Tuesday, 29 September 2015

CHIPOTLE BLOGGER EVENING

The majority of you would already be familiar with Chipotle Mexican Grill, the restaurant chain which hails from the US and opened its first restaurant outside North America, at Charing Cross Road, back in 2010. Since then, they have continued to slowly grow in London, having opened its seventh restaurant in London, and its first in The City, in July 2015.

The blogger evening was held at the Baker Street branch, which we were told is one of the busiest branches. Making my way down the stairs, I was greeted with a much welcomed cold Margarita. I was starting to feel quite hungry then, so thankfully we were served tortilla chips to nibble on, served in brown paper bags with a selection of salsa dips: fresh tomato, roasted chilli-corn, tomatillo-green chilli, and tomatillo-red chilli.




We were shown a short clip of 'The Chipotle Story', where Chipotle Founder, Chairman and Co-CEO, Steve Ells, discusses Chipotle's early years:


The lovely assistant manager, Ariana, then gave us a little 'tour' of the kitchen and walk-in fridge where they kept all their ingredients, whilst enthusiastically explaining to us about their daily routines and processes.

As a big fan of avocado, I was looking forward to the demonstration session on how they make their legendary guacamole. The avocados were lined up on a tray and swiftly scooped into a large stainless steel bowl, before being smashed with an enormous guacamole masher which they specially shipped across from the US for their UK branches.









Red onions, jalapenos, fresh coriander and citrus were then mixed in, and voila, we have a huge bowl of their deliciously addictive guacamole! Guacamole sure tastes so much better when it is freshly made. This was also actually half the size of a single batch that they make everyday - I can't quite remember how many batches are prepared daily, but it definitely involved A LOT of avocados!
You can check out Chipotle's 'Process Not Processed' clips via this link.



Despite the common misconception about fast-food chain restaurants, Chipotle, which operates more than 1,800 restaurants in the USA, has been instrumental in establishing a new kind of thinking about fast food - 'Food with Integrity', which is highlighted in the following Youtube video which won Best TV Campaign in the World at the Cannes Lions Festival 2012.



And of course we were all treated to a hearty meal from the counter. 
The menu is focused on burritos, tacos, burrito bowls and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. I went for the bowl with a mix of chicken, cilantro-lime brown rice, black beans, and topped with fresh tomato salsa, sour cream, romaine lettuce and cheese.


The food is quick, simple and sure fills you up - it's no wonder that Chipotle is so popular and continues to expand in London.
This was my very first taste of Chipotle, and it definitely won't be my last - thank you for having us, and I'm very much looking forward to using my Reverse Loyalty Card!

The Cheekster, signing out x 

Chipotle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 26 September 2015

#ZOMEETO AT SPONGE & CREAM

In conjunction with National Cupcake Week, I was excited to be invited for the Zomato Meetup (#ZoMeeto!) at Sponge and Cream in Brixton, where the lovely Paulina very graciously welcomed us into her wondrous little kitchen - where all the magic happens!

 We had a bit of a Q&A session with Paulina, previously head baker at Hummingbird Bakery, who explained a bit about her story and how she started up her business.




After much drooling over the scrumptious looking cakes on display, it was finally time to get a taste of them.
All the flavours looked so good that it took me a while before I managed to come to a decision. I settled for the rich German Chocolate Coconut with Praline...or something along those lines - and it sure tasted good! As with most blogger events, we always like to share our food, and thankfully each of us had chosen different flavours. 
The Butternut Squash Dream was one of a kind indeed, made with butternut squash, apples, raisins, and frosted with strawberry marshmallow frosting - and some of you may also be glad to know that it is gluten and wheat free. Another favourite was the (gluten/wheat free) Lembluca cake which was a rich lemon and blueberry cake frosted with lemon frosting, and of course the classic Carrot cake.




Everyone knows the drill when it comes to blogger events, so here are a couple of 'behind-the-scenes' shots...

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa

Paulina then demonstrated one of her new recipes, a three-tiered Coconut and Lemon Curd Cake. She had baked the layers and prepared the frosting ready beforehand and we got to observe her whilst she assembled them together. 
To make sure that the top is level, a thin layer was cut off. I gasped as this cut off bit was disposed off (!) - I would have gladly eaten up the leftover bits, but then again I suppose there is only so much cake that one can consume (!)


A thick rim of coconut frosting was then piped around the edges of the cake, forming a wall of frosting. This was followed by the pouring of a large portion of lemon curd in the middle of the cake, and the steps repeated for the second layer.






The top and last layer of the cake was leveled and placed top downwards on the other two layers. The whole cake was then covered with the remaining frosting and finally sprinkled with lots of desiccated coconut.





