Wednesday, May 31, 2006

La Dolce Vita

In the past week eatingLeeds has experienced two Italian meals - both incredibly different. It's been a while since we visited Piccolino and we've been gearing ourselves up for the Tuscan dinner at Salvo's for a good month or so.

However, before we made it to Salvo's, we found ourselves in Brio on Great George Street ...

Thurs 25 May 2006

I've commented before on how cautiously I approach Italian restaurants. However, Brio has been on my 'list' for quite a while. It's come recommended as one of the 'good' Italian restaurants in Leeds and, given that it's not cheap, I've been looking forward to getting there ... eventually.

However, my dinner at Brios was neither planned, nor did it really live up to my (rather high) expectations. A group of us landed on Brio's doorstep on Thursday night after some post-work, pre-wedding celebratory drinks. I think I managed to eat some of pretty much everybody's food too.

I started with the gamberoni e fagioli (prawns and beans) which costs £8.95. I've not actually tried this anywhere before and I really enjoyed the combination. The dish is flavoured with sage and garlic and it works really well. I thought the Brio version was a bit heavy on the sage, and the prawns were quite small - if I'd been paying £5 I would have been happy but I do think that pushing this dish out to almost £10 is a bit rich.

For mains I had gnocchi with scallops (cappesante for all you Italiophiles) - one of the specials. I also had an entertaining discussion with our (Italian) waiter about whether or not 'scallops' was an Italian word and, once we'd established it wasn't, what the Italian for scallop might actually be.

This proved to be the most memorable thing about this dish. In fact, I can't really remember anything else because the scallops were so tiny I actually didn't even think there were scallops in it! I had a good dig around in various other dishes, including the pennette carbonara (not very good at all - far too much like it involved a carbonara sauce out of a packet, and nothing like it involved lashing of egg, cream and parmesan) and the ravioli all' aragosta, which was a very alarming colour, without any of the smell or taste of saffron, or even lobster.

To be honest, I didn't feel any real need to go back to Brio to work my way through more of the menu.

And now, having had dinner at Salvo's ... why, I feel even less inclined!

Sat 27 May 2006

Finally time for the much vaunted Tuscan dinner at Salvo's Salumeria on Otley Road. Hooray! I've been looking forward to this for quite a while, so I was quite excited by the time Saturday night came around.

Personally, I love knowing in advance how much my food is going to cost, I love tasting menus and I love set menus (I eat everything anyway, and it removes the whole decision making process). I also love good Italian food, so I was as happy as a pig in mud!

The 10 or so courses were all small so there was no problem in getting through them all, though I wasn't particularly interested in breakfast the next day either!

Rather than opting for a blow by blow description of each course (read the online menu and weep!), I'm going to pull out the eatingLeeds highlights ...

I pretty much loved everything, though the panzanella (bread, tomato and tuna salad) was a lovely surprise (I don't think I've ever had it before), and I absolutely loved the pasta with rabbit ragu (and we got to have seconds!). Other people at my table raved about the red mullet livornese (with tomatoes and black olives) and we all scoffed our pudding - zuppa del duca (billed as the 'original tiramisu'). Probably we were most lukewarm about the guinea fowl with grapes

Between four of us we ate ourselves silly, got through three bottles of wine, some bottled water, and pre-dinner proseccos and it only cost us £40 per head (including tip!). What brilliant value! Of course - as it's a set menu, it's not for picky eaters or those with a variety of dietary requirements. And it's probably not for those on a diet either!

As it's coming up to summer I'll definitely be investigating making my own panzanella and I'm eagerly awaiting the Puglian (already started) and Sicilian (come October). Salvos is also running seafood festivals and wine tasting evenings throughout the remainder of the year - so really, you have no excuse!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Slashfood's Steak Day

While it's been a pretty manic couple of weeks foodwise (and the blog has suffered accordingly) the matter of greatest immediate import is Slashfood's Steak Day - today, Tuesday 30 May.

