Saturday, 31 December 2016

24 Hours to Eat Your Way Round Aberdeen

My love for Aberdeen's foodie scene was sparked by this little old blog. After trying somewhere new to eat way back in 2013 I was inspired to share the experience and encourage folk to get out of the usual chain restaurants and see what gems our grey city streets are sheltering. My first restaurant "review" was posted and they've been coming thick and fast ever since, and not just from the Granite City. I've shared dinner stories from across the globe over the years - from burgers in New York to an unforgettable New Year's Day dinner in the Eiffel Tower!

In this post, I'm going to tell you about a weekend in December, where we literally ate our way around town. I hope it shows you just how much there is for your taste buds to discover in Aberdeen!

It started with some Christmas shopping around the west end. I picked up some photo frames from Nova before we decided to grab lunch at Melt. Gordon's first taste of grilled cheese heaven was the Melt Classic. An excellent place to start! I opted for the deliciously festive Christmas special of sausage meat, cheese (obvs) and pear chutney.

A few hours whizzing round town and our Christmas shopping was complete. We freshened up back at our hotel room - we stayed in the stylish Park Inn by Radisson which is perfectly located on Justice Mill Lane - and then ducked off to meet some friends at the winter village. Gordon spun his way around the ice rink, showing off while the rest of us clung on to the sides for dear life!

All that skating must of worked up an appetite. Just a hop, skip and a jump away was our foodie destination of the night - the recently opened, flamboyantly fabulous Filthy Gorgeous. I was gutted to miss their blogger brunch so when we planned our double date, I jumped at the chance and tempted our pals along with the promise of burgers and beers!

The menu at Filthy Gorgeous is a little... different, shall we say. With cheerios, frazzles and bourbon biscuits as just some of the quirky toppings, you can't help but let curiosity get the better of you. I was sucked in by the chicken katsu curry otherwise known as Wasabi Wan Kenobi - a must for any Star Wars or Wagamama fan! I can confirm it was both filthy and gorgeous.

I tried to convince Gordon to go for the Beer Belly, but our fun and friendly waitress informed us they didn't actually have any sparklers to top it with! Boring... In that case you can have what you want Gordon. Ha. Instead he opted for the Billionaires Bacon with its beer cheese sauce, pretzels, maple syrup and a shot of bacon laced Jack. Literally just a nip of Jack Daniels with what I can only describe as bacon floaters - adds nothing to the dish!

Our companions tucked into a Dirty South buttermilk chicken burger with chipotle mayo and honey nut cheerios, and the aptly named Cheat Day. A stack of two beef burgers, fried chicken, pretzels and bacon shrapnel - surprisingly wolfed down faster than the rest!

They love their bacon at FG and it doesn't stop at the burgers. We shared two lots of fries along with our bangin' burgers - one with baconnaise and bacon shrapnel, and my personal favourite the sweet potato fries topped with gooey toasted marshmallows and yet more bacon shrapnel. Yes, marshmallows. Trust me, it works!

For a casual, dirty bite to eat you'll find Filthy Gorgeous at Netherkirkgate. Check out the batched cocktails while you're at it - I can recommend the Courtesan but the Trashy Margarita will be my tipple next time. Along with the bacon glazed donuts for dessert!

Up next on our mini bar tour of Aberdeen was Six Degrees North. As a non beer drinker, I've avoided the well known watering hole but not wanting to be a total party pooper, I agreed to go along. Turns out they cater for all! With a huge selection of beers on tap, there is something for everyone. I actually started a conversation with the bartender with the words "So, I don't like beer..." - he asked how I feel about sugar candy and peach, and a few samples later I was chuffed to bits with my peachy keen Lindemans Pecheresse!

Our final destination was one of the Granite City's best cocktail bars. At Orchid we found ourselves sipping on Fierce beers, Long Island iced teas, refreshingly sweet strawberry daiquiris and the infamous staple Pink Orchid cocktail. The sound of Blair McLeod and his acoustic guitar was literally music to my ears, and I settled down comfortably, cocktail in hand, for the rest of the night.

Breakfast was my top priority the following morning. It's something that many Aberdeen restaurants are actually lacking, with only Cup or Rye & Soda coming up trumps with a decent fry up and a reasonable Sunday morning opening time! The Rye traditional breakfast was a hit with Gordon and I demolished the tasty grain porridge with my favourite toppings - banana and peanut butter! 

