Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: review
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Gin Festival Sheffield - A Review

The splendidly luxurious underground ballroom of the City Hall held host last month to the Sheffield leg of the Gin Festival. We first became aware of the Gin Festival team last year, when we tried out their excellent Gin Explorer box (you can read our review of that here), and so were really excited to be invited along to one of their hugely successful and highly regarded festivals. The Explorer subscription service itself has since been replaced by the "Gin Festival in a Box" concept, which has created a larger range of drink-at-home choices and brought the two brands much closer together.


We arrived to a truly bustling atmosphere, with the sold out hall packed to the rafters with hundreds of gin quaffers. Upon entry, we were provided with a copa style glass and a comprehensive booklet detailing all of the gins available, as well as handy hints for pairings, guides to garnishes and interviews with distillers - a resource which will prove useful in future as well as being a helpful tool on the evening itself.

The layout was well thought through - around the outside of the room, a quartet of bars each served from a pair of gin stations, which allowed queues to be kept to a minimum and the turn around of service to be swift. All of them were dispensing an dizzying array of gins from around the world, all accompanied with a carefully selected garnish. In addition, another handful of stalls showcased individual gin producers, who were dotted around the outside of the room serving samples of their gin along with a chat from a friendly face from the company.

Our first stop was the Tinker stall. Brought to life thanks to a crowdfunding campaign headed up by the Gin Festival team last year, this gin represents a move away from traditional juniper led gins. Drank neat, this stood out for us as a distinctively Spanish style of gin. With bold citrus, reminiscent of salted lemons and orchard fruit. An elderberry finish rounded the whole thing off beautifully. With tonic, it danced across the tongue - beautifully soft and light and a perfect one to start our night with.

Onto the bars themselves and we went straight for a Jaggi Citrus Blend, which was served with a slice of pink grapefruit. Hailing from Perthshire in Scotland. Citrus blend edition. Sweet, almost sherbetty lemon came through in absolute abundance first off, but this gin was more complex than the name perhaps suggests. Nutmeg, bay leaf and thistle are also included in the botanicals list, which gave really interesting notes of spice and a warming, herbal finish.

St Giles, based in Norwich, was our next pick. Another citrus led gin, our Gin Explorer book told us that the distillery is named after an infamous area of London where many gin shops were situated in the 18th century. Laura wasn't too keen on this neat, finding an odd almost vanilla character that was a little cloying, but the flavours really opened up and the juiciness was unleased with tonic and an orange garnish. Would love to try this in a cocktail, and we think it'd work well in other long drinks, especially a Tom Collins.

We moved on to try a couple of slightly more adventurously flavoured gins, and Orkney Johnsmas Gin was our next port of call. Named after and inspired by the midsummer period, with ingredients gathered from the islands themselves. Local heather is included amongst the botanicals and was definitely apparent on the palate, providing a floral yet earthy backbone to the flavour. We also picked up on notes of liquorice root which gave a great depth to the gin. A classic bitter finish.

Next we moved on to a gin from our beautiful home county of Yorkshire, sampling Raisthorpe Manor's Oak Aged edition. A light, almost tropical, oakiness, was instantly apparent and enhanced by a wonderful spruce resonance - bold and earthy. This was served with a slice of lemon which enhanced and brightened the base gin.


Finally, we headed over to try a couple of Belgian gins at the PJ's stand. These guys have an interesting offering of flavoured gins - we tried the raspberry, an initially sweet drink reminiscent of a sticky homemade jam, that dried out on the palette toward the end of the drink. Apple and elderflower varieties were also available. We finished off with their dry gin which was traditional yet potent, with a great hit of juniper that provided a lasting finish. Tasty and straightforward, a good one to end on by taking us back to basics!


Overall, we found this a well organised festival with attention paid to every detail. We really enjoyed the evening and wish we could have made it to another session, as there was so much to choose from we barely scratched the surface of what was on offer. We'll be back next year!

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Monday, 17 April 2017

Beavertown & To Øl: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

The collaboration between Beavertown and To Øl was sure to produce something special. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were born of the same base malt and mashing process, then both sent in their uniquely separate ways. The beers were both primary fermented with a fabled Scottish yeast strain that made it's way to Belgium and back to N17, where it was thrown into these worts. We managed to get our hands on these due to a fortuitously timed trip to Cotteridge Wines last April, and have been holding on to them for a special occasion. The end to a bank holiday which we worked the whole way through seemed suitable enough! On to the beers...



