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Laura

    Product reviews, Reviews

    Review: Beanies gingerbread flavour instant coffee

    Having started a new job three months ago, I’m now dangerous close to a coffee shop which does delicious dairy-free Gingerbread Lattes.  What started off as a bit of a treat has become almost a daily occurrence, which neither my purse nor waistline are particularly happy about.

    photo 3So when I was in the supermarket I stumbled across the coffee and tea isle and found a range of flavoured coffees.  Now instant coffee is something I usually shun; I find it bitter and frankly I’d rather drink tea or water.  I like coffee, but the instant stuff I just can’t get on with.

    However, when I found Beanies gingerbread flavour instant coffee I thought it might be worth giving it another try.  Beanies do a range of flavoured coffees but given my aforementioned love of gingerbread lattes I thought this was the best one to try.

    On breaking the golden seal you’re hit with a strong aroma.  It’s not so much the typical gingerbread flavour that I’m used to but instead smells more like a rich ginger cake.

    Sadly once I added hot water the flavour seems to be lost.  Despite the label telling you there’s no need for sugar, I’d disagree; the sweetness helps bring out the flavour, as much as it can.  I’ve now tried this black, with almond milk and cow’s milk, with and without sugar, and the gingerbread is, at most, very feint.  It is drinkable, the added sugar and flavouring masks the usual bitterness from instant coffee, but it just doesn’t have that delightful gingerbread flavour that tempted me in.

    I really wanted to like this.  At just under £3 for a 50g jar it would’ve been a bargain compared to countless trips to Costa, but despite the whopping ginger-cake aroma from the dried coffee, the flavour was lacking in the actual drink. Unlike most instant coffees this is perfectly drinkable without milk, which is a definitely positive to me.  But sadly it just doesn’t give the pleasant gingerbread taste I wanted.  I’ve read other blogs that suggest the Amaretto Almond flavour is lovely and this might be one to try at some point, but in terms of gingerbread coffee it’s still a coffee shop for gingerbread flavoured coffee that remains triumphant.

    Round ups

    June round up

    I restarted the blog this month and despite a hectic work schedule and moving house, managed five blogposts on everything from reviews of a cocktail masterclass and the newest burger joint in town, to a frittata recipe and celebrating yellow reduced item stickers!

    Five guys opened in Birmingham in June to mixed reviews online.  With a fairly simple ethos, there are hundreds of food combinations and a drink machines to end all drinks machines.  Check out the whole review here.

    Frittatas have always made me nervous but I finally conquered my fear and blogged about it for all to see.  And whilst I was feeling brave I headed along to a blogger event at Revolution Bar to sample their cocktail masterclass.

    Ever one for a bargain, I wrote a quick post celebrating Marks & Spencer’s reduced food section which resulted in one friend telling me she never knew they had one until that post.  A success all round.  And talking of successes, I blogged about an upcoming charity cake competition in Harborne which is likely to be a roaring success!

    Coming up in July I’m starting to do some reviews of interesting foods I find on sale, from gingerbread instant coffee, to spreads using star anise and more.  I’ll also be sharing a recipe for gluten-free chocolate and orange cake and some restaurant reviews, amongst other posts!

    Events, News

    Borne2Bake charity cake competition

    Cake is brilliant, charities are ace, so it only seems reasonable that together they’ll make a damn fine match.  Coupling the two is Borne2Bake, who are inviting people to enter a charity cake baking competition to raise money for a Birmingham-based charity.  And for those that like to taste test, there’s the option to help pick the winners.

    The competition takes place on Saturday 12 July with bakers dropping in the goods at 11am and the taste test starting at midday.  It’s taking place at the New Inn in Harborne, so you’ll be able to get yourself a nice drink to go with all the charity cake (I recommend a nice Tom Collins cocktail).  Categories up for judging include best cupcake, best decorated cake and best tasting cake.  Prizes so far include a meal for two & bottle of wine at Zizzis, meal for two and drink each at The Plough, a £15 coffee voucher for Urban Coffee Co and a tray of Cupcakes from Fallen Angel Bakery.

    Borne2Bake are raising money for Red Boots who are based in Moseley and are part of the Foundation for Conductive Education.  They seek to work with children and families of children with neurological motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy.  The organisers have seen the amazing work they do helping children unable to sit upright, walk, hold things or feed themselves progress to walk with braces, hold objects and some even feeding themselves.

