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the store at foveran – press launch for open farm sunday 7th june 2015

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When we were asked if we would like to attend the press launch for The Store, Foveran’s Open Day and reintroduction of their Foodie Fridays, we jumped at the chance. We are both fan’s of The Store, the quality of produce sold in their shop is exceptional we highly recommend you try out the tasty food available in the coffee shop whilst you are there. It was with much enthusiasm that we headed to The Store yesterday morning where we were met in the shop by the lovely Ellen and started the day with tea, bacon rolls and a chat with Farmer Booth, before heading out for a tour of the farm and butchery.

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We headed up to the farm itself, where we were introduced to some of the Aberdeen Angus cattle The Store is famous for. This family run farm has been in the family for 4 generations and they go to lengths to promote the Aberdeen Angus herd and the quality of British cattle breeds. The family went back to traditional feeding methods, seeking to enhance the flavour of the meat they produce. Cattle are fed how they used to be fed, grazing grass in the summer and eating grass (silage) in the winter. The focus is firmly on the quality of the meat and not quantity produced. Cattle are bought direct from the breeder, rather than from the mart and the cattle are then raised on the farm. Farmer Booth buys the whole herd regardless of size, this way he can ensure that not all the meat is ready for slaughter at the same time, ensuring fresh produce in The Store at all times. This method allows the herd to mature when its ready, ensuring they get the best of the meat when it’s ready. Promoting British breeds is a real focus of the farm and Farmer Booth mentioned a recent meat tasting he had with a Hereford/Jersey cross, delicious apparently and perhaps something we might come to see on The Store’s shelves in the future?  Of course this sizeable farm is not  just a livestock farm, there is considerable arable farming on the land. The farm also produce wheat, barley, oil seed rape and oats. The Farm itself uses a biomass system and recycle their waste which they in turn buy back as compost to use again on the fields, working to cut down their carbon footprint.

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We then headed back to the Butchery where the Farm mature all their own meat. Carcases are hung for a minimum of 21 days and meat is left to mature on the bone, ensuring you get the best flavour from the meat. Traceability is critical to the entire process, with each cut of meat sold in the shop capable of being traced back to a single animal. Butcher Grant gave us a butchery demonstration, french trimming a roast rib joint before boning it out into a rolled rib roast. Grant attempted to show us how to tie butchers knots, but with very little real success. It was then onto the sausage making where we all tried our hand at making a string of sausages. The less said about my attempt the better, given the amount of holes I poked in the casing these are destined for the frying pan rather than the barbeque, where I fear they would fall apart! To be fair Michelle’s attempt was significantly better, her sausages did resemble a string and were more or less whole! Don’t think either of us will be offered a job anytime soon!

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Lunch was a very generous smoked meat platter prepared for us by Head Chef Tim. The platter is the same one that will be served as a main at the forthcoming Foodie Friday on 29th May and showcases the farm’s produce. The selection of smoked meats were paired with some fresh vegetable sides of slaw and pickles and two very different sauce accompaniments. If our lunch today was anything to go by then we highly recommend you give it a try, booking of course essential.

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After lunch we had a chance for a look round the shop, where we both stocked up. I’d like to make it clear that we both buy regularly at The Store for the consistent quality of its produce. Our last challenge after some questionable sausage making was that Farmer Booth handed each of us a cut of meat, free of charge, that we hadn’t cooked before. Michelle has the back vein, I got the skirt but our sympathy lies squarely with our fellow foodie blogger Claire, aka Foodie Quine, who landed the tongue – good luck Claire. Our own results will be posted in due course!

The Open Day is being held at the farm on Sunday 7th June from 11am-3pm. This free event is a fun day out for all the family and one in both our diaries. For further details please see The Store‘s website.

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Finally we would like to say a big thank you to the team at The Store for both the invite and a thoroughly enjoyable morning.

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a weekend break in aberdeen, april 2015

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All too often when faced with the exciting prospect of a child free weekend, we have  a tendency to start looking far and wide for something to do and a new place to visit, or at least we do! That was not the case during the recent Easter break. We had both booked tickets for Northhop Aberdeen, but it was only once we started planning around the event that we decided to make a weekend of it, a mini-break in nearby Aberdeen, a city where we have both lived at one time or another. With a room booked in a city centre hotel for a couple of nights, Opera tickets for the Friday night and Northhop tickets for the Saturday night; it was simply a case of putting our heads together for the all important decision – where to eat?!

A lazy Saturday lunch is a thing of the past once children arrive. Sitting enjoying good food, great company, a glass of wine, a gin & tonic, with nowhere to rush off to – such luxury. For this we headed to Moonfish Café on Back Wynd, easily a favourite lunch spot for us. The menu is short, with a list of ingredients telling you what to expect, rather than a lengthy explanation. That is not to say that its easy choosing what to have, its not, every time we dine here we could happily have everything on the menu. The food is delicious, beautifully plated and served by happy, well informed staff who are attentive, but not in a way which is too much. We started with a round of cocktails, then had the 3 course lunch as the desserts are not to be missed, especially when paired with a nice dessert wine. We drank gin & tonic from a very good selection and we all had coffees. The bill for lunch was very reasonable given the quality of what we had to eat. Moonfish has never disappointed.

