Monday, 18 December 2017

JUST JULIA TRIES: Mackie's 19.2 (Aberdeen)

Located 19.2 miles from the Westertown home farm where the Mackie family first started making their infamous ice cream 30 years ago lies Mackie's 19.2 - the Scottish ice cream company's first parlour.

Having captured the hearts of the nation with their delicious staple favourites, and some new ones too, it was natural for the ice cream empire to eventually pop-up in the city centre of Aberdeen with their own digs.

A local company, Mackie's has been keen to put its mark firmly on the city and with the new Marischal College development now open to businesses, it was natural for them to find their new home in front of one of Aberdeen's most prestigious buildings, Marischal College.

Meandering down to the other end of town where the ChristmasVillage lies, Calum and myself decided to pay Aberdeen's newest ice cream joint a visit late last Sunday afternoon - because eating ice cream right before dinner is the done thing, right?

It was dark by 4pm, but the parlour was bright which ensured I spotted it from the corner of my eye immediately. It was cosy, with lots of people and plenty of staff on to hand to tend to all.

The ice cream parlour is well-decorated. It's sophisticated, but at the same time, the ripple of multi coloured lighting which changes colour frequently, partnered with the giant neon cow sign in the window screams fun and edgy.

With room for 40 covers, it's spacious, although when we visited, it got busy really quickly - so if you want to grab a seat at one of their booths or the beautiful marble tables, grab one when you can.
As we delved into the menu I didn't quite know what to do with myself. I have a really sweet tooth, and I love desserts so when the menu consists of crepes, waffles, ice cream, cakes and more, I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed. Sticking to my guns, and what Mackie's is most famous for, I decided to go for ice cream.

Calum had already eyed up the sundae's and was on the case of picking his three flavours. Me on the other hand, back to square one. A cone, a tub, a lolly, a sundae or a milkshake? I wanted them all.

With more than 20 new flavours of ice cream to choose from including buttery and jam, raspberry Eton mess and rhubarb and custard, there was something for everyone.
Calum ordered his sundae; one scoop of banana rainbow ice cream, one of salted caramel, and one of cookies and cream topped off with a flake, freshly chopped bananas, chocolate sauce and a large serving of whipped cream. A branded wafer finished the dessert off.

Being greedy (it was Sunday so it's allowed) I also decided to get a sundae - three scoops; one chocolate orange, one white chocolate and coconut, and one toffee popcorn with rainbow sprinkles, tiny meringue pieces, coconut sauce and a lots of whipped cream plus a wafer on top.

The sundaes were huge, and we both 
loved them. I was pleased how well my flavours went together, and was happy with the size of the sundae. At £6.20 you want to make sure you're getting your monies worth - and that we did.

Sadly in the end, I had to admit defeat as it was just too much for me. The flavours I picked were fabulous. The chocolate orange was by far my favourite, but the coconut sauce which lined the glass was lovely and sweet and worked really well with the toffee popcorn and the white chocolate and coconut ice creams I had chosen.

Calum finished his in record timing, so I didn't manage to get a whiff of his, never mind a taste, but by the clean dish, I figured he enjoyed it...It seems I was correct.

Other than the ice creams, we didn't really manage to sample much more than that so I can't comment too much on the other dishes, but from what I could tell my the looks on customers faces, Mackie's has nailed it.
A supporter of local businesses where it can be, Mackie's tries its hardest to use as many local suppliers as it can, which was great to see from a consumers point of view. I loved that they had numerous local business' on show including Bon Accord Drinks, So...Aberdeen and Rora Dairy to start.

The company is also well known for it's chocolate and crisps, so it's no surprise they had plenty of chocolate on sale too, as well as huge slabs which would be perfect as gifts. I spied the smaller, individual handmade chocolates but decided to wait until my next venture to put them to the taste test. I was far too full for that. 

There as a little bit of everything in the parlour, from savoury choices, to tray bakes, to chocolate and ice cream and everything sweet in between.  A lot of time and effort has clearly been spent in finding a layout which not only works for the consumer, but works for the staff too. There's something for all ages, and it definitely seems like a place where all generations will come together. Besides, there's nothing better than seeing a grandparents out with the grandkids sharing an ice cream made by local people.

