Sunday, 19 November 2017

A quiet one

Not much to report this week - we’ve had a fairly quiet weekend to make up for the rest of the year looking pretty busy! I’m looking forward to all the busyness, though I’ve yet to work out when I’m fitting in Christmas shopping 😏
No cycling this week, just a couple of beers and a cafe trip. On Friday night I enjoyed a bottle of Campfire Porter by Box Social, a sweet, coffee porter that was delicious but didn’t quite hit the toasted marshmallow it promised. They have pretty much the most hipster branding I’ve seen (in a crowded field) but I’ll let them off since they’re based in Newburn 😉
I fancied something lighter on Saturday night to go with tea, so picked up a bottle of Good Times by Williams Brothers, who are one of the bigger, more established independent breweries I know of, with a pretty wide range of beers available in supermarkets and decent pubs you wouldn’t associate with ‘craft beer’ as such. Their Heather ale, Fraoch, is one of my favourites, even if I’m never confident on the pronunciation! I hadn’t tried this one before, but it turned out to be a good choice. A lightly floral pale golden ale, it complemented the spinach and ricotta cannelloni we had very well. I do like their label designs:
As an aside, even this supermarket purchase worked out at (I think) about 75p per unit, so well above the Scottish Government’s minimum unit price of 50p, and that was despite being on a price offer. It’s obviously a controversial policy but one I fully support, probably more robustly than was really necessary on social media to be honest. It is baffling to see dyed in the wool lefties making the same arguments against it as the Adam Smith Institute, and Rod Liddell on Question Time, but I think it shows how entrenched heavy drinking is in certain quarters.  Unsurprisingly, I have a reputation for being a beer lover, but the actual amount I drink is well within what’s considered healthy limits, so it’s been eye opening realising what some people think of as moderate alcohol intake...

Today we wandered into town for coffee and cake. Empire State Coffee must have been open a couple of years now, but this was our first visit. I’ve bought takeaway coffee from their new cafe in Broughty Ferry, so had an idea what to expect, plus I suspect it’s run by the same folk as the ‘secret’ bar! Downstairs was busy so we ordered and found a table upstairs. I’ve never been to the States, so I couldn’t say whether they succeed at creating a New York vibe, but the carrot cake was decent enough, and I enjoyed my chai latte. It was certainly busy. We might have to back for pizza, which they serve in the evening.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Winter cycling

Just been looking at photos and realised I didn't post last week, so this will be a two weeks for the price of one post.
It's definitely turned cold, but we've been lucky to have two consecutive weekends of the kind of crisp, sunny November weather that make you want to wrap up warm and get outside - or is that just me? Dave was full of cold last weekend, so on Saturday afternoon I took myself off for a wander into Broughty Ferry for a nosy round the shops. I did take a couple of photos for the black and white photo challenge that's currently doing the rounds:

Sunday looked promising weatherwise so I decided to get the bike out and do a ride I've not done in a while - Carrot Hill. It's a bit of a killer but figured it would be worth it to get some nice autumnal photos. I hadn't really accounted for the bitingly cold north wind, which certainly added to the challenge! I bumped into a friend from work in the car park at the top - she'd been for a walk with the family so good to know I wasn't the only one braving the cold! I considered stopping for a coffee at Dobbies but by the time I got there it was so close to lunch time I just headed sraight home.

Curried spinach and egg with pitta bread from the Hairy Dieters veggie cook book - I'll defintely be making this again as it was really tasty! I stood for ages at the junction of the road down to Dobbies watching a flock of geese flying around and making a right old racket. You can probably just make them out in the first picture, in front of Dundee Law. I've had a cold all week, but I think I would have caught it off Dave whether or not I'd gone out cycling in the cold!
Sunday was 5th November so we headed along to Baxter Park for the fireworks:

Dave was feeling better today so we cycled over to Fife for lunch at a new cafe that's opened up just near Tentsmuir Forest. Dave had been before with the bike club, but I missed that ride so it was my first visit. It's in a converted barn, and they've kept it pretty rustic looking. It was lovely and cosy, and busy with walkers and cyclists when we arrived. I had a tasty sausage and egg roll, followed by a slice of coffee cake, and my first gingerbread latte of the season!

