Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Yin & Gin!

It was bound to happen.. combining two major loves of my life and helpfully, they even rhyme! 😂

I finished my Yoga Teacher Training, focusing on Yin Yoga... so what better than to mix it up with some Gin tasting?!
The lovely Rachael from Panda Yoga Edinburgh, who has been a driving force behind me finally doing my YTT and getting me started on the road to teaching, was once again the motivation to make Yin & Gin a reality. (It helps that we did our YTT together and she also loves gin!)
I reached out to Solid Liquids (they're the people behind Juniper Festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow) to ask if they might know someone I could approach to help with some gin tasting notes and they offered to work with us and host the gin tastings! Never one to turn down help from experts in the field, I jumped at the opportunity.

So on a slightly grey chilly evening at the end of March, a group of gin loving yogis got together for an hour of chillaxin' yin.
Followed by 45 mins of gin tasting with Jamie from Solid Liquids.. We even managed to make a non-gin lover admit she liked the gin!

Our inaugural event was such a hit, we've decided to hold these classes monthly and hope to expand to other spirit tastings in future. We know not everyone​ shares our love of gin! (Though we think gin is like whisky.. there's so many out there, there's bound to be one you like.. You just need to try more gin! 😃)

You can find my yogi antics on Instagram under @yogawithcaz. I'll hopefully get some regular classes up and running once I'm back in Edinburgh, keep an eye on IG for updates!
Solid Liquids also hold Juniper Cruises, Beer Union Cruises and Whisky & Cheese cruises along the Union Canal. I've yet to check out the Whisky & Cheese cruise but have had two fantastic days out on the Juniper and Beer Union Cruises!

Read about my day out on Juniper Cruise here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ticket Giveaway! Christmas Foodies Festival 2016 at EICC

**We have FIVE pairs of tickets to give away for Christmas Foodies Festival**
Check twitter @cazmonkeysround to win!

Shared Items:0Foodies at the Festival:FOODIES 2016:Showguides:9. Alexandra Palace:Editorial:Chef Images :Jane Devonshire  images 2:Jane - crop press.jpgShared Items:0Foodies at the Festival:01 Foodies Magazine: 082 October 2016:Images:CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL:resize michael brem.jpg

Following up on last year’s success, Foodies Festival Christmas returns to Edinburgh’s EICC on the 25th, 26th and 27th of November.

This festive season the Chefs Theatre boasts a stellar line up, including Masterchef 2016 Winner Jane Devonshire, who’ll be cooking up her favourite family Christmas recipes for guests for the first time. Plus, Great British Menu star Michael Bremner will prepare his beautifully executed mackerel dish, ‘A Message to the Lode Star’, which earned him an unequivocal 10/10 on the show and left veteran judge and two Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford in tears.

Acclaimed chefs sharing their top tips for a tasty Christmas alongside Jane and Michael include:

Michael Bremner - Scottish Regional Champion Great British Menu 2016
Jane Devonshire - MasterChef Winner 2016
Marcello Tully – Michelin-starred Chef at Kinloch Lodge in Skye
Brian Grigor – Michelin-starred Chef at Number One at The Balmoral
Jamie Scott – MasterChef: The Professionals Winner & The Newport
Adam Newth - Scottish Young Chef of the Year Winner & The Tayberry
Scott Davies – The Three Chimneys
Mark Greenaway - Restaurant Mark Greenaway
Stuart Ralston - Aizle
Tony Rodd - MasterChef Finalist 2015
Neil Forbes - Cafe Marlayne
Three Sisters Bake - Authors, Bakers & Chefs
Paul Wedgwood - Wedgwood Restaurant
Fraser Allen – The Pompadour by Galvin

In the Cake & Bake Theatre, Burlesque Baker Charlotte White will create a modern showstopper of a Contemporary Christmas Cake in just 30 minutes (with not a plastic Santa in sight!), while master chocolatier Fiona Sciolti showcases a new selection of chocolate desserts and treats, as well as introducing her newest seasonal delights including Churros with delicious festive toppings.

