder, I’m sure I’ll find it extremely difficult to choose a winner."

To read the Ayrshire, Arran and Argyll blog please visit www.markgreenaway.com/news

For more information on the competition visit www.eatdrinkdiscoverscotland.co.uk

 

 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Product Review - Stivy's The Original Cider

A few weeks ago I was kindly sent a couple of bottle of flavoured cider from the people behind Stivy's Vodka Liqueur to sample. Although I have heard of the Stivy's brand, I have never tasted their flavoured vodka liqueur to date. With cider popularity continuing to rise, the flavoured ciders give Stivy's something to offer their target market of 18-25 year olds. (Which I am definitely not part of these days)
The 500ml bottles carry distinctive labelling and the Stivy's logo in clear sight, making sure to capitalise on a brand that is well known in the target market age groups. The ciders are currently available in Asda stores across Scotland with plans to roll out the new products quickly to other retails in the on and off licence trades.
Stivy's flavoured ciders are designed to be enjoyed over ice on a hot summers day and as we see to be having a bit of a heat wave just now, I decided to crack open the Kola Fruits flavour cider when I got home from work tonight.
I assumed that this cider would bring back memories of Kola Kubes from my childhood and I wasn't disappointed as the playground smells of Kola Kubes were easy to identify. Unfortunately, that's where my enjoyment ended as the cider was ridiculously sweet to taste with a bitter aftertaste. I know that I don't fall into the target market of the Stivy's brand but I can't imagine the Kola Fruits cider being a huge hit with the intended younger demographic.
On a plus note though, Nicola had the Cherry Berry flavour cider a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it! (she doesn't fall into the target market age group either) The cider had a very clear cherry tang, with notes of berries in the background. We both love cherry flavoured drinks and the Stivy's Cherry Berry certainly delivers the goods here.
So there to you have it, one good - one not so good. I don't image that the good people at Stivy's will shed too many tears at my lack of endorsement as I'm sure that there are plenty of new younger drinkers out there that will have found a new refreshing drink for the summer months.
Keep up to date with Stivy's on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

5 Questions - Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur

A few weeks ago, myself and Nicola had an enjoyable afternoon at The Royal Highland Show where the highlight for me was the Food and Drink village. Whilst walking around, sampling the wares of independent producers from all over the UK and Ireland, I took time to chat with the producers and gave them the opportunity to have their story told on Gerry's Kitchen.
The first people to get back to me with answers to their '5 Questions' were the team at Coole Swan, the producers of a wonderfully rich Irish Cream Liqueur. Coole Swan takes it's name from a WB Yeats poem - 'The Wild Swans at Coole' and is produced on the same family farm in County Meath where the dairy cows live and breathe.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
That is a good question. We are farmers in County Meath in Ireland (about 1 nour north of Dublin) and love producing quality produce and we also love cream liqueurs.... So a 100% natural cream liquor seemed like a no brainer. It took over 18 months and 100's of tastings of whiskey, chocolate and cream to get it right....hard life I know!!!!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Ideas are the easier bit. Execution is the key. To execute an idea or plan you need humour, friendship, determination and flexibility. Also, you must never compromise. Ever.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Going from strength to strength but maintaining the same level of contact and friendship with our customers and partners.
If you could only enjoy Coole Swan just one way, what would it be & why?
Coole Swan in a glass neat or over ice. That is the most perfect drink. If I were to add anything it would be a bowl of fresh seasonal berries (strawberries / raspberries / blueberries) along with good conversation and warm summer evening. Bliss!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why?
That's a tough one but anyone who has given life a real go and achieved something from it - that something could be real success (Olympic Gold Medal) or simply a better understanding of their own strengths and weakness. The human spirit is a greatly unvalued resource. We can do anything and are limited only by the horizons of our own imagination.
To dine with people who have tested that would be exhilarating. What’s on the menu? Fresh seasonal food - starting with prawns or lobster followed by a good steak with a strong, full bodied red wine and fresh garden salad. For dessert we would tuck into a Coole Swan Lime and Chocolate Mousse before finishing off dinner with Irish cheese with homemade biscuits and a Coole Swan coffee.

