Thursday, 28 January 2016

Banchory Beer Festival: Top five things you can't miss

Banchory Beer Festival returns for a its second 'Beer @ the Barn' event which is running from the 12th - 13th of February 2016. Held indoors at the Woodend Barn in Banchory, the festival will showcase a unique selection of beers, ciders, gins and rums, supporting local and national producers with quality, artisan products at the heart of their business'.

After attending its sister festival; Inverurie Beer Festival last September, I was pretty chuffed to get the opportunity to attend Aberdeen's first 2016 beer festival of the year.

Getting a sneak peek into the festivals offering, I've pulled together a list of my top five things to try at Banchory Beer Festival this year...

1. Porter's Gin:
This will be the first festival the Aberdeen-made gin will be exhibiting at, showcasing one of the finest gins in town. After attending the official launch of the gin, this is definitely something you'll want to get your lips around.

2. Dark Matter Distillers:
Returning for a second year, Scotland's first ever distilled rum will be teasing the tastebuds of those budding festivalgoers looking for something a little different to sample at the festival . In my opinion, best served with ginger beer/ginger ale or Summerhouse Fizz hint o'mint lemonade. Divine.

3. Cromarty Brewing Co:
After sampling the breweries Rogue Wave craft beer (which was pretty wicked if I do say so myself - a very hoppy pale ale) at a another Aberdeen craft beer festival, I urge you to check these guys out. A family run business based in Cromarty, these guys have a serious passion for the brewing industry and have mastered the art of perfecting craft beer.

4. Isle of Harris Gin:
Another newbie to the UK mainland festival scene. This gin is said to have a great balance of flavours between bitter juniper and pine, and the sweet fruity flavours of mango, grapefruit and orange. A gin I've never tried, although, I'm very much looking forward to enjoying a tipple or two! Distillers of this sensational gin suggest it's best served with Walter Gregor's Scottish Tonic (yet another I need to try), a few drops of their sugar kelp aromatic water, and should be garnished with red grapefruit to a wedge of fresh lime.

5. The music: 
Local Aberdeen city and shire bands, because what's not to love about local people producing sweet, sweet music and serenading a bunch of festivalgoers? With acts including The Sunshine Social, The Liver Conditions, Full Fat and the Funky Pieces as well as The Mat Ferret Band, you Banchory Beer Festival newcomers are in for a treat.

The festival will also play host to over 15 beers from breweries such as St Andrews Brewing Co Six Degrees North, Alechemy Brewing and a few others. There will also be six ciders to sample and local catering business, Hudson's Catering, will be serving up a wide rage of flavoursome curries as well as Indian finger food.

Tickets to the festival can be purchased online here: But hurry, the festival sold out of tickets last year so get them whilst you can!

  For Now...

Just Julia 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Burns Night: Tonight's the nicht tae celebrate

Tonight's the nicht we Scots celebrate the one and only Rabbie Burns' birthday. Having never attended a Burns evening, or experienced the addressing of a haggis before, I was extremely intrigued after being invited along to the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) Burns Night event last week. Tae say I couldnae wait is a fair understatement ken?

So off I went, donning my authentic tartan scarf obviously, to find out what was in store... 

Entering the room, Burns' inspiration oozed throughout. Local cocktail bar, Orchid, was out in force serving up cocktails and mocktails of every flavour, whilst the AECC chefs team were busy informing guests of the masterpieces (otherwise known as hor dourves) that were getting served up to guests as St Machar Academy pupils serenaded us with stunning acoustic covers. 

With Burns in the air and everyone in high spirits, I knew we were in for a treat.

I've never been a massive fan of haggis, neeps and tatties. Simplistic in fashion I am, however, not so much with regards to food. However, being Scottish, it wouldn't be right to not indulge in the traditional dish at a Burns Supper.

Our MC for the evening was Roddy from Ree-Time Events, and what a scream he was. Not only was his address to the haggis the most enthusiastic I have ever seen anyone address food in my life, but his passion seeped through his voice, wowing guests with his dramatic demonstration.

Taking us through a musical adventure throughout our Scottish cuisine experience was local singer, Myke Black. Soulful in voice the fine gent captured his audience with a number of unique acoustic covers. 

As the courses were served our Robert Burns knowledge was put to the test, Eight gruelling questions about the Scottish patriot later, and suddenly I had learned a lot more about this fascinating chap than I ever had at school. 

Our three-course meal was to be like nothing I had experienced at a dinner before...For starters we were presented with a taste of Scotland in the form of haggis, neeps and tatties, perfectly positioned on the plate in a not so traditional way.

