Cocktail Craziness – Pride at Island Bar

It’s now the final round of our tour of sins with Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, and hosted by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland. Previous events can be read about here:

   Greed  Wrath  Inferno

Lust  Gluttony Envy

 

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Situated just off Suffolk Street in the heart of the city and less than a minutes walk from Beetham Tower, it’s a bit of a Brum stalwart.

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The Island Bar is coming up to it’s 10th anniversary after opening in 2006, though in my hazy memories of youth it feel like it’s been there since before I can remember! Downstairs has a funky retro bar but upstairs (where we were located for the evening) is a Tiki Bar, bringing a slice of Hawaii to Brum.

The Island Bar is centred around a particular beverage, as are all B&T venues, this one being the sailor’s favourite, rum!

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Starting off with a ‘Banana Colada’, a fun twist on the classic Pina Colada, this creamy little beverage got us into the cocktail mood whilst general manager Simon Gilligan talked us through what fun we were to enjoy this evening

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First up we made B52’s:

This is a classic cocktail of Kahlúa (coffee liqueur),  Cointreau (triple sec) and Bailey’s (Irish Cream). Built (rather than stirred or shaken) correctly, it separates into distinct layers giving a really pleasing effect and always a good one to make when showing off. The Island Bar has taken a unique twist on this, putting the Irish Cream last rather than the Triple Sec giving it a little bit of a mini pint of Guinness look.

I made a right mess but you can see Dave Massey of #BrumHour and Laura of Brum on a Budget making their fantastic efforts below:

Next up was a very special little drink. The Island Bar’s famous Flaming Moe!

A tribute to this classic Simpsons cocktail (you know the one with the Cheers theme parody). No Cough Syrup in this one but instead  heady mix of Wray & Nephew Rum, Orange Liqueur and Cotton Candy flavoured syrup, all set on fire in spectacular fashion!

Our final cocktail to make was Island Bar’s most well known cocktail and named after a legendary old Birmingham night club, The Rum Runner.

This one was made of Appleton Rum, blackcurrant liqueur, banana liqueur, grenadine, and orange juice. A rather fruity mix and slipped down lightly, I even got to test out my shaking skills:

Don’t forget The Bitters & Twisted cocktail trail is back and runs until the end of June. Across 8 Birmingham venues, including: Island Bar, The Victoria, The Jekyll & Hyde, Buffalo & Rye, Marmalade, The Rose Villa Tavern, Bodega Cantina and The New Inn. Each have their own special cocktail in aid of Acorns Children’s Hospice with 50p from the sale of each special cocktail going to the charity. At the end of the trail, every full cocktail trail card exchanged for a free cocktail will generate an extra 50p for Acorns.  By my accounts, that gives you a day a cocktail so get cracking!

You know, I could get used to this bartending lark…

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Disclaimer: For this evening, we were guests of Brumderland and The Island Bar who provided all drinks for Wifey and I; this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 26/05/2016

Where:  The Island Bar, Suffolk Street, Birmingham

Who: Brumderland,  The Island BarBitters & Twisted

 

Wanna Get Flexible? – #Envy at Marmalade

It’s now round six of the seven sins (+ 1) with Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, and hosted by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland. Previous events can be read about here:

   Greed  Wrath  Inferno  Lust  Gluttony

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Marmalade is located just under The Rep on Broad Street and is wonderfully eclectic in its decor with quotes from well known plays on the wall.

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In keeping with the other Bitters’n’Twisted venues, Marmalade has chosen a flagship spirit, this one being Vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine spirit used in a surprising amount of cocktails including the Negroni, pictured above, named ‘Better the Devil You Know’. With Vermouth, Spritzer and Blueberry Syrup, it’s on the B’n’T cocktail trail where you can experience something different at each of their venues. The cocktail menu is quite comprehensive covering twists on modern classic, all with literary twists on the names…

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To pair with these cocktails, Marmalade are now offering what they’d like to call a Flexitarian menu, catering for carnivores, omnivores, pescatarians, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegetarians and vegans. So a pretty comprehensive choice then! It’s served small and main plate style to encourage social dining. There will be themed drinks to match shows on at The Rep, so keep an eye out to see what comes up.