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Saturday night was pretty much taken care of both food and drinks wise by Northhop. We didn’t quite know what to expect from the event, but our party of 6 had a great night. A good selection of beer and cider on offer (our party probably tried every beer there was to try), plenty of street style food and live music thrown in. Our party raved about the scotch eggs from Aye Love Real Food. For us the hero of the food on the night had to be Chris Tonner and the Adelphi Kitchen who’s food was perfect for soaking up the alcohol. We loved the wild garlic chimichurri served with the hot dogs. We tried everything on offer and many servings over the course of the night. We also enjoyed Angus & Oink walking around the event getting everyone to sample their Voodoo Mango sauce – go to the Northhop website and have a look at the photo’s, hilarious. We’d definitely recommend the event to anyone new to this type of festival and we will be back ourselves.

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A lazy start on the Sunday morning meant that we could head out for a coffee late morning, sitting in the sun watching the world go by. All before heading to The Tippling House on Belmont Street for Jazz Sunday brunch. Although not hungover we were all perhaps a little fragile which made the Bloody Mary’s all the more welcome. If you’ve never been to the Tippling House for a cocktail then you should get yourself there. Interesting, perfectly balanced cocktails served every time by friendly and helpful staff. Real care is taken here to produce a high quality drink, with a menu that changes seasonally. We all had a very tasty late brunch with a serving of very chilled live jazz on the side, what better way to spend an afternoon.

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From there it was back on the train and the luxury of a short 20 minute train journey back home to Inverurie. No long travel plans, no delays, no missed connections. As keen travellers, we are not suggesting for a minute that you forgo the adventure of exploring a new city, not a bit. However, its too easy to ignore what’s right on your doorstep at times, and perhaps we should all make time to enjoy what’s local. We certainly came home very refreshed from our trip.

IMG_3600Apologies for the photos, we relied on our iphones for the weekend!

wahaca – soho, sept 2014

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It was always the plan to head to Wahaca in Soho for Sunday lunch during our recent trip, we both suspected that by this point we would need fresh, tasty food and lots of it. I’ve been a fan of Thomasina Miers for years and love watching her TV shows, she’s knows Mexican food and talks with such enthusiasm. She’s happy and that comes across in the food.

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We arrived early, and in my case a little fragile (strangely its fresh food I need when hungover and not the typical bacon roll)! You walk into Wahaca and with its bright walls and battered furniture, you feel immediately at ease. Our very attentive waiter explained the menu, made some recommendations and went away to get our drinks giving us time to peruse the menu.

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Michelle ordered a mojito, my favourite cocktail of which I had a sip and can safely say its the best either of us have had. I ordered a virgin maria, it hit the spot, settled my stomach and allowed me to concentrate on the important task of lunch! What to order, safe to say we could have eaten everything on the menu, but decided on a selection of smaller street food plates.

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We started with bowls of guacamole and frijoles and tortilla chips, fresh and packing a punch on flavour. From there it was a case of trying to narrow down what plates we fancied, we ended up with a selection of pork pibil tacos, steak tacos, black bean tostadas, chicken taquitos, chorizo & potato quesadillas and a side of sweet potato.

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Greedy yes; delicious most definitely; were we able to finish everything, no!  I would have loved to have had the churros to finish off, but neither of us had space and instead we shared a very tasty and refreshing mango sorbet.

This place has a relaxed vibe. Our waiter was Jorge, he was really friendly, helpful and attentive, but at no point did we feel rushed. I love any place that brings you iced water without asking and keeps it topped up. I should also point out that we got a very pleasant shock when the bill arrived at how little our lunch had cost us, very reasonably priced. We will be back next time we are in London, but might try Canary Wharf next time as our waiter said its got great views across the city.

 

lost in… london, sept 2014

market sign with shard001-2This past weekend saw us heading to London for a much anticipated foodie adventure and boy did we have a good time! We planned a weekend of eating and sampling lots of food, with visits to restaurants, popups and a food market. We have reviewed each of the restaurants separately, this post is all about our trip to Borough Market.

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We were up early on Saturday morning and with empty bellies we headed to Borough Market for their 1,000th Anniversary. Now we would like to say this was good planning on our part, but it was sheer luck that we happened to be in London this particular weekend and were able to take part in the celebrations.

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The floors at each entrance to the Three Crown Square were covered in wash-away paint allowing shoppers to move around, taking their footprints with them and creating an ever evolving work of art that you can see on their website.

