Saturday, 17 March 2012

Thursday - Primos and The Maven with Hunter Pig

Hunter Pig and I used to meet on Wednesdays for a cosy cinema trip, but in recent times we have moved to a bite to eat followed by booze - I think I prefer this arrangement. I am always on the look out for a food bargain, so on Thursday we decided to hit Primo's Gourmet Hotdogs for the Dog Pound deal - buy one full price hot dog and drink to receive another hot dog for just £1.

When we got to the Corn Exchange at 7.30ish Primos was pretty quiet, but I imagine is is quite the hub of activity in the day time. This didn't bother us one bit - the dogs were stacked high, the beer was cold and the bill really good value. 8/10.

My Picante. Bratwurst sausage topped with Primo’s chilli, Monterey Jack cheese, crispy bacon and jalapeƱos
We are cocktail fans, and after some aimless wandering up and down the calls we arrived at our next destination - The Maven. This isn't too surprising as it's a well kept secret when you could walk past for months and not notice its even there....we both loved it.

It's prohibition in style, with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. Ok, so what I saved on hotdogs I spent on cocktails but when they are this good I am more than happy to pay a premium.  We had three each; I can't remember the names of the first two but one of them was a spectacular! - see below....Hunter Pig and I both agreed that the third was the most delicious Amaretto Sour that we have ever tasted. If it hasn't been a school night there is no doubt that we would have spend the night propping up the bar until 4am (the weekend closing time). 10/10

Fire cocktail
Hunter in 2008....I am on the camera!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tuesday - Pepper Turkey and Sir-Fried Stuff

Those who know me know I love meat in breadcrumbs, and when Jo and I had our customary dinner conversation on the way home she explained she was going to pan fry turkey but not use the panko breadcrumbs that we have in the cupboard...WHAT?!?!?!?! I breadcrumbs!!

Luckily for Jo, the food was delicious and I didn't miss the breadcrumbs - she can cook for me again.

Peppered Turkey and Stir-Fry Vegetables

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Monday at Pinche Pinche - 9/10

On Monday the rather delightful team at Pinche Pinche in Chapel Allerton invited us to come and sample their new menu.  Pinche Pinche is owned by Simon Heath, Yorkshire born and bred but smitten by all things Mexican.  He spent a year living and working there and has made it his mission to open our eyes to the delights of Mexican street cuisine.

Now as you may have gathered, I love a good spice fest - the more scoville units the better as far as I'm concerned.  But Mexican food is about so much more than the chilli - its about balancing flavours of lime, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, and chilli of course, amongst many others, to really aliven your taste buds.  And if that hasn't already made you hungry, I promise the food at Pinche Pinche will.

As it was a menu launch, we tried a range of dishes to get a full flavour (boom boom) of the food on offer.  We were also treated to some lovely wine and some rather special tequilas.  That's the thing: the food at Pinche Pinche may be good but the drinks are pretty special.  They have the same number of tequilas and mezcal available as the average restaurant wine list, as well as specialist beers and tasty wine.

I won't take you through every dish, save to say that I really enjoyed them all.   Some were things that I would not ordinarily have picked out for myself, for example the duck fajitas, but I would be more than happy to eat them again.  I loved the guacamole, made with Haas avocados and an expert balance of seasoning to make the most of that beautiful fruit.  In my experience, guacamole can be lacklustre at best, and vile at worst, so if you have any doubts, this is the one to make you happy again. I was also very impressed with the ceviche (haddock in orange and lime juices with lots of coriander) while the beef tortilla put a proper smile on my face.

Joe's favourite was the duck fajitas (do not think Old El Paso - think citrus and coriander, served with piquante salsas), and he too was a big fan of the beef tortilla.  Overall, we were treated to some truly fantastic dishes, including some great desserts.  Pinche Pinche had restored my love of churros (light, crispy with some very nice caramel sauce).  We will definitely be going back.

