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ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

Today is World Porridge Day, which is being promoted by Mary’s Meals. Mary’s Meals provide a daily meal of maize porridge (likuni phala) to some of the world’s poorest children. It makes a bigger difference than you might think – for many children it’s the meal that allows them to attend school.

Insights, where I work,  supports Mary’s Meals, and today there are some themed activities and people were encouraged to wear tartan. You may remember Mary’s Meals was the charity supported by Martha Payne, who blogged about school dinners in Argyll a few years ago as NeverSeconds.

Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson 
Wearing tartan with Fraser Paterson

Not sure I’ll actually be indulging in any porridge as I hate the stuff, but I’ll be seeing what else I can do.

Donate to Mary's Meals.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

I only recently discovered that two companies in Scotland are making “haggis spice” chocolate; dark chocolate mixed with some of the (non-meat) ingredients of haggis. Science demands a taste test!

Coco's Haggis Spice ChocolateChocolate Tree Haggis Spice

The bar on the left is from Coco, a chocolatier based in Edinburgh. The one on the right is sold by Chocolate Tree, a different chocolatier found in Haddington, to the East of Edinburgh. They’re both dark chocolate, with 64% and 58% cocoa solids relatively, so there shouldn’t be a huge difference in fundamental nature. The Coco version is labelled as suitable for vegans, while the Chocolate Tree one “may contain traces of dairy and nuts” as they're used in the same place. However, it doesn't explicitly include any non-vegan ingredients.

Interestingly, although both bars are meant to evoke haggis, different haggis recipes vary, and so it is with these bars. The only seasonings both have in common are – salt and pepper! The Coco bar also includes clove, nutmeg and allspice. Chocolate Tree’s bar, on the other hand, includes rosemary, coriander seed, mace and thyme. For anyone expecting spice to mean chilli – no, sorry, that’s not what haggis is about (at least now that Nahm-Jim is no more). It’s a milder spice experience.

Both bars have a similar aroma, though the Chocolate Tree bar’s scent is stronger and more exciting.

On price, the Coco bar is £4.00, while the Chocolate Tree bar is £3.50.

The Coco Haggis Spice chocolate is smooth and has a distinctly dark chocolaty taste. The spicing is subtle; after eating several pieces I noticed a slightly warm after-feel, but it wasn’t a major part of the initial taste. In fact apart from the dark chocolate taste, the main thing I got was the odd salt crystal. The salt did seem to act as a bit of a nucleus, so that was the most interesting bit, but for the Coco Haggis Spice bar I would say the emphasis was on salted chocolate bar, with haggis spice rather soft-pedalled.

The Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice chocolate gives an immediate hit of spices, unhampered by a milder chocolate. I’m confident I can detect the rosemary and coriander seed. I’m less confident of my ability to distinguish mace and thyme anyway, so that’s OK. Maybe a more sophisticated reviewer would get those too. I also get occasional salt, though the salt’s contribution is much lower-key than in the Coco bar. Finally the Chocolate Tree bar gets extra brownie points because 8% of the bar is pinhead oats. That’s enough to give a little bit of random texture to nibble on, and a little bit of flavour; and of course oats are a key ingredient of haggis so it’s entirely appropriate.

I didn’t expect a big difference between these bars, but I was surprised. The Coco bar is a perfectly good chocolate bar and in isolation you would not feel disappointed about having bought it. If chocolate is what you’re really looking for, with a hint of something else, then it may be the one for you. For me though, the Chocolate Tree bar was a clear winner: nice chocolate, distinctive spiced flavour, pinhead oats for added interest, and finally- it is just a little bit reminiscent of haggis (in a good way – sorry if you find that hard to imagine!)

The Coco Haggis Spice bar is OK. But I would actually recommend going out of your way to try the Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice bar as it’s a bit special. The only thing I can find to complain about is that I ordered a different bar at the same time, and that one was past its best before date when it reached me (the Haggis Spice has a year to run). The bar’s fine, but it does just give me a little pause over customer service. I would ignore that though, and try the Chocolate Tree Haggis Spice.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

A welcome recent addition return to the Dundee city centre since late last year is an original Dundee & District Tramways horse-drawn tram.

Repurposed horse-drawn tram in DundeeRepurposed horse-drawn tram in Dundee

Unfortunately it’s not fulfilling its original function – might be a bit tricky without a full set of rails – but it’s back sitting on such rails are available, and interesting to be able to have a close look at it. It last saw service here as an actual tram over 100 years ago.

It’s now The Auld Tram, selling coffee and sandwiches. Must try the nosh some time; so far I’ve not been sufficiently hungry when passing by, but it looks like they’re aiming for high quality but satisfying. It’s an offshoot of Bridgeview Station, a restaurant overlooking the Tay Bridge with an 1870s railway carriage.

