,

Admiral St David New Cocktail Menu Review – Voco St Davids Hotel, Cardiff Bay

I recently got chosen to name a cocktail on the new Admiral St David bar and restaurant at Voco St David’s in Cardiff Bay. I was given the ingredients and had to choose the name on Facebook, with their favourite being selected and being put on the menu. I also got to sample the new menu with 3 friends

I’ve stayed at St David’s Hotel a few times, but not for about 4 years and not since it was taken over by the IHG luxury offering Voco Hotels, so I was keen to check out the menu there.

We were treated to 3 drinks each, 12 in total so we opted to dive straight in and tick as many off the new summer launched cocktail menu.

 

 

 

The Drinks

I obviously had to try the newly named cocktail by myself first, The Amalfi Verde featuring Bombay Saphire gin, Gallianno, lemon, egg white, basil and olive oil.

The drink was perfectly balanced to be fair  and I love the savoury notes from the drink. My mother was so impressed after a sip of mine, that she ordered the same twice.

 

The menu featured a range of base spirits for those not too keen on gin such as whisky, rum, tequila or even non alcoholic versions for those wanting something tasty without the punch of alcohol.

 

 

On the day I also sampled a gool ole Bloody Mary with a subtle kick of spice and a Negroni Fiammeggianti with the addition of Fire Eater cinnamon liquer.

I’d usually go for short and punchy drinks out of choice at a bar and these were more on the lengthened drinks kind of route, but seeing that it was 1pm in the afternoon in the sweltering sun, this was probably for the best. It was nice and refreshing sat on the outside terrace sipping cocktails, overlooking the bay with a gentle breeze, giving my scalp a much needed cool down.

If i’d gone short and punchy at that time of day, sat in the sun I’d probably have ended up over the side of the balcony and into the barrage.

The Food

We only had the drinks included in our complimentary package but having a peek at the bar menu, sticking just to drinks was never going to happen.

I love the Asian influences on the menu and right at the top of my list was the loaded fries with Laksa sauce, crispy onions and cheese and two bowls for the table, so I didn’t have to share.

Alongside this I ordered some prawn toast and some calamari.

 

Cocktails and food at Voco St David - Cardiff Bay

 

The loaded fries were just as good as they sounded. A generous portion of perfectly cooked chips. Yes there is such a thing. One thing I hate is soft anemic chips! A coating of melted cheddar and a lush fragrant Laksa sauce, topped off with tangy, fresh crispy onions. Drool worthy stuff right there and the poshest of dirty fries I’ve eaten and I’ll definitely be back for some more of these, that’s for sure.

I wasn’t too impressed with the portion of calamari but what was there was decent enough. Light, soft in the middle and light crisp on the outside and not cloying with grease, like they sometimes are.

The prawn toast was delish too. Thick cut, crispy bread with a lip smacking kick of prawny goodness. This came with a side of dips to dunk in too.

I tried ordering some pork belly bao’s but they were all out of the pork and had already ordered calamari so didn’t want to go veggie.

The Verdict

We were all very impressed with our visit to the Admiral St Davids. Ok so nobody is going to stick their nose up to free cocktails, but they were very sinkable and there weren’t any I didn’t enjoy.

A bit sweeter and lengthened more than I would normally go for but it’s not the place to sit and get pissed, it was just nice to sit outside in the sun on an early afternoon and hydrate with some refreshing alcohol based tipples.

We didn’t try anything on the main menu for food, but the small dishes we did sample were very good. The loaded fries were probably my favourite dirty fries I’ve eaten. I’ve never seen my mum polish off a plate of chips so quickly either.

I’ve never really thought of going to St David’s just for drinks but on the day we went, with not even a cloud in the sky, I don’t think you could beat the spot for a drink down the bay. Amazing views, decent drinks, delicious nibbles and away from the crowds of stags and penis straw drinking hens.

I never realised I like civilised, but I could get used to it. I’d definitely put St Davids at the top of my list for afternoon or early evening drinks the next time I’m down the bay.

,

Halen Mon Salt launch of book, gin and Tide restaurant

We recently got an invite to Wales most famous salt brand Halen Mon for the launch of not one but three new ventures at the Coastal HQ along Anglesey’s treasured Menai Straights.

Normally I would have questioned a 10 hour round trip for a launch event but this was no normal launch party. Having used up my latest pot of black garlic ketchup on everything apart from my cup of tea, I knew Halen Mon had something special planned last Saturday.

Their famous salt is used by Michelin Star chefs around the world and even has a former president as an avid fan, with Barack Obama favouring the Welsh sea salt in his chocolate.

The Halen Mon range has exploded over the past few years featuring a hint of their white gold in the majority of products along with seaweed, spices and good old fashioned smoke.

Do Sea Salt book

The latest launch though is covering a few different areas and not just condiments. There is a book “Do Sea Salt” written by Jess and her parent’s, the founders of Halen Mon Alison and David. It’s lovely little book, featuring salt in all it’s greatness from history, why we use it, how to use it and some great suggestions on elevating humble recipes by utilising this great natural product.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and get stuck into it properly but from a quick scan of the book, I’ll definitely be trying some of the ideas and I love learning about the history of anything food and drink related. There’s also a mention about creating your own sea salt, something I’d only mentioned on our last trip up to Anglesey back in April .

