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June 2013

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While I was up in Aberdeen, I had the wonderful pleasure of having dinner at Musa. I wanted to try somewhere new when I was in the city & a Twitter vote decided my fate. Set in an old 19th century church, Musa is a restaurant, art gallery and live music venue in the merchant quarter of old Aberdeen.

“Our eclectic menu fuses world inspired cuisine with quirky interpretations of Scottish staples. We fiercely advocate an artisanal, old world approach to food, focusing on local produce from small Scottish suppliers”.

We took our seats and were soon welcomed by Musa’s General Manager John Kelman who gave us some background info of the place, introduced us to the menus & spoke about drink pairings for each dish.

Bread and Olives

Looking at the Main Menu & Specials Menu, I honestly couldn’t choose what I wanted. Everything sounded so good especially the Black Pudding Dauphinoise which accompanied some of the dishes. In the end, I decided to order Scallops & Razor Clams with Basil Pesto and Pea Shoots to start with and then Venison, Bubble & Squeak, Green Beans, Asparagus, Sweet Potato Crisps & a Juniper Jus for Main Course off of the Specials Menu with a side order of Black Pudding Dauphinoise (I couldn’t resist!). Gillian ordered Haggis and Coriander Spring Roll with Chilli Jam to start with and then Ginger Roast Duck Breast, Braised Red Cabbage, Spiced Apple Puree and Black Pudding Dauphinoise.

Despite my ever growing love for Seafood, I’ve never tried Razor Clams before so I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The scallops were plump and cooked just the way I liked them. The razor clams reminded me a little of squid. Of course, I have nothing to compare it to so I’m not entirely sure they were supposed to remind me of squid… but they did. Both the scallops and razor clams were complimented with the warm basil pesto and pea shoot salad.

Scallops and Razor Clams

Gillian’s Haggis and Coriander Spring Rolls were amazing. I know that’s a little cliche to say but trust me, if you’re ever in Aberdeen, get your butt down to Musa just to try these babies. Crispy spring roll on the outside, peppery haggis in the inside with a chilli jam on the side. I honestly couldn’t fault anything about this dish (from the bits I tried) and I know neither could Gillian. We could have happily continued eating more of these until we could no longer move. That’s how good it was.

Haggis & Coriander Spring Roll

Along with our starters, John brought over some drinks to compliment them in particular 5am Saint by Brew Dog for the Haggis. I was given a White Wine (not pictured) to compliment my Scallops. I’m more of a Red Wine drinker, as you can see from the photo below but the White Wine was a nice addition.

Drinks to Match Starters

After a short break it was time for our Main Courses. My venison was tender, pink & had a lovely taste to it. It was a little rich but venison is a rather rich gamey meat. The sweet potato crisps were too sweet for my liking, but that’s just my personal preference. Bubble & Squeak was an interesting additional to the dish. I can’t say I’ve ever tried it along with Venison before, however, along with the Juniper Jus it was a combination that worked well. On a side note, it’s great to find a restaurant that knows how green beans and asparagus should be cooked. I’ve been to many an awful restaurant that give me mashed up vegetables that should have been al dente. It’s rather refreshing!

Venison

My specially requested side order of Black Pudding Dauphinoise was spectacular. You’d think with the amount of Black Pudding we eat in Glasgow that someone would have “invented” this but I have yet to see this on the menu anywhere in Glasgow. Soft, Creamy Potatoes layered with Black Pudding. Heaven in your mouth. Even though I was pretty full, I couldn’t stop eating this. Someone has to bring this wonderfulness to Glasgow. STAT!

Black Pudding Dauphinoise

Gillian’s Duck was delicious. Pink and tender, it melted in your mouth. I’m not a fan of “fatty” duck so was glad to see that there was no fat around. The spiced apple puree gave a nice sweetness to the meat and of course, helped give some added flavour to the black pudding dauphinoise which is my new favourite thing. I never tried the red cabbage because quite frankly, cabbage is on my list of “must never eat again vegetables”. Gillian did say she really liked it, so I’ll take her word for that! To be honest, if I had to order a main course all over again, I’d go with the duck over the venison. Don’t get my wrong, I did really enjoy my venison but the duck had more of a “wow factor” when I tried it. I’m pretty sure Gillian attempted to lick her plate clean. Just don’t tell her I said that!