Something else to look out for later this year will be the opening of the fledgling Dundee Museum of Transport.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Xmas is the season of food, and a couple of interesting examples have cropped up in St. Andrews recently. In the doorway of the erstwhile Pots and Pans, a 24 Hour Bakery has sprung up:

Hot pie vending machine in a shop doorway

“24 Hour Bakery” appears to be a posh term for a hot-pie vending machine, where the definition of “hot pie” extends beyond the Scotch pie once favoured by Pie-Face, to include faux (flaky) bridies, fudge doughnuts and bacon rolls. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, when I passed by it was reporting itself as being out of order. Apparently it sells out fast.

Somehow hot food seems wrong though. In Scotland, winter’s the traditional time for ice cream, as shown by the third image in this BBC photo gallery (a bit of a classic). I think rather than ice cream consumption being prompted by hot weather, a bit of a chill reminds Scots of what they could really do with right now. And lo and behold, Luvians has the answer:

A sign for Festive Ice Cream Flavours (Christmas Pudding, Apple Crumble, and Gingerbread)A chocolate waffle ice cream cone from Luvians containing a scoop each of Christmas Pudding and Gingerbread flavoured ice creams

This time, the shop wasn’t out of order, so despite having got drookit in heavy rain earlier on I popped in and purchased a cone, with a scoop each of the Christmas Pudding and Gingerbread flavours. The Gingerbread, which wound up as the upper layer, was reminiscent of Starbucks’ gingerbread latte but a bit colder, and was very pleasant. There was a very slight nip of ginger to it, about right for a gingerbread. The Christmas Pudding flavour was less immediately distinctive, but had a brandied overtone and frequent hints of vine fruit or candied peel.

To be honest, it wasn’t really the weather for ice cream, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It might be more successful at the Christmas table as suggested by the sign!

ggreig: (Default)

How many things are wrong with this picture?

Colin the Cow

ggreig: (Default)

During the week, I also walked along this short stretch of the Fife Coastal Walk, the last part in the East Neuk that I hadn’t been along.

Being fairly short, there’s not a huge amount to report, but I had been looking forward to it because it’s this stretch that contains the St. Monans windmill and salt pans. I’d seen the windmill from a distance, but wasn’t sure what to expect of salt pans.

Looking towards the windmill from St. Monans - Pittenweem in the background

It seems it’s possible to inspect the interior of the windmill, but you have to either turn up between 12:00 and 16:00 in July or August, or borrow keys from the Post Office or Spar in St. Monans. I didn’t pass either of these on my way through St. Monans so perhaps there’ll have to be a return visit some day. The windmill isn’t operational, and has skeleton sails in place.

On getting closer, it turns out that the salt pans are immediately below the windmill. There’s not much to see. Most look like this:

Ruin of a panhouse at St. Monans salt pans

That’s the ruin of a panhouse, of which there were once nine. Out beyond it, you can just make out a couple of holding tanks cut into the rock of the shore. The salt water was pumped up from the holding tank, probably using wind power from the windmill, then distributed to the panhouses by pipes or a cart. There’s one ruin that’s uncovered, so you can get a better impression of what’s there, with aid of a helpful diagram (click through for larger version).

Uncovered ruin of a panhouseDiagram of a panhouse

From there a pleasant but fairly undistinguished walk took me past a shag drying its wings with the Bass Rock in the background…

Shag drying its wings with Bass Rock in background

… to Pittenweem.


I’ve been to Pittenweem before, so I didn’t revisit St. Fillan’s Cave…

St. Fillan's Cave, Pittenweem

…but I did make the obligatory visit to the The Cocoa Tree Café. The Cocoa Tree is a serious chocolate shop that also sells some other food, and if nothing else you should try their hot chocolate. You don’t even need to visit Pittenweem to do it; they have a stall at the monthly Farmers Markets in St. Andrews and Cupar where they serve Milk Hot Chocolate, White Hot Chocolate and their speciality, Caliente.

Caliente is their chilli hot chocolate, and it is to other hot chocolates as espresso is to other coffees. It’s thick and smooth and intense, and just hot enough, and yes, it’s served in espresso-size cups.

If you despair of visiting Pittenweem or the farmers markets in person to have Caliente prepared properly by the Cocoa Tree, you can order a sachet of four servings of Caliente powder online. There are instructions (which should be followed), and the recommended approach is to make up the whole batch at once, and keep unused servings in the fridge for reheating.

Clockwise from top: Cerise (whole cherry in Kirsch), Wasabi, Prickly Pear, Tequila & Chilli

ggreig: (Default)

A small jar of honey with white truffles, the box it came in, and a 50p for scale.

