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Slow Food Scotland holds first Terra Madre Scotland

Cawdor Castle plays host to a tasty line-up of culinary events this weekend.

Cawdor Castle plays host to a tasty line-up of culinary events this weekend.

Cawdor Castle, by Nairn, will be awash with food-lovers this weekend thank to two significant, grub-themed events.

First up, the annual Living Food festival takes place at the Castle on Saturday. Visitors can expect workshops, demonstrations, tastings and talks from leading Scottish food experts, producers, suppliers and chefs.

Then, on Sunday, from 9.30am-2.30pm, Slow Food Scotland will be holding the first ever Terra Madre Scotland event at the Castle.

The event has been organised in the run-up to Slow Food International’s Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre events taking place in Turin in late October this year.

The international Terra Madre bring together thousands of people from hundreds of countries to discuss food issues, taste each others’ produce and work together towards preserving traditional foods and biodiversity.

The Scottish event will be in much the same spirit. As well as meals from top chefs, there will be workshops, hands-on demonstrations, tastings and talks from Scottish food experts, chefs, producers and suppliers.

Protecting culinary heritage

One of the most popular events is likely to be the one looking at Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, a programme which aims to protect and nurture our global culinary heritage. So far, there are some 1800 different products on the list.

Contributors to the event will include: writer; Catherine Brown; Scottish food champion, Wendy Barrie; food consultant and community food advisor; Liz Ashworth; food campaigner and organic farmer, Pete Ritchie from Nourish Scotland; chefs including Neil Forbes, Charlie Lockley, Jim Cowie; crofters including Billy Muir from Orkney and Ronnie Eunson from Shetland; agricultural botanist; Maria Scholten; cheese-maker; Barry Graham and artisan dairy consultant; Cathy Biss.

Good, clean and fair food

Pam Rodway, organiser of Terra Madre Scotland, said:

‘We hope that as many people as possible will join us at the first ever Terra Madre Scotland. We’ve put together a unique programme of workshops, demonstrations, tastings and talks from Scotland’s top food experts, producers, suppliers and chefs. If you have an interest in good, clean and fair food, or want to learn more about Scotland’s unique food culture and how you can play your part in it, this event is for you.”

More information about Terra Madre Scotland, including a full programme and ticket info can be found at: www.slowfoodscotland.com



Talking steak with 29 The Grill Room’s Head Chef

A 29 Steak

A 29 Steak

David Friel has been the Head Chef at 29 The Grill Room on Glasgow’s Exchange Square since it opened in 2006.

With spectacular views over Royal Exchange Square, The Grill Room specialises in selected, certified Scotch beef and local seafood, as well as prime USDA beef and Wagyu beef.

Over the years, The Grill Room has accumulated multiple awards and has welcomed many a high profile guest.

In this interview, David discusses the best steaks, food fashions and feeding the famous.

5pm: Who comes to The Grill Room?

DF: We market it as being for everyone. It’s not just the so called ‘movers and shakers’ although we do get plenty of them. We have been fortunate that we have had the last two Labour Prime Ministers for dinner. We have done an awful lot of top end stuff. James (Mortimer), who owns the company, brings a great deal of the top end business but it’s there for everyone.

5pm: I’ve read that when times are tough, say when a recession is on, people tend to order the more familiar or traditional dishes, such as prawn cocktails. Did you see that a few years back?

DF: I think dishes like that are always popular. If I put a prawn cocktail, a steak and a chocolate dessert on the menu on a Saturday night then they would account for around 75% of the sales. They are the three most popular dishes.

Whether it is a traditional prawn cocktail or a more modern interpretation, that is what customers tend to buy. Regardless of what chefs want to do, there are certain dishes which will always sell.

5pm: That must be difficult. Chefs spend ages training; you get the new produce in for each season and you want to innovate. You don’t want to do the same dish all the time, year in, year out. You want to give the customers something new but, at the same time, you have to give the customers what they want.

DF: Exactly! We do sell a lot of others things. There are more customers now than ever who are a bit more experimental and will try different things whenever they are out. They will try something that they have heard about, but never tried. I know I’m like that.

