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    Events, News

    BBC Good Food Show parcel

    As part of being a BBC Good Food Show blogger, I had the pleasure of receiving some goodies from some of the exhibitors through the post, to whet my appetite for the event (and hopefully yours), which takes place later in the month.Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 22.13.03

    The items in the box included;

    • country grain loaf from Hedonist Bakery (stall C90)
    • omega sprinkles from Munchy Seeds (stall J112)
    • smoked garlic from The Garlic Farm (stall J56)
    • rapeseed oil from Mellow Yellow (stall F60)
    • gran riserva 7 year old aged balsamic vinegar from Taste Gourmet Spice Company (stall J80)

    The smoked garlic I could smell as soon as I opened the box and decided to put three cloves into a soup I made for work – it was fragrant and tasty and I’m hoping to pick up some more at the show because I think it’ll make great garlic mayo.  Talking of, at the summer show I picked up some garlic mayo from Mellow Yellow which was delicious and I’ve been using their rapeseed oil in my cooking (as it’s said to be less saturated fat than other oils and is a rich source of vitamin E).  The omega sprinkles have been making a nice addition to porridge to give it a little crunch.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to try the bread, and I’m saving the gran riserva 7 year old aged balsamic vinegar because I’m trying to think of something special to do with it – I sort of want to try it in a strawberry and balsamic cocktail, odd as it sounds.

    Personally the BBC Good Food Show winter is always a highlight in my calendar because it’s a good excuse to spend the day surrounded by food and people who are as equally enthusiastic.  As well as plenty of stallholders (lots have samples for you to try), I like being able to sit and watch some of the chefs cook – the supertheatre is always fun, but for me the smaller stands around are equally too.  I also really the sound of Stoves British Treasure Hunt, which is a hunt for five British range cookers hidden around the NEC Birmingham and the chance to win food vouchers worth £500.


    If you want to look back on my previous experiences, I’ve blogged about my trips to BBC Good Food Show summer 2015 and BBC Good Food Show winter 2014.  I’m looking forward to revisiting some of the stalls from last time, in particular Bluebird Tea Co (stand F71) and the Black Liquorice Co (stand G94) for some of their firecandy.

    The BBC Good Food Show takes place at the NEC Birmingham from 26 – 29th November.  Tickets are on sale and you can get 15% off Standard Entry tickets using the code BL15 until the 8th November (sorry, I meant to post this sooner). Or head to their website where I think there’s an online discount offer too.

    Events, News

    Marco Pierre White at The Cube


    As I’m stood watching Marco Pierre White ask a bunch of culinary students if they’ve ever made a roux, all I can think about is being in secondary school wondering why the hell I needed to know how to make white sauce. Well played Mrs Hodgkinson, well played.

    Marco Day, as it has been named by the team, celebrates the day when the chef visits the restaurant which bears his name. He’s come along to do a demo to some local culinary students and other guests. The celebrity chef starts by regaling us with stories about Keith Floyd’s yellow oven, which he’s taken with him to demo on, and telling students to move closer so they can see the cooking.  For a man dubbed “enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene” today he seems to be playing the role of a wise, slightly eccentric teacher wrapped up in a gruff exterior – it feels refreshingly honest.  You’d think a chef whose named adorns several steakhouses up and down the country wouldn’t bother with the practicalities, but here he is cooking for us – lobster macaroni, a simple but incredibly well executed dish – and there’s enough for everyone to try.  Afterwards he holds court with the students, asking questions and making sure to speak to everyone.


    After the demo a group of us head up to the 25th floor of the Cube to Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse Bar & Grill in Birmingham.  It is, without a doubt, a stunning perspective of the city with skyline panoramic views.   At night the view makes the city feel positively electric; it’s easy to see why so many people start their night there, sipping a drink and surveying the city which even from here has such a buzz.  But we’re here for lunch and even on an autumnal day the sun is shining and the view is superb.  We’re handed the table d’hote menu, which is a fancy way of say a set menu, although we only have time for one dish.  To carry on the seafood theme, I went for the salmon with chips.  A fellow guest asks me if it rocked my world, and whilst I’m not sure a piece of salmon ever could, it was pleasant, particularly the crunch of the pan-seared skin – although I would’ve perhaps liked a little less oil.