To help you choose your dish and cocktail combo, the staff will assist to pair your choices to suit all tastes.

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Our first pairing was the La Vie en Rose cocktail (Beefeater gin, Creme de Cassis, Picpoul Dry White Wine, Peach Bitters, served with an edible flower) accompanied by fried, sesame coated Halloumi in a bed of crispy rocket. It was very delicious and disappeared quickly, the crispy crunchy coating went well with the meaty cheese. The cocktail was a bit sweet for my palate but balanced well with the salty cheese.

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The second pairing was tequila marinated salmon with wasabi dressing with an, as yet unnamed, tequila cocktail! The salmon was delicious with the wasabi dressing and a kick of heat. The tequila cocktail was heavy on the grapefruit to give it the tequila a citrusy kick, and partnered well with the heat of the wasabi. Maybe instead of the too easy ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ they could call it ‘A-Citrus Pinch’.

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Next was marinated Beef Skewers paired with Captain Ahab’s Grog. Captain Ahab’s Grog is a heady combination of Ginger Preserve, Brugal Dry Spiced Rum, Apricot Liqueur, Lime, Plum Bitters and Pomegranate Juice, this toed for my favourite cocktail of the night with a delicious spicy kick from the ginger and Brugal. The steak was deliciously chewy and partnered with mediterranean vegetables, a great dish to get you into a summery mood.

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The final dish was a vegan option and (surprisingly for me) my favourite dish of the evening. It was a delicious chestnut mushroom and hazelnut pate on toast with red onion jam. It was quite close in texture to your usual liver pate and enhanced by the  sweet onion jam. The paired cocktail was a ‘Midsummer Day Dream’ with Aperol, Limoncello, Fresh Lemon, Raspberry, Homemade Rose & Orange Bitters, topped with soda and served with orange. This was my other tie cocktail, it’s very floral but worked perfectly with the earthiness of the pate.

The new menu, which features all of the dishes above, has already launched. So if you fancy a visit to a place where they can cater for all dietary types or if you’re seeing a play and want to grab a quick bite (and a cocktail) beforehand, I’d recommend it.

Disclaimer: For this event, I was a guest of Brumderland and Marmalade who provided all food and drinks; this provides no bias to the post This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 03/05/2016

Where:  Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham

Who: BrumderlandBitters & TwistedMarmalade

 

 

Texan Tasting – Low ‘n’ Slow @ Bar Opus, a menu inspired by travel

Before you start, no, this isn’t a repeat of my Magnum Meat post (read it here), this is more of a part 2.

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It’s been just over 6 months since I had the pleasure of visiting one of Low ‘n’ Slow’s takeovers at Bar Opus and since then, Andy and Donna (head honchos) had a trip over to the good ole USA and came back with some ideas for tasty food…

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Now into his third year on the Birmingham street food scene, Andy has popped up at a few venues over the past few months including Brewdog and Hare & Hounds. This one was a little bit special and sold out quickly.

Wifey again couldn’t attend; luckily an old friend managed to find space in his belly to join me! We also had a lovely surprise having Vicky from brumderland on our table, accompanied by the March Hare.

Whilst we chin-wagged over a few pints of Opus Lager, our first course of Barbacoa Ox Cheek with Grits

The grits were stunning! Like a comforting savoury corn porridge and warmed from the feet up. The ox cheek melted away in the mouth with the pico de gallo adding a beautiful piquancy to the dish. I was tempted to lick the bowl but managed to resist.

The next course was a triple plate of Oak smoked Black Angus Brisket, Jalapeno Cheddar Hotlinks and baby back ribs, accompanied with BBQ Beans, Jalapeno & Bacon Potato Salad and Lemon Vinegar Slaw.

 

The brisket had the delicate woodiness of the oak permeating through. The baby back ribs were plump and meaty with a beautiful flavour, a low burn coming through afterwards. The star of the show was the Hot Links. A nice taut skin stuffed with juicy meat and spice with a gooey cheesy high note, absolutely delicious!

