Monday, 30 June 2014

Beer and Chocolate Pairing at Eden Brewery and Hello Chocolate!

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a beer and chocolate tasting event held at Eden Brewery, near St Andrews, with VisitStAndrews.  

Recently there has been an explosion in creativity within the beer brewing industry everywhere and St Andrews is no exception to the craze.  Eden Brewery have been operating since 2012 and have created 25 different brews, each with different flavours.  Soon they are even going to start experimenting with whisky and gin distilling.  

It begun with Gill from Hello Chocolate! who talked us through the evolution of chocolate - with lots of audience participation as we went.  We got to sample some very bitter chocolate nips and cocoa butter before working down the chocolate scale; first we nibbled 100% cocoa chocolate, then 70% and 36% all the way down to 23% white chocolate.  

We were also given a run down about beer and the brewery.  We smelled two of the  vital ingredients in beer: malt and hops, and how it is the manipulation of these and the other key ingredients of water and yeast that create all the different flavours.  

We had four pairs of beer and chocolate to taste, each with different flavours which changed as you drunk the beer.  The method for trying the pairing is sip, nibble, sip so you get all the flavours and taste the change!

Pair number 1: Oak Wood Series Highland Whisky Beer and The Cinnamon Tea Cake 

The beer had been left in a whisky barrel for three months and you could really taste the hints of whisky.  However there was also a real spicy and fruity flavour that was brought out by the chocolate that tasted just like Christmas.  The tea cake was a lovely soft white chocolate ganache loaded with different fruits which gave it a sweetness that softened the bitterness of the beer. 

Pair number 2: St Andrews Blonde Beer and The JFK Strawberry Daiquiri 

This was the simplest and easiest beer for me to drink (I'm not a big beer drinker), which you would expect from a blonde.  Its lightness worked really well with the extremely fruity and delicious liqueur filled chocolate.  But be warned its filling is liquid so eat it in one go.  

Pair number 3: Oakwood Series Bourbon Barrel Beer and The Sticky Toffee Pudding 

Another beer with a twist, this time having been left in a bourbon barrel.  This combination was my favourite, the chocolate was very soft and smooth.  It really brought out the caramel tones in the beer which is dark and full flavoured- usually the opposite of what I would look for in a beer.  Twists of vanilla in both the beer and chocolate really complemented each other.

Pair number 4: Islay Oak Aged Beer and The Salted Caramel Picasso 

This pairing was probably the best example of how chocolate and beer can really go well together and even change the taste of one another.  Tasting the beer to begin with I wasn't a fan, it was too dark and smoky (again coming from the barrel it is aged in).  However when combined with the delicious salted caramel it really came alive.
 Suddenly the smokiness of the beer had hints of sweetness and the full richness wasn't overpowering, it was a really dramatic change.  

The four pairings gave us a really good taste of how chocolate and beer can work together and discovering how was a really nice and informative activity.  It was also lovely to leave with a little gift bag with our own chocolates and a bottle of beer.  

If you want to try your hand at pairing there are events scheduled to be held twice a month, and although the price isn't set yet it should be around the £10 mark.  

Links for Eden Brewery: Facebook, Website
Links for Hello Chocolate! : Facebook, Website

I was a guest of Eden Brewery and Hello Chocolate! however, as always, all opinions and views in this post are mine.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Wish Strings Shoot

As I mentioned previously in my post introducing the great shop Wishstrings, I'm very exciting to be working with the lovely Kelly to do a couple of posts about her store. 

Wishstrings is the perfect place to go to if you're looking for affordable but amazingly cute gifts and presents.  The wish strings themselves are my particular favourites, they come in so many different designs and charms.  I love mine with an anchor and a little bird.  When you tie them on you make a wish and once it falls off it will come true - how cute!

With all these nice nights I've been doing a lot of walking (since I live in the uttermost country side) so we grabbed the camera and took these photos as we walked.  Thanks to M M Hall Photography for lugging around his camera for four miles! 

Links: Facebook, Website, Twitter

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Jack Wills Sale

It's that time again... the Jack Wills Sale!  

Every time they bombard me with emails, every time I would try to resist.  Every time I still accidentally end up on their website.  And to make me feel like it is "research" instead of shopping I've decided to do my picks from the sale again since it was pretty popular last time! 

