Glasgow Food Map (Summer eats)

Breakfast

Bramble Cafe Giffnock

I can not fault this place. Wonderful fresh food, great service and spotlessly clean. The cafe is small, so sometimes I’ve had to wait for a table… but absolutely worth it. Delicious cakes for after, and fantastic coffee.

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Brunch

Cafe Strange Brew

ALWAYS busy, but for good reason. I could shout about these pancakes all day – they’re incredible. Great food, quirky and fun atmosphere. Always buzzing with groups and families – super fresh food with an ever-changing specials board. Strange and fabulous!

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Wine bar

Vino Valentino

Why has nobody ever told me about Vino Valentino? My dad took me here for some wine tasting mid-week, and what a delight! The bar/shop is small and cosy and ran by an Italian family – who are all very knowledgable. The set up is very charming, with a large sit around wooden table that seats about 12 people – so could easily pop in for a glass alone or as a group for wine tasting and nibbles.

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Fast Food

Kimchi Cult

If you’re looking for something a little different and bursting with flavour Kimchi Cult is the one. Korean style fast food available to sit in or take away – burgers, loaded fries, rice bowls, fried chicken… all delicious and topped with Kimchi (fermented cabbage). Fast and friendly service, great for a quick meal.

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Date night

Gather by Zique

It takes a lot for me to say this, but I’ve found a new favourite. Gather by Zique is outstanding, a restaurant that combines fine dining in a relaxed environment is something that Glasgow has needed for sometime. Our service was delightful, very helpful and non-intrusive and the food was exceptionally fresh and delicious. The wine was great, the cocktails were even better and with such a lovely ambience I could begin and end a night here with no complaints. I can not wait to revisit.

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Steak night

(at home)

Is anyone else growing tired of overpriced steak in restaurants, especially when you know you can create something just as tasty (if not tastier) at home for less than half the price? Steak night is now date night at home for us… and this week we ditched the usual red wine suspect for something different. Wester Spirit Co. have just launched the first in a series of collaborative projects with ampersand01 and microbrewery DRYGATE in creating this Spiced Scotch Ale. The Ale is developed from Wester’s spiced rum (which is also fantastic, and makes a great dark and stormy) and has lovely rich flavours of ginger and vanilla.

We cook our steaks really simply on a hot griddle pan, salt, pepper, rosemary and some whole garlic cloves (2mins each side for rare) – then serve with some steamed greens.

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Dinner party (for 6)

So keen to make paella we even bought a new pan – and spent too much money on saffron, but again… worth it! Traditionally paella is made with chicken and chorizo along with all your fresh seafood – but we skipped the chicken and made up our own recipe… which is (as far as I can remember)…

  • 350g paella rice (a bit more if your feeding a hungry bunch)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 12 raw tiger prawns/large bag (more the merrier)
  • 12-16 mussels (with or without shells)
  • 6-8 langoustines
  • 70g frozen peas
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 red pepper (roughly chopped)
  • 150g spanish chorizo (skin removed and chopped)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Fry onion, pepper and chorizo (6-8 mins medium heat)
  2. Add garlic, paprika, cayenne and saffron (1min)
  3. Add tomatoes, season and add 2pints boiling water and simmer uncovered for 10mins
  4. Add rice and simmer uncovered for another 15-20mins
  5. Add seafood and cook until ready (5-10 mins depending on how much is added)
  6. If the rice has become too dry and isn’t ready yet add some more water now (with some extra seasoning)
  7. Serve with lemon!

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Thanks for reading – if anyone gives my paella recipe a shot let me know how it turns out… sorry in advance if its rubbish.

Rona x

Keep up to date with recent adventures at @ronamcmillan

Tasting Scotland – Seafood Special

What an incredible day, we are going home happy, sun-kissed and full up on seafood! We left Glasgow at 9am this morning for a one day gastro and cultural tour of the west coast, and we are blown away by everything we have experienced today. From food and scenery to drink and conversation we have thoroughly enjoyed our day with Tasting Scotland.