Jekyll


An 8.1% Muscat barrel aged bretted gooseberry Belgian pale. The beer itself sings with layers of elegant sourness, reminiscent of greengages initially then on to gooseberries, coupled with a hit of lactobacillus which builds beautiful acids across the palate. While the tartness is crisp, the tannic oak adds a delightfully savoury note, and the sweetness of the original wine softens with an apple scrumpy cider character, which goes hand in hand with the distinctive brett stone fruit funk. It leaves you with the same dancing feeling across the roof of your mouth like you've just eaten tangfastics (if thats a suitable tasting note without incurring potential lawsuits), with a zesty sherbet bite provided through the high carbonation and a lasting lip-puckering finish.

Hyde


This is a different beast entirely, an imperial stout boosted with a hit of roasted malts, beechwood smoked malts and heaps of brown sugar to help amplify the ABV to an impressive 13.7%. The beer is left to mature in Speyside whisky barrels, before being seasoned with sea salt. A bold boozy kick flies out of the glass instantly, with a waft of warm smoke and a savoury salination (Laura thought it smelt a bit like a really nice gravy?!). The same characteristics ripple across the palate, along with a rich oaky character. While the carbonation is near non existent, the sticky sweetness of molasses bolstered wort is still surprisingly light and a little delicate. The finish is warm and boozy with a twang of characteristic Belgian yeast, but this doesn't linger for more than a few seconds, with quite a short mouthfeel considering the smoked malt character.


Overall - a very cleverly crafted duo with little to suggest that they were borne of the same base beer. The Jekyll just pipped it for us, being so inherently drinkable, but both were excellent and a great showcase of what two goliaths of the industry can produce.

Cheers!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Boutique-y Whisky Company - Blended Scotch Whisky #1

We were introduced to this delightful dram by Dave Worthington (@WhiskyDiscovery) at last year's The Whisky Show. We were on the hunt for our first whisky of the day, and Dave reckoned there was no finer breakfast treat than this award-winning blend from the excellent That Boutique-y Whisky Company (it took the title of Best Blended Whisky at the 2015 World Whisky Awards). We felt it befitting of Burns Night, too - truly a whisky for all special occasions and every hour of the day! Here are our thoughts...


Colour: Lacquered mahogany
Nose: Dark chocolate ice cream, a sticky sweetness accompanied by a soft coastal waft towards the end.
Palate: The initial spice that swells across the mouth gives way to a delightful punch of smooth fruity acidity and rich chocolate, it's pretty much black forest gateau. Never at any point do these flavours clash or linger past their stay of welcome.
Finish: As the rich fruitiness gives way, there is a warming blossom honey that lingers on the palate, with gentle salination for balance.


That Boutique-y Whisky Company say that the sphere on the bottle label is testament to the perfectly rounded nature of the dram, and we would heartily agree. The youngest whisky within the bottle stands at 35 years old, and time has worked its magic beautifully. A stunning blend.

Slainte!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Upcycling with Gin Explorer

It's no secret that I love my gin. The industry is enjoying such a boom that amazing new producers are popping up EVERYWHERE, and it's becoming more and more difficult to choose which ones to try. This is where Gin Explorer comes in. Set up by the team behind the hugely popular Gin Festival events, Gin Explorer is a monthly subscription box that offers four 50ml samples of carefully sourced gins, plus tonics, treats and even snacks.


When my Gin Explorer box arrived, I was excited to discover a BONUS FIFTH GIN in lieu of a snack - especially as it came in a tiny little jam jar and we all know how much of a sucker I am for anything in miniature.

Which brings me quite neatly onto the gins themselves. First up, the aforementioned Yerburgh's Jam Jar gin, the result of a phenomenal crowdfunding success, reaching it's target in just three days! Bottled/jarred at 43%, it's creamy and fruit driven and worked well with a raspberry garnish - raspberry leaves are one of the botanicals, which provides a lovely berry freshness.

With the main flavour component being one of my favourite fruits, I was looking forward to trying Ely Pink Grapefruit Gin, 30%. The pink grapefruit shines through in abundance with a graceful mixture of tart, bitter, dry and sweet. For me, this was almost more like a liqueur in nature than an outright gin and I didn't want to drown out the delicacy, meaning I drank it neat, although it'd also work well with lemonade or as part of a fruity cocktail.

I tried the Gordon Castle Gin, 43%, next, with a bottle of the BTW tonic also provided in the box. Classically aromatic, with an underlying herbal nature which added a lovely elegance and balance. The BTW tonic worked well as it was clean and crisp enough to enhance the complex flavours through the gin without overwhelming them. I added a sprig of mint and a slice of lime too, which gave just enough freshness to really lift the gin.

Edinburgh is becoming quite a hot spot for gin production, and Pickering's Gin, 42%, was the only gin in the box I'd tried before. I found this fairly sweet and citrus led, very quaffable with Fever Tree tonic and with a refreshing lemony bite in the finish. These guys have created GIN BAUBLES this year which quite frankly sound amazing.

