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Archive for July, 2011

Girl meets food

Just a very short post to draw your attention to the excellent Girl meets Food series of recipes which is running on the Vice website.

Sassy, opinionated and very funny, it's like Nigella's foul-mouthed twin sister has been given a column.

This week, Joanna Fuertes-Knight tackles bacon cupcakes. Last week's recipe for drunken chicken is pretty cool as well.

Be warned, it is not short of swear words and, if you work in a puritanical office, it might set alarm bells ringing in the IT watchdog office.

Scottish produce on display at National Museum of Scotland

The new National Museum of Scotland opens in Edinburgh today after a big bucks refit and it looks spectacular.

Catering company Benugo, who also look after the grub at Edinburgh Castle, are operating a cafe and a ground floor brasserie in the museum.

As you might hope, Scottish produce is very much to the fore with dishes such as Cullen skink, Scottish langoustine with homemade mayonnaise, Inverloch goat's cheese and beetroot salad, and Arbroath smokie fishcakes.

It may look like a canoe but the pic is of a feasting bowl from the Cook Islands. It was used by the islanders for ritual feasting.

Mithas aims for Michelin

Mithas: aiming to redefine Indian restaurants in Edinburgh

After much anticipation and even more delay, Mithas restaurant in Edinburgh's Leith opened a couple of months back and the blog missed it.

It's the latest offering from the family that ran the Khushis restaurant on Victoria Street. Unfortunately, that operation was badly damaged by a fire in 2008 and hasn't re-opened since.

The new Mithas is a very different beast. If the old Khushis was a bright, buzzy and bling Indian restaurant then Mithas is aimed more at the fine dining market.

In fact, the blog recently received an email from their PR which called it the first Indian restaurant in Scotland to be aiming for a Michelin star.

When the very first Khushis restaurant opened in 1947, it introduced Edinburgh to the idea of Indian food.

If Mithas manages to get that Michelin star then it will be another first for the business and a considerable feather in their cap.

Plenty of Asian restaurants in London have got thumbs up from the Michelin inspectors. It would be a real coup if Mithas blazed a similar path in Scotland.

Certainly the new restaurant advises customers to forget about any preconceptions they may have about Indian food.

Dishes on the Mithas menu include whole lobster masala and intrguing new flavour combinations like raw banana and vegetable seekh or spinach and fig tikki.

Buy a piece of Britpop?

The Met Bar: Nineties memorabilia up for auction

If you have at least £5k to spare then you may want to splash out and buy the entire interior of London's Met Bar.

The iconic Nineties drinking hole closes at the weekend for a massive refurb and the owners are auctioning off all the fixtures, fittings, stools, ashtrays and glasses in aid of the Teens Unite - Fighting Cancer charity.

If you want to own an ashtray that Kate Moss has used or fancy a table that Liam Gallagher has drooled on then now is your chance.

You can follow the action on eBay here. So far there have been exactly zero bids.

Battle of the Brewers

Just a quick mention for tonight's Battle of the Brewers competition taking place at the Queen's Arms on Frederick Street in Edinburgh.

Williams Brothers brewers will be taking on the Stewart Brewing crew in a taste off. Both brewers have been challenged with the task of coming up with a 5%ABV summer ale which will be unveiled at the bar from 7pm this evening.

Punters are encouraged to cast a vote for ale X or ale Y and, at the end of the evening, the brewery with the most votes wins . . . well, just the bragging rights.

It is all for a good cause with proceeds going to Maggie's Cancer Centres.

The event will be ticketed with a £5 ticket price. (Tickets must be purchased in advance on the Stewart Brewing website – www.stewartbrewing.co.uk )

Other beers including the award winning Hollyrood will be on the bar during the evening and raffle tickets will give people the chance to win Stewart Brewing and William Brothers goodies.

Bacon watch

A bacon fan demonstrates the strength of their allegiance

The reputation of journalism has taken a bit of a battering of late but this hasn't stopped the 5pm blog from breaking all the rules in order to bring our readers the latest from the frontline of bacon developments.

Not that we have needed to hack any phones to find this tasty titbit. A quick scan of the Telegraph's website was sufficient to reveal that new EU proposals mean that the amount of water which manufacturers are allowed to add to bacon without telling us could be halved by 2015.

If the proposals come into force, bacon which contains more than 5% added water would have to say 'bacon with added water' somewhere on the packaging.

OK, so it's not up there with the repeal of slavery or the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man but tastier bacon is not to be sniffed at.

Shameless plug

This afternoon, I shall be putting my food writer hat on and babbling away on Radio Scotland's Kitchen Cafe show.

The subjects up for discussion are Scotland as a food destination, Glasgow Restaurant Association (GRA) and the recent, greatly exaggerated reports about the death of the dinner party.

As well as the presenter Penny Latin, guests include Ryan James, Two Fat Ladies supremo and face of the GRA.

Ferrari on starting grid

As the name delicately hints, Ristorante Ferrari is a new Italian restaurant which has opened in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh.

Regional Italian cooking is the name of the game from the family-owned restaurant.

The Sunday Herald's Joanna Blythman was not impressed by a recent trip although she does point out that it is very early days for the venture.

Barolo Grill is a new addition to Glasgow's Italian scene

As ever, Scotland's appetite for Italian restaurants shows no sign of diminishing. We've already told you about new 5pm members Barolo Grill and Amarone which recently opened in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively.

