Menopausal munching for Xmas

UnknownI have just consumed an entire Thomas The tank engine advent calendar I had bought for a friends son.

25 wee bits of shiny not very chocolatey chocolate – pop, gulp,  pop, gulp, pop, gulp , pop, gulp, pop x 25. All gone.
Well I need some comfort I have lost my voice.
A joy for my friends and family but a nightmare for me – the shouty one.

Some bright spark said go to bed and sleep until you feel better. I tried that but I can’t sleep.

I have been reliably informed that one of the side effects of the menopause – yes boys read the words and cringe – is ye cannae sleep.

If I can’t sleep. I must eat.


Which I do and if I pause for too long

I become particularly grumpy.

Probably because my belly expands daily because I cant stop eating.

Because I’m not sleeping.

And lets face it  – comfort comes in the shape of chocolate, cheese , rum & coke. Not necessarily all in the same glass but hey ho never say never.

Hell maybe it’s just me.

The fact is I am a health freak in a dysfunctional middle aged womans body.


Spleen vented I’m off for another Advent calendar.

Peppa Pig where are you?



To be or 2 1 2 1 2?

So it was the long suffering husband Howies birthday.

So where to go? What to do?

Well with himself being in the restaurant business – Howies -it had to be a food related odyssey.  Despite the fact 24/7 he is steeped in the world of catering there is one thing it is imperative to do as a restaurateur and that is to go out and eat in other restaurants as often as possible. This is hardly a strain. We just love food. From day one food has been our shared passion – along with wine, dogs and fun. He from the restaurant side of life, me from the food critic side of life. Critic in The Herald, presented two food programs on STV and more recently a judge on Iron Chef – you can imagine going out to eat with the pair of us would be a nightmare. So just as well we can put up with each other.

Over the years we have been fortunate to eat in 1000s of different places. Small, big, good, bad, eccentric, snooty, vague, pop-up, average, in fact the whole jing bang but one place that had so far eluded our taste buds was 21212 in Edinburgh. Mixed verbal and written reviews from friends had failed to excite us when they opened which was ages ago and with a celebration afoot it was such an obvious omission in our culinary journey we went for it.


21212 is on Royal Terrace a lovely Georgian street off the top of Leith Walk in central Edinburgh and just round the corner from our very own Howies Waterloo. So taxi for Howie off we went for a birthday lunch.


We were greeted with a big smile which immediately dispelled the previous rumours of pretentious nonsense and shown into the dining room which is plush, in muted bluey, greys, with up holstered cream chairs, soft furnished booths, linen tablecloths, and a contemporary chandelier. Despite the age of the room and  the well known listed building nightmare restrictions in Edinburgh the kitchen is visible through a Perspex wall at one end of the room – a masterful design element and compelling if the process of food preparation fascinates.


Our actual seat with the sparkling kitchen in the background.

Luckily we weren’t facing the kitchen as we ould have just stared in like a pair of dafties no we were shown to a booth facing the other way. Result. No sooner had had we sat down we were offered water and 3 wee dishes olives, crisps and well I am not sure what the third thing was – were delivered. The 3rd mystery dish looked like it held tooth picks but by now we were too busy marvelling at the menu to enquire what they were. A la kazaam. (whatever that actually means) Foodie heaven.


The smiley sommelier offered us a drink – champagne – well its only once a year – English champagne he described it as  strawberries and cream – Sold!  And he was right it was just that – perfect. A lush start.

The name of the restaurant 2 1 2 1 2  describes the menu.

Two starters to choose from

1 soup

2 main course to choose from

1 cheese

2 sweets to choose from.


You can have 3 or 5 courses. We decided to go for 3 leaving the soup and cheese and just order and share the lot which saved a lot of humming and hawing. We were both keen to try everything so this was an easy option.

The  mind boggling number of elements to each dish was something we were both looking forward to experiencing. At Howies we celebrate simple. You know the sort of thing, slow cooked lamb shank, roasted vegetable with creamy mash…equally as valid as this other extreme.   Howies food ethos the ABC of simple yet perfect (well I would say that)  and then 21212 at the other end of the spectrum -more Stephen Hawking in sanskrit.