There's some pretty good bargains which can get you kitted out for summer, so check it out. 

The Cadmore Dress - here for £29 

Perfect summer dress, day or night this will do it.  Also available in pink pinstripe here.  I don't know which one I prefer.  

Lingham Skinny Sweatpants - here for £29 

I have a pair of these and I love them, especially great for flying where you want to be comfy but not too bulky or warm.  

Eaton Crew - here for £22 

I think it's just a really simple and nice top, the embellishment also mixes up the texture.  Plus summer tan (I wish) plus white = winner.

Elmbank Crew - here for £22

Summery but still cosy for summer nights!  Us Brits aren't exactly blessed with heat all day and all night.

Southbrook Oxford Shirt - here for £34

This is one that's in my basket.  I tried it on in store at the beginning of the season and loved the fun colour (hello, pink polka dots! Other colours are available, but they're nothing in comparison) and feminine collar.

Holecroft Shirt - here for £29 

Another shirt, but a bit more masculine shape which is balanced out by the delicate colours.  Love it!

Holecroft Shirt again - here for £29 

I really must be going through a shirt phase, and a polka dot phase for that matter. 

Kilby Horeshoe Bracelet - here for £6 

Very sweet little bracelet.

 Camerton Bracelet - here for £2.50 

Sunflowers are my favourite flower so this found itself into my basket... for £2.50 I had no chance really.  

Hartwood Backpack - here for £79 

Gorgeous, bit pricier but it'll last you.  Perfect for days out, festivalling or anything where you need a bit more than a fancy clutch.  

The Edwoth Blouse - here for £29

If you can pull off yellow, go for it.  I'm terribly jealous of you and I hate you (not really).  

The Lachbury Dress - here for £49 

Such a charming boater style dress.  

Taylor Make Up Pouch - here for £7 

I love the vintage feel of this bag, and a good price! 


Friday, 27 June 2014

Brussels Top Tips

We've had my first two posts on my long weekend in Brussels, first I put down all my sights to see (here) and secondly I reviewed our hostel (here).  This post is my top tips for travelling to Brussels that haven't been covered in the other two.  

- Time 

Some people we met in Brussels were there for less than 48 hours, which I think is just not enough time to enjoy the city.  You might be able to run around and see a few things but I prefer my holidays to be chill- so you at least feel like you have been on holiday!  I'd say three - four days would be the minimum you could go for, we had four and a half and it was perfect.  We saw lots of things but still had the time to chill out and not feel rushed. 

- Cocktails everywhere 

Drink cocktails and lots of them! Preferably from as many different places as possible - like a van.  

- Beer 

If you don't like cocktails (and even if you do) you really should drink beer.  It's Belgium, drink all the beer.  

- Chow Chow City 

For cheap food in the centre of town, hit up Chow Chow.  Delicious and filling Chinese food for 3.80EURO for a lunch.  It isn't amazing but it's quick and filling and you can pick between two plates and off you go! 

- Walk 

You'll be in walking of most things so get your legs out and use them!  You have metro and trams pretty near so don't worry. 

- Go out on Saturdays 

Forget about Fridays, it's all about Saturdays. 

- Use a map 

In particular use the Use It Map For Young Travellers.  It's free and amazing, so many tips and tricks inside it.  Plus it's always handy to have a map on you in a new place.  

- Cheap cocktails 

Sorry (not sorry) for another cocktail tip, but when it comes to prices cocktails can seem kinda expensive.  So look out for happy hours (on the map above), I managed not to spend any more than 5EURO a drink quite easily so just keep your eyes open for deals. 

Have you visited Brussels?  What's your top tips? 


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Important Bloglovin News

Sorry for the rather blunt post title, but I have some important news for my Bloglovin followers.  

When I switched from a Blogger URL to a custom one I also had to create a new bloglovin account, which has meant I have had two accounts for some time now.  However I have got in touch with Bloglovin who are deleting the old account, which means if you would like to keep up with my posts you will have to follow my account. 

To follow my correct Bloglovin account please press HERE.

Thanks for sticking with me and sorry for the hassle but it should mean I can get a better handle on my stats and make things a little easier. 

To make it up to you I will share one fun fact about me with you: I shoot. 

I have both a rifle and a shotgun and enjoy shooting competitively.  I have even represented both Scotland and Great Britain at international competitions.  If you want to know more you can see my Facebook page here.  And here is a little photo of me looking very spiffing on the firing point. 