Since we in the UK enjoyed a bank holiday yesterday, eatingLeeds duly took the opportunity to overindulge in some protein ...

Mon 29 May 2006

Actually, sorting ourselves out for the steak day started on Saturday, when we took a visit to the Leeds Market to source some ... steak. Was it going to be rump, sirloin, fillet (OK - not likely) or T-bone? Rump was pretty much in the lead all morning, except for a brief moment where it looked like the only meat we were going to find in a piece was sirloin.

This is crucial. As a rule, even in the market, the pre-cut steak is so thin you could read your paper through it (as my father would say). This is probably cracking if you have some kind of horror of blood (and flavour and succulence) but no good if you're keen on sinking your fangs into a fabulous juicy piece of meat.

We bought a monstrous piece of meat (a good 2 inches thick) which set us back a whole £5. And looked fabulous too! Please note the waiter's friend for scale!

We'd been pondering the issue of what to do with our piece of meat for quite a while (prior to its purchase, which is normally setting oneself up for failure) ... in the end we opted for the smashingly simple option of 'fry it'. I made myself some garlic butter but other than that, it was unadorned by anything other than a pile of delicious vegetables ... roast potatoes with paprika, roast carrots, steamed green beans and English asparagus - blanched, and then grilled in the steak pan. Washed down with beer (Staropramen).

Yes - it was good. And yes, I did splash this photo around the office this afternoon ...

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More Chocolate Biscuits

Mon 15 May 2006

A bit of a delay in posting this - a lot has gone on since - but these were brilliant little biscuits that just NEED to be shared.

This recipe is basically Dan Lepard's recipe for Tollhouse YoYos which was published in the Guardian a few weeks ago. However, these biscuits are nothing like what a proper Aussie will recognise as a YoYo (yes, the ones that the bees make the honey for ...). Also, somewhat bizarrely, Dan's recipe included CUSTARD POWDER. Not that I'm a food snob or anything, but ... AND he didn't give a reason for including it, so it was left out ... otherwise I didn't really butcher his recipe.

So - take 75g of rolled oats and pulverise them. I used my stab mixer - the bowl of your food processor is likely to be too big. I am thinking you can probably get away with using oat bran here.

In the food processor beat 150g of unsalted butter with 175g of icing sugar, until light and creamy. I was actually patient and waited for it all to come together. Add 175g of plain flour, the ground oats and 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence, along with some milk (original recipe says 2 tablespoons, but I ended up using the equivalent of about 4), and 150g of dark chocolate which has been broken up. Combine this all to a soft dough. It's quite a crumbly mix, so just add enough milk to make it come together when you put some pressure on it.

Roll the mixture into a log, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C and cut dough into discs and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Trust me - you don't need the custard powder!

Dan's original recipe went on to sandwich the biscuits with a mix of icing sugar and milk. I don't think they need that either ... they're pretty rich and very very tasty - excellent for dunking. The processed oats give them a fantastic texture too. Though I was thinking that a drop of coffee, or rum, probably wouldn't go astray ... I was a bit undecided about whether or not they were sweet enough but a vox pop suggested they were OK as they were. Although Andy suggested making the roll bigger and the biscuits thinner ...

I originally halved this recipe ... it's nowhere near enough biscuit for quality control & work mates.
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Monday, May 15, 2006

Fish and Tumbet

Sat 13 May 2006

I've recently discovered the Arts Culinaires website, and I've signed up for its email newsletter. One of the first recipes I spied was for poached cod with red pepper (capsicum, in Australian!) coulis. I guess we can all do with eating more fish and the apparent simplicity of the dish really appealed to me. Obviously, I wasn't about to eat cod, so we chose coley.

The dish is so simple to prepare, and, like so many poaching dishes, makes good (multiple) use of the stock.

I fiddled with the recipe and as follows will make enough for 2.