Mushroom and blackbean
Those tasty beef tortillas
Mexican prawn cocktail (also very tasty!)
Joe's favourite - the duck fajitas
Pinche Pinche is also open from 8.30 and do some really cool breakfasts.  Joe and I will be popping in at some point soon for Mexican breakfast tacos and heuvos rancheros.
Me having one of those tasty tequilas
Joe also enjoying a sip (!) of tequila!
Me and our charming host, Simon.  Many thanks for the invite!

Sunday - I ran 20 miles then went carb crazy!!

It is now Tuesday and my thighs are still in some pain from running the Spen 20 on Sunday morning. It was a 20 mile run around the West Yorkshire Hills and I managed to get around in an okay time of 2hrs 54mins (tbc)......I'll be honest, I was pretty sceptical that I would make it in one piece if at all - the furthest I had run before Sunday was 15 miles when my knee hurt enough to pay to see a physio and that was 3 weeks ago! Having not run since I couldn't get out of my head that 20 miles/ 3 hours constant running is a pretty long way.....but, I did it!

I am supposed to be doing the Hull 20 this Sunday, and the thought of that was a non starter yesterday. I have a feeling I may be there at the starting line now though! - bonkers.

My Saturday night pre run carbs

Jo's drunken good luck message

Me before the race
Post run carb fest - chicken fried rice, chips and prawn crackers

Jo's slightly more healthy effort

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Saturday - Hummingbird Kitchen 7.5/10

On Saturday Zanna, Sophie and I headed into Leeds faced with what I thought quite a daunting task - trying to find bridesmaids' dresses.  I was fairly apprehensive as Sophie, Zanna and I all have quite different looks and tastes in clothes so finding something we would all like was going to be a challenge.  However, two shops down and we had great success.  We're keeping the dresses on the down-low, but suffice to say I think I'm a rather nice bride!  They are both going to look beautiful in cerise satin.
To celebrate, we went for dinner and cocktails at the Hummingbird Kitchen in Chapel Allerton.  This is the venture which replaced Angel Share, and is again a bar downstairs with restaurant on the upstairs floors.  I was pleased to see that both the restaurant and the bar were busy all evening, a strong sign that the food and drinks scene in north Leeds is alive and well.

The Hummingbird Kitchen try to source their produce from British suppliers including the Ginger Pig, Crust & Crumb and the Kirkgate Market.  The food is British and European, most dishes with a bit of a twist.  I love any eatery where I would happily eat virtually everything on the menu, and I was spoiled for choice here.

Zanna and I shared some scampi from the small plates (Scottish scampi with bloody mary dipping sauce) which was very good: crispy breadcrumbs, sweet tails and a refreshing dipping sauce.  For mains, Sophie went for the smoky root vegetable and cheddar wellington which was beautifully presented parcels of filo pastry with creamed savoy and thyme-glazed carrots. It looked utterly delicious and Sophie was very pleased.  Zanna (a touch hungover from our white wine indulgence on Friday) homed in on the ribeye steak with beef dripping chips and red wine jus, served blue.  It came cooked to perfection, properly seasoned, with some very chunky chips.  The only slight dip was  the grilled mushrooms which were a bit flabby, but overall it left a very good impression.  I had the roasted coley with Devonshire crab gnocchi, olives, tomatoes and a brandy emulsion.  It was a beautifully light dish, but would have benefitted from a couple of tweaks.  The coley either needed a crisp skin, or to have had the skin removed before serving, and in my view the olives were far too overpowering for the delicate crab and tomatoes.  

Overall though, we had a great night.  We kept our dinner table for the whole night, ordering cocktails without having to go to the busy bar downstairs.  The cocktails were excellent (a fabulous espresso martini) and it was a great venue for a lovely girls' night.

Me and Zanna
Zanna and Sophie
Crispy scampi
Roasted root vegetable and cheddar wellington
Roasted coley with crab gnocchi, olives and tomatoes
Rib eye with beef dripping chips

Friday dim sum

I love Fridays.  The end of the week, no work for two days, and an evening to have a bit of a blow out and celebration.

