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Trome! Greek Food in the Highlands

Greek food is possibly my favourite type of food, and Greece is definitely one of my favourite places in the world. I used to try different holiday locations every time but now I struggle to see past going back to Kassiopi. The culture, the warmth of Greek hospitality, beautiful surroundings and a pile of Greek restaurants so proud to serve you dishes that they were brought up on… it’s hard not to fall in love. And now we have lots of memories here, even miss S asks to go back and she’s only 4. I like to think that my trip there while I was pregnant is why she likes olives so much.

Kassiopi

So when Kostas, the owner of Trome! (Pronounced Trom-eh), got in touch I was excited about trying the Greek pies. Kostas used lockdown to start a business that he is passionate about & when I asked him if he used to be a chef he gave a little smile and told me no but that he had been taught to cook from a young age. He didn’t even need to explain much, I could picture the scene with everyone helping and learning in the kitchen. Trome! has been his vision since his family relocated to Inverness four years ago. The pies are made by small local producers in Greece that he knows and can be bought freshly cooked or frozen. Trome means ‘let’s eat’ in Greek & the large portions meant that I really ate.

The delivery arrived just before lunch & was piping hot so I had the cheese pie (£4) with some lettuce and tomato. A mix of feta and mizithra cheeses in a bougatsa (multiple layers of stretched thin phyllo pastry), this is the most traditional pie and one that Greeks often have for breakfast or brunch. As a big feta fan this was right up my street. The pastry had a crunch that you never get over here with bakes and the filling was very cheesy. I had it with a Starbucks iced coffee (£2.20) that arrived with it because cold coffee is a big thing over there. I was fully transporting myself.

Cheese Pie

The pie that I was most looking forward to was Spanakopita (£4) – full of greens like spinach, and feta cheese. This is one that I have definitely had as part of a family lunch in Kassi. It tasted so authentic and wasn’t changed for British tastes – yes! Again, the pastry had a nice crispness and the filling was fresh with the slight tang and creaminess of the feta. I need to order more already!

We had it with some salads and the cheese and ham pie (£4) for dinner. This pie was also well balanced with ham, swiss cheese and some tomato sauce within that ever crisp pastry. The tomato sauce really helps to balance out the richness and I think that the pie would be nice with a pot of blitzed up tomato and herbs sauce on the side.

Spinach pie & cheese and ham pie with my green bean and prosciutto salad & my standard-ish salad with fresh beetroot and olive oil/oregano dressing

When I talk of food transporting me places, Baklava can do it in one mouthful. I rarely eat it outside of Greece so I was eager to dig in. I was messaging my sister in-law at the time (we often go to Kassi as a family) and received a video of my brother in-law in return, sad and jealous that they don’t live in Inverness to get some! They had good reason to be sad because the baklava (£4.50) was heavenly. No doubt that I’ll be ordering this again. You need a sweet tooth for baklava, with the syrupy honey flowing between layers of phyllo pastry and crunchy bits of nuts with cinnamon peeking through. At £4.50 a portion it is not inexpensive but not more than you’d pay over there. But if you like baklava then I am fairly confident that you’ll be happy with this one.

Baklava, which I ate straight out of the box. It was calling me!

It was a lovely sunny day on Thursday so we decided to have a picnic in Farr. This was the perfect opportunity to have the last savoury pie- gruyere. We heated it up in the oven before leaving so the cheese was nice and gooey. It had lots of gruyere so was strongly flavoured and one for a real cheese lover. The pastry had a nice buttery taste and I would serve it with a dressed salad to cut through the richness. It was eaten up before the rest of the picnic so that is always a good sign.

Gruyere Pie
Picnic spot

The final part of my pastry heavy week was a custard pie known as Bougatsa in Greece. Probably the most traditional pie over there and I had three friends messaging me about it the day I posted a photo on social media. This pie isn’t healthy but no dessert is so I just embraced it. Next time I get this pie for people coming over I might make a cherry compote or something to go with it. It is £4.50 a portion but I’d only eat half anyway so to me it serves two. You could even pass it off as homemade at a dinner party if you bought a whole one.

Custard Pie

If you are thinking about ordering for work they also sell other soft drinks. No doubt we’ll be ordering one day in work soon. Trome! sell whole frozen pies for £15-16.50 that serve 4-6 people. But if the portion sizes are the same as the individual portions then they would serve more. Now that lockdown is starting to open up it could be good for family get togethers (soon), especially if your family are Greece fans but can’t go this year. Bring Greece to you!