Boil up some water and add a stock cube. Add a red pepper (topped, tailed, seeds and white bits removed), cut into quarters. The original recipe says to peel the pepper. I tried this (plunging into hot water as though it were a tomato) and found it far too fiddly, so I gave up. Boil the pepper up until soft. Drain (reserving the stock) and put the pepper in a blender. Whizzy up, to make the coulis. I guess my little stab mixer did the trick, as, even with the skin on the pepper, the coulis came out lovely and smooth. Allow to cool. Prior to serving, mix in some chilli oil, to taste.

When ready to eat, re-boil the stock and poach the fish. If you're really keen you can reserve the stock (again!) and make some soup. This was actually our plan, but a few glasses of wine got in the way and the stock went down the sink.

To accompany this, I opted for a tumbet, published in the October 2005 Australian Gourmet Traveller (AGT). AGT's recipes can be a little erratic - the ideas are always good but I find you need to cook by instinct and try things out, rather than sticking to the recipe (fortunately, not a problem for me!).

The tumbet is really simple, and the left overs (on toast, with some left over fish, fried) made a fantastic breakfast.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry, in order, a sliced aubergine (eggplant), followed by a sliced potato, followed by a sliced red pepper (capsicum) - all sliced about 1cm thick.

Add 4 crushed cloves of garlic to the pan and cook, before adding a generous amount of passata. Allow it to cook and thicken.

Put a layer of aubergine in a baking dish, followed by a layer of potato, followed by the red pepper. Top with the tomato mixture and a good layer of breadcrumbs. Dot with butter and bake at 190C for 30 minutes or so until golden.

While the food all looked very pretty on the plate, the star of the show was undoubtedly the tumbet. I can see loads of permutations for this and the ready availability of passata, combined with the sole use of garlic as seasoning, means that it could be so easily assembled. We were both convinced (although not about the name - the Spanish would be less than impressed, but Andy insisted on declaring 'the trumpet a triumph') - this will no doubt be making a reappearance.

The fish was a little on the bland side - the coley didn't really hold up too well on the poaching front and didn't have a robust enough flavour to carry the very delicate coulis.

I'd definitely make the coulis again. I'd be very keen to chargrill my peppers, which would mean I could peel them and I think I'd try to incorporate my chilli and sesame oil separately. Extra sesame oil would really lift the coulis, and that extra bit of chilli never goes astray! The coulis would be great on toast, as an alternative to tomato sauce, and we're convinced it would be smashing with steak! You just need to make sure you get the balance of flavours right!

It's interesting that, in hindsight, this was a successful meal. However, at the time, it came nowhere near living up to the gustatory experience I was expecting (and, truth be told, had enjoyed several times while imagining the meal!).

We enjoyed this with a Honore de Berticot Sauvignon Blanc, which, to be honest, is far more of an apertif than a food wine. The night before, Jenn & I had shared a Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc - the rich tart apple finish of the New Zealand wine was far more suited to food than the incredibly subtle French.
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Hunting for a Baker

Sat 13 May 2006

Headingley, for all its good points, is depressingly short on some of the more essential retailers related to food.

Because I am bored out of my mind with the rubbish you can buy in the supermarket or any of the chain 'bakeries' I have decided that another one of my food missions should be to find a decent baker. And accessible and decent baker, at that.

I started this mission on Saturday morning, with a visit to Michels, which is near Hyde Park Corner. In the interests of sampling as broad a range as possible, I opted for a Cornish pasty, a sausage roll, a macaroon slice and a piece of chocolate fudge. This selection cost me just under £3.

The Round Up

The Cornish pasty was the outstanding winner of this selection. It lost points for me because it had peas in it, it lost points with Andy as it wasn't peppery enough - but overall, this was a fine pasty and we were both quite gutted I hadn't bought more. The pasty was not the most attractive pasty you'll ever see but compared with the (more attractive) pasties available from various chains specialising in pasties direct from Cornwall etc this was a far finer specimen. The filling was densely packed, moist and gristle free, the pastry was short and not oozing grease, and the ratio of pastry to filling was spot on. This pasty is also a LOT cheaper than you'll find at many other 'specialist' pasty places. There is no reason not to buy this pasty over any other commercial pasty I've tried yet.