    Disclosure: I was invited to Marco Day by their PR team and wasn’t obliged to write or say anything. Which given the reputation of MPW was probably a wise move.

    Events, News

    Birmingham Halloween events

    Halloween is my favourite non-holiday.  It’s basically an excuse to throw off social conventions and embrace your inner weirdo (which isn’t too far from the surface with me)…I’m already wearing my anatomically correct skeleton earrings in preparation.  Birmingham seems to have really embraced Halloween this year and if you’ve found yourself all dressed up with nowhere to go, then you might find some of these events of interest…

    Taste and Liquor’s Halloween Feast at Botanical Gardens

    12049258_10156183842870089_8946495882174826779_nTaste & Liquor have teamed up with Botanical Gardens to host an alternative Halloween full of spooky forest trails amongst the heritage grounds, exploring secret pathways…and street food.  During the day there’s stuff for the kids (face painting, arts and crafts), but the fun carries on into the evening.

    Delicious, mouth watering street food will be supplied by Press De Cuba, Good Grub, Southern Oven, Fancy Fries, Bailey’s Caribbean, Smokin Spice, Pork Society, Little D’s Crepes and more.  The Rum Bar will be serving a selection of the finest rums and cocktails – both hot and cold.

    Free entry to Members of the Garden and usual door entry price.

    Taste and Liquor at St Paul’s Square 

    Apparently not content with hosting one Halloween celebration, T&L are also hosting a DIY session of creepy tunes, street food, trick or treat and live music on the stunning grounds of St Paul’s Square on All Hallow’s Eve from 6.30pm – 10.00pm.  Taste and Liquor’s aim is to celebrate West Midland’s local history and giving access to thousands of places usually closed to the public with unique pop-up street events…and St Paul’s at Halloween does sound pretty awesome.

    CocktailXChange & Malmaison announces “Halloween Dinner & Dance” at Birmingham Hotel of Horror

    Saw’s Jigsaw invites you to a Dinner & Dance at Malmaison Hotel at the Mailbox in Birmingham on Friday 30 October, where you’ll be treated to a three course dinner accompanied with matching cocktails and mini-talks from Reyka Vodka. On hand will be magician Gavin Parsons with his mind-bending tricks and an afterparty with music provided by DJ Manzo from Hero Records.

    Tickets are on sale now and if you’re lucky you might still be able to get 20% off by quoting “SCARY” at the checkout.

    Food Birmingham’s Kings Heath Halloween Food Festival

    From midday til 8pm in the Kings Heath Village Square, Food Birmingham will be hosting a food festival with fancy dress, face painting, live music, horror themed games stalls – and they’ve got a big marquee in case it rains.

    Some of the food vendors include; Smoqued Food, Leave it to Esmie, Z C’s Food – Caribbean, Change Kitchen – Thai, Burger Bar, Rolling Smoke BBQ, Veg out café, The Hungry Penguin Pancake Company, Nibbles Corner – Macaroni and Cheese, and Pizza Traders.  Some stalls will be offering exclusive discounts to Food Birmingham card holders too.  Oh and there will be an array of spooky-themed cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks on sale too.

    Check out their Facebook event page for more info.

    This is Halloween at The Church (JQ)

    12030413_599900513485730_7980480914743435536_o“Halloween is one of our favourite times of the year” says The Church and it shows because they’ve got a competitive pumpkin carving on the 29th followed by a Halloween party with international DJ Dom Servini (Wah Wah 45’s) and the always incredible Paul Manzotti (Hero Records) to keep you “dancing until your costume falls off”!  The DJs start from 9pm and it’s free entry.

    The New Inn (Harborne)’s Harry Potter Halloween

    Hogwarts comes to Harborne as The New Inn on Vivan Rd host a Harry Potter themed Halloween.  Expect muggle menus, potions class (aka themed cocktails – the Elixir of Life one looks pretty cool), a Spell and Quidditch on the Lawn…which sounds crazy enough to work.  Banquet style seating is limited, so might be worth booking some spaces.  Oh and they’ll have the Sorting Hat too, so you can be sorted in true Harry Potter style.  Check out their Facebook event page.