Please note: Kostas at Trome! very kindly gave me a complimentary order so that I could try the products for an honest review. It was reassuring that he was happy to do it for an honest review as I am always clear when offered gifts that I won’t lie and that scares some places off. Luckily the products were delicious so thank you Kostas for introducing me to a welcome new business in Inverness.

https://trome.co.uk/

Edinbane Lodge Soaring in Skye

What do you do when your husband has been working away for the best part of a couple of months and you’ve barely seen him? Well, I start looking at where we can go for a date night away once things calm down. And I’m big on researching so I can easily make that into an event itself! After scouring hotels within two hours of Inverness and making a shortlist I still didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing so I took to social media for advice. Many hotels were shut for the winter months or open but the restaurant was shut or closed on the quieter Sunday night that we were looking at. Then Edinbane Lodge in Skye was recommended. Skye is about two hours away then up to Edinbane was adding an extra hour but I thought I would take a look. And as soon as I did I knew that I was onto something special. A quiet confidence struck me for somewhere that the current owners had for a little over a year. Then I looked at reviews and everyone loved it. It seemed to tick all of the boxes – food of a high standard, lovely rooms, local produce, not a chain, romantic setting. An enticing winter offer of a half price room if you dine with them sealed the deal.

Truth be told I havent been to Skye for about 7 or 8 years because it is packed with tourists in the summer months now. So I really enjoyed going back off season when the roads are quieter and you can explore at a gentle pace.

On arrival at Edinbane Lodge we were warmly greeted and shown to our room upstairs. The room was gorgeous with dark wood and blue tones that gave a relaxing sumptuous feel. Straight away I noticed the local artwork that I had read about on their social media, the Edinbane Pottery cups and the lovely big bed.

The high standard continued into the bathroom with the roll top bath, separate big shower, anti-steam bluetooth mirror and Highland Soap Co toiletries. This was the room that we wanted and more.

We had been invited down for a welcome drink so went back downstairs to peruse the bar list. The local theme was not lost in this area with as much coming from Skye & Highland brewers and distillers as from anywhere else. It was only right for me to try a G&T with their own gin made by Isle of Skye Distillers using the lodges own botanicals & Mr S had an Isle of Skye beer. The gin was served in a proper balloon glass & tasted lovely.

Back in the room the coffee machine had Nespresso pods so we had a coffee (after figuring the machine out!) and what I think was homemade shortbread.

We got ready and I made use of that lovely rolltop bath. The only thing that would have made it better was a nice bubble bath to put in it but the body wash gave a nice aroma.

We went down early enough for a cocktail before dinner. They don’t have a full cocktail menu but the friendly barman had told us earlier that he can make anything suited to our tastes. Mr S went for an Old Fashioned & I had a gin cocktail with homemade blackberry jam, egg white, elderflower and lemon juice. Both were made expertly, we ranked them up with the best. Our canapes came with them and I was reassured and excited at the same time because the canapes were so bloody good! The popped pork crackling was like eating a really well seasoned, slightly spicy rib with the texture of a prawn cracker. We liked them so much that we asked if we could buy some for later on in the night. Alongside these was a spoon of artichoke puree with some roasted artichoke and a crumbed ball of smooth potato encompassing rich mince- their take on mince & tatties.

Mr S had a revised menu to accommodate his nut allergy but mine is below-

Tasting menu £50 if you are hotel guest

On receiving the menu the Celeriac creme brulee was not something that I was excited about but it was really fantastic. The caramelized top was barbequed and it came with little nuggets of popped grains to provide crunch with the silky bottom layer. The Australian chardonnay cut through the creaminess while still complementing the flavours.

The bread arrived shortly after – three kinds with three butters. The corn bread was my favourite with the plain butter.

Salty, flavoursome mutton broth with soft lamb that melted in your mouth…another course that was hitting the mark. I was questioning the Gewurztraminer on the wine flight so early in the meal before trying it but I did like it with the meaty dish.

I’ve never baked mussels before – I’d be scared to overcook them – but the next course has given me inspiration to try. They were cooked precisely with almost crunchy crab on top, surrounded in butter & with a tasty accompanying wine. I never tried the pepper dulce after the review over the table of his but that was excess to the dish as it had everything it needed to shine.

