Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Product Review - Stivy's The Original Cider

A few weeks ago I was kindly sent a couple of bottle of flavoured cider from the people behind Stivy's Vodka Liqueur to sample. Although I have heard of the Stivy's brand, I have never tasted their flavoured vodka liqueur to date. With cider popularity continuing to rise, the flavoured ciders give Stivy's something to offer their target market of 18-25 year olds. (Which I am definitely not part of these days)
The 500ml bottles carry distinctive labelling and the Stivy's logo in clear sight, making sure to capitalise on a brand that is well known in the target market age groups. The ciders are currently available in Asda stores across Scotland with plans to roll out the new products quickly to other retails in the on and off licence trades.
Stivy's flavoured ciders are designed to be enjoyed over ice on a hot summers day and as we see to be having a bit of a heat wave just now, I decided to crack open the Kola Fruits flavour cider when I got home from work tonight.
I assumed that this cider would bring back memories of Kola Kubes from my childhood and I wasn't disappointed as the playground smells of Kola Kubes were easy to identify. Unfortunately, that's where my enjoyment ended as the cider was ridiculously sweet to taste with a bitter aftertaste. I know that I don't fall into the target market of the Stivy's brand but I can't imagine the Kola Fruits cider being a huge hit with the intended younger demographic.
On a plus note though, Nicola had the Cherry Berry flavour cider a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it! (she doesn't fall into the target market age group either) The cider had a very clear cherry tang, with notes of berries in the background. We both love cherry flavoured drinks and the Stivy's Cherry Berry certainly delivers the goods here.
So there to you have it, one good - one not so good. I don't image that the good people at Stivy's will shed too many tears at my lack of endorsement as I'm sure that there are plenty of new younger drinkers out there that will have found a new refreshing drink for the summer months.
Keep up to date with Stivy's on Facebook and Twitter.



Sunday, 20 July 2014

5 Questions - Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur

A few weeks ago, myself and Nicola had an enjoyable afternoon at The Royal Highland Show where the highlight for me was the Food and Drink village. Whilst walking around, sampling the wares of independent producers from all over the UK and Ireland, I took time to chat with the producers and gave them the opportunity to have their story told on Gerry's Kitchen.
The first people to get back to me with answers to their '5 Questions' were the team at Coole Swan, the producers of a wonderfully rich Irish Cream Liqueur. Coole Swan takes it's name from a WB Yeats poem - 'The Wild Swans at Coole' and is produced on the same family farm in County Meath where the dairy cows live and breathe.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
That is a good question. We are farmers in County Meath in Ireland (about 1 nour north of Dublin) and love producing quality produce and we also love cream liqueurs.... So a 100% natural cream liquor seemed like a no brainer. It took over 18 months and 100's of tastings of whiskey, chocolate and cream to get it right....hard life I know!!!!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Ideas are the easier bit. Execution is the key. To execute an idea or plan you need humour, friendship, determination and flexibility. Also, you must never compromise. Ever.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Going from strength to strength but maintaining the same level of contact and friendship with our customers and partners.
If you could only enjoy Coole Swan just one way, what would it be & why?
Coole Swan in a glass neat or over ice. That is the most perfect drink. If I were to add anything it would be a bowl of fresh seasonal berries (strawberries / raspberries / blueberries) along with good conversation and warm summer evening. Bliss!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why?
That's a tough one but anyone who has given life a real go and achieved something from it - that something could be real success (Olympic Gold Medal) or simply a better understanding of their own strengths and weakness. The human spirit is a greatly unvalued resource. We can do anything and are limited only by the horizons of our own imagination.
To dine with people who have tested that would be exhilarating. What’s on the menu? Fresh seasonal food - starting with prawns or lobster followed by a good steak with a strong, full bodied red wine and fresh garden salad. For dessert we would tuck into a Coole Swan Lime and Chocolate Mousse before finishing off dinner with Irish cheese with homemade biscuits and a Coole Swan coffee.

