Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Halloumi (Glasgow): Review

With 2017 off to a flying start and the promise of warmer months to come somewhere on the horizon (I write this whilst its blistering winds and torrential rain outside), reminiscing about a previous holiday to Greece got me thinking back to a recent visit to Glasgow. 

As far as I'm aware Glasgow and Greece really don't have too much in common. When it comes to heatwaves Scotland sees very few in comparison, and when it comes to a quick dip in the sea, you'd be mental if you dared sit near The Clyde, never jump in the damn thing. However, there is one place which springs to mind when I think of Greece and Glasgow, and that's Halloumi.

A young restaurant only a few months old, Halloumi, which is based on Hope Street, has made a name for itself in the vibrant city, offering up some of the best Greek-Cypriot mezze in town. Specialising in fresh, authentic food, the eatery is all about sharing dishes, and diners are encouraged to pick three or four dishes to share amongst one another to get a real taste of Greece.

Stepping into the restaurant it immediately transports you to a warmer, more familiar surrounding. With painted white stone walls, and treacles of greenery and foliage meandering throughout, I felt like I was back in Greece, soaking up the countries culture in the Mediterranean heat.

Opting for cocktails we treated ourselves to the Saint Basil; Martin Millers gin, Chambord, strawberry puree, black pepper, basil and cranberry juice (£7) and the Watermelon Punch; vodka, Filfat, fresh watermelon, guava juice, and lime juice (£7). Both were deliciously fresh and really hit the spot.
For lunch we had opted for six dishes between the two of us. We were pretty hungry, however even though the waitress had encouraged us to order more, we decided to stick to six dishes which ended up being more than enough for us.

Arriving one after the other the dishes filled the table. From humous made with ground chickpeas, fresh garlic, olive oil and lemon juice (£4.45), to Keftedes; homemade lamb meatballs (£5.45), to King prawns with chilli and garlic, and cooked in chilli garlic and olive oil (£6.95), I just couldn't get enough.

Then our stiffado; a rich beef and shallot strew (£5.95) arrived, as did our grilled octopus with smoked paprika (£6.95). The octopus looked incredible and I was totally caught off guard when we were presented with a tentacle. Nevertheless it was sublime. Last but not least we chomped on our halloumi fries (£5.95). A first for me, they were pretty delicious and if you love salty foods they are a must-order.
Slowly but surely one by one the plates emptied and although we never actually licked the plates, we scooped up all of the leftover sauce with the ends of the pitta bread. Bellies full, we politely said our farewells to the attentive staff  and were on our way. The perfect spot to grab a quick bite for lunch, or meander through dinner, I would definitely recommend Halloumi and all it has to offer. Something completely new to Glasgow, it was refreshing to try somewhere that wasn't a burger bar and served up something rather special. efcharistó!

   For Now...

  Just Julia

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Five Gin's of Aberdeen

Dry January is over which means now is the time for me to unpack my spirits collection, or more to the point, my gin collection.

Over the past year or so, the Aberdeen gin scene has grown dramatically, with five stunning gins gracing our palettes from across the city and shire. From the lowlands of the outskirts of Inverurie, to an underground room in one of Aberdeen's finest speakeasy's, the gin market is taking Aberdeen storm, and I'm loving every minute of it. Being extremely lucky in managing to grace the presence of all of the gin distillers behind the gins listed below, I wanted to highlight what makes these gins so special and why they'd make a cracking addition to any gin lovers collection. 

Gin has become the most fashionable drink of the moment, with it now being one of, if not the most popular spirits to purchase. Quicker and easier to make than whisky, gin is becoming the more favourable spirit to distill and with over 70% of the gin consumed in the UK coming from Scotland, - we're clearly on to something good.

No mater how much I learn about the process of distilling gin, or the best garnishes to accompany the many gins out there with, I cannot commend the individuals behind these delicious drinks more for the incredible lengths they go to to please our palettes.

So here's to putting Aberdeen on the gin map, one gin at a time....
Photo rights belong to Porter's Gin
Born from a passion and love of good food and drink, Porter's, which was launched in December 2015 by three young gintrepreneurs, was the first gin to be distilled in Aberdeen city for over 100 years. With the help of the UK's oldest gin distillers, G&J Distillers, Porter's was brought to the market and is now available across the UK.

The classic London Dry style gin prides itself on its unique blend of traditional and modern  distillation techniques, utilising cold distillation methods to take advantage of the botanicals flavours which produce lighter notes when distilled at cooler temperatures. With the ethical sourcing of their botanicals at the heart of the business, every individual botanical has been used for a reason, and that reasoning, has resulted in the exquisite taste Porter's boasts today. The gin is well-known for using Buddha's hand and pink peppercorn botanicals in its recipe.

