Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tippling House Winter Menu

This is a bit of a delayed post but after debating whether to even write it up or not (due to lack of decent, flattering photos) here it is. I'll keep it short and sweet. 

The weekend before New Year's Eve it suddenly dawned on me that I had nothing to wear for our last minute plans. We ended up having a mad dash through to Aberdeen, finding a dress in the very first shop I tried (cheers Warehouse sale!) and then heading for some winter comfort food with my other half.

The Tippling House was our choice and it was a good one, if I say so myself. My first time sampling the food here I wasn't convinced but after a couple of trips back I've been converted. The menu changes seasonally and the winter edition, which is made up of South American inspired dishes with a few Scottish twists, had me drooling at the thought.

Gordon chose the mini mac & cheese to start while I was a little more adventurous and went for the cullen skink scotch egg. One word... AMAZING!! I think this dish could only be either an epic fail or an epic success, luckily it was the latter. The cheese sauce was perfect with it too.

See what I mean about unflattering photographs? We both opted for jumbo sliders for our mains - the classic for Gordon and this pulled pork and mac version for myself. A bit of a carb overload - there was more mac than pork - but much better than it looks here and again, amazing! 

I had really wanted to try the key lime cheesecake but after filling up on those tasty little chips I had no room. Instead I washed it all down with another cocktail; with £1 from each cocktail going to a breast cancer charity, it would be rude not to! I think this one is the maple leaf sour but it was so long ago I could easily be wrong. The Tippling House has a very creative, seasonally inspired cocktail list but are always happy to knock up something different for you if you ask!

I'd recommend heading to Belmont Street quick before the menu blossoms...

Christy xx

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Your Wedding Exhibition

One of the most exciting things about getting married is the planning, the lead up to the big day... but where do you start? So far I've picked my venue and photographer (but nothing confirmed yet) and it's not til 2016 so I have more than enough time. However, my friends and I decided to go along to Your Wedding Exhibition in Aberdeen and see what all the fuss was about.

We grabbed ourselves a couple of cocktails and a glass of prosecco and wondered about the 200+ stalls that filled the AECC. There was literally everything you could ever think of to complete your dream wedding. From venues to photographers to entertainment, stationary, flowers...

To caterers, covering all bases; chocolate fountains, popcorn, macarons, pick n mix, cocktails, cakes...

So many different flavours and designs of cakes! I knew Gordon would appreciate this one...

And then the bridal fashion! It wasn't all dresses though - there was kilts galore for the groom and even a big selection of bridesmaid dresses and mother of the bride outfits. The fashion show was one of my favourite parts of the day, the dancing male models being a particular highlight ;)

Until now I had no idea at all what style of dress I was looking for but I fell in love with one dress in particular here. I won't give any hints as to which one, just in case it ends up being the one! Seeing as I still have 2 and a half years to go I don't plan on searching for my dress until much closer to the time.

Any bride would be like a kid in a sweet shop at Your Wedding Exhibition - they really do cover all bases. There's stalls for honeymoons, hair, make-up, car hire... I could go on forever but I guarantee whatever you're looking for you'll find it here. I came away with my head buzzing full of ideas and inspiration, as well as a hefty goody bag filled with leaflets, sweets, bridal magazines and even some goodies from The White Company! Seeing as I already have my venue and photographer in mind there wasn't much more for me to book at this point in time but I'll definitely be heading back closer to my big day for all those last minute arrangements! The next YWE will be held from 17th-18th January 2015.

Have you ever been to a wedding exhibition? Did you find them useful?

Christy xx

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Climbing Bennachie

The other weekend Gordon and I finally got round to doing something we've been meaning to do for a while. We climbed Bennachie. These hills are about an hours drive from where we stay so we headed off fairly early to make the most of the morning sun.

There's a few different routes to the peak but we took the Mither Tap Timeline Trail which seems to be the most popular. It's a beautiful scenic walk that takes you through the trees and then onto the stone "steps" which lead you all the way to the top. Considering it's January it wasn't even that cold until we got fairly close to the summit. Some crazy people even ran all the way up...