I said I wanted to get gas cooker and heat some water from the Menai Straights, to try and make our own Anglesey Sea salt before we got the invite to Halen Mon HQ, so this book will make sure I don’t waste hours of my life watching the water bubble away over a camping stove.

Jin Mor Gin

Well this was a surprise for me, as I only found out a couple of day’s before the event that they were also launching a gin on the night. Well I found out when they presented the first bottle off the still to Prince William and Kate on instagram, two days before.

 

The gin is a collaboration with the increasingly popular North Wales Distillery Aber Falls. Aber Falls, was setup initially as a the first Whisky Distillery in North Wales for over 100 years but as whisky takes 3 years and 1 day legally be called whisky, they sought out other forms of revenue in the mean time. They initially launched three gin’s to much success and have expanded their range more recently with an entry level vodka and gin along with a more premium offering.

Jin Mor Gin - Halen Mon Gin

Jin Mor launch night

The Halen Mon gin, will go by the name of Jin Mor and has the addition of their Halen Mon to the mix of botanicals. I was told that this was not just to add a salinity to the drink but because of the process that happens when you add salt to anything. It draws out moisture and oils from most things thuse drawing more of the flavour from the botanicals.

On taste, I was expecting it to have a saline kick to it but far from it. The gin was smooth, pleasant and delicious. I didn’t get to try it neat on the evening but did have more than my fair share mixed with a bit of tonic and it was exceedingly morish.

We had a goody bag to take home with a little bottle of the juniper spirit, so I will be taste testing it neat on the weekend for research purposes.

Apart from the salt there was nothing too out of the ordinary on the botanical list with the obvious juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice although I didn’t see the full list.

I was half expecting a bit of the seaweed that they forage a just a stones throw away from the salt harvesting site that is used in some of their other products to make an appearance but that might be reserved for further down the line.

I’m sure the Halen Mon gin would make a very good martini or red snapper at the new cafe would be a good choice, using some of the other range of products such as the bloody mary ketchup for flavour, seaweed for umami kick, chilli for heat and a smoked salt and cracked black pepper rim. I might suggest this one to them and more than happy to work on testing to get the perfect mix 🙂

Tide Cafe

Last but not least is the new fresh food offering from Halen Mon called Tide. Not content with supplying kitchens and restaurants across the land with their excellent pantry staples, they are going one step further and opening a food outlet next to the Halen Mon visitor Centre.

Tide Cafe - Halen Mon, Ynys Mon

The food will be cooked in a fully kitted trailer next to the centre, offering alfresco dining and refreshments to visitors of the centre or just people wanting good coffee and fresh, local and delicious food.

We were treated to a number of tasters and appetisers whilst our fellow guests arrived to the sea front location. Halen Mon couldn’t have picked a better day, the sun was shining with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The Canapes consisted of freshly picked oysters from just in front of where we were stood with both pickled apple and some that had been shown the fire over a log burner, some 5 metres away with lashings of garlic and butter.

Crisp breads beautifully decorated with flowers with peppers and an amalgamation of pureed stuff, that both looked enticing and tasted scrumptious.

Then there were mini tacos with healthy slabs of golden pork, fresh apple and micro herbs for a kiss of savouriness. These just how i like tacos, stuffed, overloaded and more than my mouth can handle. There was no portion control either, to my delight, so I had a couple of each to pair with the gin.

The Meal

I could have easily have sat and filled up on the tasters, but we were there to sample something more substantial inside. I liked that everyone’s name card was somewhere random (or was it) so they made more of an effort to speak to others. I was sat 3 away from Llio but with everyone’s love of food and just enjoying life, we all had loads to talk about. There was someone who made his own chutneys that will be featuring on the menu to my right and a tea master that now works trading in spices on my left.

Hugh Fearnley at Tide launch - Halen Mon, Anglesey

Before the meal commenced we had a brief introduction by none other than Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whom the new Tide chef Sam worked for, at his time at Riverside Cottage.

We were given a choice of wine as we sat down, with me opting for red, as I can’t take to all white especially if it’s too dry. There was never going to be a Blossom Hill being brought out that’s for sure and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering that did come out, a Valenciso Reserva 2009 Rioja. Not sure if this is true, but someone on the table mentioned it was the house wine at the fabled El Bulli in Spain. Well you can’t get much better than that for recognition.

Salad starter at Tide, Halen Mon

The first dish was very informal and more of a sharing experience, which was a nice change. We had some amazing sourdough, which is always a fav of mine baked by a friend of the family who was also sat amongst us, dining for the evening too.

This was alongside some asparagus cooked in loads of butter and garlic, new season kale that was so delicate compared to kale I’m used to without the large oversized stems and tossed in orange and raisins alongside a help yourself bowl of olive tapenade. I was a good boy and only ate two pieces of bread, even with the remaining slices plonked next to me. I’m getting better!

Welsh Lamb main at Tide Restaurant launch, Halen Mon

Onto the main course of Welsh lamb, served a luscious pink with a croqueta of slow cooked lamb inside too. Some fresh salad leaves, locally picked new potatoes with loads of butter and some extra greens. It tasted fresh, looked rustic and just as I would expect out of the River Cottage cookbook.

I enjoy vegetables, they just taste bland and dull when I cook them. Everything had it’s own bit of tender loving, yet not overpowering or overshadowing anything else on the plate. Seasoned to perfection, even though I thought there would be white ceramic tubs of Halen Mon within reach for everyone, we really didn’t need it.