The sausage roll was also commendable because of the lovely flaky pastry which wasn't greasy. I thought it was a bit of a boring, bog standard sausage roll, though Andy liked it and said he thought it would have been even better cold. Maybe we'll have to try that out at some point.

The chocolate fudge was quite disappointing. It tasted far too much of packet/synthetic chocolate, and had that weird synthetic texture thing going on. The icing was OK.

The macaroon slice was, for me, probably the greatest disappointment, because I love these things and I had visions of how it was going to taste that it just didn't live up to (I appreciate that that makes me a highly partial judge, too). It had a bit too much of an almond taste to it for me, and not enough rich, sticky jam, soaking into the soft, sticky coconut.

This means that my experience of Michel's was a little uneven, but the Cornish pasty was good enough to get me back through the door, and I'll probably even sample some of their other offerings.

1. Michel's Bakery, 2, The Crescent, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS6 2NW, telephone 0113 275 2360

How to get there: any of the buses which head to Hyde Park Corner will drop you off at Michel's doorstep - 1, 28, 95, 96, 97, 97A. It's a short walk from the university and Hyde Park.
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Food and Wine Matching

Sat 13 May 2006

Andrew over at Spittoon is hosting a food and wine matching event. Since this combines two of my favourite things (OK, he could have gone one better and chosen a dish which contained beer!) I had to join in!

I was also intrigued by Andrew's choice of dish - Austrian dumplings with a green tomato compote. Green tomatoes proved to be fabulously difficult to locate, so I exercised (as always) a bit of creativity when it came to the actual execution of the dish ... I'm not an experienced dumpling eater (let alone maker) and to be honest, had it not been for the blogging event, this is the type of dish I would NEVER have made!

First - I made the dumplings. I did actually follow the recipe for this bit, as I was a bit scared of the semolina (I almost used polenta instead!). I was absolutely horrified when I poured in the semolina as the whole mixture went horribly lumpy. I suspect I was meant to add the semolina gradually, rather than just dump it all in. After a lot of shouting (it doesn't help with the lumps - actually, it doesn't help with much really), I ended up with about half the amount of mixture I started with (I resorted to sieving). However, it was really tasty (which is quite an admission, not being a huge orange fan, either!), and I thought that things were decidedly looking up for this dish.

Next - the compote. As green tomatoes were unavailable, I got Andrew's permission for a bit of a substitution, and instead used one Granny Smith (peeled and sliced), a punnet of blackberries, a couple of tablespoons of soft brown sugar, the juice of a lemon and the juice of an orange. I cooked this a little (to dissolve the sugar) before leaving it to cool.

The recipe called for rolling the dumplings in 'crushed nuts'. I opted for a combination of ground almonds, some brown sugar and some cinnamon.

When it came to dumpling cooking time it all looked reasonably promising. Everything tasted delicious, and I put the compote on to warm through. The water was boiling to poach the dumplings ... but no! What's this?! The little dumplings are collapsing! There is no way that they will be rolled in anything!

Anyway, not to be put off, I salvaged bits of dumpling from the pan (hooray for slotted spoons!) and served on top of my compote, with a sprinkling of my nut mixture and a spoonful of sour cream.

Not quite a masterpiece in terms of looks, but it was actually very tasty (and also incredibly rich).

So ... the wine ... I chose Brown Brothers Orange Flora and Muscat 2005. Why? I've had this wine many times before and knew that it wouldn't be overpoweringly sweet (important as Andy is not so keen on pudding wines). This turned out to be quite crucial, as overall (sweet compote, sweet dumpling, sweet nut mixture) the dish was very sweet, so it was nice to have something with a bit of a tart backbone to act as a foil. I also thought that the citrus overtones of the wine should go quite nicely with the citrus in the dish.