The fixings we great too: a glossy crunchy slaw with a zingy bite, sweet BBQ beans with the savoury meatiness of the oxtail a hit of umami . The potato salad was sweet and smokey and reminded me slightly of coronation chicken in it’s colour!

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Whilst fetching more beers, I stumbled upon the special drink for the evening! I didn’t partake as I had work the following morning but I was sorely tempted to see what it was like.

Back with more beers and a blended Mojito from Bar Opus’s excellent cocktail menu (you can read about some of those here too!), it was time for pudding. A slice of Pecan Pie with Chantilly Cream:

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This was A-maz-ing! A delicious thin crust, a nice sticky sweet pie laced with a touch of bourbon and sweet light whipped cream. It was definitely sweet and sticky enough to knock my socks off, I was even tempted to see if I could bag a second slice.

Oh well, I will just have to wait until next time…

When: 10/03/2016

Where: Bar Opus at One Snowhill

Who:  Andy Low’n’ Slow

 

Gluttony – Vodka at The Rose Villa Tavern


It’s hard to believe I’ve done four of the seven sins (+ 1) with Bitters ‘n’ Twisted, and hosted by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland. Previous events can be read about here:

Greed     Wrath     Inferno     Lust

Tonight was going to be a boozy evening as we were treated to a vodka pairing tasting experience to celebrate their large range of exciting vodkas.

 

We began with a Winnie the Pear cocktail, with Grey Goose Le Poire, organic pear juice runny honey, spicy fresh ginger and lemon juice! The combination was nice and tart with a rich pear taste (as expected!).  After catching up with the other bloggers attending, we settled down for a talk by Ian the manager.

We were to be taken on a European tour with a varied selection of vodkas on offer, along with some bar snacks ready for pairing and a peruse of the cocktail menu:

Whilst we had a nibble, Dave from Brumhour discovered the sausage went very well with the honey at the bottom of our Winnie the Pear cocktails!

Readying our palates with a few pickles, a traditional Polish palate cleanser, then it was time for our first neat vodka of the evening:

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Five Vodka is a new(ish)comer to the market via Penderyn Distillery making it Welsh. It was developed whilst they were waiting for their first whiskeys to mature and is made from Brecon water from an aquifer below the distillery, which gives it a distinctive flavour. Slightly overproof at 43%, it had a little bit of a burn to begin with but developed into a delicious fruity note.

Next along was an English vodka from the guys at Chase Distillery, (also the minds behind Tyrrell’s Crisps) and made in the tallest still in Europe. We were treated to a chilled and a room temperature sample to see the difference in flavour. A significant amount of the edge was taken off with the chilled sample, however, the roundness of the flavour was dulled. It was actually very sweet in flavour and much more noticeable in the room temperature sample.

For pairing, we munched down on the cousins of the vodka with some Tyrrells crisps. Then another palate cleanser with some beetroot.

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To take a break from the alcohol, we had a break with a St Clements Mocktail, possibly one of the first ever mocktails.  Created in 1981 by Lt. Keith Freeman, this was a delicious twist with a sugary slice of orange.

Reyka Vodka, as you can probably guess for the name, is an Icelandic vodka which likes to bill itself as the greenest (ecologically) vodka in the world and is made with glacial spring water. All ingredients at present come from within a square mile of the distillery. The taste was very clean and smooth with a mild spice to the finish.

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Time for a cocktail break! This time,  for a Polish twist on a South American Classic with a Capiroska! It was super tasty with Luksusowa Vodka combined with lime and brown sugar.

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The next vodka on the list was Belvedere billed as “The Whiskey Drinker’s Vodka” served room temperature in a chilled glass. It is an apt description for the drink which had a sweet and spicy peppery taste.

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Our final drink of the night was the  ubiquitous Vodka and Coke but this time made with quality ingredients. This was a combination of Skyy Vodka and Fritz Kola. This ‘super premium’ American Vodka is distilled four times then filtered 3 times, giving a clean and crisp taste. Fritz Kola is a vegan German cola with a not insubstantial 25mg of caffeine per 100ml. It was a great way to finish off our boozy evening.