5pm: In Glasgow, at the moment, it can seem as though every second new opening is selling burgers, hot dogs or barbeque. What trends or fashions do you see coming through?

DF: The burger thing is a trend that happened a few years ago and is still there. There are a lot more retro dishes coming back. Old fashioned things like braised beef cheeks. I guess it’s classic stuff with a bit of a twist.

We do a Wagyu burger, which is very popular, very tasty. I don’t think it’s our place to try and compete with the burger places. At the same time, I don’t think a burger is that far out of place on a grill room menu. We are not a fine dining restaurant. We are a steakhouse first and foremost.

5pm: Can you ever see classic French cooking coming back and having the same sort of trendy cult status?

DF: Yeah, I think so. I think there is actually a French fast food group about to hit London. I can’t remember the name (possibly Chez Antoinette).

If you go to France or Paris, there are stacks of places offering a French take on fast food. No-one wants to spend two or three hours to have lunch these days. Instead, there are lots of bistros and so on where it is all relatively fast. I can see that coming here.

We are about to launch our new business lunch. It will be slightly cheaper than the one we already do. It will be available Monday to Friday, noon to three, and, while customers can take as long as they want over lunch, it will have dishes which make it easier for people to come in and out that bit faster if they wish.

All about the cut

All about the cut

5pm: What are the best sellers at The Grill Room?

DF: Steak. Steak is by far the best seller. Our eight ounce sirloin steak is our biggest seller followed by the fillet steak. We do sell a good selection of different steaks.

Over the years, we have tried all of the top end Scotch beef brands. We use Caledonia Crown, which is our most popular one. We have used Orkney Gold, Campbell’s Gold, Buccleuch.

They all provide a top end product and, to be honest, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the brands. If you were having a blind tasting, you would struggle to tell the difference between Caledonia Crown, Buccleuch and Simon Howie’s top stuff.

We also bring in our Wagyu beef and USDA prime graded beef from a company in London. You can really tell the difference between Scotch beef and the American beef. It has been fed on a different diet, a grain diet. Like the Wagyu, it has a very different taste.

That’s why we put it on the menu. We are a steakhouse and if people come here and want to try something different, it’s not going to make a great deal of difference if they try Caledonia Crown one week and Buccleuch Estate beef the following week.

5pm: In what way does the USDA beef taste different? Is it more buttery?

DF: Yes. They are richer. They taste fatter, for want of a better word – they have a more creamy, fatty flavour. That’s not to take away from the Scotch beef. For me, the Scotch beef is by far the best.

5pm: Is there a gender divide when it comes to steak with men ordering big T-bones and woman wanting a smaller sirloin. Is it just size or also cut?

DF: A bit of both. Guys will take their T-bone or a twelve ounce steak and ladies tend to take a seven ounce fillet or the eight ounce sirloin. To be fair, as tables of two go, you tend to get steak/fish, steak/fish, as women tend to eat fish more.

5pm: Is there a divide in terms of how people like it cooked?”

DF: There’s a little bit of that. Certainly, the older generation do like their meat more cooked, but they are becoming more adventurous. We see fewer and fewer steaks ordered cooked through. Not that I have a problem with that at all.

I’ve come across some chefs who turn their nose up at doing a well done steak. I think that is wrong. If customers are prepared to pay £30-40 for a steak, they can have it cooked anyway they like.

5pm: Do you get many steaks ordered blue?

DF: We do. We train the staff to navigate round about that. We sell a few steaks on the bone and a blue steak on the bone can look a bit like a car crash. It’s not very pleasant. In that respect, we would advise the diners to have it served off the bone or to order a steak that is cooked off the bone.

We get all sorts of requests. We might get Americans asking for their steak to be ‘black and blue’ – with a really dark sear on the outside and really pink in the middle.

5pm: What do you use to cook your steaks?

DF: We use an old fashioned char grill. It’s designed to do what we want. It’s really hot at the top so all the rare, medium rare, blue steaks go up there for a short period. The steaks which are ordered more fully cooked are done further down. It takes some getting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it’s a better way of cooking steak.

5pm: Do you get a lot of discrepancy between what you know is the exact technical description for medium rare and so on and what the customer means by the same term?

