Tag Archives: Wine

Cherries, champagne & comedy. Mostly comedy

Hello!  I’m alive!  And back home from my trip to Edinburgh.  I’ve spent the past month busily working my way through a slightly mammoth To Do list, trying to make the most of the Fringe and overall having a thoroughly marvellous time, and consequently, as predicted in my last post, blogging took a bit of a hit.

Hey! Hi! Hello!

How splendid are these “HELLO” flags that are fluttering all over Edinburgh by the way?  I’ve never seen them before, so I presume they’re new for this year’s Fringe/Festival.  I thought I’d just recap a few of the highlights of my slightly whirlwind trip:

  • Summer fruit – I scarfed an awful lot of summer berries whilst I was taking a break from the NZ winter.  And cherries – I love cherries!

Cherries!

  • Only having to use a raincoat four times – this might not sound like much to those of you who have proper summers, but in Scotland, this is a major achievement (although lack of rain doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine).  The last few Augusts that I spent in Edinburgh, it rained. Every. Single. Day.  (I wish I was kidding.)
  • St Andrews – Kat and I went up one afternoon.  Some things have changed (why is there a Nando’s?) and some things haven’t (those 500 year-old cathedral ruins aren’t going anywhere any time soon).  My love for that wee town remains unchanged.

St Andrews Cathedral, looking suitably dramatic and moody

  • The St Andrews Wine Company – My friend Pete opened a bottleshop in St Andrews at the beginning of the year and I’ve been dying to see it.  So we obviously stopped by whilst we were in St Andrews.  And it’s amazing.  I wish it had been open when I was there.  Oh and there’s always a bottle open for tasting (maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I don’t live there anymore…).  We also happened to coincidentally visit on a day when there was also a champagne tasting…

Champagne tasting at the St Andrews Wine Company

  • Reunions – Kat, Craig and I were all in the same place for the first time in 18 months.  There was gin, food, wine, some James Bond and much laughter; all the best things in life.

As I mentioned, I tried to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe as well.  The Fringe is always a mixed bag (which is half the fun), but here are a few Fringe-specific highlights.  If you’re in Edinburgh, you still have a week to try and fit these in:

  • Jollyboat – Their set started off with a medley of pirate-themed songs.  And then it got better.  That was a terrible description, but trust me and just go see it (although probably not ideal for anybody who is easily offended).  Oh and it’s free.
  • Shit-faced Shakespeare – Literally what it says on the tin.  One Shakespeare play (Much Ado About Nothing), one shit-faced actor, and all the other actors trying to keep the play together. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.
  • Omid Djalili – Slightly pricey, but worth it in my opinion.  Smart comedy which makes you laugh but also makes a point.  He’s also brilliant at accents and works them in marvellously.  My mum and I were in fits.
  • Inspector Norse – It’s described as a “self-assembly Swedish crime thriller […] featuring a knitted set” and I can’t think of a more apt description for this wonderfully middle class comedic thriller.  And the set is actually knitted and self-assembled.  It’s amazing.
  • The Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed – This isn’t actually a show, but it’s Fringe-related.  We stumbled upon this  formerly empty space on the Cowgate which been transformed into a Kentucky-themed cowshed bar for the duration of the Fringe.  It sells Jeremiah Weed cider (it probably sells other stuff, too, but we went for the yummy cider) and there’s live music.  There are hay bales, plastic cows and wheelbarrow seats.  It’s so hipster it hurts, but it’s also rather brilliant.

So there we have it, a not-so-brief recap of highlights over the past month.  Blogging will resume properly soon, once I’ve settled back in, but in the meantime, here’s some proof of the Edinburgh sunshine:

Sunny Edinburgh (yes, really!)

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!  And if you’ve been enjoying the Fringe, feel free to leave some show recommendations.

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Sunday Smiles: A wee catch-up

Sunday SmilesAfter a wee breakSunday Smiles is back!  Well, sort of – I haven’t spent much time online in the last few weeks, so there aren’t any memes or random entries this week and it’s more of a little recap of what’s been happening since my last Sunday Smiles post.

Sunday Smiles (and the blog in general) will be back properly next week, but in the meantime, let’s go on what is essentially a little trip through my Instagram feed from the last few weeks:

  • So for a start, the world didn’t end (in case you hadn’t noticed).  Which is hardly surprising, but jolly good news nonetheless.

Good news indeed!  Also, free wine.