In the Drinks Theatre, Champagne expert Neil Philips and wine experts Charles Metcalfe and Brian Elliot introduce their favourite tipples for Christmas, while Melissa Cole gives guided craft beer tastings. There’s also gin, whisky and Christmas Cocktail masterclasses on offer, so there’s a workshop to suit every taste!

To get in the festive spirit, visitors can also attend one of the brand new series of 12 Christmas Top Tip practical masterclasses which cover a range of activities, from learning the perfect way to curate a festive cheeseboard, to whipping up a Christmas spiced ice cream, and mastering the best techniques for curing salmon.

An Artisan Christmas Market introduces top producers selling a whole host of locally made delights, including cheeses, chutneys, oils, Christmas hampers and gifts, while the Pudding Hall offers up artisan macaroons, cupcakes and sweet seasonal treats.

To keep you satisfied while you explore, there will be range of international and award-winning Street Food stalls showcasing tasty snacks including calamari, steamed pork buns, macaroni cheese and Creole delights.

For younger foodies, the Elves Cookery School offers tutorials in Gingerbread man baking and Christmas Cookie decorating to keep everyone entertained.

The party spirit will be kept up all day long with vintage-style singers and Christmas Carollers providing entertainment on the Live Music Stage. Plus, to add to the fun, daring visitors can take part in daily events like the Chilli Eating Competition and test their sweet tooth with the Mince Pie Eating Contest, as well as team up to compete in the Christmas Quiz and Charades Relays.

Tickets are on sale now at foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111
All children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Date, Venue & Opening Times:
Edinburgh EICC, Friday Nov 25th, 5pm - 9pm
Edinburgh EICC, Saturday Nov 26th, 10am - 6pm
Edinburgh EICC, Sunday Nov 27th, 10am - 5pm

xx Caz

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Review: Edinburgh Coffee Festival 2016

Having missed the inaugural Edinburgh Coffee Festival last year, I was excited to get along to this year's event held at Summerhall as it had outgrown Mansfield Traquair. Previous engagements meant I arrived quite late and had missed all the talks and workshops which was a shame.

I was assured the coffee cocktail workshop involved many delicious cocktails, so will have to look out for that returning next year!

It was great to chat to some familiar faces, such as Mr Eion and the folk at Burr & Co. where I'd recently been for a lovely lunch. As well as get to meet some new faces, such as the folk behind Alfie, who are using an air drum roasting technique. It was one of the cleanest cups of coffee I've tasted, will definitely be ordering from the website when I next run out of beans!

Really enjoyed chatting to the folk at Johan & Nystrom from Sweden. Their limited edition Gigisa Lot5 was fantastic as was their bottled iced teas! Their loose leaf tea tins were adorable but unfortunately not for sale at the festival.

They weren't the only ones there offering both coffee & tea, Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company also had their wares on show. Tea lovers were not left wanting though as Pekoe Tea and Shibui Tea both had impressive selections to taste and choose from.

Tasty Buns Bakery were pretty much sold out of treats by the time I got there, but I did sneak an amaretti biscuit which was divine! Luckily Pinnes & Poppyseeds still had a healthy supply of Pumpkin Spice Caramel Cups to satiate my sweet cravings. The Chocolate Tree and The Marshmallow Lady were also on hand to supply sweet treats.

Rost were there with their food truck but I couldn't pass on a burger from Jones & Sons!

Overall, I had a fantastic couple of hours at the festival, even if my companion did throw a cup of coffee over me! Will hopefully have more time to explore next year. Although it was apparently much busier earlier in the day and it was difficult to actually stop and speak to exhibitors, so maybe arriving late had its perks!

xx Caz

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Solid Liquids Juniper Cruise

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know a few weeks ago on an insanely sunny Sunday I was drinking gin on a canal boat.

That's because I'd been invited as a guest on a Juniper Cruise by Solid Liquids.
They're the people behind Edinburgh's Juniper Festival if you need reassurance of their qualifications!

It was a great opportunity to find out about some new gins!

Really enjoyed the Martin Miller and Rock Rose is already a firm favourite. Nice to taste Crossbill Gin with the new Walter Gregor tonic and ginger was a nice twist.

