Aberdeen – The Silver City – love it!

It’s been a long haul. A long low slow lazy can’t be bothered to get up and at it haul to hoover out the blog and start afresh. But here we are.

IMG_3612With the sausage dog on board a new year full of adventure beckons. Here is my little ginger man in the back of the car with his mini-Schnauzer mates. That’s Basil on the left – and  Doris on the right. Three wee crackers, you can spot the tartan blankets as they were well wrapped and just getting their circulation back after a long walk along the beach in Aberdeen. Bbbrr.

We were up last week amidst the aftermath of the storm that wreaked havoc in the area. Dramatic scenes all around not least the sandy beach which was so covered in drift wood no-one could actually walk along it.

IMG_3592 IMG_3593Here’s a photo of a tree which was snapped off at the roots and carried through the churning sea to this lofty spot. It was wild, windy and cold but great. We had faces like well slapped babies bums, dogs like drookit wigs and an intense need for some food so we stepped into The Sand Dollar on the front. Overlooking the beach and sea their welcome was warm and their food delicious.Soup of the day and great hunks of warm bread and butter set us up for the brisk walk back to the car. It’s almost worth getting cold, wet and shivery just as an excuse to get in there and toast up.IMG_3590
Though I haven’t lived in Aberdeen for years. I love it. The silver city – it aye feels like home. But colder.

 

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Dine in Edinburgh’s newest restaurant. DINE.

Dine with Stuart Muir.
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The new kid on the block in place of Blue the much loved and missed groovacious bar restaurant of the early 90’s has been refurbed and reborn as
Dine with Stuart Muir.

The high heid yin comes from down south and had the sense to poach Stuart who was the head chef at Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor restaurant in Edinburgh to head up the team in the kitchen. Yum.

Muted lighting, warm, caramel, colours, high backed leather banquettes and delightfully sociable round tables create a warm inviting atmosphere and seats up to 80. The cocktail/champagne bar which seats up to 30 has slouchy low down comfortable leather chairs facing a bar glistening with a fine array of bottles, liqueurs well kent and eclectic.

We started with a cocktail. The list is extensive and the Santana ”
100% agave Casa noble crystal Tequila – cointreau – blue curacao – lime juice – cinnamon.” I can recommend highly. Pal Dynamite had a winter warmer which happily was not a big slipper but a chi-chi wee tea cup offering a warm concoction that made her cheeky chops smile. Lick your lips and have a gander at their creative list of cocktails here.

And so to dinner.

The a la carte menu read very well. Not too big, not too fancy and not too expensive. We were out for an impromptu girls meal on a Monday evening so requested the market menu which at £14.50 for 2 courses or £17.50 for 3 including coffee is a billy bargain.

Some went a la carte. Some market menu. And regardless of what we chose – there was nothing but praise, smiles and compliments to the chef all round.

Starters included pork rillete; two generous quenelles of rillete served with chargrilled toast – yum yum yum – toast has never toasted or tasted so good. Homemade Humus (yes you can spell it like that) and a pickled thing too set the rillete off to perfection.
Friend Janes a la carte wild mushroom risotto disappeared like snow off a dyke with oohin and aahing noises so – “excellent” was the verdict from her.

Main course I went for the veggie option – a bean casserole – don’t be so beanist – this was a belter. I am not a veggie but just fancied something warming and this hit the spot. Rich, delicious, warming and a mighty portion too for the Aberdonian tum.
Salmon was chosen by two and the presentation was impeccable as was the taste. Cod enjoyed by our a la carte girl also got top marks.

Sadly my phone had spent a few seconds face down on Princes Street earlier in the day so my camera was not up to the mark. I took a few but they would in no way do the food justice. So you will have to take my word for it.

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So get thee to Saltire Court, Cambridge Street upstairs from the foyer of the Traverse. Go on up you go.

It was first of many a Christmas night out and this one will be hard to beat.

Tonight I am off to meet the Tesla – the amazing electric car which is taking the car world by storm. I will report back.

A tail of two Schitties (Schitzus)

Dog friendly places are a joy to find and Edinburgh is just getting more and more dog friendly. Initially keepers of the canine were used to being cast out to stand in the dreich weather giving the dog the evil eye for being so unwelcome  but now they are welcomed with open arms, bowls of water and a clap on the head. Joy.

