Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Glasgow Living Part 20 - Dinner at The Counter Custom Burgers

Readers, we tried another new experience last week.  Dinner at The Counter.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a custom burger joint and you’ll find it tucked in the corner of Springfield Quay in Glasgow.  It’s also the first UK franchise of The Counter, which is found across America and other cool locations like Dubai.
the counter glasgow inside sign

Fairly simple concept, go to your table, either order from the menu or, if you’re like us and enjoy variety, get your tick box notepad and pencil out and start selecting your protein, cheese, sauce, toppings, premium toppings and sides.  Single burgers and toppings are £9.50 and £13.50 for a double.  Sides are £3.25 each and you can also add premium protein or toppings if you are that way inclined (charges apply).
Pick a topping... any topping.

We really enjoyed our first trip – a special shout out needs to go to the tots we shared as a starter – bacon, spring onions, potato tots, cheese and ranch dressing arrived in a big bowl. There was more than enough for 2 people in there and was a great warm up to our burgers. 

the counter glasgow

The restaurant also has a varied drinks menu including a range of virgin cocktails.  We went mid week and I didn’t really fancy alcohol, so this was a nice alternative.  So often soft drinks are just a bit boring.
virgin mojito

The food came quickly, so if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat before going onto somewhere else, this is a good shout.  However, although it’s fast, the food is of a good standard.  A choice of buns were available  - including gluten free – and also, the venue serves halal meat, meaning it’s a great choice for large groups with various dietary requirements. On and when you choose your sauce it's served on the side.  #cleanhands

the counter glasgow
My burger - chicken, roast peppers, mozzarella, turkey bacon, side of fried onions and fries
The staff spent time taking us through the menu, checking our food was ok and made sure we always had drinks, but without being overbearing.  We also appreciated the chat with the Manager who gave us some background to the company and told us that the team were trained by the American arm of The Counter, to install the right vibe and values from the day The Counter opened.  
the counter glasgow
Inside The Counter

Some people may question the location – it’s definitely more premium than many of the other dining places at Springfield Quay and with that in mind, it’s worth making a special trip south of the River Clyde to visit.   It’s easily walkable from the city centre if you have 20 minutes to spare.

Glasgow’s had a great month of “firsts” and I’d recommend visiting this place whilst it’s the first of its kind in the UK (and I suspect it won’t be the only one within a few months!)

To find out more, be sure to follow The Counter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclaimer:  I was provided a meal for two in exchange for a review.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Top Tips for a DIY Wedding Cake

Readers, I know it’s a shock… but I baked recently.   It’s been a while. This was one ‘el of a bake.  Likely the biggest bake I’ve ever attempted.  Yes… it was a wedding cake.

Our lovely pals got married last weekend just outside Edinburgh.  For my international readers, it’s the capital city of Scotland.  It was a traditional Scottish wedding with kilts, pipers and toasts from a Quaich.   It also featured a very modern two tier buttercream wedding cake, with a Victoria sponge (for these purposes, named after our bride, not that Queen woman) and a vanilla sponge with coffee filling (the groom’s fav cake).

Anyway, as a fellow smug engaged person and with an army of people out there planning their own weddings, I thought I’d do you all the decency of sharing my top 10 tips for a DIY wedding cake.

All in, I went through so many emotions during this process but actually, the end result resembled a wedding cake. It was hoovered up by guests and it didn’t collapse.  In my eyes, that’s a victory for all the home bakers out there using their skills to make people happy.

two tier simple wedding cake

So in no particular order, here we go!

1. Don’t make your own cake.  Seriously. 

By all means, DIY, but find someone you know, like and trust to DIY it for you, either as a gift, or for mates rates.  Seriously, you’ve enough to worry about bride, nobody wants to spend the days in the run up to their own wedding measuring the heights of sponges.

2. Plan ahead

This was a godsend.  MAKE A TIMING PLAN.  3 months before the wedding I’d mapped out what I needed to buy, any equipment I was short of, how many days I needed to finish the cake and how I’d get it to the venue.  If you’re not sure how to tier layers, watch YouTube videos.  I cannot stress how important this stage is.