DF: Yes. That is the most common feedback that we get. We state on the menu what the steak will look like when it is ordered rare, medium rare and so on. We state that quite categorically. However, you can’t tell someone whose wife has been cooking them a steak a certain way for years that they are wrong about it being medium or whatever it is.

Often, people who want ‘medium to well’ really want ‘well done’ but they don’t want to say ‘well done’. The majority of people do not make a big noise about it, they just want their steak cooked a little bit more. We are happy to do that.

5pm: How do you take your steak?

DF: If it’s a rib-eye, I like it cooked medium. I like the fat to be cooked a little bit more as that gets the flavour going. But I’ll take a sirloin or a fillet medium to rare. I’ll even take a fillet rare if I know it’s a really good bit of meat.

If this has whet your appetite, you can view 29 - The Grill on the Square's menus and offers on 5pm Dining.

Learn more about steaks in our video of David talking us through the differences between the varieties of cuts of steaks.



Viva Restaurant cooks Fettucine Manzo e Fungi

Viva Restaurant on Glasgow’s Bothwell Street invited us through their doors to film them cooking the delicious Fettucine Manzo e Fungi, one of their most popular dishes – watch the video below.

We had a chat with William Duncan, Head Chef at Viva.

How long have you been a chef for?

“Twenty four years. Mostly Italian and a wee bit of Mexican. But on the whole I’ve stuck to Italian. I’ve worked in Viva for nearly 10 years now.”

What do you like about cooking Italian food?

“In Viva it’s more a fast food sort of Italian. Especially the size of the restaurant, it’s a 150 seater. So you really need to be quick to get great tasting food out in a timely way, as in, pastas are quick, pizzas are quick.

"We also do steaks, fish dishes – so we have other things happening. But pastas should be quick and simple as possible. People want fed, especially at lunchime. We have quite a busy lunch crowd.”

What dishes are particularly popular at Viva?

“Your carbonara and bolognese have always been popular. Others ones like penne marco with chicken and mushrooms are dishes people like. Things with chicken sells well, and there are vegetarian options as well.

"In terms of pizza the Milano and Americano, which is a meat feast pizza, and also Pollo picante, which is a spicy chicken one with jalapenos are the most popular. The popular ones are often the spicy ones.”

What are the most popular type of pastas?

“Penne. We go through lots of that. I think most people like it as they aren’t going to eat it and not worry that they are sitting out for a meal and have it drip round them."

For the dish we just filmed you making, what is the meat marinated in?

“Olive oil, lemon, wee bits of chilli, wee bits of garlic and Worchester sauce. It’s marinated for 24 hours plus. The longer it is the more tender it will get.”

If you want to give Viva a try, check out their full menus and offers on 5pm - they've currently got a great 25% offer non 5pm Dining. 



New restaurants. Lots of ‘em. Everywhere.

The sirloin steak at Osso is hard to refuse.

The sirloin steak at Osso is hard to refuse.

There’s lots going on in terms of new and recent openings so, deep breath, here we go:

In the Borders, Ally McGrath has been winning lots of new friends since he opened Osso in Peebles 2007. Since last weekend, the chef has branched out and also taken over Laurel Bank, just down the road in Broughton, Biggar.

The new venture is billed as being a bistro and bar. You can see the full menu on their website but we liked the sound of the confit chicken leg and choucroute followed by the dark chocolate mousse with boozy cherries and salted caramel on the evening menu.

Grilled lobster

In Glasgow, The McMillan Southside also came to life last weekend.

The latest venture from the McMillan family, who already have a place on Norby Road, The McMillan Southside is a new bar and chop house on Pollokshaws Road.

Open from breakfast through to midnight, the kitchen dishes up everything from wood-smoked kippers on toasted Italian bread to Tweed valley lamb chops, 30-day-aged Aberdeen Angus and grilled Atlantic lobsters.

Need a Negroni on the Southside? Try The McMillan.

Need a Negroni on the Southside? Try The McMillan.

It’s a rum do

Sticking in the Southside, the main bar at The Rum Shack is officially open. We think.

The Fire in Babylon lads have been busy putting on gigs and introducing the Southside to the joys of rum from their Pollokshaws base for a few weeks now.