Recently we were in The Raeburn in Stockbridge where they are welcome outside but also in the bar area. It was like a dog crèche. Big ones, small ones, multiple leads all tangled, spaniels, a pug, a scottie, two schitzus, two westies, a couple of labs, a labradoodle, 2 schnauzers and of course Charlie Chorizo Sausage dog. Fellow dog lovers understand the overwhelming love you feel for this hairy crater on the end of the lead and know only too well why you are not enjoying a drink in the pub round the corner after the barman barked at you “Nae dogs in here, oh for Gods sake just tie it up outside”.  Huh I think not.

So as the places we are all welcome multiply tails are wagging wildly.

The Raeburn on Raeburn Place Stockbridge, we would highly recommend and with the lovely summer months ahead but there may well be a queue of canine owners jostling to get in – including me – see you there!
 

High Visibility Pillock Spotted In Mirror. Me.

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So the road trip plan is going on – and on – and on. I am the culprit. I could organise I piss up in a brewery but other than that organising anything confuses my brain completely.

I need to drive from Edinburgh to Barcelona by car.

I can’t fly. It’s not that I don’t want to. I can’t so I have no choice.

So I look at the map.

I can see where I am and where I want to go but how do you plan it?
How do you know where to stop?

When to stop?
How many miles you can realistically drive on a day to day in a right hand drive car in France or Spain?

A pal told me I need a breathalyser – thanks I said – no he meant legally in France you must have two in the car. Oh. OK

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Also on the list are two high viz jackets.
Where do you get those? I said arriving to buy some tea lights from IKEA and instantly stumbling into a huge pile of high viz jackets for about 90p each. Weird.

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But as it’s IKEA not only is it weird – its a bargain.

Though I do get distracted with why one earth do IKEa sell high viz jackets?

Is it  for people who fall asleep half way through building a flat pack so their family don’t trip over their  prone exhausted  bodies as they go about their business. Anyway it was a happy coincidence whatever the reason.

So I bought 2 for me and 2 for him and so he got the breathalysers so all we need now is the route.

Even the drive to Dover is confusing.

Drive all the way in a day or stop over somewhere and if so where?

Or get a ferry from Newcastle?

And so it goes on so prevarication wins out as usual.

Speaking of which it’s Good Friday – Happy Easter – I am off to stuff my chops with chocolate eggs in the hope the rush of sugar to the brain will effect a shift in my capacity to plan…

Nonna’s Kitchen – a family affair.

Nonna’s– well well well. What a glorious surprise.  On Morningside Road, right next to The Churchill Theatre the perfect spot for us for an early Saturday dinner as we were off to the Edinburgh Gay Mans Chorus at 8pm – more of which later.

A family owned and run business. Running the show now is Gino Stornaiuolo but when they say family they mean family and the whole family are here smiling, working and welcoming. Gino’s father the chef at Nonna’s – Mimmo has worked that stove for over 40 years and he cooks like a dream with a lightness of touch that makes your heart sing.  If you think even for a moment that a chef of a certain age might be in danger of being stuck in the past, think again.

 

Nonas exterior does them no favours – brown,  grey slate tiles which hardly made my heart sing as we pulled up outside. But the second we were over the threshold at 6pm on Saturday ye old adage ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ tripped into my brain. The place was packed with a great buzzing atmosphere, tables and chairs are light, the walls clean and bright with pepperings of photographs of Italy, family a lovely warm, welcoming, modern space.

Smiling staff showed us over to our table and with it a drink was offered. Gavi for the wine lovers and for me a glass of Prosecco which arrived quickly with a fresh strawberry bobbing about in it.  Perfect gargling material as we perused the menu – which is great full of favourites pizzas, pastas, salads but the remarkable, eye watering, amazing thing is the waiter Jimmy who came over and listed the specials. It was like a Victorian memory man show. There must have been over 20 specials including starters, mains and desert – and he reeled them off without hesitation.

This is a family business and Jimmy has worked with them for about 30 years. He started with them at The Patio in Hanover Street and then when they moved up to Nonna’s Jimmy moved too. What a guy  – with a memory like that Britain’s Got Talent may very well snap him up.

Seafood was dominant and as he listed each item I fancied the lot. Decisions had to be made. To start I had king prawns with chilli and tomato, chilli which arrived in a flat dish with a lip and a soup spoon as you wouldn’t want to leave one drop of this unctuous flavoursome liquid. Others kept swooping in with their bread to taste as I fought them back with my fork. Long suffering husband loved his scallops & black pun, Dyna had tomato and mozarella salad, thick coins of cheese with tasty red tomatoes with fresh basil neatly laid on top and Bridezilla the dressed crab which he declared was wonderful too.