The mallard and squash was another rich dish that I loved. My favourite element in the dish has to be the choux farci because I didn’t know what it was. In fact it is (usually meat) stuffed cabbage so far more interesting than the cabbage ball that first presented itself.

Last of the savoury courses was cheese. I’m the only one in my family that’s not a fan of Minger cheese but I wanted to try it again as it has been a few years. Mr S likes it but I’m still not swayed. I enjoyed the accompaniments though.

Now onto the two dessert courses. Yes two! This was certainly noted when I first saw their menu before booking.

My cherry and almond pre dessert had the most delicious cherry sorbet and the mock cherry was filled with a mousse. The nuts introduced some texture to the smooth elements and crunched through the sweetness. Perfect match with the amaretto.

By now I’d forgotten to take photos – maybe I was enjoying myself too much or maybe it was the wine flight! But the malted barley mousse, skye ale, butterbeer ice cream was a clever way to end the meal without being overly sweet. The Tawny accompanying it was great and I’m a big fan of tawny port.

I’m not forgetting the petit fours served with coffee as the macaroon rivalled Laduree in Paris.

The dining room is understated and I felt very comfortable and relaxed in there. On a side note, the toilets gave me interiors envy with their charming basins.

Lastly, the service was first rate. We wanted for nothing and our waiter was professional but down to earth.

We retreated to our room with a couple of drinks and that popped pork crackling.

After a peaceful sleep we were looking forward to breakfast. Tea and freshly squeezed orange juice readied my stomach for the good stuff as we were skipping the porridge.

After asking the manager what to have he said you can mix it up so I had Vatten beef sausage, duck eggs, Aultbea white pudding with spicy ketchup. Mr S had similar but with the Edinbane estate venison steak in place of the white pudding. Well it makes a big difference having a breakfast with such high quality items, it was delicious.

We left feeling refreshed and happy. I couldn’t have picked a better place for a night away & would love to go back.

Utopia…but where?

We live near the distributor road and have never found anywhere nearby to have coffee that we really liked. Having resigned ourselves to go further afield into town, Simpsons or somewhere in the outskirts, I was surprised to hear of a new coffee shop down the road from us in nearby Hilton. AND it was supposedly good! After a bit of googling I realised that it had taken the old unit where A&I Butchers were (next to the Post Office) and I was glad because I had a bit of a childish hissy fit (to myself, not to the staff!) when A&I shut their doors so some good had to come of the closure.

In full disclosure, this was the second time I went to Utopia with the first being a disaster because it was so busy and I had a grumpy child needing fed so we couldn’t wait. I wasn’t forgetting about it though and even came equipped with toys, paper and crayons for the child to ensure success.

The menu is bijou but I’d eat most of it so I was happy. The sandwich menu is all mix and match so Mr S decided to make up a chicken and halloumi sandwich. The staff were very understanding of his nut allergy and made him a different side salad as the usual one has nuts. The side salads are inventive and I was impressed with the effort- I find the usual undressed side salad a chore but this was tasty. The sourdough was lovely and it was a nice sandwich but it would be nice to see chutney or mayo or something as an option to go in the sandwiches.

I chose the spiked avocado and halloumi on sourdough… heaven! All three ingredients are at the top of my list so together they were very pleasing. I loved the slight chilli heat but that I could push the flakes away if I didn’t want them. Not one negative thing to say about this dish. Perfect.

My initial concern was that Utopia is not very child friendly because there is no kids menu/option mentioned. It puts me on edge when they aren’t thought of because I wonder if the place wants us there. But we asked the owner and he got something specially for my little girl. Top marks.

We finished the lunch with a Highland Patissier tart. I rave about these tarts all of the time so I won’t bore you with anymore…bloody delicious things.

Finally the coffee. The coffee…what it is all about. It was a good cup of flat white – it wasn’t bitter from the beans being ground too long ago, it was strong but milky, definitely worth coming back for. Finally somewhere within walking distance to get a solid cup of coffee.

Side note – A&I are still in Culloden for the carnivores missing them.

Have you been anywhere worth visiting recently? I love recommendations so get in touch.

The Seafood Shack in Ullapool

I like to pride myself on exploring the highlands but I hadn’t been to Ullapool since I was a little girl. It wasn’t on my radar until I kept hearing about the Seafood Shack – literally a shack selling fresh seafood to takeaway, or eat at one of their few outside tables. It kept popping up on my instagram, then I saw it recommended by a chef in a magazine article then a friend recommended it. Time for a day trip west.