First time tasting the lo-cal Minus 33, not a very robust gin on its own, but certainly good in a cocktail. Sometimes even if the gin is familiar, the tonic gets to be the new kid and this was the case with Daffy's paired with Fentiman's 19:05 Herbal Tonic.

 Lovely Day for a cruise. My first trip this far down the canal!

There's a small pitstop after they turn the boat around and a chance for a quick walk to stretch the legs or for a cheeky smoke break.

Solid Liquids are great hosts and really know their stuff when it comes to gins.
The menu will change so even if you're thinking, well I've tried all those gins before, you might get something different on another cruise!


No complaints about drinking gin on a canal boat on a sunny day!
They run the cruises regularly, so check their website for details and get booked on soon!!
xx Caz

Monday, 27 July 2015

Film Review: The True Cost

Earlier in the week, I tweeted that I'd managed to buy a maxi dress at a high street 'fast fashion' store for £1. Yes, ONE singular pound. While part of me congratulated myself on scoring a great bargain, another part of me thought, that's barely worth the piece of cardboard the price tag's printed on. HOW is it possible that I'm able to buy this for a pound?!?

On Saturday, I saw "The True Cost" at the National Museum as part of Edinburgh Fashion Festival and was blown away by how little I knew and how little I'd thought about where my clothing comes from. I've always been aware of the social/ethical aspect of clothing with regard to sweatshops and cheap labour but I really had limited knowledge about the environmental impact.

I was aware that we throw away a lot of textiles from conversations with my friend Yaz, who has started up Awkward Chat in Australia and is all about up-cycling and getting people to initiate conversations and start thinking about where their clothing comes from, the people who have made it and where it ends up when we're done with things. But I was still surprised to see it in visual terms. The sheer amount of textiles that are sitting in landfills... slowly releasing toxic chemicals into the air over the 200 years it takes to break down and 'biodegrade'.

The most surprisingly thing for me was the cotton farms and growers. This is a part of the manufacturing process I think very few people think about. Where the fibres actually come from that make our clothing. Many of us are all very aware of buying organic fruit and veg and locally sourced meat etc. and we feel these things are important because we're physically putting these things into our bodies. But how have none of us thought about the origins of the things we put ON our bodies? I'm sure most of us have seen 'Organic Cotton' tags on clothes in certain shops, but like me, you've probably never stopped to think about what that actually means.

I never realised that cotton farms are blanket sprayed with pesticides from airplanes in many parts of Texas (and one has to assume it's the same the world over). Which may not mean a lot but when you think of all those chemicals being absorbed by the soil which grows food and leeching into the water supply, it starts to get a bit scary. That so many people are getting sick in those areas cannot be unrelated.

Another shocking thing for me was the statistic about the suicide rate of cotton farmers in India. It's absolutely staggering that no one knows this is going on. The health issues of people who live close to the tanneries in India where there is just no regulation about the chemicals which are dumped into the water is heart-breaking.

Of course there was also talk about the tragedy at Rana Plaza and the abysmal conditions that people are forced to work in, with argument on the other side that 'if these people didn't work in these factories, they could be doing a lot worse things'. Well, although that may be true, is that really good enough?

How do we hold these large corporations accountable? Is the solution to just boycott these stores? Does losing one customer or one hundred customers even make a difference to their bottom line? How do we tell them that it's time to start making some changes because how things are today is not acceptable?

I was in the throws of discussing the above and how helpless I felt about the whole thing and that my only course of action was to go home and feel like a bad human being for fallen victim to fast fashion and my love of a bargain when someone joined the conversation and said, at least now you're thinking about it and talking about it, and that's the first step to making a change.

I sincerely hope so and I really hope I can seek out alternative places to shop and support businesses like People Tree who are really doing their part to pay proper living wages, trade ethically and giving back to these communities.
xx Caz

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Review: Usquabae, West End, Edinburgh

Whisky lovers, there's a new playground in town!

Usquabae is underneath Ryan's Bar in the West End. The door is on Hope Street, across from the Angel's Share if you don't want to walk through Ryan's.

