Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Grazing Shed. Nom.

Now, let me start by saying I'm not generally a burger person. It's not something I ever pick out on a menu at a restaurant, and I absolutely hate the usual fast food burger joints and avoid them at all costs. They're always something that you pick up for convenience, and invariably feel awful afterwards.

But probably down to the amount of blog trawling and pinterest food perving I've been doing, I woke up last Saturday with the most almighty burger craving. And that's where all the gossip I'd heard about The Grazing Shed comes in.

Parked around the back of the St Davids 2 in Cardiff, lies this sustainable and eco-friendly restaurant. The Grazing Shed's main selling point is that it revolves around local, fresh and sustainable ingredients. A gourmet fast food restaurant. Using suppliers within close proximity means that you can be sure that your ingredients are fresh, supporting local suppliers and minimising waste all at the same time.

I think this was the main appeal to me, especially as the thought of mass produced burgers and not being entirely sure what goes into them really puts me off most fast food. The 100% Welsh beef used in their burgers was a definite draw, although I was a little disappointed that the chicken used is not free range chicken.

We ordered quickly and settled into a spot on the communal benches. Now, the sound of this may bring back awful memories of school canteens, but the actual effect of this is quite charming. Everyone just seems to pass condiments up and down the table and squishes up to get everyone in. I liked it, and we had plenty of space even though it was very busy.

It's clear to see that the Shed prides itself on the ethics it was based on. The kitchen is an open affair, and adorning the walls are pictures and the names of all the local suppliers. You feel that this is something they obviously feel passionate about, and not just a gimmick.

I ordered the Spicy Uncle Pedro, which promised a 100% Welsh beef burger, covered with avocado smash, chorizo, jalapeno sour cream and a chunky Mayan salsa. The hubby ordered the John Wayne, a beef burger with cheddar fondue, smoky bacon, BBQ & cajun dressing with a red onion confit. The meals come with the burger, country fries (lovely skin on chunky chips) and bottomless drinks, which come from a self serve drinks machine.

It was refreshing to see that the drinks were also made from locally produced syrups, and not the usual coke and lemonade offerings. Available were a spicy ginger beer, rose and elderflower, lemonade and root beer. The root beer is amazing, I could have drunk gallons of the stuff. It was like drinking Deep Heat, which, I actually think is a very good thing. Weird.

We hadn't even poured a drink each when our food was served, literally minutes from us placing our order. I'm pretty sure I have actually waited longer in McDonalds. I love the cute little baskets too.

The Spicy Uncle Pedro was incredible and lived up to its name. I fell in love with the avocado smash, which added some lovely creaminess and texture to the spicy burger. Chorizo is a welcome addition to anything, in my book. But the patty held its own even up against all these competing elements. It was thick, juicy and just frankly blooming gorgeous. Normally, my problem with burgers is that I get bored of the bread very quickly, but even that didn't happen here, clearly.

Now I know I said at the start that I'm no expert, but that doesn't mean that this was not the best burger I have EVER had. Ever. I cannot stop talking about it. There is nothing to fault about this beaut. The country fries that came with the meal were also fabulous, although I couldn't quite finish them all after I devoured the burger.

The verdict on the John Wayne....

So, I'm definitely now something of a burger convert. When we visited, I'd given up cheese for lent so I was a bit limited for choice. However, I'm quite glad, as this gives me and excuse to go back in a couple of weeks! The sound of the cheese fondue and the goat's cheese is making me salivate already...I may be having withdrawal symptoms.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Where's Bill?

Having heard about this little place from numerous friends lately, I thought it was hightime I went and tried it myself. We needed to line our stomachs pre-whisky tasting with some serious carbs and this seemed like the perfect place to do so.
On the edge of both Mill Lane in the Wyndham arcade in Cardiff’s city centre, lies Bill's. With its little café style exterior, it was in a prime position for people watching on a sunny spring day. We ventured in after perusing the menu, to be met with a small queue waiting to be sat. We were all seated extremely quickly, the interior a lot more spacious than it looks, and plenty of tables free, even on a Saturday lunchtime.
I loved the decoration in Bills. I am a huge sucker for cute and rustic, and this had it in abundance. Big hessian curtains, huge pink lemonade bottles everywhere, buckets for cutlery and blackboards with inspirational quotes hanging from the rafters. I was sold. It made me think that if Ikea was Italian, it would look like this. Practical but pretty.

I got a little worried when seated however…as big as it seems, tables for two all seem to be a little cramped and stuck in between larger tables without much thought. Once sat down, with drinks upon the table, I wasn’t entirely sure they’d be able to fit on all the food that I was fancying!
Drinks ordered and a jug of water on the table, we settled down to look at the menu. I’d already decided on what I wanted before I’d even got there, having been told on good authority that the scotch egg is to die for. Not any scotch egg, but a chorizo scotch egg. Served runny in the middle, this sounded perfect. As it was served as a starter, I ordered this as a main alongside some sweet potato fries and a rocket and pecorino salad.
The other half decided upon the sugar and spice chicken, served with sweet potato chips again and a curried coleslaw. I was pretty glad he chose this as I was after a little bit of that coleslaw too…shhh!
We dawdled over our drinks (I was particularly impressed with the ginger beer with a slice of ginger in with the ice….little things!) whilst waiting for our meals and gawping out the window.

When our meals arrived, I was both impressed and daunted by the size of my egg. Looking pretty gorgeous, and even better when I cut it open, to find the yolk still oozy...

