Friday, 19 September 2014

Edinburgh City Guide for Phase Eight

In case you couldn't tell, we love Edinburgh and we love writing about all the fab places in Edinburgh too. Phase Eight, one of our favourite shops on George Street, asked us to do just that - pop along to their blog and have a read of our favourite spots in Edinburgh (along with Gillian's from Elevator Musik), featuring Urban Angel, Hannah Zakari, Godiva, Red Door Gallery, Black Box Boutique and the Lioness of Leith.  And have a look at their gorgeous A/W collection while you're on their webpage, we're massively crushing on their new arrivals - these boots! Hope you enjoy the read.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Edinburgh Etsy: Poosac Homeware and Huggables

My hunt for new homewares is neverending, and I particularly love when I come across a seller that not only creates gorgeous things but also does so close to home. So I was delighted to discover Poosac (via my friend Gaby of the beautiful Braw Scotland), a range of cushions, toys and cards, based right here in Edinburgh. Quirky, squidgy and sweetly humourous without being twee, the Poosac collection is a lovingly lopsided menagerie, featuring bears, cats, rabbits, heilan coos and more, handstitched from a variety of gorgeous Scottish and Scandi-inspired fabrics. As if it couldn't be even more lovable, Kim, Poosac's creator and designer, is inspired by the heartwrenching childhood classic "Dogger" by Shirley Hughes - possibly the Best Book Ever (or so I thought when I was wee). I actually want the whole wonderful lot, but here are my absolute faves:
This heilan coo cushion/toy is magnificent. I love his fringe - tres 90s-era Boyzone. He comes in miniature at £18.00 and supersized at £30. I think a herd grazing casually on your sofa would be fabulous, but for a more eclectic pairing then this sleepy cat (£34.50) and sweet dinosaur (£40) are also wonderful. 
Alternatively, how about this well-dressed trio? I love this lady in her bright orange smock and her tres belle twin, both £34.50, and who can resist the most dapper bunny I've seen hopping along the aisles of Etsy, rocking those polka dots like a BOSS at £32.50.
Moving on from animals, I absolutely adore these mountain cushions - all they're missing is Fraulein Maria running merrily down the side. They make up for it with an utterly edible range of colours and fabrics - brown twill, forest green felt, mustard harris tweed (all £35) and my personal favourite, fuscia harris tweed (£50).

Poosac also features a 36-strong range of greeting cards - how about Och Aye The Moo, a floppy-eared pug or Crazy Cat Lady (we all know one), each coming in at £3.50 - you can also see the full range here.

It's hard to believe you won't be able to find something you love in the marvellous world of Poosac, but if you're looking for something a little bit special, Kim also does custom listings. So if you want, you can get a Dogger* all of your own.

*apologies to all those who have never heard of Dogger and are thinking "WTF? That sounds dodge." Promise it's not dodge, just a tale of a lost toy that both breaks and warms your heart.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Whisky Blending at the Scotch Whisky Experience

It's no secret that one of my favourite things in the world is whisky. Luckily for me and all the city's whisky lovers, you don't have to walk far to find a wee dram in Edinburgh. But even after 3 years of following the whisky trail around Auld Reekie, I have never had the chance to create my own blend of liquid sunshine. Now The Scotch Whisky Experience are offering just that.

After browsing their very extensive whisky range in the shop (so many I'd love for a personal collection), we were escorted to a private room and presented with four drams and some science-experiment-like equipment. First things first, we were challenged to test our noses with 20 different aromas or flavours we might smell in whisky (I won't tell you what any of them are, as I don't want to give any clues). It wasn't as easy as you might think! Then a delicious and very informative led tasting of four regional malts – from the Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands & Islay – after which you get the chance to blend any combination of these four regional single blends (from an almondy Highland, to a salty sweet Islay) for your very own unique blend. I ended up more than happy with my own wee bottle, which I proudly called "Old Stag".

And afterwards, a tour of the building including a room that housed a very large private collection of whiskies many, many years old: a sight in itself that would make a whisky-lover weak at the knees!

The evening was a whisky-infused delight. Even if you've never had whisky before, it's a very fun evening of sniffing (or nosing as they say in the whisky world), sipping and blending, all with expert help and a led tasting. Not to mention absolutely delicious canapés from Amber restaurant (including slides of beef en croute, swoon). The tour and blending package can be run for groups of 10 people or more and is £65 per person. Quite a delicious, magical way to spend an evening.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: Scotsman Afternoon Tea

The Scotsman Hotel is an Edinburgh institution. It's part of the city's famous skyline, based in the original premises of the Scotsman newspaper and is one of Edinburgh's elite luxury five star hotels.  The traditional interior of the hotel is as beautiful as the classic exterior, with elegant marble a theme throughout (in keeping with the Scotsman Steps just outside). We were thrilled to be invited to try one of their own institutions, an afternoon tea in the Drawing Room as part of their Taste of Edinburgh - getting to know the hidden gems around Edinburgh that visitors to our city should discover. It's pretty obvious from our posts we have quite the sweet tooth so it was a pleasure to identify some of our favourite places for sweet treats for Taste of Edinburgh and we can happily confirm that their afternoon tea is definitely up there as a must-visit sweets destination!

