I can’t you how angry I am having just come home from a full days work to a smell that just about knocked me out when I opened the door.
Oh God the aged dogs have combusted I thought uncharitably but one look at them proved they were as horrified as I was as they pushed past me to get out the door.
A cursory sniff as they scattered took me to the source – Teenwolf had decided to whip up a snack for his pal – smoked mackerel. He’d manfully opened the package, sliced it on a chopping board all left there with fishy knife . The pan is also in evidence as are the plates they ate from with the leftovers, a few further fishy wee shards.
All of this has been sitting in the warm house left to emanate fishy fishy smells all day long. Ggggggrrr.
Our pals are coming round in an hour so I have to decide whether to open the windows and freeze them to death or invite them into fishy hell.
I am off to dig out jumpers, rugs, hats and gloves – they will thank me for it if and when they ever thaw out.
My mood will take longer to thaw out when the Teenwolf slopes in. I guarantee it.
But then so are booze, chocolate, dogs, wasabi peas and eggs benedict and that never stopped us. So what the heck….here we go again.
My friend KC got hooked on this last year. She has kept it up. Posting a photo every day. Charting her year. Her life. Her highs. Lows. Sherrys, dogs, and light sponge cakes with sauce. All in all looking back an interesting slice of life. So love a bandwagon. I’m on.
First entry is a cheat. It was taken on Hogmanay but hey ho. It was the start of this year, the last time I had an alcoholic drink and therefore a moment marked. Though I am heading gin wise now…..well? What of it?
So my name on Blipfoto is Gogglebox. I dont’ know why other than it is the funniest TV show I have seen in years. So www.blipfoto.com/gogglebox
Yes finally raising the head above the parapet. Having spent the past 2 weeks herding teenagers, dogs, cats, boozers, family, friends and lost looking strangers around, it is with a strange sense of relief I see the christmas trees being dragged off along the road, needle free and bauble bare.
A clump of teenagers – a crowd of so-called adults and more dogs than you can shake a stick at. Spaniels, mongrels, Labradors, a mini schnauzer, when you head up to the wild north west you come prepared for all weathers but mainly wet windy and cold. The joy that coarses through the veins when you realise that everything points to be it being a week of endless blue skies is nothing short of joyful. With the warm sun on the winter blue faces of the assembled Scots we agreed there is no better place in the world.
So remarkably a wild week in the highlands turned into a tropical break complete with forest fire. Cue the Lloyd Cole song. Actually I haven’t heard it for years and as we stood in the pitch inky darkness of the North of Scotland looking west I found myself humming it as all we could see was licking flames leaping into the sky as the mountain top turned orange. What a sight. Wow.
By morning thank goodness the fires had died down so we relaxed and went for an eye boggling stomp up a hill. I felt like David Attenborough – yes an 80 year old man and frankly I looked like one too but I digress, dear dear David would have had something to say about the abundance of wildlife we saw. It honestly rendered us speechless. This does not happen often. Eagles, deer, hares, stoats, sheep, highland coos, pine martin, pheasant, rabbits, a lizard and birds of all shapes and sizes amongst other spectacular animal that we clocked made for a wonderful break in the NW of Scotland.
You may also detect I have discovered the panoramic setting on the camera – even that doesn’t do justice to the jaw dropping scenery but it’s a start.
Much more Highland nonsense to come but for now……my Wester Ross appetite is gigantic and I must feed the tummy or it will think the throat has been cut…..hasta mañana
So there we were through at Scothot sloping around having a look at all new innovations in the catering world at the SECC Glasgow tasting ice creams, olives, talking recycling, talking till systems, bouncing on chairs, nibbling lovely snacks after a few hours our legs were considerably shorter and we were in dire need of a major face stuffing. Yup lunch was looming. Naturally we couldn’t get into the only restaurant at Scothot so I recalled a friend of mine Kirsteen recently raving about a great new place to go. I texted her. The Fish People Café it’s called she said it is right next to Shields Road Tube station and there is parking right next door. We found it on Scotland Street in the least likely place you can imagine.