Other new Italian kids on the block include a branch of the Strada chain which has opened on Edinburgh's Castle Street and we are hearing vague rumours of a new Italian in Paisley.

As has been widely reported, a new branch of Jamie's Italian is pencilled in for Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms at an as yet unspecified date.

In Glasgow, there are just under five weeks to go until Pesto opens on St Vincent Street. The company already has branches in Liverpool and Manchester.

Chewin’ the Fat with Brian Maule

Brian Maule plating up

The eponymous head of the kitchen team and owner of Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, the Ayrshire-born chef has just celebrated ten years in business at his Glasgow restaurant on West Regent Street.

Along with other influences, Brian honed his skills working for the Roux brothers. At the age of 24, he was made head chef of Le Gavroche in London looking after a brigade of eighteen chefs.

He returned to his native Scotland in 2001 to open his own restaurant.

As well as the menus in the main dining room, Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or offers private dining facilities; show and dinner packages; cookery demonstrations and wine dinners.

Brian is one of the five top chefs who are each cooking a course at this coming Sunday’s Glasgow Restaurant Association dinner in aid of the Who Gives a Fork campaign to raise money for the Maggie's cancer centres.

There is more info about the gourmet dinner here and you can buy tickets for the event here.

In this Chewin’ the Fat interview, Brian discusses food trends, the contents of his fridge and a piece of kitchen slang which sounds intrguing but is probably best left untranslated.

What got you into cooking to begin with?

I used to help my Mum do the cooking every Sunday and then at school my home economics teacher said there was three week placement at the Skean Dhu. That was my first job in a professional kitchen back in 1985.

Was moving from Scotland to Le Gavroche a massive eye-opener or what you might have expected?

Not really, as I went to Lyon for a year to gain experience before I headed to London. By the time the opportunity at Le Gavroche came up I had a fair idea how hard it was going to be.

Chardon d’Or has just celebrated its tenth birthday. Have your customers tastes changed over that time?

I wouldn’t say that their tastes have changed but, with so many food programmes on the television now, I would say that they maybe make people want to try different things and be more adventurous.

What is your favourite ingredient to work with?

Fish. I really enjoy preparing and cooking fish.

Who cooks at home?

My wife Susan because I’m not there.

What do you like to eat on a night off?

My wife’s dinner.

Which chef has inspired you?

Michel Roux Jnr.

Is there anything you couldn’t eat?


The dining room at Le Chardon d'Or

What has been the most exotic thing you have eaten?

I wouldn’t call it the most exotic but I absolutely love white tuna.

What gadget/utensil can’t you work without?

My knives.

Ketchup or Maldon sea salt?


You can get anyone in the world to cook you a meal. Who will it be?

Bruce Willis.

Apart from your own establishment, where do you like to eat out?

We don’t get much of a chance to eat out in Glasgow because I am always working. But we try to go to London to visit old friends and eat out.  Down there, my favourite place is Le Gavroche. Even though I am biased after working there for so long, I could never tire of eating there!

What is the best thing about being a chef?

Getting to work with all the local produce and also getting to meet a lot of good people over the years!

And the worst?

It will always be the long hours.

What’s been your worst kitchen disaster?

We had a party of twenty in and I had made a vegetable mousse. One of the staff who was working with me put the tray onto a hot plate which made the mousse melt. I had to quickly do another twenty mousse or I might not have had a job to go back to the next day. That was stressful.

Chefs are well known for drinking in moderation but what would you cook for a colleague who was suffering from a hangover?

French toast always works for me.

You’re making a special meal for your wife. What’s cooking?

Susan’s favourite meal is scallops to start followed by fried halibut and then apple tarte tatin.

What is in your fridge at home?

Two eggs, a chicken and three bottles of beer.

What has been your most memorable meal?

At La Tante Claire where Susan and I got engaged.

Tell us your daftest customer complaint?

Easy! A lady ordered vanilla creme brulée, ate it all and then sent back the dish with the complaint that while the brulée was the best she had ever tasted, she couldn’t believe how dirty the dish was. We had to point out that the black specks on the base of the dish were fresh vanilla.

What is your best piece of printable kitchen slang?

It’s the sentence, ‘The Spanish archer is going to be making an appearance soon’.


My name is BT76Z V2.0, I’ll be your server today

Yesterday's Sunday Times had a quirky wee story about new advances in robotic barmen. Or rather robotic bar staff as customers can choose whether to have a male of female face displayed on the robot's monitor.

Bar staff of the future?

Apparently, the latest generation of robobar staff can mix a Martini in 20 seconds and is even programmed to deliver a series of quips to make them seem more personable.

According to the report, researchers at a German university have even developed a robobar server that tells very Teutonic jokes. I suspect that the journo may be elaborating a little here but it made me smile.

It's a fun little piece but the implications for the hospitality industry are dreadful. Get rid of bar staff and waiters in our pubs and restaurants and, effectively, you are left with some sort of automated canteen and where's the fun in that?

On a related matter, Scotland On Sunday had a report yesterday about the Turnberry Hotel putting their wine list on an iPad.

Ralph Porciani, the hotel's director of operations, reckoned that guests like it because the iPad can give a lot more information than a standard wine list.

Also, presenting the list in an electronic format was thought to be less intimdating than having a sommelier lean over you.

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