We'd opted for a circular route, going through Newport and Wormit then on to St Michaels and Leuchars, but we hadn't factored in the Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Newport, which meant we were diverted up a bit of a steep hill - good job I've had my bike serviced and the gears are working well! The wind had picked up by the time we set off back through Tayport, so the ride back over the Tay road bridge was a bit of a slog - I was definitely glad to get home for a cuppa and a hot shower!
On the beer front, I've reached that time of year when I mostly drink porters and other dark beers, and I've had some good ones from the stash I picked up last time we were in Newcastle.

The top one's a salted caramel porter and the Sublime Chaos is a coffee laden breakfast stout. Both quite sweet and creamy. I should say I drank them a week apart - I think  they'd be a bit much to drink in one sitting!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Blinded by the light

Just back from a distinctly autumnal bike ride. We didn't set off till 3ish, so the ride back from Monifieth was almost entirely into a low, autumn sun. Glorious, but a bit tricky actually seeing where you're going!

It was a little breezy when we set off but Broughty Ferry Harbour was like a millpond by the time we passed. We stopped at the Bay Diner for a hot drink - this has been a regular stop in the past, but as most of our rides this year have been either in Fife, or heading West we hadn't been in at all this year. It's a handy stop off for a shorter ride though, so now that the clocks have gone back we might manage one or two more trips before the end of the year!

After last weekend's epic Brewdogathon you'd think it would be the last place I'd want to go, but I had a voucher for beer and pizza that was at risk of running out unused, so we headed down for tea on Friday night. It's not often I have their 'headliner' beers, apart from Jet Black Heart, but the deal was a pizza each, with either a bottle of prosecco to share or a headliner flight each. I went with Dead Pony Club, Kingpin lager, 5am Saint and Jet Black Heart to go with my White Trash pizza - a four cheese pizza with spinach and walnuts. I'm not generally a lager drinker, but of the four beers, the Kingpin went best with the pizza - a clean, crisp lager, without a bunch of hops to compete with the flavour of the cheese. I'd have to say, my tastes must have changed since I first checked in Dead Pony Club on untappd as I don't think I'd give it 4/5 any more. It's fine - just not to my taste.
They did still have some collabfest beers left so I had another fumin' lou for the road. I could have gone with the sour cherry porter they had left too, but we made the sensible decision to go and get the bus instead!
It's not a pretty beer, but it's darn tasty!

There used to be a hotel and restaurant about half an hours walk away that we went to a few times before it closed. It's since been converted to flats, so when my friend messaged me to say they were having an open viewing on the last available flat I couldn't resist going to have a look! Going by the position we figured out it was in what would have been the kitchen. Nicely done but tiny. Not that we're looking to move any time soon, but it would have been far too compact for us anyway. A kitchen/diner/lounge the size of our living room would be fine in a holiday apartment but not to live in full time.  Of course, the main reason we went was because it's only another 10 minutes walk to Jessie's Kitchen, and we hadn't had lunch there in ages. I had a very nice tuna melt followed by a slice of toffee victoria sponge - no need for a big evening meal after that! Even found a hipster cycling magazine to read 😁

We bought a stash of interesting beers when we were down in Newcastle to celebrate my youngest brother's wedding, and one of them was slightly out of date, so I obviously had to drink that whilst watching the Strictly Halloween special. The beer - a sweet, creamy, white coffee stout lived up to expectations better than Strictly, which was a bit of an anti climax compared to some past halloween episodes.

Sunday, 22 October 2017


Well hello there - it's been a while! I seem to have lost my blogging mojo over the last few weeks, but this weekend was Brewdog's annual celebration of beery cooperation, collabfest, and this is supposed to be partially a beer blog so I'm back.

This year's collabfest was the biggest so far with 34 bars and breweries collaborating to bring us new, interesting beers.  It was also the first to include some of Brewdog's overseas bars with Berlin, Malmo, Kungsholmen and Sodermalm joining the party.

The full list of breweries and bars is here.  I managed 14 out of the 34 over the course of the weekend, though I'll admit 8 on Friday night made for a challenging day on Saturday 😬

Not all mine...

So here goes with the reviews, in chronological order, complete with possibly slightly inconsistent untappd scores....