There are probably better ways to savour the delights of honey and white truffles than from the same jar.

ggreig: (Default)
Hurrah for Britain's cheapest meal!

We'll have those boys up chimneys again in no time now.
ggreig: (Default)

’There's a reason that Scotland languishes at only second fattest nation in the world. America can see us the infamous deep fried Mars bar and raise it… quite a bit.

Mean looking bunny, San Diego Fair

Go to the fair... )
ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

After eating at Pink’s, we went on to Griffith Park, which covers the hills above Hollywood, including the famous sign, and walked up-hill to the Griffith Observatory. The walk is not very long, but climbs at a fair rate, and in the heat of a Californian summer day it was a relief to get to the top.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (Hollywood sign very faint on left)

We didn’t stay at the observatory long enough to do any observing – the telescope is open to the public after dark – but we did sit through a show in the planetarium (enjoyable and informative, although not likely to tell my audience anything new) , then wandered round the museum. The upper floor was mostly devoted to meteorites, and the lower to planets of the solar system. Pluto has not yet been eliminated, although its change of status was noted elsewhere – the gift shop sells “Pluto – Revolve In Peace” T-shirts and baseball caps.

Model of the Moon, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

We bumped into a familiar face:

Einstein and me

There was an excellent view over Los Angeles from the top of the hill.

Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory

When we got back down to the car, a coyote dropped by, and posed for a few seconds on the bank opposite, but moved off just before I managed to press the shutter release on the camera.

Perhaps the coyote was just leaving The Trails, a little Zagat-rated cabin café selling high-quality snacks and drinks for people in the park, including interesting varieties of shortbread (lavender, and fennel and almond) and a variety of vegan-friendly fare including shepherd’s pie, pigs in a blanket, chilli and galettes.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Usually, when I’ve visited the States, I’ve left blogging until after I get home, done a couple of decent posts then run out of steam. In an attempt to manage better coverage this time, I’m blogging offline with Live Writer for posting once I get back. (Now that I’m back – I didn’t succeed as well in that as I hoped, but still have a bit of a head start.)

[livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem and I visited the famous Pink's of Hollywood, a hot dog stand of 71 year’s standing patronised (occasionally) by the rich and famous and (more commonly) by hordes of commoners willing to queue for up to an hour to sample the gourmet hot dogs.

[livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem's only option was the vegan Patt Morrison Baja Vegan Dog (topped with fresh guacamole, chopped tomatoes and chopped onions) but she declared herself satisfied. I ordered a “Planet Hollywood” dog for myself (Polish sausage, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, bacon and nacho cheese), and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem recommended* a Martha Stewart dog (relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream).

Left to right: a Patt Morrison Baja Vegan Dog, a Martha Stewart Dog, and a Planet Hollywood Dog.

I dug into the Martha Stewart first. The bacon was nice and crispy and the sauerkraut made an interesting contrasting layer between the bacon and the hot dog. The other ingredients, while each making a contribution, were less significant in their impact. On the down side, it was impossible to get a full height bite of the dog in one mouthful, and the wetness of the ingredients led to fairly quick disintegration of the hot dog, and a fair bit of fall-out.

I finished off Martha Stewart, and started in to the Planet Hollywood. My first impression of this was the nacho cheese adhering to my face as I tried to bite into it, and unfortunately it’s only at this point that I recalled I’m not over keen on nacho cheese – it’s a bit slimy and plasticky, and doesn’t even have the greatest taste. The Polish sausage was mildly spicy, but gave the impression of being made of the cheaper bits of meat. It may be true, but generally we want to be able to fool ourselves about this! Even the bacon was less well cooked than in the Martha Stewart, and was a bit on the fatty side. I wasn’t sure when I started out that I’d finish both dogs, but the Planet Hollywood made it easy to give up half way through.

Pink’s is worth a visit, but I would recommend avoiding any dog based on the Polish sausage – try one of the other ones. The Martha Stewart was nice.

* The recommendation was made on general principles, not experience. [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem wishes to further clarify that "'General principles' doesn't mean that I think people should go around eating giant wodges of bacon. Especially as I am vegan."


Jun. 1st, 2010 09:22 pm
ggreig: (Caricature)

Travelling up to Aberdeen at the weekend, I went looking for Chef Jang. Scooting out of the train station, through the new Union Square mall with its gleaming, clinical Yo! Sushi, I walked briskly up the cobbles of Carmelite Street before poking my head around the door on the ground floor of Aberdeen Market, expecting to see the popular hole-in-the-wall.