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Top 5 elements from my Tasting Scotland experience 

Brenda! This tour of the west coast really thrives from the master mind behind the brand. Brenda and her talented team have such incredible knowledge of food & drink heritage – specifically in Scotland but also worldwide. Throughout the day we had fantastic conversations with Brenda about food through the ages, local food history along with recipe tips and restaurant recommendations.

Chatting to industry professionals – I found this a really special element of the trip. At each location we were introduced to local people working in the smokehouses, on the production line and in the restaurants and kitchens, which gave us an extra insight into Scottish seafood.

A tailored experience – as well as the Wednesday Weekly tour (that leaves from Glasgow every Wednesday morning), Brenda and her team are experts in creating tailored tasting experiences. Weather it’s whisky, craft beer or gin, seafood or curries they can create packages perfectly suited to your personal taste. Brenda was telling us about a 3 day tour she recently set up for a client that included hand selected accommodation, luxury transport as well as lunch, dinner and activities every day. What a way to experience Scotland at its best!

Luxury products and locations – Tasting Scotland tours are SO far from naff Scottish tat and the unfortunate reputation we have for deep-fried food! Brenda focuses solely on the luxury market and premium Scottish product which is incredibly beneficial in the support of local businesses while at the same time gives her clients a taste for what Scotland really has to offer.

For locals as well as visitors – having grown up on the west coast surrounded by stunning scenery and eating local seafood I was really intrigued by this tour and whether or not it would be worthwhile for me… and truthfully it was such a great day, I wouldn’t hesitate to book again. I learnt so much from Brenda; about food, cooking, drink pairing as well as local history that I had never picked up on before. I am already sending messages to my friends and family to recommend Tasting Scotland – a 5 star experience in every way.

So where did we go?

Brunch at Luss Seafood Bar and a look around Luss SmokehouseIMG_0716IMG_3644IMG_3634IMG_3651Champagne Lunch at Loch Fyne Oyster BarIMG_0724IMG_0726IMG_0733IMG_3664IMG_3672IMG_3769Guided tour of Inverary Castle and gardensIMG_3767IMG_3692IMG_3682IMG_3679

If you are interested in a Tasting Scotland tour feel free to contact Brenda Anderson by email at brenda@tastingscotland.com or on +44(0)7974212529 – she’s super friendly!

http://www.tastingscotland.com

Thank you to Tasting Scotland for inviting us along.

Thanks for reading 

R x

The Arrochar Alps in December

The Arrochar alps – sitting quietly in the midst of surrounding giants. Blue sky and views that stretch forever, glistening icicles, frozen burns and that iconic rock formation iced with heavy coats of white. The Cobbler in December!IMG_2190IMG_2198The best thing about winter hill walking in Scotland is unpredictability. The worst thing about winter hill walking in Scotland is also unpredictability! It is so hard to plan ahead, weather flickers by the second and so you either have to go super scout prepared with kit or take a risk with the elements.IMG_2197IMG_2195Without an abundance of waking kit this year, the plan was to stick to the wee hills only. 6 hour max routes, so we didn’t end up walking down icy ridges in darkness. Ben Arthur (The Cobbler) is one of my favourite hills, sitting at 2884 ft and with breathtaking views down Loch Long. We completed the hill up and down in 4 hours, and given our lacking kit of no crampons or poles it felt pretty speedy. IMG_2196We reached the summit at 2pm – the sun was low in the sky and cast incredible pink hues across the landscape. IMG_2194-5 at the top, and at least -10 with windchill meant our decent was slightly more challenging with frozen fingers and toes – IMG_2193But we weren’t as chilly as the ice climbers! IMG_2192IMG_2191Triple layers on the way down – and a teeny bit frosty/grumpy!WARM AGAIN! Thanks for a fantastic day Callum!

-and thanks for reading

R x

Tips and tricks for keeping a sketchbook

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Why bother?