Main course seafood linguine for two of us with fresh clams, garlic, tomato and chilli – they were struck dumb as they sooked up the delicious spaghetti and popped the sweet, tender clams into their smiling chops. The other two  we we had the seafood platter – grilled. Salmon, scallop, squid, hake, all sorts of white fish lightly grilled and served salad and a chunk of lemon. I swear it couldn’t have been better. Bridezilla had chips too and we the fresh bread and butter replenished. We were excited and already planning to come back but were on a count down to the concert at The Churchill Theatre so could we fit in a pud – well bring it on. Special again! Chocolate mousse and ice cream sundae with cream, nuts and chocolate sauce – two specials four spoons. Four sticky happy faces as we paid and ran for the door. Realising the bus that goes right past them goes right past our place on the other side of town we are all now seriously considering a season ticket.

To sum up. This is a cracking Italian restaurant – the dishes you expect are there – pizza, pastas, meaty delights and the specials are really special – last night on top of the plethora of fishy offerings were T Bone steak or rack of lamb amongst others. If you can’t find something you love on this menu then you should not allowed  out. A great family owned and run local restaurant. If you’re not local to the area – travel it’s worth it.

Nonna’s Kitchen

45 Morningside Road

Closed on a Monday

Tues – Sun – 10-2.45pm  5pm – 10pm

 

The Lobster Shack

North Berwick is a seaside town in East Lothian which brings the blood pressure of golfers to dangerously high as Muirfield, North Berwick Links, Gullane 1, 2 & 3, Luffness, The Glen, Archerfield and Renaissance Golf Clubs are all within minutes of one another. That is irrelevant to this blog post as frankly I couldn’t give a flying fandango about the game of golf. It is to do with food. As it usually is.

So there are not many days in Scotland you can sit out and lounge without the addition of thermal underwater, ski jackets, balaclavas, knitted socks and hand warmers but knock me down with a patio heater this week it was hot. Really hot. Hot to the point where if you didn’t slap Factor 30 on your face you might well be on a one way ticket to Casualty with sunstroke. What a shock. So what do us Scots do when the sun comes out ? Head to the seaside – quick and don’t spare the horses.

A quick 30 minutes train journey from Edinburgh takes you to North Berwick and a 5 minute walk from the station along the beach to the harbour will bring you to the seasonal delight enjoying its second year of huge garlicky butter success namely The Lobster Shack. A portocabin branded up and manned by a smiling band of seasonal staff smiling and working their buns off to keep up with demand. For £8.95 you get a half lobster with chips and salad in a recyclable brown cardboard box. You can sit in the small area of tables and chairs laid out to the side or you can sit on one of the dozen wooden benches that line the harbour wall to scoff the goodies. And amazingly even on a not so hot day the benches are all tucked under the height of the surrounding harbour wall thus giving a hot sunny spot where you can bask.
The menu is short an sweet. ½ or whole lobster. Crab cocktail. Fish and chips – the day we were down it was hake and it was fresh fresh fresh. AS the lobsters are consumed Sterling the proprietor can be seen swinging into view carting a large plastic container full of the next batch of clamping, strapping, struggling, dark blue lobsters fighting the good fight allowing people to select the one they would like to eat. To drink you can choose organic lemon cordial, coffee, tea, wine, or my particular favourite which we have just started stocking in HowiesThistly Cross Cider – brewed in Dunbara mere 8 miles away. It is refreshing cidery and perfect to slake the thirst…..So in baking Scotland we sat outside amongst the clang of boat bells as the tide rose and boats in the harbour rose up to eye level, eating lobster, people watching and drinking in cider in the sun. Bliss.

Our perfect seaside day was finished off by walking over to the Seabird Centre (the nearest loo) and queuing up to buy a Lucas ice cream. There are two ice cream vans – a bright yellow glamorous painted one which I bet has a bell and a whistle too. OR and this is the one you want – a strange Pope mobile shaped white van, under played, low key and to be honest a bit ropey looking. But believe me please – steer yourself and walk past the yellow pimped up machine and queue at the funny one for in this pope mobile lurks the unsurpassable delight of Lucas ice cream. Italian, Homemade. A world beater. Quite divine. A plain vanilla cone with a chocolate flake in it will bring you back to the days when sand between your toes, a bucket and spade and a pair of knitted trunks (oh is that just my husband then) were all the rage
Podged up, we wandered back to the train station for the easy journey home, grinning. Wehad been and done the lobster shack and on some level transmogrified from blue skinned Scot into a red toasted lobsters too.