From Manchester's first distillery, the last gin I sampled was the Zymurgorium Sweet Violet Gin, 18.75%... what a GREAT name for a distillery. The gin itself was highly perfumed and very unusual - you'll love this if you're a fan of parma violet sweets! I was surprised to find however that this wasn't sticky or syrupy, but pleasantly light. I'd love to try this as the drizzle in a lemon and lavender drizzle cake!

But that's not all! As part of my Gin Explorer mission, I was challenged to come up with a way to reuse and recycle the bottles, and the box everything came in. As it's coming up to Christmas, obviously the bottles needed to be a part of something festive and I think they look great as little fairy lights!


And the box? I'll let the photo do the talking...

Cheers!

Laura

Big thanks to the kind folk at Gin Explorer for sending me a box to try out, and a thank you from Gincat Tosin for his new favourite seat!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Whisky Review: Aberlour 16

We were first introduced to Speyside distillery Aberlour through a Waitrose offer a few years ago, with their no-age statement A'Bunadh being one of the first single malts we invested in. Since then it's always been one of our top "go-to" distilleries, with the 10-year being a regular feature on our whisky shelf, so when we spied it's older sister at Bakewell's excellent whisky shop The Wee Dram we couldn't resist. The 16-year is double cask matured in traditional oak and sherry, and is bottled at 40% ABV.


Colour: Rich copper.

Nose: Creamy, with hints of raisin from the sherry cask balanced by a fresh woody characteristic from the oak. The aroma deepens as the dram opens up, giving off an inviting edge of sugary sweet mocha. Given the ABV, we chose not to add water.

Palate: Very well balanced, with the two woods complementing each other and providing delicate harmony in the dram. Nutty, with flavours of almond imparting a marzipan character but without overwhelming sweetness. A honeyed smoothness envelops the tongue as you drink.

Finish: Sweet maltiness and oodles more honey linger on.

Slainte,

J&L

Monday, 27 June 2016

Longflint Craft Cocktails

Longflint are a brand new business venture based in London, slotting neatly into the "craft beverage" arena with a range of pre-mixed cocktails made from 100% natural ingredients. Here are my thoughts on their first three products.
 

Rose hip & gin fizz

Made using "premium dry gin" from an unnamed brand and rose hip simple sugar syrup, this had a delicately floral aroma, light carbonation, and a big hit of herbaceous gin bitterness. Dry and quite savoury in nature - definitely a grown up cocktail. The recommended addition of a slice of cucumber really brought out the grassy elements of the drink and gave it quite an autumnal sort of flavour. Very well balanced, and it was so refreshing (in both senses of the word) to have a pre-mixed cocktail that didn't taste fake and full of sugar. This would work wonderfully served alongside tapas - I nibbled on some olives as I was drinking and the combination was delicious!

Rhubarb and vodka seltzer

Very pretty pink colour. Perfect level of rhubarbiness (definitely a word) - tart and fresh with a hint of creaminess but without being cloying or overpowering. Just a little hint of those rhubarb and custard sweets! Longflint pride themselves on using only natural ingredients and it certainly shows here. This was less boozy than the others, although the vodka did help to provide a lovely lingering finish. This worked really well just as it is, no accompaniment required!

Ginger and Rum Fuego

The first thing I noticed with this one was that it needed a good shake before serving, due to a layer of fresh ginger having accumulated at the bottom of the bottle. This is by no means a negative - the ginger gave a huge hit of spicy, zingy warmth which was really delicious and complemented the booziness of the rum perfectly. A slice of lime was added as recommended which provided another layer of freshness, making this the perfect drink to sip in the summer sun. I also popped in a couple of ice cubes containing mint leaves from our garden.

Overall, I felt that all three of the Longflint cocktails were sophisticated, well thought through, and tasted like the sort of drinks I like to make myself at home. They'd look perfectly at home on the shelves of any specialist drinks shop (or craft beer shop/bar as an interesting alternative) and I reckon the contents certainly live up to the beautiful packaging. I'd be interested to know which spirits are used, and a more comprehensive ingredients list generally would be useful, however I've been truly impressed by the products and look forward to seeing what other creations may be released in future.


Cheers,

Laura

Disclaimer: these cocktails were kindly sent to me by Longflint free of charge to sample. This has not influenced my opinions, all of which are my own.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Man Behind the Curtain

It was our fourth wedding anniversary last weekend, and to celebrate we went to our first ever Michelin starred restaurant. We both fell a bit in love with Michael O'Hare and his shiny silver apron on last year's Great British Menu, and his eclectic, immersive style of cooking was something which intrigued us immensely. And so on a grey April afternoon, we found ourselves in the centre of Leeds at The Man Behind The Curtain for a dining experience like we'd never had before...