Confit of Duck

We were both of the verge of bursting we were so full but you can’t go out for dinner without having dessert can you? I’m sure there is some law against it. No? Well I’m starting that rule from now, especially when sticky toffee pudding is on the menu. Oh yes. Gillian & I decided to share dessert because I honestly doubt we could eat a full one to ourselves. The sticky toffee pudding was light and fluffy with the perfect amount of toffee sauce smothered all over it. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the drambuie ice cream as it was too strong for me. Gillian on the other hand loved it and ate it all. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we didn’t need dessert but we were greedy and it tasted so so good.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I’m glad that my twitter followers told me about Musa as I’m sure it’s going to be a place I frequent whenever I’m visiting Aberdeen. It is a little expensive but in fairness, you’d pay about the same for food in Glasgow which is not up to the same standard. Overall, I couldn’t fault the food or service at Musa and to me, that is worth every penny.

Note: I dined at Musa as guests in return for a review. Whilst our meal was complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and my comments reflect my true experience on that evening.

Ever since my parents moved to Paris and I started hanging out there a lot, my friends and others online always asked me where my favourite places to hang out were. Of course, you have the usual “tourist” haunts but I also love nothing better than hanging out in the suburbs and places that the “normal” tourist would never normally know where to go.

Are you planning on going to Paris anytime soon? Do you have ideas for Paris Holidays with tiny people? Do you want suggestions on where to go? One thing I will say is…you are NEVER too old for Disneyland. Saying that, I haven’t been since I was 17… I think it’s time I changed that! Giant Teacups anyone?!

So here are my 5 favourite places to go in & around Paris:

Château de Chantilly

25km away from Central Paris, Château de Chantilly was the home of the princes of Condé, cousins of the kings of France. The Château is rather famous for having the most luxurious royal horse stables in the world (Grandes Ecuries) as well as one of the finest museums of historical paintings in France (after the Louvre), a vast estate of 1900 acres and beautiful gardens. The 284 acres of park land is wonderful, divided into three historical gardens: the parterres à la française of André Le Nôtre, the Chinese-English garden and its Hameau and the English garden. The place is so big that you have to keep going back again and again to explore the land. It’s a beautiful location & you can even have your wedding here!

Chantilly

Chantilly

Musée du Louvre

It wouldn’t be Paris without a trip to one of the many museums. My favourite has to be the Louvre for the Ancient Egyptian collection alone. It’s a must see “pit stop”. I also like Musée d’Orsay for the Van Gogh paintings. I can get lost for hours in museums and love exploring them with my Dad. My mom isn’t a museum kind of person so it’s always nice having that alone time with my Dad both enjoying something we love. The architecture in both is amazing and that is one of the things I love about Paris, the buildings are magnificent! One museum that I have yet to visit is Musee d’Histoire Naturelle so that I can see the life sized mammals they have. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing ever since I went to a Dinosaur exhibition as a kid. Just don’t go to any museum on a Tuesday, they are closed.

Louvre

Egyptain

Orsay

Les Quatre-Temps

9 times out of 10 you’ll find me here. Sephora, Starbucks, McDonalds, Virgin Megastore and the cinema UGC within Le Dôme are favourite haunts. Located in La Défense which is a major business district of Paris, you can even see parts of Paris from high above by getting an elevator up La Grande Arche de la Défense giving amazing views. La Défense is amazing at night with all the city lights twinkling away, grab a takeaway coffee (after shopping of course!) and go for a stroll. It’s worth it!

La Defense

Quatre Temps

Saint-Germain-en-Laye

A suburb of Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a commune in Yvelines, Île-de-France approx 19km from the heart of Paris. It is one of the more affluent suburbs of Paris, combining both high-end leisure spots and exclusive residential neighbourhoods. Forêt de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and of course the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye are must see locations. The gardens of the Château are great for looking at Paris as a whole from high above and on a clear day you can even spot the La Tour Eiffel. Doggy Dog loves the area too! It is also home to a “little” football team called Paris Saint-Germain, not sure if anyone’s ever heard of it before though *cough*

Saint Germain-en-Laye

Neuilly-sur-Seine

When I go out at night, Neuilly is where I’m at. Forget fighting over tables on Avenue des Champs-Élysées with millions of tourists, I love the suburb of Neuilly. My favourite restaurant Piccolo Mondo on 11 Rue de Longchamp is a firm favourite in our family. The lasagne is to die for and literally the only thing my dad ever orders. My order? Bruschetta (with artichoke) and then Entrecôte Gorgonzola. BEAUTIFUL. For a little apéritif/digestif head to The Big Ben Pub on 207 Avenue Charles de Gaulle. You’ll probably find my dad perched next to the bar with a pint of Guinness. Say hello if you do!

