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    As featured in, Musings

    I was on the telly!

    Hey look, I was on the news! And no, it wasn’t because I was being arrested for something.

    I’ll admit, being in front of a camera and public speaking are two things I’m really not keen on, so I can only blame the amount of caffeine I’d had that morning for saying yes.  Because it was totally one of those days I decided not to wash my hair or put make up on, so queue me running around at lunchtime to look half-way human – and yet still I managed to pull a series of funny faces. Standard.

    But seriously, the BBC is a respected institution worldwide and I was honoured to be asked to be on the local news edition talking about The Wilderness’ new reservations policy – more interesting than it sounds, I promise! I was even more proud that my mum and her husband were impressed, and my mum spent the evening forwarding me congratulatory texts from her friends. Because being on the telly is kinda terrifying but ace, but knowing your mum is super proud is totally the best thing about it.

    Thankfully you can no longer watch me on the telly, so I will attempt to summarise some of what I said on the telly and add a bit more context.  The Wilderness has been very vocal about the amount of no-shows they’ve had at their restaurant and the impact it has on their business, so implementing a 30 – 40% deposit to secure a reservation seems entirely reasonable.  It’s an investment in a special night out and it’s not like somewhere like there can count of walk in, in the way mass mid-price chain restaurants might.  It’s not like deposits or paying up front is a new concept; Christmas parties and Valentine’s day are just two examples, not to mention that you generally pay for theatre, gig and cinema tickets up front.

    Personally, I would rather invest in a special night out and be guaranteed a table that faff about. Things like no reservations policies, paying up front and larger deposits are all a result of a small amount of people who aim to go out for dinner but have lost all sense of common courtesy and forget to cancel reservations they don’t need. Don’t be that person; cancel a booking you can’t make with as much notice as you can, restaurants are run by humans and the good ones will try and help you out if there’s a good reason you can’t make it. We all want the city’s dining experience to be a good one, so try and be one of the good ones.

    Musings, Round ups

    International Women’s Day 2017

    FAIRY

    I know, on the face of it, International Women’s Day might not have a lot to do with the food and drink scene in a city in England.  However, for anyone who has been paying attention you will have noticed that it’s a bit of a sausage fest, and most of the well known names are distinctly male.  So I figured today was a good day to celebrate some badass women doing cool stuff in Birmingham – apologies to all those who I missed off the list, I ran out of time!

    Amy Seton and Victoria Osgood, Whisky Birmingham festival and Birmingham Whisky Club

    Whisky has this reputation for being a bit of an old man’s drink so if you’re young and female then you expect a bit of confusion when you turn up to whisky events.  But imagine being a woman and the organisers of the best whisky festival in the city and a whole raft of great whisky events too?  Yeah, that is not going to be the easiest thing ever, but Amy and Vicky know their stuff and put on some great events highlighting some great whiskies from around the world with some top-notch speakers. http://thebirminghamwhiskyclub.co.uk/

     Holly Jackson, Carters of Moseley

    I’ve been lucky enough to visit Carter’s a few times over the years and whilst there is no doubt about how fantastic the food is, that Michelin star was well deserved; but it was the relaxed, friendly but entirely on point service that drew me back in.  And for that, Maitre d’ and proprietor Holly must be congratulated.  Thank you for creating a place that feels like a real treat, but somewhere you can relax and not feel like you’re being observed like a specimen in a lab. http://cartersofmoseley.co.uk/

    Imogen Hudson, Jen Smith, Holly Smith and Jen Nadin (Cherry Reds). Picture, used with permission, by Jas Sansi

    Jen Nadin, Cherry Reds

    I bloody love Cherry Reds. This will come as no surprise to anyone who interacts with me on social media; it’s often my most recommended place because it covers nearly all dietary requirements without making a song and dance about it, has a great beer selection and a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.  And no one minds when you order tea and cake on a Friday night.  Jen is the brains behind Cherry Reds and for that I salute her. http://www.cherryreds.com/

    Marverine Cole aka Beer Beauty

    Marverine is Birmingham’s first Beer Sommelier, as accredited by the UK Beer Academy, in another industry typically associated with men.  As well as winning award for her beer videos, she has appeared on a bunch of TV shows promoting Britain’s national drink. http://www.marverinecole.co.uk/beer-expert.html

