5 best Edinburgh blogs

I fell in love with Edinburgh when I was five.  I was in the boot of the family hatchback crossing over the Dean Bridge into the city.  (We had a big family.)  The sky was a mix of peaches and reds, and the backs of the New Town houses appeared as if they were growing organically right out of the rock.  For a wee girl from the Black Isle it was entrancing and I wanted to live in the city ever since.

There is no point living somewhere you like if you don’t get out and sample it’s delights, try what it has to offer, suck it dry and spend the rest of the next day recovering.

Here are my five top blogs for enjoying the city.

Crumbs and Petals:  Husband and wife team (and also my friends for transparency) Crumbs and Petals explore all that there is to offer in Edinburgh’s food and cultural scene. They’re on a pause just now, but the archive is worth looking through.  If you want a festival beer, find out about gin or how to make a giant after eight – these are your people! Who doesn’t want to make a giant after-eight?

Lost in Edinburgh:  Ok not strictly a blog, more a FaceBook community.  Edinburgh is a city that is not only teaming with life, events, art and culture but also history.  Much of it turbulent and bloody.  The kind of history I like.  Lost In Edinburgh will help you discover some of the hidden gems, little known facts and nooks and crannies that all too often get forgotten about in the madness of pulling in the tourist pounds.

Edinburgh Coffee Lovers:  If wild beer soaked nights of spoken word, street performance and sticky floors are becoming a little bit boring then kick back with the slower paced Edinburgh Coffee Lovers.  It will specifically plug you in to the independent coffee scene in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  These people know what they’re talking about.

Edinblogger:  They got there first with the name!  This blog has been going for a while, and I really appreciate getting truly honest reviews.  Sometimes it’s ok to say “The experience was meh…just alright…nothing special.”  It doesn’t all have to be whizzes and bangs.  If I’ve thought about reviewing a place, they’ve generally got there first.  *shakes fist*

Edinburgh foody:  despite the title this isn’t a blog about people who are richer than you eating in places you’ll never afford.  It’s about real live actual people, who aren’t cut outs from the Observer Magazine, eating, drinking, reviewing gadgets, trying new recipe books. Go eating!

 

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No Meat March. The verdict

I have now completely finished with No Meat March, so I’ve listed below some of my thoughts, and reactions.

I didn’t feel the desire to gorge on meat at the end…

I grew up in a family that was pretty meant heavy, and especially red meat heavy in it’s diet.  Meat was almost seen as a virtue by some of its members, and there was a time when I saw things that way too.  However when I was coming up to the end of No Meat March there wasn’t any part of me that felt I needed to go out and gorge on meat because of the enforced abstinence.  This however could be down to the fact that I am specifically trying to outgrow having an all or nothing mind set.

I missed fish most of all…

I had expected to miss traditional meat dishes, and especially the comfort foods, such as lasagne, bolognaise.  However I didn’t.  Probably because there are plenty of veggie comfort food options.  I found I did keep on thinking “I’d like some salmon,” or “I fancy a tuna salad,”.  I could definitely be pescitarian.

Worst of all was the running…

Having not balanced out my diet to include the needs of running was probably the lowest point of the month.  However, this problem can happen for both meat eaters and vegetarians, its just slightly more likely to happen for vegetarians.  A poorly balanced meat diet can result in the same.  There are plenty of vegetarian protein alternatives, and once I’d done a little research and adjusted it was fine.  The need to adjust diet is something that will hit everyone at some point, given all the changes our bodies go through in a life time.  Which brings me onto the next point…

I’ll definitely continue to include soy mince in my diet…

Cheaper than beef mince, able to store it for longer, less fat, and lighter, this feels to me to be a fantastic alternative.  It will definitely be part of my store cupboard from now on.

When eating out, you need to explore other cultures…

European cultures are often quite meat heavy, and if you want more than one option you need to explore other cultures food.  Which is great fun.  Turkish is particularly recommended, but I can’t praise Yo Sushi enough for it’s amazing Tofu Katsu Curry and fried aubergines.

Lunch is the saddest time…

If you haven’t got your act together to bring you own lunch into work and end up having to pop out for a sandwich you have two options, egg and cress and cheese and pickle.  Which leads me on to…

It’s healthier because…

Often you have to do things like prepare you own lunches and cook from scratch, which are essentially healthier ways of eating because you can avoid over processed foods.  I’ve always eaten vegetables and fruit, but because I was eating so much more, I felt really good about what I was putting in my body.  Yes, it is possible to be an overweight or unhealthy vegetarian, but as a diet it does draw you more towards increasing health (if you’re doing it right).

