Popping out 2014 Opinions on Popcorn

Popcorn has really taken off recently, 2013 saw a whole array of different flavours hitting the shelves. It’s good for calorie counters and, in my opinion, nicer than crisps.

Some of the newer, more “out there” flavours include Tesco’s sun-dried tomato and Worcestershire sauce, soured cream and jalapeno as well as some more extensive sweet options from Tyrell’s with their Sticky Toffee Pudding.

I don’t have enough time to review ALL of them but recently (well, actually it was a while ago) I was generously offered to try Whitey’s Gourmet Popcorn which stood out for a number of reasons which I felt I had to revisit and blog about now.

Mark (Whitey), pops up at food markets and events across the North West as well as having his own online shop.

Firstly, the flavours were really great and strong, which I’ll look into why later. Sometimes a “sweet and salted” can be a little bit bland but in Whitey’s popcorn the salt tingles your tongue at random intervals and the sweetness is not sickly, it’s a nice blend.

We also tried the Maplecorn and Cinnamon Sweet. Oh my god, now, I love popcorn and I really love cinnamon so the Cinnamon Sweet was like heaven on earth for me. The bag was pretty big and I, ashamedly, nailed it in around 20 mins. The Maplecorn was slightly too sweet for me but my other half, and guinea-pig for many food pilgrimages, absolutely loved it. I have a fairly low tolerance for sweet things so it’s probably best not to use me as too much of a gauge on that.

The other flavours I’ve seen but not tasted on Whitey’s website is Smokey Chilli and Cocoa. The Smokey Chilli could be an absolute winner, the Cocoa, however, leaves me sceptical!

Other than the taste and the fact that they’re preservative free, something which appeals to me, the most distinguishing feature is the size and shape of the popped corn. They are larger than others I’ve seen and this means that they can hold more flavour which is why you get a great punch of flavour even when you eat one. They’re also more spherical and less jagged-y shaped, if that makes sense (?!) which I think also means that they capture more flavour and they certainly look good.

So, if you fancy going independent with your popcorn purchases or simply want to try something new and freshly made just check out his website for upcoming market events or to order online… http://www.whiteys.co.uk/index.html

Grillstock Goes North: Manchester

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Ribs and brisket from Flamin' Amatuers

Ribs and brisket from Flamin’ Amatuers

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What do you expect from a festival called Grillstock? Well, BBQ, music and drinks and on that front it massively delivered. But there was unexpected delights too… ice cream, including barbeque flavour (do you get the theme yet!?), sweet cakes and tarts, boozy smoothies and wine. So there really was something for everyone and there was lots of families there together for the earlier part of the day.

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Manchester is embracing the street food ethos as Guerrilla Eats continues to grow in popularity and this was a fantastic outlet for those constantly looking for their next foodie fix.

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Given that this festival takes place every year in Bristol, Manchester showed great enthusiasm for the cause and the word on the street, which was clear to see anyway, was that the event was a huge success and is already looking likely to take place again next summer! Nobody told them that the weather wasn’t always 20 degrees and sunny but sssshhhh.

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Grillstock made its way to Manchester last weekend and it was a messy, meaty and musical mouthful for all involved. Albert Square was treated to a delectable mix of smokey barbequed meat, beers, cakes and music and boy did it go down well.

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Crackerjack won the ‘King of the Q’ competition and those lucky enough to taste some of their food, I got to taste Andy Annat’s brisket and ribs and they were great. The brisket could have done with an added 30 minutes on the heat but the sticky glaze it was coated with and the presentation was notably better than the other contenders.

Review: 3 Twenty One Manchester

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Last week we were invited to try out Manchester’s latest smokehouse and grill offering, 3 Twenty One. Actually, we were originally invited on the previous Saturday night but couldn’t make it so had to wait an extra five days of seeing juicy steaks and crisp chips on Twitter before eventually getting in on the act.

Anyway, we got there on a rainy Thursday evening and the place wasn’t too busy but it did show the diversity of the venue as whilst couples were enjoying the dining experience a group of ladies were having cocktails made for them at the bar before ordering up a round of burgers. Nice.

We were greeted warmly and promptly by the staff who were fantastic and looked after us all evening – as well as the chefs who are keen to come out from behind their pass and interact with the customers. Some might find this a little odd but it all felt really relaxed and I enjoyed it.