The views are amazing all the way. According to my polar watch it took us just 2 hours 5 minutes to get all the way to the top and back down to the car, burning 1011 calories. And that was with quite a few photo/water stops. A Sunday well spent if you ask me!

We're hoping to do this every couple of months so we can see the scenery throughout the seasons. If you're planning on climbing Bennachie I'd recommend going early as it was starting to get fairly busy as we were climbing back down. I wouldn't fancy sharing that view with a crowd!

Christy xx

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Another Weekend... Eating in New York

As most of you will know by now, one of my favourite things to do is eat, and I did a lot of eating in New York. I've blogged about a couple of places we found but there's so many more that I don't quite have enough photos (if any) to write a whole post about. I firmly believe that you could live in New York City & still stumble across something new every day, so I'm sure there are thousands of amazing eateries around the city that I've yet to discover, but here's a little round up of my favourite Manhattan haunts so far...


Oatmeals (Greenwich Village) - 120 West 3rd Street, between Macdougal & 6th Avenue
I have porridge for breakfast every day and Oatmeals was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, so it was ideal. Unsurprisingly, this small cafe specialises in oatmeal. First choose between baby bear, mama bear or papa bear... then milk or water... and then your toppings. You can choose from a huge variety of fruits, chocolate, nuts, seeds, spices, or more unusual toppings like bacon and cheese! Don't expect the creamy Scottish oats you're used to - these steel cut oats taste completely different but were just as good with my strawberries, blueberries & milk choc chips. Oatmeal scones, muffins and biscuits are also available.

Tea & Sympathy (Greenwich Village) - 108 Greenwich Avenue
A small but cosy little British cafe - a home away from home - in the heart of Greenwich Village, selling tea and scones in abundance and serving up a hearty English breakfast with a mountain of black pudding. I imagine the lovely, slightly eccentric ("Hands up for tea!") English hostess would happily lend a sympathetic ear over a fresh cuppa. I discovered Tea & Sympathy by googling "NYC's best English breakfast" and there really isn't much more that you need to know. Oh, except that Poppy Delevingne is a fan!


Five Guys - Various locations
Some of you will be familiar with Five Guys since they opened their first UK branch in London last year. Definitely the best "fast food" burger in the city, beating Shake Shack hands down, every time. No matter where you are in New York you'll probably find a Five Guys just a few blocks away.

Peanut Butter & Co (Greenwich Village) - 240 Sullivan Street, between West 3rd & Bleecker Street
Basically just a sandwich shop, but so much more. I had the Peanut Butter Cup (PB & Nutella sandwich) and Gordon went for the seriously messy toasted Fluffernutter (PB & Marshmallow Fluff sandwich) served with carrot sticks and crisps. PB cookies, brownies and other sweet goodies are available too. A must for any peanut butter lover!

Umami Burger (Greenwich Village) - 432 6th Avenue
Even more amazing burgers! These ones come with epic sweet potato fries and cocktails, which you can read more about here.


Houston Hall (Greenwich Village) - 222 West Houston Street, between Varick & Bedford Street
A huge hall with communal tables, tasty food, plenty beer and personality. Again, read more here.

Murphy & Gonzalez (Greenwich Village) - 21 Waverly Place, between Greene & Mercer Street
This is a kind of Mexican restaurant come sports bar near Washington Square Park. I had the best enchiladas of my life here, along with a peanut butter and chocolate mousse pie and $5 frozen strawberry margaritas!

Vynl (Hell's Kitchen) - 754 9th Avenue at 51st
After a stroll through Times Square one night we headed to Vynl for something to eat. Gordon had spaghetti & meatballs while I chose nachos from the "small plates" section of the menu, as I wasn't all that hungry. There was nothing small about either of these plates apart from the price! As you've probably guessed Vynl has a music theme; the walls are decorated with an array of memorabilia and the cocktail menu is a showcase of musical references - personally I liked the "Fiona Apple-tini".