3. Freeze sponges

Nobody on the day came up to ask what day I made the sponges on.  Even as a two tier cake, there were 3 x 10in sponges and 3 x 8in sponges required.  Unless you’ve got an industrial oven at home, you’ll need a few days to make your sponges.  Leave plenty of time to cool them properly in the tins, finish on a cooling rack and when completely cold, wrap them in two layers of clingfilm, then a layer of tinfoil and store flat in the freezer.

Before starting to torte, fill and assemble, remove from the freezer, take off the tinfoil and defrost at room temperature still in the clingfilm.  Allow around 10 hours to defrost at room temperature.

4. Take measurements and make layers flat. 

You need each of your sponges to have a flat top.  Measure the heights of each and chop off any domed tops with a large serrated knife.  Saves you putting mountains of buttercream like plasterboard at the sides.

5. Buy a rotating turntable

Best £35 I’ve ever spent from Argos. Plug in, switch on and it rotates the cake for you.  Voila, two hands to get the frosting on with and to use your tools to make edges flat.

6. Don’t skip the crumb coat

Get your crumb coat on and in the fridge to set overnight.  This provides a nice even base for your frosting layer to go onto.  Worked a treat.

7. Use Lurpack butter and purple gel colouring

Wanting a pale ivory rather than an off yellow frosting?  Lurpack works well.  Beat the butter to make it smooth and if you need it a bit whiter after your buttercream is made, add in a few drops of purple gel colouring.  It’s cheaper than buying special whitener.  Add I slowly though, you don’t want lilac frosting, just enough to make it a bit paler.

8. Use scraping tools

Wanting a smooth finish, or a wavy edge… there’s tools available.  Silicone or plastic, smooth or wavy, you can buy edging tools.  Use them, nobody gets nice looking finishes by hand.

9. Provide your cake with the support it needs 

That cake weighed a lot.  Like your boobs, your cake needs a good support system.  Don’t scrimp on this bit, use a thick board on the base.   Learn how to use dowels.  I had these in the base, a thin board between each tier and used barbeque wooden skewers pushed down in three places in the top of the cake.  If you are worried about getting your dowels or skewers through the middle board, cut it in half and take half an inch off each side.  Leaves a gap in the middle to allow you to push your supporting dowels or skewers in.  GENIUS.

10. Transport carefully

Keep it somewhere cool – buttercream hates heat.  It was 27c on the day of the wedding (roasting for Scotland, cold for other readers) so we kept the cake in a cool place as long as we could before it went out on display.  Also, buy a proper tall cake box with a lid.  I got mine on Ebay and it provided me with a fitted, heavy edged box that I felt safe putting in the car.  No chance that cake was moving once it was cocooned inside.

For all of you making wedding cakes for family and friends, I'd love you to share your creations with me.  Good luck! 

Friday, 23 June 2017

Glasgow Living Part 20 – Blogger Event at Black Dove, Glasgow

Readers, apologies for the silence of recent.  May was incredibly busy and I was locked away (not literally) in the kitchen, prepping a wedding cake for friends.  The output was successful, but I’ll talk more about that separately in an upcoming post.

Last week I was delighted to be invited to the blogger event at Black Dove in Shawlands, to celebrate the launch of the new menu. For those of you who haven’t been yet, Black Dove does amazing small plate food for £5 a plate at lunch and £6 in the evening.  We were all invited along to try out some signature dishes, old favourites and newbies.  Black Dove are also famed for their delicious cocktail menu.
black dove new menu

It was lovely to get a squad of us together and I really enjoyed meeting some new faces at our table.  It ended up being a really sociable night – probably helped by the sharing plates we were given.

First out was a pork belly scotch egg served with chorizo jam and an apple salad.  It was delicious and although I’m not a big fan of eggs, I made sure to try it out!
scotch eggs black dove glasgow

In between courses, we tried a number of cocktails on the menu – if you are thinking of going, I’d highly recommend sampling the cocktails – Black Dove has a cracking mixologist behind the bar.