We were sat / stood outside in the sunshine for the tasting of the gin and the canapes and it would have been lush to dine outside but it’s not quite summer in the evenings and the temperature tends to drop considerably, especially being right next to the water’s edge.

Roasted rhubarb crumble and custard at Tide, Halen Mon

With the logs being put on the burners outside, which was now churning out a decent heat, we were able to grab a chair, a glass of dessert wine and have a shmooze, whilst the dessert of stewed rhubarb, custard and crumble was handed out to very happy campers.

 

Thinking we were all done, after quite the feasting, a couple of wooden boards were handed out with gargantuan wedges of Welsh cheeses and a knife to do your worst. It was dark out there, but I think I would definitely have been caught shimmering out of the circle, cheese in tow to the nearest bush or rock, to polish it all off myself.

The Verdict

What an amazing evening we had, from start to finish. Everyone was so lovely not just the Halen Mon team but everyone we sat next to and had a chat with.

The food was outstanding. Everything was sources as local as possible, seasoned perfectly and you could taste the love shown to it. I will definitely be calling in to have tour around the salt production site and finishing with a bite to eat at Tide, the next time I’m up and on the island.

Halen Mon launch night

We bought our first Halen Mon ceramic salt cellar about 2 years ago at Waitrose in Menai Bridge and it takes pride of place in the kitchen and always in arms reach when we sit down for food.

We’ve also topped it up and bought a few other nicies from the range on Discover Delicious too including seaweed and salt mini pot, Bloody Mary Ketchup and my fav their Black Garlic Ketchup.

The gin was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it would be bad but I couldn’t fault the end product. You can buy it from their website at around £33 or the other half was back up in Anglesey last week with work and popped in and bought one in the shop next to Tide for the same price. We will definitely be showcasing it at a future Cardiff Gin Club event.

The book “Do Sea Salt” can also be bought from their website and in the visitor centre shop.

Contact Details

Address: The Anglesey Sea Salt Company Ltd
Brynsiencyn,
Isle of Anglesey
LL61 6TQ

Website: https://www.halenmon.com

Tepache Recipe – Mexican Pineapple Beer

Tepache is a Mexican beverage made from fermented pineapple juice. You cut a pineapple, rind and all, as this is where the natural yeasts hide that kicks of the fermentation and add mix it with brown sugar and your choice of spices. The usual suspects are cinnamon, cloves and ginger but you can add whatever you like such as chilli for a bit of fiery heat or vanilla pods.

The mix is left to ferment for a few days, in which time the yeast starts to feed off the sugar, eventually turning it into alcohol. We’re not talking wine strength here, only a few abv. as this is traditionally enjoyed by people of all ages in Mexico with some ice, for a refreshing afternoon thirst quencher.

The tepache once mixed with sugar, water and your choice of spices should be kept out of the fridge in a warmish environment as this speeds up the fermentation process for a few days, until you start to see some bubbling and white froth on top.

I’ve read online that this can take between 2-3 days but this is probably in warmer climates as I nearly threw mine out on the 5th morning, but when I came home from work it was bubbling away nicely.

After 3 or 4 days of no life, I thought that by heating up the sugar with the water and adding boiling water to the pineapple mix that I had killed off all of the natural yeast. So next time, I’m just going to add the water and sugar and give it a shake.

To give it a little hand, I didn’t think the kitchen was warm enough to start the fermentation, so I placed my tepache container in very warm water for an hour on the 4th day to try and get a bit more heat to the mix. I think this is what saved it as the 5th day, the fermentation started.

With any form of fermentation you need to make sure that everything you use is properly sterilised so that you don’t go adding any harmful bacteria that will either spoil your ferment or leave you feeling ill, once consumed. One other area of caution is too much gas and pressure on your mixing container.

When the Tepache starts to ferment, it will give off co2 (gas) in the process. As your container is sealed, this leads to a build up of pressure inside. If you use thin or cheap glass containers and you don’t burp (let out the gass) regularly then it could potentially cause the container to explode. A high price to pay for a bit of hooch.

You can get some fermenting jars I’ve seen online. Lakeland sell some for about £8 and Kilner around the £20 mark. What these do is have a one way filter for gas and pressure to escape, thus relieving the tepache container of too much pressure.

Once the tepache has fermented and you’ve seen bubbles, you want to decant the liquid and remove the fruit pieces, otherwise it will eventually turn to vinegar. Pineapple vinegar doesn’t sound too bad, but I can’t drink that in a glass. I left mine overnight after seeing the bubbles just to make sure the sugar has been broken down and it’s not too sweet.

You then want to give it what’s known as a secondary ferment in the bottle or another container. This is where you get the natural carbonation for the drink. Add it to a container, minus the fruit and pop it in the fridge. Make sure to give it a burp once a day too and leave it for around 2 days. Now you should be good to go.

You can enjoy cold with some ice or make it a bit boozy and add some beer.

Tepache recipe tasting

I tried a tasting board of tepache, one with Danish Spirit Producer Empirical Spirits collaboration with Lyaness Bar Onyx Blend, one with Mikeller IPA and one low abv version with just ice and a squeeze of fresh lime.

To be fair I enjoyed all three, but it was delicious in the ice cold beer for an extra fruity kick.