Home made bread arrived fresh & yeasty , soft and utterly irresistible I had to say no after my first slice or I would have had a loaf before the main event.  You help yourself to as many slices as you want there was none of that  individual slice delivery type thing which again dispelled the now myth of snooty nonsense.

The place was busy. Every table virtually full. It is graduation time but nonetheless is shows recession or not people will push the boat out if they feel the need.

Its impossible to list the ingredients – we kept the menu at the table during our meal to refer to as we tasted each morsel and texture. Remarkable. To write this down would have taken away the pleasure of eating it. To forensically list each thing would look impressive but by the time I had done that the meal would have been cold and more to the point my lunch partner would have scoffed the lot. So I find myself saying – trust me I’m a foodie. Delicious and despite the eye popping number of different elements all present and correct. I have copied an example of their menu below so you can see what I am withering on about.

There was a sliver of something fabulous we could not name nor guess so we asked. The answer was a dried gherkin. I  had guessed at liquorice but I was well off course. A dried gherkin the sort of thing I scraped off the floor of my fridge as a student and binned with the aid of a rubber glove , My how things change,

We deliberately ate slowly.

It’s an intimate space. One to relish not write about at the time.

As we paused after our main course extravaganza. The call of the cheese was  too strong to ignore so it was duly ordered as the birthday boy is a fromagaholic. 9 pieces of cheese – yes nine –  a cut and presented in a wheel shape with a plate teetering with different crackers, biscuits, slivers of homemade crispbreads, the favourite Pittenweem chunky oatcake. There was a man who spoke fluent fromage and he talked through each one. There were goats, ewse, coos . They were from all over and the one that had us hooked was called Morbier.

Good memory? No not really I texted myself as I knew the second I tasted it I had made a friend for life.

Sweets next. One trifle. To say trifle is to say pure mathematics is the 2 times tables. The other option a crème brulee but again tis is the understatement of this millennium to call it just that.

Presentation and taste again impeccable.

Only one mystery. Everyone at this point is given a tiny cardboard scoop of oaty milk – it tasted like Alpen soaked milk – not sure that that was all about but horsed it anyway. Perfectly nice taste but nothing special andwould have been just as happy without it.

Gee food in such detail is hard work to produce.

The atmosphere was relaxed and elegant

The staff friendly and knowledgeable

The food – well I think you get the gist – it was outstanding.

Remarkable imagination, execution and delivery and most important of all taste.

A feast for the eye and the palate.

So….we are happy in our restaurant niche and they are happy in theirs.

Vive Le Difference!

Google 2 1 2 1 2  and you get endless 2 for 1 vouchers which I suspect will not be valid for this restaurant – click here though and it will take you the website Restaurant 21212 if you are a foodie it is an experience not to miss. Yeh it’s not the cheapest option in town but it is something you will remember for a long time to come.


This is one main course.

Chicken Curry, Pineapple & Artichokes

Slow Cooked Breast Of French Corn Fed Chicken,

Artichokes, White Cauliflower, Breakfast Radish,

Anya Potatoes, Saffron Onions & Pineapple Confit,

Soft & Crispy Pancakes, Coconut Shards,

Piccalilli Mayonnaise, Argon Oil


3 course lunch £28   4 course  £38      5 course £52

Dinner: £68


As opposed to Howies which in Edinburgh is £8.95 for a 2 course lunch- yeh but different strokes for different folks but the generous birthday boy has given me a voucher to give away. Lunch for two with bottle of wine at any of the Howies – whichever you fancy – there are two in Edinburgh, one in Aberdeen. Just answer this simple question:

What year was Howies started?

Please send your answer to:

alison@alisonsdiary. com

Subject: Win a lunch

I will announce the winner on 20th July.

Shock Horror Probe Sober New Year Alert!


