Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Meating Room

Most of the restaurants I get to review are in London so I really appreciate the chance to review a local establishment.

The Meating Room in St Albans (22 Catherine Street) is about 7 months old and a great gem to find.  The owner, Al, knew nothing about restaurants or in fact beef when he decided to change career and open a burger restaurant.  Al did know however that he wanted the best beef in his burgers and the freshest ingredients as well as the freshest, locally made buns and he made it his business to source the best of all of the ingredients.

Al decided, after tasting and sampling loads of beef, that the best beef for his burgers would come from The West Country and be from sustainable farms with good animal practices.  The buns are made daily by a local St Albans baker to Al’s specific recipe.

The result of taking all this care is a simple, lovely menu.  Keep it simple and make it fantastic!

Mr R and I went in one Saturday afternoon and it started to fill up quite nicely whilst we were there but apparently if you want to dine there on a Friday or Saturday evening you need to book.  The reputation for clean food (no additives or fillers, fresh and sustainable) has gotten around St Albans in record time.

We started with a milk shake. Mr R had the chocolate and I had Tahitian Vanilla.  They were thick and creamy and very filling indeed. You can BYOB (bring you own booze) if you want alcohol.
We shared a starter of grilled halloumi cheese with grilled red peppers.
When the main courses came we were really impressed.  We were asked how we wanted our burgers cooked and they came exactly as we had ordered.
I had the house ‘Meating Room’ burger cooked medium rare which came, as all burgers do, with a portion of rosemary sprinkled chips. The Meating Room burger has gem lettuce, grilled beef tomato, red onion, apple smoked cheddar, grilled turkey bacon and BBQ chilli sauce, and boy was it tasty!
Mr R had the ‘St Peter’s’ cheese burger; a beef patty with lettuce, beef tomato, red onion, homemade burger sauce and emmental cheese.
If you don’t like the menu suggestions you can ‘Build Your Own Burger’ customising it just like you want.
This is a small venue but very welcoming and child friendly. I think the grandchildren will love these burgers and look forward to taking them there next time they visit.
I was a guest of The Meating Room and was not paid to write this review.  As usual all opinions and photographs are my own.

Foxcroft & Ginger - Restaurant Review

When I first worked in London I would walk along Berwick Street in Soho to get my fruit and vegetables from the market. This market had been there for many years, with one side of the street a colleciton of cafes and Asian incence shops whilst the other side of the street was shop after shop of wholesale fabric, furry, shiny leathers, airy organza and much more.

The fabric shops are disappearing and in their place little eateries such as Foxcroft & Ginger.
My friend Val and I entered the shop front which was small and intimate and we were asked to go down stairs. The downstairs wasn't much bigger and was sparsley set out. 
The menu had a lovely selection of Brunch such as Eggs Benedict, French Toast as well as Herb Roasted Mushrooms and Lunch items such as Spiced Moroccan Chicken Salad with Chickpea, Roasted Pepper, butternutsquash and Tahini Yoghurt Dressing or Slow Roasted Pork, Leek Gratin, Mature Cheddar and Pickled Red Jalapeno on Sourdough plus loads more just as innovative and interesting.

We were given menus but told that the only thing they had that evening was the pizzas!

We both had a hot drink, I expressed admiration for the design on my coffee -
I had the sourdough pizza with Garlic & Fennel Sausage, Red Pepper, ricotta and Burnt Onion.
Val had the Goats Cheese, Fig, Kale Pesto & Marinated Beetroot with Marscapone.
A selection of the cakes for us to share. At this point though we were really full but couldn't resist!
A few bags of Shipton Mill flour for all that artisan baking and pizza dough they have planned!
Next time you are walking around Soho in London and find yourself on Berwick Street, don't walk past the tiny entrance of Foxcroft & Ginger but step inside for a lovely treat.

I was a guest of Foxcroft & Ginger but was not required to write a positive review. As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Quark from Lake District Dairy makes a great pudding!

I was invited to take part in a pudding challenge from Lake District Dairy Company to use their Quark in a special pudding for the festive period or any special meal.

The start of my pudding was inspired by Fuss Free Flavours chocolate pots.  These were two layers of chocolate pudding but I wanted to take it one step further.

Lake District Dairy Company Quark has 55% fewer caleries per serving and 99% less saturated fat per serving than creme fraiche.  There is also 69% more protein per serving than other quarks and creme fraiche.

So for my pudding:

Melt 100gm of milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Heat 100ml of double cream in a sauce pan until just simmering.
Mix the melted milk chocolate and warm cream and carefully pour into a variety of glasses.
Repeat the above but with 100g white chocolate and 100ml of double cream.
Just before serving add a good scoop of vanilla ice cream to each glass of chocolate cream.
Dollop over the ice cream with the Lake District Dairy Naturally Fat Free Quark with Vanilla, serve and enjoy!

Even though this challenge was for a special pudding I couldn't resist the temptation to use the glut of celery we seemed to have accumulated in the fridge to make celery soup.  Home made celery soup is one of my favourites and instead of adding cream I used the Lake District Dairy plain quark.  It was creamy and tasty. Pure celery heaven!
So don't keep the quark for the puddings, use it in savoury too!

I was sent samples of the Lake District Dairy Naturally Fat Free quark but I was not paid to use it or to write this post.  As usual all opinions, recipes and photos are my own.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Our Christmas with a little help from Aldi!

I was asked to do some shopping in Aldi to get things for our Christmas meals.  I was  pleased to see the wide range of Christmas food they had in my local store even so close to Christmas.

They have a wide range of frozen treats that will appeal to every tastebud as well as a fantastic selection in the chilled section.  I will make sure there is lots to nibble while I finish off in the kitchen and the family can have a tasty bit too.
We will have a platter full of smoked salmon, pate and these luxury prawns for our starter.
We usually do turkey but I thought a 5 Bird Roast would be a lovely change.  This way we all get the meat we like best; chicken, turkey, pheasant, duck and goose, mmmm can't wait. The roast is frozen and comes in its own foil try for cooking, saving one washing up job.
The potatoes will of course be roasted in goose fat, it makes the best, crispy potatoes.
I will be making my traditional cranberry relish to serve with the 5 Bird Roast .
Aside from a lovely cheese board we will have plenty of cold cuts for Christmas evening for nibbling on and sandwiches.
We will have loads of Prosecco, wines and spirits to drink and just in case we over do the festivities Aldi have something for those morning after headaches too!!
I received vouchers from Aldi to purchase these products. As usual all opinions and photos are my own!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Let's Hear It For the Girls! - Tabasco Bloody Mary Championships

This is the third year I have been a guest at the Tabasco British Bloody Mary Championships in London.  This year was perhaps the most exciting!

The usual rules applied to the first round, hosted this year by Chef Ainsley Harriet,
a straight up version using vodka and tomato juice of choice and Tabasco.  The second round was an interpretation on a classic Bloody Mary and what was the rationalle as well as using vodka, tomato juice and Tabasco but could include weird and wonderful ingredients and most did so.

The big news this year was that there were two female competitors! They received great cheers from us girls on the floor!

This year the audience were given a score card to pick our favourite from the second round.  We gotto try all nine entries (hard job but I do it for love!!)
Some of the entries were:-

An American history lesson of 1868 - garnished with pancakes and maple syrup!
Michael Yudt, Rivington Grill, Greenwich

Some guests from the American past to help with the 1868 history lesson.
A Royal tribute - (Good enough for Mam good enough for me) – Tom Arnold from Cambridge Doubletree by Hilton
Interesting Garnishes!
A pale Bloody Mary!
But beautifully finished!
Cajun Ketchup!!
But the big news of the event .......

both winner of the traditional/classic round and runner up were the female competitors and then shock news
Kaiko Tulloch Edinburgh’s Lucky Liquor Company
.... both winners of the inspirational/alternative round were the same two females
India Blanch (Call me Mr Lucky, Breakfast Club, London Bridge)
and the winner of the peoples' choice?  Yes a female!!
So this year at the Tabasco Bloody Mary Championships - Let's Hear It For The Girls!!

I was not paid to attend this event or to write my account.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Aldi Christmas Cocktails - My Cranberry & Orange Delight

I was sent some of Aldi's top quality spirits as well as a cocktail making equipment and asked to make a seasonal cocktail.
I chose the Tamova Vodka - awarded a silver medal at the Internal Spirits Competition 2014.

I thought what would be some great Christmas flavours, mmmmm how about cranberry and orange?
To start my cocktail I infused some cranberries cut in half and some orange peel in the vodka for 4-5 days.
Lime goes really well with cranberry and orange and vodka so I put a piece of lime in the cocktail jug and slightly muddled it with the muddler!

When the vodka was infused I poured 100ml of it into the cocktail jug. 
I added cranberry juice (200ml) and fizzy orange (300ml), ice and gave it a good shake.  Strained into a chilled cocktail glass, garnished with a slice of orange and a cocktail stick of cranberries
and watched Mr R's face as he sipped my new Christmas Cocktail - Cranberry & Orange Delight!
I was also send a bottle of Aldi Advocaat - Christmas Day I will be serving the old fashioned Advocaat and Lemonade with a cherry garnish - How decadent will that be!!

I was not paid to write this piece but was sent a hamper of goodies from Aldi. As usual all opinions and photos are my own.