    The Victoria’s Halloween Weekender

    12088527_10153398633697182_2404715358829698444_nOne evening of merriment isn’t enough for the team at the Vic, they’ve got a whole weekend planned.  Friday night sees Takin’ Care of Business serving up the finest slices of hip-hop, soul and rock ‘n’ roll all night long, and there’s a double whammy on Saturday of Shimmy Ya downstairs with the finest R&B and hip-hop and Darrol Bradford with a blend of soul, funk, pop, and nostalgia.  Sunday sees the return of Takin’ Care of Business to curate the soundtrack to mask the sounds of hoards chomping on some Day of the Dead burger specials and spooky sides.  They’ve also promised a particularly gruesome special cocktail menu.  Fancy dressed in encouraged.

    Oh and they’re also competing with their sister venue, Island Bar.

    The Butcher’s Social (Harborne)

    Spending Halloween in an old butcher’s shop sounds pretty fitting, does it not?  Well the fine folks behind The Butchers Social are making it even more appealing with The Evil Butchers Halloween party.  Fancy dress is essential, entry is free and there will be a DJ & more (I’m not sure what ‘more’ is but it’s intriguing). The party starts from 7pm.  Oh and they’ll also be unveiling the winner of their carved pumpkin competition (winner gets a £15 bar tab).  Check their Facebook event page for more info.


    Competition, News

    Competition: Win tickets for Love Wine festival

    love wine_linea_rgb_web

    Fancy being a lush for the day?  The Love Wine festival is taking place at Hotel du Vin (obviously) on Saturday 7th November and I’ve got a pair of tickets to the first session to give away.

    The Love Wine festival has over 30 exhibitors; including a number of Birmingham wine merchants, as well as artisan foods to buy and try, and wine-related accessories (Christmas is a’coming people).  Wine celebs Helen McGinn from the Alan Titchmarsh Show and Joe Wadsack from BBC Food & Drink will be taking people on Wine Walks – which sound pretty great.  If that’s not enough then a Master of Wine (which is an actual title) and Queen of Fizz will be hosting masterclasses on everything from styles of Bordeaux wine to South American Superstars.  There’s also a free goody bag and Riedel tasting glass (rrp £13) to take home too!

    The event, which promises to be a great one, has a ‘fun, relaxed and informal approach to wine’ and has been organised by BYWine, qualified wine experts who give impartial, independent wine advice and events.  Oh and it’s guilt-free fun because Love Wine has a charity partner, Cure Leukaemia, who will benefit from ticket sales.  So you can do your Christmas shopping, help a charity and drink some wine…what better way to spend a Saturday?!

    If you want to go to the Love Wine festival then tickets for the festival are on sale now, and you can get a sneaky 15% off using the code LW15. Or…the lovely people at Love Wine have said I can give away one pair of tickets to the first session, which takes place from 11.30am – 3pm on Saturday 7th November.  Entering the competition is easy, and there is more than one way to win, just head to the rafflecopter below to find out more – but hurry, the competition closes on Sunday 1 November!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    New New St & Grand Central Birmingham Eateries

    IMG_4025.JPGI’ve been blogging for a while about the new places in Grand Central Birmingham, but entirely managed to miss that new New St would have some of its own too.  Having had a nosy round the place I spotted a few new ones I didn’t realise were coming, so here’s a list of all the places I’ve either heard or seen are going to be opening.

    New St eateries

    • All Bar One – there are a few of these in town so it should come as no surprise
    • Benugo – another exciting one, using local, seasonal food whenever possible and plenty of social responsibility…plus lots of coffee
    • Camden food co – there was one of these in the old New St, healthier food for on the go, sandwiches and salads and that jazz.
    • Costa – has been here for a while and you know the score, coffee, pastries and sandwiches.
    • Delice de France – this has been around during the works, sandwiches and such like.
    • Five Guys – burgers, fries and the most impressive drinks machine I’ve ever seen.
    • Hotel Chocolat – chocolate and other chocolate things.
    • Joe’s Coffee House – barista style coffee, with hot and cold food.
    • Joe and the Juice – this looked like it might technically be part of GC but I could see it from the atrium…coffees, juices and sandwiches.
    • Leon – seasonal and naturally fast food – possibly one of the most exciting additions, I hear the meatball boxes are amazeballs.
    • M&S Simply Food – sandwiches, salads and for when you forgot something from your weekly shop.
    • Mi Casa Burritos – burritos, obviously.
    • The Pasty Shop – luxury pasties, sausage rolls and hot food…pretty there used to be one in old New St.
    • Pret a Manger – handmade natural food, including sandwiches, warm risottos and salads (which my mum really likes).
    • Starbucks – home of the disco coffee (PSL is back!) and other such coffee shop related things.
    • Upper Crust – has been there through the refurb, baguettes and the like.
    • Wasabi – sushi and bento boxes at an affordable price.