Immediately impressive is the traditional white and blue Villeroy and Boch china at the table and we enjoyed a welcoming glass of fizz whilst deciding upon our tea-du-jour. There was a nice selection of classic black teas, and green, white and fruit infusions along with a Rooiboos red. The teas were brought out to us in generous sized teapots, with the loose leaf gently infusing as we sipped away on our bubbles and considered the tiers of afternoon tea joy we were presented with.

Starting with the savoury layer, there were some delicious sandwiches on offer (crustless, naturally) including cheese and pickle, ham and mustard and of course, the classic cucumber sandwich. The second layer had fruit scones, served with clotted cream and a choice of jams. These were freshly baked, large and fluffy with plump sultanas - the perfect scone.  The top layer of patisserie is the main event of any afternoon tea and there was much to enjoy - raspberry almond frangipane cake, brownie topped with rich chocolate mousse, chocolate topped flapjack, coffee panna cotta and carrot cake with an adorable teeny tiny slice of caramelised carrot atop it's cream cheese icing. Delightful! The star of the show was the panna cotta - topped with berry coulis and a half strawberry, it was sweet and creamy but not overly so, it was just right. Surprisingly, the humble flapjack also got it's fair share of mmmmm's at the table too.  We managed to finish nearly all of our tiers and anything left behind was nicely packaged up for us to take away.

Afternoon tea is a leisurely pursuit and the Scotsman Hotel is one of the finest places in Edinburgh that you can partake of it. We spent a good  few hours happily munching cakes and drinking tea there and would thoroughly recommend it as an afternoon tea experience. There is also a gluten-free version available too.  They run daily from 12-4:30pm at £19.95 per person, and upwards to £25.95 with a glass of Prosecco and £29.95 with a glass of champagne.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Etsy Home: Pretty Prints In Words And Colour

After moving flat recently, I was searching for the perfect prints to add some colour and inspiration to my blank walls. A perfect excuse for some indulgent Etsy digging, where I found just the right amount of colourful, cute and word-filled prints from some far-flung stores in Toronto, New York and Newcastle. I must have bookmarked 20 prints from so many pretty Etsy sellers, but finally settled on a set of three tarot card prints from cegphotographics in Toronto, a dreamy watercolour print of the Universe and an adorable map of Scotland from LisaBarbero in New York, and a bold black&white quote print from Newcastle-based lettersonlove.

Living Room Prints
Left: lettersonlove At The End Of the Day quote print
Right: Claire Elizabeth cegphotographics
Sun, Moon and Star tarot card prints

Bedroom & Kitchen Prints
Left: Lisa Barbero, Uncharted No 1
Right: Lisa Barbero, I Love You In Scotland

Of course, beautiful prints need beautiful frames. Curiouser and Curiouser on Broughton Street offer a lovely framing service, and in one week I had two of the prints framed and hung in my bedroom and kitchen. Bare walls begone!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Edinburgh Events: Things to do in September

Open throughout September / Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street, EH1 1DF / Free
Now that the frenzy of the Fringe is over, it's time to enjoy some art and culture at a gentler pace. Scottish artist Jim Lambie's exhibition is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 19 October so it's the perfect time to view his beguiling sculptures and installations.  It includes the colourful Zobop, which adapts according to the space it's exhibited in and transforms the stairs and floor of the Gallery into something surprising and beautiful.

12-14 September / Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, EH28 8NB / £12.50/15
Another food fair comes to Edinburgh, this time to the Royal Highland Centre.  Covering all areas of Scotland, there's some lovely exhibitors such as Edinburgh Gin, Craigie's Farm & Deli, Glasgow's Juiced Be and Braw Homewares (who we've previously written about). With celebrity chefs, masterclasses and a competition to find Scotland's best kept secret ingredient, it all adds up to a delicious day of feasting.

18 September / A polling station near you
Whether you’re pro-independence, think we're better together or you don’t know until you get to the polls, you should absolutely exercise your right to vote in Scotland’s future.  Make sure that you’re registered by 2 September and don’t forget to vote on the big day itself!