To start with I ordered the prawns and Chris had the Manchester Egg which has been a popular choice and my god I can see why. My prawns with smoked garlic butter were delicious but after I tasted the perfectly runny egg boiled coated in black pudding I was gutted I hadn’t gone for that option! And don’t even get my started on the candied maple bacon – simply delicious; a sweet and salty slice of heaven!

Prawns and a Manchester Egg

Prawns and a Manchester Egg

On to the hard stuff and I opted for the Sirloin Steak with chimichurri sauce, I’ve never had chimichurri sauce with steak before and it was lovely, not too rich like sometimes blue cheese or peppercorn sauce can be but light and zingy with my perfectly cooked steak.

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Chris went for the lamb with garlic butter, he didn’t get asked how he wanted his lamb cooked but I did overhear the chef say “if they don’t state otherwise it gets cooked pink”, which suited us just fine and he wolfed it down, making the bold statement that it was possibly the best lamb he’s ever had. High praise indeed.

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Lamb Chop

One positive thing about the five day Twitter-stalking wait was that we got a steer on what was good, well, the feedback was that pretty much everything was good but we had to narrow down some of the more popular choices, one of which was the onion rings. Similarly with the chips, they were crispy, crunchy, tasty, seasoned perfectly and dusted with smoked paprika. There was salt and pepper on the table but I didn’t touch it.

We were drinking the house wine and the Spanish house red is very drinkable and went really well with the meat and the house white was fresh and light on the palate to begin with. I think the house wines are a good measure of standards and these were pleasant and complimented the big juicy meat on offer really well.

In the interest of balance we managed to put away dessert too, come on, I had to bring you a full report. I had the Oreo Mud Pie with white chocolate ice cream and Chris the apple pie with vanilla sauce. The mud pie was obviously massively rich, indulgent and borderline sickening but I wolfed the lot and bloody well enjoyed it too! Not much of an ice-cream person myself but the white chocolate Cheshire farm ice-cream was seriously to die for and had lovely little morsels of white chocolate through it.

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Oreo Mud Pie with White Choc Ice Cream and Apple Pie with Vanilla Sauce

On the other hand, the apple pie didn’t do it for Chris, he complained that there was too much cinnamon (not possible, I said) and that the pastry was slightly undercooked (I thought it was ok), and it was cold but, he didn’t mind that. My main issue with this dessert is that it had raisins/sultanas in, which is fine, but it didn’t state this on the menu. Now, for someone like me, who HATES dried fruit, this is a sin and I would be disappointed if I’d ordered it.

The service was great all evening and the staff were lovely, attentive and knowledgeable about most of the dishes (I think I threw the front of house though when I asked her exactly what was in the chimichurri sauce!) but the chef was on hand to recall every single ingredient. Being above the Deansgate Pub it’s not the easiest to spot, I’m thinking in terms of visitors coming out of the Hilton and looking for someplace to eat, so word needs to spread. I’ll certainly be heading back soon to try out some more of the menu and I suggest you do too.

http://www.3twentyone.co.uk/

3twentyone, 321 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4LQ Phone: 0161 839 5215

Guerrilla Eats is back with a boost of booze & beats!

Guerrilla Eats is ready to provide the great people of Manchester with local street food, craft beers and punches as well as music to dance the night away to this weekend.

The scamps will be setting up this Saturday (23rd Feb) at 60 New Bailey Street, Salford M3 5FS (right next to Salford Central railway station) from 6pm ‘till late.

Learning from the first event, this gathering will be indoors so no wet feet for the revellers – just pure passion for food with nothing to get in the way. The addition of booze and music will no doubt go down a treat and everyone is ready for an evening of great food and atmosphere!

Taking inspiration from the eponymous Brooklyn Night Bazaar, Guerrilla Eats is bringing a new concept in the North West – a street food night market; pairing street food, craft drinks and excellent music. All in all, a celebration of all that’s good for your tongues, tummies and your ears!

Mal O’Conner, of Guerrilla Eats, said: “Sitting down with friends, we noticed there wasn’t a night that catered to our needs of independent, low-cost food with craft drinks AND good music – so we decided to put something on that suited us – and that’s how the Gorilla came up with Guerrilla Eats.”

So, you’re wondering what’s going to be on offer… frankly, far too much for my mind to deal with – how will I ever make a decision about what to eat?! There’s definitely plenty of delicious grub available to suit all tastes and dietary needs from the likes of Fire and Salt BBQ co for some deep south BBQ comfort food to Chaat Cart which dishes up delicious vegetarian dosas and southern Indian fare or you can take a trip to the streets of Mexico with Margo & Rita’s burritos.