    Grand Central Birmingham eateries

    • Caffe Concerto – Italian patisserie selling gateaux, pastries and ice creams, made on the premises…plus sandwiches and tea and coffee.
    • Carluccio’s – authentic Italian dishes, prepared on site daily, including antipasti, salads, fresh handmade pastas and risottos.
    • Cocomacs – freshly baked coconuts macaroons in a range of scrumptious flavours from this micro-bakery and café.
    • Costa – coffee, hot chocolate, sandwiches…you know the drill.
    • Crepe Affiaire – crepes throughout the day, presumably sweet or savoury…entirely up to you.
    • Ed’s Easy Diner – Americana diner…there is one in the Bullring so expect similar.
    • Francesca – Traditional Italian food using healthy products and locally sourced ingredients to produce food based upon traditional Sicilian family recipes.
    • Frizzenti – sparkling and still wines on tap, Prosecco, Italian tapas, coffee and pastries…a more fun way to wait for a train.
    • Fuel – healthy fat free smoothies, freshly squeezed juices, super fuel health shots and wheatgrass shooters…Easy way to five a day.
    • Giraffe – freshly cooked food inspired by dishes from around the world.  Their core management team are local lads and they’ll also be serving up their famous brunch menu and offering deals at the bar.
    • Gobstoppers – will make you feel like a kid in a sweet shop with over 2,000 products from Pop Tarts to Jelly Belly, Reese’s to Wonka, Lucky Charms to Jolly Rancher and everything in-between.
    • Handmade Burger Co – burgers…lots of different types of burgers.
    • Muffin Break – muffins, other baked goods and hot drinks.
    • Nando’s – home of all things cheeky, plus chicken, piri piri sauce.
    • Paul – patisserie from humble beginnings in 1889 as a small bakery in France and now found all over the world.
    • Pho – Authentic Vietnamese street food…bit excited for this one.
    • Square Pie – British food that will put a smile on your face…and home to the pie world cup.
    • Tapas Revolution – Omar Allibhoy is bringing Spain to Birmingham with traditional, authentic Spanish food and wines – stay in or take out.
    • Tortilla – California-style burritos and tacos…and margaritas too.
    • Whittards – tea, all the tea! They do coffee and also cake too…glad this is back in the city.
    • YakiNori – little sister to the well loved Birmingham restaurant Woktastic, serving sushi, bento boxes and food from a teppanyaki grill.
    • Yo!Sushi – the conveyer belt of colourful dishes serving up sushi and other Japanese inspired dishes.

    Events, News

    Food events at part of the Birmingham Literature Festival


    Stories and food are pretty much my two favourite things, so putting them together is a bit of a stroke of genius by the Birmingham Literature Festival – and they have done, several times.  There’s everything from pies to Baltic cuisine and short stories about food at the festival this year, as well as some non-food related talks but obviously that’s for another blog.

    Here are a few of the food related talks at the Birmingham Literature Festival taking place in Birmingham (obviously) this October…

    10 October – Baltic Breakfast at Cafe Opus in the Ikon Gallery

    Taking a journey into the literary traditions of three Baltic nations, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, this event involves short readings and a light breakfast featuring dishes popular in the Baltic.  Novelist Pauls Bankovskis from Latvia, and poets Indrė Valentenaitė and Laurynaus Katkus from Lithuania will share a selection of their work in English translation and there will be short readings in all three languages.