If your asking yourself, why bother? I feel ya! I often feel disengaged and don’t touch my sketchbooks for days because I feel my phone is easier to keep notes in. Often I’m ‘too busy’ to come up with interesting thoughts or ideas and to be honest, I’d much rather watch Netflix than sit doodling in a book. Eventually it comes full circle and once I get back into the habit of keeping a visual journal I really enjoy it. I should also mention ‘sketchbooks’ aren’t just for sketching, so don’t tap out quite yet if you don’t believe yourself to be much of an artist.

So, a few reasons why keeping a sketchbook could be beneficial to you…

  • It’s a really nice way to record your everyday, kind of like a diary – that you can then look back on in years to come.
  • Positive use of time – you can still be a couch potato, but be a couch potato doing something interesting!
  • Brain training – encouraging your mind to think and develop thoughts that are usually disposed of.
  • Being creative is an excellent tool – skills developed through creative thinking can be applied to all jobs and walks of life. Practicing creativity will encourage us to think outside the box and stand out from the crowd a little!
  • And most of all, it’s just a handy thing to carry around… especially when our phones run out of battery and we need to note something down!
10 Tips and Tricks
  1. Keep it portable – if its small enough to stick in your pocket or in your bag then your more likely to carry it around with you. The most uninspiring sketchbooks I have are ones I’ve bought and hardly touched because they’re too big or heavy to take around with me.
  2. Use it for everything – as I said, sketchbooks aren’t just for drawing – write in it, design in it, take notes. Wether your sketchbook contains nothing but shopping lists and silly poems or the next NASA rocket design it doesn’t matter –  just fill it up!
  3. Don’t be precious – accept mistakes and imperfection, sketchbooks can be what you want them to be, but they’re usually more interesting when they’re unedited and uncalculated.
  4. Keep it up – a sketchbook is really easy to start, but even easier to stop! Thankfully its a forgiving hobby in that there are no wrong answers and no time limits – but the more you make it a habit the easier and more enjoyable it becomes!
  5. Break the rules – not that there are any rules to break, but avoid being neat and tidy – use the pages differently from how you were taught in school – write from right to left, draw upside-down, be inventive!
  6. Jumpstart your pages  – sometimes a white page is daunting, so to avoid ‘fear of the blank’ I suggest prepping some of the pages before hand. Add a wash of paint, or a few random lines and scribbles so you worry less about making mistakes when you turn onto a new page.
  7. Cheat – by this I mean nicking ideas from other people – creativity often comes from inspiration (nicking ideas from other people) – so if you like the way something looks, or the way someone else has done something then try it for yourself – the art world calls this ‘appropriation’ and it’s totally encouraged!
  8. Play with medium and colour – monochrome is fine, if that’s your style. But don’t forget about colour! Also use mark making tools other than a pen from time to time,  I often use a twig and some ink to draw with, but it could be anything!
  9. Don’t try too hard – sketchbooks aren’t for masterpieces, they’re to help ideas develop and end up being a place for happy accidents to occur!
  10. Draw – try not to draw ‘things’ as you see them literally – in my opinion that’s what cameras are for. I find the most interesting drawings are those where the subject is the least important thing! If you find this hard, start with blind drawings (drawing without looking at the paper)!

If anyone is interested in the art I do, I have a separate artist Instagram – so take a look if you like! @ronamcmillanartist 

Ciao for now

Rona X @ronamcmillan

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Contemporary art; an introduction of some kind

Contemporary Art does not have to be pretentious and confusing, and although it often seems that way, it is down to you (the viewer) to make it relevant to yourself. So i’m here to provide you with the do(s) and don’t(s) of contemporary art; maybe a few gallery etiquette tips as well to help you through those prolonged moments of gaze in front of artwork making attempt to reason its existence.

Why though? (the benefits of art and creative thinking)

Just briefly I should explain why creativity is beneficial, and why I am on such a mission to break barriers of a common understanding that art is only for certain stereotypes. So… contemporary art reflects the society surrounding us; it is an exploration of issues that humans come in contact with every day; gender, politics, economics, environment, science, relationships, people. This means that no matter the subject, art can be influential to us all. A subject that addresses both social and cultural issues excels the development of informed, open-minded and innovative citizens. I really believe this is important for all ages not just throughout educational years, but into adulthood and beyond.