There’s pizzas fromStreatza, gourmet hot dogs from Dirty Dogs, quality burgers from Bistro Barn House and some yummy sweet treats from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and Pancake Corner. So come on, don’t even try to tell me that your mouth isn’t watering at the thought!

All of this along with with craft beers from independent brewers and music from some of the North’s biggest up and coming DJs and you’ve got the makings of a banging Saturday night right there!

Guerilla Eats is at 60 New Bailey Street, Salford M3 5FS starting from 6pm.

Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn: Reviewed

Manchester’s newest taco joint, Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn, inspired by a road trip from Vegas to Mexico, is blowing the minds of those lucky, lusty (and smart) enough to have paid it a visit already.

Exterior signage

Exterior signage

Formally known as Socio Rehab, the guys behind Home Sweet Home, Almost Famous and Keko Moku have brought us another glorious hangout over two floors!

It’s not just ‘Almost Famous with Mexican food’. It’s a completely different vibe to Famous, not better or worse but different, more ‘grown up’ shall we say? Less slut, more class and unmistakably ‘cool’.

Guac and artichoke dips with 'chips'

Guac and artichoke dips with ‘chips’

The menu is large and varied, providing meaty, veggie and fishy options. Accompanied by the delightful Sarah Nosh, we started off with the guacamole which is hand-smashed at your table for uber-freshness meaning you get the full hit of the lime, chilli and coriander complimenting the avocado. Alongside this we ordered the warm artichoke, jalapeno and cheese dip which also comes with nachos and was extremely moreish and something I’d never had before so I was pleasantly surprised.

However, for the calorie conscious you can indulge in carb-free goodness too such as the chicken lettuce cups. Chicken, pineapple, peanuts and sunflower seeds drizzed with a teriyaki BBQ sauce and served in a gem lettuce leaf. VERY good.

Chicken Lettuce Cups

Chicken Lettuce Cups

On to the tacos, burritos and sticky buns (now you’re listening?!), well, they are quite something. We ordered the Beef Smackdown burrito which was delicious but a bit heavy for me (the portion sizes are substantial). The slow-cooked beef with chipotle gravy, peppers, onions, hot sauce and cheese is spicy and comforting and it sure as hell gives you bang for your buck.

MASSIVE Beef Smackdown

MASSIVE Beef Smackdown Burrito

We also tried the Yum Yum sticky pork buns. The mini brioche buns are very sweet, too sweet for some but I enjoyed them. Smoky and sweet shredded pork topped with BBQ sauce and pineapple, HELLO INDULGENCE. However, on my second visit I ordered the Dirty Chicken tacos and I really can’t recommend them enough.

Sticky Pork Buns with Chips AND Salad (we ordered extra)

Sticky Pork Buns with Chips AND Salad (we ordered extra)

Dirty Chicken Tacos - Phenomenal

Dirty Chicken Tacos

They’re gorgeously tasty, creamy, tangy, cheesy and even refreshing ALL AT ONCE! I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is at Luck & Lust.

A new feature to those who are fond of Famous and fancy something a little different is dessert! Now, apart from when the weekly special had vanilla ice-cream on the burger the closest thing I’ve come to a dessert in Famous is ordering another tequila Scramble cocktail.

However, dangerously, you can now choose between salted caramel chocolate brownie (baked with a freaking oreo in the middle!!!) or a pineapple and coconut cheesecake with strawberry sauce, lusty wafers and amazing blood orange jellies. Both come with a scoop of Penelope’s malted vanilla ice crea. Yummy! Could I pick a favourite? No. Basically, it will take several return visits in order to come to a conclusion.

Salted Caramel Brownie with Oreo

Pineapple Coconut Cheesecake

Pineapple Coconut Cheesecake

I must confess that due to lack of funds and having done Dry January I haven’t yet ventured into Tom’s cocktail creations but the drinks menu is certainly one to widen the eyes and whet the appetite. Next time.

The main difference between Famous and Luck & Lust, because people will compare (rightly or wrongly), is the sheer volume of the menu on offer at the latter. The quality is there, the atmosphere is there and also, they have actual plates at Luck. Decadence, indeed.

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Manchester’s Street Food Revolution has Begun

Last week’s street food celebration was the birth of a new food revolution for Manchester and, similarly, the new year will continuing to see the Guerrilla Eats gang pioneering in true guerrilla style – popping up in basements, backyards, skyscrapers and secret gardens to bring great food to us all!