I'd heard about this new whisky bar last year and had been eagerly awaiting its arrival. After having drinks in the West End with friends, I thought I'd pop down and see if it might have opened while I was away. I was glad to discover they'd been open a week already.

At 9ish on a Friday night, there were a couple of groups in already. We sat at the bar and I found it a little noisy and hard to have a quiet conversation. 
There are plenty of low tables as well as little booths to sit in which might have been a better choice.
They also have two whisky rooms which would be quite fun for an intimate tasting or just hanging out for a couple of drinks.
The main draw is the 400 whiskies they have. There's also a few gins and a selection of beers on tap and in bottles.

I can see this place being popular with the after work crowd in the West End. They also have a menu full of Scottish food, from cullen skink, to Balmoral chicken and cranachan. 

I look forward to coming back at some stage soon for a meal and to try some more of the whiskies on offer.

xx Caz

Review: Ox184, Cowgate, Edinburgh

Already a fan of Holyrood 9A and The Southern, I was excited to hear Fuller Thomson had opened a new venue in the Cowgate. I had been warned that it was 'very red'. It did not disappoint!
I was surprised there were only a couple of people there when I arrived at 7pm on a Thursday. The large cavernous room felt empty and I was worried it would lack atmosphere. I needn't have worried; it steadily filled up with a good mix of big and small groups. The vibe was very laid back and the volume stayed at a low hum, so while it got busy, it never got too loud to have a conversation.

Service was polite and attentive. We were seated by the window which seemed like a great idea, but made me feel a bit like an animal at the zoo with lots of Cowgate's foot traffic peering in.
We ate bacon and corn muffins and pork cheek nuggets from the bites menu, the muffins were mini morsels of fluffy, bacon'y deliciousness. I felt the coating on the nuggets were a little too hard but the pork cheek filling was tasty and my dining companion had no complaints.
Next came lobster and pork belly burger along with the smoked chicken waffle sandwich from the mains menu. I prefer my waffles with a bit of crunch but otherwise couldn't fault the light airy batter. The sweetness of the dough worked well with the slightly spicy sauce and I got my crunch from the fried chicken which I felt was a little dry. No complaints about the lobster and pork belly burger though and the brioche bun really stepped it up a notch.
Due to a slight error, I also ended up with the vege option of the waffle sandwich which has a mushroom and spinach filling. I'd let it get a bit cold before I got to trying it so I'm surely not doing it justice, but I thought it needed added texture.
Our mains were accompanied by cheese fries and charred corn. The corn was done to perfection and the home made cheese sauce on the mountain of fries had a nice spiced kick. We also tried the burnt end beans which I found too salty but can see them doing well with big flavour drinks.

Draft beers come in 1/3, 2/3, pint and demijohns (8 pints). I took full advantage of the mini servings and tried three different beers from Tempest brewery. The companion had a Bristol Vice then a New Zealand sour wheat beer. Draft beers are rotating and are accompanied by a large selection of canned beers as well as a spirit list that spans two pages. They also offer a selection of whisky flights which I'd love to try.
The meal was concluded with the Smoked Banoffee, I was absolutely full to the brim but too intrigued not to order it. I have no regrets. The bruleed banana slices on top were revolutionary. I only want to eat my bananas bruleed from now on! The homemade gingerbread is soaked in house made toffee to absorb lots of caramel'y goodness before being popped in a jam jar with smoked banana which is puréed. It's rich, it's decadent and it absolutely defeated me.
The bathrooms are upstairs and you get to walk past the open fire pit and grill where a lot of the food is cooked. It's definitely worth checking out and stop for a chat with Greg the sous chef if there's anything you want to know about the food. There's also little nooks and booth seating upstairs which would be great for small and large groups.
We had a fantastic time and look forward to returning with a group so we can try the rest of the menu and order demijohns of beer! They're open until 3am and serve food until 2.30am. Which I'll be taking full advantage of at some stage!!

Overall, I feel like there's still a few things still to tweak and the menu is ever evolving, so I look forward to many trips back and having new things to try all the time.
xx Caz

[On this occasion we were guests of Ox184. Many thanks for their hospitality. All opinions are my own.]