Porter's boasts a citrus flavour with a warm touch to finish on the palette. It is decadent and light, and is very flavoursome for being a London Dry.

Porter's Gin is 41.5% ABV.
Recommended serve: premium tonic water, ice, and orange peel/also cracking in a gin-based cocktail

Photo rights belong to The Teasmith
The Teasmith:
The first Scottish gin to be distilled with hand-picked tea, the gin, which the original recipe originates from rural Udny, Aberdeenshire, takes its inspiration from the rich heritage tale which links Aberdeenshire to the international tea trade. Distilled in the Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire, The Teasmith is the brainchild of Emma and Nick Smalley, who launched the gin at the end of 2016.

Main botanicals include; juniper, coriander, pure liquorice root, hand-picked tea and orange peel. All of its botanicals are distilled not once, but twice, and bottles from the second batch are now currently available to purchase.

The Teasmith boasts a unique flavour due to the tea leaves used, however, it doesn't overpower the other ingredients meaning it has a nicely rounded off finish.

The Teasmith is 43% ABV.
Recommended serve: premium tonic water, ice and a sprig of mint

Photo rights belong to Esker Gin
Esker Gin:
Created in Royal Deeside by husband and wife team, Steven and Lynne Duthie, Esker Gin was born from a loving passion for the alcoholic beverage, so much so, the duo decided to produce it commercially after 18 months of fine-tuning the recipe.

What's unique about Esker, is the botanicals it uses, especially its signature botanical, silver birch sap which is collected from the trees from the Kircardine Estate. The trees can only be tapped for sap in Spring, which means Lynne and Steve have to collect as much as they can before the season ends.

Esker is a refreshing, light, sweet (in my opinion) gin, which warms the palette and is slightly floral on the end. The artisan gin is distilled and bottled in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire.

Esker Gin is 42% ABV.
Recommended serve: premium tonic water, ice and a twist of orange zest

Photo rights belong to House of Elrick
The newest addition to the Aberdeen gin family, House of Elrick originates from the lowlands of Aberdeenshire at the House of Elrick estate which is oozing in rich in history.

The hand crafted, artisan, small batch gin boasts an array of citrus botanicals, as well as heather, sweet fennel and rose petals. The only gin to be made using the water from the most famous loch, Loch Ness, the taste profile of the gin is fresh, and slightly earthy. Advocates for championing the use of local farmers and suppliers, House of Elrick ensures quality is at the core of its product.

House of Elrick is a delicate gin, boasting a sweet, slightly floral finish, with a hit of an earthier taste profile added as a result of the botanicals and water used.

House of Elrick is 42% ABV.
Recommended serve: premium tonic water, ice and a twist of orange zest served as a helix (also rim your glass with the orange zest)

Photo rights belong to Indian Summer Gin
Indian Summer:
Another gin created in Aberdeenshire, this time in Huntly, Indian Summer gin uses one of the world's most expensive spices by weight - saffron - which is infused into the gin, giving the gin a warm, rich, aromatic flavour.

The gin presents a golden-yellow hue to it, unlike any of the other Aberdeen gins, and is bottled at a much higher ABV than the others too.

Indian Summer is a much spicier gin than the others, and boasts a more exotic taste due to using botanicals from across the world. It is the only Aberdeen gin to boast any colour hue to it, which makes it very different from the others above.

Indian Summer is 46% ABV.
Recommended serve: premium tonic water, ice and either a wedge of lime or a slice of lemon

I'd be really interested in hearing what your favourite Aberdeen gin is, and what garnishes you prefer to use in the different gins - I love adding a handful of berries to my gins and  also enjoy adding strawberries with black pepper to certain gins. If you haven't tasted any of the Aberdeen gins, what gins do you love the most? 

I'd also love to find out if anyone has ever used flowers as a gin garnish? I've been thinking of trying out rose petals or lavender in gin serves but I'm unsure if this would completely ruin the taste. I'm thinking about the whole sprig of rosemary concept with this idea.
  For Now...
Just Julia


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Pure Spa & Beauty - Reflexology treatment (review): Aberdeen

As far as rest and relaxation goes, I am no ambassador. Not the type to pamper myself, or look after my skin that much, its a rare treat when I find myself at a spa or indulging in any beauty regimes. Thankfully for me, PURE Spa & Beauty were on hand to answer all my r&r prayers, and I couldn't have been more grateful.