    Tickets are £12 available from

    13 October – cooked up at the at Cafe Opus in the Ikon Gallery

    Cooked up is a short story collection of food fiction from all round the world, looking at why food is such a rich creative inspiration.  Four of the authors, Susannah Rickards, Pippa Goldschmidt, Nikesh Shukla and Elaine Chiew, will share stories and discuss the topic of food and its ability to inspire. Plus there is also a two course supper (at an additional cost of £10) inspired by some of the stories which is available after the readings.

    Tickets for the talk are £8, dinner is an additional £10, available from

    17 October – Stuart Marconie at The Rep

    Stuart’s new book is called The Pie at Night which is handy as the ticket includes an award-winning pie from Birmingham butchers Walter Smith.  The Pie at Night is Stuart’s search for the North of England at play and what this entails, comparing new with old and going on an adventure taking in trips to tapas bars, caravan parks, dog tracks, art galleries and a curry mile, amongst others.

    Stuart is also the author of Cider with Roadies, Pies and Prejudice and Adventures on the High Teas and hosts a bunch of regular radio shows on BBC 6music.

    Tickets are £12 available from

    If you’re interested in the (non-food) related talks or generally want more info about the Birmingham Literature Festival, then their website is

    News, Pop Ups and Streetfood

    What’s Your Biggest Craving…?

    Mini Cravings are the latest product to join The Laughing Cow family and they’re designed to offer a satisfying nibble when you’re craving something but don’t want to spoil your appetite.  They come in a range of flavours, including original, smoked cheese and garlic & herb.  They’re also 14 calories a square and my calorie-conscious mother has already tried them and given them her seal of approval – she had a couple right before lunch and I was a bit worried, thankfully they really didn’t spoil her appetite but did give her enough energy to wander around some shoe shops first.


    Ahead of their Cravings Cube rolling into Birmingham this weekend to launch the Mini Cravings range, the team at The Laughing Cow decided to play cravings genie, promising to satisfy my cravings after posing the question to me “What’s Your Biggest Craving”.  For someone who is pretty much constantly curious (and not just about food), this is a terrible question.  After discounting things like Bernard’s Watch to stop time, one of those Matrix plug-in thingies so I can learn everything, or a pet dinosaur, I realised that by biggest cravings were pretty simple – and food and drink related, obviously.

    coffee and waffles

    Having just moved into a flat and gained a kitchen of my own, I’ve found myself wistfully coveting kitchen gadgets, to the point where my mum will often find me wandering off to gaze at them when we meet up to go shopping.  As someone who spends a lot of time busy doing things and not enough time sleeping, I’m always crazing lazy mornings with good breakfasts.  I have a total weakness for disco coffees (coffee with some sort of sugary flavouring) which I indulge a little too much on my way to work when I’ve decided to press snooze one too many times.  Plus my new flat means that my mum and her husband sometimes pop in on their weekend cycling trips for a coffee, so good coffee is an absolute requirement in my home.  I’ve been eying up a proper coffee machine for weeks now so I can save my pennies and make my own disco coffees at home, but I’ve been buying practical things like bookcases instead.

    waffles and ice cream

    And you know how the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I love nothing more than treating myself to something a little indulgent at the weekend.  Ever since I stayed in a hotel which had its own waffle maker I’ve been wanting a waffle maker of my very own.  Ordinarily I prefer savoury over sweet, but waffles and maple syrup (with streaky bacon if I remember to buy it) is a gloriously indulgent breakfast.  Until now, I just used to buy the pre-made ones, but always fancied having a go at my own.  They’re also pretty nifty with a few scoops of ice cream for pudding too.

    The Laughing Cow’s Cravings Cube has been touring the country and will be rolling into The Bullring this Saturday and Sunday, 22-23 August 2015, to offer you the chance to play the cube and possibly win some great prizes, check out the mini cravings range and try out the Mini Cravings too.  Check out The Laughing Cow Facebook page for photos from previous visits too.

    caving cube locations

    So what have you been craving?

    Disclosure: This post was in collaboration with The Laughing Cow.  As always, they are my honest opinions…and my mum really did eat the cheese right before we left for lunch. I also resisted any urges to make jokes about how my surname sounds a bit like cravin’.