Knowing that it’s outdoors, we were hoping for a dry day. But as we drove the hour and a quarter journey from Inverness, it became clear that the weatherman was not on our side. We went for a swim to the local pool to build up our appetites then headed over at lunchtime.

It is easy to miss the place – it’s opposite Ullapool Museum if you’re planning a trip. It is sandwiched in between two buildings in the middle of a street, with their own wee seating area for customers. We managed to get seats under an umbrella so were semi shielded from the elements.

Everything on the menu sounded nice so we shared a selection. My only regret was that we never tried the crab claws as well.

Mackerel pate

Smoked mackerel pate was served with a nicely dressed salad. The pate itself was excellent – meaty and not over-creamed with a lovely smoky flavour. I will definitely be ordering this next time.

Tempura haddock wrap

Then a tempura haddock wrap was crispy and warm, with crunchy salad and silky pesto mayonnaise with a hint of lemon. The wrap was another winner for me, without a doubt.

Cullen Skink

The Cullen Skink was boiling hot so we had to leave it to cool a little but it helped on the cold day to warm us up. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how thin it was. It had a nice flavour but I was looking forward to a thick, creamy, slightly blended soup and this wasn’t that. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if the menu had said smoked haddock soup but I couldn’t describe it as Cullen Skink as I know it.

Half lobster

Finally, we ordered a half lobster – it’s what I came all that way for really. It was also served with salad (you can never have enough salad though) and dill potatoes. The potatoes were kind of in a potato salad style but I’m not a dill fan so I left them. The lobster itself was so fresh and I loved the butter dressing. I could have eaten a whole one of these.

The Seafood Shack close for winter soon and I’m so glad we made it this year. I enjoyed it even although we sat in the rain so it should be even better when the suns out. I’d like to plan in a couple of trips through next year – Ullapool is a pretty little fishing town to wander round too so it makes a nice day out. I’m told that Wyvis natural play park in Garve is great so next time we’ll break up the journey for the little foodie.

My west coast adventures have begun.

If you have any recommendations of where to go next then let me know.

Jocktoberfest – a barrel of fun 

Ten years ago I went to my first festival. Ten whole years ago- that makes me feel so old! I remember all of the planning- buying an 85 litre rucksack and a camp stove, buying as much cheap booze as we could and getting my wellies on. Most of all, I remember the bubble that we were in when we were there. You become so immersed in your surroundings that you almost forget about the world outside for a weekend and feel totally de-stressed. Dancing and singing in a field makes you feel free, there’s no doubt about it. I love it.

Last month we nipped over to Jocktoberfest and found ourselves back in that place again – feeling free and… singing and dancing in a pile of hay. Jocktoberfest has been going on for a few years now but this was the first time I went. It runs in September every year at Black Isle Brewery and pays homage to good beer, music and food.

They sell tickets by the weekend instead of by the day but they are incredibly good value at £35pp (under 13s go free). We just went for the day but next year I think we’ll do the whole weekend, ideally in a campervan if we can get hold of one.

The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how many children were there-maybe about 15-20 or so. Very family friendly. This isn’t the kind of festival for a group of 18 year old lads to get smashed, create a mosh pit and get rowdy so if that’s you then don’t bother showing up. It’s about appreciating some fantastic live music whilst drinking a craft beer and eating an organic lamb burger. It’s a festival for grown ups, some with kids to tag along. 

We started at the bar, where there was an impressive beer selection to work our way around. My favourite was Anything Gose followed by Goldeneye ale. For non beer drinkers they had cider, wine and a few spirits.

We then lined our tummies for the night ahead by sharing some pizza and a lamb burger. Woodburns Sourdough pizzas had a little wood burning oven to freshly make pizza and you created your own toppings.

The lamb burgers were Black Isle Brewery’s own using their own lambs and we’re full of flavour and juicy. Both were perfect for a night of beer and dancing.

Then it was time for the music to start. Calum Jones, a Scottish 17 year old, put on a superb set and we were mightily impressed. Of course we got our dance on! Definitely a name to look out for in the future.

Calum Jones

It’s not a big festival, and on the Friday night there was just one stage then two on the Saturday. I liked how intimate it felt with being so small and how close everything was. There was plenty of sheltered space if it had rained too.