I for one was very impressed.
Overly satisfied and bellies full, we were really pleased with how our first experience of Mackie's ice cream parlour had panned out.

Not only do they have an array of sweet treats to keep you going until the cows come home, the savoury offering was also much better than I had anticipated and it was fantastic to see so many other local business' I support included in the offering.

A great space which I have no doubt will be a busy one at that. See you again soon...

  For Now...

Just Julia

FUN FACT: For every sundae you purchase you get one stamp on your loyalty card - buy six sundae's and the seventh is on Mackie's!


Monday, 11 December 2017

JUST JULIA TRIES: Maggie's Grill (Aberdeen)

Food is good for the soul, and soul food is unbelievably good. So when on the hunt for something filling, and full of soul, Maggie's Grill is the only place to go.

I've visited Maggie's many a time now. And staying a short 10 minute walk from the eatery really hasn't helped my waistline, but when the food tastes as good as the offering at Maggie's does, it's hard to say no...

Celebrating Calum's return onshore - we try go out for a nice meal when he gets home - we headed along to Maggie's having pre-booked a table. Rocking up, it was steady, however the restaurant quickly filled with bodies whilst we ordered our drinks. Faces firmly in the menu, this was going to be a tough choice

Drinks at the ready - a pint of Beavertown Gamma Ray American Pale Ale for Calum and a dark rum and ginger beer for me - we toasted to a night of fine food and catch ups and ordered our meals.

The decor is fun. It's got that deep South feel about it. It's not too fancy - you wouldn't want it to be. It's relaxed, smart and feels really familiar, kind of like home in some strange way. I think it's the chilled, calming vibe the staff and the restaurant portray that makes you kind of want to stay there all night. And although the restaurant is smaller, its always busy in a collected, organised way.

Just as we were getting lost in conversation, our starters arrived. Visiting the deep South (or as close as I've been to the deep South) I opted for Buffalo Chicken Bites (£7.95) and Calum went for the Tex Mex Nachos (£6.95 + £1.95 for the BBQ pulled pork). The idea was to share the dishes...I'll give you a guess as to how well that went down...

The homemade buffalo popcorn chicken bites were smothered in a special house hot sauce. Accompanied by a cooling, creamy blue cheese dip, the pairing was a match made in heaven. The bites were pretty big, not bite-size - which suited me perfectly, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the blue cheese dip. I'm not usually a fan of anything blue cheese, but this dip, I could definitely eat by the tub full. The hot sauce had a lovely warm kick to it, and was one of the best I've had.

Calum's Tex Mex Nachos looked amazing. I was quick enough to grab one from the top which was lathered in salsa and BBQ pulled pork - I hit the jackpot. Calum's face was priceless.

The nachos were drenched in cheese, and boasted sour cream, jalapeneo peppers, toasted corn salsa, homemade salsa, and were topped off with beautifully cooked BBQ pulled pork. It was clear by the clean plates we both enjoyed our dishes a lot. With the nachos, there was also the choice of the Howlin' wolf chilli, but the pulled pork for us was the perfect choice.
The starters were pretty filling, but the wee gap between our starter and main courses was ideal.

I wouldn't normally order the same proteins for starter and main, but when you're in a soul food restaurant that has Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken on the menu, a girls got to do what a girls got to do.

The boneless deep fried chicken breast marinated in buttermilk and cajun spices was super succulent. I decided to go for the option to pick my own sides - house Bulleit Bourbon BBQ sauce, house fries, and onion rings - went a little off menu there with the onion rings as the choices consisted of collard greens, cornbread stuffing, house slaw, corn on the cob, cornbread, hush puppies or house pickles - but the staff were supper accommodating. The chicken, sauce and two sides was well priced (£15.95) and was extremely filling.

Tangy and sweet, the BBQ sauce was awesome with the large piece of chicken. The chips were great and although the onion rings were a tad on the greasy side, they rocked.

The King of sandwiches decided on The Rueben (£14.95). A lover of pastrami meat, the classic sandwich features pastrami aged Aberdeen Angus beef brisket which is cured for a week and then rolled in spices and smoked. The high stacked rye bread sandwich was packed with Swiss cheese and house slaw and Calum's face told me everything - he was loving it.