    For more information check their Twitter or take a look at the poster below – there’s lots of contact details on there!  And Good luck to anyone entering.

    bornetobake

    Musings, Reviews

    Yellow sticker wins from M&S

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    Bargains galore!

    It was a very busy day yesterday and I wanted to treat myself to something nice on the journey home, so I popped into Marks and Spencer.  Low and behold, not only did I pick up an iced bun but I also stumbled across some gems in the reduced section!

    So tea last night was a Count on Us stonebaked ham & mushroom pizza and a side of vegetables (potatoes went to my housemate), for just £1.50!  Considering the pizza was in the reduced section and part of the healthier-foods range it was delicious – thankfully not too much cheese (a plus for me, though maybe not for everyone), a lovely base which wasn’t too crispy or stodgy, plenty of ham and mushrooms that didn’t go soggy.  One I’d happily go back and pay full price for.

    Plus I managed to bag some salmon to go in the freezer for another day too.  Who doesn’t love a good bargain?!

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Revolution Birmingham’s Cocktail Masterclass

    A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a cocktail masterclass with some fellow Birmingham-based food and lifestyle bloggers.  Having previously worked for a cocktail bar in a non-bartending role I felt a bit like a spy, but the aim of the game was to make some drinks and have some fun, so that was soon forgotten.

    cosmosandflames

    We were introduced to our bartender for the class, Michael, who was charming, friendly and made sure our group had a lot of fun – not easy when most of us had just met that night.  Revolution had also laid on some canapes from their new menu to complement the drinks we were sampling too.

    We started the night with a Strawberry Woo-Woo.  Not my favourite cocktail, I find the raspberry vodka, peach liqueur, strawberry and cranberry mix a bit too sweet, but it’s a fairly inoffensive drink to get the evening underway.   This was paired with a cheese bon bon, which actually sort of worked.

    Up first was possibly the world’s most well known drink, the Mojito.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to take this drink seriously after hearing “slap it, rim it, stick it in it” used in response to the mint (also, bit confused by the addition of puree to the drink, which I’ve not seen before).  The pairing of the Mojito with tempura prawn was an excellent choice, however.  Next, another well-known drink, the Cosmopolitan, was paired with a tortilla chip and guacamole, which wasn’t nearly as interesting as watching the bartender teach us to flame orange over the drink.  The dairy-ladened Tennessee Mud Shake wasn’t for me, but its sickly-sweetness seemed to leave the rest of the group impressed.

    groupchallenge2

    If that was the theory, it was time to put our lesson into practice and make our own drinks!  I’d found all the previous drinks too sweet for my tastes so I opted to make a more classic cocktail; a Whisky Sour using Monkey Shoulder whisky, egg white, lemon and a dash of bitters. Yum!  We passed around each other’s drinks to give people a chance to try them all and when we were suitably merry it was time for the party games, which were particularly entertaining considering most of us had only just met.

    Finishing the evening was a Revolution classic – a line of flavoured vodka shots balanced on top of glasses, domino style.  We were told Revolution has its own vodka factory up north which makes a lot of the flavoured vodkas – though thankfully none of us had to try the chilli vodka.

    shot-train

    There’s no denying it this masterclass is a lot of fun.  Sure, if you want to learn the history of cocktails this isn’t going to be the class for you and there were a few slip-ups with info.  But if you’re looking for a fun activity for a hen/stag do or a birthday then this is a good way to start the night.

    Masterclasses start from £24.95 per person and there’s more information at their website:  http://www.revolution-bars.co.uk/cocktail-masterclass/

    Disclosure: I attended the masterclass free of charge but was under no obligation to write a positive review – all opinions are my own, as are the photos (please don’t use them without permission).

    Recipes

    My first frittata

    frittata

    Mixed pepper and courgette frittata

    There are about a million reasons why I’d never made a frittata until recently.  Mainly nerves; I’d always worry that it wasn’t cooking quickly enough and end up with some sort of scrambled egg mush.  Tasty but never very pretty.

    But on a mission to find something I could eat for breakfast that was healthy, had some of the all important 5-a-day and portable for when I wanted an extra 15 mins in bed, I thought it was about time to try again.