Weekend Set List 2017

Ho-Ro really brought it with the Jock vibe with a modern upbeat ceilidh style set. Perfect for dancing round in the hay lined barn and the atmosphere was amazing.

We even managed to get a first dance arranged for a couple that had got married that day. Everyone created a circle and it was a lovely touching moment feeling the festival love.

For Jocktoberfest there was less prep, but all of the atmosphere that we could have hoped for. We stepped into that bubble for the night and loved every minute of it. It was a whimsical and free night with some pretty damn good beer, food and music. I felt like I’d stepped back to being young again, not a bad thing once in a while. See you next year.

Coming to Inverness? Read This First

Almost there!

Boring practicalities they might be but here’s some tips on how to make the most of your time in Inverness & the Highlands. 


Hire a car

If you can drive & can afford it then hire a car for part of your trip. Inverness city is small but the whole rest of the Highlands are begging to be seen. How else will you visit the gorgeous blue flag beach in Nairn, the quaint village of Cromarty or the Cairngorms? There are limited buses and trains for those who don’t drive, but it’s far more exciting visiting where you want when you want and being able to stop at Black Isle Brewery or Bad Girl Bakery on the way home. 

Dores beach


Book Restaurants
 

Tourist season is starting earlier every year, and restaurants are getting busier because of it. The locals like to eat out on Fridays and Saturdays so you are always best to book in advance for these days. Eden Court often has popular shows on so places can be busy all week until 7pm. If there’s only a couple of you then you’ll probably be okay without a booking during the week but big parties should book when they can to avoid disappointment. Many restaurants have small capacities so keep that in mind. On the other hand, don’t be discouraged because you’ll find somewhere to eat without a booking but it might not be your first choice. 

Remember that many restaurants are closed on Sundays and some on Mondays, and that some places close between lunch & dinner service (usually 2.30-5pm). 

Due to licensing laws over here, some restaurants will not serve alcoholic drinks unless you are eating so it’s best to check before going in or try one of our lovely bars. 

Venison from Fig & Thistle bistro


Do your research

If you are staying in Inverness city centre then supermarkets and newsagents close fairly early, even earlier on Sundays. As far as I’m aware, Barneys (on Castle Street), Tesco & Co-op are your latest opening places to get sundries. You’ll need a car (or taxi) to get to the out of town 24 hour supermarkets. 

Child Friendly Inverness
 

I often get asked what is child friendly in Sneck but it all depends on your children’s ages and the weather. There are several play parks within walking distance of the centre, most notably Whin Park with its boating pond and Bellfield Park with tennis courts to rent. 

There is also a crazy golf course, ice-rink, group puzzle rooms at Lockdown, go-carting, swimming pool with flumes & sports centre. The newbie in town is Infinity indoor Trampoline Park that I’ve heard great things about. For younger ones, there’s soft play at Frankie & Lola’s ten minutes drive from the High Street. 

Winter Wonderland at Whin Park

Check Local Events 

Our local theatre is called Eden Court, and has shows on most nights and some days. Book the popular ones in advance if you can. They also have a cinema if you want to catch a film. 

In & around Inverness you can find other annual events on like the Black Isle Show, North Hop, Groove festival, Belladrum festival, Inverness Highland Games, Etape cycle race and the Highland Military Tattoo. If you are staying in self-catering accommodation then take advantage of the farmers market that’s on monthly on the High street. 

Glenmhor Hotels mini beer festival last summer

Pubs/Bars with Outdoor Seating

If the sun is out then you want to make the most of it, so head to one of our bars that have outside seating. This list isn’t them all- more what I can remember off the top of my head! 

Black Isle Bar on Church Street (roof terrace)

The Heathmount in Crown (5 minute walk from the high street)

The Corriegarth in Crown (next to the Heathmount)

Johnny Foxes on Bank Street 

The Castle Tavern on Castle Street

La Tortilla (tapas restaurant) on Castle Street 

The Glenmhor on Ness Bank 

Some of my Favourites in the Centre

A wander into town to La Tortilla for a tapas lunch, ice-cream from Miele’s, a walk along the (Ness bank) islands, sampling beer & gin in Black Isle Bar, a special dinner in Fig & Thistle, cocktails in the White House, eating fish in River House, ticking another gin off the list in the Heathmount, having a pizza from the Black Isle Bar on a Sunday afternoon, Thai food from Thai Dining, visiting the shops in the Victorian market… there are so many. 