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Meininger Brussels Hostel Review

Second Brussels post!  Hopefully my first post about the sights and activities of Belgium's capital city (which you can see here) was slightly useful, or at least interesting.  For my second post I thought I would do a little review of the hostel we stayed in as well. 

The Meininger is a huge complex (a total of 720 beds according to the girl on the desk), in a lofty converted brewery.  You can get all sorts of bed combinations in the rooms so you should be able to find something to suit what you need.  The two of us stayed in a six bed dorm, which had two single beds and two sets of bunk beds in a really big room with nice high ceilings.

Outside it looks pretty rustic but inside is really modern; big wide open spaces and Scandinavian style interior.  There is also great common areas - a lounge on the first floor, deckchairs outside but best of all is the bar with nice big sofas which we napped on before our rooms were ready at 3pm.  

The Good 

To match the modern feel of the hostel it is really clean.  It certainly didn't have the dingy feeling you sometimes expect from hostels, it's great!  House keeping comes every day and kept everything clean and tidy.  

The staff were amazing, so friendly and professional.  They dealt with everyone's problems and questions (in numerous languages) with a smile on their face.  They even gave me a quiet place to have a skype interview for a job when I discovered the wifi in my room wasn't good enough for consistent skype.  They played a big part in giving the hostel a really nice vibe, it felt alive!  But not alive in a party way, just alive with hustle and bustle but nice and chilled at the same time.  There was everyone from school trips to lads tours to older couples staying at Meininger and it had a really well rounded vibe.  

The location - it's just on the edge of town.  It's supposedly 1.2km to the Stock Exchange so that was about a 15 minute walk.  This was great because most things were in walking distance so saved us pennies, and it also meant if we were going out we didn't have to worry about navigating night public transport instead we could walk home.  When we ventured further afield the tram and metro stops were really close by as well.  

Inside the rooms I really liked how the toilet area was set up, everything was separate so you could shower without worrying about taking up the whole bathroom.  Plus the shower pressure was awesome and it was a nice big shower stall.  We could also get the free wifi in our room, although like I said it wasn't quite good enough for me to feel safe about having a job interview over skype.  

The Bad
Source - Tony Meyer
These are pretty petty, but you know #myblogmyrules so I'm going to tell you them anyway!  My biggest grumble day to day was the bed positions.  It was rather odd.  For some reason there was two single beds pushed together to make a double (odd when there was no couple staying with us) and two bunkbeds were set up so you were supposed to sleep head-to-head with strangers.  Kinda odd, we flipped it so we were toe-to-toe but then all the useful stuff like plugs and lights were at the wrong side.  

The lockers were also odd, your average padlock didn't fit so get a padlock with extra long legs since you'll need it.  Which is a bit of a pain, especially if you are going on a long trip and this is the only place that needs a fancy pants padlock.  It was the same for everyone in our room though and I think most of us just locked our valuables in our bags and that was it, but not ideal.  

I guess a certain down point for some people would be the price, because it is a little more expensive than your usual hostel.  But for me, it's worth it.  You get what you pay for and it is nicer!  

The Ugly?

No ultimate deal breakers for me, I would definitely stay at the Meininger again.  Only one ugly point for me and that is the heat.  

Because the Meininger is one of these fancy pants eco house you can't open any windows because it is supposed to regulate itself.  But you know what- it doesn't.  And blimey it was hot in the rooms, so hot I had to keep sprinkling water on my sheets to keep me cool during the night.  I would wake up because I was so hot so this seriously unimpressed me, especially when it wasn't even hot outside! 

Would I go back? Yes

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Wilde Snake Look

I'm so happy with this summery look!  It's so cheery, I love pairing a big tee with a maxi skirt to dress it down.  Even when it's paired with wedges it still doesn't look over the top!  

The tee is from The Orphans Arms which I always like, lots of nice and different pieces.  And my top tip about The Orphans Arms is the Outlet store (here), items go here to go on sale and they go on sale in a mega way.  This tee was only £15 and for reference it's the men's size L, but now it is £10 here.

My skirt is from Oh My Love! in the sale last summer. 


Monday, 23 June 2014

Brussels: What to see and do!

As you might have gathered from my instagram my brother and I were recently in Brussels for a long weekend.  