To help soak up the excess of alcohol, RVT even laid on a few treats for us to sample from their American Diner style menu:

 

We were treated to nachos, sliders and my personal favourite chicken wings!.

If you want to try vodkas in Brum, RVT are well on their way to building up to 100 different brands and would be a great place to start!

Disclaimer: For this evening, we were guests of Brumderland and Rose Villa Tavern who provided all food and most of my drinks; this provides no bias to the review. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 02/03/2016

Where: Rose Villa Tavern, Warstone Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

Who: BrumderlandRose Villa Tavern, Bitters & Twisted

Inferno – Preview Day at Buffalo & Rye with Brumderland

You may remember I was invited to attend a special bloggers event at Bodega Birmingham, part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group hosted by Brumderland. They now have a new sibling right next door called Buffalo & Rye which offers a taste of Americana in the City Centre – perfect if you want to get away from the overload of German tat one street away during this festive period.

 

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Continue reading “Inferno – Preview Day at Buffalo & Rye with Brumderland”

Wrath – Feel the Heat! at Bodega Birmingham

You may remember I was invited to attend a special bloggers event at The Jekyll & Hyde a few weeks back, hosted by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland, and the team at Bodega.  The name of the event was Greed and it was particularly apt with the amount of food I ate!

Tonight was Wrath and the host venue was Bodega Birmingham, another part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group. They are currently in the process of having a menu tweak, introducing some seasonal specials and supplying some tasters. Along with a special Tequila master-class, I couldn’t say no to that! So it was a descent to the Sugarloaf bar to immerse myself in South American cuisine & liquor.

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It’s hard to think Bodega has already been in place for 5 years! Wifey and I moved into the city centre about 5 1/2 years ago. It’s the first time I’d been downstairs into the Sugarloaf bar. The décor was inspired by Dia de Meurtos with lots of sugar skulls on the wall.

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We were welcomed with a Margarita to kick off proceedings.

Odu, the GM, welcomed us in and explained the ethos behind the menu and their plans going forward. They’re keeping the fusion of South American cuisine; next year, the core menu will be kept but a range of seasonal specialities will be introduced. Some of the big hitters were on for tasting tonight such as Xim Xim, Veggie tacos and Dirty Rice.

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First up was the Brazilian Xim Xim. The dish originated in Africa as a stewed combination of dried shrimp, ground nuts and coconut. It’s now arrived at Bodega, by way of Brazil, and has changed a little. Tonight’s dish was a mix of chicken, prawns, peanuts and coconut cream, served with dirty rice and tortilla.

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The dish reminded me slightly of a Chicken Korma with the creaminess of the coconut. There were soft chunky chicken pieces, which partnered well with paprika peppiness of the dirty rice.

Next on the tasters were the vegetarian tacos, served in soft tortillas and stuffed with sweet potatoes, black beans and avocado.

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It was a slightly healthier option and with a beautifully fresh flavour. iIt can even be done gluten free with lettuce instead of a tortilla.

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A mango salad was next on the agenda with a zingy raspberry vinaigrette

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The sweet savoury punch was different to your usual side salad but I would have been happy with just a bowl of that all night!

Pre-desserts, it was time for a masterclass with Marcelle, the head bartender.

The three spirits we were to learn about were tequila, rum and a drink I’d not come across before, cachaca.

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Tequila takes its name from the city of Tequila and is made from the agave fruit nectar. Apparently if you drink good quality tequila made from pure agave nectar, you won’t get a hangover the next day. Bodega stock over 50 types of tequila. These include a range of tequilas from the highland region of Jalisco. Jailsco is the only other area allowed to brand their agave spirit as tequila; anything else is a Mescal.

Tequila is enjoyed in Mexico like a good malt whisky and is served neat. You can find good inexpensive tequila; it just needs a gimlet eye to sniff out a bottle.

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Next up on the spirit tour was cachaca, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice. It’s Brazil’s favourite spirit and forms the basis of quite a few cocktails such as a caipirinha.