The main bar was scheduled to open yesterday. Hopefully, the kitchen will be in a position to start dishing up the Caribbean food in a couple of weeks or so.

It's a rum ting.

It's a rum ting.

Cannonball hits target

Moving to Edinburgh, the Victor and Carina Contini Cannonball restaurant had an official launch at the weekend.

Located in Cannonball House on Castlehill, the menu has a distinct Scottish flavour, as well as the occasional Italian flourish.

The 5pm Dining blog has yet to visit but we are told that the views of Edinburgh’s skyline are pretty special.

From the dinner menu, the char grilled venison with Scottish girolle mushrooms and black currants from the Contini’s kitchen garden grabbed this writer’s attention.

As did the macaroni cheese with lobster thermidore sauce.

The Continis also have Victor and Carina Contini Ristorante, Contini Caffe (in the same building as Cannonball) and the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant under the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound.

The interior of the Contini's Cannonball.

The interior of the Contini's Cannonball.

New Japanese

Finally, we missed this when it opened but Tang’s now have a sister restaurant. Hakataya, also a Japanese restaurant, is on Rose Street South Lane.

The menu is here but it is packed with ramen, sushi, tempura and those sticky, white steamed buns filled with chicken teriyaki and apple cider pork.

Say hello to Hakataya.

Say hello to Hakataya.



Craft beer festival at Drygate

Anyone fancy a pint?

Anyone fancy a pint?

If you like craft beer then you will love the Craft Beer Rising festival which takes place at Glasgow’s Drygate for three days from Friday.

More than 3,000 people are expected to turn up and sample beers from more than 35 of the world’s leading craft breweries.

Local brewers such as WEST, Williams Bros. and Fyne Ales will be dispensing brews alongside international favourites including Sierra Nevada, Blue Moon and Bellerose.

Burger Bear of London, Meat Hook (sausage specialists), Meat Merchant (authentic biltong) and Aye Love Real Food (rare breed Scotch eggs) will provide a street food-inspired menu.

Live brewing

There will also be beer cocktails and live collaborative brewing.

Music at Craft Beer Rising will focus on local talent. Headline acts include Glasgow club legends Optimo on Friday, a hip-hop set from Mia Dora on Saturday afternoon, and producer The Revenge on Saturday night.

Mungo’s HiFi, followed by DJ Andy Smith (Portishead, Prodigy) and Boca45, will wrap-up Sunday’s event.

Colin Johnston – Operations Director at Drygate Brewing Co. – explained more:

‘As a young craft brewery, it’s an honour to host so many of our peers here at Drygate.

‘From day one, we’ve been inspired by the spirit of collaboration, something that resonates with Craft Beer Rising and this new wave of cultural craft beer festivals that absorb elements such as music and food into the mix.

‘The opportunity to experience new things and exchange ideas – for festival goers and exhibitors alike – is really exciting.’

Tickets for Craft Beer Rising can be purchased here: http://www.craftbeerrising.co.uk/

Craft Beer Rising takes place over four public sessions from 6pm – 1am on Friday 19th, 12pm – 6pm and 7pm – 1am on Saturday 20th and 12pm – 6pm on Sunday 21st September.

The line-up

Brewers attending Craft Beer Rising at Drygate Brewing Co. are: Thornbridge, Harbour Brewing, Siren, Belhaven, Bellerose, Islay Ales, WEST Beer, Frontier, Chimay, Sierra Nevada, Firebrand, BrewDog, Stewart Brewing, Blue Moon, Franciscan Well, Eden Brew, Camden Town Brewery, Innis & Gunn, Williams Bros, Barneys Beer, Knopps, Alechemy, Bearhug, Fyne Ales, MoR Brewing, Menabrea, Heverlee, Lagunitas, Greene King, Hawkes Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Harry Brompton, Thistly Cross Cider, Woodchuck, Chaplin and Cork.



Arches Cafe Bar: Please Wait To Be Seated

As you may have noticed, there's a big referendum coming up this Thursday.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the 5pm Food & Dining Blog. Don't worry, we're not going to tell you how to vote, we're just here to let you know about a fascinating project at Glasgow's Arches Cafe Bar, which is encouraging diners to bring politics to the table.