Another highlight for me was the ox cheek steak pie, sandwiched between buttery sheets of filo pastry.  The ox cheek was so tender, having been slow cooked for the dish.

A shout also needs to go to the slow cooked beef rending with crisp roti, kimchi and a yoghurt dressing.
lamb rump black dove glasgow
Lamp Rump (gluten free as well!)
However, the ultimate enjoyable experience were the dessert selections from the a la carte menu.  If you’re going for dinner, please, please keep room – even if you only sample one.  We tried a pineapple and raspberry layered dessert, a deconstructed cheesecake with homemade honeycomb and a chocolate pudding that melted in the middle, as soon as the spoon went in.   It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the deconstructed cheesecake probably just made first place!
dessert at black dove glasgow

dessert at black dove glasgow

You’ll find Black Dove on Kilmarnock Road in Shawlands – perfect for after work dining with a loved one, or for a small group celebratory dinner at the weekend.

For more info, visit their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was invited along to the event to sample the new menu.  Any opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Glasgow Living Part 18 – Brunch at Cau

Readers, I’m mixing things up for you!  I know I’m usually all about the dinners out in Glasgow, but today I’m doing brunch.  Oddly enough it’s the first time I’ve EVER been for brunch in town, considering I spend 5 days a week working there.

We went for a 10.30 brunch at Cau – the Argentinian steakhouse on the corner of Ingram Street and Queen Street near to GOMA.    I’ve walked past so many times but never realised they had a brunch menu as well as lunch and dinner.
brunch menu cau glasgow

We kicked off our brunch with homemade smoothies – I went for the Very Berry whilst Mr WhatClaireBaked went tropical.  Smoothies are £3.75 each, are made fresh and it’s a biiiiig glass you get.
brunch smoothies cau glasgow

Usually I’d go for something “cooked” on a Saturday morning and although it was a dreich day, I wasn’t really feeling it.  I decided to try the coal roasted peaches, which arrived warm and a little charred with granola, yoghurt, honey and fresh lime leaves on top.  Unable to resist the sight of pancakes on the menu *disclaimer these were on the KIDS menu - I ordered two with dulce de leche.
peaches granola cau glasgow

dulce de leche cau glasgow

Back in 2011, Mr WhatClaireBaked and I went on our first holiday together to South America and I tried dulce de leche for the first time.  Ever since, I’ve gone out of my way to try and find places to order it from!  They arrived hot and covered in sweet, sweet sauce.

Not forgetting my dining partner – he went for the flatbread with chorizo, caramelised onion and mozzarella flatbread at £6.95.

flatbread brunch cau glasgow

The menu is good value – the most expensive thing is the full breakfast at £9.95.   We were also recommended the steak and eggs, which hopefully I’ll try next time we go. Coffees are priced around £2.50 and there’s a kids menu, making Cau suitable for families out and about in the city on the weekend, looking for somewhere to go.

It was fairly quiet when we went in, but I can imagine a great lively atmosphere when the restaurant is full.  We did find the background music quite loud – but this is likely due to the quiet time we visited more than anything else.  The staff were really helpful and didn’t rush us and we really liked the contemporary interior and cool, modern furniture.  The glass walls to the front of the restaurant are also great for people watching.
interior cau glasgow

Cau brunch is served from 9am on weekends and to find out more about their Glasgow branch, visit their social pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclaimer:  I was provided brunch for two in exchange for a review.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Glasgow Living Part 17 – Mezze at The Rotunda, Glasgow

Readers, I’ve been back on the reviewing again this week.  To another new venue… that’s what I love about Glasgow.  We’ve been here nearly 2 years and I’m still discovering places almost weekly.  Granted, there are constantly new openings across the city, but even places that have been here for years, I’ve still not fallen over!