I was only last week that I was invited to come in and try out PURE Spa & Beauty Aberdeen's new reflexology treatment. I've only had reflexology once - a very brief treatment - and I didn't receive much feedback on the experience, so I was looking forward to finding out much more about the treatment and how reflexology really works. Located in Aberdeen's largest shopping centre, Union Square, I headed along earlier this week to put their masseuses hands to the test...

Reflexology is all about using massage techniques to relive tension and potentially treat illness based on the theory that our body boasts reflex points on our feet, hands and head linked to every part of the body. For example, the big toe is usually associated with the head. Reflexology is all about having an open-mind, and some believe by manipulating and applying pressure to these specific areas on the feet, that it can effect the rest of the body.
Getting into my robe, I was greeted by Monica, my spa therapist for the day, and taken from the relaxation room to one of the treatment rooms. Massaging my feet with an Elemis scrub -  the main product brand the spa uses in most of its treatments - in warm, soapy water, she talked me through the treatment and what benefits I could expect from the treatment.

Lying face up on the comfortable, warn bed, she started off massaging my head, easing me into a relaxing trance with the assistance of soothing music. Slowly, she made her way down to my feet and began the treatment. Starting on my toes, she worked her way down, around and across my feet, getting right into the nooks and crannies of my muscles and ligaments. She concentrated on the spine of my foot,  the heel, the arch and the topsides of my feet too. Working her way around, I found the treatment rather relaxing. There was a few moments I was a little apprehensive and felt sharp pains in my feet with her manipulating and manoeuvring the tissue, however, I embraced the tiny bursts of pain as I wanted to get the most out of the treatment.

There was a real sense of an oriental atmosphere in the spa area, with oriental towels, decorations and music played throughout my treatment. This theme carried through into the relaxation room, where I had ended up before and after my treatment.
A good half an hour later, my treatment came to an end. Monica left me to get dressed and invited me to sit down so she could chat me me through what she had picked up from my reflexology treatment.

She initially touched on the balls of my feet. Ever since I was a dancer (all those years ago), I've always been prone to having harder skin on the ball of my foot. Monica mentioned how this could be causing strain on my lungs, and how I may not be using them to their full capacity due to the unnecessary tension put on them. She talked about how I may be more prone to coughs and chest infections as a result of this. It was weird she had mentioned this, as I've had a cough for over one month now, but I put this more down to coincidence than the balls of my feet, although, it's definitely been playing on my mind since.

Next, she chatted to me about the middle of my foot, discussing how she had thought that my digestive system/stomach needed nurturing. She mentioned that I would benefit from eating healthier foods and introducing more smoothies into my diet, and also drinking more water to help with digestion. She said it was important for me to cleanse my digestive system and encouraged me to stay away from bad foods.

She has also mentioned the v word. Yes, I know I should be mature enough to discuss this matter, however, I feel this is best left as is.

Monica also advised me to reevaluate into the shoes I've been wearing and potentially try and find some new, comfier shoes to wear day-to-day. She had picked up a lot of tension in my feet and thought this could be down to some of the shoes I was wearing, as she felt my feet were also a little swollen.

After we had discussed the treatment, Monica showed me to the relaxation room where I lounged around for an extra 30 minutes or so. Never far away from my phone, I was chilling out sorting my emails before heading to a meeting an hour later.

The spa was lovely, and some r&r was exactly what I needed to set me up for the week ahead. I felt totally relaxed and wasn't ready to leave the spa, but alas, reality was calling and I had a busy day ahead of me.

I would definitely recommend the reflexology treatment, and it was rather interesting to get such in-depth feedback about my body - especially when the information had been devised from my feet! I was very intrigued to hear what Monica has picked up from the tensions in my feet and I am going to keep an eye out for the different things she had mentioned. I'll report back to let you know if my body feels any different and if I think there truly is something in reflexology. And for those who aren't believers, the treatment is delightfully relaxing, and your feet will thank you for it anyway.

A big thanks to the team at PURE Spa & Beauty for inviting me along to try out the new treatment, and to Monica for her outstanding customer service. She made me feel totally comfortable throughout the whole experience and the front of house staff were very charming too.

Have you tried reflexology before? Ddi you benefit from the feedback you received? Or id reflexology something you are keen to try out? I'm keen to hear everyone's thoughts on this treatment and if they do or don't believe in it!
p.s - I was a little in love with the robes too.

  For Now...

Just Julia
© Just Julia

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