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    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen June event

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is the brainchild of Nick Astley and his Latvian partner Diana Fjodorova. They describe themselves on Facebook as “A pop-up taking a modernist culinary approach to north eastern European cuisine and making fine dining accessible, away from the table cloths and pricetag”, which is a pretty fair depiction.  Except if it were up to me, and Facebook allowed, I’d underline the price tag, because it was ridiculously good value.  Sure you don’t know the location and it’s not the plush surroundings of a Michelin starred restaurant, but this is less about the dining and more about the food.

    I’d missed Two Cats Roaming’s first outing, but their second took place under the arches of Water St, in indie bakery Peel & Stone’s usual Saturday brunch hangout.  No designer wallpaper or modern British artwork, there was a table set for 11 and decorated with wine and Kvass – simple but convivial.

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    The first course, a rosti of quail egg, lumpfish roe and chicken liver prompted some discussion on whether to go all in or politely nibble.  Either way it was delicious.  The next course, bread, butter and smoked fat sounded simple, but the bread was made from a traditional recipe and had a sort of molasses taste to it which could’ve easily been eaten with some jam for supper.  The most squeamish might not have been too keen on the smoked fat, but they’d have sorely missed out as the saltiness and sweetness from the bread were a wonderful contrast.

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    After a little rest from the doorstop of bread we were treated to Pelmeni, cep broth and an egg yolk.  Pelmeni is a dumpling, but with wafer thin dough so think tortellini rather than stodgy and these were lovely – you could easily eat a bowl full.  Our fourth course was a sort of venison tartare served on a sort of hemp paste with raspberry sheets and roses.  The paste wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but i thought the texture added an interesting contrast to the venison.

    Competing with the dumpling for my favourite savoury dish of the night was monkfish cheeks, truffle mayonnaise, parsley and kale.  The monkfish was delightfully cooked; giving it meatiness without being too tough, which was delightful by itself, but more so with the accompaniments.  The sixth course was a sort of bridge between sweet and savoury with carrot, curds, honey and lavender.  Having a lactose intolerance, I tested this out of curiosity but I think the testament to the dish went to the fact that it was welcomed by the person sat opposite me, who ate both portions.

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    The main sweet of the night was an utterly delicious elderflower mousse, cucumber and gingerbread.  I probably should’ve checked the ingredients for this one, but playing on the safe side I indulged in a few mouthfuls of this deliciously perfumed and fluffy mousse before donating it to a fellow diner, again gratefully received and grudgingly donated!  Though I feel the best was saved for last as we were presented with a beetroot marshmallow.  I LOVE marshmallow, and this was a fine example of why homemade marshmallow is infinitely better than ones that have been knocking around vacuum-pack for months.  Delightfully fluffy with a fantastic flavour it rounded off what was a fantastic dining experience.

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    The service was simple, understated and though we were introduced to the dishes, there was none of the overly fussy waiting that comes with fine dining.  Described and delivered, 5+ courses meant that unlike some fine dining experiences that require a sandwich in the taxi home, we left sated. And I should mention the pricetag, a steal of an evening at £30, which comparably beats most established fine dining experiences.

    At its core Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is everything good food should be, an experience that offers minimal fuss and lets the food speak for itself.  Well worth going.  Check their Facebook page or Twitter for details on upcoming events.

    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.

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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).

    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/