Pizzas from Black Isle Bar

Ten minutes drive from the High Street is Culloden House. They do the best (trust me on this!) afternoon tea, have lovely gardens to walk round & the place is steeped in history. Bear in mind the afternoon tea must be booked in advance so the patisserie chef can do their thing. 

Some of my Favourites out of the Centre

Travel north over the Kessock Bridge and follow the coastline to Fortrose & Rosemarkie where you’ll find a prime dolphin spotting location at Chanonry Point. Then carry on following the road round to Cromarty and eat at Sutor Creek (or Couper Creek if it’s closed). 

Or go east of inverness to Nairn and go for a walk along the beach then for lunch at Logie Steading. Don’t forget to buy a bottle of Scottish gin at Logie shop! On the way back go to Connage cheese dairy shop and get everything you need for a cheeseboard dessert. 

If you go south-east then it’ll take you towards the Cairngorms and lovely Aviemore. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time here recently and can’t pick just one place. Loch Insh and Glenmore Forest Park are both beautiful, and I love driving through little villages like Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten & Carrbridge. The kids will love Landmark activity centre at Carrbridge, and Carrbridge Kitchen is only five minutes walk for coffee and cake. Back in Aviemore, La Taverna does a fab Italian buffet & the Mountain Cafe is another firm favourite of ours. Andersons restaurant in Boat of Garten was a hit for our ladies dinner recently. 

Most tourists head towards Drumnadrochit and to the Jacobite cruise on Loch Ness. Instead of driving straight back to the city afterwards, take the scenic route back following signs to Beauly. A lovely little place to wander, it is conveniently close to Muir of Ord which is the home of Bad Girl Bakery. Or keen walkers could head Alness way to walk up to see Fyrish monument. 

I could go on and on… it makes me realise how lucky I am to have all of this around me. 

Don’t forget to follow the blog by email (there should be a link on this page) to read about more places that I’ve been.

N.B The above are all my opinion and none of the companies listed know that I’m writing this. Feel free to comment if you think I’m missing out on any important details. 

Thai Dining Flies The Flag In Inverness 

After finding two Thai restaurants that we loved in Glasgow (Thai Siam & Thai Lemongrass), I was really rooting for Thai Dining to fly the flag for Inverness. Conveniently located on Academy Street in the centre, it is handy for an after work meal or parking at Rose Street at night. Not to mention it’s less than five minutes to Black Isle Bar for a pre-dinner drink. And it’s near Miele’s for a sneaky ice-cream after. 
We decided to ask our favourite Thai experts, my folks, to come with us to see if it was going to live up to our expectations. 

The starters arrived, with prawn Chub Pang Tod (£6.95) kicking us off. That’s king prawn tempura to me and you. Firstly, the presentation of the plate was superb – so pretty and appetising. Mr S was a bit unsure of them being breadcrumbed instead of in a usual tempura batter but I quite liked the change. Maybe a detail to put on the menu though. The sweet chilli dip provided some welcome sweetness and zing. 

My Satay Gai (£5.95) was another beautifully presented starter. Succulent, marinated chicken with a rich peanut dip and refreshing cucumber relish- an accomplished attempt at satay that I’ll order again. 

My veg loving mum chose the Por Pia Tod (vegetable spring rolls), which came with a sweet chilli dip (£5.95). They were crispy on the outside and the veg was soft enough inside without becoming mushy. 


The first of the main courses was Pad Khing (£12.95). This was a stir-fry dish full of ginger, spring onions, mushrooms and other veg. It was really tasty, so tasty that I didn’t get to try too much because it wasn’t my dish! I also liked that with this dish, as well as many others, you can choose whether you wanted it with chicken, duck, pork, veg, prawn or beef depending what would go with the sauce. 


My pick was the chicken Pad Thai (£11.95) because pre-made sauces always taste rubbish so I don’t bother buying them & my one at home is not a patch on restaurant quality. I also got to have peanuts, which is a rarity when you live with a nut allergy sufferer. My dish was packed to the brim with flavour as I was hoping it would be. With an almost caramelised taste from wok cooking, the marinated chicken contrasted well with the crunchy beansprouts and spring onions. The peanuts gave a lovely crunch too. 

We’d been having an excellent run of it so something had to go wrong and unfortunately it was Mr S & his pork laab (£11.95). The dish had two chillies next to it on the menu to indicate its spice level but I think it should have at least three. Either that or the chef accidentally got chilli happy. With less chilli it could be a delicious dish but our taste buds were numb after a mouthful. 