I kicked off proceedings with There's Saison About Mary from Affinity Brew Co/Shoreditch, and it certainly had a massive kick of chilli. Not so much to mask the slight farmhouse funk of the saison, but I don't think I'd manage more than 1/3 of this. 3.5/5

Next up was Fubarb from Ridgeside/Leeds. This was one of my favourites - a rhubarb and custard sour. Plenty of rhubarb flavour but with just the right amount of sweetness to take the edge off. The untappd reviews describing this as like rhubarb and custard sweets are spot on. 4/5

No Smoke without Sour from Lovibonds/Oxford had to be one of the best looking beers of the weekend. Another high scorer - absolutely laden with sour cherry but with hints of smoke and liquorice, making it a really interesting beer. I'd say the dryest beer of the weekend too, and it would probably pair well with a good dark chocolate pudding. 4/5

The final beer of the first flight was Fumin' Lou from Northern Monk/North Street Leeds, and takes us from the prettiest beer of the weekend to a seriously manky looking beer! Described as a gingerbread ice cream brown ale with vanilla this was the one I was most looking forward to, and it didn't disappoint. A rich, creamy, spicy beer with a slight nod to last year's Christmas offering from Northern Monk, Festive Star, it was the second glass of this later in the night that did for me I think! I'm all for cloudy beers, but maybe not when it's brown to start with...4.25/5
At this point the sensible thing to do would have been to call it a night, but with so many interesting sounding beers to pick from we all went for a second flight. Between the three of us we weren't far off managing all 12 of the first night's offerings.

From murky brown to clear and pale, my next choice was a Passionate Morning Cuppa from Brewheadz/Camden - a passionfruit and keemun tea oatmeal pale ale. The oatmeal gave this light, fruity beer a really smooth finish. The balance of sweetness from the passionfruit and dry tannins from the tea was spot on - very refreshing. 3.75/5
One of the surprises of the weekend was The floor is Java from Black Lodge/Liverpool. This may be heresy for a Brewdog event, but I don't actually like IPAs as a rule. This black IPA had so much coffee in it, along with treacly malt that it almost wasn't an IPA. Yes it was hoppy, but the hops didn't dominate in the way they usually do in an IPA. I'm sure there are debates to be had about these mash up style beers - when does a black IPA become a porter? Is a white stout actually a pale? However, that's a level of beer nerdery I'm not really ready for! 4/5

Next up was the local entry - Collaborator by 71/Dundee, which wins the prize for least imaginative name if nothing else! 71 mostly brew lager type beers so this doppelbock was maybe a gamble for them. It was a solid malty beer you could enjoy after wandering around a Christmas market in Germany, but a bit unexceptional amongst the big flavours of some of the other collabs. 3.25/5

Finally came the big beast we'd all been working up to - a 12% monster from Fierce/Aberdeen in what I suspect is a case of keeping your friends close and the competition closer! Their moose mousse session chocolate porter is fab, and this Very Big Moose is the Imperial version. Sweet vanilla, warm cinnamon and a serious amount of chocolate make for a very special beer, up there with Stone Xocoveza and Tempest Mexicake - delicious but definitely to be enjoyed in small doses...

As Saturday came around I wasn't convinced I'd be ready for round 2, but a lorne and cheese roll for lunch, then lasagne and garlic bread for tea almost sorted me out.
All the same, it seemed like a sensible idea to start with one of the lightest beers of the weekend, Fountain Mountain from Fyne Ales/Out of Town/Glasgow - so a double collaboration. Grisette isn't a style you see very often (yet), and I enjoyed the last one I tried. This one was very lemony, and would definitely make a good summer beer. Quite dry too, so maybe a good one to introduce the prosecco crowd to! Looks darker than I remember. 3.5/5

Next up was a beer aiming at the cocktail market, Sex out of reach by Fallen/Stirling. A peach, cranberry and orange witbier with an almost perfumy taste. Not unpleasant, but definitely unusual. The combination of flavours meant it tasted more like fruit jelly sweets than a cocktail 3.5/5