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Caipirinha is the most popular cocktail in Brazil. Invented in Sao Paulo in 1918, it was designed as a remedy for Spanish Flu with cachaca, honey and garlic. The garlic was quickly replaced by lime. It’s probably one of the most easy cocktails to make, with sugar and lime crushed together, then liqour, ice and a slice.

A little break before the final part of the masterclass meant it was time for pudding.

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We tried a white chocolate and mojito cheesecake, served with a raspberry coulis.

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The bitterness of the lime, mint and raspberry really took the edge off the sweetness of the white chocolate mousse and had a chunky crispy base.

The final dish was a Pastel de chocolate pegajoso, served with a vanilla ice cream and pistachio praline and It was also gluten free!

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A flourless sticky chocolate cake, it had a peculiar texture, almost a cross between cakeand mousse. Its rich flavour tasted of intense dark chocolate, which was lifted by the vanilla ice cream.

Back to the masterclass and onto the Navy’s favourite, RUM! Rum is made from the same plant as cachaca, the sugar cane. However, it’s made from the by product (usually molasses) of refinery rather than distilled from fresh sugar cane. The most well known rum based cocktail is probably the Mojito.

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Made from white rum, sugar, lime juice, mint and ice it’s apocryphally attributed to Sir Francis Drake. Whilst in the Caribbean, an epidemic of scurvy occurred on board. It was known that the local South American Indians had remedies for various tropical illnesses; a small boarding party went ashore on Cuba and came back with ingredients for a medicine which was effective. The ingredients were aguardiente de caña (a crude form of rum) added with local tropical ingredients, lime, sugar cane juice and mint. It’s now Britain’s most popular cocktail.

We finished off the evening (bar a few more cocktails and a photo I can’t remember taking).

Anyone know who these two are?

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If you know who they are, please let myself and brumhour know 😉

Sugarloaf holds up to 75 people and has its own bar, dance floor, DJ booth and sound system as well as the convenience of its own toilets.

They’ve hosted birthdays, anniversaries, product launches, corporate mixers, sporting events and even wedding receptions, offering full buffet facilities as well as a sit down meal for 30 people. Plus, you can add one of their cocktail master classes to your event!

Sugarloaf can be hired at most times during the week except Friday nights.

Disclaimer: For this evening, we were guests of Brumderland and Bodega who provided all food and most of my drinks; this provides no bias to the review. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 05/10/2015

Where:  Bodega Birmingham, Bennetts Hill, Birmingham

Who: BrumderlandBodega Birmingham, Bitters & Twisted

Because I Feel Foodie! Birmingham Independent Food Fair 2015 – Day 1

Birmingham Independent Food Fair is now in its second year, following on from #futurefoodies @ Hotel LaTour in 2013 (#futurefoodies was Wifey and I’s first foodie event in Birmingham and we were the first visitors to arrive!).

Created by the minds behind Dine Birmingham, Birmingham Independent Food Fair is a flagship event in Birmingham’s foodie scene, bringing together streetfood vendors, suppliers, independent stores and some of Birmingham’s best bars and restaurants.

This year, as per the previous year, the event was held at Millennium Point, it’s also two days long which means double the time for food!

 Wifey and I popped along to see what was happening (settle in, this will be a long one!).

The sun was shining as we strolled along through Eastside Park to the food fair and got to see a glimpse of the goodies, with the outside stalls, before picking up our wristbands.

Streetfood stalls outside Millennium Point
Streetfood stalls outside Millennium Point

Continue reading “Because I Feel Foodie! Birmingham Independent Food Fair 2015 – Day 1”

Greed: Pure Gin’ious at The Jekyll & Hyde

I was invited to attend a special bloggers event by the wonderful Vicky Osgood of Brumderland, and the team at Jekyll & Hyde. Go, go now and have a look at Vicky’s website  (it’s amazing), I’ll wait right here for you to get back!

The Jekyll & Hyde (part of the Bitters ‘n’ Twisted group), has introduced a gin inspired menu to match their Victorian Gin Parlour and fellow bloggers and I (no wifey this evening) were invited along for a taste, with a few gins to help it down…

Continue reading “Greed: Pure Gin’ious at The Jekyll & Hyde”