Browsing Category:


    Drinks, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    The return of Rib Nights

    Team_ribs_plate I’ve got a confession to make – I never made it to the previous Rib Nights.  So when Ahmed mentioned that they were coming back for a couple of dates, with a limited capacity, I knew I had to try and get to one.

    In a new location, this time Cafe Opus in the Ikon Gallery, the premise is pretty simple; two teams compete to be the best ribs of the evening, as voted for by the diners.  To prevent any bias, the ribs are named team A or B and loaded up onto plates.  If six hefty ribs isn’t enough to fill your boots, then there are also a pile of sides on offer too – namely fries and coleslaw.  pickleback_shots_spiced_rum

    Sponsored, in part, by spiced rum brand Sailor Jerrys, the night started of with a customary Pickleback.  For those not familiar, the Pickleback is a series of two shots, usually Irish whiskey (Jamesons seems to be the favoured spirit of choice) and pickle brine/juice, shot one after the other.  They made their way over here a few years ago and I’ll admit to being a fan of the Pickleback; the stark contrast of the slightly sweet yet alcoholic kick of the whiskey followed by the salty pickle brine pleasantly ambushes the tastebuds.  Or at least does after the you’ve had more than one…it’s always the second one that gets you hooked.  But for this one it was Sailor Jerrys and complementing pickle juice, and whilst the flavours complemented each other well, it just didn’t have that same kick for me.


    Anyway, ribs.  I start off with Team A’s ribs, which turned out to belong to Smoke and Spice BBQ, hailing from Banbury in Oxfordshire.  These were the drier of the two ribs, which is no bad thing in my books, and I enjoyed the flavours with a nice smokiness and bite to the meat.  Team B, also known as Crackerjack BBQ, were an all together different affair with a messier, sweeter sauce and I was unlucky enough to get some really fatty ribs which seem to have a lot less meat than Team A’s.  I don’t mind a bit of fat on my ribs, but I wanna taste the ribs, which is pretty much how I feel about loads of sauce too.

    For me it was a clear winner of Team A, due to the meatiness of the ribs I was given and their smokiness.  The popular vote and therefore winner was for Team B (Crackerjack BBQ), although a Michelin-starred chef was also in attendance and tweet to say his vote was for Team A too, so that made me feel better!

    Sadly this is one of the last Rib Nights, nearly two years after it began.  However you’ve still got time to make it to one – there’s a final event on Sunday 15 November 2015 and tickets can be bought via Design My Night.

    Disclosure: I paid for my own ticket to Rib Nights. So there. Also, I’m pretty sure pickle juice is an antidiuretic, which is why the hangovers on them never feels as bad to me.

    Drinks, Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Argentinean wine dinner at Opus


    At a loose end tomorrow evening and like your wine? Opus on Cornwall St is hosting a dinner and drinks pairing with a range of wine from the vineyards of the Mendoza region in Argentina.

    During the evening, wine from Opus supplier Eduardo Pulenta’s prestigious estate will be expertly paired with five specially-prepared courses created by Opus’ chefs. Opus are notoriously proud of their suppliers and it’s a rare opportunity to meet and learn more about them. Eduardo will educate and regale diners with stories from his family vineyard in the beautiful but demanding landscape in the shadow of the Andes Mountains.

    Ann Tonks, managing director at Opus, said: “It’s a pleasure to have Eduardo in the restaurant and showcasing his beautiful wines. The Pulenta family have been growing grapes since 1912 and Eduardo’s passion shines through when he’s telling customers about their award-winning wine.”

    The dinner costs £75 per person and includes five courses, an aperitif, wine with each course and service. For more information call 0121 200 2323.

    Drinks, Product reviews, Reviews

    Holiday memories of Barcelona


    Don’t you just love holidays?  I’m not really one for days relaxing by the beach, I’m more of a spend ages researching beforehand and planning a packed itinerary to make sure I fit in as much as possible – and making sure that there’s a list of great places to eat at.