And I was right (I can't make dumplings, but I can choose wine - hooray!). The sweetness of the wine didn't interfere with the sweetness of the dish, but did leave you with a hint of honey at the end of the palate. Personally, I think I may have served the wine a little on the cold side (especially as dessert was hot), but it still smelled delicious, and, the lovely floral wine mixed with the really heady blackberry and apple compote smell was just great.

I doubt I'll be making the dumplings again. However, I would have another stab at a blackberry and apple compote (but with less sugar) and I think I'd opt for cream rather than sour cream - it was a tad too tart and acidic and I think was overcomplicated, especially with all the other flavours going on.

I have also learnt that when cooking in someone else's kitchen it is not the stove's fault that your semolina goes lumpy. It is also not the pot's fault, the spoon's fault, and it's not even the bin's fault!

A big thank you to Andy for coping with the semolina induced tantrum and the good people at the North Bar for providing the Schneider Weisse!
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Not Sheffield

Wed 10 May 2006

It was supposed to be a night out in Sheffield - try out a Sheffield restaurant and then go to the theatre ... but we only got as far as platform 12A of Leeds station ... a Virgin train had been cancelled and the Northern train we'd planned to catch was full to overflowing (literally - they wouldn't let us on). I lost my temper and had to be rushed to the nearest bar.

Which happened to be Bar Work, on Wellington Street. Quite possibly the most exciting thing about Bar Work is that some of its beers are very cheap. And it has a terrace area, so when the sun is shining, you can sit outside. Obviously, at half past 5 on a sunny day, the terrace is full, so you end up sitting inside. And inside is just a standard, non descript pub interior. Our pints (Tetley's Cask and Kronenbourg), a packet of chilli nuts, and a packet of ready salted crisps came to £5.84 - which is reasonable value. Or rather, would have been if the beer was good. The Tetley's wasn't really in good nick and the condition of the Kronenbourg didn't provoke any excitement. Bar Work seemed to be full of a lot of suits and as a bar ... well, it didn't really work ...

We moved on to Baby Jupiter, on York Place, which I've been going on about wanting to go to for ages. Let me say - this is a bar with PURPLE VELOUR seats. So I was sold instantly. We enjoyed very nice Kronenbourg and Kronenbourg Blanc (£2.80 and £3.20 respectively). They were playing some very funky music (the psychedelic decor gives away the music's theme), and it was very quiet and civilised after the suit-driven mania of Bar Work. The bar is very small, so we do wonder how it holds up on a busy evening ... but all that this means is that we have to go back to find out ... Baby Jupiter has a well defined list of events for the Fridays and Saturdays of the month, and I defy anyone to find something they won't be able to go out and enjoy. I don't know why I'm saying this, when I'd much rather that really, you all stay at home or go somewhere else!

By now it was surprisingly late and all the beer drinking and bar analysis was making us hungry. Back to Wellington Street to 56 Oriental. This is a little bit deceptive, because downstairs (street level) is a small bar, while the restaurant is upstairs. The restaurant was very quiet, which is quite a shame, because we enjoyed a reasonably tidy meal. We dispensed with starters and just shared a huge bowl of (multi-coloured) prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce, along with a couple of Kirin Ichibans (I know, I shouldn't have ordered it!). For mains, we shared the mee goreng and the Mongolian lamb. The mee goreng was served with chicken satays which, while I quite enjoyed the sauce, I thought were a little on the dry side. The noodles were quite tasty, with that fantastic smokey overtone, but I felt the sauce was a little too much on the sweet side for me. Andy comprehensively disagreed - maybe I need to do a survey of mee goreng available in Leeds ...

The Mongolian lamb (and I haven't seen that on a menu before) was served in a decorative banana leaf, with boiled rice on the side. It was lovely. It was topped with sesame seeds and served with just the right amount of sauce that you could mop up with your rice but not drown in. I do think that it did use the vegetables as a bit of a padding, but the fact that the vegetables included okra made it just that bit different.