The Fish People Café is a literal oasis amidst a busy industrial landscape. Right next door to the fish shop, their fish shop, which you can see is a busy buzzing business with white aproned , welly booted men, But as promised there it stood as if it had landed from another planet. out, really light, modern, warm with tinkling jazz, a very cool bar and a few folk finishing off as we scooted in about 2pm on a Tuesday.
Lunch a 2 course option for £10 was exceptional value but as were on a day out from our fellow restaurant in Edinburgh we went off plan to the a la carte.
Boy oh boy.
We ordered up fresh homemade bread and butter, anchovies in oil and a few olives whilst we ogled the menu. Wow. Could have ordered anything. But seafood won out.
Mussels with chorizo
Superlative, fresh, plump, delicious, fill in your own favourite adjective here – it will fit this food. Yumola.
Hand dived Scallops 6 ginormous of the juicy, plumpacious delights with a pile of fresh salad leaves with the most delicious fresh dressing with a spritz of lime. Of course we had a side order of chips – hand cut and fried to perfection. A side salad with yet another fresh and unique dressing.
J, one of our number ordered up a baby poussin and chips and S a whole Tandooried seabass. Be still my beating heart. At this point no more food pics because frankly I was far too excited and enjoying it too much!
Its not often you get 5 foodies round a table who just grinned at each other.We were in the presence of genius.
Location. Idea. Presentation. The unexpected brilliance of this tucked away wee gem.
I had to leave a scallop and a half I was so full. I do not have a small appetite but honestly I did. The others didn’t hold back and swooped them up so this Aberdonian could rest easy.
Then came the option of sweet. Could we? Should we? Well we couldn’t and we definitely shouldn’t but we did. Same words of description and joy apply. Mmmmmmmn.
To top off our top foodie delighst our waiter was a charming smiley guy – ‘How long have you been open?’
“ 5 months. In fact this time 5 months ago I was a fishmonger – there” he said pointing next door” but when I heard about the restaurant I thought aye, I’ll go and work there it’s warmer.”
He’s found his calling. So has the chef. So have I to sit there regularly and wonder at the freshest most delicious fish in town.
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.
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
2 main course to choose from
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.
MENU EXAMPLES FROM WEBSITE
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
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:
I stand accused and guilty of exaggerating. I do. SO what I am about to write is the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me dog.
I wrote about my Mum’s 80th – now being a party animal myself I assumed she would want a big rip snorting whizz bang of a do. I had visions of gathering friends from all over the place, hiding them in a dark room until the unsuspecting Pat was taken in at which point they would all leap from their allotted places shouting HAPPY BIRTHDAY and the fun would begin.
This of course is my idea of heaven.
Her idea of hell.
I organised a surprise birthday party for her 70th.
The biggest surprise that she got wind of it and went to Ireland.
Still we went ahead and had a hell of a good do. The only thing missing was the birthday girl and my dad who were in Clifden, Connemarra.
A Jazz band, barbeque and all day frenzy ensued. We had snoggers on the lawn by 3pm, a woman left her husband after meeting someone she thought was the man of her dreams – he was as a matter of fact the stuff of nightmares she later found out – the local hairdresser got thrown out for insulting everyone and still the band played on.
So this time it was her call.
What would you like to do?
Go to Loch Melfort. To Melfort House that lovely B&B we stayed in last year was the answer and you can’t argue with that. So instructions issued. We were off.
20 minutes south of Oban you see a turn off for Kilmelford to the right and off you go. A wonderful wee road undulates along the loch side past a few houses but the main challenge is to keep on the road as your eye is inevitably drawn to the array of boats, yachts and sail boats bobbing in the water and the backdrop of the islands beyond. Not 5 minutes later the sign to Melfort House guides you up a tree lined drive and you get your first glimpse of the house. Built originally in south facing overlooking the loch with wonderful mature gardens all around. The door flew opne and out came Yvonne & Matthew Anderson, our hosts.
Ushered in and offered afternoon tea and homemade scones and jam we exhaled after our journey taking in the breathtaking views of the loch and gardens. Total peace. Shown to our rooms.They have 3.
Mum was the birthday girl so she got the loch suite a room with a bed bigger than my first flat.
David and I got the hill room which was also a sumptuous delight.