Big Ben Pub

So now you’ve had a little brief insight into what I do whenever I go to Paris, what will YOU do? If you are looking for “non touristy” things to do in Paris, check out “Ten Things Not To Do in Paris” which gives you a run down on what not to do. I sadly break one of those golden rules by spending an entire day at a museum but that’s cause I love it!

Last month I went back to Aberdeen to visit friends. It’s been a while since I last visited and it was time to head up North again to hang out with Gillian (who I’ve known since the first day of University way back in 2001) and her husband Brian.

I was originally going to drive up to Aberdeen but then realised that I’ve never driven that far before AND I don’t fancy dying on the A9 with the nutters who speed. I ended up getting a bus (trains and me aren’t the best of friends!) but no ordinary bus… a first class bus with leather seats, air conditioning, free snacks and WI-FI. What’s not to love?

I arrived on the Friday afternoon to glorious sunshine (which is a pretty rare sight!) and did a spot of shopping at Union Square while waiting for Gillian to finish work. I love the Mall, I only wish they had it when I was living there. Aberdeen sure has improved! After shopping, I decided to hang out in the sun a little, grabbed a coffee and watched a movie on my iPad Mini.

Road Trip

Friday night was spent shopping with Gillian, eating an obscene amount of Dominos, chatting and watching TV. We all pretty much needed  a chilled out night after a long week and to prepare ourselves for Saturday which would be jam packed.

On Saturday, we were supposed to be going to a craft fair in Stonehaven but the good weather lured us into taking a road trip instead. First up, visiting friends at their farm house outside of Stonehaven then heading to Stonehaven Marina.

Stonehaven Farm

The Marina was mobbed, pubs, cafes/restaurants were full as everyone was enjoying the amazing weather and people were out in their boats. We managed to grab a table at The Marine Hotel for lunch which was relatively quiet until flocks of tourists arrived. I ordered Fish & Chips which was by far one of the best Fish & Chips I’ve ever ate. The fish was so fresh, flakey and the batter far from being greasy which is a pet hate of mine.

Stonehaven

Classic Car

Fish & Chips

After lunch, we hopped in the car and drove to Banchory with the windows down, sunglasses on and iPod on full blast. Theme song for the weekend? Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. In all my years living in Aberdeen (5 years in total), I never really ventured anywhere so Banchory was new to me. It’s a nice little town but frankly, there isn’t much to see. We drove all the way there, wandered around the little boutique shops and grabbed ice cream. The best thing? They had Pistachio Ice Cream! Worst thing? It tasted like Lemons! I haven’t found any Pistachio Ice Cream better than Thorntonhall Farm Ice Cream in the UK. There were also lots of Classic Cars around the area as on the Sunday, a Classic Car Exhibition was to be held. The plan was to get up early on Sunday and go check it out… sadly early mornings don’t really mix with us!

Pistachio Ice Cream

Classic Car

Heading back to Aberdeen, we chilled out for a while before getting ready to go out for dinner and drinks. I asked people on twitter where I should go for dinner in Aberdeen and unanimously those who replied said Musa Aberdeen. I was then lucky enough to be contacted by a PR guy I know who asked if I’d like to review Musa while I was in town. How could I say no? A more detailed review will be on my blog in the next couple of days but all I can say right now is that if you are ever in Aberdeen, you NEED to go. The food is faultless. If I could have licked my plate, I would have.

Rioja

After dinner, we headed to a bar where vodka was the order of the night. After a good few vodkas and some rather random shots from the bar man, a group of random Irish guys decided to join us for the rest of the night. They bought us drinks, chatted and tried to get me to do more shots (sorry, not going to happen!) until I started feeling unwell and vomited in the bathroom. I didn’t even drink that much to make me vomit which was a little strange and I know the guys didn’t put anything in my drinks either… it was just all rather strange. It sadly ruined the rest of the night for me and we headed back to Gillian’s Apartment soon after. A pretty quiet night by all accounts, well for us anyway!

Vodka

Even though Saturday night ended pretty awful, I had a great weekend & the sun just made it even better! Cocktails in Glasgow next time I think!