    Martha and Molly, Loaf

    I think all the staff at Loaf are great but special mention to Martha and Molly who put up with me every Saturday morning after I’ve rolled out of bed and headed to Loaf, pre-coffee and still half asleep.  As well as starting my day with one of their delicious croissants, a quick chat with them is a great start to the day. http://loafonline.co.uk/

    Rosie Ginday, Miss Macaroon, promotional photo

    Rosie Ginday, Miss Macaron

    Rosie trained as a high-end pastry chef at University College Birmingham and worked at the Michelin-starred Purnell’s restaurant before founding Miss Macaroon.  As well as making these sweet treats, they provide employment and training programmes aimed at young people who have left care, slipped through the education system or find themselves homeless. https://missmacaroon.co.uk/

    Kaye Winwood

    If you’ve been to any slightly out there events in Birmingham that fuse food and art together, chances are that Kaye has been behind them.  From her work with Companis through to last year’s Diabolical Roses and the upcoming Expanded Intimacy, Kaye has been producing immersive dining experiences, which are a highlight in Birmingham’s calendar. http://kayewinwood.com/

    Opus Restaurant Irene Allen, photo used with permission

    Irene Allen, Opus

    Director of Opus on Cornwall St and Bar Opus in Two Snowhill, Irene and her team have been doing some stellar work supporting young people in the hospitality trade with their links with University College Birmingham and their commitment to sustainability.  And their prix fixe menu is a really good deal. http://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk/

    Pip, Pip’s Hot Sauce

    I recently marinated some chicken in Pip’s BBQ sauce and it was bloody delicious, which is hardly surprising as Pip’s sauce has a cult following in the city.  Often found manning her own stall at various markets in the city, Pip’s Hot Sauce is made in small batches and can even be made up as wedding favours, which sounds like a superb idea. http://www.pipshotsauce.co.uk/

    Katie Rouse of Crushed & Cubed

    Katie has spent a good deal of time making sure that Birmingham’s independent scene has some decent drinks.  As a bartender she has been seen slinging cocktails behind bars at The Victoria, Jekyll & Hyde and The Botanist. But taking the step up, she’s currently managing director of Crushed & Cubed, making sure that there are some interesting bottles on the city’s independent back bars so we punters have something good to drink. https://twitter.com/CrushedandCubed

    Happy International Women’s Day ladies (and gents) – lets raise a glass to those women making Birmingham great!

    As seen in

    Featured in Sainsbury’s Magazine

    Guess who was asked to write something for Sainsbury’s Magazine?  Yep, little old me!  You know me, any excuse to talk about the food (and drink) scene in the city and especially when it’s in a national publication – and one I actually read, usually on the bus home when I’m trying to balance all my shopping.

    I could only pick four places, so I picked the ones that I think are pretty cool – and might appeal to fellow Sainsbury’s Magazine readers.  If you’d like to read the column, the nice people at Sainsbury’s Magazine have handily added it online.  If you’d like to read more about the places I mentioned, I’ve popped some links to my blog posts below;

    • Rofuto I haven’t written up my food experience, I think the photos got lost in the great tech fail of 2016, but I’m heading back soon so will link then – though here are my first look photos.
    • Gas Street Social I’ve been to a few times – here’s one on their brunch and some festive cocktails.
    • Original Patty Men, obviously they’re my favourite place in Birmingham for burgers.  But I also managed to get a mention of The Meat Shack who I also think are ace, I’m just sad they don’t have their own bricks and mortar place I can head to for burgers!
    • The Edgbaston’s afternoon tea, which is lush, whether it’s Christmas or the standard variety.

    Another fun surprise from the article was when my friend spotted a mention of it on TripAdvisor, as the reason someone went to Gas St Social.  Probably time to stop thinking the only person that reads the blog is my mum.

    sainsburys_rec

    Round ups

    Christmas gift guide: Birmingham food & drink

    xmas_gift_guideDeck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la…it’s almost Christmas!  Hopefully you’ve all been good boys and girls and are sitting down to write your letters to Santa about all the loot you want for Christmas.  If that’s the case, then let me help you out.  Last year I came up with ten food and drink gifts you might want to indulge in, but this year I’ve got oh so much more ideas to share.

    This list is long but it is by no means exhaustive, I could’ve rambled on for days, but by then you’d have opened all your advent calendar doors and Rudolph would’ve come and gone.  But I did get a little overexcited with ideas, so I’ve split it into four categories; stocking fillers, gift cards, DIY and gifts that keep giving.