Tepache recipe ingredients

Tepache Ingredients

  • 1 Pineapple,
  • 1 cup of brown sugar (I used two half cup measurements I use for my oats)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger
  • Water

Tepache Recipe Instructions

  1. Give the pineapple a little rinse in cold water, just to remove any debris but nothing too crazy as this is where the yeast needed to start the ferment lives.
  2. Peel the rind, remove the fibrous core as I’ve heard this can be a bit bitter, then chop the flesh into chunks.
  3. Add the rind and I used half of the pineapple flesh. It depends how big your vessel is but if I used the whole thing, I wouldn’t have had any space for the water.
  4. Add the sugar and spices and top with water. You want to cover the fruit as this should be fully submerged so as not to protrude over the mixture and start decomposing but leave a bit of a gap at the top of the container so the tepache has some room to breath and for the gas to go.
  5. Close the top and give a shake.
  6. Don’t go sealing it straight away as the yeast and ferment will need some air
  7. Use some cheese cloth or a clean tower and cover the opening to the container. You can use an elastic band to keep it in place. This allows the mix to breath but stops any insects having a party in there.
  8. Leave out in a warm area but out of direct sunlight.
  9. The warmer the better but nothing too mental. I think mine took 5 days because my room wasn’t particularly warm but I did add the container to a pot of hot water on the 4th day to try and speed things up for an hour.
  10. Leave for a few days until it starts to ferment and bubble. Other websites said this will take 2-3 days but this depends on the climate and temperature. Colder rooms or countries might take longer.
  11. Don’t let it go too long after the ferment or you will be left with pineapple vinegar.
  12. Strain the fruit from the liquid and add the liquid to a new clean bottle or container. Make sure the container is of good quality so it doesn’t explode from the pressure. Make sure there is ample room for the build up of gas.
  13. Put the container in the fridge for what’s known as the secondary ferment to carbonate.
  14. Burp or open the container once a day to release the gas and pressure. The tepache should be ready in 1-2 days.
  15. Drink with ice or mix with a beer.

 

note: It should look like below when it starts to ferment

Fermenting pineapple

, ,

Gerald of Wales Gin Train from Cardiff to Anglesey with Arriva Trains Business Class

We were asked by Arriva Trains who still run the service from Cardiff to Holyhead on Anglesey to join them on the Gerald of Wales, their premium carriage service to celebrate the launch of the Welsh gin being served on the service from Eccentric Gin.

The Gerald of Wales offers the only first class train service from Cardiff to North Wales offering guests a cooked breakfast or 3 course evening meal, depending on the route and time they travel. With one trip leaving Holyhead at around 6am and the return journey leaving Cardiff Central at 5.15pm Monday to Friday.

Being a regular traveller to Ynys Mon with the other halfs family living there, we either drive or catch a flight, so the thought of sitting in a luxury carriage with a 3 course meal and unwinding with some of the best Welsh Gin sounded very tempting.

As there train wasn’t returning on the Friday evening or running on the weekend, we did half a trip to Shrewsbury with enough time to sample the food menu and taste our way through the growing selection of Eccentric’s catalogue of gins.

The Food

The morning journey from Holyhead serves a hot Welsh breakfast with the usual cooked breakfast items but we had a choice of three courses for the return journey from Cardiff.

 

Starter on Business Class Arriva Trains Wales

 

I opted for the pate to start. A healthy wedge of seasoned offaly loveliness wa offered, a few bits of foliage for display and a nice portion of chutney to cut through the richness of the pate.

 

Main Course Business Class Arriva Trains

 

For mains I went for fish in breadcrumb crust, potatoes, vegetables and herby sauce. The fish was alright actually, tender and flakey. New potatoes…well they do what they say on the tin. The veggies reminded me of the frozen bags you chuck in to boil for a few minutes, which I’m generally not overly fussed on but I will eat them if I’m hungry. The sauce was ok, but felt a bit plastic and not made from scratch. It was needed in the dish though for a bit of moisture for the potatoes and veggies.

 

Welsh gin and cheese - Garald of Wales - Arriva Trains

 

Cheese and gin, now that’s a winning combo if there ever was one. A selection of Welsh cheese with variety of crisp eating vessels to choose from.

We were heading close to our final destination on the journey so we had to rush through the cheese board but what I did have certainly hit the spot.

The Gin

I was no stranger to Eccentric Gin, having attended a tasting event in Cardiff around the same time as setting up Cardiff Gin Club for research purposes and have been a fan ever since.

We also included some of their gin during our live tasting with BBC radio, showcasing the best of Welsh Gins.

 

Welsh gin on Arriva Trains business class - Cardiff to Anglesey

 

The gin menu on board the Arriva Gerarld of Wales has a couple of the Eccentric gins on it such as Cardiff gin, their most popular dry gin on the market.The ever enthusiastic Rob from Eccentric, was more than happy to let us taste our way through their classic range such as Madame Genever, Young Tom, made from redistilled 8% IPA beer and Limbek, made from gin rested in Burgundy barrels giving it a lovely amber hue.

We also got to try some new trial gin’s Rob was working on such as Rhubarb and Violet gin. The bottles came with new branding and stood out with their bright natural colouring compared to their other classic range. I did like the two new ones but I preferred some of their older ones like the Limbek.

The Verdict

This wasn’t fine dinning by any means, but everything we ate was cooked and prepared on a moving train, in what must have been a dinky little kitchen. I struggle to eat a sandwich without tipping it all over me on a train, so hats off to the guys in the kitchen for knocking out what we had to eat, in such a short space of time.

I enjoyed the food and ate all of it, although I had to rush to finish off the cheese board because we got off in Shrewsbury and didn’t do the whole route to Holyhead.

