Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Event: Pirlo's Dessert Lounge First Birthday Party and Gluten Free Cakes

There's a problem with dieting, and here's what it is. No diet food will ever taste as delicious as a chocolate brownie or a red velvet cheesecake.

Now with that out the way, let's talk about desserts!

As much as I try to eat healthily, most of the time, once in a while you just have to treat yourself to a chocolate covered, cream filled slice of heaven. That's where Pirlo's Dessert Lounge comes in. Handily located just behind the Bullring, Pirlo's serves up delicious desserts, monster sundae's and more. What's even better is that they have a pretty good gluten free selection too; it would be rude not to try them out.

I was invited to celebrate Pirlo's first birthday in the best way possible; with cake. I, along with a group of bloggers, made it into Pirlo's to celebrate with mocktails and desserts that were bigger and better than your average restaurant pudding.

Starting off with mocktails and smoothies, we were soon presented with a host of desserts to photograph and enjoy.

This included the Pirlo's Big Waffle, Choc O Holic Crepe, The Wild One Crepe, Red Velvet Cake and Milk Chocolate Fondue.

Onto the crepes and waffles, look at the size of these!

 Choc O Holic Crepe
 Pirlo's Big Waffle
Wild One Crepe

Here's a picture of the milk chocolate fondue too.

Not only did we get try to try all of this, I was also able to try out some of the gluten free options; the gluten free chocolate cake and the gluten free chocolate brownie.

Now, excuse me whilst I head to the gym!

*With thanks to Delicious PR for the invitation

Monday, 12 June 2017

Event: Hotel Du Vin Spring Menu Launch

With a name like Hotel Du Vin, it's no surprise that a new menu tasting at the Birmingham branch of the hotel involved copious amounts of the red and white stuff.

A firm favourite in the city for pre work breakfasts, after work drinks and everything in between, Hotel Du Vin has just released it's Spring Menu; and invited a bunch of bloggers along to try it out.

Starting off the evening with a little blind champagne tasting, we were invited to taste test a Champagne, English sparkling, prosecco and a French Cremant. Simon Carlo from Meat and One Veg was undoubtedly the winner in this game, but the taking part was pretty fun too.

We were invited into the main restaurant to sit at a King Arthur style round table, where there was food and wine flowing throughout the evening.

Presented with both the A La Carte and Fixed Price Spring Menu, we were spoilt for choice. Although a difficult decision, I chose from the main menu, but made sure to take photographs of some of the other options available to give you a taste of what's available.

The Spring Menu is a steal at £17.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three. With starters including octopus, watercress and spinach soup and air dried ham, the main selection includes mackerel, gnocchi a burger and a salad option.  

I opted for the Salmon and Wye Smoked Salmon Classic, which was recommended to me by the waiting team. What arrived was a plate covered in delicious slithers of smoked salmon, topped off with soft yolked quail eggs and scattered with greenery including shallots, capers and cornichons. A delicious, protein packed and healthy summer starter, this was all the more delicious when eaten with the mounds of fresh bread we were provided with. The smaller bread basket is my own special portion of gluten free bread, whilst the larger basket contained choices such as tomato and walnut breads.

This was also accompanied with a choice of white wines; I opted for the Pinot Blanc.

Some of the other delicious looking starters included the Scallop Ceviche and Soft Boiled Goosnargh Duck Egg with Asparagus Soldiers.

Onto the main course, I opted for the Rack of Yorkshire Dales Lamb, pea, bean and goats curd salad. At £26.95, this is one of the most expensive main course options from the menu. However, the dish that I ate was absolutely delicious. Pink, moist, tender lamb cutlets nestled on a light curd and vegetables, this was again, a filling but light option, which is exactly what you'd want from a summer menu.

A few other notable menu options included the Black and Blue burger, featuring a distinctive black bun, and the Aubergine Caponata and Grilled Halloumi.

Our mains were served with a selection of sides including Parmentier Potatoes, Chantenay Carrots and Sauteed Spinach, along with a red wine selection.

Finally, it was time for my favourite wine choice of the day, the dessert wine. Both of these wines were delicious, the Royal Tokaji was light and honey tainted whilst the Alcyone was rich and syrupy.