Why? To create a buzz around great food served by great people for realistic prices. For me, usually, grabbing a bite to eat from a street vendor tends to be the last port of call; I’m sure many have experience the pre-football match burger which mainly tastes like it’s made of 100% nuclear waste and AIDS. Well, fear not – the times they are a-changing.

London has seen an array of celebrated gourmet street vendors pop up but this hasn’t happened thus far in Manchester.

Mal O’Connor, of Fire and Salt BBQ, said: “We want street food to be accessible to everyone – no one wants to be paying 6 or 7 quid upwards for street food; but with the usual market fees, travel costs etc., street traders have no choice but to charge that much to start covering costs. Working as a collective helps bring our costs down and means no on takes money from the set up – it allows us to keep the quality of our food high and our prices down.”

 

Pork ready to be pulled. Mmm... yeah!

Pork ready to be pulled. Mmm… yeah

Guerrilla Eats’ ideology is that street food doesn’t have to be something we all force down in situations of desperation. Street food is a massive part of the culture in many places around the world such as the Americas, East Asia and Africa so has it taken so long to catch on in the UK?

Last weekend saw the best of Manchester’s street food vendors – showcasing and saluting their passion for the using best ingredients, the most creative recipes and the diverse range of cuisines they offer; from BBQ pulled pork to spicy chaat to comforting ice-cream – all served up with a delightful dollop of exciting entertainment to ensure street food is celebrated in the style it deserves.

Fire and Salt BBQ served us up some unbelievable soft and juicy pulled pork which is cooked for hours at 90 degrees to achieve a melt-in-the-mouth texture. They also have their “accidental signature dish” of mac and cheese made with gruyere, cheddar and emmenthal; comfort food at its ultimate best!

 

Fire and Salt's Mac & Cheese

Fire and Salt’s Mac & Cheese

Dirty Dogs Hot Dogs had their chilli dog classic to warm the cockles which went down a treat for those waiting in the Manchester rain. The lads are trying to find a veggie-dog option which doesn’t make them gag, and they are keen for any input and ideas on what would make meat-eaters and veggies alike happy. Answers on a postcard please!

 

Sean offers up some chilli dogs. Nice.

Sean offers up some chilli dogs. Nice

Sean Robinson, dogger-supremo, said: “It’s fun, relaxed, inclusive food that makes people happy – there’s not a starched napkin or stiff upper lip in sight!”

Ginger's :)

Ginger’s :)

Amongst my personal highlights were the Whisky Marmalade ice-cream from Gingers Comfort Emporium which was served in a handy basket you can eat with a little warm brioche on the side – absolutely delicious and although the added cold was slightly odd, it kind of worked in warming you up in a weird way!

Whiskey Marmalade ice cream with toasted brioche

Whiskey Marmalade ice cream with toasted brioche

Another of my favourites and probably overall highlight was sampling the food from Las Paelleras. As soon as we walked over to their space we could see a lovely big pan of the crispiest potatoes which they drenched in tomato sauce and aioli upon ordering; divine!

WOW - yummy!

WOW – yummy!

They also provided me with the best bread I’ve tasted outside of the continent with their artisan baguettes from Flour, Water, Salt in Macclesfield. Seriously soft on the inside but deliciously light and crunchy on the outside it’s the perfect host for chorizo, rocket and aioli sauce. I think I know decent Spanish food, and this was good! Got the thumbs up from my chorizo-loving partner as well so that’s a real good sign.

Tonight – the Dirty Dogs will be serving up their Christmas-themed dogs, amongst others, at the peerless Port Street Beer House so if you’re hungry for some festive dogs and fantastic beers, you know where to go. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on the next time these lovely lot will be serving their grub in the centre of Manchester but for more info get chatting to @NorthWestNosh – she’ll sort you out.

Restaurant Review: Restaurant Bar and Grill

Kind enough to invite us along to check out this restaurant just off Albert Square/Deansgate, we were more than happy to sample the goods at, one of the city’s most talked about restaurants (on the Twittersphere), Restaurant Bar and Grill.

It was a bustling Saturday night and the place was packed to the rafters, and it’s seriously big, so I was thinking that I would allow for a bit of a wait for food/drinks etc. I usually give the staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to an insanely busy service, to a certain extent obviously, but there was no need.