After unpacking the sun was still a shining so we walked over to the nearby Shower of Herring for supper. Which David insisted in calling the Flock of Sparrows. The chef is a real character and had put on canapés when he heard a fellow restaurateur was heading over to eat.
Scallops, duck and no room for pud we had a great time. A couple of bottles of house white and teenwolf, actually sitting at table, speaking and doing impersonations of some of his teachers at school had us in stitches. Tomorrow David’s birthday. Yup the day before the big one. Gird your loins tomorrow is another day.
World famous for the Applecross Inn and in a coastal location overlooking the Scottish islands we all howped into the cars and headed off to see Applecross, a legendary spot from our base in Strathcarron. You do a get a little blase about the mountains here, vast, looming, spectacular numbers but this was stupefying and the urge to stop the car and stare was too much. The photo doesn’t do it justice but it juts up into the sky and is an absolute beezer. This is the highest road in Scotland, single track and a real knicker wetter.
It is like a task out of It’s A Knockout but without the inflatables to break your fall. As we got to the top snaking hack and fore we were in high cloud so our visibility was virtually nil but we got out of the car anyway just to draw breath. As we stood gazing into nothing a lone cyclist appeared, red faced, helmeted by smiling. Insane? yes. Fit? Undoubtedly? Inspiring us to try it? Not on your nelly. Back into the cars we headed down the other side.
Emerging from the cloud things perked up and by the time we stopped in Applecross the sun was shining, the temperature was balmy and it was as if we had arrived in a secret world.
Parking outside the infamous Applecross Inn we walked along to see Applecross House and it’s walled garden. A 30 minute shuffle on the beach and then along a wooded path where we saw these deer. All standing posing as if they had been imported by the tourist board. Next to them huddled a herd of baby highland coos who took umbridge at the attention the deer were getting and started chasing them. The deer all leapt over a wall and ran off into the hills. As the macho puffing cows smiled in their wake.
Applecross House we lay in the grass, the puppy thought he was in nirvana, we all did. We were. Scones, coffee and a lie down in the garden.
Yes after a lie down and a sugar rush – we’re off again. Where will we stop? Well find out… to be continued….after a drink.
Arrived at 4pm saturday to – these little beauties. Scones. warm from the oven with raspberry jam. Oh thank you God. That and a cuppa tea was the perfect end to a long and unarduous journey. Teenwolf and long suffering husband ate 3 each, being a picker I had one.
This is the first time in as long as I can remember that myself Teenwolf and the long suffering husband have been out of town and away together. We are gathering in a highland house with two other families, some stragglers and a variety of dogs for a week of fun. Between us we tick more boxes than the census has yet imagined. Old, young, happy, miserable, thin, fat, hairy, quadroped, bi-ped, boozy, sensible, completely mental, shy, too bloody extrovert for their own good and so the list goes on. But the thing we have in common is a genuine love for the Scottish highlands and everything it has to offer. So join us on this outstanding culinary and physical adventure. No need for Monarch of The Glen, or Hamish macBeth this is it. For real. No shit.
The one thing the Scots lack is an ability to verbalise their feelings and emotions. Rather than shouting ‘I love you’ from the highest tower we are more likely to quietly offer you a small slice of cheesy toast and tell you to shut up if you say thank you. Yes where other nations enjoy a verbose and grand outpouring of emotion we demonstrate our strength of feeling in the sourcing, preparation and sharing of the most wonderful food.
Don’t believe what you hear about deep fried this that and the next thing. Scotland is awash with a people whose DNA is closer to L’Escoffier than the Loch Ness Monster. To illustrate this I am going to diary exactly what we are eating this week.. All local, all from the land and all made fresh.
Only a few hours into our break. Here we start.
After a stomp down to the river it was a meander back up to the lodge where Donnie, the chef was organising things. Look. Lying out waiting to be given their pecking order were local langoustines, scallops, a ham the size of our labrador – actually where is the labradar SAM? Oh no it’s Ok she’s here I can relax it’s definately pork then. Stop lie down, relax you are on holiday. Easier said than done with all these distractions of the culinary variety all around..