    One of my favourite holidays was with my mum to Barcelona.  We’d been to the region a few times when I was younger, but this was the first holiday I went on post-university that I was in charge of, and I’d done enough research that I probably could have run my own tour.  I wanted to see all the Gaudi stuff we could, particularly Park Guell, which we spent an afternoon wandering round with and enjoying a makeshift picnic.

    catalan_wine_duoFinding some great food places was of course on top on my priorities and I had a list and substitute list of restaurants.  Considering La Rambla sort of resembles Birmingham’s Broad St of an evening, there was a great little tapas place on there that was listed in the guide book and actually pretty good.  We also found delicious seafood by the harbour and a great little steak place down a side street (which had Spanish cartoons on the toilet doors).  Our hotel was just off Avinguda Diagonal and of an evening we used to walk past a great little wine bar which we stopped in regularly for a nightcap.

    I was lucky to be sent a couple of bottles of Catalan wine from the Catalan Tourist Board, which took me right back to that wine bar, sitting with my mum chatting away about our holiday.  Both bottles were from Torres, a family run business in the heart of the Catalan region.  My mum enjoys a glass of Chardonnay, so the Gran Viña Sol Chardonnay with dinner was a hit – slightly woody with floral notes was great with our roast chicken.  After dinner we had the Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon, a really lovely bottled of red; silky with a strong taste of berries and a hint of vanilla.

    After an evening of good food, even better wine and reminiscing over holidays, I found myself looking at flights to go back!  Catalan cuisine is internationally renowned (it was home to the world-famous El Bulli, after all) and if it’s all about the food for you, there is even a series of Gastronomic Holidays which are well worth taking a look at.

    Disclosure: the nice people at the Catalan Tourist Board sent me a couple of bottles of wine free of charge and asked me to write bout my memories from my holiday to Barcelona.  I wasn’t obliged to be nice about anything (seriously, aren’t you used to that yet).   The glamorous assistant in the top photo is my mum, she posed in exchange for helping me drink the wine.

    Drinks, Events, News

    Licor 43’s Tiki Bar Takeover

    licor43_islandLooking for a way to paint the town gold to celebrate the Bank Holiday weekend?  Well Licor 43 have teamed up with Island Bar to take over their upstairs Tiki Bar for a Golden Party on Friday 22nd May.

    Licor 43 is a golden yellow Spanish liqueur with predominantly vanilla and caramel flavours.  It’s great in cocktails and apparently in Mexico they drink it with espresso coffee for a nifty disco coffee, which means it also goes pretty well in Espresso Martinis.  Personally I think it’s also pretty dandy over waffles and ice cream for a really indulgent dessert too.

    Anyway, the party.  Island Bar opens as usual from 5pm with DJs starting from 9pm (including Tiki Thursday’s DJ Magoo).  Guaranteed there will be cocktails – with Licor 43 cocktail specials, plus lots of gold & giveaways, Licor 43 shots…and rumour has it there might also be a fire dancer.  Then again, if you ask nicely the bartenders might just breathe some fire too.

    For more details, check out their Facebook event – stay gold ponyboy!

    Drinks, Product reviews, Reviews

    Eisberg Riesling non-alcoholic wine

    Frankly when my aunt accounted that she was having a BBQ at the weekend to celebrate the engagement of her son, I was a bit wary. Not of the engagement – I’m dead pleased Em is joining our crazy little gang, but that the good weather would continue.

    Mum and I were requested to arrive early to help set up. I think this is actually code for make sure someone is on time, as my family are notoriously late for things. However this left mum in a bit of a quandary, as she didn’t want to be “blottoed by 5pm”. So when a bottle of Eisberg Riesling non-alcoholic wine arrived on my doorstep it seemed like the perfect chance to try it out.

    IMG_2248.JPGEisberg do four different types of non-alcoholic wine: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rose and Riesling. I’d opted to try the Riesling, as it’s a alcoholic wine variety I’ve enjoyed before and thought it would be a good all-rounder. It’s described as “honeyed aromas of rosy apples and juicy melons” which I think is pretty fair – it had a nice sweet fruitiness to it, which wasn’t cloying, but was also refreshing. The slight alcoholic aftertaste that comes with wine was missing, but I was the only person to notice this – my mum and aunt said they didn’t taste a noticeable difference between it and regular wine. In fact my mum enjoyed it so much that she pretty much adopted the bottle for the evening.