Add a few slices of fresh lemon disks as decoration, and here you have this stunning looking Coconut and Lemon Curd Cake!
Paulina kindly provided us with the recipe for this dream of a cake, which looks simple enough to follow, but I might just be cheeky and try and suggest to one of my baking friends to give it a go in their kitchen...I have better faith in the pros when it comes to baking.


Next, Paulina talked us through our Halloween-themed cupcake decorating session, as we were just about a month away from the much awaited yearly celebration! She had prepared three different designs for us to replicate. I have never handled or used fondant before, but it was sort of like play-dough so it felt easy enough to play around with - I think that I am generally quite good with my hands...






Okay, so my cupcake decorations didn't quite turn out as well as I was hoping for...and I also decided to go a bit 'freestyle'! Notice my groovy ghost with the multi-coloured spots (picked at fondant bit leftover on the table...) and my cat sitting next to the pumpkin (or rather a standing one but whose legs seemed to have collapsed...). It turned out to be slightly demonic looking I must say - not that I have ever been that fond of cats anyway...


After a pleasant evening of cakes and cupcake decorating, we each got to take home our three 'works of art' - that's breakfast sorted.

Photo credits to the lovely Sheepa


Thank you once again to the Zomato team and Paulina for organizing the event. 
Paulina is also looking to host workshops in a larger space in October, so if this sort of thing tickles your fancy, then keep a lookout for more details and get yourself booked in.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Sponge & Cream Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

THE KITCHIN, EDINBURGH

After several visits up to Edinburgh and various recommendations, we finally had dinner at the The Kitchin, a former whisky bond located on Edinburgh's stylish waterfront. Opened in June 2006 and run by Tom Kitchin and wife Michaela, the food served is a harmonious unification of seasonal Scottish produce with a French style of cooking, showcasing their philosophy 'From Nature To Plate'.




We started off with some cocktails in the chic bar area, the interior a mix of rustic and contemporary designs, with its classy dark wood floors and subdued shades of grey wooly furniture. 
I had a fruity gin-based Bramble, whilst Viv had a floral and refreshing Blooming Flower, alongside which we were served some appetizing crispbreads (or rye crackers?) and dips.





Upon being seated at our table, we were each handed a map of Scotland, locations marked from where the ingredients are sourced. A fragrant, warm loaf of sourdough was brought to the table with some luscious creamy butter, followed by an amuse bouche of a light and flavourful tomato consommé.



 I was really tempted by the tasting menu, but in the end we ordered from the A La Carte menu, from which I ordered one of their classics of Pig's Head & Langoustine. The boned and rolled pig's head seasoned in cumin was deliciously tender and moist, and the pigs ears were really crispy and moreish. Next to it was a juicy roasted tail of langoustine, with the claws placed in a small bowl for you to pick at your hearts desire.

Equally tempting was the oysters which Viv ordered - six Giga oysters from the Isle of Cumbrae prepared six ways. I particularly liked the oyster ceviche  and the one which had a sort of Thai and chilli marinade. We both favoured the ones which were still fresh as opposed to the cooked ones where some of the fresh flavours which we enjoy were diminished or overpowered by the sauces.



Always in the mood for some game, I ordered the roasted grouse from the Borders served with Perthshire girolles, wild lingonberries and bread sauce. The grouse was not quite as pink as I have had in the past, but nonetheless perfectly tender and drizzled in mouth-watering jus. Girolles are undoubtedly one of my favourite mushrooms and I surprisingly quite enjoyed the bread sauce which was smooth and creamy (they also provide you with an extra serving of bread sauce on the side should you wish to indulge more...) 
Viv went for the Newhaven lobster cooked a la plancha and finished with a rich escargot butter and topped with squid. Nice flavours and texture, but presentation-wise personally, I think could be refined...



Whilst Viv ordered another cocktail, I obviously could not resist ordering at least one dessert - because no meal would be complete without dessert...
This beautiful creation below is a Perthshire strawberry and basil millefeuille with basil ice cream - light and crisp puff pastry and and wonderfully fresh flavours.
I just wish that I had space for more of the desserts.


The Kitchin clearly remains a popular venue judging by how full it was on a Tuesday evening. 
We both very much enjoyed our evening - service was pretty smooth-flowing and the food was satisfyingly good.
Portion sizes are decent, however the price is still quite high for Edinburgh standards, so I would advise that you be prepared to foot out about £100 per person (or more if you're a bit more of a wine aficionado...)
The set lunch does look like a bargain at £29.50 for three courses, and the tasting menu price of £75.00 seems quite reasonable.

The Cheekster, signing out x

The Kitchin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal