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    Round ups

    Festive Food (I forgot to tell you about)

    So yeah, sorry this is late and you won’t actually get to try and of these dishes because it’s January and everyone is regrowing their livers with a green juice “detox” or whatever BS people do in the New Year New Me cause.  But the point was really an aide memoire that there are places in Birmingham doing interesting things, and we should remember to check them out – because restaurants are for all months of the year, not just for December.

    Pigs in Blankets Eggy Crumpets from Wayland’s Yard

    Isn’t Wayland’s Yard great?  The first time we went in to this little cafe hiding on Bull St I thought it looked a bit like a Melbourne coffee shop, which is a compliment because Australians really know how to treat their coffee well and Melbourne has the best cafes in the world. So yes, the coffee in Wayland’s is good, but thankfully so is the food.  I say food, I always have the eggy crumpets, but if they’ half as good as that, you’ll be fine.  For Christmas this year, they had the above version, pigs in blankets eggy crumpets and It Was Good.  To be fair, you can order your eggy crumpets with chorizo and bacon all year round, so you can sort of get the same hit. And I highly recommend it.

    Wayland’s Yard, 42 Bull Street, Birmingham B4 6AF

    The Meat Shack’s Santa Shack

    Usually I’m a classicist when it comes to burgers and I think it’s hard to beat a bacon cheeseburger, but there are a few places I’m willing to deviate from my normal and The Meat Shack on Thorpe St is one of those.  And over December, they were selling the Santa Shack, a burger which tasted liked Christmas between a bun.  I know because I had it more than once.  A beef patty, braised red cabbage, camembert, candy bacon crumb, chipotle – cranberry, ketchup, deep fried greens and mustard mayo with parsnip crisps on the side, it was filling and hearty without putting you into a Christmas-style food coma, and that was just spot on.  Sadly it was only a December delicacy, but I’m hoping if we campaign enough, they might bring it back again for a special.  Christmas in July anyone?

    The Meat Shack, 17 Thorp St, Birmingham B5 4AT

    Deep & Crisp & Vegan pie from Pieminister

    When vegan-food explorer extraordinaire Tasha from NutellaTasha invites you to lunch, it would be rude to say no.  And it would be rude not to go native and order vegan too, so that’s what I did.  The Deep & Crisp & Vegan pie from Pieminister has one of the best pun-tastic names from the festive season, and it was delicious.  A creamy vegan turkey pie with celeriac, smoked garlic & sherry, on a bed of mashed potato and topped with stuffing balls and cranberry sauce. YUM.

    Pieminister, 16 Waterloo St, Birmingham B2 5UG

    Mama Creaven’s roast pheasant

    Christmas even dinner is when my mum gets to have some fun, and so this year because she wasn’t cooking Christmas dinner, we had roast pheasant with bacon, onions and a red wine jus.  There was also vegetables, and the biggest surprise of all, potatoes. Whilst my mum’s idea of carbs is usually stealing mine when we go out for dinner, this delicious sauce warranted leaving nothing behind and spuds were just the ticket.  Sorry, you can’t book into my mum’s house for dinner, it’s hard enough for me to get an invite, but this was one of my favourite festive meals, so it deserved a mention.  If you want to know the recipe let me know and I’ll ask my mum.

    Nice try, I’m not telling you where my mum lives.

    Disclaimer: I call my mum mum, or Bernie if she’s not replying. We’re from Birmingham, I’ve never called her mom and I’m not about to start now. Also, I didn’t pay for dinner at my mum’s because that would be weird. I did pay for the burger and the crumpets and I was Tasha’s guest for pie but I don’t really think they cared who I was.

    Round ups

    Christmas gift guide

    I know, this is way later than I intended but if you’re running low on Christmas cheer and need some inspiration for Christmas gifts for your foodie friends and loved ones, here are five to get you started…

    This Cookbook Belongs To Us

    Hear me out, recipe books might seem like a naff idea for the foodie in your life but this one is actually good. Not only is it packed with recipes which actual normal humans could feasibly make on a regular basis, it also has fancier ones too. Better yet, the recipes feature personal stories about what the recipes mean to people, and the money raised goes to support refugees in transit. So really you’re buying double the gift, a present for your lovely one and goodwill to men (women and non-binary folk).

    Costs £12.50 from Bearwood and Kings Heath Action for Refugees website

    Independent Birmingham card

    Yeah, I know I recommend this every year, but every year it continues to add good value. I’m pretty sure I’ve recouped the cost of one on trips to The Electric alone, which I then spend on tea and cake to eat before the film. The IB card gets you some great deals at a number of independent venues in the city and you will easily make your money back within the year, even if your memory is as crap as mine. It’s also a handy little reminder about some of the more off the beaten track venues that exist around the city.

    Buy from the Independent Birmingham website

    Cheese and wine from Grace + James

    This is a great gift because the chances are they’ll invite you round to enjoy the cheese and wine you’ve just gifted them, and so it pays to get something good. Kings Heath’s Grace + James have pulled together a number of cheese and wine offerings from a top notch hamper through to an array of wines for the big day itself. Their Christmas Day wine case will see you through your Christmas Meal, with two bottles of red, two bottles of white, a bottle of fizz and a bottle of dessert wine for afters.

    Prices range depending on items ordered, which can be done in store or via email.

    Byng Inc’s Daily Special 2019 calendar gift set

    Local artist Louise Byng has created a calendar which takes views on a culinary voyage to discover the weird and wonderful experience of cuisine and culture. With everything from historic honey through to a special edition Burger King Whopper, this A4 calendar will not only provide you with some interesting fact, but 25% of all profits are donated to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity.

    Order from Byng Inc:

    Gift Cards

    What do you get the person who has everything? Easy, get them an experience they’ll enjoy and, even better, you won’t have to wrap anything – better yet, they might take you along to share the joy.

    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.


    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.

    Cake, Recipes

    Mincemeat, Pear and Honey Tart

    pear and mincemeat tart

    If the local press are to be believed there was supposed to be a dusting of snow this morning, although sadly I didn’t see any.  Any which way, I thought it was a good excuse to show off this mincemeat, pear and honey tart, because the icing sugar dust is probably as close as I’ll get to snow today.

    The recipe is actually Brian Turner’s Mincemeat, Pear & Honey Tart, although I made a few modifications.  Firstly, due to the lack of sensible sized baking tray and not being very good at cutting things out (I blame being left handed but really I’m just not very good at making pretty things), I made mine rectangular instead of circular.  I also didn’t bother with the egg and egg yolk wash on the borders and just went for the one egg, which I don’t think made much difference, personally.

    I really liked this recipe for a couple of reasons; firstly it was really tasty and secondly it meant I could use up mincemeat.  And by use up I mean find a legitimate way of eating mincemeat post-Christmas because the supplies of mince pies seem to dry up and this is a winter recipe…look I even added wintery decorations to make it so!  Although I’m also thinking it could be time to break out Wizzard to Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by having a go at making individual versions because I think it would be fun and then I won’t feel so bad if I eat a couple, rather than half the tart.

    You can find the recipe over on the Stoves website, and for once I’ve not modified it enough to warrant re-posting my version here.  Happy New Year mincemeat eating folks!

    Disclosure: Stoves gave me a supermarket voucher to buy my ingredients to recreate this recipe, but I wasn’t obliged to say anything nice. I may have bought a couple of jars of mincemeat ‘just in case’.

    Round ups

    Ten food/drink gift ideas for Brummies


    If you’re struggling to come up with a present for the food and drink lover in your life then here are a few ideas.  I’m pretty crap at knowing what I want for Christmas, but usually alright at buying stuff for other people.  These are mostly Birmingham-based and some are really good last minute ideas too…

    Independent Birmingham card

    Want to give someone a gift that keeps on giving, right through ’til next Christmas?  Then the Independent Birmingham card is perfect.  It has a positively dizzying array of discounts at a number of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as a bunch of non-food places (yeah, that’s a thing, who knew).  Did I mention there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant on their offer role?!  What’s more, they’re doing a deal if you buy two cards at once, so that’s one for a friend and one for you – after all, sharing is caring.

    Tickets to Whisky Birmingham

    Anyone else like presents which means you get to continue Christmas a few days after the 25th?  Well then, getting someone tickets for Whisky Birmingham festival means you can carry on celebrating right through until 12th March (that might be pushing it).  And what a celebration you’ll have as Birmingham’s festival of whisky and whiskey (and bourbon) showcases some of the best whiskies from around the world.  What better way to spend a Saturday?

    A bottle of Langley’s Gin

    A bottle of gin under the Christmas tree is always going to make me happy, but when it’s a bottle of the local stuff then event better.  Distilled in the B postcode area at the well respected Langley distillery, Langley’s Gin has a mix of eight traditional botanicals that produce a lovely smooth gin, which could be drunk over ice, as well as with a good quality tonic or in a cocktail.   

    A cookery class from Loaf

    Stirchley’s Loaf does more than just make amazing bread (seriously it’s great, as are their sweet bakes too), it also hosts a cookery school, teaching everything from bread basics to butchery, seafood and foraging.  As well as running some of the classes themselves, they also use a range of well known culinary geniuses from around the region.  I did the bread basics one a few years ago and went home with armfuls of bread, as well as more confidence in bread baking.

    Yipsy Macarons

    What do you get the person who has everything? Food of course, you can never have too much food! And whilst it’s Christmas, a bag full of cheese might be a bit much, but something light, delicate and indulgent would be perfect.  Yipsy Macarons’ limited edition Christmas-themed macarons include festive flavours of gingerbread and mince pies, and are hand decorated with snowflakes and other festive scenes.


    Okay, not strictly Birmingham, but dotcomgiftshop do deliver here.  There’s lots of lovely food related things on there and I really like this recipe tin which I was recently sent – I’m terrible at remembering to write down recipes, so having this tin in the kitchen is really handy, as I can scrawl the ingredients down on a card and recreate the recipe later. 

    A hamper from Anderson & Hill

    Anderson & Hill is a great little deli in the Great Western Arcade and full of treats throughout the year (not least of all their epic sandwiches).  But at Christmas you can customise your own hamper – for a gift or just for your own really special Christmas.  With everything from cured meats to coffee, alcohol, chutneys as far as the eye can see and lots of other treats, the only real struggle you’ll have will be either finding a hamper large enough, or your wallet hampering your options.

    A cocktail masterclass

    Got a group of friends and getting a bit bored of secret santa?  Why not treat each other to a group cocktail masterclass?  There’s a bunch of places in Birmingham doing them, including Island Bar, The Edgbaston and Bar Opus, and you get the added benefit of avoiding dry January and having fun with your friends…and you don’t have to wrap anything.

    Gift vouchers for Carters

    So I can’t claim any credit for finding this one, my sister sent me a gift voucher for Carter’s of Moseley as last year’s Christmas present and I put it towards a Sunday supper which was awesome.  You can buy the gift vouchers in denominations for £20, £30, £50, £100 and £200 straight from Carter’s and can be put towards food and drink at this Michelin starred restaurant.


    Okay, okay this is such an obvious one that I know you’ve already eyed up a selection box whilst in the supermarket.  But why not try something a little different?  Chouchoute in the Great Western Arcade opened in 2002 and sell luxury chocolates made by their artisan chocolatier.  Charlie’s Mom’s Chocolate Factory can often be found at craft fairs in and around the city (the latest one was Bearwood).  But of course there’s always a box of Cadbury’s Roses too.

    Disclosure: I wrote this because it’s Christmas and I wanted to do something nice.  Photos aren’t mine, they’re mainly promo photos, but the macaron photo is by stacie tamaki the chocolate by Artizone and the cocktail kit photo is by ProFlowers – all from Flickr.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Meatshack pop up

    IMG_1190.JPGTalking about Christmas things feels massively belated and I was going to give blogging about this a miss. After all, everyone knows how awesome MeatShack burgers are. But given I hijacked my annual friends’ Christmas / New Year get together and tried duck hearts for the first time, it was worth writing down for prosperity.

    Having seen The MeatShack were going a pop up at Carters of Moseley on one of two days my friends and I had pencilled in for our catch up I figured I’d risk it and book us in. Three of us are already confirmed MeatShack fans and I figured the best Christmas present I could give the rest of them was opportunity to experience the dripping filthy goodness.

    In the end there were seven of us and we arrived at Carters to witness almost military precision in getting tables turned round.  I’d sent round the menu when I found it so most of us knew what we were ordering, but I’d failed to notice the duck hearts in spicy sauce and was eager to try. Thankfully Will was equally curious and between us we managed to convince a few others to give them a whirl.  In my mind I’ve never really been a fan of animal organs as food; it’s not a gross-factor to me, it’s just I’ve found the texture and taste a bit odd. However these were delicious. The duck hearts had a nice chewiness to them, like meaty mushrooms, and the sauce was spicy but less on the heat side of things and more Thai influenced, which allowed the flavour of the hearts to come through. Big fan.