For main, a trio of dishes of the highest-quality Scottish produce was served including: fresh Scottish salmon, venison, and pork and apple sausages. The three artisan small taster dishes all sported a huge differentiation in taste, texture and presentation, which was a much-loved touch. Three bowls playing host to three very delicious dishes.

In true fashion, the dessert really was the showstopper for me. 'Make your own dessert' stations were assembled for the ravenous guests to put their confectionary skills to the test. With the help from the AECC's top chefs everyone was invited to try their hand at numerous different skills and techniques including: chocolate tempering, spherification, working with melted sugar and piping.

Getting up-close and personal with the chefs was extremely refreshing at this sort of event. Hearing about their top tips throughout these special one-to-one moment's was any budding bakers dream, although a patisserie chef I am not...

After a fun-filled evening of eating and drinking, the AECC had one last trick up its sleeve. It's very own version of in-door Highland Games. With in-door caber tossing, curling, whisky tasting and the opportunity to learn how to play the bagpipes, Scottish heritage surrounded us, in every corner. The annual event was a huge success in my eyes and I urge anyone who gets an invitation to such a showcase to get richt in there and enjoy every second of it.

Happy birthday Rabbie, have a good yin.

  For Now...

Just Julia


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Muchacho: Launch event & Mexican beer recipe

Hola amigos! So, I've decided to spice it up a little this week and tell you about Aberdeen's hottest new takeaway restaurant, Muchacho. And when I say spice it up, I mean 'punch in your face' four chilli warning spice it up.

Muchacho. A hidden gem located in the heart of Aberdeen on Rose Street, offering up the very best authentic Mexican street food the city has to present. And, with the Mexican street food craze hitting the UK, there was no guessing that it would be long before the concept was brought to our doorstep, and oh how Muchacho has delivered...

Definition of Muchacho: 'Hey buddy' 'Hey young guy'

Brought to life by Lee Brandie, Elena Aspe and Darren Wilson, this foodie haven; with its bespoke interiors, and creative menu which has been masterfully developed by the innovative staff, has everything any burrito loving - quesadilla crunching individual could ask for.

Sold on the concept, the menu, and the vibe, it was exciting to hear that the business is looking to grow extremely quickly. With plans already in motion to move into the St Andrews market by the end of the year, the enthusiastic trio behind the business look to have six units open by the end of the second year in business. 

With food in mind, Muchacho's tantalising tacos and cocktails were in abundance at the soft launch, and for those driving or braving #dryanuary, there were plenty of mocktails too. The taco trio included the choice of chicken, beef, pork or vegetable, all of which were drizzled in different salsa's proving to be a similar concept to that of the Dorito roulette; a try if you dare type game, with a serious poker face required. The anticipation on who was going to end up with the spicy taco was electrifying, I just prayed it wouldn't be me. Not being a massive fan of spice, I was a little hesitant I would be able to enjoy the eatery's cuisine, however, with all tastes and spice-factors considered I was able to enjoy a little heat, without burning my mouth off. (The Pico De Gallo salsa is a must for those who can't handle the heat).

Cocktail/mocktail combo's in gasoline canisters; quirky; I like.

Satisfied with the food and drink, I turned to the aesthetics of the place, admiring the attention to detail of the interior design. Envisioning myself at a street food stall in the heart of Mexico, the whole manner of the place really did start to add to the full experience. With bespoke wood panelling, drawers on the walls and an artist's mural which could easily don the streets of Mexico, this place screams authenticity.

Winding down after two busy hours of networking with fellow bloggers Foodie Quine, the ladies from Lost in Food, and other media professionals, my belly was full and my mouth was now aching (which is no surprise after all that yapping). After his speech, Lee invited everyone to grab a dish of their choosing for the road. You'll see below what I decided to opt for, sharing with my family when I got home, who also gave the food two thumbs up.

Burritto with abodo chicken and pico de gallo sauce
Just before I parted for the evening I had one last question for the owners...but what about dessert?

Although there are no desserts on the menu at present, Elena mentioned that a classic, quick-and-easy Mexican dessert, churros, may be making their way onto the menu very soon. Best served with chocolate, honey or coffee sauces, these will no doubt be a massive hit with customers.

The restaurant is officially open to the public now, operating seven days a week from 10AM - 10PM. Even if you're not the biggest lover of spice, the talented team will ensure you receive a dish which is tailored to your liking and of the highest of quality. With innovation at the forefront of this restaurant, the specially created menu is one-of-a-kind, guaranteed to spice up the market.