The Hunt for Chef Jang )


Sep. 28th, 2009 12:47 pm
ggreig: (Vacant Podling)

The cougar that’s been sighted on the Microsoft campus has a Twitter account: @microsoftcougar. Not worth following, but amusing for a quick look.


May. 23rd, 2009 01:09 pm
ggreig: (Vacant Podling)

I bought some Norwegian cheese for a game this afternoon, and I think it may have been a big mistake…

I went to a maths conference in Norway back in the mid 90s, and remember having some slices of some sort of brown cheese (yes, brown) for breakfast. For a cheese, it was unusual – it was sweet, with a caramelly flavour – but very nice.

Oh, but I think I must have been fed the wimpy tourist version!

I saw some Norwegian Gjetost [Wikipedia] for sale in town this morning and thought, “Ooh, never seen that in the UK, we’ll have some of that!” Having got home I tried a sliver.

It really was a thin slice, but I can still taste it, and in this case that’s not a good thing. Imagine a block of processed cheese for the slightly plasticky impression when cutting it; a sliver comes off without crumbling or squishing. The mouth feel is a bit like fudge, smooth, soft and a bit cloying. The flavour – a strong, savoury caramel that’s an odd mixture of salt and sweet.

I’ve had a quick look online to see how it’s usually eaten, and the trick seems to be to take it in small quantities with another strong flavour – apples, coffee, or strong sausage. Looks like using it on a pizza is also an option. As all of these are available, we’ll see how it goes, but I fear it isn’t going to be a hit.

Apparently gjetost (literally “goat cheese”) is a particular type of brunost (brown cheese). It’s a mixture of leftover whey of cow’s and goat’s milk, or just goat’s milk, that’s boiled until the lactose caramelises – so the caramel element of the flavour is explained.

I expect the local Anster cheese and the Prima Donna Maturo are a bit more accessible. I suspect I may find myself looking for a way to get rid of the gjetost.

Sent Home

Feb. 12th, 2009 05:17 pm
ggreig: (MoonFrown)

…but not for being a bad boy.

it snowed today, and wonder of wonders, some of it actually lay in Kingsbarns. Rather more lay in Dundee (between 5 and 9 inches – I measured 5 at work) and by lunch time the buses had stopped running, schools and council offices were closing down, and work decided it was time to send people home too.

Snow in Dundee

Luckily, I was able to get a lift in to the city centre, rather than having to wait for my bus… As I’d already been delayed a bit waiting for the lift, I took a bit longer to have a quick look at the continental market in the square.

Sausages! In the Snow

The stalls selling sausages had little samples out to taste – why don’t they usually seem to do this? – and so I came away several sausages heavier than I’d planned to: pork with figs, chilli, chilli-spice (coated in mustard seeds and (I think) caraway) and garlic and onion (much nicer than I expected).

The buses out of Dundee and through Fife were fine, and I finally got back into Kingsbarns around 4 o’clock.

Snow in Kingsbarns

The snow wasn’t too bad anywhere by the time I was travelling, though I think it caught people out a bit earlier on, and maybe buses slithering in city side streets isn’t a great plan. It’s not even a major story on the Scotland page of the BBC news site, never mind front page stuff. Boots to work tomorrow though, I think.

ggreig: (Blockhead)

Dalek 003

Another in my (very occasional) series of hot dog posts

In the last week or so, an alien invader has been spotted on the mean streets of Dundee – someone who clearly believes that other life-forms should be efficiently reduced to a smoked, sweating, dripping emulsified high fat offal tube, and where better to embark on such a mission than Scotland? Click on the small picture to see a larger version that's, ooh, practically legible.

Dundee may not be many people’s favourite place (hem hem) but since the Nineties the street furniture – both official and unofficial – has made it a slightly better place to be. Look out for the dragon, the penguins, the information monkey, and Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx.

ggreig: (Simpsons)
I recommend reading [livejournal.com profile] pictishqueen's entry on getting thrown out of a coffee shop.
ggreig: (Blockhead)
Julian Graves' White Chocolate & Blackcurrant Crumb Coated Freeze Dried Blackcurrants (catchy name, guys!) are yum.
ggreig: (South Park)
A strange fruit has appeared in the supermarket over the last couple of weeks. Fortunately, despite the recent foolishness in Big Brother, it is not the sort that Billie Holiday sang about.

So what is it then? )
ggreig: (Black Hat)

You may recall that I told you some months ago about an evil and misguided experiment that aimed to construct a foodstuff from meat and <gasp> flaky pastry, rather than the true and godly shortcrust.

Mum told me yesterday that right has triumphed and the SWRI has recognised that the one true Forfar bridie requires that the casing be of shortcrust pastry, and all show schedules have been altered accordingly.

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