  • I mentioned that my mum and I went on a little jam-packed tour of NZ.  It was amazing.  To be honest, I’m still sort of processing everything that we saw.  I’ll go into more detail about various aspects of the trip in later Toothy’s Travels posts, but in the meantime, here a few photos:

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  • Just in case you live in a cave (with internet access) and weren’t aware, The Hobbit was released.  NZ is going all out – from banks

What about hobbits?  Are they welcome, too?

  • …To Auckland Airport.  I’ll be honest, I love it.  I also got to watch the Hobbit-themed Air New Zealand safety video on an actual aeroplane when we flew back up from Christchurch which was terribly exciting (even if it is rather silly and cringeworthy).

Guarding the… uhm… information desk.

  • Cherries are in season!!  My mum and I were able to get some straight from a producer when we were down in Central Otago, and they were so tasty.  Cherries are one of my favourite fruits but seem to be incredibly expensive here so I don’t think I’ll be eating very many this summer sadly.

CHERRIES!!!

  • Unfortunately, all holidays must come to an end, and after three wonderful weeks, my mum had to go back to Edinburgh.  We don’t know when we’ll next see each other, which is tough, but her departure was made a little easier by the fact that Kat arrived to visit for ten days (although sadly she leaves tomorrow) on her way to Australia, which was super exciting since I haven’t seen her since February.

Kat arrived, and so did the sunshine.  Our tans mostly come courtesy of the Instagram filter though.

  • We went on a little Hogmanay wine tour around Waiheke Island which I think might well be the best thing to do on Hogmanay ever.  Plus it was sunny and warm and the scenery is beautiful.  Oh and the wine was good.  And I got photobombed by a bumblebee, which I didn’t notice until we got home and I looked at the photos properly.

Bumblebee photobomb!

  • We watched The Hobbit, which was super exciting since we were in actual NZ (as opposed to not actual NZ…).  Have you seen it?  What did you think?  There were a few niggles and I’m not keen on the high frame rate and 3D thing – they seemed a little gimmicky to me and I’m not really sure what they actually added to the film – but overall, I loved it.

There was (good) wine involved.  And a cheese platter.  That's right – a cinema with cheese platters.

  • Having watched The Hobbit and re-watched the Lord of the Rings films, we had a bit of a geek-out and went to… Hobbiton!  I’ll write more about it in a future post, but suffice to say, it was a marvellous day out.

The ubiquitous Hobbiton shot.  Anybody home?

  • And finally, I’d just like to share this hilarious little gecko* that was just chilling out in his display case at Auckland Museum when we visited.  I think it sums up the wonderful NZ attitude pretty well.

What's up, bru?

What made you smile this week?

*So… I got so distracted by the actual gecko and its little pose that I forgot to note the actual species…  I think it might be a Northland green gecko (Naultinus grayii), but I’m not 100% sure about that.

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Sunday Smiles: A truthful calendar & discovering an island

Uhm, somehow we’ve ended up in October.  Can time slow down a little please?  September seems to have whizzed by, and this week seems to have whizzed by, too.  Possibly because we seem to have spent most it eating cake.

My Sunday Smiles for this week are:

  • A new month means a new calendar page, and once again, my desk calendar speaks words of great wisdom: “Remember that everything looks better in the morning*  * except for your hair which, quite frankly, looks like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards”  The dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards look seems to be one of my particular specialities – how does it know?

  • All that cake that I mentioned?  It might be a little self-indulgent of me, but one of my highlights this week was the egg-free spiced date cake that thankfully worked wonderfully when I really though it had all the odds stacked against it.  Phew!
  • Ok, so, if you’re a regular reader, you may have figured out that I have a rather cheesy sense of humour…  No surprises then that this made me chuckle (cartoon source):

  • It was James Bond Day on Friday, marking 50 years since the release of Dr. No.  The theme song for Skyfall was released, and I don’t know what reviews it has had, but I really like it.  It reminds me of the old school Bond songs.  Have you listened to it?  What did you think?
  • Feeling a little down and want something to make you smile?  These photos of “happy” stingrays will sort you out – I stumbled across them this week and I couldn’t help but crack a smile at them.  (PS – Happy stingrays are a total anthropomorphism, but we’ll just ignore that for now.)
  • We took a day trip to Waiheke Island yesterday which was marvellous fun – discovering a beautiful island 40 mins from central Auckland by ferry is a fabulous way to spend the day.  Particularly when it’s full of vineyards…  Ahem.  The weather was rather blustery (didn’t help the messy hair situation) and couldn’t make up its mind between sunny and overcast, but it didn’t rain so it’s all good.  And the weather doesn’t particularly matter when you’re indoors for wine-tastings…  I can’t wait to go back and explore more wineries of the island – I’m not remotely surprised that people go visit it and then just end up setting up there.