This week I visited Mezze at The Rotunda for the first time.  Around my point on falling over places, it’s probably not somewhere you would fall over.  The Rotunda (you’ve probably walked past it PURE LOADS of times) is right next to the SEC, The Armadillo and The SSE Hydro.  Making it perfect for somewhere to eat out before a gig.  Also, turns out if you go there for a pre-theatre, there’s free parking throughout the gig (limited spaces, so get there early) but it could solve a problem for you.  It’s a great place to go before something at either or the venues, or after it’s a matinee show you’re at… think panto.

The Rontunda has three levels, with different restaurants on each floor.  Mezze is tucked away at the top, with an amazing star gazer dome on the roof.  There’s windows around half of the circle, with views out over the Clyde and beyond on a clear day.  Which it was for our visit.

Our waitress advised us that the top floor had been a tapas bar a few years ago, which closed.  A full refurb followed and Mezze opened a few months ago.  It’s a fusion menu of greek and Turkish dishes, from the sea and from the land, with sides and desserts available. It’s a small plate style menu, designed for sharing between two, or a group.  We also had a window booth which was lovely.  We enjoyed looking out over the river whilst waiting on food.

Our night started with warmed pitta and tzatziki.  There is an option to order pitta and 3 dips to share, however, with the size of the dip pots (and the 6 dishes we ordered) our waitress was kind enough to do a small side of these for us.  I love pitta and I never manage to warm it at home without it going solid. 
Mezze’s dishes arrive as they are cooked, so don’t expect a starter and a main style sharing experience, it’s a free for all!
How amazing is the roof?!

 We enjoyed a few meat dishes including the chicken souvlaki (2 skewers) and the Turkish style kofta which came served on flatbread with a tomato sauce and sourced cream.  We moved on to the large fresh grilled prawns and sea bass fillets wrapped in foil.  Eating out doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Last night, the majority of dishes we had were light, grilled meats and fish served with salsas.   It’s great for people who are being healthy, but still want to go out and enjoy themselves.  We did get a bit cheesy… with courgette and feta fritters AND halloumi fries.
prawns at mezze glasgow

Halloumi is my ultimate guilty pleasure.  Previous posts, I‘ve mentioned how much I love cheese and halloumi, especially in battered fried form is my biggest indulgence.

chocolate salami mezze glasgow
We played it cool by having dessert between us, opting for chocolate salami.  Yes, you heard me.  Chocolate Salami.  Turns out I’m not the first person to ask what on earth this is.  In short, it’s chocolate and biscuits, in the style of a fridge cake, it’s rolled up into a log and sliced off like you would slices of salami.  The biscuit pieces resemble the fats of a salami sausage, and that my friends is a chocolate salami.  It came with ice cream and was a great end to our meal.

For more information on Mezze, visit their website or check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  

Disclaimer:  I was invited along to review Mezze in exchange for a meal.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Glasgow Living Part 16 – Dinner at Ibérica, Hope Street, Glasgow

Readers, it’s been a great few weeks visiting Glasgow restaurants various and sampling new menus, refurbs and openings.

Last Tuesday, the lovely Emma from Emma invited me as her plus one to the launch of the new menu at Ibérica in Glasgow.  Now, we can’t call these guys a chain – yes, they do have 6 venues south of the border, but their menus reflect what’s available locally, they’ve gone out of their way to source wines from small, unique wineries across Spain and we were in last week to see what their latest menu had to offer.

Ibérica’s internal PR lady was up from London – she’s been with them since Head Office was pretty much a back room operation, knows the role inside out and most of all, she’s passionate about the food they serve to customers.  She spent a great deal of time with us all on the night, which was appreciated.  It was my first visit to Ibérica Glasgow last week and I had a lovely time sampling and reviewing the new menu in their Glasgow branch which opened last year.