A browse round the Old Togs New Tricks vintage market at Underdog brought us to Brewdog's buzzing Castlegate bar. Tucking ourselves away in a quiet corner we enjoyed the patriot and jackpot burgers, while my sister tucked into a Yoda melt - veggie haggis for the win! A side of crack fries - black pepper coating and a cheesy dip - just about finished us off... but not quite.

We waddled over to Mad Penguin. Another new addition to Netherkirkgate, the gelateria and coffee house offers authentic gelato made freshly with local ingredients. I was disappointed to find a small selection of flavours - a fraction of the huge array I've seen across social media! The chocolate hazelnut was tasty but not my first choice, and a bit sickly, sweet by the end. Not a great first visit but I'm all for giving Mad Penguin another go.

Where would you go if you had 24 hours to eat your way around Aberdeen?!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Dinner at Barburrito, Aberdeen

Buenos Dias amigos! I picked up a few Spanish words and phrases on our recent trip - I'm pretty sure we all knew hola already? - but I was pleased to spot some of them on the brightly coloured walls of Aberdeen's latest Mexican eatery, Barburrito. I missed the launch while we were sunning it up in the Costa Blanca, but they kindly sent me a wee voucher to check it out on my return!

I love the interiors and the build your own burrito concept, I just don't think it's very clear to a first time customer. It took us a minute or two of awkwardly standing at the entrance ("do we take a seat, do we wait to be seated, do we just head to the counter?") before a friendly but busy burrito barista clocked us. She said she'd be with us in a tick and invited us to look at the fillings on offer while we waited. Gordon sums it up perfectly - it's basically a Mexican Subway.

Choose your burrito - small, regular, loaded, naked, superfood - or tacos or nachos.
Rice, beans, onions and peppers?
Pick your filling - chicken, pork, spicy beef, grilled steak or veggie.
Then your salsa - however you like it - mild, medium, spicy?
And finally the toppings - cheese, slaw, sour cream, guac?

Holy guacamole. I packed a bit of everything into mine - regular wrap with spicy beans, rice, peppers, grilled chicken, chipotle salsa and cheese. I have to admit it was delicious, and the foil kept it all neat inside... until the last few bites anyway! We also enjoyed a bag of tortilla chips with dip. I like spicy but he's not so keen so the manager offered us a salsa pot each - fresh and chunky pico de gallo and the more flavoursome chipotle.

Gordon however couldn't wait for dessert and started dipping his chips in the moreish chocolate sauce that came with our churros! I recently tried churros at the Christmas village. If you tried them too, do not let them put you off! Barburritos version are soft and fluffy on the inside, and perfectly coated with sugary cinnamon. I only wish the portion were bigger!

I really enjoyed my dinner at Barburrito. It's not first date material but for that Christmas shopping pitstop it's ideal. Gordon moaned he was still hungry afterwards but for me it was just enough. He'll have to go large next time - un burrito grande por favor!

Pop in for lunch if you're in Union Square over the holidays. If you're at the other side of town I recommend checking out Muchacho on Rose Street for a local taste of Mexico! Now I just need to work on my Spanish...

Monday, 12 December 2016

Spanish Stories: BBQ's and Beaches

Every Wednesday, San Miguel de Salinas play host to a local market packed full of vibrant, fresh fruit and veg, mouthwatering pastries, olives and other Mediterranean delights!

Look at the size of those grapes! Everything was ripe and delicious looking, and I still can't get over the sheer size of their fruit and veg compared to the pathetic peppers and measly melons we see on the supermarket shelves back home.

After our adventures in Cartagena, the rest of Gordon's birthday was spent doing our favourite thing... eating! We devoured ice cream at La Zenia Boulevard to satisfy our tummies before yet another siesta. Gordon had chosen to go back to our local BBQ joint for his birthday dinner later in the evening. We tucked into some succulent BBQ pulled chicken buns with fries and the world's biggest onion rings at Brooks, washed down with a few beers, cosmos and Long Island Iced Teas! The perfect birthday party for two.

Taking advantage of the hottest day of the week, Thursday was a day of rest. A stroll along the canal in the sunshine was the highlight. A nearby English butcher shop helped us stock up on sausages and chicken skewers, ready to fire up the barbecue for lunch. I made extra skewers with chorizo and the giant peppers and juicy tomatoes we'd bought from the market the day before.
Top tip - do NOT barbecue chorizo!

