Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Soup Club

What's the first rule of soup club....?

Well hopefully it isn't don't blog about it... We have a soup club at work which consists of four people spread across three departments. We each take it in turns to cook soup at the weekend and bring it in on a Monday for all to sample.

I've never been one for cooking soup, or really eating that much of it. The soup club itself has really broadened my mind to soup and the glory of it! It has broadened it in a sense that I have eaten soup I would never have chosen for myself, for example Broccoli and Stilton. I'm not the biggest of fans of blue cheese I can tolerate it at best, but this soup although blue in taste was a perfect Monday afternoon treat. The salt balanced out the richness and the broccoli added a further dimension that made it smooth. In addition to this I have discovered I love bacon in soup.

I have also invested in one more cook book (I don't have a solely soup book which I personally think is the perfect reason to buy a new book)  'The New Covent Garden: A Soup For Every Day'  who knew there were so many different varieties of soup!

Some of the soups I have made include: Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup, Pepperoni and Parmesan Soup, Roasted Parsnips and Parmesan Soup, and Onion Bacon and Lentil Soup.

We've even managed to acquire some special soup club bowls.

So why not make your own soup club at work? Chose reliable people who love to cook, four is probably the maximum you can have as most recipes serve between 4-6 people. If more people want to join in why not suggest they make their own group and next year switch things around a bit?

We're probably going to have a break over summer, but it is not really a burden as you're only making soup once every four weeks plus you have the surprise of not knowing what could be for lunch on Monday!

Here are some of our soups..

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Yorkshire Meatball Co - Harrogate

Lately I've found myself falling in love with pulled pork, falling out of love with pulled pork, falling in love with burgers and then... Falling out of love with burgers. The mass influx of American food in to the UK has been pretty exciting at times. Like the Americans it's big and bolshy (no offence) bringing with it a lot of drama and over-the-topness. It's great, it's exhilarating... It's everywhere. Everywhere I look. Burger bar after meat shack after grill.

I'd heard rumblings about a new place opening in Harrogate, surely not a burger bar in Harrogate with it's niche clientele and highly regulated city centre (regulated in the sense that Carluccios had to fight with the council for the spot they wanted). 

Fear not Harrogatians it is not a burger bar, grill or cafe... It's a meatball place... 

Okay, so that might not sound much better but I promise you it is. These are no ordinary meatballs that are whipped up with tomato sauce on school dinners, or with gravy in a particular Scandinavian furniture store. These are made using local produce (tick), come in a variety of different flavours (tick) using a variety of different meats (and non-meats) (tick), and there is something quite elegant about them. 

I went to the guest opening of The Yorkshire Meatball Co last Friday, J and I arrived promptly at 7pm... A little too promptly as they hadn't yet taken the brown paper off the windows. We were greeted by a lovely man who showed us to the bar and handed us some prosecco (I was later to learn that he was the son of the owner who had placed his trust in his son to market and promote his new venture).

A little pre-note... I was sat at the bar. I was being given free prosecco. I was little bit drunk before food arrived. I was totally wasted by the time I left. I apologise now for not doing this place the justice it deserves. I promise to return a full paying customer with a steady hand and a clear head.

Whilst sat at the bar waiting for the crowds to appear we glanced around at the decor. Wooden 'rustic' furnishings, mixed with family portraits, and quirky light fittings (colanders and cheese graters) made the atmosphere homely, trendy and with a new opening there was already a buzz of excitement emerging in the air.

The menu is fairly simple to figure out. You order your balls, it's bed (side eg mash) and its blanket (sauce). Such a quaint idea, I love it. 

As this was their preview night before the big opening the next day we were to be served small samples of the balls with the recommended sauce. 

In addition to the above they also have a brunch menu available until 12pm each day, this is what we were offered samples of first. If you order from the brunch menu you receive a large ball in a bap with bacon, egg, mushroom and tomato. Sounds like a good brunch to me! Here are the samples we tried...

Herbed Harrogate Blue. (Veggie)

The blue cheese is fairly strong, I'm presuming this comes without bacon in your bap, it would be nice to see a substitute. 

Pork Apple Sage and Fennel.

Clearly starving by this point I took a bite before taking a picture. A juicy ball with the sage and fennel delicately touching it. 

Pork and sundried tomato.

This ball looks slightly deep fried, I'm going to be honest... I can't remember if it was. 