Vegans…

Respect!

Conclusion

It was a mainly positive experience, and one I would recommend people try.  I always knew from the beginning that it would not turn me into a vegetarian.  It’s expanded my horizons and helped me come to know myself, and my own food preferences better.

 

No Meat March. Week 3, the limited edition

Last week was week three of No Meat March.  It was at this point that the novelty had worn off, and I was starting to bump up against the reality of vegetarianism.  The reality isn’t that bad, I’ve been enjoying cooking at home, my culinary horizons have been expanding – but it’s when it comes to eating out that having a different food requirement can become difficult.

People are now much more aware of differing moral choice and health limits around food.  Living in a city like Edinburgh there are places where those who’s dietary needs are out of the norm can eat.

I spent week three discovering that when eating out some places only have one vegetarian “option”.  Let’s be clear, one is not an option.  For there to be options you need to have more than one thing to chose from.  If there is only one vegetarian or vegan option, it’s not on option, its a limitation.

Munch Together: Eating out, while eating in.

Munch Together is a totally new concept in dining, eating out while also eating in.  Munch works much in the same way as Air BnB, you’ll be eating in a strangers home, but a stranger who has actively wanted to invite you and cook for you.  To start set up a profile on the Munch Together site, and tell people a little about yourself.  You then search through Munch’s in your area, all of which have menu’s, and chose whatever one fits you and your culinary preferences best.

Munch Together fonder Mo Abushaaban set up Munch with the aim of ending the Palestinian Israeli conflict – I enjoy it when people are highly ambitious for good!  Originally from Gaza, Mo see’s sharing food together as a way of breaking down boundaries, of building up understanding and relationships and resolving conflict.  Food is a universal, and the simple act of sharing it is also a way of sharing ourselves, our lives, of caring for others whether stranger of friend.

I chose to go the the inaugural Munch which was a Mexican feast for 12.  I paid £11 and was sent a guide for guests and the details of your host.  The guide answers questions about cancellations and refunds but also sets out some ground rules and boundaries for etiquette.  The day before I also got a reminder email – and the Munch emails are nice, they can’t stop telling you how great you are!

The inaugural event was success, with a brilliant atmosphere, and delicious food – catering for both vegetarians and gluten intolerance.  The first ten or so minutes felt a little awkward, however everyone knew that they were going to meet a bunch of strangers and very quickly the atmosphere warmed up.  I didn’t talk to every guest, but I met a fair few new people, and found out about interesting Phds, swapped falafel and bath bomb recipes, talked about my work,  dinner party disasters, discussed how annoying overly positive people are and everyone’s experience of the Aurora Borealis.  It was delicious, friendly, informal and fun.    Much thanks goes to Ilana for opening up her home to us and being such a warm host.

Munch is an especially good idea for those who may be travelling and would like a real taste of the local area, those who are new to an area and looking to meet people, anyone who just wants someone else to cook but not pay restaurant charges.  Or you could be like me, a extrovert who enjoys meeting new people but is bizarrely surrounded by introvert friends who don’t.

I’m definitely planning to go to another Munch, and a little further down the line I might host one myself.  Talking to Mo about his future plans, he doesn’t just want to solve international conflicts, he’s also said that if in five years there hasn’t been a wedding of two people who’ve meet at Munch he’ll be very disappointed.  That kind of encapsulates what Munch and Mo are all about.  It’s about love.

Frontier food and prejudice

I went for lunch today with two of my American friends, who really wanted to try Frontier, a north American restaurant which has opened up near Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh.

There was quite a few dishes I had heard about, mainly from films but never tried such as cat fish, and Philly cheese steak settled in among the more well known hot dogs and burgers.  We all really wanted to try several dishes, so opted to order one each and share.

Cat fish

I’d often heard about cat fish in films set in the south, but had never tried it.  It was baked in parchment with orange, a preparation my guru’s for all thing America had not seen before.  The result was succulent, fragrant, surprisingly light and well accompanied with fresh salsa.  The fries felt a bit more like chips, but overall a good dish and a fish I’d definitely try again.

Carnitas

The carnitas came with a flour tortilla, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.  The pork itself was incredibly tender, moist and suffused with lime and spice making a flavoursome dish.

