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Musings

    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.

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    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.

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    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

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    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

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    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

    Round ups

    April round-up

    I seem to start a lot of these round-ups with the realisation that the month was busy, like that’s some sort of new revelation.  Which is silly really, because nearly everyone I talk to these days is busy.  You know, even those people who think having a dental appointment as their only engagement counts as busy (yeah mum, totally looking at you here).  So if we’re all busy then doesn’t the word stop having any real meaning?  And a lot of the time I should be busy but I’m avoiding doing things and instead doing things like binge-watching iZombie on Netflix instead.

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    Anyway, you’re not here for a quasi-philosophical exploration into the nature of busy.  In fact, you’re probably here to get an idea of what happened last month, because that’s sort of what I bill these posts as.  And last month was busy kinda awesome.  Two exciting things happened; the first was that I was shortlisted in the Birmingham Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards in the blogger category and the second was I did a presentation to a bunch of digital communications enthusiasts about building a brand as a blogger.  I’ll write up the presentation, because strangers said nice things about it which means it might be of further interest to people.  Oh and a third thing, which I nearly forgot to mention, was that Ting (of The Ting Thing) and I are attempting to revive Brum Bloggers, because there are lots of ace bloggers in the city shouting about cool stuff.

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    Anyway, back to this blog.  I tried to do a few more round ups of news things this month, and I’m not sure how successful they were, but I don’t really have the time to re-write every food related press release going, and given there’s enough places doing that, I figure rounding them up so I’m sharing the news but in a less time-consuming way.  I also did a sort of mid-month round up, with the intention of doing it weekly, but frankly my life is not that interesting and some weeks my food adventures are defrosting turkey meatballs and sneaking off to KFC on a Friday.   But I did do a quick post about Peel & Stone’s Harborne venue pop up at their JQ location, because it looked kinda awesome and I was gutted I couldn’t get to any, but I will be jumping on the bus to check out the new store when it opens.

    That said, whilst I didn’t do so many out and out news pieces, I did do a bit of a rant editorial about something the local newspaper put out that irked me a bit about the nature of chain restaurants versus independent ones.  I’m quite liking doing posts which are more thinking about the city’s food and drinks scene as a whole, and I might inflict a few more on you, as and when I can come up with ideas for them.

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    Back to the actual food blogging itself, I went to a bunch of new places, some of which I’m yet to write up.  One place I did get to was Rofuto, which a lot of people were very excited about and so was I.  In fact, I’m so excited I’ve done two trips, and the post about the food will follow.  On a Japanese-ish theme I went to have a look round the new-look wagamamas and had everyone’s favourite chicken katsu curry.  And after all that raw fish and battered chicken, it was nice to head to 3 Three’s in Martineau Place, which is Birmingham’s first mainly-vegan café.  Finally, one of my favourite things about the change in season (I feel like I can say this now we’ve actually had some sunshine) is that The Studio switch up their food menu and they’ve been nice enough to invite me along to sample the dishes, which form part of their package for people hosting events there.

    And I think that’s about it in terms of things I need to tell you – and this post is way longer than it needed to be.  This month is looking equally enthusiastic, I just need to find some time to write everything up, but if I can there will be steak, chocolate, cocktails and maybe pizza.

    Quick news round up

    • Eden, a new café in Erdington opened recently and it looks worth checking out
    • There’s a musical about food crime on Sat 14th May outside St Martin’s in the Bullring at midday and 2.30pm, which sounds crazy enough to be fun.
    • James Bowker Head Bartender of the Edgbaston Boutique Hotel is through to the Diageo Reserve World Class GB final and is a pretty flipping big deal
    • Be at One Bar opens this month, I spoke to one of the founders and it’s sounds like it’s going to be ace.
    • Bagels, beer, cocktails and more, Peaky’s finally announced their new location and they’re going to be on John Bright St
    • Celebrating local and sustainable produce, Opus has a cracking new Friday deal – two elegant courses, half a bottle of wine and a selection of homemade bread for £25 per person
    Round ups

    This week: 11 – 17 April 2016

    I’ve realised there’s a lot going on and I don’t always get time to write up everything; so I’m trialling out a sort of weekly round up of good places I’ve been to (that may or may not be blogged about later), news I’ve stumbled across and anything else short and snappy. Let me know what you think of the idea…

    Went to / discovered

    • A nutrition talk at in the Great Western Arcade.  It was an interesting overview on ways to overcome bad eating habits.  They’re looking to run some more sessions looking as specific areas of nutrition, so once I hear more I’ll let you know.
    • Ikea as part of the Live Lagom project – there was a bit of an update, a chance to meet some of the others taking part locally, see some new products Ikea are bringing in which have sustainability in mind, and eat some meatballs.
    • Slow cookers can make pretty decent curry for lunch. I’d blog the recipe, but whilst it tasted good, it looked a bit oddly coloured.
    • Cherry Reds and Waterstones Birmingham cafes for tea and cake.  I’m not doing a write up of them as that seems a little silly, I can heartily recommend the rainbow cake at Cherry Reds and red velvet cake at Waterstones.

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    News

    Rofuto, the new Japanese concept bar and restaurant at the top of Park Regis at Five Ways is offering early birds keen to try them out with 50% off food as part of their soft launch offer running from Friday 22nd April to Saturday 23rd April.  Reservations can be made via email – reservations@rofuto.co.uk

    Deliveroo Birmingham turned one this week!  The on-demand delivery service delivered via a fleet of delivery mopeds and bicycles and can often be spotted in the city, covering more than 3,000km a week and providing more than 60 jobs, as well as food to your door.

    Moseley is getting a new upmarket wine bar thanks to Prince of Wales’ Keith Marsden.  The Cheval Blanc will be next to the Dark Horse, one of Keith’s other venues, and is due to open in May.

    The worst kept secret in Birmingham is that Langley’s are going to be opening a bar in the city. I tweeted a photo of the licensing application stuck to the Great Western Arcade, but lets keep that between us, right?

    Did I mention Brum Yum Yum are going to be opening a permanent city centre Hawker style venue on Pershore Rd, near the Arcadian.  It’ll give street food vendors a chance to have a bit of a permanent base, without the costs associated with it.  I’ll get more info when it’s closer to opening.

    Shaanti’s Holi Rave Festival is back on city on Saturday 16 April 2016 at the Digbeth Gardens with daytime and evenings shows so everyone gets a chance to go.  Taste & Liquor will be curating the food area, and there’s more info on http://www.holirave.com