Since we had such a good time I thought I would maybe do a couple of posts with what we thought were the best things to do, a review of our hostel (which was *spoiler alert* fab) and maybe our top tips from the weekend.  

First things first, this is my post about what I'd suggest doing in Belgium's capital city.  I had never really considered going to Brussels before but we found flights for a measly £40 and it would have been rude not to go.  Since going I would really recommend Brussels as a city break, there's lots to do and it has a really nice vibe about it.

Before I begin I apologise for my lack of decent photos, when I'm on holiday my 35mm film camera is glued to my eye so I only went digital when I remembered.  My brother was equally useless because he's a film nutter too.  

Walk around and see the touristy sights 

Manneken Pis - the pissing boy, it's smaller than what you probably thought it was going to be but you see his picture everywhere so it's worth a visit.  

Beautiful old buildings - The Stock Exchange, Federal Parliament, Royal Palace etc.  Everything in Brussels is pretty close together so you can walk most places, although there is a metro line which can you take you longer distances.  

Palais De Justice - Get the lift up to the top of the palace and look at the view out over the city.

Grand Place - with the Town Hall and City Museum, so full of life.  

And the not so touristy sights 

The Graffiti - there is so much of it, and it makes the city so vibrant and colourful.  Try to see as much as possible.  We particularly liked the ghetto version of Manneken Pis. 

Zinneke Pis - a charming pissing dog to match the boy.  We stumbled across him when we were checking out the vintage shops (just around from cocktail corner) but whilst we we on our night out we came across him again and took photos - which explains my pose... 

Eat everything 

Waffles - do it, you know you want to.  

Moules - you have to eat mussels when you're in Brussels.  But don't jump in on your first night.  Look at the prices at every restaurant you eat at or walk past so you can get an idea of prices and you can pick a place where you won't get ripped off. 

Fries - you can buy these in special vans on the go or in every restaurant.  Belgians love their fries, but I found them slightly different from other European fries.  In Germany for example fries always come really well salted, but this wasn't the case in Brussels and it was a nice change - you could season your food yourself!  

Drink almost as much

Beer - Brussels is all about the beer.  And in most places it will be cheaper / the same price as soft drinks, so it's actually economical to drink beer isn't it? 

Cocktails - now if you're more of a cocktail girl like me then you won't be disappointed.  Cocktails everywhere, from all the bars on the streets surrounding the Stock Exchange to buying mojitos from a van near St Katherines.  St Grey is a really interesting bar, it has deckchairs in the back and a museum area at the side.  Confusing but good.  

Celtica - cheap beer.


For vintage clothes - Episodes - Great fun and some really great finds.  Although I would say it's a little bit overpriced, especially for bags.  For vintage bags check out the flea markets, there is far more to choose from and much cheaper.

Het Ivoren Aapje book shop - this is the most charming bookshop ever.  It's pretty small but so quirky.  

Record stores - there's a surprising amount of them about, you won't struggle but one good one is 72 Records.

Flea market - Place de Jeu de Balle. Lots of fun, so much stuff and everywhere!  It's a true flea market with a mix match of things which you really have to dig through.  It is quite touristy though so barter and barter hard.  I bought these cute bracelets and a Captain sign for Fathers Day.

Silent Movie

Now this is a special one - for 4EURO at Cinematek you can catch a silent film.  Not all are silent as it is the Brussels film museum and has a huge collection of films.  

If you look at the poster outside the door the silent films all have a piano symbol next to them.  We saw a Russian silent film from 1929 of modern life which was a real insight into life in between the wars.  But what was really incredible was that the piano player played flawlessly for an hour and a half, without any sheet music and in the dark.  

It was such a special experience; you watch a full size cinema screen but there are only three and a half row of seats so it was really intimate.  

For free

Parks and gardens - there are so many to go see and they are lovely to walk through.  It's times like this I loved having my Kindle because it could fit in my bag easily and we could sit down for a read whenever we wanted.

Pee against St Katherines - if you are a boy that is.  There is a perfectly legal, albeit smelly, public urinal area right up against the old church.  Let's be honest when else do you get the chance to pee up against a church?  

Parking58 - This is the best panoramic view in town.  

So that's my top list of things to see and do in Brussels if you are heading there for a weekend.  I hope you like it, please tell me if you think this sort of thing is a good post or not!  
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