Pork and Black Pudding

This ball had sizeable chunks of black pudding in it, if you're not a massive fan of black pudding I'd steer clear of this one, if you are a lover order this one! 

We were lucky that we managed to sample a ball from each of the brunch options... we were not so lucky with the dinner menu, as the crowds grew we became barricaded in at our place at the bar and the meatballs were gone before they reached us.

With the dinner samples we were give more balls on sticks but this time with the recommended blanket (sauce).

Smokey Balls with Creamed Mustard Blanket 

Made smokey through the use of paprika which me and J could pick through the blanket of creamy mustard sauce. This sauce was one of my favourites. 

Hot Balls with Herby Ketchup Blanket 

I recall we ate a few of these... they were spicy but not overly so, I'd rate them a medium spice. If you're expecting them to blow your brains out I'd perhaps add a little Tabasco sauce to help you along. 

Fish Balls with Classic Lemon Blanket 

Fresh haddock balls that are deep fried, a little stronger in fish taste than Pollock or cod if you're not keen on seafood these aren't for you. We had a few of these as not many people wanted to try them or try a second portion. 

Fake Balls (I think) in Herby Ketchup (I think)

I'm having to guess now as this was the last ball and for some reason I didn't note down what it was... it looks to be fake balls which are chickpeas and coriander served with a tomato looking blanket which I can only presume to be herby ketchup. 

The balls we missed out on were: Birdie Balls and Yorkshire Balls. We didn't get to try any beds which was a little disappointing but I guess at a sample night it would of been hard to dish out mash potato.

The two drunken girls at the bar stayed past everyone else but the close family and friends as we started to talk to the Managing Director David Atkinson. I cannot express how nice and accommodating this man is. He told us about his venture, the risks he was taking, where his inspiration came from (New York Meatball restaurants) and even showed us the old pictures on the walls of the restaurant of his ancestors.

I wish him luck in his new business venture and I hope The Yorkshire Meatball Co makes a big impact on Harrogate. They certainly have got balls.

The YMCo
7 Bridge Street


One last thing...

This amused me in the toilets... I told you I was drunk.

The Yorkshire Meatball Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 March 2014

Carluccio's - coffee and pastry deal

A relatively short post about my new Friday morning treat.

I've recently been attempting to like coffee... I know I know how have I gone 27 years on this earth without drinking coffee... Well apparently I liked it as a baby. What my parents were doing feeding me coffee as a baby I don't know...

I've been recommended to pile my coffee with sugar and chocolate to make it more palatable to me. 

I ordered my first coffee from Carluccio's a couple of weeks back... A mocha. 

It's amazing. 

Granted it doesn't look like much but inside that cup is fresh coffee and so much chocolate it's almost sickly when you get to the bottom. 

With coffees at Carluccio's ranging from £1.80-2.50 each with their pastry and a coffee deal for £2 it would be a crime not to have one of their ever tempting pastries... 

My choice this morning was a pain au chocolat. They are far superior to those you can buy in Tesco around the corner for 85p and much more sizeable! 

If a pain au chocolate doesn't take your fancy their are also croissants and swirly things which are most likely cinnamon I'm not sure I haven't tried them... Yet. 

The Carluccio's £2 pastry and coffee deal runs each week day morning on Greek Street, eat in or takeaway. (I've tried to confirm weekends/other establishments but their website isn't being very helpful - a quick google suggests not all restaurants participate in the deal). 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Each to their own...

I don't really 'do' blog posts like this, as you'll note my blog is mainly restaurant reviews and the occasional recipe when I can remember what I added to said meal... 

This morning however something really irritated me. So much so it gave me a tight knot in my stomach and made my ears burn. 

The source of my irritation, annoyance, disappointment and frustration: fellow food bloggers ripping into another blog, publically for all to see on twitter. 

This particular blog is a beauty blog or lifestyle blog (I'm not sure) whose owner has now taken to writing about her food experiences. 

I understand that in comparison to other food blogs she doesn't really compare, and her posts can be very gender stereotyped, there maybe a few typos spelling mistakes and misuse of words. 

I ALWAYS spot a typo when I publish a new post, sorry I'm afraid my proof reader disappeared a long time ago. When I'm tired and I'm trying to get out a post for a restaurant who have been really good to me my grammar and sentence structure is at times atrocious. I've accidentally written larger instead of lager when I've been in the heat of the moment on the back of some rant, not properly checking what I have been writing. The trolls of the Internet will always pick up on these things and write horrid comments on my blog, which is why I now moderate all comments. It also makes me feel like shit when I read derogative things about myself, written on my blog, something I have ploughed hours in to and dedicated my spare time to. 