Caught in the act
Outside to take our mind of food for 10 secs
So the bottom line is over the next few days I will prove to the cynic and the ignoramus that us Scots are not haggis eating, bagpipe playing, dafties who subsist on mass produced, deep fried nodules.. No here I will note exactly what we eat. Local. Delicious. Mind blowingly great.
This is Scotland. The Highlands and the experience that anyone can have who comes here. Can you even imagine what’s for dinner tonight? Be still my beating heart. If you are on a diet or like self control then banish this blog from your horizon. If you like indulgence, delictation and sheer unadulterated satisfaction. Then HELLO….we are going to get along just fine. Until tomorrow…
A nice weekend away in Ballater with some pals and back home for Sunday lunch before a busy week.
Oh. My. God.
It took us over 24 hours to drive home. Having watched The Day After Tomorrow just a week a go with Louis suddenly we were reliving the whole thing, for real.
Thunder and lightening in the middle of a whiteout blizzard. What in God’s name is going on?
There was snow on Friday yes. We woke up on Saturday and we were a foot deep in it. By Sunday we were 2 feet deep and very tempted to stay put. However as we all had kids, families and jobs sadly it was not possible we had to head back.
Crampons at the ready first step was to dig out the cars.
The men all started striding around in knee deep snow, looking macho, as the girls directed operations clutching coffees and stroking the over excited dogs.
We set off an hour later. Shaky, slow and slipping. By Drumoak one car had given up the sump pump –I have no idea what that is – but you obviously need it as the car had ground to a snowy halt. There was a parting of the ways at Aberdeen. Some went on the A9o – us and the others went off down the Blairgowrie Road as they were heading west. None of us got where we were going.
By Forfar we were static on the motorway for over 2 hours and no matter what we tried got no information at all. Phones, radio, praying, nada.
No-one knew why we were stopped, how long we would be there or what the heck was going on. Disgruntled travellers got out of their cars, men clenched and despite the horrific blizzards got out of their cars and had a pee as women cursed them for having a more portable toilet arrangment in their trousers and secretly whistled out the window.
Having left at 10.30 we got to Dundee at 4 having done a fair impression of Torvill & Dean in cars on ice. Stopping for supplies and in case we got DVT’s having been in the car for so long we shuffled around in the garage buying chocolate – a sure fire way to cheer a person up.
Here we met a furious red faced geezer told us he had taken 4 hours to get up from Edinburgh to Dundee and the road was now shut both ways. I asked other
wet bedragged and exhausted folk shuffling around in the garage ‘ is the M90 shut?’ No-one knew. The concensus was that surely someone would tell the entire population of Scotland if the main bleedin’ road was shut. So out we all went like lambs to the slaughter only to find the queue of static traffic went from a few miles outside Dundee to where? Well your guess is as good as mine. Certainly as far as the eye could see. After an hour and a half of sitting still we inched forward and spotted a wee road and decided to turn round go back to Dundee it was dark, blizzarding and we were exhausted. Enroute we frantically phoned hotels to find somewhere to stay. Travelodge full, next? Hilton got a couple of rooms.
Party! Well we were there for a carry on so God gave us the ultimate ice bucket.
Arrived, drank a large gin collapsed into a slump.(not a sump that was earlier)
Early this Monday morning, the A90 and M90 were still shut so we headed over Tay Bridge feeling doom as the sky darkened and the snow started again. We were off to the A92.
As we careered along behind a gritter paying heed to the 20mph limit – we all say silent. Frankly it was terrifying to go any faster with lumpy ice everywhere. We were passed by two massive Spar lorries whizzing along in the outside spewing snow and ice over all the traffic tanking along at least 50mph. Silly eejits.
So the main problem was communication, there was none, no up to date reports. No-one knew the M90 was shut for heavens sake. It is the main road from the north to the south of Scotland.. What a travesty.
This is Scotland not Cuba we are used to getting snow but for Gods skae tell us when the roads are shut personally I could have spent my Sunday and Monday doing something more fun than sitting on the side of the motorway waiting for the great God ‘Travel Info’ to grace us with some chat. Canada, Norway and other countries cope. Why can’t we? In defence of the council though the A92 was passable but whoever was looking after the A90/M90 needs a slap. SLAP!