    Frittatas are somewhat similar to omelettes, which I love for breakfast – if someone else is making them.  But with more density and the filings incorporated the frittata seemed like a good bet for a weekday breakfast.

    Like any good blogger I read a few blogposts from other people and they were all pretty similar; use two eggs per portion and a mixed of whatever other ingredients you want, don’t panic and brown it under the oven.  Turns out it really is that simple.

    So here’s my mixed pepper and courgette frittata.

    • four eggs
    • two peppers – one green, one red
    • one courgette – slice and cut into half-moon shaped
    • from the store cupboard
      • salt and pepper
      • oil

    Using a small amount of oil cook the courgette and peppers until soft – you know how you like them.  Whilst they’re cooking crack the four eggs into a bowl (that’s big enough to add the vegetables into too), season with salt and pepper and combine so the yolk and white are mixed.  Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, add them to the bowl of egg, combine and then transfer back to the pan.  I left mine on a low heat until the whole thing looked a bit solid – although the top still looked like it needed some help so I stuck it under the grill to brown.  Alternatively you can bake the frittata.  Entirely up to you.

    Afterwards I left mine to cool, which meant I nearly lost it to my housemate for dinner, but it survived.  I cut it into quarters, put it in an airtight container in the fridge and then for the next two mornings had frittata for breakfast.  Simple and delicious!

    I’m planning on making some more, switching up the ingredients and possibly making thicker ones.  The great thing about them is they keep well and if you can never really be sure when or what you’re having for lunch or dinner, it’s a great way to make sure you get something healthy and tasty in first thing.

    Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Five Guys in Birmingham

    I love burgers.  Deliciously juicy meat sandwiched between fresh, fluffy bread; there’s just something so simple but mouthwatering comforting about a good burger.  I’ve tried a lot of burgers in my time, but when I heard American burger chain, Five Guys, was coming to Birmingham I was excited.

    Located in the epicentre of the city’s shopping centre, The Bullring, Five Guys have taken over the old Del Villagio location and turning it into a traditional red-and-white checkered burger joint.  All that white and bright lights feels a bit of a mix of clinical and greasy spoon, but it’s not the venue we’re here for, it’s the burgers and it feels like that’s what the decor is getting at.  And if you don’t get it straight away, all the glowing reviews and soundbites on the wall will spell it out for you.

    Anyway, the food.  The menu is pretty simple; burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and fries.  There are a few variations, but the main thing is the toppings of which there are many, 15 to be precise.  I opted for a regular burger with BBQ sauce, lettuce and mushrooms; regular fries; and a soft drink, which came to £13.25.  Once ordering you walk round the counter and wait for your food.  Or rather visit the drinks machine whilst your food is being cooked.

    I probably should’ve been marvelling at the Fordist-machine-line preparation of my food, but the drinks machine had me mesmerised.  Said to have 100+ drinks options I can well believe it and I went for Diet Coke with vanilla and cherry, which was just delicious.  If I ever win the lottery I want one of those installed in my house.  Oh yes, and there’s free refills.

    After a short wait watching the production line put together my food I wondered how well this works on a busy Saturday lunchtime, but more pressing was the guy on the fries counter who was portioning chips into drinks cups and then adding another portion and a half into the bags.  If you thought £4 was steep for a regular fries, you’d be mistaken – it’s actually a pretty good deal considering what you get for your money.

    After collecting my grease-spattered brown bag I took a pew and dived in.  I’d heard stories that the fries were over-seasoned and I didn’t find this to be the case; I thought they were pretty good with or without sauce, but I think it’s probably personal preference – personally I like someone else to sort it out for me.  The burger, wrapped in tin-foil didn’t look like the messiah of burgers I was expecting, but tasted pretty good.  I was a little disappointed at the amount of BBQ sauce particularly as there wasn’t any sandwiched between the two patties (I didn’t realise a regular burger had two of them).  But it certainly wasn’t the worst burger I’ve ever had; I’m just not sure it was the best either.

    Overall the experience was fine – think the environment of fast-food queue & wait mixed with the quality of gourmet/handmade co/kitchen style burger restaurants.  I wasn’t blown away by my experience, but I didn’t feel particularly short-changed either.  I just expected something a little more wow.  Five Guys is a welcome addition to the city and I’m sure I’ll be back, I just can’t see myself making a special trip to go.

    https://www.fiveguys.co.uk/