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!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Adventures Away: The Kelpies, Falkirk

We visited the Kelpies on one of those days where the weather can change within the blink of an eye. The sun was shining as we set off and it was a very pretty drive (just under an hour away to Falkirk from Edinburgh) but as we parked, dark clouds loomed and the rain absolutely belted down for a good fifteen minutes with no let-up.  First rule of visiting any Scottish landmarks - bring an umbrella or a raincoat! However, once the downpour stopped we were treated to an impressive stormy backdrop which made the Kelpies really stand out.  Created by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott and named after the mythical Scottish creatures who dwelled by lochs, had the strength of ten horses and appeared as horses or hoofed humans the 30 metre tall sculptures convey a steely mix of strength and animalism.  All art is of course very personal, and the Kelpies have had a mixed reaction from some critics, but I loved looking at the huge imposing heads, wild in the air.

You can take a guided tour of the sculptures for a fiver including a wee talk on them and a visit inside too.  There's also a very nice looking canal walk to be had and the Helix play park looks like a cool place for kids to visit, but sadly, due to the weather, we didn't venture much further.  We'll save it for another day, with wellies at the ready!

Have you visited the Kelpies in Falkirk yet?  What did you think of them?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: A taste of Italy in Edinburgh at Contini

As poor doomed Juliet said, "A rose by any name would smell as sweet". Which provides a fittingly Italian introduction to our recent trip to Contini, formerly known as Centotre, one of George Street's premier eateries. Like Juliet's rose, we learned that a change in name does not, equal a change in nature and the ristorante continues its decade-long trend of dishing up moreish Italian fare with flair and elegance. There have been some changes, but happy ones only, with restauranteurs Victor and Carina bringing in a new daily menu to make the most of seasonal Venetian ingredients, which are brought in from Venice in a weekly basis (with Scottish products sent back in return!). Keen for a blissful taste of Italy, the Edinburgh Etiquette team headed along to see what daily spin on the classics was on offer. And - we REALLY loved it.
Primi piatti was an epic affair. We began with some classic Italian antipasti - super sweet tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olives, aubergine and courgette, plus a platter of cured meats piled high with rocket, and a giant basket of ciabatta with plenty of premium balsamic vinegar and EV olive oil for dipping. Two cheesy, oozy, herby focaccias (including a gluten-free option) and an enormous plate of fritto misto, with no less than four kinds of seafood dressed in a crisp and featherlight batter, completed the spread.

The feast (there is no other word for it) continued with an indulgent but perfectly apportioned double whammy of pizza and pasta. The five of us shared a classic Margherita, and a rocket-laden gluten-free offering topped with roasted cremini mushrooms - both fresh, crispy and layered with gloriously savoury Italian flavours. Handmade gnocci with a rich butter sugo, mozzarella and tons of fragrant basil was flawlessly-executed pasta dish low on frills and big on fresh flavour. However, our favourite, difficult though it was to pick, had to be the Contadino pasta - perfectly al dente orecchiette with crumbled piccante sausage and porcini mushrooms, bound with plenty of Parmesan and cream.
All of which would seem like more than enough sustenance for one evening, but luckily the phenomenon of the dessert stomach - scientifically known as "the Yummy Chamber"* - came into play. A moist and darkly rich slice of torta al ciocollato (a flourless chocolate cake, proper grown up stuff) was served with creme fraiche and honeycomb, and promptly devoured. We were interested to learn that Contini actually make a small but hotly-requested batch of honey from their very own Edinburgh bees each year, and although we didn't get to try it (as it wasn't yet ready) it's another testament to Contini's equal commitment to local Scottish and Italian ingredients for their perfect mix.

And, there was cheese. Not a sniff of Applewood-smoked cheddar in sight - we enjoyed a tart Parmigiano Reggiano, melting slices of Fontina and and Gorgonzola and a pale and salty Pecorino Sardo. It was a stunning end to an utterly incredible meal.

If you fancy treating yourself (and you should! You should!), you can check out what Contini's daily menu has in store over at the restaurant's website, then head on over to their George Street digs in your very best stretchy eating trews. A huge thank you to the team for having us along! We shall be back.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: Patisserie Madeleine

With its window display of elegant patisserie and a colourful rainbow of macarons, I could stare at the shop front of Patisserie Madeleine in Stockbridge forever.  It's a small and sophisticated cafe and its minimalist black and white decor makes the stunning cakes and pastries stand out even more.  The only real problem when visiting is deciding what to try as everything looks delectable.