I loved the gins and it was great to catch up with Rob from Eccentric who we’ve spoken to and helped support at our Cardiff Gin Club events from the start and he’s been great in giving us some samples to offer out to people at our talks at Tafwyl in Cardiff Castle, St Fagans Food Festival and The National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay last year.

If you are travelling to Anglesey and don’t want the stress of driving through the heart of Wales countryside for nearly 5 hours after work, i’d highly recommend booking a trip on the Gerald of Wales. You can sit back, enjoy some decent food and sip on some fantastic gin with an epic scenic display through Wales.

One thing I would point out though if you’ve never been to Anglesey and plan on visiting a few places whilst your there, organise a hire car for the island in advance.

Everything seems to be very far from each other and I’ve spent most of my weekends there in the car, driving from place to place. There are trains on the island obviously as you will be riding on one but they don’t connect up on the island very well. I’ve not used the local bus service to comment on the service or reliability.

,

The Dead Canary Gin Dinner Review in Cardiff

We were recently invited to the first in a series of gin dinners at Deaths and Entrances, the new bar within The Dead Canary and run by the same team.

The new bar opened a few months back and I loved the new flavour driven cocktail menu on the launch weekend.

The gin dinner was in collaboration with Quintessential Brands, whose gins were being paired up against the three courses of food we were being served that evening.

We toasted the night in with a welcome classic of Thom(as) Collins, to get the flavour receptors in full working order. The brand ambassador then give us a bit of history behind a Manchester gin that just so happened to be my very first purchase of gin some 3 years ago. Thomas Dakin, was the gin in question and comes in a not so standard rectangular bottle, with a large red sticker and branding on the front.

It was the bottle that caught my attention and back then there were only a handful of gin’s on the shelf not a whole section dedicated to the juniper laced spirits, if you can call some of them that these days.

The Food

The first course went straight in with the big guns as a paired gin in the form of Berkley Square, the most expensive gin of the evening. The bottle just oozed premium, with it’s lions head and knocker along with thick walled square bottle.

Berkeley Square Gin bottle

The food dish consisted of honey baked feta with lavender and a thyme and rye crisp. What a first course! I love feta and the lick of honey combined with a gentle heat in the oven, gave it a ever so slight caramelisation. It also turned it heavenly smooth in the mouth and contrasted with the crisp and bread. I could have eaten more than my fair share, lets just put it that way.

The kitchen soon served our second plate of food that was paired with the Thomas Dakin gin in a cucumber and dill sour. A mackerel dish with cucumber and horseradish snow, a granita type iced affair with subtle horseradish. One of the ingredients in this centuries old recipe for gin was red coal, which was often taken as a snuff like powder to awaken the senses back in the 18th century.

Mackerel starter at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

We now call this horseradish, so it was intriguing to find out about how gin progressed outside of London during the time of the first gin craze and also matching the botanicals within the food too. I thought it was a very creative dish and i’d never tried a savoury granita, especially not with horseradish and certainly not as a starter.

The brand ambassador also spoilt us with some of the last remaining chocolates truffles they had made for them from a Manchester chocolatier that has stopped trading at the moment, which made them extra special as they can’t be bought again. Gin and chocolate, what’s not to love especially when the truffles were made to compliment the botanicals in question.

Thomas Dakin gin chocolates

Onto the mains, which consisted of pork tenderloin with carrot, dill and camomile broth, served with a ginger collins using the floral, Bloom gin. The cocktail made a lovely refreshing addition. A Collins, sometimes known as a Tom Collins at a basic level contains gin, lemon juice and soda. This is usually jazzed up with some additional syrups and carbonated liquid to lengthen it.

Pork and ginger collins at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

Our final course took a flight towards India, to hold up against the spice of the final gin Opihr. The dish consisted of a mango kulfi, pistachio and grated coconut. Paired with a favourite classic of mine, the negroni. Not for the faint hearted and this cocktail does seperate the men from the boys or women from the girls, with it’s use of the bitter orange Italian aperitif Campari.

Mango Kulfi dessert at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner in Cardiff

The classic ratio of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth and one part campari is sometimes tweaked, to also include barrel aging or infusions of vermouth with the likes of coffee or cacao. This is always served with a twist or slice of orange for a natural sweetness against the bitter Campari.

A negroni is a hard drink to pair up against but the creamy kulfi and the sweet fruit of the mango leant itself to the spicy cocktail. My empty plate and glass bore witness to this.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed the evening and I’ve been to quite a few of The Dead Canary events now over the years from gin blending, afternoon tea-ki.

We were invited to this event this time around but I’ve paid for all the other’s I’ve been to there and there’s been a few. They recently did another gin dinner and I’ve seen whisky dinners too, for those of you who prefer the amber coloured barrel aged liquor.

I’ve seen a few more advertised events on my hit list to sign up to at The Dead Canary like the return of the Afternoon Tea-ki event in collaboration with Pennyroyal, which is back for Cardiff Cocktail Week.This features tiki cocktails and caribbean inspired plates of food to match them.

Mikkeller Beer Club Discount Code

On a recent trip to Copenhagen I got to visit not one but two venues owned by Danish Beer stalwarts Mikkeller. They’ve got a few tap rooms dotted around Copenhagen, which we went to too, but we also went to the BBQ based collab with the American 3 Floyds brewery based in the meat packing district of the city called Warpigs.