I'm normally very lukewarm about oriental restaurants, but 56 Oriental provides an interesting menu, with dishes like Mongolian lamb complementing those that will be more recognised. In addition, the level of service was very good - friendly, competent but not overly attentive (which would have been too easy, as we ended up being the only people there).

We ended up spending about £30 - we were happy with that. The restaurant does offer early bird deals and set menus. And they also add a 10% service charge onto the bill - which I LOATHE. It also backfired - last night they probably would have received a far more generous tip.

Coming up ... this weekend we are going to try a bit of food and wine matching ... should be entertaining to say the least!

1. Bar Work, 38 Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 2DJ, phone 0113 245 3660
2. Baby Jupiter, The Basement, 11 York Place, Leeds, LS1 2DS, phone 0113 242 1202
3. 56 Oriental, 56 Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 2EE, phone 0113 245 0380

How to get there: from the train station, turn left onto Wellington Street. York Place is the next block back.
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Monday, May 08, 2006

Yo-Ho Biscuits

Mon 08 May 2006

Ooo ... this month Sugar High Friday's theme is ginger!

I spotted a recipe for three ginger biscuits while tootling round about a week ago - there are actually loads of them out there on the web, mostly involving a huge amount of sugar and either of those crazy American butter measurements - cups or sticks (anyone who would like to give me a metric equivalent of a cup or a stick - please do!).

However, since recipes are largely optional exercises for me, I wasn't going to let a lack of instructions put me off. I actually meant to put golden syrup in these as well, which was included in one of the original recipes, but I forgot, and I think they're quite sweet enough without it!

This recipe made 24 small biscuits (dollop with a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon) - they do spread quite a bit so do leave some space!

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cream 100g butter and 100g of sugar (I used caster, although I'd be tempted to use soft brown sugar next time) and add 1 egg. Mix and add 100g of plain flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder/bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 2 tablespoons of rum (dark, of course!). When well combined at 50g of chopped glace ginger. Finally add a 2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (this is where you need a Microplane grater!).

Plop the mix onto your lined baking sheets and bake. As I was experimenting the first batch went in for 10 minutes and the second batch for 15. Jenny and I decided that the first batch were more Jaffa cake like, while the second batch were more conventional biscuit like. I'd probably go for 15 minutes next time - very much a matter of taste though.

This little invention gets a solid thumbs up in the flat ... feedback from hungry workmates tomorrow!

The flavour definitely improves the next day, and next time I think I'll use twice as much glace ginger. I'm also tempted to experiment by leaving the rum out of one half of the mix (Andy says I could increase the rum!). And even though they were sweet ... maybe that tablespoon or so of golden syrup wouldn't go astray ...

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Headingley Pubs - Part 3

Sat 06 May 2006

After another excellent pint (or two) at Arcadia on Saturday night it was time to investigate at least one more venue in Headingley.

I received a comment in response to Part 1 that suggested trying Woodies - and this is where I ended up on Saturday night. While there was not a huge range of beers they do offer Tetley's Cask and Staropramen, which keeps both halves of the EatingLeeds team happy. The beers are also very reasonably priced (£5 for two pints and a packet of crisps) - although not down at the silly price level you'll find next door in The Three Horseshoes.

And this is a very interesting point - here we have two very similar pubs, next door to one another ... how do they survive, or even thrive?

The answer to this has to be in the type of crowd the pubs are attracting. The Three Horseshoes had a very young, very studenty crowd in ... Woodies however, had a much more adult clientele. Saturday night is 'Disco Night' at Woodies - 'Groovie Baby' - playing the best of the 70s, 80s and 90s. You have been warned! While I'm perfectly happy to bounce around in my chair to Toni Basil's 'Oh Mickey' it might not be everyone else's cup of tea ... However, it is a very relaxed environment - all about enjoying your Saturday night on your terms.

We figured we were some of the youngest people there, although as the night wore on some student-types did arrive, so if you're young (the right side of about 40) you won't feel entirely out of place (although you might feel as though you're at one of your parents' parties).