In addition to sending back their answers to '5 Questions' in a prompt fashion, Mary at Coole Swan very kindly sent me a box containing my very own bottle of Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur and a few other bits and pieces including recipe books, chocolates and Coole hot chocolate pots. At this point I would like to thank Mary and the rest of the team at Coole Swan for their generosity in sending these samples to myself.
So after a busy Sunday of wandering around garden centres before doing a little work in the garden later in the day, it was good to settle down on the sofa with glass of chilled Coole Swan in hand. There are a number of well known Irish cream liqueurs on the market and I'm a big fan of most of them but as a non whisky drinker sometimes the whisky can be a little stronger than I like. The great thing about the Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur is that the whisky is balanced perfectly with Belgian white chocolate to give a rich rounded flavour. Perfect over ice but I'm already looking forward to trying some of the recipes from the Coole Swan recipe books.
I would like to say that although I was given my samples of Coole Swan free of charge, my view above is an honest opinion on how much I enjoyed the product. Rest assured, I would happily add Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur to my drinks cabinet in the future.
Keep up to date with Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Mark Galloway Searches Dumfries And Galloway For Scotland's Secret Ingredients

Mark Greenaway has teamed up with foodie flagship event of the autumn, Eat Drink Discover Scotland, and together they’re on a mission – to discover the secret ingredients that Scottish cooks simply could not cook without and this week they’re searching the corners of store cupboards in Dumfries and Galloway.

With a surprisingly warm climate due to warm currents from the Gulf Stream, and frequent rain showers, the South West of Scotland makes for a perfect environment for quality farm produce. Famed for its rolling grassy terrain, the area is home to an abundance of sheep and many towns have thriving independent butchers. Could a secret ingredient be used in a sauce that accompanies Scottish lamb?

The good grass also produces great milk and cheese and the area plays host to an number of quality cheese companies, such as Galloway Cheddar and Loch Arthur Creamery, which are renowned across Britain for consistent quality. Perhaps a lasagna or four-cheese pasta would be incomplete without a certain type of cheese from this neck of the woods?

Grass, however, is not the only good thing to come out of the area’s fortunate climate. Large amounts of strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes from the area are sold all over Britain. Would a mouthwatering Dumfries and Galloway jam taste quite the same made from berries grown elsewhere in the country?

The public is being invited to reveal its favourite Scottish ‘secret ingredients’, by telling the team at Eat Drink Discover Scotland what they are and where they’re purchased. The criteria range from herbs to condiments, alcohol to meats and even vegetables - providing they are either grown or produced in Scotland. Applicants are being encouraged to be as unpredictable, creative and unusual as possible. The best entrants who will be invited to join Mark in a ‘cook off’ at the event, where the winner will be chosen. The producer or retailer who supplied the winner with their ‘secret ingredient’ will be given a free exhibition stand at next year’s event.

Chirstie Baird from A Taste of Galloway, Laughtmuirside Farm, Thornhill said: “The emphasis of artisan foods in Dumfries and Galloway has been a huge priority in our region. Through past projects, such as ‘savour the flavours’, our region’s food producers, restaurants and retailers have been able to connect and provide a real foodie experience for those living in our region and tourists visiting.

“Our ‘secret ingredient’ is our Galloway Free Range Goose. Every year we produce a small amount of birds for the Christmas table and they are the free-est of the free range and graze the surrounding fields of our farm and fed our own home grown feed of oats and barley. A real secret ingredient for anybody's Christmas dinner!”

The Eat Drink Discover Scotland team also spoke to Castle MacLellan who have been making pate in the artist town of Kirkudbright in Dumfries and Galloway for over 30 years. Sarah Turnbull from Castle MacLellan said: “We stay true to our Scottish roots and source only the best local ingredients to create our pate range. We think our sumptuous Orkney Crab pate could be a ‘secret key ingredient’ to a Crab Fishcake recipe - infused with a luxurious blend of Orkney crab, enriched with crème fraiche and enhanced with lemon juice and locally produced Galloway mustard.

“Eat Drink Discover Scotland is a great initiative as it’s all about showcasing regional, top quality food in Scotland to all lovers of fine food and ingredients.”

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, which is taking place at the Royal Highland Centre between 12th and 14th September, will bring to life the rich diversity of Scotland’s brimming larder by featuring exhibitors from the length and breadth of the country. One for the foodies, it will be offering something for every palate, plate and price range and, with a regional focus, it will be providing opportunities for smaller rural food producers to share centre stage with more established brands. The weekend will also include demonstrations and master classes such as chocolate workshops, cocktail making, game butchery and craft bakery.

To read Scottish Borders blog please visit www.markgreenaway.com/news

For more information on the competition please visit www.eatdrinkdiscoverscotland.co.uk

 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Beers of the World Cup - #18 France - Brasserie St Germain, Page 24 Blanche

The FIFA World Cup 2014 is now behind us and I still have quite a few beers to work my way through. Next into the #beersoftheworldcup arena is 1998 World Cup winners, France, with Page 24 Blanche from Brasserie St Germain.
The Saint Germain brewery is located in Aix Noulette in the north of France and has been brewing craft beers since 2003. Locally sources raw ingredients are used to create their 'bières de grade' which are brewed by traditional infusion mash methods before being cold stored for several weeks. These bottle conditioned ales complete their maturation and undergo a final fermentation in the bottle.
Page 24 Blanche pours with a cloudy pale yellow colour and a loose foamy head that does reduce a little but is still with you until the bottom of the glass. As you would expect from a wheat beer, there are clear aromas of citrus with clean lemon notes very noticable. To taste, the beer is actually not as lemony as the nose would suggest with strong malt flavours competing with the citrus. There is also a good balance of spice in the beer resulting in a very rounded finish in the mouth. I'm a big fan of wheat beers and found the Page 24 Blanche very drinkable and definitely one that I would stock in my fridge at home.

Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and you can let me know which French beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup

 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Royal Highland Show Roundup

The 2014 Royal Highland Show took place at Ingleston park over the weekend of 19th-22nd June with over 175,000 visitors attending the event over the four days. As well as supporting farming, the show plays a large part in delivering the aims of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland by promoting and raising awareness of farming and rural matters to the public. The society's long history of Commonwealth connections draws visitors from across the globe and adds something quite special to the social life at the Royal Highland Show.
Thanks to press passes being arranged by the Show's marketing firm O'Leary PR, myself and Nicola made the journey along the m8 in order to attend the show on the closing day to see what all the fuss was about.
When we arrived, just after 10am on a glorious Sunday morning, the car parks were already filling up. The Show starts early every day, no surprise when there are farmers involved, especially when theirs business to be done. Each year thousands of pounds worth of business takes place at The Show whether in machinery, livestock or services, The Show contributes millions into the Scottish economy each year. With over 5000 entries from all over the UK and Ireland, the show lives up to its "Best Event" award with a magnificent display of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses and poultry.
Whilst the show is primarily a celebration of the farming and rural community, it's not just cows and combine harvesters. The show has something for everybody and whilst I was there with the sole intention of introducing Gerry's Kitchen to the food and drink producers who were exhibiting their products, there was plenty going on to keep us entertained.
For those with a passion for shopping, The Show catered for all tastes and budgets with dedicated areas dotted across the park including;
  • Shopping Arcade & Marquee and Crafts Zone – gorgeous items of desire including home
  • Equestrian Village – everything you need for both horse and rider
  • Outdoor Living – a huge selection for your garden from plants to Swedish barbecue huts
  • Motor Zone – looking for new car, pick-up vehicle, quad-bike or motorbike ? Most major manufacturers were represented at the Show
  • Lifestyle Village – as the name suggests, this was where you could find the latest lifestyle accessories from phones to spa baths, swimming pools and furniture
  • Food & Drink Hall – a huge hall filled with local and national food and drink producers with plenty of samples to taste, and demonstrations to watch
I loved the Food & Drink Hall and although all of the exhibitor stands were always busy, I did manage to recruit a few producers for some up and coming '5 Questions' posts and have already had some answers back for future posts. As well as buying a few bits and pieces myself, I was also kindly given a selection of products from Harbour Salmon to try out - you can check out the product review here.
We had a great day at the show and after a long day of walking around in the sun, we made our way back to the car. As luck would have it, we passed the stand where Nick Nairn was finishing of his cookery demonstration so I hung around to day thanks to him for having recently answer his own set of '5 Questions' - not a bad way to round off our day at The Royal Highland Show.

Keep up to date with news of next years Royal Highland Show on Facebook and Twitter.




Monday, 14 July 2014

Beers of the World Cup - #17 Portugal - Cerveja Super Bock

It had been expected that Portugal would do well at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil but after a disappointing 4-0 defeat to eventual winners, Germany, the Portuguese were destined to an early departure from the tournament. Another disappointment for me was my choice of beer from Portugal for my #beersoftheworldcup challenge - Cerveja Super Bock.

Super Bock is one of a number of lagers and beers brewed at the Unicer brewery in Leça de Balio, just outside the city of Porto. Established in 1927, the brewery has been producing Portugal's favourite beer, with over 40% market share of the countries beer consumption. Super Bock is the only beer to have won 26 consecutive gold medals in the "Monde Selection de la Qualite". However, Monde Selection awards are non-competitive and only products that pay to enter are judged. The beer might be well regarded on the Iberian Peninsula, however it didn't get the same reception in Gerry's Kitchen.
The Super Bock poured with a dark golden colour and a loose airy head that disappeared almost instantly. In the glass, the Bock didn't smell great with an almost stale yeasty aroma lingering in the air. At 5.6% ABV you would expect there to be some significant body and taste but again the Bock struggles to hit the mark with little barley flavours being replaced by a sour bitter finish. This was not a pleasant drinking experience and I'm puzzled as to how it managed to pick up so many gold medals - regardless of the fact that they paid for the judging.
I've never been impressed with the other main Portuguese beers and sadly, the Super Bock has done nothing to change my opinion.
Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and you can let me know which Portuguese beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup

 Written by Gerry HaughianWritten by Gerry Haughian