Please Wait To Be Seated

"Please Wait To Be Seated," is an interactive exhibition encouraging restaurants diners to debate issues related to the referendum and analyse their decision making process.

ArchesPleaseWaitToBeSeated

Before their meal customers will be presented with a debate topic related to life in Scotland after the referendum, regardless of the outcome. Questions include "Should there be a monarchy?" "Should there be a minimum living salary given to every member of society?"  or "Should we pay for a tv license?"

Each table at the Arches Cafe Bar is split into four sections: yes, no, don't know and don't care. Throughout their meal diners will debate their topic before putting their plate on the square of the answer they have chosen.

ArchesCafeBarPleaseWaitToBeSeated2

The debate is accompanied by posters displaying marketing profiles of different income brackets, encouraging diners to think about the outside factors which frame their decisions.

ArchesPleaseWaitToBeSeated3

At the end of the meal, diners are encouraged to take photos of their plates and tweet or instagram them with the hashtag #pleasewaittobeseated.

Decision Making

The exhibition was created by Glasgow based performance artist Adam J Scarborough.

He said: "The thing that interests me with the referendum is not whether you are going to vote yes or no - it's how people are making those decisions and what's framing those decisions."

"I believe that every individual is capable of making a decision based on their own ideas and their own beliefs but I think sometimes we don't think about the elements that do frame our decisions."

"It's a little bit goading - you are immediately presented with income brackets which a lot of people aren't comfortable talking about. It's invading someone's privacy a little bit. People can engage with it or choose to ignore it."

"The referendum is the perfect subject to debate as 97% of people are registered to vote compared to around 40% at the last election. It is clearly a decision that means a lot to people."

Divisive

That's all very well and good but the vote on Thursday certainly is a divisive one, with passionate feelings on both sides. Isn't the Arches Cafe Bar worried about plates flying through the air?

"I think that would be great!" Georgia Riungu, Marketing Manager of the Arches said. "I'm really proud to have the Arches as a space to facilitate these sorts of debates and in the cafe bar, not just in a traditional arts setting."

"Some of our audience only visit us as an arts setting, some only for gigs, or clubs or dining, and we are always striving to get more of a crossover."

"So I think this project is fantastic, and I hope there are some plates flying (just don't tell our bar manager.)

Please Wait To Be Seated is part of the Arches' Referendum Festival. For restaurants offers at the Arches Cafe Bar, visit their profile on 5pm dining.



Tequila tasting

Topolabamba will be toasting with tequila tonight.

Topolabamba will be toasting with tequila tonight.

Tequila has not always had the best reputation. While not as notorious as Buckfast, it has, nonetheless, made quite the name for itself as a formidable commotion potion.

That is not really a fair judgement though. It is true that, for many, their only experience of tequila will have been as a shot followed by a slice of lemon. However, there is more to tequila than necking it as part of a riotous night out.

Top quality tequila

Years back, the blog went on a tutored tequila-tasting class and we wrote about it here. Suffice to say that after a couple of hours spent sipping top quality tequilas we developed a new found respect for the much maligned Mexican spirit.

Tonight, a tequila-tasting event at Glasgow’s Topolabamba restaurant aims to be similarly enlightening.

Margaritas

A brand ambassador from Jose Cuervo will be talking guests through five different tequilas. £20 gets you a margarita on arrival, the tutored tasting and lots and lots of chips and salsa. Live music is also promised.

Email eat@topolabamba.com for tickets.

Oh yeah, today is a Mexican Independence Day so you may wish to raise a glass of tequila to our Mexican chums.



Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland this weekend

Tony Singh, presumably without the giant chasing tomato, is one of the chefs demoing at the event.

Tony Singh, presumably without the giant chasing tomato, is one of the chefs demoing at the event.

It’s a big weekend in Scotland’s culinary calendar. Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland, one of the flagship events of the Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, is taking place over the next three days at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh.

Taking place from today until Sunday, Eat Drink Discover Scotland will play host to over a hundred food and drink companies – many of whom are smaller producers.

Artisan producers

Artisan producers from Mara Seaweed to Thistly Cross Cider via Strathearn Distillery and The Puffer Food Company are among the diverse range of businesses showcasing their Scottish produce at the event.