Dutch Udder from Brighton Bier/Brighton was a bit of an oddity. It was described as a Flemish Milk Stout, and certainly looked like a stout, but was sweet with a fizzy flavour, and not much of the creaminess you'd expect from a milk stout 2.5/5
Last up for Saturday night was a white stout, Nuclear Nuts from Black Iris/Nottingham. I'll admit I took too long to get to this one so it wasn't as chilled as it should have been. Having said that, it was a really interesting beer with the pistachio giving more of a fruity than nutty flavour - fair play though, it did taste like ice cream. Given the chance I'd like to try this ice cold and without the remains of a hangover 3.75/5
Going easy on Saturday meant I was able to round off the weekend with a Sunday afternoon trip to try a couple of the beers we missed on Saturday afternoon (they rotated at 5pm and we didn't make it till closed to 8pm).
Risk:Cherry Stone from Redchurch/Soho was the second cherry beer of the weekend, and this time it was a straight up sour. Bags of sour cherry flavour - this reminded me of the Cherry Gose I had at Howling Hops back in May, and Dave even liked it, despite not being keen on anything that gets too close to being blackforest gateau. 4/5

Finally, another one I'd been looking forward to so was glad they had some left, Cookie Dough by Siren/Clerkenwell. Described as a cookie dough white stout, I was expecting more chocolate and vanilla but mostly got the Rum barrel aged coffee - no bad thing but I don't think the beer quite matched the name. To be fair, any white stout I try has the unenviable task of competing with Westwood by Ilkey which was the collabfest champion beer a couple of years ago and is pretty much my desert island (or should that be dessert Island - it's definitely a pudding beer!). 4.25/5.

So there you have it. I'll be interested to see which beer has 'won' collabfest and whether it's one I tried. There were some crackers and not to many duds, so here's to collabfest 2018 - cheers!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Anyone for hip hop brunch?

I’ve been pretty busy at work this week so it was nice to follow it up with a pretty chilled out weekend. On Friday night I finally got round to cracking open the can of Common Grounds I’ve had in the fridge for a while now. A triple coffee porter made with 7 different malts and 7 different coffees, it’s one of the sweetest, creamiest coffee beers I’ve had -  not my first can, and hopefully not my last!

Magic Rock really know what they’re doing when it comes to can art!
Yesterday I went to a yoga workshop called ‘From movement to stillness’. Well, the first hour was yoga, the second hour was ‘sound meditation’. I have to be honest, I go to yoga for the stretching and strength building, not so much the spiritual enlightenment, so I can’t say I connected with the vibrations of Mother Earth, but it was quite relaxing!
Today I went with a more conventional bit of chilling - we wandered into town for brunch at a place I’ve heard good things about but not yet visited. Bird and bear is a cocktail bar with a food menu, and at the weekend they do a ‘hip hop brunch’. I’m not exactly into hip hop, but I suspect Mr B himself would approve of  the old school beats being spun by the resident DJ. I say spun, but the record player may have been for show 😉. Just the right level of laid back for anyone nursing a hangover I’d imagine! The chorizo hash I had would no doubt help too! It was no surprise to discover the artwork on the menus was by local artist Whimsical Lush - with the birdcages and intricate copper pipe work walking in felt a little like walking into one of her drawings 😊