Sometimes when I come home from work, I have no idea what I want for dinner but what I do know is that I want to try something “different”, quick & easy to prepare. One night, I had cravings for Steak and Nachos so I picked up some Steaks on my way home from work and randomly created this concoction in my head which would fix all my cravings at once… Steak Flatbread with Nachos. YUM!

Steak Flatbread with Nachos

Steak Flatbread with Nachos

Ingredients

    For the Steak Flatbread:
  • 2 Sirloin Steaks
  • 2 Ready Made Flatbreads (Soft Shelled Tacos or Pita Breads to substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon Simply Add Chilli Extreme
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Mayo (add Mayo and some finely chopped Garlic)
  • 1 medium tomatoes, diced small
  • 1 red onion, diced small
  • 1 jalapeño, diced small
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • For the Nachos (per mini dish):
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Handful of Grated Cheese
  • Handful of Sliced Jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon ready made Salsa

Method:

  1. Marinade steak in the Simply Add Chilli Extreme Sauce then fry until how you like them cooked. I always make my Steaks Medium/Medium-Rare which take approx 2/3 mins on each side.
  2. For the Pico De Gallo, combine all ingredients & let stand 5 minutes
  3. For the Nachos, layers the ingredients and pop under the grill until the cheese is melted
  4. To prep the flatbreads, spread Garlic Mayo onto the Flatbread. Once the steak has been cooked, slice it into pieces and add into the Flatbread. Add a tablespoon of the Pico De Gallo Salsa on top.
  5. Serve with Guacamole on the side & Enjoy!
https://ananyah.com/2013/06/13/steak-flatbread-with-nachos/

Food. My number one weakness. Whole Foods Market feeds my habit. The love affair started when it opened in 2011. I dragged my parents there on the Opening Day to check out the place that would later become my favourite supermarket and go to place for produce (It was the bread, cakes & vast quantities of Pistachio ice cream that sealed the deal!)

One evening chatting with the management, I brought up the fact that Glasgow has so many food bloggers who are rather influential and what better way to promote WFM by raising its profile and showcasing itself for these bloggers and their readership by having an event… a few weeks later #LoveWFM was born. I liaised with Darren and Emili at WFM and sent out invitations to a group of the best bloggers in Glasgow. The evening started with a tour around the store going to each individual produce area, learning more about what is on offer and trying some samples.

We headed to the Fruit & Veg Department and were talked through the ranges that they have on offer. Huge varieties of vegetables that you don’t see in a “normal” supermarket and the fact that the majority of the produce are loose enabling you to feel what you are buying ensuring you get the very best. I like this idea over pre-packed because you can never truly tell what you are buying when it’s all wrapped up. I like feeling fruit and vegetables to make sure they are perfect for me. I only wish more supermarkets did this. While in the Fruit & Veg department, Cucumber and Carrot sticks with freshly made in store Guacamole and Salsa were served up to sample. It was Cinco De Mayo weekend after all. Beautiful! So beautiful I bought some later in the evening with some homemade Tortilla Chips. YUM!

Loose Oranges

Cucumber and Carrot Sticks

The Health Department was next up where we were given little pots of Greek Natural Yoghurt with some chia seeds while learning about what was available in the Health Department. I usually just walk past this department when in store because frankly, food is all I can think about. They have a good selection of products and on this occasion, I actually made the time to snoop around. I doubt I would return to the Health Department though, not because they don’t have a great variety of Health Produce, but because it is just something I’m really not interested in. Others of course, may love this section, I know a lot of the bloggers who also attended the event did. I’m just all about the cakes.

Chia Seeds & Yoghurt

Cook Books

We were then introduced to the Fresh Fish & Seafood Counter, given a little talk about the traffic light system they have for the produce and shown signs that state where the fish came from. WFM are also passionate about sustainability and were very informative on the matter. It was very insightful to see how passionate the team are regarding locally produced products & the environment. Not something you’d really think a supermarket chain would be vocal about; but WFM is no ordinary supermarket chain. Douglas (The Fish Man) handed us some Smoked Salmon Pate on crackers and Trout Roe Bellini’s. I’m not a fan of Roe but I tasted it then reminded myself why I didn’t like it in the first place but oh my the Salmon Pate was to die for. We couldn’t resist asking Douglas what his favourite fish was… for reference it’s Haddock & Salmon. Very Scottish of him!