Whitehall (Greenwich Village) - 19 Greenwich Avenue, between Christopher & West 10th Street
This fashionable London inspired restaurant/bar was where we quietly celebrated our engagement. We shared a starter of mussels cooked in some sort of gin concoction (I can't remember, sorry) before steak and burgers. The chips reminded me of my Nan's and the pickled beetroot was by far the best addition to the Whitehall burger!


Employees Only (Greenwich Village) - 510 Hudson Street, between Christopher & West 10th Street
This little speakeasy came highly recommended. We very nearly walked past it (look out for the Eo logo & neon "Psychic" sign in the window) but were delighted when we finally entered. "The atmosphere at Employees Only was created to evoke the frivolous spirit of the 1920's and 30's"Gordon said straightaway that it reminded him of the Great Gatsby, so mission accomplished! Unfortunately I didn't feel well when we got here so made a sharp exit after my bellini but I'd definitely go back and maybe even stay for dinner.

Loeb Boathouse - Central Park
A firm favourite. They're a bit pricey but the Boathouse is a beautiful setting. In the summer you can sip your cocktails on the deck, and in the winter dive inside to get out of the snow, heat up with an Irish coffee and admire the frozen lake. We once had dinner here and it was terrible but the bar is fantastic.

Supernova at Novotel (Times Square) - 226 West 52nd Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue
We stayed at this hotel the first time we came to New York. It was lovely then but has since been done up and is even better! It's super modern and stylish, with an extensive cocktail list and a pretty good restaurant too. Don't worry if you're not staying as a guest in the hotel, just take the elevator to the lobby and head to the circular bar. The roof terrace is one of my favourite spots in NY in the summer and has epic views of Times Square.

Saxon & Parole (Noho) - 316 Bowery at Bleecker
Winner of "Best Restaurant Bar" at the 2013 Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. We had hoped to eat here but due to flight timings it didn't quite work out and we propped up the bar for a while instead. The interior is equestrian inspired and the menus offer "grilled meats and aquatic delights" with an innovative cocktail selection, some of which are available on tap or by the bottle. My drink du jour was the Rhinebeck Collins, carefully selected with the bartender after much discussion of Bols Genever, Amsterdam and sweet cocktails. It was what I'd call a manly cocktail and not something I'd choose on my own but it had just the right amount of nutmeg and apple sweetness. Saxon & Parole's sister bar Madam Geneva is located literally round the corner. 

And there you have it, my little guide to eating and drinking in Manhattan. If you have any recommendations of your own I'd love to hear them?

Christy xx

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Houston Hall NYC

On our last evening in New York, we wanted to grab a few cocktails and a bite to eat before our flight. Gordon managed to (literally) sniff out what was to become one of our favourite meals of the entire trip. Houston Hall was located pretty much right next to our hotel and we had walked past a few times. According to him he could smell steak... I thought it smelt like BBQ. Either way, Gordon was determined we would eat here and we made our way back after a wee bar crawl.

From outside the Houston Hall looks like some sort of old barn or brewery (it's actually an old garage) and the inside is even better. We entered into a gargantuan beer hall with high ceilings, exposed beams, brick walls, stacks of empty barrels and huge long communal wooden tables. The immediate hit of chatter and laughter creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, and makes you feel like you want to plonk yourself down next to some strangers and become best friends. 

Gordon went for one of the speciality Greenpoint Brewery beers, while I quenched my thirst with a "Deck the Halls" cocktail of Jack Daniels Honey & butterscotch liquer, frangelico & spiced up egg nog. I was a bit apprehensive at first as I've never had egg nog and am not really a Jack Daniels fan, but I needn't have worried! It's creamy texture and sweet refreshing taste is exactly how I imagine Harry Potter's butterbeer would taste. (Possibly the geekiest thing I've ever said, but true...)

I had made my food choice before I even entered the building, as I'd spotted the "pulled pork slider" on the specials board outside, and it was spot on! 4 mini buns filled with juicy pulled pork, crispy onions and Barenjager Honey BBQ sauce. I'm actually drooling at the thought.

The menu is quite eclectic but Gordon opted for the "rib eye sandwich melt and chips". Being British, we were surprised when the "chips" were actually what we'd call crisps but they were the perfect accompaniment and one of his favourite meals of the whole trip. We both agreed we'd have to come back next time.