The show will be laid out in eleven regional zones - Perthshire, Grampian, Dundee & Angus, Kingdom of Fife, Highlands and Islands, Ayrshire, Arran & Argyll, Greater Glasgow & the Clyde Valley, Loch Lomond The Trossachs and the Forth Valley, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Edinburgh and Lothians.

Eat Scotland in a day

The idea is that visitors will be able to eat their way around Scotland in one day and under one roof.

As well as cooking demos from some of the nation’s best known chefs, the weekend will also reveal ‘Scotland’s best kept secret ingredient’.

Celebrity chef Mark Greenaway has been on a mission to discover the secret ingredients that Scottish cooks just simply have to have in the pantry.

Chef Greenaway has been travelling all over Scotland to unearth the country’s more unexpected ingredients.

Secrets revealed

A shortlist of the best entrants has been invited to join Mark in a cook-off. The producer or retailer who supplied the winner with their secret ingredient will be given a free exhibition stand at next year’s event.

Tickets, timetables and other FAQS are all here.



5pm restaurants and Scottish Food Fortnight

Roast monkfish tail from Shetland is one of the specials at Hutchesons.

Roast monkfish tail from Shetland is one of the specials at Hutchesons.

Lots of 5pm Dining restaurants are offering special menus or running different menus during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight.

Among them, Maggie May's in Glasgow will be hosting nightly specials showcasing some of the finest Scottish cuisine. Every dish is freshly prepared with local produce by the team of chefs in Maggie's kitchen.

A short walk away at Hutchesons, Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight is being celebrated with two of their favourite dishes - monkfish from the waters of Shetland and 100% Scotch beef from Ayrshire.

Shetland monkfish

The two ingredients feature in the following specials:

Roasted Shetland monkfish tail with a choice of four sides and bottle of house red or white wine for £60 per couple.

35 day dry-aged Chateaubriand with a choice of four sides and a bottle of house red or white for £70 per couple.

Both specials are available from Sunday-Thursday, noon-10pm and Friday/Saturday, noon- 5pm, during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight.

T-bone time

Hutchesons’ sister restaurant, The Butchershop, is showcasing their signature Scottish steaks in celebration of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight.

They offer a melt-in-your-mouth 500g cote de boeuf, T-bone or the Chateaubriand with your choice of four sides and a bottle of house white or red for £70 per couple.

Available Sunday-Thursday, noon-10pm and Friday/Saturday, noon- 5pm, during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight.

The funky bar at One Square

The funky bar at One Square

Hip to be square

Over in Edinburgh, One Square is running their Fayre and Square seasonal tasting menu until the end of September.

Proving that it's hip to be square, this menu pairs three delicious courses with three gin cocktail tasters - each named after a famous square in the gin's country of origin.

The gastronomic journey begins at home, with pressed Ayrshire pork belly and black pudding, matched with a St Andrew Square cocktail made with Caorunn gin and seasonal fruits.

Next, a slow cooked salmon fillet and heritage tomato dressing comes with a Plaza Cataluna - a Mediterranean blend of Gin Mare, basil and rosemary.

To finish, a dessert of vanilla parfait, orange meringue, cardamom crumble and marmalade mousse is paired with a Da Dam, a refreshing G&T mixed with Sloane's Gin from Amsterdam.

The menu, with gin tasters, is £22 per person.

Best of Scottish

At L’Escargot Bleu, chef patron Fred Berkmiller has always been a massive supporter of Scottish producers. For September, Fred has created a special menu celebrating the best Scottish suppliers.

Take it slowly

Dashing across to Edinburgh’s West End for Monday 9th September, Edinburgh Larder Bistro on Alva Street is playing host to Slow Food Edinburgh’s Big Table.

Guests will meet local supporters of the Slow Food movement and find out more about local produce.

Heather Anderson of Whitmuir Farm will also be on hand to discuss their project to create the first community owned farm in Scotland.

A menu full of treats from Whitmuir Farm is promised.



Fun quiz time!

Try our quick and fun quiz to see which Scottish food you are most like :)

(Click on the blog title link above to access the quiz)

 

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