Big shout out to Mario who let me sample his homemade Mexican beer (Michelada), which tasted quite similar to a Bloody Mary, with a serious kick and some added spice. I was pretty lucky in the sense that I was the only person at the event to sample this fire-breathing beer, so Mario, gracias for sharing a piece of your culture with me.

Check out my recipe for Michelada below:

Mexican beer; make your own Michelada

Recipe makes two drinks: 
  • 1 1/2 cups of Mexican beer; Corona or Sol 
  • 1 teaspoons Soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (or hot sauce)
  • 1/4 freshly squeezed lime juice with a splash of lemon juice (keep the reserved rinds)
  • Sprinkle of freshly ground pepper
  • Splash of Chilli powder
  • Ice
  • Salt or chilli powder for rimming the glass

Top tip: It's also been said that the locals in the South of Mexico like to serve the cocktail with shrimp, worth a try if you're a seafood fan!

1. Put the lime and lemon juice, soy sauce, Tabasco sauce, and a splash of chilli powder in a pitcher and mix together with the beer.

2. Place salt or chilli on a place, covering the bottom of it. Rub the rims of two glasses with the reserved lime rinds and dip the glasses into the salt or chilli. Fill glasses with ice and set aside.

3. Pour into the glasses and top with a few grinds of pepper and serve.

De Nada

  For Now...

Just Julia

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Brewdog Castlegate: The scran...

BrewDog is one of, if not the most successful craft beer business Scotland has to offer to local, national, and international markets. With a quirky outlook on marketing and some seriously clever PR stunts, the craft beer company has been on our radar since brewing its first beers back in 2007. How time flies!

After establishing its new brewery premises in Ellon, alongside brewery bar, DogTap, and investing in Aberdeen by gifting us lucky locals with a BrewDog bar, the craft beer giants are at it again and have well and truly outdone themselves this time by adding a second bar to the city centre, BrewDog Castlegate (previously known as The Athenaeum to you Aberdonian's out there). 

The latest establishement in global dominance, BrewDog Catlegate, consists of a bar with sixteen craft beer lines, an informal restaurant for casual pub grub with a twist, a bottle shop, and a downstairs club, UnderDog, which will be open till 2am on weekdays and 3am at the weekend with some majorly good music vibes. Thus meaning that there's something for everyone at this new eatery, as well as some cracking hand-made speciality coffee for those looking to meet up casually with friends during #dryanuary.

I've consumed one too many beer cocktails previously at BrewDog Aberdeen, and have been lucky enough to experience the brewery tour in Ellon also, so it was about time I got my act in gear to check out the company's new digs. So around two weeks ago, on a cold Winter's afternoon, I did just that.

Stepping into the bar it was fairly busy, with no seating available my date and I were on the hunt for a table, after all I was there for the food primarily. Hanging around for 10 minutes I was sure we were never going to get a table, but alas, five minutes later I was seated with a great view of Castlegate. Ideal for an avid people watching enthusiast.

The menu is small yet pretty varied, allowing you to choose something light, or for those looking for a good feed, something a little more hearty. There's plenty of choice with something for everyone, and vegetarians also have a pretty decent offering too.

In my case, when you're extremely ravenous, the whole 'eyes bigger than your belly' thing seriously applies to me. This in turn lead to us ordering a warm bag or croutons with a cheese fondue dip (£4.50) from the global beer plates section to start. Chewy, yet crispy, we dipped away to our cheesy hearts content.

Looking for something a little more filling, it was time to embrace the main event in the form of some serious gooey goodness; the patty melts.

I decided on the mushroom swiss melt: 1/4 lbs burger patty on canary bread, lathered in glazed BBQ sauce, with chestnut mushrooms, crispy shallots and swiss cheese accompanied by hopped up fries and market pickles (£9.00). 

My date opted for the parry melt. A 1/4 lbs burger patty with beer and bacon onions, swiss and jack cheese, served with hopped up fries and market pickles (£9.00). 

Both meals were extremely satisfying and left us feeling full for the rest of the day, which to me, is serious value for money. I must admit, we both agreed my patty melt was the better choice of dish, however, both meals were delicious, and served in record time. Marvellously splendid and exactly what you want on a Sunday. Well cooked, tasty comfort food.

A massive fan Tommy K fan; also known as a major addict if you ask my friends and family, the Great British Sauce of Proper Tomato sauce was one of the best I have sampled to date. Light and fruity, with a real zing of tanginess, the sauce was the perfect condiment to accompany the hoppy fries.