    Stocking Fillers

    So we don’t really do stockings in my family, the only one I’ve ever had was a Nightmare Before Christmas one handmade for me by my friend Beccy…it’s ace.  BUT, I hear they’re kinda a thing and rather than lumps of coal and oranges you might want to add something a little more exciting.

    • Gin lovers might like a bottle of HOCKLEY TONIC.  It’s a Birmingham-made tonic syrup, which added with some sparkling water, will lift your gin and let it taste its best – no more metallic aftertaste of cheap tonic for your friends!  Also, it’s a good gateway to get the gin-phobics in your life imbibing the stuff because most people who say they hate gin hate tonic. Get Hockley Tonic at Loki Wines.
    • If you want to get something that’s sweet for the recipient but leaves you with the warm fuzzies about doing some good, then head to social enterprise MISS MACARON in the Great Western Arcade.  They sell delicious macarons but also employ long term, unemployed young people, training them up to make the delicious macarons you nibble on.
    • So if your stockings are more figurative then what about a five litre mini-keg from FIXED WHEEL BREWERY?  Choose any of their beers you like, and prices start from £20 plus it means you’ll have something good to drink on the big day.  I’m a big fan of their Pope of Dope, a lemon and hibiscus saison.
    • Combining a classic card game (sort of) and mother’s ruin, check out JUST GIN, the world’s first gin top trumps, on sale by Birmingham’s own Gintleman for £8 plus postage.

    macaron_madamemoiselle

    Gift cards

    If you ask me, money as a Christmas present suggests a lack of imagination, that is unless the person really needs the money…in which case this entire post is a bit frivolous.  But if you want to get someone something but are crap at wrapping things, then gift cards are totally the way to go.  Because experiences, they’re often better than things…and this way you get the best of both.

    • On spotting this I was unreasonably excited, but CHERRY REDS do gift vouchers which means you can buy a friend brunch, beer…or halloumi (which is a cornerstone of Cherry Reds, surely).  With one on John Bright St in town and one in Kings Heath, there’s double the excuse to get one.
    • What about giving someone the gift of the ‘water of life’?  The always excellent BIRMINGHAM WHISKY CLUB have an array of vouchers, from Whisky Tasting Gift Vouchers available in £5 and £10 or how about a voucher for their annual Whisky Birmingham 2017 festival?  Or if you want something year round, there’s also their annual membership. Whisky fans rejoice!
    • For the vegetarians and vegans in your life then gift vouchers for 1847 in the Great Western Arcade are a great shout.  Buy them a sum of money or a voucher for a three course meal for two, because surely you should get in on the fun too.  Here’s what I made of their latest menu.
    • Ever wanted to treat your friend to a Michelin-starred meal?  Then check out CARTERS OF MOSELEY who do amazing food and let you buy gift vouchers. My sister bought me a voucher a couple of years ago, which was a total surprise when the email landed in my inbox, and proves that she is rather excellent.
    • If you’ve got a friend who loves food but you never know where they’ve already eaten, then why not get them an OPENTABLE voucher?  I tried it out using it at El Borracho de Oro earlier in the year and it was super simple.

    pouring_whisky_webDo it Yourself (or themselves)

    If you’ve got a friend that’s a dab hand at cooking up a storm, then why not buy them something that means they’ll improve their culinary expertise even further?  Better yet, buy them a cooking or drinks masterclass and then ask them to show you what they’ve learnt…that way you get to enjoy the gift too!

    • I entirely adore the team at LOAF COOKERY SCHOOL and having done three of their masterclasses now, I highly recommend them.  Whether it’s learning to make macarons, bread or a full day of learning some of the art of butchery, whoever attends one of their masterclasses is guaranteed to go home with plenty of  food – you never know, they might share.  Buy a gift voucher here.
    • If you know someone who always orders wine but knows nothing about it, why not send them to a beginners guide to wine class at LOKI WINE?  This two hour wine course will give them the basics to start exploring the world of wine.
    • If you’re looking for a group gift, then why not buy your friends a cocktail masterclass?  There’s plenty on offer in Birmingham from the likes of Island Bar, All Bar One, Bodega…check out the one I did at Revolution here.
    • Chocoholics should head down to the CHOCOLATE QUARTER in the Jewellery Quarter who do several chocolate related masterclasses.  I mean generally you should go there anyway, but if you’re looking for a present for a friend, I tried their truffle making masterclass earlier in the year and it was a lot of fun.