Rice

The Gaeng Penang curry (£11.95) on the other hand was gorgeous. Also with a two chillies spice level, the dish was expertly balanced between being spicy, tasty and creamy. Creamy coconut milk with a tangy thai sauce coated the chicken and the veg still had a nice bite to it. Kaffir lime leaves completed the dish. 

The staff at Thai Dining were incredible with our daughter, who loved them, and helped us to feel relaxed and enjoy our meal. What fantastic service. 

Seven out of eight dishes were lovely, and the meal was reasonably priced too. 

I’m happy to say that Thai Dining was every bit as good as the aforementioned Glasgow Thai restaurants. And 170 miles closer! 

Real & Rare from Loch Ness Gin

This week we were invited to the launch of Real & Rare from Loch Ness Gin. Those who are new to the blog might not know my love of gin, it’s second blog love only to my love of local so this invite was tailored for me. 

It was being hosted by Loch Ness by Jacobite so we got a lovely boat trip in the sun. I’d highly recommend the Jacobite cruise – we are already speaking about going when friends are visiting. 

The night was both fun and informative. The gin was flowing & mixologist Grant had created three perfect serves for Real & Rare. The first, and my favourite, was a gin & Franklin and sons tonic with a fresh kiwi slice. It is a refreshing drink with the kiwi, and a classic. Next I tried the gin with soda and a vanilla pod. I found it too sweet for me, it was a bit like cream soda. Last of all was gin with ginger beer and rhubarb. 

Nicky Marr then talked us through the neat gin tasting. Creators Lorien & Kevin actually made it to be served neat so the flavours are so important to them. The juniper used comes from their estate near Dores on the shores of Loch Ness & the water is running down the hills going into the loch.

Lorien & Kevin (and mixologist Grant serving the drinks)


Grant then demonstrated some cocktails that you could make with Loch Ness Gin. He started with a classic martini then went on to an apple number. I missed the name as I was served a cupcake when he was speaking but it was lovely. 

And I certainly wouldn’t complain about the cupcake interruption because the gin cupcake was delicious. I am already familiar with Bad Girl Bakery so I knew they would be. 

I like the bottle design too – it’s clean and contemporary. The `squiggle’ represents Loch Ness without a gimmicky Nessie wearing a tartan hat and the alcohol percentage (43.3%) is even significant as that’s the average depth of the loch. 

The night was a great success and we left clutching a goodie bag for one final nip once we got home.

Batch 1 of Real & Rare went on sale on Friday and has sold out already! So if you’re interested keep an eye on their website or Twitter (Lochnessgin1)/Facebook for batch 2. 

Purchasing The Highlands

One of my favourite things to do when Mr S has a day off is to go for a jaunt in the car and stop for a coffee or lunch somewhere. If this can be in conjunction with a farm shop or shop where I can buy local produce then there will be a big smile on my face. I wanted to write about a few things that we have bought recently on our little day trips that I’d recommend. 
First of all, I have to go to Duncan Fraser & Son Butchers on Queensgate in Inverness. My husband is in love with this place. I think that it’s important that a butcher can be knowledgable and advise their customers. A while back we were looking for some skirt (flank) steak and another butcher didn’t know what it was- we’ve never been back. On the other hand, there is a particularly friendly and helpful butcher in Duncan Fraser’s that Mr S speaks to before coming home with a lump of beef, pork or whatever his current notion is. Luckily he hasn’t come home with any baby pigs as yet! My mum has always bought her steak mince there and the meat we have tried has been excellent. 
   
 

Across the road is the Old Victorian Market, and within that is Duncan Fraser Fishmonger. We try to go here as often as allows- I hate the thought of Tesco being the only place in Inverness to buy fish. They sell cracking prawns, mussels, hake… I could go on but I won’t bore you. They also have a game section so we tried some venison recently. 

Homemade prawn saganaki using Duncan Fraser prawns


Logie Steading is a country estate near Forres, which houses a lovely cafe and shops to tempt you. I’ve written about Logie previously here. My favourites are the gin and coffee, and we had a tasty pate from there too. Logie is a good place to take visitors so they can view local produce all in one place. 

We bought a bottle of Crossbill Gin- this stuff is far harder to buy than it is for me to drink but luckily Logie saves the day again. 