On the side Calum also opted for deep fried pickles and a hefty portion of chilli cheese fries (an additional £4.45) - because regular fries just ain't going to cut it with this guy.

The meat was tender and there was a huge amount of it in the sandwich too. The coleslaw was crunchy and creamy, and the melted cheese on the chilli cheese fries was divine.

For once, neither of us could finish our meals, which of course sealed the fate for any thought of dessert.
Bagging one more drink for the road, we sat enjoying our time at the busy eatery as we prepared to brave the cold and waddle home.

A must-visit restaurant, Maggie's Grill is an excellent eatery not only for adults, but also for children.  The local eatery is a great pit-stop for all, and kids even get complimentary hush puppies, tortilla chips, ranch dip and fruit juice to enjoy as they wait for their meals to be cooked which is pretty awesome. There's also a really good choice for kids too, ensuring they don't miss out on the outstanding soul food the team at Maggie's create.

I'd also like to say that I think the restaurant is pretty well priced. For being a local place which uses and supports various other local suppliers and producers, I was happy to pay the prices on the menu, especially when the food is as good as it is.

To say I'm looking forward to returning is an understatement because the buttermilk chicken at Maggie's is what I class as finger lickin' good chicken - back up Colonel, there's a new sheriff in town.

  For Now...

Just Julia


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

JUST JULIA TRIES: Rye & Soda (Aberdeen)

I don't know about you, but there's nothing more I enjoy at the weekend than strolling around the city I adore, checking out some of my favourite foodie havens and grabbing a bite to eat.

Eating out is one of, if not my favourite thing to do. Whilst my friends are out shopping until they drop, I'd much rather pull up a seat and enjoy the delicious larder the eateries in Aberdeen take full advantage of. I'm a brunch over a new hand bag kind of girl hands down.

I love Rye & Soda. I have since it opened and I'm delighted at how well the popular eatery has done over the years. A city favourite for brunch, its renowned for its gin bar and great local offering. I've visited the establishment a number of times, be that for breakfast, brunch, dinner or even just a catch up over a glass of wine with my friends. It's a cosy place, somewhere that feels like home, but with the addition of someone who has the knowledge of more gins than I can count on my hands and toes, and a pretty shit-hot kitchen team.

That being said, I was delighted my other half suggested we stop by for a light bite to eat when we were out last weekend, or at least that was what we thought we were doing...

Every time I end up at Rye, I always want to order the pancakes but don't, and alas, this occasion was no different. I mean it would be acceptable to have a mountain of pancakes for lunch, right?

Owned by local entrepreneur Adrian Gomes, one of the masterminds behind Jindea gin and proprietor of 10 Dollar Shake, Bos'n, The Tippling House and outdoor catering company Salt and Sauce, the eatery has a real focus on good food, and even better drinks. With Adrian's background in hospitality, management and the food and drink sector, it was natural that he'd end up being one of Aberdeen's most influential food and drink business owners.

Welcomed into Rye and Soda with opened arms (quite literally - Claire you're the best) we were seated almost instantly by the friendly, accommodating staff - and just in time by the looks of it as the restaurant began to fill up. Handed the menus, I was in the mood for a sandwich and chips, although the breaded North Sea haddock and chips also caught my eye. Cal was just as ravenous as I was, so was looking to get something substantial, and substantial we nailed.

It was clear both Calum and I had different agendas when it came to ordering, we both wanted different things and it was apparent there would be no sharing on this occasion - shock horror.
Knowing how much he loves American style cuisine, I figured he'd either order the Philly Cheese Steak, or the Hand Pressed Aged Beef Burger - the Philly Cheese Steak it was.

And I'd also sussed out pretty quickly that he'd end up ordering a side of pizza chips - which he did.

I on the other hand, decided on a club sandwich with a portion of classic chips with garlic mayonnaise. Yum.

