12 February 2013

Booze, books and birthdays

It was Gareth’s birthday last week, so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to cook something from the Booze Cakes recipe book I got for Christmas. If you love booze and you love cake, I’d highly recommend it. There’s a huge assortment to choose from, ranging from weird to wonderful to WTF (Peachy Keen Fuzzy Navel cupcakes, anyone?)

Anyway, my first attempt at the honey spice beer cake was not a resounding success, it has to be said, but it was at least edible. The problem was not one of taste, but texture.  A generous portion of beer added to an already-runny cake mixture created a super-squidgy centre, which wouldn’t firm up - even after almost an hour of cooking. As a result, the cake had to be eaten with a spoon and had roughly the same consistency of a sticky toffee pudding. It was also extremely rich and could only be eaten in small doses. This was to be expected though, considering that the recipe required two cups of sugar, as well as honey, lemon and cinnamon. And that’s before we get to the honey beer frosting.
Still, I quite liked it and I can honestly say I’ve never eaten a cake with such an interesting taste before. It’s definitely worth making at least once. But, as I tell Gareth every time we attend a family gathering, go easy on the beer – for your own safety.

To accompany the cake, I gave Gareth a copy of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die, which he tells me is a very enjoyable read, if you like that kind of thing.

Tola x

21 January 2013

Review: Amico Bio, EC1A

As part of our attempts to broaden our pallates, every so often we purchase meal offers on places like Groupon.

We bought one back in September for an Italian restaurant near Farringdon and Barbican tube stations called Amico Bio.

However, due to generally being busy, we were only in a position last week to use the voucher - which was shortly before it expired - and after numerous emails back-and-forth we managed to book a table.

It styles itself as London's "first vegetarian, organic Italian restaurant". It is quite a small place, which probably explains why we had a few difficulties in actually booking a table.

The voucher covered the two of us for a three course meal plus expresso. Naturally, we took full advantage.


They have quite an extensive selection of vegetarian and organic wines and beers.

After much deliberation, we decided to have a bottle of the house red: Sannio Aglianico.

For a red wine, it was not particuarly fruity, but it went very well with our starter.  It also went down very easily. Possibly a bit too easily...

We then moved on to our food.


We both had the "insalata di gorgonzola, pere e lupini" - a gorgonzola salad served with beans and pears.

We both found this to be very light but surprisingly filling.  The gorgonzola was lovely - it melted in your mouth.

Main course

Between us we had the "tortino di zucca con peperoni e patate arrosto":

As you can tell from the photo it is a compact dish. Unfortunately, it was a bit too compact, and I didn't find it to be particularly filling.

We also chose a vegetable tempura dish with sweet & sour sauce [we didn't catch the name]:

This was very light - deep-fried veg in batter - but there was a very large portion, and it came across as a mountain of food due to the amount that we were served. The only downside is that it could have been served a bit hotter.


For our afters, we went for the "torta di mele, fichi e datteri":

and a dish called "Macedonia tiepida di frutta con panna":


These came with our expressos.

The Macedonia was surprisingly filling and was lovely: a mix of apples, whipped cream and had spices sprinkled on it. Hopefully London's Greek restaurants won't find out that there's a dish called Macedonia, because it may cause a few issues...

As for the torte, it was very filling and homely, and very enjoyable.


The staff were very friendly and came back every so often to top-up our glasses and generally check how we were doing and our views on the food.

Overall we quite enjoyed our meal, even though one of the main courses was a bit disappointing, and were surprised at the variety and number of vegetarian alteratives to Italian food.

We would go back again, even if it is simply because their menu changes every day, and so it would be fun to see what else they can create.

12 January 2013

Review: Rossopomodoro - Camden

On Friday evening we were wandering around Camden town centre and stumbled upon an Italian restaurant called Rossopomodoro.

It has a decent selection of Italian food and after much consideration we eventually went for the Scialatuccio:

and the Cannellone:

We also had the bread selection as a starter: 3 different large chunks of Italian bread that were served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

We considered having a dessert, but decided against it because we were stuffed after having some lovely and very filling pasta dishes.

It is definitely good value-for-money, with very friendly staff and and we would recommend the place to others.

25 December 2012

Can-tastic: the self-heating meal

We all know that cooking Christmas dinner can be a bit of a mission if you’re unprepared/hungover/just a terrible cook. So if you can’t really be bothered with it all this year, but still need to line your stomach before the binge drinking commences, the Hot Can self-heating meal is the answer to all your prayers!OK, so it might not be quite what your hungry guests are expecting, but if it prevents them from resorting to cannibalism at the dining table, everyone’s a winner, right?Hot Can's Christmas Dinner is the obvious option for this time of year, and we would have loved to have sampled it, but since they were sold out we settled for the Bangers & Beanz meal instead. 
Now, it’s fair to say we didn’t have particularly high expectations about this product. We were prepared for it to be bland at best and inedible at worst, but it was neither. To our surprise, it was actually very tasty and unexpectedly filling. The fact that we didn’t really need to do anything to it except peel back the lid was also a nice bonus. We had it as a side dish to our main meal but there’s a big enough portion size to easily satisfy one person.
Here’s how we rated it:Tastiness: 8/10 (There was no weird “novelty” taste due to it being self-heating. And if it was served up to you by someone else, it’s unlikely you’d ever guess it hadn’t been anywhere near a cooker).
Price: 7/10 (A can of Heinz beans & sausages is much cheaper, but considering this provides a hot, filling meal that you can eat just about anywhere, it’s decently priced at £3.99).
Ease of use: 10/10 (Very, very simple. No fuss, no muss).
All in all, there’s no faulting this product. It does exactly what it says on the tin, and for a self-heating meal that’s all you can ask for really! Just try not to be put off by the curious fizzing noise it makes while it’s “cooking”.The Hot Can's website's shop section is currently under construction, but in the meantime you can buy them from Harvey Nics for £3.99, which is where we stumbled across them. There are several varieties if you're after something a bit fancier than beans and sausages, but none of them really tickled our tastebuds, sadly. Hopefully the company will come up with some more adventurous varieties in the new year.That's all from us for now. Stay hungry and have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!x

A handy guide to boozing...

I saw this on Time Out last week: a guide to the best craft beer bars in London.

I've been to some of them before I started this blog: Brewdog; Camden Brewery; and the Old Red Cow amongst others.

Of course it's given me plenty of more ideas of where I can experience new drinks.

This stuff tastes Bile

A few weeks ago I was in my local off-licence and noticed this can of beer on sale:

Out of curisosity I bought it.

I had no idea what it was called, nor what sort if beer it was, but assumed it was a type of Ukrainian lager.

I was almost correct: it's actually a Ukranian wheat-beer, basically their version of Hoegaarden, and is pronoucned "Be-lay" (Ukrainian for "White"), and is made by Chernigivske.

In the unlikely event that you find it, I'd recommend buying it and giving it a try.

30 November 2012

Eurocrats encourage boozing

One of the first posts was a review of a bottle of sweet Moldovan red wine, called "Kagor".

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to find in the shops, possibly due to where it is from.

Thankfully, today I read that the EU is likely to agree a trade-deal with Moldova next year to give them better access to the EU for their products.

As the piece points out, one of Moldova's main exports is wine.

When the agreement is signed, I guess that it will make it easier for me to get hold of Kagor!