We were greeted promptly at the door and offered a drink at the bar even though we turned up right on time and our table was ready, which we gladly accepted. Some places give you the feeling that they would rather get you in and out as quick as possible but not here. The front of house said he would come and get us in 10-15 minutes and take us to our table. Again, I anticipated being forgot about but, bang on the dot he came over and asked us if we were ready to eat and showed us upstairs to our lovely table by the window looking over John Dalton Street.

The atmosphere downstairs in the bar was, to be honest, not really my sort of scene but it was enjoyable. Loud dance-type music and folks in very fancy outfits made this place feel like a real treat and I was glad I dressed up for it but it’s not the kind of place I’d want to spend every Saturday night.

That aside, the menu is lovely, the kind of stuff you’d expect from a grill menu; fish and meat from the grill as well as salads, pastas and risottos. They also have 35-day dry aged steaks some of which are served on the bone for maximum flavour impact.

I opted for the lobster but sadly they had just sold out so I went for the rack of lamb with chilli, yoghurt and garlic from the tandoor clay oven and my partner had one of those lovely dry-aged steaks which came recommended by our waitress. For starters we had Iberico ham with tomatoes and sourdough and grilled asparagus with hollandaise and a poached egg.

The starters were lovely and actually could have been wonderful together – the lovely saltiness of the ham and the creamy richness of the egg and hollandaise were all delicious separately and together. The sourdough was lightly toasted and the asparagus was still crunchy and seared perfectly.

Poached egg and Hollandaise with asparagus

As we waited for our main course we enjoyed an Argentinean Malbec Don Nicanor 2010 which was recommended by the waitress again and was gorgeously smooth and rich in flavour – a perfect accompaniment to my spiced lamb and his steak with pepper sauce.

The lamb was absolutely delicious, served with rice, a coleslaw-style salad and a sauce, oh my god, the sauce, of lime leaves and coconut, was seriously to die for. I had forgotten all about my lobster. The lamb itself was slightly charred on the outside but on the inside it was lovely and pink. I couldn’t finish it all, we did get a side salad too but in this place the portions are big! Sometimes with places we skip the starters only to find that the main portions are tiny but not here, you get enough bang for your buck and we were delighted with that.

Rubbed rack of lamb with rice, salad and a coconut and lime sauce

My partner’s steak and chips was very nice, maybe not as nice as I’d expected given how much it was talked up beforehand but very nice indeed. The pepper sauce was rich and robust and the chips it came with were chunky and fluffy inside – although being a bloke, he probably would have preferred a bit more chips!

Steak, chips and pepper sauce

At this point, I must say, the staff were attentive but not overly so, they made sure you were happy but didn’t pester you as is sometimes the case when waiting staff mean well. Even when somebody other than our direct waitress brought us over our food they knew exactly who was having what; always the sign of a classy, and well organised, joint.

On to the desserts, well, I had crème brulee, which is my go-to dessert really, I should branch out more often but I just cannot bring myself to do so! My partner went for an apple tart tatin, another good judging cornerstone of a good restaurant. As the tart tatins are cooked to order we were advised that there would be a 20-minute wait, which was fine by us.

I find that sometimes restaurants bring desserts out too quickly so we were chuffed about the wait. During which, we were recommended a dessert wine which, as was assured would work perfectly well with my crème brulee and didn’t it just. It complemented what I can only described as the biggest crème brulee ever, to my delight!

The tart tatin was perfectly cooked and I even checked the underside to make sure the pastry was cooked, I’ve seen them do that on Masterchef, and it was perfect. The apples were soft and sweet but still had a slight bite to them and the whole thing was caramelised and came with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Tart Tatin and a massive Creme Brulee

We followed this with coffees and were offered out onto the fabulous new terrace. It was quite busy, since it was Saturday, so we declined a drink out there but it did look lovely and it was well heated.

The only gripe I have about the place is that it is huge, however that didn’t slow the service down, but there are only two ladies toilet cubicles in the upstairs dining area which meant that I was in for, at least, a 5-10 minute wait for the toilet each time which was slightly annoying.

Overall, I would definitely go back to RBG although it would be for a special occasion or if I had visitors staying who I wanted to impress. Top marks to the staff who gave great recommendations and make us feel very welcome throughout.

Food – 8/10

Service – 10/10

Atmosphere – 7/10

Value for Money – 7/10

We were complemented our meal by the restaurant on behalf of Manchester Confidential but I am under no obligation to say anything nice about the restaurant.

Restaurant Bar and Grill
14 John Dalton Street,
Manchester,
M2 6JR
T: 0161 839 1999