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For anyone who hasn’t visited Borough Market it’s an assault on the senses. Markets are busy and noisy, smells hit you from every corner, and for that reason they are not everyone’s idea of a great day out. We spent 6 hours there, arriving by 10am and leaving around 4pm, we were in heaven. We were like a pair of kids in a sweetie shop, we didn’t know where to start and I know the silly grin on Michelle’s face was mirrored on my own.

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After wandering through the fruit and veg stalls (seriously the most varied and beautiful stalls we have ever seen) we realised we were hungry and that we needed breakfast!

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We settled on Portena, an Argentinian street food vendor selling empanadas, we had a selection of these delicious pastries filled with a variety of beef, chicken, ham, cheese and caramelised onion (our favourite).

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We noticed an ever increasing queue forming across the road at the Monmouth Coffee Company and decided that had to be our next stop once our stomachs had their fill. Our basis for choosing coffee here was that with a queue this length, the coffee had to be good (to be fair this method of selection has not always worked in the past but we struck lucky this morning). We were brought a sample of the filter coffee of the day (Karimikui from Kenya, Michelle bought beans to take home), while we waited and our order was taken. We weren’t disappointed, the coffee was perfect and served at the right temperature ready to drink.

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Time to explore and shop, we wandered round sampling the foods on offer, every stall owner engaged and keen to promote their product. We’ve both been at food events where samples have been sadly lacking, you don’t buy what you can’t taste, but that wasn’t an issue here! We both bought cheese and sausage at The French Comte, where we could sample a variety of aged cheeses; bread from Karaway Bakery where the woman let us taste as many samples of bread as we fancied, we’ve frozen the cinnamon brioche we bought to make bread and butter pudding at a later date; a variety of spices and dried chillies from Spice Mountain; and tea from Tea2you where the samples on offer resulted in us taking home a first and second flush of Darjeeling and an Oolong tea. We could both have bought a lot more, but we did have to get everything home in our suitcases so restraint was needed.

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It was time for another coffee and a chance to rest tired legs. We struck lucky and got a seat at a table on the pavement outside a small coffee shop, allowing us time to sit and soak up the atmosphere. Trains rattle overhead as we sat listening to the DJ playing some chilled music and indulged in some people watching, such an eclectic mix of people barging around the market, with a great view of The Shard to boot. We order a second cup just so we could continue to sit there.

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However our thoughts do turn to a late lunch and the one stall who’s smells have chased us around the market all day, it has to be Gujarati Rasoi. Indian Thali for lunch, rice and three different vegetable curries served in a box and eaten with a spoon standing under a railway bridge, we could not be happier. While we stand waiting to be served we watch a woman order and eat a samosa, the utter joy on her face when she eats the samosa, she forgets to offer one to her husband who is standing beside her!

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Aside from the fact that we’ve had a great day, eaten and bought some lovely produce, I think what has been most impressive is that at no point today were we overwhelmed by the smell of fried fast food, so often the only option at many food events and markets we’ve been to. Event organisers can learn something from Borough Market, you’ve curry, pad-thai, german sausage and coffee stands all alongside one another, but none overwhelm the other.

A great day out and two pairs of tired legs we head back to our hotel, our heads are just buzzing with ideas!

 

goodman – mayfair, london

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Any foodie will tell you that its good to get to know your local butcher, that way you can trace the origin of your food and also find ways to try out cuts that might be new to you. We are lucky enough to have a very good local butcher Davidsons and luckier still that John talks food as much as we do. We mentioned that we were planning a trip to London, but hadn’t quite settled on somewhere to eat on the Friday night. He recommended a steak at Goodman in Mayfair.

We arrived early at 5.45pm, ravenous after travelling and ready to eat. On realising it was our first visit our friendly waitress Chloe showed us a platter of steak cuts, taking time to explain each cut, its origin and how they recommend it be cooked.

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We both ordered a Lobster salad, simply prepared with a Japanese mayonnaise served on the side and cooked to perfection. We followed that with a dry-aged Porterhouse steak (a cut on the bone where you have both the sirloin and the fillet) from the Lake District to share, a side of truffle chips and sautéed green beans. No deliberating over sauces as they serve all three on the side so you can chop and change: bearnaise; pepper (with a real kick of pepper and not overly creamy); and Stilton (the most delicious reduction of red wine and stilton which I’m going to attempt to recreate at home, if it works I’ll share!). We finished off with cheesecake and a lemon posset with shortbread, both done with a light touch.

The food was simply cooked, but divine, you know food is well done when you ooh and aah over a green bean!

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The service was friendly, attentive and the staff knew what they were talking about. They were happy to engage with us and we even managed to get a visit to the kitchen, where the head chef Phil (a Canadian from Montreal), took time out of a busy Friday night service to show us around the kitchen and the fridges. Phil talked about the relationship he has with his suppliers, how he dry ages the beef and his enthusiasm was infectious. Michelle is Canadian so she’s used to a good steakhouse, I can say honestly this is my first time in a proper one. Seriously good food, fantastic service, we cannot recommend enough and we will both be back!

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