This Friday, my celebration was the visit of the lovely Zanna, long time friend and bridesmaid to be, who was coming up for a general visit and do some wedding planning.   We needed a good catch up and the perfect location was some pre-dinner drinks at the Roundhay Fox.  We supped some white wine and then when the time was right, dispatched Joe to go home and rustle up some M&S dim sum and prawns with broccoli and cashew nuts.  What a star.

It was rather lovely to arrive back at the house to find dim sum steaming, broccoli stir frying, more wine in the cooler and candles lit.  Dinner was also exactly what we needed, even if Joe did try to melt my face with some very spicy chilli!

M&S dim sum - a not too shabby alternative to making your own (and much less hassle)
Prawns with broccoli and cashews (and super spicy chilli!)

Thursday - rushed roast chicken

The super exciting activities this weekend revolved around my beautiful friend and bridesmaid, Zanna, coming to stay.  I'm sure other people will sympathise with me when I say that I absolutely love having guests, but the night before they arrive I do slightly lose the plot in terms of cleaning, washing, and general prep.

The plan on Thursday had been to go into work super early (7.30am - definitely too early), work super hard and then leave with enough time to get a lot done in the evening, including food shopping, cleaning and cooking.  Best laid plans, hey?

Suffice to say, the leaving early did not really happen, so those plans went out the window.  We raced home late, slammed chicken, vegetables and potatoes in the oven, and manically cleaned  as much as we could get too.  What a super Thursday!  And the dinner outcome was as seen below: roasted chicken thighs with vegetables in a tomato sauce, topped with chicken wedges.  Not too shabby though.

Roasted chicken in the pan
Roasted chicken thighs with vegetables on a bed of watercress

Wednesday at West Park Brasserie 7.5/10

Courtesy of a Groupon treat, on Wednesday Joe and I popped for dinner at the West Park Brasserie, just north of Headingley.  It was a spur of the moment choice and a well deserved treat for both of us.

I often feel quite spoiled living in north Leeds as there are such a number and range of restaurants, cafes and bars to spend your time in.  Quite feasibly, we need never go into the city centre for an evening out.  One of the thing I like most about the places in Roundhay, Chapel Allerton, Headingley etc.  is that the restaurants are more likely to be a bit quirky and give you proper variety, which in my view is somewhat lacking in the city centre.

West Park Brasserie continues these good feelings.  It's a small dining room space with simple, low key decor, and a relaxed vibe.  The food is gastro-pub-esque and worldwide inspired - think salt and pepper calamari, smoked salmon and prawn fishcakes or Thai beef salad with crispy noodles for starters, and gnocchi with summer vegetables and halloumi or Vietnamese style bream for mains.  There are a lot of styles to cover but it looks like there's something for everyone.

The groupon offer was for two burgers from the gourmet burger menu, although they did say that if we wanted something on the a la carte, we could just pay the difference, which was a good touch.  But we had come for burgers so burgers we had.  Joe opted for the kiwi burger, an Aberdeen Angus steak patty topped with beetroot, pineapple, cheese and a fried egg, which was a brilliant combination of flavours and textures.  I had the chicken and mozzarella burger with marinaded tomatoes and sweet chilli, which was also rather tasty, although my chicken was a touch on the pink side.  It wasn't something worth raising, but anything less done would have been a little dangerous!  Both burgers came with freshly made coleslaw and hand cut chips which were superb.

All in, it was a really nice evening and I'd definitely go back.  On a Wednesday evening they were busy, and from the looks of the food being ordered, these weren't just people seduced by the groupon factor.  Definitely one to give a try.

7.5/10 (points gone for pink chicken and they took an age to bring our olives which, admittedly, they went off menu for).

Those pesky olives
The kiwi burger
The chicken and mozzarella burger