It feels a bit like stepping into another world to get there, as you walk in through Flannels clothing shop before heading up to the third floor in an eerily quiet lift. The venue itself was calm, relaxed and modern, and we instantly felt comfortable being there, unlike other "posh" restaurants we've eaten in before. The staff added to this environment, being elegant and just the right amount of formal.


We selected the 9 course tasting menu which came accompanied by 7 wines. The menu itself is simply "Carte Blanche", meaning that every dish is a total surprise. The effect of this is an absolutely mindblowing experience... neither of us have ever felt so amazed, delighted, and often baffled by food. Laura cried twice. We'll let the pictures do the talking...

Octopus with caper and lemon butter - served with champagne
15 year old Galician beef with olives - served with spiced vermouth
Sea urchin bolognese with rice noodles which melted into the sauce as you stirred!
Spider crab lasagne with a quail's egg, bilberry, and potato crisps
Fish and chips (No, really...) - black cod with potato and ink. Served with Riesling.
Iberico pork, with smoked egg yolk served inside an edible shell and anchovies
Veal sweetbread with hot and sour consomme, brought out alongside a sous vide prawn.

Onto dessert...

Violet ice cream, dark chocolate, potato custard and beetroot puffed rice, served with plum wine
Passion fruit and praline mini "cupcake"
A touch we particularly loved was that for three of the courses, the chefs brought out the dishes themselves and talked us through what we were about to eat. The passion coming from them was palpable, and it's this sort of attention to detail which gets a place such deserved renown.

Quite honestly, this was far and away the most outstanding food we've ever eaten, and an experience we never wanted to end. Simply stunning.

L&J

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Magic Rock Tap, Huddersfield

We've been fans of Magic Rock beers for quite some time, and they're one of those that we always make a beeline for at the bar - their wonderfully juicy West Coast Pale Ale, High Wire (5.5%) is one of Laura's firm favourites (and luckily enough it's frequently available at one of our locals, the Rutland Arms) - and they're also making quite a name for themselves with some really special brews. We've been chomping at the bit to get to their brewery tap in Huddersfield since it opened in June this year, and finally made the trip through the glorious Yorkshire countryside last weekend.


We started off with something pretty light, Dancing Bear - a steam beer style pilsner weighing in at 4.5%. Refreshing and grassy, it was certainly a welcome opening act.

Next up was Big Top - an India Red Ale with humongous hop flavours, massively aromatic and tropical at 7.4%. Alongside this we grabbed ourselves a burger from Fat Hippo, usually Newcastle based but with a nifty little Burger Bar which travels around the country. The Tap invites along different food vendors each weekend, meaning there's always something different to try, and we were mightily impressed by the offering this week. We both picked the PB&J burger - succulent beef, perfectly cooked to order, topped with peanut butter and bacon jam, which may now be our new favourite condiment (a bold claim for a couple who have designated condiment shelves in both the cupboard and the fridge). Fat Hippo will be in Sheffield at the next Peddler market in October and we'd definitely recommend them to anyone in the area.


After filling our bellies, we were treated to a quick look around the new brewery itself, which has doubled production capacity for Magic Rock. The first brew had taken place just the day before, so everything was very shiny and new... we even got a sneak peek at the new canning line, which has now been officially announced! Watch this space...

Now then. Those really special brews we mentioned at the beginning of this post? Here goes. Firstly was Dark Arts stout - cocoa nib edition (6%), which had been aged in bourbon barrels for two years with cocoa nibs and vanilla added for the last few months. The aroma was incredible, intensely chocolatey and oh so inviting. On the palate was creamy chocolate with a dry pure cocoa backbone which prevented the beer from becoming cloying, and the vanilla coming through to enhance the flavours imparted by the barrel. As well as this treat, we also enormously enjoyed the Pedro Ximenez barrel aged Bearded Lady, a 10.5% imperial stout. Sumptuously sticky, it was rich with raisins and treacle whilst retaining a great level of balance, and was just a perfect example of just how good a barrel aged beer can be.


The whole experience of drinking at the Magic Rock Tap was just a delight - the staff were all friendly and keen to share their extensive knowledge of the beers on offer, the atmosphere and decor give you a great feel for what the brewery is all about, and everything is achingly "craft" without being in any way twattishly pretentious. A new favourite and definitely not to be missed!