I’ve tried a fair few Mikkeller beers over the years from the infamous Small Bar in Cardiff (RIP), the bottle shop in Penarth and they even sell a couple of cans at M & S.

After having a browse on their website, whilst pondering over a couple of brews to have sent over by snail mail I noticed they do a Mikkeller beer mail. This is a beer subscription where you can have a lucky dip of the latest Mikkeller beers sent to you by post once a month.

I love a suprise and I also love having beers in the house without leaving my doorstep, so I thought I was onto a winner. After finding a Mikkeller beer mail discount code online giving me 50% off my first box, I thought £20 was worth a punt.

Not knowing when delivery would be scheduled, whether it would be a month from signup or the start of the month, I was lucky in that I ordered just a week before the start of the month. A couple of days after signing up for the Mikkeller beer mail I had a notification saying my first box was been scheduled for delivery.

What was in the Mikkeller beer club box

 

Mikkeller beer club discount code

 

In the Mikkeller beer mail I had the recently launched Viking Kolsche lager with a pretty awesome branded glass for the collab.

There was a mixed bag with a few cans and bottles. There were IPA’s, a vanilla and a chocolate stout at a rather potent 12%, making a perfect dessert (or breakfast) pour. I was chuffed to have a big can of Frank The Tank too, which I got to sample over at Warpigs.

The bottle of the box though was the Spontan series Oregan Plukm. A lovely sour beer made from Plums picked from Oregan in the US. I priced this up on their website and it came in at around £14 for this alone, add that to the £8 I paid for the Frank the Tank in Warpigs and for your £20 investment, you’ve already had that back wtihout the other 7 beers and glass along with delivery all the way from Denmark.

Verdict

Would I recommend the Mikkeller Beer Mail? Too right I would if my first box is anything to go by. With the discount code getting you a 50% discount on your first box then 9 beers, a glass and delivery for £20 means you’re getting some epic beers for not much more than £2 a drink.

Mikkeller Beer Mail Discount Code

If you fancy signing up to the subscription service but not sure about the price then just use the Mikkeller beer mail discount code in the link below to get 50% off off your first delivery:

http://mikkelleraps.refr.cc/nickyb 

Note: Please note that by using the link to get a discount on the Mikkeller beer mail and Mikkeller beer club then I also get a discount on my next box too.

Gin Judging for The Peoples Drink Awards in London

After seeing catching a glimpse of newsletter tittle mentioning Gin Judging, whilst scrolling through my 300 odd emails I get every day, I clicked through to find out more.

The peoples choice drinks awards were back for a second year, and looking for judges to help crown this year’s favourite. You had to submit an application detailing why you think you would be suitable so I thought what the hell.

I forgot all about it to be honest, but a few months later I had an email inviting me to the judging at a venue in Camden in London. It was a half day affair, requiring me to taste my way through up to 30 gins with the chance to take home some surplus supplies for the hardship too. RESULT!!

As luck would have it, the judging day happened to fall on the weekend of Albert Adria’s Cake and Bubbles opening in London too and I managed to get a table.

The Judging

After arriving in Camden and finding the venue by 10.30am on a Saturday from Cardiff, I was feeling quite impressed with myself. I wasn’t alone and was joined by my partner (in crime) and fellow Cardiff Gin Club organiser to help prop me up, if I overindulged on the bountiful supply of potent aqua vitae.

 

Peoples Drink Awards in London

 

There were around 20 of us tasked with finding today’s winner of the Peoples Choice Drinks award for the gin category. I would have been the only guy had one fellow judge not brought her husband on the trip to London and was squeezed in due to a no show. Not that I was that bothered.

We were divided into about 6 tables, given scoring cards and had a run through what was expected of us. There were two rounds of the scoring, one was the gin with the taste and what we thought of the actual liquid. The second round of scoring was based on the branding, bottle and back story.

Round 1 of gin judging

After being shown how to score the gin based on taste, mouthfeel, smell, clarity and mixabilty we dived straight in. Armed with a spitting device, we were told that we didn’t need to swallow the gin and should be able to taste and score just from swilling it around the mouth. The organisers were gin judges for a number of awards and said they sometimes go through over 100 gins in a day. Ok, that might be a challenge even for me, but 30, I’m sure I’ll be fine I thought.

 

Peoples drink awards gin judging sheet

 

We weren’t served full shots anyway, just tasters of about 1/4 of a shot. Also at our disposal were bottles of tonic to open up the flavours after the initial neat taste of the liquid and plain crackers to help neutralise the taste in our mouth between gins.

The pace was fast, with the first 6 coming in quick succession. We were sat with a couple from Brighton who we got on really well with and discussed what we thought of the gin’s and what we could taste. As fast as we could taste and decide on a score for each of the scoring area’s another one or another two gin’s appeared from nowhere.

After getting to about half way through and swallowing basically everything in sight, I started to get a head on and it started to hit me. Luckily we had a short 15 minute break in between to save my legs from going underneath me when we broke for the first part. After the quick pause in the sprint through the 30 gin’s, it was back at it at full speed.

 

 

The majority of the gin’s presented to us were more than palatable, there were only a handful of less desirable and one just downright nasty that came in a rose tinted colour. I swear it wasn’t just my distaste for fake pink gin, none of the table enjoyed it.

I was quite surprised how quickly a table of 4 would smash through a packet of plain crackers too. By the last 5 we were on 3mm x 3mm crumb ration each, but we all made it to the finishing line in one piece.