I'm not a paid writer. I'm not a professional. I just like sharing my experiences with others. 

This person's blog may not appeal to food bloggers, as they tend to have a certain standard, and a general loathing for chain restaurants. This blog is in its origin a beauty blog. The target audience of her blog is different, what may seem ridiculous to food bloggers (for instance stating Iguanas and Chiquito's to be 'real' Mexican food places) will help another outside of the (I hate to use the term) 'foodie' world relate. 

Why should we dismiss someone else's views just because their world is focused around something different than our own? 

I cringe when I look back at my earlier posts. So much so I don't read them anymore. Writing a food blog has been a huge learning curve for me, in terms of writing and food. I know far more now about both than I did 3 years ago and I still have so much more to learn. It will take years for me to feel I have gained enough status in the food world for people to rely on what I say wholeheartedly. 

The same goes for this post. It's just my opinion. It's just how I feel. 

I know I would be devastated to be publically humiliated on twitter for something I enjoy doing. 

I think it would make me quit. 

I've had to take breaks from blogging before now (which is why you will see gaps in the timeline and posts from months ago surfacing in the present) it gets too much. It gets too bitchy and pressurised. I thought this was supposed to be a bit of fun? 

I'm not perfect in any stretch of the imagination, but quite frankly all this has upset me a little. I guess that's why I decided to write a post about it. 

Can we all just have a little more love for each other?

Comments welcome. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Old Steps - Leeds

The Old Steps is a place that few people seem to know about, that was until it recently appeared on the Living Social website. It was somewhere that was unfamiliar to me and when asked what I was doing with my Friday night only person knew of it, and when I say 'knew of it' they many decades ago (maybe 2 or even 1) used to go partying around that particular area of town.

Living Social once again doing great things for small businesses by spotlighting attention to them, however I have heard on the grape vine that they do take a large chunk of the money paid for the deal themselves so if you like the place your visiting make sure you tip well. The deal I purchased was £14 and included a bottle of wine and a platter for two people. This seemed reasonable to me having read what was on the platter and a bottle of wine in Leeds City Centre can often cost this price or more.

I did some research prior to purchasing my voucher (I don't want to waste in this tough economical climates) and found that it had glowing reviews on trip adviser, with a few on there mentioning that they weren't too keen on the décor. With each negative or even slightly negative comment the owner had replied with their own comments underneath. This I see in two ways, it's either very confrontational as if you have read the previous reviews before writing your own you may think twice about writing something negative in the fear that the owner is going to come back at you with a direct response which may in its self be taken negatively. Then again the internet is a very good shield for negative remarks and perhaps saying more than you would in person, as you're not really talking to a real person, you're tapping away on at a computer screen. Or… it can be seen as being very attentive to the thoughts of your previous and perhaps potential customers in the future. I'll let you debate and decide upon that one..

The Old Steps is situated on York Place in Leeds City Centre around the legal and Insurance district part of town (also the part of town where you will find quite a few strip clubs). Not the easiest of places to spot as like Baby Jupiter which is on the same street it is down a flight of steps and in a basement under…

I had to book (as is usually the case and expected) and when I called as per the instructions on the voucher I was then redirected to their website where I was to book and make sure I noted my voucher number in the box also (it didn't tell you to do this on the website - they might want to address this next time). I had no problems in securing a spot on a Friday evening and even when I need to amend the booking by 15 mins I was replied to with speed (using slang - I'll try not to judge - okay I am judging by even pointing it out and it definitely alter my opinion I had pre-formed).

We arrived a couple of minutes early and made our way down the (old) steps, there was no one to greet us by the door this was most definitely a bar. So we made our way over to the bar and told him we had booked he asked for my name and that was it… and told us to take a seat somewhere and he would bring over our wine and food.

It's quite a small establishment and we were lucky (I think) that some people had just left so we didn't have to perch on a tall chair or squeeze in with someone else behind the a table on to the seats which run the length of the wall.

We weren't expecting much from the wine but chose red netherless and it was actually quite palatable definitely drinkable.

I was expecting big things from the meat and cheese platter as they had described it so beautifully on their advertisement.