The Philly Cheese Steak was scrumptious and consisted of cheese stuffed potato skins on the bottom of the dish, topped with shredded slow cooked BBQ beef with Southwest coleslaw and finished with crispy onions. The meat was perfectly cooked, and tasted brilliant. It's how all BBQ beef should taste, and is definitely worth trying out. The crispy onions also added to the texture of the dish, moving away from the gooeyness of the melted cheese which oozed across the fluffy potato skins which melted in his mouth.

Well presented, it almost looked too good to eat...almost.

The pizza chips on the side had pepperoni slices, tomato sauce and melted cheese all over them. Calum enjoyed the chips, but did mention some at the bottom of the bowl were a little soggy - probably down to the melted cheese and the fats from the pepperoni slices which can only be expected. (That being said, he still ate them all!)
I was really impressed with my club sandwich and was rather surprised it came served as an open sandwich. I'd envisioned this tower of bread, grilled chicken breast, iceberg lettuce, and bacon all piled up on my plate, but this was no standard club sandwich. Beautifully presented, it came with gorgeous roasted tomato mayonnaise sauce lightly drizzled all over it.

The bloomer bread was awesome, and the iceberg lettuce provided a nice crunch to the dish, as did the bacon which was cooked just how I like it. The grilled chicken was lovely and tender and the roasted tomato mayo gave the dish a good, healthy kick of flavour to it.

My chips were good. I probably would have left them in the fryer just a tad longer as I love crispy chips, but nonetheless, they were light and fluffy, and the best part - there was lots of them. The garlic mayonnaise was very pungent - which I loved - and was super creamy too. I enjoyed this dip a lot. And again, there was lots of it - so much that Calum ended up diving into it too.
I had been looking forward to a dessert, but for the first time it seemed I had been defeated by a sandwich. There was no chance I would have managed anything after. But I guess that just means that we're going to have to go back for dessert, because I can't not have some of those Sticky Toffee Smores in my life!

With a relaxing, busy ambiance, Rye and Soda is the perfect place to catch up with friends for a gin and tonic, or to enjoy a casual meal with your family. It's a homely, well decorated space and there's always a real buzz about the place. Being bloody baltic on the day, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people braving the horrid weather to enjoy the comforts of the eatery, and it was extremely nice to be served by a bunch of knowledgeable, and fashionable staff. This is one place you could spend all day in...
 For Now...

Just Julia

Monday, 23 October 2017

JUST JULIA TRIES: Go Ape in Autumn

If you're like me and find the weekend just flies by, you want to ensure you make the most of it. And with the dark mornings and nights creeping in, it's a challenge to get out and about and back home all before we're plummeted into darkness.

I love the outdoors. Ever since I was a wee toot you'd always find me outside. Whether that was playing with flowers, climbing trees, or rescuing wild rabbits from the neighbours cats. I'm out and about with my dog every weekend and I'm always looking for new places to hang out with him. We've visited Crathes Castle a number of times and I always love seeing the people flying through the sky as they take on Go Ape.

So, when I was invited along and got the chance to take some of my best friends to Go Ape at Crathes Castle, it was a no brainier for me.

Being someone who's scared of heights, it was reassuring to know I wouldn't be taking to the trees on my own. With my besties in toll I knew we were going to have a blast.

Once a month the four of us always try catch up, and what better way than to do it whilst exercising and having a right old laugh.  Their exceitment when I told them we were going to Go Ape was brilliant, although I don't quite think they knew what they were getting themselves in for...

Sunday came and we headed out the road. Arriving in plenty of time, we introduced ourselves to the instructors and read and signed all the necessary documents - I promise this only takes about 5 minutes, but is essential for the health and safety of all participants, and then we eagerly waited for the rest of the tribe to arrive.

I've visited Go Ape previously with my boyfriend a few times and have always really enjoyed it. We were put in groups of up to about 8 individuals, but for some reason this group had 21 people in it - which I hear is definitely not the norm.

After our instructor had introduced himself to everyone we made our way over to the practice section where he briefed us on the house rules and watched as we clipped, attached and unclipped ourselves around the mini course. Once he was happy with everyone - which you can imagine took a wee while with so many of us - we all headed over to course 1 - the first of five courses to come.

Being the enthusiastic individual I am, of course, I naturally put my hand up to volunteer as tribute. And contribute to everyone's hysterics I did. Not only did I struggle to find my feeting after sitting back on my harness, I bashed my head numerous times out of sheer stupidity. It's safe to say no one made the same mistakes I did.