Gordon was in his element playing with fire and manning the grill, while I relaxed in the glorious sunshine, bikini clad, with a copy of Women's Health in one hand and a giant glass of sangria in the other... This is the life.

Of course the white sands of the Spanish coast are not to be missed and our penultimate day was spent getting to know them better. The day started off with a stroll along Punta Prima. I reckon this is the more "upmarket" of all the Costa Blanca beaches. The restaurants seemed much nicer than the basic tourist traps at the likes of Torrevieja.

We started our walk from Restaurante Punta Prima and eventually stopped off at Nautilus, at the very other end, for a bite to eat. When I ordered the pineapple chicken curry, I did not expect it to arrive on a giant shell platter, served in an actual pineapple! I was impressed. A simple dish, sweet and full of flavour, made extra special with beautiful presentation! 

Torrevieja was my second favourite beach. While I like the non-tourist aspects of Punta Prima, I like Torrevieja for the opposite reason. Yes it's mainly tourist focused, but in a good way. It's full of seaside attractions - a little funfair, boat rides, and water sports.

It's a little quieter in the winter season, but it's still worth a visit. Sip on cocktails, overlooking the Med, browse the quirky gifts at Ale-Hop, grab an ice cream and dip your toes in the clear blue sea. This is what Spanish dreams are made of.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Mount Keen: Bagging our first munro!

Climbing a proper mountain has been on my bucket list for a while now. Bennachie and Arthur's Seat make for good days out, but both are classed as hills and I really wanted to "bag a munro"! Mountains over 3000 feet in Scotland are considered munros and the popular hillwalking challenge of climbing all 282 of them is known as Munro bagging. After reading Love From Scotland's recent adventures, I was inspired to get off my backside and get out and do it!

As our first attempt, we wanted to pick a fairly easy option. Mount Keen was our choice, due to it's location - it's the most easterly munro, only an hour's drive from Aberdeen. Despite it's moderately easy reputation, at 3081 feet Mount Keen its almost double the size of Bennachie and a bit of a challenge for beginners like us.

Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts, we took advantage of my day off and the warmest day in October and made our way to Invermark, Glen Esk. From a car park in the hills, we made our way through the iron gate and followed the path through the picturesque glens.

I'd read up on the route before we headed, and knew to look out for the Queen's Well to check we were on the right track. What I hadn't realised was just how far along the walk the well was! Eventually we reached it after a good 45-60 minute walk. The story goes that Queen Victoria herself stopped at the spring while pony trekking in the Angus glens and so these grand granite arches were built over it.

Only after reaching the Queens Well, the mountain comes into view and the path finally starts to ascend and become increasingly harder.

We took a few pit stops along the way to take photos and quench our thirst. The weather was more than kind for an Autumn day in Scotland. I'd wrapped up extra warm thinking the temperature would drop the higher we climbed, but it was so warm I was dripping in sweat (attractive, sorry) and had to carry my jacket until we were just about at the summit!

Just as you turn the corner and think you've almost reached the summit, you realise there's another twist and the climb just keeps on going! It was at this point that Gordon pretty much lost the will to live. He'd made the mistake of wearing work boots (who does that?!) and his feet were suffering!

Finally, the end was in sight and we climbed the last few steps to the bouldery top of our first munro! It took us 2 and a half hours from the start. A trig point marks the summit, and offers stunning views across the glens with Lochnagar to the west. If you look closely you'll even spot Bennachie! Finding shelter among the rocks, we tucked into a little picnic before heading back down.

The descent was almost as fun as the climb. Although Gordon might disagree - he had blisters for days afterwards! And that ladies and gents is why you should always wear sensible climbing footwear. My normal gym trainers were just fine. In total our walk lasted about 5 hours. Despite being a relatively small munro, the hour long walk from the car park to the base of the actual hill adds a fair bit of time to the trek.

On the way back down we encountered lots of sheep and even spotted a herd of deer on the hillside! Apparently its common to see them roaming around the moors here, especially at this time of year. Not only is munro bagging good exercise, it's a great way to get out and explore our beautiful country. Scotland's hills, glens and lochs are breathtaking. You can't help but feel all Mel Gibson in Braveheart out there.

Our calves ached for days but it was well worth the pain! I loved climbing our first munro and spending time with my husband, just the two of us out in the wilderness. We're already planning to tick off a few more in 2017.

Have you ever bagged a munro?
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