You can visit Houston Hall in New York's West Village at 222 West Houston Street, between Varick and Bedford or find their sister venue the Flatiron Hall at 38 West 26th Street. The Flatiron Hall boasts 2 hour unlimited cocktails for just $10 with Sunday brunch - sounds good to me!

Christy xx

Monday, 6 January 2014

Empire State of Mind

Whilst visiting New York this time Gordon and I decided to cross the Empire State Building of our list of must sees and headed there late one afternoon. Our plan was to see the sunset and then admire the bright lights of the city at night.

 It didn't quite work out like that. Don't think booking your tickets online will get you up those 102 floors any quicker. You arrive at the building and see a very small queue for the lift... when you leave said lift you are met with a massive winding queue of (probably) hundreds of tourists. And this is just the queue for security checks. It was dark already by the time we got through security, and then we were met with yet another massive queue for the lift to the main deck on the 86th floor. Some people chose to take the stairs, which fortunately made the queue much shorter for us. Usually I'd take the stairs too, but after standing in line in layers of winter clothes indoors for almost 2 hours I thought I'd probably pass out if I attempted it. Eventually we made it...

Don't get me wrong, the views are breathtaking. You can see for miles and we spent our time searching for all the usual landmarks. We spotted Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and even the Bryant Park ice rink. The Chrysler building looked incredible! 

Last time we were in NYC we went to Top of the Rock in the morning, rather than the Empire State. I would definitely recommend you do the same - it was cheaper and there wasn't a single queue! The views are just as amazing but you have the advantage of seeing Central Park and the Empire State Building itself. Obviously I haven't experienced Top of the Rock later in the day but I don't imagine it would be half as busy as the Empire State and seeing the city at night is something you 100% have to experience.

Have you ever seen New York from the Empire State?

Christy xx

Friday, 3 January 2014

Umami Burger NYC

It seems to have become a tradition for me to share my favourite food spots here on the blog when I come back from a holiday. Before I go I spend weeks, if not months, researching the destination and searching blogs for reviews and recommendations for restaurants and bars in the area. I think it only makes sense that I pass on my findings here for any other like-minded googlers. While in New York I devoured many a cheeseburger but one of my favourites by far was at Umami Burger.

Umami Burger's only NY branch is located in Greenwich Village and was the perfect lunch stop after a morning of retail therapy on Bleecker Street. The restaurant was buzzing with locals as well as tourists and after a quick 5 minute wait we were seated at a table near the bar. As always I started with cocktails. My poison of choice was the "Unlikely Pear" - a martini fusion of Rock Sake and Grey Goose Le Poir. A sweet but slightly tangy mix that went down a treat.

The menu featured a few specials, some of which are unique to the NY location but I played it safe with food and went for "The Original", minus the shiitake mushroom. Usually I like my meat well done but this baby was served medium-rare and I could not fault it. The crispy parmesan and caramelized onions were definitely the cherry on top!

We ordered a side of thin fries as well as sweet potato fries to share. According to the menu the sweet potato fries are served with "signature sweet salt" but on this occasion they Christmassed them up (new word) with some sort of sweet cinnamon coating? We've tried recreating them at home since and failed. God knows how they make them but they're all kinds of epic.

*N.B. Maybe that is the signature sweet salt? To be fair I just assumed that this was a festive special...

In true Gordon style he ordered a beer (it always makes me laugh when he asks for a pint, and the waitresses look at him like he has 3 heads) with the "Manly burger". This beef burger mans up with the help of beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, smoked-salt onion strings, house ketchup and mustard spread. A big juicy beast of a burger that even made Mr Anti-Foodstagram take a picture. (He resisted instagram and only uploaded to Facebook haha.)

We savoured our burgers and hoovered up every last sweet potato fry before heading back out into the cold city. You can find Umami Burger at 432 6th Avenue (3 blocks North of Washington Square Park) or in various other locations in California and Florida. Let me know if you try one! :)

Christy xx
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