    making_sausages_group Gifts that keep giving

    Who wants to get all their presents at Christmas?  I mean you could be as rubbish as I am and end up not seeing friends until a few days after Christmas so you get to extend the gift giving season…but what about extending it even further, say for the whole year?  If that sounds up your street, here are a few ideas…

    • How about an INDEPENDENT BIRMINGHAM card?  This will get you some excellent discounts at the likes of Fiesta del Asada, several Michelin-starred restaurants, Peel & Stone and the Hippodrome theatre.  Because they’re up on the festive goodwill they’re on offer with one for £12 or two for £18, which is ridiculous bargain given how much you can save.
    • For coffee lovers, the team behind YORKS BAKERY CAFE have started Birmingham’s very first Birmingham-born coffee roastery.  As well as an array of brewing equipment, they do a coffee subscription whereby they’ll send a bag of 300g coffee every fortnight.
    • What do you get the person who has everything?  What about something a bit more left-field and a subscription to LOVE BRUM, a Birmingham charity who supports the local community to build an even better Birmingham.  Buy your loved one a membership for £20 and let them help supporting the projects they choose.

    So there we have it, just a few Birmingham food and drink inspired gifts you might want to give your loved ones this festive season.  Tell me, what are you hoping Santa leaves under the tree for you this December?

    Disclosure: No one gave me anything to be included in this gift list because I’m a terrible blogger. I just did this for the goodwill.

    Musings

    Life update

    4489063840_972a67f145_b

    Picture by Niall Kennedy

    So its been a bit quiet round here, as of late, hasn’t it?  Saying I’ve been poorly feels like a massive cop-out but it’s the truth; for what feels like forever I’ve been doing a pretty good impression of a zombie (and not the drink).

    You’ll notice the blog has been pretty quite for about the last two months and if I’m honest, that’s probably when everything started to go from being a bit “oh I must be a bit run down” to no, I’m really not very well. Without boring everyone it was sort of a pattern of going to work, coming home and bargaining with myself how long I had to stay awake for, then going to sleep for ten or more hours (as opposed to my usual seven) and waking up not feeling rested at all.  And even when I was awake I felt pretty brain dead most of the time.

    I pretty much had to cancel nearly everything in my diary, go into early hibernation and become a social recluse.  It was pretty miserable, and at times it felt like a rip-off version of iZombie where I had to pretend to be a functional member of society rather than a member of the undead, but thankfully no brain eating (or brain-eating superpowers).  I did have lambs liver for dinner a few times in case it was a low iron problem, but that’s more Hannibal Lecter than anything.

    Blood tests show I’m probably more vampire than zombie because I’m now taking vitamin D tablets – although turns out most of the UK probably should be.  On a plus side, I never get bored of being told I don’t have diabetes, but I’m not really sure what the hell was wrong with me.

    So why am I telling you this?  Several reasons really, but I suppose the main thing was I felt I owed an explanation to the readers of the blog, and to the people waiting on stuff on here.  I kept hoping that it was just a bug and whilst I was focusing on just getting through the things I absolutely needed to do day-to-day, in hindsight I should’ve called in sick on this blog weeks ago.

    It’s been a few days now since I stopped feeling like an extra from a George Romero movie.  I’m not completely better and I know I’ve totally overdone it by staying out past 9pm a few nights this week.  But I think I’m doing a better impression of being a functioning human (lets face it, I was never that good when I was well) and I’m hoping to get back to blogging.  I’ve built up a massive backlog thanks to the technological problems I had before, and the enforced hiatus.  I’m going to try and clear those, so hopefully there will be lots of posts in the next few weeks, but I’m also mindful I’m still not 100% and I don’t want to go backwards.

    …Grr, Argh.

    As featured in

    Guest post for Virgin Trains

    virigntrains_fttb

    I’m a bit please about this; recently Virgin Trains got in contact and asked me if I fancied writing something to lure people to the fine city of Birmingham, and of course I was more than happy to do so.  After much debate (and excuses to go and make absolute sure how much I liked some of the places), I wrote a bit of an opus about some of the places I’d check out, food and drinks wise, if I were travelling to Birmingham.  Of course there are loads more places I missed off the list, but I’m really pleased with how this turned out.  If you want to have a read of it, here’s the link to it;

    Virgin Trains: An insider’s foodie guide to Birmingham