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Italian beers from Birrificio Gjulia

Whilst Italy is not yet particularly well known in the UK for its craft beer production, there are more and more breweries now beginning to reach our shores and Gjulia is one of them. Made by Marco and Massimo Zorzettig, brothers with a family tradition which lies more in wine production than in brewing, all Gjulia's beers use malt grown on their very own land. The emphasis across the range is on sustainability, locality, and quality, which it certainly carries in absolute spades.

IPA, 5.8%
The newest release from Gjulia, created using their homegrown hops, this poured a little hazy, and we managed to work out from our very basic Italian that it's unfiltered and bottle conditioned. The vibrant aroma hits the nose full of fruit and juicy hop character. The bottle conditioning provides a beautiful carbonation that tingles along the tongue and hints towards a similar mouthfeel to a good white wine. Flavours of citrus, particularly pithy grapefruit, are vivid throughout, alongside a gently floral elderflower character. The hop flavours are bold without being out of balance, providing a pleasantly soft level of bitterness on the finish. Full-bodied, fruity and fresh.

Nostrana Organic Ale, 5%
Again slightly hazy, this blonde beer made entirely with organic ingredients was almost shimmery - gorgeous in the glass. On the nose, lightly perfumed with notes of orange blossom, delicate and dry with a tropical fruit esther character from the yeast. On the palate, there's tons of intense juicy fruits, in particular mandarin segments and passion fruit. This is coupled with a lovely crispness that is almost reminiscent of a Belgian-style pale ale. Refreshing and very elegant.





Overall, we were hugely impressed by the product coming out of Gjulia. The branding is superb and the bottles themselves look great, seemingly inspired by the Zorzettig brothers' background in winemaking. The beers can be approached in much the same way as a fine wine and worked really well with food - we went for homemade tagliatelle with smoked salmon, courgette and lemon to pair with the IPA, and pan fried pork fillets with apple and sweet potato to go alongside the Nostrana. With the growing demand for international beer that we're currently seeing in the UK, we certainly hope to see more of Birra Gjulia on these shores.

Cheers.

L&J

Disclaimer: we were kindly sent these two beers to review, however opinions are all our own. Many thanks to Birrificio Gjulia!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Wild Beer Co: Sourbeest

At the moment Wild Beer Co are one of the most innovative breweries in the UK, using techniques that are generally far more commonplace on the continent, whether it's in producing excellent saisons or delicious barrel aged sours all the while experimenting with wild yeasts to produce unique flavours seldom tasted from modern British breweries.

Sourbeest is one of a few variations of beer that all stem from one - which happens to be one of our favourite beers from last year, Wildebeest. Wildebeest itself is an 11% imperial stout flavoured with coffee, vanilla and cocoa nibs, a big drink that is best appreciated and savoured. To produce a beer like this you don't always get all the sugars first time around, so rather than feed cows with malt of such potential, the guys at Wild Beer add more hot water and start again - and lo, Sourbeest is born.

The wort is left to spontaneously ferment as it cools, giving wild yeasts and bacteria chance to make some magic. After fermentation is complete at 5.9%, the beer is barrel-aged for nine months, at which point it is bottled ready to be imbibed.

And so, on to the drinking...

This pours fairly flat with a deep ruby colour, and instantly the tart aroma comes forth. There's just a hint of the chocolate and coffee we remember so well from Wildebeest, but this is overridden by a blast of tangy dark fruits, full of cherries and blackcurrants.

It's definitely a sipper - absolutely massive on the palate, despite weighing in at under 6%. Initially sour, there's raspberries with a touch of rich balsamic vinegar, which dance on the tongue with a pleasing sharpness. As the beer disappears down the throat you definitely get much more of a feel of dark chocolate and malted coffee, a stunning twist that almost makes this feel like drinking two beers in one.

Very clever indeed.

Cheers,

L&J

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bruichladdich Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley

It's Feis Ile on Islay this week, and we are so near yet so far away... spending the week on the beautiful island of Arran. In honour of Bruichladdich day, however, we thought it was only right to bring something a little bit special with us. Behold! The first Octomore to be made with 100% Islay barley. Prestigious, unique, and definitely a big hitter.


Colour: Silken amber

Nose: Although peated to 268ppm (wowza) the nose on this is initially remarkably restrained on the smoke. It's undoubtedly prominent, but beautifully balanced by a sweetness akin to proper Scottish tablet ice cream on a buttery, digestive biscuit base, with a grating of dark chocolate atop. Sweet, spicy, and ever so alluring - you can still smell the malt floor that this was born on.

Palate: So THAT'S where all those sneaky little phenols are. The 64% ABV is apparent without overpowering the dram, still allowing a multitude of beautifully balanced flavours to pour forth. There's dark and citrus fruits (a light sparkle of cloudy lemonade, with a maraschino cherry garnish), oodles of gloriously fresh tobacco, and a good dollop of vanilla clotted cream. Finally, the malt comes through at the end with a cinnamon and toffee edge.