Confessions of an Art Student

After four years studying contemporary art, and after many many hours spent in art museums I feel my approach to art galleries should be fairly polished by now; but no. I still find myself questioning how much Marina Abramovic is getting paid to sit still in a chair, and worrying incase I am looking at the dehumidifier in the room thinking its a meaningful piece of artwork (my granddad did actually do this at an exhibition opening!) As long as we are mindful, and don’t say these things out loud, I recon we are safe – although the dehumidifier situation is a tricky one to get out of; I’m yet to find a solution for that.

The beauty of contemporary art is; there are no rules and nobody can tell you you’re wrong or don’t belong. The best piece of advise I can give, is to be open-minded – simples!

The Do(s) and The Don't(s)

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  • This is a biggy! Don’t suggest you or your 5-year-old could have made the artwork. Because your probably right, they probably could have. But, they didn’t. Some art appears unskillful, easy to make, childlike… but considering beyond the visual to a point where you are challenged to question why an artist has made it and put it there in front of you is the important part.
  • Do ask questions – art often needs to be solved, and the easiest way to understand is by asking yourself questions. As I said before, there are no wrong answers – so by asking, and answering your own queries, the work becomes relevant to you. This way, you’ll probably have a more worthy experience than if someone spoon fed you information about what the artist intended in the creation of their work.
  • Don’t assume art should be pretty – contemporary art is not decoration! Sometimes it is beautiful, because the beauty is relevant or the aesthetic of the work appeals to your taste – but sometimes not. It can be terrifying, or smell bad, it can leave you feeling uncomfortable or angry. It exists for a purpose, to convey a message, raise a question, make a statement, encourage the viewer to think. Try not to discard the work in the realisation that it won’t look very good on your living room wall!61rHswKFepL
  • Do accept defeat (sometimes) – its alright to walk away feeling a bit baffled. Not understanding right away creates opportunity for an epiphany a few days later – light bulb moment!
  • Don’t – describe work as ‘weird’ or ‘cool’ – this doesn’t mean an awful lot, why is it weird, why is it cool? Oh, and ‘its nice’ is probably the worst of the worst, no artist wants to hear their work is ‘nice.’
  • Do your own thing – feel free to ignore program sheets and writing about the art, pompous paradoxes and a plague of adverbs can be helpful if you have google handy to help you out; but if not, don’t stress… art encourages rebeliation after all!
Art Lingo Cheat Sheet

Its degree show season! Meaning many of us will be attending art school exhibitions with some fear of the unknown – with the help of a few safety phrases and after a few glasses of free wine, you’ll get through no problem.

  1. Conceptually strong – this is an ongoing joke within my family, so much so the term ‘conceptually strong’ is used when something is so bad we have to try to appreciate it for something other than its existence – for example, my new flat form trainers were 100% conceptually strong in the opinion of my brothers – it’s also been used to describe some of my Mums cooking (sorry mum!)
  2. This is very suggestive – you don’t need to state what the work is suggesting, but raising the question to others in confidence implies you already know the answer – effectively you are passing the baton to someone else to do the hard work.
  3. Negative space – this refers to the areas around and within the artwork that are absent of form, line, colour, sound; it is often deliberate, so highlighting the fact you’ve noticed it proves your attention to detail.
  4. I find this work challenging – is your get out of jail card, for when you really are stumped – saying your challenged is far more acceptable than saying ‘I don’t get it’ – the likeliness of the person stood next to you understanding it is also fairly slim, you should get away with it!

That’s all I’ve got for now, but since I mentioned Marina Abramovic earlier, I’ll leave you with this TED Talk. She discusses some of her best performance art; of which she is a true master.