  • And finally, on our way back from Waiheke we were treated to this dramatic view of Harbour Bridge.  I really like it (not so much the associated weather though…).

What made you smile this week?

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Honey, wine and more wine: Auckland Food Show 2012

On Saturday I went to the Auckland edition of the NZ Food Show, held at the ASB Showgrounds.  Having never been, I wasn’t too sure what to expect so decided that I would assume it was along similar lines to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, which is really my only other experience with a food show or festival.  And indeed it was along similar lines, although much bigger, indoors (excellent idea in winter!) and with significantly less gin, but a heck of a lot more wine – it seemed that about a third of the stands were wine stands.  There were also masterclasses (although they cost $50 to attend, so I passed) and free cooking demos organised.

There range of products on show and on sale was impressive to say the least – honey, wraps, wines and liqueurs, breads, meats, etc. etc. etc.  But there were also non-edible products such as Tupperware (since when is it all so pretty and colourful?!), knives, Skoda cars (no idea what they were doing there) and Kenwood had a huge show area that I didn’t venture into too much because everything was shiny and tempting (and expensive).  There were some very large and commercial companies there (Kenwood, Tupperware, etc.), some that I recognise from the supermarket (Hellers, Dilmah tea, Farrah Wraps, etc.) but also much smaller producers, which I was most eager to discover.  Uhm, I should probably mention at this point that I got a little distracted by all the samples and wine tastings so I have hardly any photos.  Woops.

There were plenty of chutney and jam stands, but they’ve all more or less merged into one in my memory, as have the wine stands (taking notes might have been a good idea since the number of wine stands there made things a little hazy…), and to a certain extent some of the honey stands.  The producers that really stood out for me were:

  • J Friend & Co Honey – I made a beeline (badum-tschhhh!) for all the honey stands, but this is the one that stood out for me.  All their honeys were fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed the pōhutakawa one.  They also had honeycomb available, which was wonderful.
  • Lighthouse Gin – a NZ-made gin and wonderfully smooth.  Also the only gin stand (sad times).
  • Shott fruit syrups – I love fruit-syrup based drinks, but outside of France it can be difficult to find good syrups.  These, however, were fantastic.  My favourites were the honey blackberry and the lemon, ginger and honey (have I mentioned that I love honey?)
  • Genevieve’s Cuisine pâtés – wonderfully smooth and delectable French-style chicken liver pâtés (or parfait as they call it) in a few different flavours (original, black pepper and truffle).  I hope they’ll expand their range from just chicken, because they certainly know what they’re doing.
  • Moreish butchers – a bit of an unusual butcher in that it’s entirely online, but all their meats are free range and organic.  I prefer to see what I’m buying, particularly when it comes to meat, but since I’m still looking for a good butcher here, I might give this a go, depending on their prices.  Their sausage samples were certainly excellent though.
  • Lewis Road Creamery butter – creamy and heavenly and quite possibly the best butter I’ve ever tasted.  Oh, and makes really good butter sculptures, too, in case you were wondering.  Amazing!

So there you go, that’s my little round-up of the NZ Food Show, Auckland.  If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend going along to get a taste for what’s available in terms of local products – the next edition is in Christchurch from 14-16 September, then in Wellington from 24-26 May 2013, and then back in Auckland in August I should expect (all details are on the website).  I think there might be a bit of variation in producers across the different food shows, depending on which producers are local and so on, although I’m not 100% sure about that.

Were you at the Food Show?  What were your highlights?

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

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So it begins…

I’ve said all my goodbyes (with more than one resulting in a rather awkward-crying-on-public-transport situation) and this afternoon I’ll be beginning my slightly epic trip to New Zealand.  Epic in that it will take me 30 hours so I won’t arrive in Auckland until Saturday lunch time (NZ time – which is super late on Friday evening UK time).  Not epic in that I’m swimming there or something terribly sensational like that.