Finish: Warms you up right down to the soles of your feet. The peat lingers, but gently mellows as time progresses to leave behind a moreishly sweet glow. Cosy from your bonnet to your slippers.

Slainte,

J&L

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

El Cartel, Edinburgh

Somewhat hidden down the little alley of Thistle Street, Edinburgh, walking into El Cartel was like wandering into a Day of the Dead themed treasure trove. Recently re-opened after being closed due to fire in January, it's clear that the team are back with a bang... despite it's fairly small size, the restaurant was absolutely buzzing with a vibrant, festival-esque atmosphere.

We (Laura, and little sister Amy in this instance) sat down and perused the drinks menu... a whole booklet dedicated almost entirely to tequila, with a couple of pages for mezcal. We eventually settled on the frozen kiwi margaritas, and they were a real treat - fresh, just the right level of tartness, delicious and very unique.


The menu was reassuringly short and it was clear straight away that this is a place which takes pride on serving top quality stuff. The format was a little like ordering tapas - we were encouraged to choose a couple of small dishes to share along with some tacos, with the promise that we could just keep on calling for more until we were replete.


We went for the bombers - molten cheese middles, super creamy and full of spice, with a crunchy outer - served in a really tasty sauce which I think may have been something akin to chipotle mayo. We could both have eaten a truckload of the drunken beans, made with tequila, and the mini quesadillas stuffed with chorizo, sweet potato and more of that yummy soft cheese were piquant and full of flavour. Everything got a little bit smothered in El Cartel's signature hot sauce, too.


On to the tacos! Each order comprised two tacos, so we ordered two different kinds and shared. Amy's choice of steak was tender and perfectly griddled, a good hit of spice balanced with a generous slice of avocado.

Laura selected the duck tacos (quack-os?) which were gloriously flavourful and unlike anything I've ever tried before. Shredded duck was topped with salsa and pineapple before being scattered with sunflower seeds which added a good little crunch.


This is food which doesn't shy away. A wonderful meal all round, and to top it off, our bill came in an adorable little sugar skull. Arriba!

Laura

Monday, 4 May 2015

Whisky Review: SMWS 3.243

Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy

Feis Ile is undoubtedly one of the key events in any whisky lover's calendar, with thousands converging from around the world on the beautiful island of Islay to celebrate all things whisky. For the first time this year, the folks at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, already renowned for their unique bottlings of a huge variety of Islay drams, are plunging into the festival atmosphere with their very own Feis Ile release. Bottling 3.243, 'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' is a 17 year old peated Bowmore, aged in refill ex-sherry butts and bottled at 57.1%.


On the nose, the sherry cask is hugely prominent. Sweetness abounds, with festive dried fruits - raisins and figs - and just a hint of fresh raspberries. There's some gentle smokiness which doesn't overpower, just enough to give a real meatiness to the aroma. Reminiscent of a summer's BBQ, at that point of the day where the sun is just falling below the horizon, and the embers are all dying down.

The palate has a blast of spice, and a more intense meaty nature, but always balanced by that sumptuous sweetness - like dipping a chillied chorizo in a sherbet fountain. The combination of 'meat and sweet' is wonderful... tempted chuck a few chunks of smoked sausage in our Christmas cake this year with the aim of recreating it. As we continue to sip, a dark chocolate note starts to come through, with pink peppercorns that tingle on the lips.

The finish leaves behinds lashings of sea salt, with that unmistakeably Islay coastal brininess and a peaty nature which lingers on long after the last sip has been swallowed. Glorious.

The SMWS Tasting Panel recommended drinking this whisky 'between dances at a Spanish barbeque party' - whilst we didn't quite have the music available for our own flamenco masterclass, we couldn't resist spending Bank Holiday Monday cracking out the BBQ. Our salsa verde lamb shoulder was a great accompaniment to this hearty dram - especially the somewhat more chargrilled pieces!

'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' will be available for members and non-members alike to get their hands on at the SMWS Feis Ile Open Day, 22nd May 2015, at Islay House. Well worth a visit if you're lucky enough to be attending the festival.

Slainte,

J&L


Thanks to SMWS for the sample!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Mr Flavour Review

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that we love both eating out, and cooking up a bit of a storm at home. Sitting neatly in between the two, Mr Flavour is a brand new Sheffield business, which aims to deliver restaurant style meals to your door - an interesting and original concept which we were certainly curious to try.