Our night kicked off with a trio of jamones (ham to the rest of us) served with a cheeseboard selection, breads and oils and the very welcomed cava.  We learned about the pigs and how some retailers aren’t always 100% truthful on their pigs, what they are fed on and what their heritage is.  It’s true, they all did taste slightly differently, clearly affected by what the pigs had been eating! 
iberica restaurant glasgow

Next, we moved on through to the private dining area – note, Ibérica is as formal as you want it to be.  They are encouraging small plates and drinks by the bar after work (like you’d do in Spain, enough of your formal dining Britain!) Or, if formality is more your thing, then the private dining area at the back accompanied around 12 people fairly comfortably.  Great for groups (or as I thought, a classy hen night dinner).
iberica restaurant glasgow

We started with a  selection from the new menu – my personal favourite was the baby carrot tempura with a homemade tartare sauce, which was divine.  We then got stuck into crispy cauliflower, octopus and a traditional salad.  All were served with a delicious white wine, which is only available at Ibérica restaurants – see my point above about the small independent wineries.
iberica restaurant glasgow

iberica restaurant glasgow

Next up, croquettes with ham – I learned these are so difficult to make properly and that the internal mix should be stirred for several hours to create the creamy texture properly.  I’ll keep this in mind for any future croquette eating… We had twice cooked lamb, chicken wings and pitu chicken and rice.  Don’t be fooled by the small plates… after 4 of these, you’re likely to be done and dusted!!!! These were all matched by a delicious Spanish red, again, only available at Ibérica.
iberica restaurant glasgow

I love dessert… and even after knocking myself out with everything apart from the Octopus, I saved a little space to sample both dessert offers –a little tasty oh so sweet, almost caramel tart served with mango sorbet. Trust me, it’s worth ordering. It’s really rich, but oh so delicious.  Then, to finish up, churros with a hot chocolate sauce.  My absolute favourite snack.  

Ibérica Glasgow was a really lovely experience.  The décor is very much my style, quite industrial, no fussy linens etc and I can see this being a great after work spot for dinner with colleagues.  Upshot… keen to go back! 

Disclaimer: I was invited along to Iberica to review their new menu.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Glasgow Living Part 15 – Dragon-i, Hope Street, Glasgow

Readers, told you it was a busy week of eating out last week! Second instalment of things I got up to.

The lovely Mark and Emma from Foodie Explorers got in touch with an invite to the VIP dinner at Dragon-i – celebrating the original owner Raymond’s return to the venue after a period of a number of years away.  The place is clearly incredibly special to him – heck, he even married his wife there.
As I discovered, Dragon I has a great name amongst locals. I’d no idea how many people knew about it.  It was my first time visiting – it’s right at the top of Hope Street, straight across from the Theatre Royal, for anyone looking to find it! 

The menu is Asian fusion – and for those of you with a keen interest in eating well, there’s dishes featuring macros (high protein for the non-fit amongst us) and even KALE features on a menu that specialises in Asian fusion.

The night kicked off with prosecco and chat, as Raymond introduced us to the concept of Dragon-i, his experience of falling out of love with the restaurant and then a longing to return to it.  It’s a family affair – his brother is behind the scenes creating some amazing dishes, whilst Raymond heads up front of house.  He’s passionate about creating an experience for diners, whilst living in the current age of today’s Instagrammers who want good looking food to shoot before they dig in!

I love some of the concepts – there’s retro for those who used to order numbers 5, 20 and 28 plus a prawn crackers on their Chinese menu, the healthy stuff and some great fusion dishes.  I started my meal with battered prawns topped with strawberry and a champagne syrup.   Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it folks.  IT WORKS.
dragon i glasgow

Next up, I went for duck with a plum sauce, green veg and pineapple. I swapped out the garlic infused rice for noodles.  I love noodles.  Staple comfort food and a good chance I was Asian in a previous life…

dragon i glasgow

I always do this thing of saying I’ll refuse dessert.  Then it never happens.  Not when there was a crispy pancake on offer filled with various berries.  It arrived resembling a giant spring roll and was so delicious.   Unlike me, I only made it halfway through dessert, after overindulging on the two previous courses alongside several glasses of wine…
dragon i glasgow

Dragon-i was a great dining experience – it’s a perfect setting for dinner with friends or as a couple.   Find out more by visiting their social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Dragon-i for an exclusive dining events. Any opinions expressed are my own.