There are so many delicious macaron flavours available, from standards like strawberry, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla, to more intriguing varieties like chocolate passion fruit, pear & violet, earl grey and salted caramel - all super afforadable at 95p each.

The patisserie best seller is a tatin de pomme, with caramelised apple sitting atop a crumbled pastry base with creme chantilly.  There is also a choice of eclairs - beautifully presented with cocoa nibs or jam-filled raspberries, and a chocolate and raspberry tarte which is divine. On my most recent visit I tried a creme-filled choux with raspberry jam and a silky pistachio cream which had just the right amount of sweetness.  

The effort put into patisserie is matched by the cafe and drinks menu. Options on the day were gingerbread hot chocolate, matcha latte, home-made iced tea, and peach.  All of the cakes are available to take away, along with home-made sweets (such as almond praline and marshmallows), and some Eteaket and Pekoe teas and teapots.  This small gem comes highly recommended for a sophisticated taste of Parisian patisserie.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Adventures Away: North Berwick

These sunny days we've been having in Scotland seem to come and go, but they certainly are beautiful.  North Berwick is the perfect day trip to enjoy on days such as these, less than an hour away from Edinburgh by train or car and with a very pretty journey to get there.  Not only does it have a lovely family & dog friendly beach, but it's also a great place to wander around, look at boats, visit some shops and have some chips, and maybe a wee ice cream.  Here are some of my favourite things to do on a North Berwick visit:
 - Have a stroll down the High Street - plenty of cute wee shops, lots of fresh seafood, nice places to stop off for some pub grub and more cafes than you can shake a stick at.  A new favourite is Why Not? - a lovely indoor market selling a variety of items from artisan breads to handmade cards and vintage fur coats.  They are also rumoured to have some of the best cakes in North Berwick (if not Scotland) which sold at their cafe in the back of the shop.
- Take a peek at Bass Rock - you can either look through the binoculars near the Seabird Centre or take a boat trip out there and examine up close whether there are puffins, guillemots, razorbills or even the odd seal hanging out there.
- Visit the harbour and Lobster Shack - there's something peaceful about listening to the waves against the rocks and looking at the boats.  Improving this experience hugely is a visit to Lobster Shack.  Their fresh seafood is outstanding and there's nothing like cracking open a lobster shell when you're by the seaside. 
- Have an ice cream - a tradition you can't pass up and with both a Mr Whippy and an S Luca van near the harbour you are spoilt for choice!
- The Fringe by the Sea Festival is taking place from 4-10 August.  Like a mini version of the Edinburgh Fringe but minus the craziness and overwhelming amounts of people - and crucially, by the sea.  How perfect does that sound?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Grey Goose Boulangerie in Multrees Walk and Party at The Devil's Advocate

Grey Goose Boulangerie Francois is an artisan French bakery carionnette van which is the most unlikely and intimate Martini cocktail bar you'll find. The super-lux vodka brand's van has popped up on Multrees Walk near Harvey Nichols and will be there until Wednesday 23 July. You can book an appointment for a bespoke Martini to fit your taste via their twitter account @GreyGooseRSVP. We went along to their launch at The Devil's Advocate last week and it was as as awesome as we were expecting it to be! With five Grey Goose cocktails to try based around the tastes of sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter, there were plenty of opportunities to 'appreciate' the drinks. There was a great atmosphere on the night and it was fabulous to be amongst such a glamorous Edinburgh crowd.  We were particularly thrilled to spot Rose Leslie (aka Ygritte from Game of Thrones), who looked stunning in a slinky black jumpsuit. Ah, to be so beautiful! We waylaid our envy the only way we know how - by eating more delicious canapés of tuna tartare towers and chilli oysters.  Later in the evening we tried our own bespoke Grey Goose Martini, mixed for us by the charming London-based brand ambassador Omar Sequera. Made with various herbs and a touch of magic, it was bitter-sweet, intoxicating, and absolutely delicious.  Definitely worth trying to get a slot at the Boulangerie van this week!

Le Fizz
The Grey Goose
Rose Leslie, Omar Sequera and Louisa Theo