23 September / Lovecrumbs, 155 West Port, EH3 9DP / £35
Pyrus Flowers are back at Lovecrumbs with an autumn wreath making class. There will be a whole heap of Lovecrumb's delicious cakes and endless tea for you to munch & drink whilst welcoming Autumn in floral style.   Pyrus blogged about an autumnal wedding they styled last year which should give you an inkling of what to expect - beautiful berry & branchy creations with gorgeous leafy brights! They also have a Halloween pumpkin centrepiece class in October if you can't make this one.

27 September / Cafe Camino, 1 Little King Street, EH1 3JR / £10
Great Grog Bottle Shop are holding their annual beer fair at Cafe Camino with some top Scottish brewers, such as Brewdog, Barney's and Stewart's.  For a tenner you can traverse from stall to stall, sampling beers (responsibly!) and asking any questions from the brewers. There'll also be some home brew batches to sample from Brewstore, who will be on hand to answer any home brewing related queries.

20-27 September / Venues in Stockbridge
Stockbridge very much has a village vibe to it and Stockfest celebrates the Stockbridge independent businesses and community.  There'll be events such as a ceilidh, flea market, zumba and swing dancing lessons, discounted shopping events, book and poetry readings and a dog show held in Inverleith Park (StockDog!).  The full programme and updates are available on the Facebook page.

Doors Open Day
27-28 September / Venues across Scotland
Held on the last weekend in September, this is a great annual event where you can get free access to hundreds of fascinating buildings across Scotland that are not usually open to the public. You can browse their brochure to plan a few trips across the city - some of our top picks would be Mansfield Traquair, Leith Theatre, Queen Street Gardens and the Royal Observatory.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A late summer visit to the Secret Herb Garden

Jen, Katey and I love supporting local independent businesses, and if there’s one thing we like even more, it’s one that delivers something a little bit out of the ordinary. Enter the Secret Herb Garden, an idyllic pocket of herbalising, cake-dispensing loveliness on the Old Pentland Road, just off the A702. As businesses go, this one truly multitasks like a BOSS, featuring (count ‘em) - a sprawling greenhouse, orchard, homeopathy school, café, deli/grocery and furniture shop - all tied exquisitely together with a ton of vintage charm. Since we’ve had an unexpectedly lovely summer here in Edinburgh, I thought it would be worthwhile heading out there to enjoy a little al fresco pottering whilst the sunshine lasted.
The small café-grocery is perfectly decked out with dreamy pastel colours, complemented by a lovingly-curated selection of vintage paraphernalia (which you can buy) you prefer a purchase of the more edible variety, there are plenty of local artisan goodies too, from smoked fish to fresh fruit and veg and homemade honey, plus their very own Pale Ale.
The in-house eats themselves centre around a pretty impressive spread of homemade cakes, and in the garden spirit, I opted for an unusual, super-moist courgette, mint and yoghurt polenta creation. Savoury options are a little more limited but no less delicious for it, with three types of quiches and savoury pastries available. Special mention has to go to the accompanying side salad, which was lifted from its usual B-list status with a colourful sprinkling of edible flowers.
Although I'm never one to deny cake top billing, the star of the Secret Herb Garden's show has to be the herb garden itself, an enormous glasshouse lushly fill with fragrant greens, flowers and fruit - including, well I never, a branch heaving with peaches (cue much flabbergasted "Peaches in Scotland, WTF?" exclamations. It was a particularly hot day and at over thirty degrees in the greenhouse we couldn't spend more than a few minutes picking out a few herb pots, but I loved the quirky look of the the mismatching armchairs and sofas squirreled away amongst the leaves, another nod to the Secret Herb Garden's impeccable vintage styling. For anyone wanting a slice of it for themselves, there's a carefully-sourced collection of furniture and homewares up for grabs - including my personal favourite (sadly not photographed) of a leather gym pommel horse.
Like any really good secret, The Secret Herb Garden is fast becoming, well, not terribly secret. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - but I'd advise procuring a lift and seeing what all the well-deserved fuss about yourself. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: Zukr Boutique Patisserie

Zukr Boutique create some of the most extraordinary and original sweet treats you'll find in Edinburgh. Owned and run by Maggie and David Simak (who was formerly the pastry chef at Harvey Nichols), their shop in Newington is an all-white minimalist design which is appropriately lab-like for their precision creations. 

Beautifully decorated chocolate and marshmallow lollipops line the shop walls and their marshmallows have some bold and delicious flavours, such as cherry almond, cinnamon, chai latte and chocolate truffle. The shop had plenty of these to sample too. Edinburgh is a city with a relatively high number of marshmallow purveyors, but Zukr have an edge over the competitors with their Mallow Club, where you can get your choice of flavour delivered monthly. It's a brilliant idea - getting marshmallows in the post is pretty much the best thing I can think of! 