Instead we were confronted with a meat selection that looked like it had come straight out of the spanish/italian selection packet from Sainsburs/Tescos some very small unappetitising gherkins, a dry pork pie, and some barely edible olives. The cheese selection was bland and unimaginative and I don't think we polished them all off.

After a bottle of wine between us and much less food than expected I was starting to feel that a little bit tipsy. We agreed that neither of us would be able to keep on drinking unless we had something more substantial (filling) to eat so we finished off our wine and nipped over to Lazy Lounge to have a couple more glasses of wine and some chunky chips.

I'm not sure it is somewhere I will return to, and I definitely wont be returning for food. The décor as mentioned on many a review on Trip Advisor wasn't very appealing, T noted that it looked like they had tried to update the place from the 70s but had only half finished with a mix of old and new, modern and rustic. It didn't quite work. I didn't especially find the staff that friendly as the one member of staff stood at the bar the whole time apart from when he went in the back to get our food… which took about 2 minutes was this just sat there waiting for us? I definitely wouldn't pay the price advertised on their website either…

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sela Bar - Leeds

I have heard a lot about the greatness of Sela Bar's pizzas but hadn't had chance to try them until last Friday.

I have been to Sela for a few drinks on many occasions, they have great beers on tap which change over regularly, acoustic nights and a great bunch of people in front and behind the bar.

I'm not entirely sure what time they serve pizzas until each night but they were still dishing them out to people at 8pm when we left to go upstairs to Wax Bar. The menu is simple, there isn't an overload of choice just 10 pizzas and a few sides.

Me and C went after work on Friday around 6pm and found a table straight away. The place was busy but not overly so, I do think we took the last table however.

C went to the bar to get a couple of pints in whilst I looked over the menu. To say there are only 10 choices it was incredibly difficult to decide what to have! In the end we settle for 'Sundried Tomato' which comes with (surprisingly) sundried tomato, olive and feta cheese.

We had one to share between the two of us but I reckon I could eat a whole one to myself (stupid diet). The base was extra thin, crispy and littered with bread bubbles. The toppings weren't overloaded on to the base and were top quality too. Three distinct flavours none of them getting lost in the crowd.

I cannot express enough how good these pizzas are. I feel a new addiction may have been born. I want to try them all!!

In addition to the pizza we got some dough sticks and olives. The oil and balsamic vinegar was in the bottom of the olive pot and we did wonder if they were just served dry until we ate enough olives to notice. We could have done with some more oil/vinegar to be honest. The olives were good, the green better than the black but this is often my opinion. The dough sticks were soft and served warmed.

The pizza and side cost £9.50 which is very reasonable. If you haven't been yet - what are you waiting for!?


Crowd of Favours - Leeds

A Leeds Brewery Pub Crowd of Favours is almost hidden down near the markets. It makes for a nice quiet pint during the week after work. 

After a particularly hectic day at work I met up with C for a pint and some food. First up a pint of Leeds Pale, one of my favourite ales it's simple and easy to drink (sometimes a little too easy..). 

Cradling our pints we looked over the menu and with choices firmly in mind we headed over to the bar. 

Here lies our first problem... Neither choices we wanted were available. So we chose again... Nope nada. The person behind the bar explained that a party of people had turned up with more than they had booked a table for.There were no fish and chips... No steak or beef burgers... So we had to ask what was left? 

Pretty much just two courses... Tired and hungry we decided to order those. 

Luckily they still had some bread and olives, although that was debatable. I was definitely expecting more for my money when this turned up and the balsamic and oil didn't last for the whole bread. 

C chose the pork belly on puy lentils, smoked bacon, caramelised pears and jus. This turned out to be a good choice for her, she noted it was not something she would have chosen herself but really enjoyed it. Silver lining and all that... 

I ended up with a chargrilled chicken burger and chips. The chicken was dry, there was a lack of sauce to help recover the chicken or bread. The chips were just okay, the sort you could make yourself at home by roughly chopping up some potato and shoving it in a fryer. 

Crowd of favours wasn't on my hit list for food but it was for a drink... I'll probably keep it there too. I wouldn't be rushing to eat here again any time soon, maybe next time I'll try their sister The Swan. 

A great place for a drink, they have a cinema night in the basement every Tuesday with the film announced on twitter. I hear they do a great quiz too which is on every Wednesday.

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