As an aside - in other weekend beer drinking news I sampled one of North's specials for May: Wyre Piddle's Piddle in the Hole (no prizes for guessing why I chose it). It comes from Worcestershire and, I regret to say, was one of the nastiest beers I've had for a while. Hopefully I had a duff bottle, but it had a very strong metallic after taste and was just not enjoyable at all.

In blog news - we hope readers like our format changes (more to come), in particular our little gold hungry owls. For those of you not in Leeds, the owl is one of the city's symbols and Millenium Square/Civic Hall is adorned with these chaps. All feedback, constructive or otherwise, always welcomed!

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mixology Monday II

Mon 8 May 2006

(Yes, I am posting a day in advance here).

The Art of Drink is hosting Monday Mixology II which has a coffee theme. While not a big cocktail drinker, I have been known to take a fancy to the icecream cocktails at Suburban in Wimbledon so to this end I thought I could make a good stab at mixing my own cocktail. How wrong can one girl be?

My idea was ... vanilla ice cream, coffee, dates and dark rum ... I had visions of a fabulous, slushy, thick, alcoholic, coffee-y, rich drink/dessert ... it would look fantastic and (for a change!) photograph semi-OK ... and taste amazing too ...

I was so organised I even put 4 dates into some rum to soak for a good 24 hours - by the time I was ready to use them they were gorgeous, fat glossy dates that had dutifully absorbed a lot of the rum.

Things started to go a bit wrong when the supermarket lacked any high quality vanilla icecream, but, necessity being the mother of invention and all that I thought that chocolate fudge brownie icecream, with swirls of chocolate sauce would make an admirable substitute.

I was wrong. The biscuit-y texture of the icecream, which was good when it was being eaten as icecream, was plain gritty when I attempted to make it into a cocktail. You couldn't taste the dates, and the coffee meant that the whole mix was just two liquid.

But, if you want to reproduce this cocktail catastrophe here's how to do it. For two people, soak four dates in some dark rum for as long as you can. Pop dates and remaining rum into a jug and add 100mL more of dark rum, 250mL of cold (pre-prepared) coffee and four generous scoops of icecream. Blitz. Pour into glasses and top with a small piece of icecream and drizzle with cream.

This is what it looked like:

Trust me when I say it looks better than it tasted ... subsequent analysis suggests that plain vanilla icecream would have been superior, along with using coffee liqueur, rather than proper coffee.

Fortunately, I had made a nice leek and bacon tart (not a disaster!), half of which was scoffed before the pub and the other half after.

Perhaps I'll have the courage to participate in another Mixology Monday. However, I've learnt that I'm miles ahead when it comes to cooking - ice cream cocktails I might have to leave to professionals for just a little while!

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Sunshine at last!

Thurs 4 May 2006

Some lovely weather has arrived! It's not supposed to last long but that just means you have to pack a little bit more in ... especially when it comes to investigating outdoor drinking in Leeds.

Last night the heady celebrations of summer's onset commenced at the Courtyard (and, indeed, in the courtyard) on Cookridge Street. Outdoors was predictably busy which gave the whole experience a very summery feel - a bit of sunshine and instantly everyone starts smiling! It's a given there was never going to be any bitter on offer, so I settled for a pint of Staropramen. I didn't actually venture to the bar but Andy's trip took so long I thought the bar staff must have been picking the hops themselves!

The beer wasn't great either, and we decided that the Courtyard must have been ill equipped to deal with the sudden customer-rush caused by the warm weather ... at least, we hope that's the case ...

Eventually it was time for a real beer so we moved on to Whitelocks, in Turks Head Yard, just off Briggate. Though not a large pub they do have loads of outdoor space, and we were able to enjoy some interesting beers and the warm weather. As far as real beers go (I'm ignoring the Guiness and the Kronenbourg!), both the Theakston's Mild and the Wentworth Mild were sampled. The Wentworth was very blonde for a mild, and really a lot more like an ale ... and I am a bit confused as the Wentworth website doesn't even list a mild! Anyway, despite being owned by S&N, the Theakston's Mild was in good nick and a very pleasant way to (almost) round off the evening.