Although we were full to the brim, we were really keen to try out one of the shakes too. After a hard deliberation period, we decided we were going to share a salted caramel ice cream, chocolate and Oreo cookie shake (£5.00); it sounded like ice cream heaven. Unfortunately when we visited the shake machine hadn't arrived yet (sob, sob, sob) but in all honesty,  we really didn't need it.

In the case of BrewDog Castlegate, our eyes really were bigger than out bellies, waddling out of the bar completely satisfied, looking forward to our next visit. If I can give you one piece of advice to anyone looking to visit for food, I would definitely recommend booking in advance as this place is proving to be exceedingly popular.

Below I've decided to list a few favourite dishes which I'd like to try out next never know, maybe you'll be sampling them before me!

  • Vindaloo sausage (£8.00 - Dogs section)
  • Kimchi dog (£8.00 - Dogs section)
  • Chicken wings, hot sauce and honey glaze (£5.50 - Global beer plates section)
  • Chocolate chunk cookie and peanut butter ice-cream sandwich (£5.00 - Ice-cream and shakes section)
P. S. Four legged friends are welcome in the bar, so you can take your dog along with you as you enjoy a pint or two of some fierce craft beer.

For Now...

Just Julia


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Porter's Gin launch and Orchid's sixth birthday bash

Cocktails, or gin, cocktails or gin? For anyone who knows me, making quick decisions can be extremely challenging for me; the meaning of indecisive is me in a nutshell. However, when I received an invite to my favourite bar's birthday bash, and the launch of Porter's gin, its safe to say this was one decision that would be made in a heartbeat.

Orchid has been, and still is, one of my favourite cocktail bars in Aberdeen. The talented, creative team behind the bar put their heart and soul into the business, mastering the art of cocktail making presenting works of art right in front of customers faces. With cocktails on my mind (which they very much are majority of the time), I headed to the bar one cold December evening to indulge in some liquid gold.

On arrival to celebrate this special evening, guests were treated to a fantastic fizzy bellini, welcomed into the cosy bar to begin the celebrations and most importantly hear all about the gin everyone is talking about. What I love about a good old Orchid birthday bash, is the generosity and kind-heartedness of owner, Ben Iravani. For one hour during the celebrations a free bar is called, and all that is asked of guests is for those getting a drink is to put some money in the jar for the bar's chosen charity. A real nice touch if you ask me.

Anyway, back to the point; the gin.

Yes it's bottling/labelling is extremely professional, and yes it tastes phenomenal, but my favourite thing about this gin is that it's the first gin in over 100 years to be distilled in my home town, Aberdeen.

The gin has been created by three talented masterminds (see below for my seven things you need to know about Porter's Gin), who have used a number of different, unusual botanicals, and perfected distilling techniques to create this wee beauty. And oh what a beauty it is.

Porter's Gin: The seven things you need to know...
  • It was created by drinks enthusiast trio: Ben Iravani, Alex Lawrence and Josh Rennie.
  • It is the first gin to be distilled in Aberdeen in over 100 years, and it tastes bloody delicious.
  • The gin is named after Professor Andrew Porter of Aberdeen University, after he sourced a rotary evaporator for the trio who then put it to the test to create the gin. (A very snazzy piece of equipment indeed!)
  • The temperature the gin is distilled at plays a huge part in its taste. (Did you really think they would give this information away, come on guys!)
  • The modern, cold-distilled part of the gin is created in Aberdeen. The traditional part of the gin was achieved by working with a UK distillery which has over 250 years experience in the art of gin making.
  • The 'distillery' where the gin is cold-distilled was once an old garage.
  • The gin boasts twelve botanicals, one of the main botanicals being Buddha's Hand; a citrus fruit with finger-like segments which resembles a human hand!
If you haven't already managed to sample the gin, don't panic, you can sample the tipple at Orchid or its sister bar, 99 Bar and Kitchen, although, I have a feeling this specific gin will be gracing the shelves of many other bars in Aberdeen and will prove extremely popular with us Scots. 

Orchid also has a number of different cocktails on their latest menu which incorporates the gin into its drinks offering. I would definitely recommend the Spruce Almighty, Porter's Fizz or Kamm Doon Son! All very tasty and very smooth on the palette. Or, you could always go for a traditional gin and tonic, classy and satisfying, what more could you want from a drink!? Slรกinte!

  For Now...

Just Julia
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