I couldn't decide on a dessert, but went for a light option of Peach Melba from the Fixed Price Summer Menu.

Others, however, went for the Crepes Suzette, which was an inspired choice as it meant we were able to watch the show as the trolley was wheeled out and the flames started leaping. 

The Chocolate Bombe was also a theatrical affair, with a caramel sauce that was dripped onto the chocolate sphere to melt it away and reveal the insides.

By now, having eaten our way through the menu and tried some of the best wines Hotel Du Vin has to offer, our meal had come to an end.

Hotel Du Vin offers up a warm and relaxed dining experience in comfortable and refined surroundings. Although civilised, this is a place that isn't pretentious, but is still special. All of the food we enjoyed was good quality, delicately cooked, and with attention to detail. The presentation of every dish was carefully considered, and the service was faultless. For a special meal that's not going to leave you hungry for more, I'd be back in a heartbeat.

*With thanks to Delicious PR for the invitation

Friday, 2 June 2017

Event: Gaucho Beef and Malbec Evening

Beef vs Malbec; which is your favourite? Thankfully, I didn't have to pick when I was invited to a beef and Malbec evening at newly opened Birmingham city centre hotspot, Gaucho.

Just around the corner from Colmore Row, Gaucho is a dark and brooding addition to the City dining scene, offering up a sensual serving of wine, beef and of course some lighter options.

Under the inquisitive gaze of our fellow diners, I along with a select group of bloggers was invited into the private dining room to learn a thing or two about steak and Malbec.

Hosted by Phil Crozier, affectionately known as Mr Argentina and Fernando Larroude, Gaucho's in-house beef expert, we were able to try out different cuts of steak, as well as matched wine to go with each cut.

Starting off with a little history of cattle farming in Argentina, Fernando explained how Angus breeding was taken from Scotland to Argentina in 1879, when two cows and one bull were taken over. There are now roughly 30 million Aberdeen Angus in Argentina, all grazing freely in the countryside. 

Next, we learnt that cows are on birth control (!) and that it's better to calf in winter as there is less disease around at this time of year.

Onto the hard stuff, the male cows are castrated at a few months old because this affects the meat, making it more tender, before being slaughtered at 24 months on average.

Interestingly, beef can be dry or wet aged; whilst dry aged beef loses weight, creates a dark crust and a more intense flavour, wet ageing is used when the beef is vacuum packed and sent abroad, thus keeping the meat in its own juices.

As you can see, we were then shown a whole range of beef cuts, presented in anatomically correct order; veggies look away now!

These are; the rib eye, sirloin, the flank at the top, the skirt at the bottom, the fillet which is under the sirloin, the rump cap at the end which is coated in fat, and the rump.

Onto the wine; Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world, with 85% of produce remaining in the country. Argentinian wine represents just 2% of the UK wine market, however. The first vines were planted in in 1553; seven varieties from France including two white and five red. These vines are the oldest in the world as a disease wiped out Europe's vines. All the wine on the Gaucho wine list is from Argentina, of course.

Back to the beef; we taste tasted a rump vs a fillet, with surprising results. We took the plunge and conducted this test on uncooked beef, topped with chimichurri; and it was delicious! Both cuts were beautiful, even raw, but it was interesting that the rump was more flavoursome than expected.

Our next taste test was conducted on cooked meat, where we tried picanha, skirt and flank. Apparently, flank is the most popular cut of in Argentina, and I can see why. Although I've never tried this particular cut before, I can say for certain that I would happily order this again on my next visit.

We were then able to try even more cuts, including rump, fillet, sirloin and rib eye. By this point, we were pretty much in steak heaven. We also matched the beef to the Malbec, pairing the rump with a Aniello Mainque Rio Negro 2015/16, the fillet with Finca Sophenia Anti Synthesis Uco Valley Mendoza 2014, the sirloin with Luigi Bosca DOC Vistalba 2014 and the rib eye with Colome Lote Especial El Arenal, Payogasta Salta 2014.

For me, as much as I love all steak, it was interesting to see how much more flavoursome these cuts were at gaucho than at other restaurants. Personally, I usually prefer a less fatty cut, which can sometimes dry out easier than say a rib eye. However, at Gaucho, every cut was delicious, flavoursome and moist; this was steak perfection.