    My mum was initially sceptical at the point of non-alcoholic wine and couldn’t really understand why anyone would buy it – Which is a notion I think a lot of people share. I’d tried to give a few examples including people that wanted to drink wine but couldn’t or wouldn’t (health or pregnancy) and that most diet-wines are basically low alcohol, but she was still sceptical. Yet as she dropped me home (bonus, no taxi fare) I asked her what she thought of the wine and she’d said that she enjoyed it; that she could still feel part of the party, that the wine gave her a chance to join in, but still drive home.  She’d gone from sceptical to wondering where might stock non-alcoholic wine (answer: most supermarkets).

    Disclosure: I was sent a bottle of non-alcoholic wine to review. I wasn’t obliged to be nice and neither was my mum, even thought she unwittingly reviewed it. “Blottoed” is probably Irish slang, but definitely should be used more.

    Drinks, Product reviews, Reviews

    Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice

    Pomegranates immediate conjure up two ideas to me: grenade, that bright red, sugary syrup which is both tart and sweet and found in many disco-style cocktails; and the Greek myth of poor Persephone and her kidnapping to the underworld. I both like grenadine in my drinks and I enjoy a good tale, so when Pom Wonderful were offering up a free bottle of their pomegranate juice I thought what the heck and said yes.

    Pomegranates look like lovely little red jewels but they’re a pain to pluck out of the fruit so ready-prepared seeds or juice seems like the easiest way to taste them.  Pom Wonderful is 100% pomegranate juice made from concentrate and contains no preservatives or colourants, which is pretty impressive when you see the deep, rich red colour of the drink. It’s a good source of potassium and is a gluten-free fruit (although to be honest I didn’t know fruit wasn’t gluten-free), and is generally pretty tasty.  It’s a bit pricier than your usual morning fruit juice (but then pomegranates are a pain to pluck so I can kinda see why) but I did enjoy its rich slightly tart taste.

    Pom-berry Fizz

    IMG_1713.PNGI decided to try and come up with a non-alcoholic cocktail. I’m pretty rubbish with names, but I’ve been calling this the Pom-berry Fizz.  Taking the sweet and tartness from the pomegranates I decided to add some other dark fruit, namely blueberries, tart it up with some lime juice and lengthen with the pomegranate juice and lemonade for a rich but refreshing drink.

    Take six blueberries and muddle/squish them in a glass with a teaspoon of lime juice (fresh is best, but bottled is fine). Top up the glass two thirds full with pomegranate juice. At this point if you don’t want bits in your drink you should fine-strain the skins of the blueberries, but I just left mine in (in hind-sight I should’ve fine strained). Then top up with lemonade and drink!

    Disclosure: I was given a bottle of Pom Wonderful as part of a BzzAgent campaign.  I wasn’t required to write anything nice, nor was I required to come up with some non-alcoholic cocktails with it – I was just procrastinating and seemed like a good idea.  Also, the story of Persephone is pretty awesome, you should check it out.

    Drinks, News, Pop Ups and Streetfood

    Free beer this Saturday

    Bottle with promotional neck labelFancy a free beer this Saturday?  Speckled Hen are running their Hunt for a Hen Travelling Bar in a secret Birmingham location on Saturday 21 March – although it’s not that secret going by their fairly obvious clues, because why would they want to deprive you of free beer?

    Those up for the excellently titled ‘aleventure’ need to follow @SpeckledHenry on Twitter and keep an eye out on the #huntforahen hashtag, where they’ll be given some clues to crack to head to a secret location for free Old Speckled Hen ale.

    But if free beer isn’t enough to lure you in they’ll also be offering the Old Speckled Hen ‘Hen Hunt’ competition, with prizes including the chance to win free beer for a year, £1000 in cash and other goodies.

    For more info on Old Speckled Hen and Hunt for a Hen check as well as their Facebook and @SpeckledHenry on Twitter.