We were invited to try out the service before the launch, and were presented with the pressed shoulder of lamb with rosemary crushed potatoes, confit garlic and aubergine puree, sauteed courgettes and grape chutney. Lamb jus and a herb crust were also included for extra special "cheffy" touches. The ingredients arrived in a simple paper bag, with everything pre-prepped ready to be heated. Each food item was labelled (with allergen information and use-by dates clearly displayed) and an easy to follow instruction sheet was also included.


Oven ready 
All that was really required was cooking the lamb (which we chose to pan fry quickly before popping it in the oven, as recommended on the instruction sheet for an extra layer of flavour - this also made the kitchen smell glorious), frying the courgettes until tender, and heating up the other ingredients, "boil in the bag" style. There was nothing that hadn't been thought of, and the whole process took just twenty minutes, so this service would be perfect as an after-work treat at the end of a busy day and is much more special than a takeaway.

Plating the meal up was fun, with tips provided on how to make the dish look as though it'd come from a restaurant kitchen... not a skill we've quite mastered (don't think we have the crockery for it!), but it still looked pretty enticing by the time everything was on the plate.

And so, on to the eating! Each ingredient was carefully thought through, meaning that everything worked perfectly together and tasted fantastic. The balance of flavours was excellent, and the instructions resulted in well-cooked lamb which fell apart as soon as the fork got anywhere near it, exactly how we like it. What was especially pleasing for us is that the components we enjoyed the most were those which we wouldn't think to make ourselves at home - the confit garlic and aubergine puree was full of flavour and the grape chutney added a deliciously tangy burst of freshness. The portion sizes were generous but manageable - just right. The only disadvantage was that we had to do our own washing up (although even this was considerably less than if we'd cooked a meal such as this from scratch!).


We did notice from the first week's menu that there doesn't seem to be a vegetarian main meal openly available at the moment, although this is certainly the sort of thing that can be developed as the business grows. However, it's definitely worth getting in touch with Mr Flavour himself, who is on hand to answer any questions (by email, at mrflavour.sheffield@gmail.com, or on twitter), and is also happy to make a whole host of bespoke orders provided they're pre-ordered, including fresh pasta and pastry dough, to make your own favourite dishes that much easier to prepare. Taking it one step further, you can even order a dinner party menu with key ingredients of your choice - a great idea for less confident cooks, or just so you can sit back and spend more time with your guests.

Overall, cooking this dish was straightforward and fun to make. The end result was definitely a meal we'd have been pleased to have eaten at a restaurant (and very good value), and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend the service to others (delivery is currently available across S7, S8, S10, S11, S17 and S18).

Cheers,

L&J

The ingredients for the meal were all provided free-of-charge for review purposes, opinions all our own

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Buxton Brewery: Battle Horse

Buxton have fast become one of our go-to breweries, with every beer of theirs which we've sampled being creative, original and oh-so-tasty (here's looking at you, Wyoming Sheep Ranch). We thought that for our first blog post reviewing a single beer, they'd be a great place to turn, and we found something a bit special to shout about...

Buxton Brewery's 100th brew since moving to their current brew kit is Battle Horse: a bold Double Black IPA bottled at 10.5%. First things first, it looks ace - Buxton's branding is contemporary, clean and eye-catching, and the beer itself is a pure, deep black.

Battle Cat Horse
The nose sings of pine and oak, almost as if aged, but at the same time it is vibrant and fresh with oodles of dark berries.
The malt bill, containing prominent roasted malts, is bold and chocolatey, bringing a dry roasted coffee body. With tropical passion fruit lying in wait underneath all that richness, despite the high ABV it is beautifully soft and deceptively easy to drink. This shows how the imperial-style malty notes in the beer are balanced by the more classical IPA characteristics: the variety of hops in the brew give a great oiliness and body whilst also providing a very fresh, almost floral character throughout the drink. So complex, but it all comes together with absolute panache and completely fills the head with chewy, extravagant goodness.

This landmark brew from this wonderful Derbyshire brewery is truly something to behold - I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it.

Cheers,

Jim

Friday, 30 January 2015

Whisky Review #5: Bowmore Darkest

Having visited Islay twice, most recently staying in Bowmore itself with a view of the distillery chimneys through our bedroom window, their whiskies are always going to have a special something about them for us. Darkest is absolutely no exception - bought just over a year ago as a Christmas present "for the house" having been one of our favourite drams from the 2013 Drinks by the Dram whisky advent calendar, purchased from Master of Malt - you can read our initial ponderings on this lovely drop here.

Aged for 15 years (with the final three of those being in Oloroso sherry casks) before being bottled at 43%, Bowmore Darkest is definitely a multi-layered dram. Because of this, it's also been one of our favourites to pair with food - it goes with cheese, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, and a splash even found it's way into some homemade smoked salmon pate.


Without further ado, here are our thoughts...