It was outstanding, and the sweet potato fries to go with it were perfectly crisp on the outside and sweet and fluffy inside. In hindsight, the rocket salad was a bad idea. I was worried about the lack of vegetable on my plate, but this ended up in me paying £2.95 for half a bag of rocket, with a shaving of pecorino and way too much dressing. This was the only tiny disappointment of my dish, as it just made the whole meal a little too greasy, when I was actually after something to lighten it up.
I have it on good authority that the chicken was pretty tasty, grilled nicely and a decent portion. Having had a good mouthful (or two, just to check) of the curried coleslaw, I’ve got to say I was a bit disappointed.  It was just a little bit more bland than what I had in mind.

However, these tiny things did not detract from our experience at all. We had a lovely lunchtime meal which set us up for the day, in lovely surroundings. The prices are a little high for what’s essentially marketed as a café, but for a nice lunch every now and then it hit the spot.

I’ll definitely be back anyway, especially as we couldn’t fit dessert in.  I know that a pink lemonade ice cream float is going to go down just perfect in the summer sunshine.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Wee Dram

Last week, we finally got around to going on a whisky tasting that the other half received for Christmas. (Gifts for two, my favourite). He received a Groupon deal through Whisky Mavericks, who you can find here.

We were a little apprehensive when we arrived, having never been to one of these events before. I’ve always seen them through voucher deals and websites, but never actually gone for it. However, the Mavericks website ensures a snobbery free environment, and their mission is ‘Saving the world from whisky bores’. I’m sold. None of this spitting the wine out business for me, please.

We were the first ones there, and worried we’d be the only ones. That didn’t last too long however, as in walked a group of lads dressed up on a nautical themed stag do (the jellyfish hats were particularly admirable). Completely outnumbered in a ratio of about 30 men to…well, me, we headed down into the basement.

In a cosy little room at the bottom of Mocka Lounge, Cardiff, we filed into little booths and were presented with a whisky punch. Fruity and light, I really enjoyed it. Our tutor for the day was exactly as promised, super chilled and enjoyed the whisky as much as us. A detailed explanation of the whisky punch was given while we sipped it back...

A chat about the origins of whisky then ensued, whilst the first whisky was poured, a Jim Beam bourbon, explaining the differences between Bourbon and whisky. This was surprisingly good, as I’m normally a Jack Daniels drinker but I actually found this a bit easier to drink.

Next up came Grants Cask Edition #2: Sherry Cask. I found this whisky to be a bit boring, no real depth of flavour and barely any finish at all. Not my favourite of the afternoon. Not bad at all, just unremarkable. Didn't do much to change the feelings I already had on Grant's whisky. (Now who's the whisky snob?)

Third up was a wee dram of what turned out to be my favourite, Tomintoul 10yr. I fell in love. I’m a sucker for a smoky whisky, but this was that and more. Subtle for a Speyside whisky, it managed to be both smoky and sweet at the same time. Most certainly the winner of the day for me! A really great find as I'd never seen this one before, but I shall definitely be hunting it down now. 

At this point, some much needed sustenance was provided in the form of some lovely crumbly Stilton and dark chocolate digestives. Odd choice…but they did go together quite nicely with the whisky!
Then a very close runner up for me was a Bowmore 12 year old. The big hit of the peat smoke is countered by the delicate honey in the background. Very smooth and went down very easily…I could happily drink this all day.

Last but not least was a Glenfiddich 15yr old. Husband’s favourite and I think the general group favourite. I liked it, however I think two smoky whiskies are very hard to follow up in the flavour stakes for me. I found it very fruity with a bit of sweetness and spice. Yum.
By this point, I may have been wobbling a little! As a final toast, we all had another dram of whichever whisky was our favourite. Obvious choice was the Tomintoul for me!

Overall, the afternoon was a definite success. We had really good fun, met some lovely people and tasted some awesome whiskies. My only disappointment was that I was already well aware of at least 3 of the whiskies tasted, as I thought there would be a few lesser known and some curveball whiskies, rather than the usual big names that you can find in most bars and supermarkets. Having said that, I still came away with a new favourite that I hadn't heard of before!

We rolled out into what was left of the daylight and stumbled home, after a surprisingly fun afternoon with a nice warm glow in our bellies!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense...

Looks like I’ve just fallen foul of blogger rule number one on my very first post…save save save! So let me just start by saying that what I had just written was definitely the wittiest, most interesting post you’ll have ever read, and you’ve been hooked into staying on and reading a while…

I’m Sara, and this is me in my happiest state…

In the sunshine, drinking cocktails and splashing around in the sea or the pool. Beautiful, and all the better if it happens to be in a gorgeous Greek Island, like the above picture taken in Zante.

However, that kind of weather doesn’t happen too often over here in the UK. But there are definitely more than a few beach worthy days if you can find your way to the coast quick enough…

When I’m not dreaming of lying around on a beach, you’ll generally find me at home, cooking, drinking tea and planning my next adventure. And that’s probably what you’ll get from my blog! Cocktails and cupcakes, road trips and ramblings. It’ll be a lot of my random musings with a sprinkling of adventure!

This is in no way a food nor a travel blog, but I do have to warn you there will be a fair bit of both. I love food. I love nothing more than cwtching up with a few cookbooks and deciding what to cook next. I'm one of those with their phone out taking sneaky food pics in restaurants just to look back and drool over whilst trying to recreate. I'm very much looking forward to having someone to share those with now!

This is my first blog, although I’ve written and rewritten one in my head for years, and have never got around to it. I've now finally bitten the bullet and gone for it, so please bear with me! I’m envisaging a few tweaks and layout changes for a while until I’m settled, so any feedback is more than welcome.

So come along, I hope you enjoy the ride!