I thought I should procrastinate from packing by writing a blog post probably show some signs of life, so here are some of the things that I’m super excited about:

Long-haul flights – I love flying (let’s just skip over the whole environmental impact thing, ok?), but I’m a particular fan of long-haul.  I love that almost every airline has individual TV screens now, even in Economy, so you can choose what you want to watch (assuming you’re not stuck with the only faulty screen in the whole plane).  Except then there are too many options and I’m terribly indecisive…  I’m hoping The Muppets are on, but we’ll see.  I bet I end up watching a whole series of terrible films that I would never consider paying to go see at the cinema…

Being an expat again – Aside from the last four years of university, I’ve spent my whole life as an expat.  As strange as it may sound, I feel much more at home whilst living abroad than when living in the UK, one of my “home countries”.  I’ve missed being an expat so much, and I can’t wait to discover a new country, new customs and a new culture!!

New foods – I feel this is pretty self-explanatory – I write a food blog, so of course I’m excited about the prospect of new foods!  I can’t wait to discover new fruits and fish and just generally new dishes…  The food section was obviously the very first section that I read when I acquired my guide book.  I have my priorities right, don’t you know.

Being a student again – I only graduated in June, but in the intervening months I’ve really missed being a student.  As sad as it may sound, I’m rather excited about all the reading and learning that I’m going to have to do (not so much the stats that will inevitably rear their ugly heads).  I think I need to get out more…

The scenery – NZ just looks utterly stunning in all the photos and documentaries I’ve seen.  The dramatically beautiful landscapes remind me very much of Norway.  The visa in my passport informs me that I’m there to study, but I hope that I’ll be able to visit some of NZ and see all the beauty for myself.  You can probably expect some Toothy’s Travels posts in the nearish future…

Rugby – I’ve wanted to see the All Blacks play for a long time (in real life).  Even if they beat France at the World Cup…  So fingers crossed that that happens!  I’m also hoping that the general love of rugby that seems to permeate across the country means that the 6 Nations matches are shown on TV.

Middle Earth – I’m quite enthusiastic about Lord of the Rings (I love both the books and the films), so going to NZ is totally exciting, even if Auckland wasn’t exactly the centre of filming.  Oh, you were under the illusion that I’m ultra cool?  Oh…  Well, that’s that illusion dispelled then.  Bonus points to anyone who spotted the LOTR reference in the title of this post, although I’d like to reassure you that I have no intention whatsoever of fighting orcs.  Or fighting anything for that matter.

NZ wine – I’m really not familiar with NZ wine, so I’m excited to discover it properly (because as we know, I’m quite partial to wine…), but whenever I say that to friends who actually know about wine they generally give me a pitying look that effectively says “good luck with that…”  Doesn’t bode too well…  I’m hoping that it’s just a case of NZ keeping its best wines for the domestic market and exporting the not-so-great stuff.  Any suggestions for wines to taste/vineyards to visit are obviously welcome.

And in the interest of balance (I seem to have come over all BBC), here are a few things that I’m rather less excited about, but still turning into positives:

The time difference – NZ is currently 13 hours ahead of the UK, so the impending jet-lag will probably be marvellous fun to deal with, I’m sure…  The difference will make watching the 6 Nations rather interesting – I can’t wait for the matches that are on at 4am on a Monday morning…  At least I won’t be late for wherever I’m supposed to be/whatever I’m supposed to be doing on said Mondays.  No promises for the rest of the week though.

Three winters in a row – It’s the end of the summer in NZ, so after winter in Europe, I’ll get winter in NZ, followed by winter in Europe again at the end of my course.  Planning fail.  Though on the plus side, winter = mulled wine…  And I feel NZ winters sound rather preferable to European winters.  In fact, they’re probably better than Scottish summers.

Downton Abbey – The problem with moving around is that TV series are always at different stages in different countries, so I don’t usually get too into them.  I’m totally addicted to Downton Abbey though – I rather hope that the series has made it to NZ and that it’s not too behind either.  Once again, I clearly have my priorities in the right place…

I don’t have anywhere to live (yet) – Because I won’t know exactly what I’ll be doing until I’ve met my supervisor (hopefully next week), I don’t know whether I’ll be based in Auckland or Leigh…  So I haven’t been able to look for anywhere to live yet.  Panic panic.  But I do have two weeks’ temporary accommodation organised when I arrive, so at least I won’t have to sleep under a bridge (for now).  Hopefully that will be enough time to find something decent…

So, on that wonderfully positive note, I’m off to Middle Earth New Zealand!  Exciting stuff!!  Needless to say, I’m not sure how much blogging will happen over the next few weeks as I sort out my living situation (minor detail) and settle in, but do bear with me!

Wherever you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – Sorry for the lack of photos in this post.  I’m actually supposed to be packing, so ya…

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