Colorado casserole

We all agreed that this was the stand out dish from the three we ordered.  Made with a mix of pork and beef with ancho and pasilla chilli, chipotle and chocolate, topped with cheese and sour cream.  It’s the tender meat and blend of spice which make it so wonderful.  The chocolate far from being overpowering lent a baritone of flavour to the stews tingling warmth that made this the perfect dish for a snowy Edinburgh day.

While we tucked into our dishes, I also realised something about myself.  I had been unconsciously carrying around a prejudice against American food.  In my mind I had consigned it all to the boxes marked “unhealthy” and “fattening”.  I myself get annoyed at people who assume all Scottish food is deep fried and unhealthy, but I had treated American cuisine in exactly the same way.

At the back of my mind I expected Frontier to confirm my prejudice.  It didn’t.  The dishes were fresh, well seasoned and flavoursome.  Yes, because they are kind of meat heavy if you eat a lot of it all the time and don’t have the calorie expenditure of a cowboy you’d put on weight.  But if you eat too much of any national cuisine you’ll put on weight.  It’s the eating too much or with little variation, not the cuisine that is unhealthy.  My sincere apologies to the chefs and cooks of the United States.

We none of us tried the desserts, but the menu does look pretty special and I plan to take my daughter for the Funfair Sundae.  I opted to finish with tea, which unfortunately was not great.  This may be the one are where my newly discovered and slain prejudice against American food may have been right.  I’d be happy to be proven wrong there too.

On top of the really excellent food I also have to put a word in for the staff.  Our waitress Sarah was friendly and efficient.  My friends also made some enquiries about how to source some of the American ingredients that they hadn’t been able to find in Edinburgh and the staff were able to give some tips and pointers about what they could do.  My customer service standards were both met and exceeded.

A delightful and pleasant experience.  We all plan to return.

 

 

 

Cafe Anduluze: Adequate

Many of my friends have beliefs that make them hate chains – and most of the time they are right.  They know that chain food is bad food, it’s bad for the environment, it’s bad nutritionally, it’s bad for employee’s, and they are bad for the local areas.  It’s bad.  There are studies that prove it.  However I’m not about to stop eating in chains.  Sunday’s lunch is a good reason why.

I’m a working single mother.  My friend who I had lunch with is not just a working single mother, but a mother of two primary aged children, one of whom has recently been diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum.  We both spend a lot of time cooking for our children, worrying about their health,  trying to balance nutrition and whatever quirky need the kids have chosen this week, with the jobs we love.  Other’s need come before our own, everyday.  We rarely get to choose to eat what we want.  So when we do go out to eat, we don’t necessarily want life changing food – we want food that is tasty – and someone else washes the plates.

The rare chance we got to eat together we chose to eat at a chain.  Cafe Andaluze on George St, Edinburgh.  It’s a chain, good decore, comfortable seating, reasonable service.  A few months ago I would have chosen Las Iguanas, but I was rather put off by the fact they treat their staff in an appalling manner. (I emailed them about this, and the reply could at best be described as “PR”.)   We’re working single mothers, we don’t have time to discuss this stuff…

“Oh, have you read the latest (once a month review outside of London) in the Guardian?”

“No, do tell. I’d love to know the most fashionable way to eat this week while I’m juggling the needs of a tiny human being who doesn’t give a fuck.  Ever.”

At the end of the day, when your a single mother, someone else cooking your food for you is a luxury.  We ordered tortilla, patatas bravas, and a really good lamb tagine.  We finished off with a crème brulee.  It was… passable.  Not bad.  There was flavour. There was nothing wrong with it.  But there was also nothing amazing.  My friend works in hospitality and we decided that despite the staff being good at their job their service wasn’t good enough to deserve a tip.

It was all a bit ok.  A bit “meh”.  None of this however makes me feel it was a bad experience.  The point of going out wasn’t to have THEBESTMEALEVEROMGITWASSOAMAZING! The point was to catch up properly with a friend who’s company I enjoy but don’t see as much as I’d like.

Sometimes adequate service and adequate food is enough, because it is the people and the situation you are in that makes a memorable evening.  As much as chains can be bad employers, and stifle the life from local service, sometimes I just want someone other that me to cook and wash up.  If you disagree, until you cook and wash-up for me on a regular basis I’m going to be ok with adequate.  Adequate is ok with me.