Douglas

Salmon Roe

Trout Roe

One of my favourite parts of the tour? Meeting the head butcher. He discussed with us that the meat comes from various farms which they know produce quality meat. All the meet is free range and follows an Animal Welfare Rating Program. In fact, they even have posters featuring the farm suppliers so that customers can “get to know the farmer”. He pointed out signs which show when certain items were cut & minced so that the customer knows how fresh it is. They have their own full butcher shop in store where they dry age meat, slice and dice animals which you don’t have in your average supermarket. We were then shown the back of the store, shown the meat chill room, shown different cuts of meat and the dry ageing cupboard. The greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

After being shown where all the in-store food is prepped & cooked behind the scenes, we went to explore the Cheese Counter. They have a wide selection of different cheeses which would give you the greatest nightmares on the planet. I was tempted to buy some Truffle Brie but totally forgot about it when I shopped in store later in the evening, ARGH! Remind me to go grab some cheese the next time I’m in store, will you?

As I was walking past the cheese, a monster ciabatta caught my attention. This was approximately a metre in length and was the ultimate of ultimate manwiches, the ciabatta is then individually sliced when a manwich is ordered. In fact, Mr Manwich himself was drooling over it. I had a manwich from WFM before and it did not disappoint. If you’re in store and feeling hungry, try a manwich. They are freshly made to order and you can choose a creation from the menu or create your own. They are good. Very good. Trust Me. If Manwiches aren’t your thing, the thin crust made to order Pizza is wonderful. I’ve had the Mozzarella & Tomato Pizza and Salami Pizza before. I can’t fault it at all.

Manwiches

My favourite counter in store has to be the Cakes. They look so good you’re almost afraid to eat them. Macarons, Cake Pops, Cupcakes, Tarts, Mini Cakes, Medium Cakes and Bigger Cakes. Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla, Carrot Cake & Fruit Galore. I could just spend all afternoon drooling over them. Every time I’m in store, I cannot resist buying something. I think it’s because they have Pistachio Macarons screaming my name. Unfortunately, the Macarons aren’t the greatest (sorry WFM!), they are made in London, frozen and then delivered to the store due to the fact they cannot find a supplier closer to home. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy them because I love Macarons but nothing beats a Fresh, Non-Frozen Macaron. The Caramel and Fruit Tarts are great (I’ve had quite a few as my ever expanding waist line will confirm) and I cannot resist the Carrot Cake. I’m sure Carrot Cake is part of your 5 a day. Yes?

Cakes

A must-visit at WFM has to be the Bread Counter. Proper French Baguettes, Ciabatta, Foccacia and Soda Bread to name a few. The Baguettes are the best I’ve tasted in the UK. I’m rather picky about Baguettes since my parents moved to Paris and my morning ritual was eating part of a Baguette for Breakfast. I detest Baguettes or should I say “French Sticks” out of my closest supermarket, Morrisons. They are far from being anything close to a Baguette. WFM makes an almost perfect Parisian Baguette. The Ciabatta is also one of my must haves and I get it sliced in store as I’m pretty useless with a bread knife. I have a few scars on my fingers as proof. All the bread within WFM used to be Kosher as Giffnock has a high Jewish Population, however, they have now moved away from making Kosher bread which means they can be more creative with bread. In particular, Foccacia with Cheese, Onions & Tomatoes. So light and fluffy. Foccacia is great dipped into Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. Well…. any bread is really.

Bread

After the store tour, the wonderful staff laid on a table full of food & drinks for us to try. Crackers with Coconut Oil, Beer, Smoothies, Cheese on Toast with Asparagus, Haggis Pies, Various Meat Pies & Carrot Cakes were the main highlights. The food, as ever was wonderful. Who knew that Asparagus worked on Cheese & Toast?! Haggis, Neeps & Potato Pie was delicious. I’m not a big Haggis fan but I think that Pie has converted me.

Cheese & Toast with Asparagus

Pies

After snacking on the food, we were given a demo by Max on how to make our own Guacamole, simpler than I though and tastes great fresh. I honestly couldn’t eat anything else, I was so stuffed and had to miss out on some Carrot Cake.

Max making Guacamole

I had a wonderful time at WFM, it was very enlightening to know how passionate all the staff are about their jobs and they couldn’t have been any friendlier. I love WFM and even though I live a good 30 minutes away, it’s worth the trip for the products they sell.

WFM Staff

Have you been to Whole Foods Market before? What’s your favourite thing about the store? If you haven’t been, what on earth are you waiting for?!