Breaking for lunch after the tasting was a very good idea to help soak up the juniper laced spirit and of course I noticed the pie, mash and jellied eels old school cafe on the trek from the underground to the venue.

 

 

Full up on meat pies, mash potato and liquor, I was ready to take on the second round of judging head on. Back at the venue, I only then realised they had none other than a Tiny Rebel tap take over going on. Well i’ll be damned! You can take the boy out of Cardiff but… Pint please bar tender.

Round 2 of gin judging

Everyone was definitely a bit more chatty after the first round of scoring that’s for sure. Next we were handed 4 bottles at a time so we could look at the branding on the bottles and a blurb on each of the distilleries about their back story including who they were, how they started, unique selling point and a bit about some of the key botanicals.

Again it was a bit fast paced and we weren’t given too much time to read over the back story before swapping with other tables. We did notice that some distilleries had submitted several varieties of their gin, in hope of one of them winning.

 

Dublin City Gin

 

I was surprised having such a decent selection at home that we didn’t have more of the gin’s on show today. I had 3 of the masons gin’s but there was a new pear variety, which I was keen to try. I found flavour wise they were all quite high up on my scoring but for me on the day, my favourite gin was the Dublin City Gin.

We eventually found out that the nasty, chemical tasting and rose tinted gin was a new variety of one of our most popular Cardiff Gin Club pop up event gin’s. Bloom jasmine and rose. Uch a fi, sorry but I would not recommend that gin to anyone even if I’m not allowed to say. I cannot be held responsible for people wasting their money on that bunk.

 

Brighton Gin

 

After the scores were all handed in there was a kind of raffle going on, where one organiser would pick up a bottle of surplus gin and the other would call a name and we got to keep the bottle to take home. I could just see me coming home with that pink garbage but I was in luck. I got to take home last year’s winner, Brighton gin. Much to the dissatisfaction of my fellow table members who had travelled up from said town of the same name.

Llio also managed to bag a bottle of the sea side inspired Whitby gin and a half bottle of Shetland Reel Fire.

The Verdict

All in all, a very productive Saturday in work.  A bit longer than my normal 1.5 mile bike journey to work, but all worth it in the end. I loved the experience of judging the gin’s and it was great to be involved in helping to promote some of the very good craft gin coming onto the market at the moment. I’m not sure if the awards is going to happen again this year, but if it does then I’d recommend it to anyone. Just take an extra packet of crackers, in case you run out half way through like us.

Then it was off to taste some cakes from the a pastry chef, voted the best in the world Albert Adria at Hotel Cafe Royal, before lugging our haul of gin back to the motherland.

 

,

Cardiff in the sky dinning and cocktail experience in April 2019

There’s a dinning experience coming to town in April, that is like no other Cardiff has hosted previously.

For 5 days from April 10th 2019, some of the best independent food and drink venue’s in Cardiff will be taking to the sky, offering breakfast, afternoon tea, fine dinning and cocktails on a table raised 100ft in the air.

 

 

With panoramic views out over the city to die for (don’t worry I don’t mean literally as you will be strapped in tight) you will want to be quick to bag a ticket for your chosen flight.

The dinning experience will see a table, covered from the elements should storm Gareth fancy hanging around in town for another month, raised from the ground by a crane in front City Hall.

With 9 flights per day, the event is hoped to raise a lot of cash for the charity partner Shelter Cymru. Shelter Cymru provide support and assistance for those facing homelessness, with 20,000 people being helped just last year alone.

This dinning experience has been taking the world by storm, with events being held in London, New York and Dubai and now OOMFF are bringing the show to Cardiff.

The lineup for the event is as follows:

 

Having visited 6 out of the 8 venues, I know you’re going to be well looked after. I’ve been offered a taster flight before the maiden voyage to the Cardiff skies and I can’t actually wait!

Prices start at £50, to book go to Cardiff in the Sky

 

Nikka Whisky and Gin Tasting – Cocktail Judging at Lab22 Cardiff

The Nikka brand and distillery is responsible for my recent obsession with Japanese spirits and alcohol. It was the first Japanese whisky I tried and subsequently the only whisky that isn’t Welsh in my home bar with the entry but delicious level Nikka from the Barrel.

I’m not sure whether it’s the resemblance of the brand name to my actual name or the story of the founder Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru, born in Hiroshima to a family of sake producers. He rebelled against already written future as a sake producer, upped sticks and traveled to Scotland, not knowing a word of English, to learn the art of distilling.

With his new found skill in distilling Scotland’s most famous export after deep fried Mars bars, he returned to Japan. With a Scottish wife in tow, he went to work for the Japanese distillery Suntory, which is still one of the most famous to this day.

After creative differences, he decided to go it alone and setup his own distillery Nikka. You probably wouldn’t have guessed, but certain areas of Japan closely resemble the climate, humidity and altitude famed by the Scottish distilleries. These sorts of variables can have a huge impact to the final product and it’s taste.

Nikka Distillery has now been producing highly awarded as sought after Japanese Whisky from their distilleries all around Japan, using a variety of different techniques from pot stills, multi column Coffey Stills and they even still use coal fired stills on some of the batches.