Open from now til 31st October or when the weather collapses….go……

The Lobster Shack.
North Berwick Harbour
East Lothian.

West Lothian Council awards…

Great night was had by all. At the Howden Centre which is a lovely theatre in the heart of Livingston, 300 red velt seats in an intimate auditorium great atmosphere.
They have a Primark opening soon – and over 150 shops – a good idea for the Xmas shopping if you can’t face city traffic and throngs of folks puffing and panting in and out of the busy central shops.
Horse playing tonight….may just go bck.

Rosting, fun, lots of chat, saw this sign in the dressing room. Was a little worried my mum Pat knows nothing about electrics. Gawd help us.

Edinburgh babies go green!

New Mums!

A great place to head with your delightful bouncing babies and toddlers.

The Jack & Jill Market (Baby & Children’s Markets)
The Jack & Jill Market comes to The Edinburgh Academy to provide local
mums with an ongoing opportunity to recycle and make money selling
quality items they no longer use, and to save money buying quality-brand,
nearly-new items at less than retail price. Every nearly-new item bought
and sold reduces landfill and helps the important fight against climate
change.
A series of Jack & Jill Markets will be held at the Edinburgh Academy
throughout the year, the first one being held on Saturday, 5th February,
10.30am-1.30pm, in the Dining Hall. There will be over 20 stalls of
quality, nearly-new maternity, baby, and children’s items for 0-9 years –
clothes, toys, games, buggies, bikes, cots, high chairs, and much more.
For more details or to book a stall, phone Nicole Diamond on: 01721 725
879 or visit www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Supermoon will occur Saturday night -especially if Scotland win the rugby!

‘Supermoon’ Will Occur Saturday Night

CS - Full Moon Optical Illusion Gordon Gillet / ESO

On Saturday afternoon, the moon will be the closest it’s been to Earth in more than 18 years. The “supermoon,”as observers have dubbed it, will appear Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET at a distance of 221,565 miles away. It will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than your average full moon, weather permitting. The reason why the moon will be so much closer is due to a fluke of orbital mechanics. But don’t be alarmed: Although the supermoon will result in a dramatically large range of high and low ocean tides—which could result in flooding problems if combined with a coastal storm at the same time—it won’t cause a natural disaster.

The Debt – get into debt to see it.

 

Helen

I haven’t been to the cinema in …………..eh…………..can’t even remember the last time. Probably last winter to be honest. There is something about sunny, or at least light days that make the light deprived Scot that I am gravitate to standing in open spaces with my face upturned to the sky in the hope a UV ray might find it occasionally. Today there was little point in doing that as I would have been rewarded with a few gulps of rain water, and a face like a well slapped bum.  Hello Autumn I thought as  we endured lashing rain, wild wind and light plummeting to dusky hues of gloom by 11am.

A chat with my frantic pal Frazer whose wee dog had spent the night lying on the floor in a fever with a dodgy hip and splootering tum proved he was also in need of some light relief. Then film buff pal Catherine also got in touch so we agreed to meet in a bar at 5pm and then head to the cinema.

After a soft drink – well it is Monday – we sloped into Vue Cinema.  By the time I bought a bottle of water, about 10 chocolate covered brazil nuts from the pick n mix and the ticket the shock of the bill nearly caused a seizure.

However, with dogs gastric problems and vile weather awaiting us at outside meant we threw caution – and our hard earned cash – to the wind and in we went to see The Debt.

Now I love Helen Mirren. I love her cos she’s a great actor. She’s got a great sense of humour. She looks amazing for her age and she hasn’t filled every crevice in her face with silicone by-products so has an expressive and beautiful face. That was the reason I wanted to see the film – yes I am that deep.

Well, it knocked my socks off. From the moment is started even my hair was clenched. A story in a nutshell is of 3  Israeli agents whose mission it is to capture an evil Nazi War Criminal and smuggle him  back to Israel in the 60’s to face charges of unspeakably vile crimes against humanity.

The young Mirren  has to confirm his identity and in order to do so she poses as a woman who cannot conceive thus allowing  herself to be be examined by this vile man. The speculum and stirrups had me diving into a box popcorn to stuff it into my face and distract myself. But if thrillers are your thing – then go. It’s seriously excellent with the cast consisting of acting royalty.  Here’s the trailer and don’t you think the guy on the right – Sam Worthington looks like a young Pierce Brosnan? Yum.