    And of course the MeatShack burgers were as good as always – delicious meat, seasoned well and a bun which held things together. The shoestring fries, which usually disappoint me if I see them on the menu, were actually a nice accompaniment – salty and crispy which complemented the big slab of burger perfectly.IMG_1197.JPG

    With bacon ice cream for pudding you can bet I was going to give this a try. I’ve had bacon cupcakes before so I know the salty bacon and sweetness works well, as did it this time. The shard of nutty caramel I was less keen on, only because it was pretty tricky to eat. I suspect small pieces or as a topping would’ve allowed me to enjoy it more.

    All in all a rousing success. We finished just about in our allotted time, with everyone full of praises for MeatShack.  And with that it was off to the pub.

    Disclosure: Christmas is the month of giving and receiving so we gave the nice people at Carters/Meatshack money and they gave us burgers. We each paid for our own meals; wasn’t obliged to say anything nice and all opinions are my own blah blah. Although I did swap presents with one of my friends and got some awesome dinosaur earrings, but that was nothing to do with dinner.

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Hotel la Tour festive afternoon tea

    Last weekend I joined some food bloggers at Hotel la Tour for some festive afternoon tea.  Organised by Emily from Recipes and Reviews, it was a great excuse to catch up with some fellow bloggers, Emily from Recipe & Reviews (who organised the event), Roz and Taylah I’d met several times before, but everyone else (Alex Gingey Bites, Emma Fork and GoodHello Terri Lowe, Natasha Unorganised Chaos, Sophie Penne For Your Thoughts, and Hannah Bakes Things) I’d only ever spoken to on twitter, so was lovely to put faces to names.

    IMG_0946.JPGAs we hadn’t told Hotel la Tour we were bloggers trying to find everyone was fun – plus we were an hour early due to time mix ups.But Hotel la Tour weren’t fazed and showed us to our spot before asking us if we wanted our drinks – food wouldn’t be served until 2pm.  I’d been to afternoon tea at Hotel la Tour earlier in the year for a friend’s birthday, so I was prepared for the stands, but nevertheless they’re still an impressive sight – and were very prompt! They contained four types of finger sandwiches, welsh rarebit and soldiers, scones with jam and cream, plus an array of desserts.I was impressed that they’d managed to cater for food intolerances too (I didn’t tell them about my lactose intolerance because if there’s one meal to suffer for, afternoon tea is it).

    Being bloggers we all immediately whipped out our cameras to start taking photos. My friends and family are all well trained, but it was nice to be amongst people who weren’t sighing and going “are you done yet”.

    Starting at the top I had a little nibble at the Welsh rarebit which was nice, but I felt the soldiers were a little too crisp – I like some chewiness to my toast and they were more like croutons. The sandwiches were delightful and nice to have such a range; turkey and cranberry, salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonaise and ham.  Although they were all lovely my favourite was the turkey and cranberry – perhaps because it was seasonal.

    The scones were well baked, neither too dense nor too crumbly, which made them feel fresh.  This also meant that they weren’t too difficult to cut open and lather with jam, something which I was thankful for as I was balancing the plate on my knees.  I declined the cream, but the others seem to enjoy it.

    After a little rest it was on to the desserts.  The clementine & Grand Marnier trifle was very sweet but it didn’t have much of the Grand Marnier kick to me.  The gingerbread man was lovely, crisper than most gingerbread I’ve had which worked really well (and I loved they all have different facial expressions).  The macaron was lovely and I could easily have eaten more.  I found the batternberg to be a little too stodgy for my liking and the walnut whip Christmas tree was a nice touch – although had to be eaten quickly to save making too much of a mess!

    Thoroughly stuffed from all the food and free refills on hot drinks (a good range of tea or coffee), we were all ready to have a nap.  It had been a fantastic afternoon with company that was wonderful; we discussed the pronunciation of scone, jam or cream first, pressure cookers, owning too much crockery and plenty of other non-food blogging related topics.  A massive thank you to Emily for organising it and another thanks for a festive treat – a goodie bag on our way out with items from: kikkomanthorntonsmackaysburtsfruitbrooyipsy macarons
deli santeonkennakdseasoned pioneers, 
propercorn and stur – thanks all!

    Disclosure: With Emily’s excellent organisation, we booked afternoon tea without telling Hotel la Tour were were bloggers.  Sure they probably guessed when we all started photographing, but by that point we had the food and there wasn’t much they could do about it.  We all paid for our own afternoon tea so there wasn’t even an ounce pressure on writing and certainly none to be nice.