Not only whisky, but Nikka have also more recently added white spirits to their arsenal in the form of gin and vodka. Using the Coffey still (not coffee) to produce the neutral grain spirit of vodka. They then use this base spirit, which is distilled with Japanese botanicals to create a spicy, citrus forward gin with the help of yuzu, amanatsu, kabosu, shikuwasa and the sansho pepper, which is a member of the sizchuan pepper.

They call this Nikka Coffey Gin. I’ve got a bottle of this in the house too, and it’s bloody lush!

Nikka Whisky, Gin and Vodka Tasting at Lab22

Luckily for me, Lab 22, one of my favourite Cardiff bars and the one where i’ve tried most of the Japanese whiskys I’ve sampled in my time, were having an industry tasting day with Nikka brand ambassador one afternoon recently. That was more than enough reason to book the afternoon off work for in my eyes.

We got to learn about the history of Nikka, the story of Masataka Taketsuru and how he grew his company over 50 years ago to be one of the most recognised Japanese Whisky brands on the planet.

Nikka Japanese whisky tasting in Cardiff

Then onto the most important part, tasting our way around the collection of Nikka spirits from blended, single cask, aged whisky to the recent coffey additions such as Nikka Coffey grain whisky, Malt whisky, Gin and Vodka.

I’d sampled a few drinks form the Nikka range lately, but there’s bloody loads of them, so I was more than happy to work my way through more of the back catalogue.

My favourite from the 8 varities we tried was between the Nikka Single malt Miyagikyo and the Taketsuru pure malt.

There weren’t any of the aged expresions, but I’m not suprised as the Japanese whisky drought that’s going on has sent them skyrocketing in price. I did manage to try the Nikka Taketsuru 17 year old recently at Pennyroyal mind. This is probably the last time as that is currently at £200 a bottle, so god knows how much the 21 year old is, and that’s bottle price so for a shot you’re looking £20+ no doubt.

Judging the Nikka cocktail competition

Nikka whisky and gin cocktail judging

Lab knows my love for Japanese Whisky and Gin, so asked me to judge for the Nikka cocktail comp after the tasting event. How could i refuse?

There were two heats to the comp with Japanese bar tendering skills in the form of hand carved ice to a stopwatch where they had a minute to carve a block of ice into a sphere to fit into a whisky tumbler.

Second heat was all about the drinks. Each bartender had to create a cocktail with at least 50ml of any of the Nikka products we sampled during the day, whether that was Nikka Whisky, Gin or Vodka. Scoring was based on taste, appearance and story.

Nikka whisky cocktail entry at lab22 Cardiff

I’ll be honest, I wish this was my full time paid job as I was in my oils. Luckily there was no need for any bandages in the first heat from rogue stabs of the ice with the ice pick but we had a right good laugh at the effort the guys put in on the first round.

For the cocktails, nearly every entrant used Nikka Whisky from Nikka from the barrel to Yoichi and Taketsuru Pure Malt. With only Alex, mixologist and owner of Penny Royal opting for a mix of Nikka Whisky and Gin in his cocktail.

There were some mesmerising back stories and props thrown into the performances from some and some damn fine cocktails to match, but there could only be one winner. That happened to be Alex who went for a mix of the Nikka gin and whisky, with a short and punchy number with added Japanese ice ball to add a little bit more flair to the drink.

Nikka gin cocktail winner

Alex walked away with an enviable bottle of something a bit special from Nikka and sadly wasn’t open to requests to share it with me. Oh well.

A big thanks to Lab22 for letting me join in the tasting and cocktail judging and a big thanks to Nathan from Nikka for giving me the low down on the history of the distillery, which I always find fascinating.

Mulled Negroni Recipe – Christmas Cocktail Ideas

I usually knock up a batch of mulled wine or cider for Christmas dinner every year but I fancied trying something different this year.

Seeing that I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for gin, I thought I’d try mulling some of the juniper based spirit. As gin usually comes with tonic, which isn’t exactly Christmassy on it’s own I decided to go with a twist on one of gin’s most famous classic cocktails, the Negroni.

Negroni is usually equal measures of gin, sweet vermouth, which is a a fortified red wine with added botanicals and herbs and Campari, a bitter orange Italian aperitif.

To me that’s basically a grown up mulled wine in the making and what I think would make the perfect Christmas cocktail. You could have this with dinner for the main event or for a welcome drink that could be knocked up in a batch, in a slow cooker and given to guests when they arrive.

I’ve gone for a couple of alternative mulling spices below, but you can work with what you’ve got for your mulled Negroni if you don’t have the ones below, or don’t like them.

Mulled negroni recipe ingredients

Mulled Negroni Recipe

  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 clementine, leaves and all
  • 1 bottle of Fentimans ginger ale
  • 50ml gin (I used Edinburgh)
  • 50ml Campari
  • 50ml Sweet vermouth
  • 1 tonka bean
  • 5 cloves
  • Squeeze of honey to taste
  • Squeeze of clementine juice

 

Mulled negroni making

Instructions

  1. Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and half the rind of a small clementine to a hot dry pan and toast for a few minutes to get a bit of a char and to start releasing some of the flavours.
  2. Turn the heat down to a low-medium heat than add the rest of the ingredients and 3 slices of the clementine.
  3. Warm in the pan slowly to get the flavours to impart but without burning off the alcohol.
  4. Put a tea strainer over a clear glass cup and pour half of the liquid in each of the cups. Garnish with a slice of clementine and stick of cinnamon from the pan.

You could leave to cool and serve with a wedge of ice, but it’s winter and there’s nothing better than a nice warm, boozy cup.