A natural progression from making marshmallows is one of Zukr's most eye-catching sweets - galaxy-themed teacakes.  These are perfectly speckled  domes of chocolate; beautiful constellations to gaze into and filled with inventive flavours such as raspberry lychee, lemon elderflower, and coconut with dark rum.  

The chocolate artistry continues with the current Harvest collection of Autumn-themed chocolates with flavours of corn & blueberry salted caramel, rum & cherry, almond praline, and apricot & amaretto.  The Harvest theme spills into a collection of chocolate bars and on my visit I managed to pick up a delicious corn, peanut and caramel chocolate bar, beautifully decorated with painted gold and petals.  There is also some wonderful baking, with salted caramel & banana brownies, jam-filled vanilla cakes, and vanilla, chocolate, raspberry & hazelnut cakes.

Sadly we were too late to buy the chocolate brioche that had been available earlier in the day so an early visit to the shop is definitely recommended - you can find out what they have in store from their gorgeous Instagram account.  If you can't make it to the shop in person, you can always order these beautiful sweets from their Etsy shop or webpage.

Photos courtesy of Zukr Boutique

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Super Easy Baking: Lemon Drizzle Cake

They say when life hands you lemons, make a gin & tonic and this is an axiom which we wholeheartedly endorse.  However, if life hands you a whole load of lemons, for instance in the form of several bags of the things on a Tesco order when you thought you were ordering single lemons, you could also make some lemon drizzle cake.  This recipe is for a basic loaf cake which can easily be adapted.  Limes can be used instead of lemon, herbs like rosemary or basil can be added or just add some chopped stone fruit and spices - a cinnamon & plum loaf would be especially lovely.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 lemons
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour
For the drizzle:
1 lemon
150g icing sugar

1. Line a loaf tin with some baking paper, lightly grease the tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C for fan forced ovens).
2. Zest and juice the lemons.  Mix together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer (or wooden spoon & a lot of welly) until pale and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in the lemon juice - don't worry if the mixture separates, it should come back together once the flour is added.
4. Fold in the flour just until everything is mixed together.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the tin and allow to cool.
6. While the cake bakes, make the drizzle icing.  Zest and juice the lemons and mix with the icing sugar in a small bowl.
7. Once the cake is cool, pour the icing over the cake then slice up and enjoy.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Recommendations & Top Tips

Well August is here again... the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has officially begun!  As always, it will be chaotic, we will stay out too late & drink too much and also have an amazing time seeing lots of weird, wonderful & hilarious sights. We'd recommend our Guide To Enjoying the Ed Fringe for any Fringe newbie and there are plenty of good reads on what shows to see (Fest Magazine and The List Fringe special are readily available all over Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh Spotlight webpage is great for festival news & a variety of reviews).  Here's our list of top tips and some of the things that we're excited about this year:
Abandoman, an Irish comedy hip hop improv group, take suggestions from the crowd to roll with and rap about.  Spot on for some proper laughs.
- Bears In Space is as you can imagine about ursine cosmonauts, having adventures and fleeing their enemies.  What makes this stand out is that a) it's a puppet show which obviously makes it more awesome and b) it has Jack Gleeson in it aka King Joffrey, First of his Name etc etc from Game of Thrones.  If you're a GoT fan, you'll realise that Jack's doing his very best to no longer be associated with his character.
- Jollyboat are a pirate comedy band - which may not sound that appealing, depending on how tolerant you are of pirates in this post-post-ironic age but are actually very funny indeed.
- The Living Mountain is a record shop in the basement of the Church Gallery at Summerhall, curated by graphic designer and vinyl collector Lindsay Todd.  The perfect place to visit after a music show at Summerhall.
- Edinburgh record label Song, by Toad are holding a Pale Imitation Festival this August, a cheap and cheerful celebration of Scottish music with all shows costing a fiver at Henry's Cellar Bar.  The exception to this is Meursault playing their last ever gig at Queen's Hall with Plastic Animals - definitely an Event Gig to be at.
56 North have opened up a Secret Tanqueray Gin Garden during the festival with the full range of Tanqueray gins and more cocktails then you can shake a a stirring stick at.
- If you were as addicted to the Great British Bakeoff as we were, you'll be excited to see that last year's contestant Glenn Cosby has a live cooking show, Food Junkie.  As food junkies ourselves, there will likely be a lot of nodding in agreement.
- Our usual festival favourites are always a good shout: Josie Long, David O'Doherty, Avenue Q, No Fit State's Bianco and Hot Dub Time Machine are all totes essensh shows for us!