  

Connage Highland Dairy is also somewhere that I’m full of praise for. I am a cheese lover so mum wanted to introduce me to Connage- what did I do before they were in my life?! 

It’s basically a massive refrigerated room of cheese with a side of biscuits and chutney and a cappuccino to drink. Go, go and tell me what you thought. 

The shop is on the outskirts of Ardersier, perfect if you’re on your way back from Nairn, Inverurie, Keith, Inverness airport, Elgin, Logie Steading (above). Let’s face it, I use any excuse so that I can eat more of that creamy black cheddar. 
  

Finally, this was never going to be written without a mention to The Egg Box Shop at Cromarty. I don’t know who John & Donald are but Cheryl & I would like to extend our personal thanks for creating your shop. If you want to extend it to sell other produce, or if you start doing other things please let us know. We almost had you out fixing the car recently but that’s a whole other matter! I never leave Cromarty without stopping for eggs here and they sell the elusive double yokers. 

Where have I missed out? I’ll do regular local favourite posts if you tell me where to find the best places. 

The Carnivore Club Hits The Highlands 



If you’ve been reading for a while then you’ll know that I love meat, I love local and I love trying new things. So when I was emailed by a company that send you boxes of Artisan British charcuterie it immediately piqued my interest. Each month uses a different charcuterie company and this months box contained meat from a Highland business called Great Glen Charcuterie. 

Great Glen Charcuterie are based in Roybridge, which is down Spean Bridge/ Fortwilliam way. I’d heard of them and been wanting to try their meat so this was a great taster box. They specialise in charcuterie using wild Scottish venison that they make by hand and air dry. 

The Carnivore Club is essentially an online company that send you meat. They use different British charcuterie companies every month so that you can try meat from smaller companies that you might not have heard of. Good for small businesses to get the word out. You can order a box as a one-off for a gift or start a monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly subscription. 

Perfect timing as it’s much easier for us to have a nice dinner in than out right now with a little baby. 


It arrived by courier and the meat was encased in a sturdy gift box. Inside there was a leaflet with information about the box and serving suggestions and five different products to try: two salamis, two chorizos and a venison bresaola. The aforementioned were venison pork salami, green peppercorn salami, chili venison chorizo & venison and pork chorizo. 

The first meat that we tried was the pork & venison chorizo. We used it in place of bacon on treat night in a creamy seafood pasta… delicious! We then used the venison and pork chorizo in place of our regular chorizo in our affectionately named ‘sexy pasta’ that uses roasted Mediterranean veg and herbs. Again, it was lovely. We liked both of the products and the only thing we found was that the chorizos weren’t as oily or paprika-y as normal chorizo so adjust recipes accordingly. 

The salamis are rich and tasty, a fantastic addition to an antipasti board alongside cheese, olives and proscuitto. 

The bresaola is being kept until date night because it is the one we are looking forward to the most. I’ll be doing it the traditional way with rocket and shaved Parmesan on top of the slices then drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over it. 

I thought that the box was good value. It’s £29 if you subscribe and £32 for a one-off and if my maths were right the box had £27.41 worth of products (not to mention the nice gift box) plus Great Glen charge £4.95 delivery so you’re making a saving. Since getting the box I’ve spotted Great Glen charcuterie at The Storehouse & Corner on the Square and they are (obviously) a little more expensive than buying direct so The Carnivore Club are competitive price wise. 

To get it every month you’d have to be a true carnivore, I would say that I am more on the bi-monthly part of the scale. The boxes are compiled using British companies & I hope to see and try more Scottish charcuterie in the future as I like to support local. 

We have friends scattered all over the UK and I’m constantly wracking my brain over what to buy them as gifts that are easy to send but still special so this will really help me out. It’s also a nice idea for new parents who might not go out for a while so that they can treat themselves at home.

I can be somewhat sceptical about these subscription services that send you things because I don’t always feel that they are good value for money but I can honestly say that the box I was sent by the Carnivore Club felt like it was. I’ve seen photos online of another box and it also looked like you got your money’s worth. A nice way to spend some disposable income on or to gift someone. Just not to a vegetarian! 


 
N.B The Carnivore Club kindly sent me a box to try. There was no pressure to be nice about it so I just gave my honest opinion. Im very selective about what I write about so research anyone who contacts me first. I’m actually about to order another box! 

This content will also be posted on my sister blog Girl Around Glasgow