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lost in (90's) music

No blog post last week as we had company, and this week's is going to be a little different too! I could write a review of the Italian restaurant I went to on Friday - Bellini. The lasagne was as good as you're going to get in Dundee, and this was the panna cotta:
Complete with ice cream, strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce, wacking great slice of pineapple and Italian flag on a cocktail stick, naturally. The whole experience had a vaguely retro feel, in part because of the above, but also because my earliest culinary adventures would've been quite likely to involve an Italian restaurant, which would have felt like the height of sophistication back in the 1990's but felt oddly provincial on this occasion. I would put that more down to the specific restaurant rather than Italian restaurants in general!
Of course, it's also possible it was more to do with the 90's vibe that's been following me around this week after getting involved with a Facebook post that posed the question 'what's the best album of the 90's', which should have come with the subtitle 'how to lose an entire Saturday evening reminiscing about he music of your youth'. The 90's took me from 14 to 24, so included a fair chunk of school as well as my uni years, saw me in nightclubs infrequently but more than any other decade, and covers the vast majority of my cd collection. As such, it would be impossible to pick just one album to represent the decade, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some people liked my suggestion of Slight Return by the Bluetones! Anyway, I've whiled away some time today compiling a list, not of the 'best' albums of the nineties necessarily , but 20 that featured heavily in my version of the nineties - enjoy!
At the start of the 90's most of my music collection consisted of albums I'd borrowed from the library and taped, using my faithful 'ghetto blaster', so my taste in music was influenced by whoever bought in music for Gateshead libraries! Hence I'm including:
1. 3 years, 5 months and 2 days in the life of...Arrested Development. I have a very specific memory of listening to this in the car on the way to record my part for a cassette of traditional North East folk music all played by young people - an odd experience, made all the stranger by the fact that the recording studio was in the same place where they filmed a famous scene from Byker Grove: "Duncan man, I'm blind!" There's a test of your age....
2. Levelling the Land, The Levellers. I moved in folky circles in the early 90's and everyone had this - I can smell the incense and see the tie dye just thinking about this album, but it has some great tracks if you can cope with the didgeridoo interludes!
3. Everyone Else is doing it, so why can't we, The Cranberries. Their debut album and the first cd I owned, after winning a competition in the local free paper - the prize was 3 cd's from Windows music shop in Newcastle. I had to wait till Christmas to get a CD player to play them on....
4. Woodface, Crowded House, another one from the library. Four seasons in one day, and weather with you probably got overplayed at the time but there are some great witty lyrics on the album, and the harmonies are fantastic.
5. Automatic for the People, R.E.M. This was tricky picking which of their albums to include but this one takes me back to 6th form and endless debates about what Michael Stipe was actually singing on Man on the Moon. 25 years after the album came out and I'm still not sure!
6. Electric Landlady, Kirsty Maccoll, and not just for the cheeky title! She suffered crippling stage fright and didn't perform live for a long time, so I feel incredibly lucky to have seen her play the Heineken Festival in Leeds in 1995, along with the Pogues, and yes she did join them for a rendition of Fairytale of New York, even though it was the middle of summer.
7. Different Class, Pulp, who headlined the above festival. I always preferred Jarvis Cocker's slightly sleazy kitchen sink dramas to Oasis's swagger, and Blur's cheeky mockney act, but all three bands take me back to the ground floor of my favourite Edinburgh nightclub of yore, the Mission. Which leads me neatly on to
8. Dookie,  by Green Day. I'm not a fan of their later stuff, and the idea of a Green Day musical makes me cringe, but Basketcase on the dance floor of a sweaty rock club in 1995 was just perfect. To be replaced a year later by
9. Garbage's eponymous album, and specifically Stupid Girl. Shirley Manson is still one of the coolest women on the planet, and in a world of grunge was a welcome injection of glamour.
10. How to make friends and influence people by Terrorvision is another one from that era, showing that rock can be joyfully silly if it wants to be. I'm sure we even had a dance routine going to Perseverance...
11. Trailer Park, Beth Orton. Uni wasn't all about nights out - I bought this album off the back of hearing She Cries Your Name on the radio, and played it pretty incessantly to be honest. It adds a folky edge to the more electronic and trip hop stuff that was around at the time, which is why it makes the list over Portishead or Massive Attack.
12. Glow by Reef. Cornish surf rock shouldn't really appeal to me, but I do love Reef and this is one of three of their albums in my possession. I saw them play live and witnessed the bass play almost lose his trousers in a crowd surfing incident. They're pretty cheesy, but who doesn't like a bit of cheese now and then?
13. Fin de Siecle by Divine Comedy. I once walked past Neil Hannon in the Pleasance Courtyard at the Edinburgh Fringe - he's surprisingly tiny! He's also a genius lyricist, which is why I love this album.
14. Saturnalia, the Wedding Present. Not their most popular album, but it was the one I heard first, and still listen to fairly often. Rather like fellow Northener Jarvis Cocker, I reckon David Gedge would make a terrible boyfriend, but you can't beat a bit of passive aggression in a 'love song'. We saw them live for the first time this year, and my ears were still ringing days later!
15. Exile on Coldharbour Lane, Alabama 3. A bit of an oddity, that would have disappeared into obscurity if it hadn't beeen for the Sopranos using 'Woke up this morning'. Haven't listened to it in ages, but it's pretty funky.
16. Music for the Jilted Generation, the Prodgy. I've never really been into dance music as such, but there was a point in the mid 90s where there was some really exciting stuff happening in the crossover between rock, indie and dance music. I could have gone with Chemical Brothers, or even Fatboy Slim, but Prodigy were the masters. I was only briefly into them, but at my brother's wedding I did discover that one of his mates credited me with getting him into Prodigy and he's still a massive fan. I was quite tickled at the thought that I was the cool older sibling, providing a gateway to great music!
17. Screamadelica, Primal Scream, falls into the same kind of space to be honest. I was a bit late to the party and didn't buy this album till probably after the 90s, but it's considered a classic for a reason.
18. Become What You Are, Juliana Hatfield Three. As well as all the British Indie stuff that was around, there was same great college radio coming over from America whilst I was at uni, including some fanatstic female fronted bands like Belly and the Breeders. This album makes the list because the girl who borrowed this from me during freshers week was one of my best mates throughout uni, so I guess it was a pretty important one.
19. Expecting to Fly, Bluetones. This one takes me back to the student union, but actually I do still listen to it more than a lot of albums from that era.
20. Going for Gold, Shed Seven.  I know, I know - I've missed off Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, and any number of other legendary 90s bands, but I was never that cool and besides I've always been a sucker for the underdog so yes, I will admit I prefer Shed Seven to the Stone Roses - it's probably an East vs West thing.