In addition to sending back their answers to '5 Questions' in a prompt fashion, Mary at Coole Swan very kindly sent me a box containing my very own bottle of Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur and a few other bits and pieces including recipe books, chocolates and Coole hot chocolate pots. At this point I would like to thank Mary and the rest of the team at Coole Swan for their generosity in sending these samples to myself.
So after a busy Sunday of wandering around garden centres before doing a little work in the garden later in the day, it was good to settle down on the sofa with glass of chilled Coole Swan in hand. There are a number of well known Irish cream liqueurs on the market and I'm a big fan of most of them but as a non whisky drinker sometimes the whisky can be a little stronger than I like. The great thing about the Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur is that the whisky is balanced perfectly with Belgian white chocolate to give a rich rounded flavour. Perfect over ice but I'm already looking forward to trying some of the recipes from the Coole Swan recipe books.
I would like to say that although I was given my samples of Coole Swan free of charge, my view above is an honest opinion on how much I enjoyed the product. Rest assured, I would happily add Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur to my drinks cabinet in the future.
Keep up to date with Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Mark Galloway Searches Dumfries And Galloway For Scotland's Secret Ingredients

Mark Greenaway has teamed up with foodie flagship event of the autumn, Eat Drink Discover Scotland, and together they’re on a mission – to discover the secret ingredients that Scottish cooks simply could not cook without and this week they’re searching the corners of store cupboards in Dumfries and Galloway.

With a surprisingly warm climate due to warm currents from the Gulf Stream, and frequent rain showers, the South West of Scotland makes for a perfect environment for quality farm produce. Famed for its rolling grassy terrain, the area is home to an abundance of sheep and many towns have thriving independent butchers. Could a secret ingredient be used in a sauce that accompanies Scottish lamb?

The good grass also produces great milk and cheese and the area plays host to an number of quality cheese companies, such as Galloway Cheddar and Loch Arthur Creamery, which are renowned across Britain for consistent quality. Perhaps a lasagna or four-cheese pasta would be incomplete without a certain type of cheese from this neck of the woods?

Grass, however, is not the only good thing to come out of the area’s fortunate climate. Large amounts of strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes from the area are sold all over Britain. Would a mouthwatering Dumfries and Galloway jam taste quite the same made from berries grown elsewhere in the country?

The public is being invited to reveal its favourite Scottish ‘secret ingredients’, by telling the team at Eat Drink Discover Scotland what they are and where they’re purchased. The criteria range from herbs to condiments, alcohol to meats and even vegetables - providing they are either grown or produced in Scotland. Applicants are being encouraged to be as unpredictable, creative and unusual as possible. The best entrants who will be invited to join Mark in a ‘cook off’ at the event, where the winner will be chosen. The producer or retailer who supplied the winner with their ‘secret ingredient’ will be given a free exhibition stand at next year’s event.

Chirstie Baird from A Taste of Galloway, Laughtmuirside Farm, Thornhill said: “The emphasis of artisan foods in Dumfries and Galloway has been a huge priority in our region. Through past projects, such as ‘savour the flavours’, our region’s food producers, restaurants and retailers have been able to connect and provide a real foodie experience for those living in our region and tourists visiting.

“Our ‘secret ingredient’ is our Galloway Free Range Goose. Every year we produce a small amount of birds for the Christmas table and they are the free-est of the free range and graze the surrounding fields of our farm and fed our own home grown feed of oats and barley. A real secret ingredient for anybody's Christmas dinner!”

The Eat Drink Discover Scotland team also spoke to Castle MacLellan who have been making pate in the artist town of Kirkudbright in Dumfries and Galloway for over 30 years. Sarah Turnbull from Castle MacLellan said: “We stay true to our Scottish roots and source only the best local ingredients to create our pate range. We think our sumptuous Orkney Crab pate could be a ‘secret key ingredient’ to a Crab Fishcake recipe - infused with a luxurious blend of Orkney crab, enriched with crème fraiche and enhanced with lemon juice and locally produced Galloway mustard.

“Eat Drink Discover Scotland is a great initiative as it’s all about showcasing regional, top quality food in Scotland to all lovers of fine food and ingredients.”

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, which is taking place at the Royal Highland Centre between 12th and 14th September, will bring to life the rich diversity of Scotland’s brimming larder by featuring exhibitors from the length and breadth of the country. One for the foodies, it will be offering something for every palate, plate and price range and, with a regional focus, it will be providing opportunities for smaller rural food producers to share centre stage with more established brands. The weekend will also include demonstrations and master classes such as chocolate workshops, cocktail making, game butchery and craft bakery.