Hogmanay! Memories of standing on roofs in Princes Street as the celebrations blow away around us.It’s great to watch someone else from the warmth of a couch I can tell you. For the first time since I was about 5 this year we have a quiet one – no really! We have to go to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to pick someone up at 9pm and so not a drop touches my lips – having spent so many Hogmanays in full party mode it is amazing to see business as usual at the hospital 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the ERI nursing staff were just a collective ray of sunshine – so I toast them and wish them and you a Happy New Year! Watched the fireworks from the window of the flat and then fell into an exhausted slumber. 2008 – is going to be great.


1st January traditionally the day for low lights, whispering and regret of bad behaviour. I of course am fresh, cleansed and completely unhungover – whoopee! Desperae to hear how everyone else got on last night so leave it til 1pm and decide to phone Dyanmite – which was a bad idea – she was still in bed having just got into it at 7am. She also sounded like a man so I said I would call back in a few days once she was awake and upright.


I have voiced a new 13 part series for STV on Thursday nights at 7.30pm called Conquer The Castle and it is a hoot. It’s about 6 urban dwellers (1 Scotsman) who are thrown in to the wilds of Perthsire and set a series of challenges there really are some classic moments – check it out! We had a hoot doing the voice over – keep your eyes peeled for Kimbereley – that’s all I’m saying.


First thing this morning as I lay in state I noticed Dave next to me begining to stir. As his eyes opened he turned towards me and mumbled ‘ I have just been attacked by a platypus – God it was sore’ Naturally I burst out laughing as he went into full horrific detail of his nightmare.

I think the rich food and gargling with booze is begining to show, last night Mum dreamt she was being attacked by giant mosiquitos. When she awoke she was scratching like a mad thing and was still not convinced they weren’t in her bed! And the third strange incident in the night was waking about 3am to find Louis standing at the bottom of our bed saying quite calmly in a very serious voice ‘ you know what you must do’ my first reaction was to rub my eyes to see if  I was dreaming but by now Dave, who had yet to be eaten by the platypus ,was also awake as Louis repeated ‘ you know what you must do ‘ before turning in a robotic fashion and walking back to his bed. Bemused I got up to find he had gone straight back to bed to sleep – too much Dr. Who and cheese if you ask me.


Dyanmite emerged from her bed. It seems she had a major pub crwal on Hogmanay, 3 parties, The Baillie, The Basement, The Ping On she was keeping the purveyors of beers and spirits busy. Her resolution is to quit the evil weed so if you see her lurking outside with a fag this is your direct permission to wheech it from her and stamp it to the ground. Her man Dave has also joined the pledge for the fags and he will do as he is told this week. After last weeks debacle with washing powder in the dishwasher this week he was caught washing the kitchen floor with fairy liquid which had streaked and bubbled everywhere . By means of compensation he offered to go out and buy some Yorkshire puds to go with the bit of meat Dyanmite was burning. Off he went as Dynamite felt the forgiveness in her heart. 2 and half hoursa lter he had not returned having got a little distracted by his pal Alistair who dragged him screaming ( apparently) into Clarks Bar. Jurys out on that one.


A load of us get together for a curry at our pals Mike and Mag’s house. Their kids all got a Wii for Christmas though I am not sure they have been ble to get near it for their parents and their friends!. By 10pm all the grown men have disappeared. We find them in the room with the kids and the Wii – they are all playing golf and carrying on as it is was the actual PGA. We leave them to it. An hour later we go back to find Dynamites Dave now boxing on the Wii – he is beaten by Si Si the 8 year old daughter of our hosts. This in itself would be funny enough but add to the fact that in real life Dave is a 3rd Dahn, Black Belt in Judo and you can imagine for the mickey taking by the rest of us – as they say the gloves were off!


Standing in Sugar Mountain – delicious sweet shop in North Berwick when I overhear this man complaining yet again he wasn’t asked to be in the nativity allegedly cos he is not wise enough to be a wise man. The girls behind the counter laugh and as he turns he smiles ‘ I read your column every week – you’re an awfy one!’ Well Ken Sinclair so are you! Wise men indeed. I left with a bag of soor plums, a stick of a rock and a big smile. A final word from Bill Findlay who corresponds regularly with me through the column his tips for staying trim in the new year – push yourself repeatedly back from the table but only after you have eaten your fill at least twice. Thanks Bill my mantra for the year ahead.