The wine matching was also interesting, as we learnt that the fattier the steak, the more tannin needed in the wine to balance it out.

Finally, after a brief sojourn to mix and mingle with our fellow guests, we were also able to try the most delicious chocolate truffle matched to a Port style Malbec; Malamado Malbec. This was a sweet, liqueur wine that I am dying to try again.

What's the verdict on Gaucho? Great food, great wine and an even better atmosphere make Gaucho a welcome addition to Birmingham. By day, Gaucho will do well with the Colmore Row crowd, whilst by night, I can't think of anywhere better for a naughty date. 

*With thanks to Gaucho and Rewired PR for hosting the Beef and Malbec masterclass.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Food Review: Malmaison Birmingham Spring Menu Launch

Spring is in the air, and with it the new menu from Malmaison Birmingham. I was lucky enough to join some of the city's finest foodies to try out the new Spring Menu.

Meeting at the bar, we were treated to a welcome drink from the Spring Cocktail menu. With plenty to choose from including the Spring Fizz, a mixture of Rinquinquin a la Peche, Aperol, grapefruit, sugar and Prosecco to the Pina Caipirinha, featuring Germana cachaca, lime, pineapple and coconut.

I opted for the Gimlet, a mix of King of Soho gin, lime cordial, sugar and lime.

Sipping on this refreshing and sweet drink at the bar on a bright summer's day, it was easy to feel at home in the smart and sexy Malmaison bar.

We were soon led into the private dining area, where the table was laid out ready for a taste of the new menu.

The Spring Fixed menu offers two courses for £19.95 or three courses for £24.95. The menu to me felt fresh and unexpected, so although there was a lamb dish for example, this was a starter portion of Spring Lamb Benedict, a slow braised Dorset lamb shoulder on brioche with mint Bearnaise. Again, although a Spring menu would typically feature a vegetable soup, instead the Malmaison twist is a Cauliflower veloute.

With plenty of choices for dietary requirements of all kinds including vegetarian, vegan and gluten free, I was spoilt for choice.

Tucking into olives and bread whilst we chose from the menu, I did enjoy the olives but unfortunately couldn't partake of the bread. No matter, at least I could avoid the carbs!

For starters, I opted for the grilled masala spiced mackerel with sweet potato and lime pickle and a cumin raita, followed by the pan fried river trout with pea and broad bean puree, Anya potatoes and truffle vinaigrette.

The spiced mackerel arrived on a large square dish, presented on a bed of cubed sweet potato and topped with the raita. The presentation was good and the balance of different elements to the dish was also strong. A light but filling starter, the mackerel was perfectly cooked and the sweet potato was balanced out with the tangy yoghurt. Although the masala spices didn't really come through, and I would have liked to see a true pickle on the plate to really set off the fish, I thoroughly enjoyed the starter.

Next, the sea trout. Firstly, I adored the plate that this was served on, as it was a real earthy handmade piece. Secondly, the trout itself was a substantial portion, which I feel is needed when it comes to the fruit of the sea or else you can find yourself snacking soon after.

Nicely pan fried on a pea and broad bean puree, this was again, filling but light and not at all stodgy. Overall, that's exactly what I would hope for from a Spring dish. We were also able to try some of the sides at the table including the mixed spring greens, Anya potatoes and pan roasted artichokes.  If you're ordering the fish dishes, then do make sure you have a side too. My favourite was the artichokes which were just delicious! Crispy and full of earthy flavours, I sadly couldn't get a picture before everyone had tucked in!

Lastly, to the dessert. I opted for the seasonal fromage slate with fruit chutney, quince and crackers. The crackers were very kindly substituted for gluten free bread in my case, and the chutney came later on, but the cheese selection itself was very good and included a Shropshire Blue, goat's cheese and french cheese.

I really enjoyed the new Spring Menu at Malmaison. The menu is not just great value, but great tasting and also great quality. The venue itself is such a sophisticated option for food and drinks, with a great hotel ambiance.

I'd definitely recommend the new menu to anyone after a meal away from the crowds. The service we received on the night was outstanding and for me, I felt the quality of the food really came through. Overall, a great option for friends and families alike for a meal that's special without breaking the bank.

*With thanks to Malmaison and EV for the invitation