To read Scottish Borders blog please visit www.markgreenaway.com/news

For more information on the competition please visit www.eatdrinkdiscoverscotland.co.uk


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Beers of the World Cup - #18 France - Brasserie St Germain, Page 24 Blanche

The FIFA World Cup 2014 is now behind us and I still have quite a few beers to work my way through. Next into the #beersoftheworldcup arena is 1998 World Cup winners, France, with Page 24 Blanche from Brasserie St Germain.
The Saint Germain brewery is located in Aix Noulette in the north of France and has been brewing craft beers since 2003. Locally sources raw ingredients are used to create their 'bières de grade' which are brewed by traditional infusion mash methods before being cold stored for several weeks. These bottle conditioned ales complete their maturation and undergo a final fermentation in the bottle.
Page 24 Blanche pours with a cloudy pale yellow colour and a loose foamy head that does reduce a little but is still with you until the bottom of the glass. As you would expect from a wheat beer, there are clear aromas of citrus with clean lemon notes very noticable. To taste, the beer is actually not as lemony as the nose would suggest with strong malt flavours competing with the citrus. There is also a good balance of spice in the beer resulting in a very rounded finish in the mouth. I'm a big fan of wheat beers and found the Page 24 Blanche very drinkable and definitely one that I would stock in my fridge at home.

Keep up to date with my progress on Twitter as I try to complete my challenge and you can let me know which French beers you would pick, using the hashtag #beersoftheworldcup


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Royal Highland Show Roundup

The 2014 Royal Highland Show took place at Ingleston park over the weekend of 19th-22nd June with over 175,000 visitors attending the event over the four days. As well as supporting farming, the show plays a large part in delivering the aims of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland by promoting and raising awareness of farming and rural matters to the public. The society's long history of Commonwealth connections draws visitors from across the globe and adds something quite special to the social life at the Royal Highland Show.
Thanks to press passes being arranged by the Show's marketing firm O'Leary PR, myself and Nicola made the journey along the m8 in order to attend the show on the closing day to see what all the fuss was about.
When we arrived, just after 10am on a glorious Sunday morning, the car parks were already filling up. The Show starts early every day, no surprise when there are farmers involved, especially when theirs business to be done. Each year thousands of pounds worth of business takes place at The Show whether in machinery, livestock or services, The Show contributes millions into the Scottish economy each year. With over 5000 entries from all over the UK and Ireland, the show lives up to its "Best Event" award with a magnificent display of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses and poultry.
Whilst the show is primarily a celebration of the farming and rural community, it's not just cows and combine harvesters. The show has something for everybody and whilst I was there with the sole intention of introducing Gerry's Kitchen to the food and drink producers who were exhibiting their products, there was plenty going on to keep us entertained.
For those with a passion for shopping, The Show catered for all tastes and budgets with dedicated areas dotted across the park including;
  • Shopping Arcade & Marquee and Crafts Zone – gorgeous items of desire including home
  • Equestrian Village – everything you need for both horse and rider
  • Outdoor Living – a huge selection for your garden from plants to Swedish barbecue huts
  • Motor Zone – looking for new car, pick-up vehicle, quad-bike or motorbike ? Most major manufacturers were represented at the Show
  • Lifestyle Village – as the name suggests, this was where you could find the latest lifestyle accessories from phones to spa baths, swimming pools and furniture
  • Food & Drink Hall – a huge hall filled with local and national food and drink producers with plenty of samples to taste, and demonstrations to watch
I loved the Food & Drink Hall and although all of the exhibitor stands were always busy, I did manage to recruit a few producers for some up and coming '5 Questions' posts and have already had some answers back for future posts. As well as buying a few bits and pieces myself, I was also kindly given a selection of products from Harbour Salmon to try out - you can check out the product review here.
We had a great day at the show and after a long day of walking around in the sun, we made our way back to the car. As luck would have it, we passed the stand where Nick Nairn was finishing of his cookery demonstration so I hung around to day thanks to him for having recently answer his own set of '5 Questions' - not a bad way to round off our day at The Royal Highland Show.

Keep up to date with news of next years Royal Highland Show on Facebook and Twitter.