As it was a school night, drinking rounded off and it was time to find something to eat. In proper British style Andy & I headed for some takeaway curry from Shebab, on Eastgate. We were totally predictable in our selections: I went for the dal makhni, which is made with black lentils and is the best ever! And Andy had the lamb biryani. All absolutely delicious!

The lovely weather means that there should be some more outside beer drinking this evening - I'm looking forward to it! And, in another action packed weekend, tomorrow will see us participating in Mixology Monday - and creating coffee cocktails and using a blogging event as an excuse to have a bit of a drink! Check back on Monday for our mixing misadventures!

1. The Courtyard, 25-37 Cookridge Street, Leeds, LS2 3AG, phone 0113 203 1831
2. Whitelocks, Turks Head Yard, Leeds, LS1 6HB, phone 0113 245 3950
3. Shabab, 2 Eastgate, Leeds, LS2 7JL, phone 0113 246 8988

How get there: Cookridge Street runs along the side of the Henry Moore Institute, just off the Headrow. Turks Head Yard is one of the small streets running off Briggate (Boar Lane end). Eastgate is the continuation of the Headrow ... look for the massive Primark store!
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

After Work Drinks

Thurs 27 April 2006

The bar tucked underneath the Art Gallery seems to have gone through quite a few incarnations ... I first knew it (a few years ago!) as Buonavita - where they served some solid Italian snack food and nice cold beers ... others have known it as Aire on the Square (which I missed altogether) and we can all now get to know it as Terrace.

I am told that not a lot has changed inside since its Aire on the Square days - just a new paint job. The weather isn't quite up to sitting outside just yet (though it is trying!) but the Terrace has the patio heaters out in force - and with big French doors you can sit inside, enjoy the fresh air and benefit from the heaters! I like it.

Which is about where 'like' begins and ends for me, I'm afraid. It wasn't busy at all, when I arrived just after 5. I ambled over to the bar where one barman was serving a customer. Not a problem - I don't mind waiting my turn ... except when there was a second member of staff who, as far as I could tell, was basically standing around not doing anything at all. She looked at me, but didn't bother to come over and ask if I were being served ... When I did get served I had to ask which 'real' beer they had on. The drinks menu lists that they sell a real ale (no name given) and there are a couple of hand pumps behind the bar - but no label, so I had to ask. I was told they had Broadside on, and while I clarified that this was Adnam's Broadside I'm not 100% convinced that we were on the same beer plane.

This is a pet hate of mine. I think that if you are going to work somewhere you should take an interest in what you're selling, even if (or especially if) you're not that interested to begin with. So - if you sell books, take the time to know where stock is, learn a few authors, classics, know what's new ... if you work in a bar ... learn something about the beers, wine and cocktails you sell (yes, that means drink them!). End of rant.

I also thought my pint of Broadside was served a touch too cold. Especially as it was colder than the lagers at my table (hmm, another pet peeve). I've done some research (I've stopped short of ringing Adnam's and asking) and it looks like this beer should be served around the 7-8C mark - maybe I should start taking a thermometer around with me!

The thing which stood out about this venue (me moaning about my pint is hardly new or unusual!) was the rather interesting choice of music: we seemd to be all over the place - the play list ran from Frank Sinatra to the current top 40. To be perfectly honest, a bit of swing as I enjoy my first pint after work - not a problem, even desirable - but not when it's interspersed with some Stone Roses! Quite odd, if nothing else.

So, I've done Terrace and don't really need to go back ... where next?!

1. Terrace, The Headrow (in between/underneath the Art Gallery and the Central Library). I haven't been able to find a phone number.

How to get there: once you've found the Headrow you'll be unable to miss the Art Gallery!
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