So that's a fairly random selection. If you asked me another day it would be a different list but that's what I've come up with today!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Busy, busy, busy...

So, that quiet week of just decorating the kitchen I had planned....
I did paint the kitchen, and it looks much better if I do say so myself, though I really should have done proper before and after pics:

That's the gist - it's not quite finished, as I wasn't really up for pulling out the fridge to do that corner when we're planning on replacing it soon anyway, so I'll finish it then. Of course I now have my eyes on the dark varnished woodwork in the bedroom for my next project!
Between trips to the shops for gubbins and the time it takes to paint a kitchen I didn't fit in any cycling during the week, but Saturday turned out nice so we rode along to East Scryne for ice cream on Saturday afternoon. They'll be coming to the end of their season soon so that's my excuse for going back so soon after my last trip!
We were probably a little later setting off than planned thanks to a couple of beers on Friday night. I had a weizen called Tropical Ralphie from an Amsterdam brewery, Two Chefs. I'm not sure if the fact the brewery is owned by two former chefs is a factor, but it did go nicely with my pizza!

I followed that with a cherry goze, from Victory Beer, an American brewery with quite a long history as far as craft beer goes. Definitely a hint of cherry bakewell about this one, though not too sweet thankfully! I'd say it was actually a bit pinker than it looks in the picture...
After a week of painting I decided to treat myself to a cinema trip on Friday. The independent cinema in town was showing Moon dogs, a Scottish/Welsh/Irish produced coming of age road trip comedy. It was either going to be terrible or brilliant, and I'm pleased to report I really enjoyed it. The Anton Newcombe soundtrack helped - music could make or break a film like this, and the shots of Up Helly Aa were well done. And the best bit? I had enough points on my loyalty card to get in for free - bonus!
Now for the unexpected turn of twitter profile must have me marked as a beer and cycling type - funny that eh? During the week, someone tagged me into a post about a competition Adnams were running for VIP hospitality tickets for the Tour of Britain road cycling race. As the opening stage started in Edinburgh I thought why not give it a go, and what do you know? On Friday I got an email from them to say I'd won two tickets for the breakfast club! The only slight downside is that we had to leave here at 7am to get there, but it was worth the early start. As well as a complimentary breakfast and programme we got a prime spot by the start line, so now I have about 200 photos of men in lycra, including Cav and Geraint Thomas - one for the cycling fans there!

Just a small selection there! Of course this was also the opening weekend for the Queensferry Crossing, so we drove across the Forth Road Bridge, probably for the last time, whilst hundreds of people got to walk across the new bridge before it opens to traffic.

So much for a quiet week, but we've had a great time today, and now I'm off for an early night!