Colour: A richly sherried deep bronze.
Nose: Robust, with dried fruits bursting forth - dark cherries and plump raisins. A savouriness lurks in the background, but in the year we've had the bottle open the peaty nature of the aroma has faded a tad.
Palate: Loads going on here! The Oloroso cask provides a fruity yet woody sweetness, whilst balanced peatiness allows waves of sea salt and smoked fish to crash over the palate.
Finish: The combination of smoky and sweet continue to fight for attention in a long, lip-smacking finish.


Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Obligatory Drinks Roundup Post of 2014

Somewhat belatedly, we thought we'd do a quick review of our favourite tipples of last year, as we aim this month to sample new things through #tryanuary.

Whisky:
Dram
Jim - Bruichladdich Octomore 0.5 - an early test of the 'most peated whisky ever made' in a beautiful Chateau D'Yquem cask, this was drunk in warehouse one of the distillery, making this the most memorable whisky I've ever drunk (more about it can be found here).
Laura - Bruichladdich Duplex - sampled at the Broadfield's "Old and Rare" whisky tasting this was a private bottling of incredible interest. This Petrus cask aged dram encompassed flavours I've never experienced before or since in a whisky. 

Bottle
J - Bruichladdich Cuvée 407 - a rich, chewy, intense whisky, aged for 21 years in Bourbon before being finished in Jerez Pedro Ximinez casks, it is a wonderful full mouthed dram, pleasingly sweet and spicy.
L - Aberlour 16 - put simply, this is just my kind of whisky, enjoyed again and again and never disappoints. Another sherry casked beauty which has a gorgeous Christmas-cakey stickiness to it.

You will see that these whiskies are predominantly from Bruichladdich, with wine and sherry casks featuring heavily - 2014 seems to have been the year that we have discovered our "type" when it comes to whisky! Which is not to say that variety has gone unappreciated - we've been lucky enough to sample a huge range of drams across the year. Honourable mentions to Yamazaki 18, Ardmore Traditional Cask and Sullivan's Cove French Oak.


Beer:
Bottle
J - Great Heck Yakima IPA - this is the only beer that I have bought more than two bottles of to drink this year, and is a wonderful example of how a heavily hopped beer can still have a bold malty mou feel, without the main flavour being just hops.
L - Siren Odyssey 001- another wine cask aged beverage for me! This was enjoyed at the Beer Central bottle share at the Bath Hotel. This was just a fantastic night all round and this luscious 12.4% imperial stout really topped it off. The wonderful Sean from Beer Central has written more about the night here - any Sheffield based readers would do well to keep their eyes peeled for the next one!

Cask
J - Blue Bee are easily one of the most improved breweries this year, with new owners and head brewer who have transformed them from producing middle of the road 'traditional' beers to a more robust lineup of excellent regular cask beers. Into The Abyss is the best of the bunch for me - a Black IPA, that retains the great malty features of a dark beer coupled with a light hoppy freshness. (Drank at The 3 Tuns)
L - Waen Brewery's Snowball is my most memorable beer of the year - a 7% chocolate and coconut stout with a smooth vanilla hit. All three flavours come through powerfully yet maintain tasty, tasty harmony. The highlight of Sheffield's CAMRA beer festival for me.

Keg
J - Mikkeller Black is one of the most interesting keg beers I have drunk this year. When it was released, the 17.5% beer was the 'strongest beer in Scandinavia' and unlike other brews of a similar strength, the high ABV wasn't achieved through freeze distillation but through brewing acumen. (Drank at Brewdog Sheffield)
L - Hitachino Nest White Ale - another drink enjoyed at Brewdog Sheffield (where we've spent many a happy afternoon over the course of the year) this was also one of my favourite bottles of the year, with orangey flavour and a pleasing spiciness. As well as this, the bottle has a very cute owl on it - what's not to like?!

Pub
J - The Sheaf View - Consistently excellent and ever changing bar, with a great selection of not just ales but whiskies and other spirits too. This is my weekend haunt - as a friday evening drink the atmosphere is lively and friendly, and for a Saturday afternoon sandwich the pub is quiet and relaxed and often a completely different selection of beer can be found on the bar.
L - The Bath Hotel (see also our write-up here) - we've made many happy memories there over 2014, including nights with good friends winning the quiz and drinking too much Thornbridge Charlie Brown's peanut butter beer, and of course Sheff Brew Fest, one of our highlights of the year.


With multiple beer festivals (we NEED to go to IndyMan this year...), a gin distillery trip, a holiday to Arran and much more adventuring round Sheffield and beyond to do, 2015 is already gearing up to a be a good 'un.

Let us know your "golden beverages" of the year!

Cheers,

J&L