We decided to hold back and let everyone else go ahead of us as I was filming, and we wanted to really just embrace the course and have a laugh.

It was around an hour from when the inductions started that we eventually got finished course 1, but the fact we decided to go last didn't really help this.

The high ropes course at Crathes is Go Ape's most Northernly hang out and individuals can get up to two or three hours to enjoy monkeying around in the trees, so we still had plenty of time to play with.
Course 2 was where the real work kicked in. 

I've been best friends with Samantha, Abbie and Amy for years. We've been through school together and have tackled a number of obstacles together, but I must admit, Go Ape was one of the funniest experiences we've had together as a group.

I guess what made it so fun was that Abbie and myself are super adventurous (and competitive) - we would have been swinging in the trees going head to head if we could have, and that poor Amy was petrified of heights - I guess I never really explained to her just how high some of the ladders can be. Sorry Amy! But what really had us all in stitches was Samantha's running commentary around the course - her one liners were class.

Course 2 is the one which kind of determines if you have the balls to commit to the rest of the courses. It has a Tarzan swing and a zip line - two of the main activities throughout - as well as various other ladder exercises which you need to carry out, all whilst remembering to STAY ATTACHED at all times.

House rules are that only three people can be on a platform at a time (the points where two different activities meet), and only one person on an activity at a time. You also have to ensure you're attached to the wires around the course at all times, clipping, and unclipping as you venture throughout the course. It's fundamental for your own safety to follow these rules, otherwise you could hurt yourself, or someone else.

Staff patrol the course to safeguard that everyone is following the rules and if you ever did get stuck, each participant is provided with a whistle so they can get staff's attention if/when needed.

With some words of encouragement, lots of laughs and cheering each other on, the four of us made it through course 2. However there were a few dirty bottoms by the end thanks to the zip line...
As you progress through the woods, the course gets that little bit more challenging. Course 3 was all about balance more than strength - like the Tarzan swing. It was focused on finding your centre of gravity and challenging your brain to figure out where to put your hands and feet. For me, the most exhilarating part of the course is the various zip lines throughout which finish off each course. Hilariously, I was the only one to land perfectly, and forward every time, escaping a dirty bum - my fiends, not so much...
Course 4 has a skateboard on the zip line which is pretty cool, but sadly, it didn't want to seem to roll back up to where the zip line started off so alas, our skateboarding skills weren't needed that da - phew.

This course incorporated the chance to go an easy or difficult way. Having chosen the difficult way before and embracing a massive laughing fit with my legs in the splits, I decided to let Abbie go rogue for this one and myself and Samantha cried with hilarity as she gracefully *ahem* made her way through the rings. Amy decided to sit this one out and braced herself for the bigger, and final course, course 5.
Course 5 - the final voyage for the tribe. After hearing copious screams, screeches and bellowing laughter, we figured this had to be the creme de la creme. And rightly so.

They say it's best to finish with a bang, and Go Ape Crathes certainly does that. After scaling higher into the canopy, not only does this course have a massive version of the Tarzan swing, it also has the longest and fastest zip line too. For those not brave enough to take on the big Tazan swing, there is an easier route with additional activities for everyone to get stuck into.

It took us about an hour and a bit to complete the full course which suited us perfectly. We took our time, had a laugh and enjoyed the outdoors. It was refreshing not having to meet my besties for a coffee indoors for once.
All safely back on the ground, we headed back to base camp to retrieve our certificates and hand in our harnesses.

Smiles all round, I knew the girls had really enjoyed the experience, and the fact Amy (who hates heights) managed to tackle all of the more advanced activities was a testament to how safe we all felt.

I guess, the only reason I can think the place was so busy was the fact the school's had just broken up for the October holidays, and although it was busy at the start, by the end everyone was flying around the courses.

Go Ape Crathes is an excellent outdoor activity for all ages and is a great way to not only get fit, but to catch up with friends in a different way.

Go on...release your wild side at Go Ape this Autumn and do something different at the weekend - I dare ya!

  For Now...

Just Julia
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