 

Rona X

Follow my instagram for updates @ronamcmillan

 

 

5 stars for The Fairmont

Admittedly I do not play golf, but I do absolutely love St Andrews. My gran lives in the centre of St Andrews and for the last few years I have become fairly familiar with the area through friends at University there, and weekend trips to eat scones and gossip with my fabulous Gran! The town has such beautiful architecture and history, the cobbled streets, old harbour walls and castle attract a huge amount of tourists in the summer, so I actually prefer to visit during the winter months when all is a little quieter. In January I can get Jannettas ice cream without a 20 minute queue, and a walk on the beautiful sands without many people around. So to beat those infamous January blues I booked a chilled weekend in St Andrews at The Fairmont Hotel – which is located in all its glory at the top of the hill just 10 minutes from the town centre. I say in all its glory, as this 5* establishment is HUGE, 520 acres to be exact and it is absolutely beautiful.

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Once checked in, we were treated to a champagne afternoon tea, courtesy of The Fairmont. Inspired by ‘The Savoy’ in London, The Fairmont’s Savoy afternoon tea was something truly special; traditional, elegant and tasty! The menu offers 28 different types of tea to accompany the three courses of finger sandwiches, seasonal cakes and impressive bakes. Although I’d say read the menu twice before ordering, because I totally overindulged on the first course… not realising there was another two to follow. But our waiter kindly boxed up everything we couldn’t finish!

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The hotel itself was such a lovely place to chill out, with so many places to sit and relax it would be easy to spend all day there reading a book, drinking coffee or even a few cocktails… which we also sampled! The staff are all incredibly attentive, we were actually really impressed with the service.

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I totally forgot to take a snap of our room, which was a Deluxe Sea View Room. But it was really spacious, elegantly decorated with quirky Scottish touches! Our bathroom was huge, with a large walk in shower and a luxurious bath!

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…and this was the sunrise I woke up to!

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The Fairmont Spa was defiantly one of the best hotel spa’s I’ve ever been to; even although we didn’t book in for any treatments it was really nice to wrap up in robes and relax by the pool for an hour in the evening. The hotel is super family friendly (which is great) but did mean that there was a lot of kids around in the evenings playing in the pool – so that’s something to consider if you wanted a child free zone!

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After breakfast on Sunday morning we wandered round the golf courses (of which there are two) – and had coffees in the clubhouse, which has stunning panoramic views over the courses and St Andrews Bay!

Overall, our stay was fantastic. A beautiful location for a romantic and chilled night away. A walk round St Andrews is always so lovely as well, with plenty of options for good food and drinks!

R x

 

Hello Pumpkin

It’s Friday the 13th of October, the air is frosty and fresh, the trees are rustling in golden and the sun is low in the sky – blinding me as a drive home after a B E A UTIFUL day at Arnprior Farm’s Pumpkin Patch.

I have always wanted to visit a pumpkin patch! There is something idealistic and charming about hand selecting your own pumpkin straight from the ground. The same nostalgic warmth you get choosing a Christmas tree. Well, now we have a fantastic Pumpkin Farm located less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow. You won’t want to settle for a supermarket pumpkin after this!

IMG_8996Arriving at Arnprior Farm, I was absolutely besotted by what I saw. Groups of tiny kiddos running around in the mud, climbing over giant pumpkins and pulling turnips from the soil. The Farm has such a heart-warming atmosphere; designed with care and in such a loving way everybody is welcomed and encouraged to roam freely. The farm is really family friendly, but Coral and I had just as much fun as the 5 year olds – and I actually think Pumpkin Picking would be a really cute date idea! There are loads of great photo ops, and quirky extras to add to the day. After exhausting ourselves running around the kale maze, digging tatties, pulling turnips and carrying pumpkins – we were fed and watered by some fab local food trucks. We had hot dogs from Skinner of Kippen (a local butchers) and hot chocolates from the Fallen Tree Coffee Truck. Exactly what we needed to thaw our frosty fingers! During ‘moments’ of downpour, the marquee became a crafty jungle of fun with creative workshops, pop up shops and alpaca trekking!

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A little bit about Arnprior

Duncan, Rebecca and their three beautiful children run their pumpkin farm alongside their keep of 1000 sheep that they lamb in the spring and 100 acres of Gluten Free Oats. Arnprior was primarily a beef, sheep and arable farm until 2015 when the McEwan family took a new direction and started to diversify into pumpkin farming – and thank goodness they did! More than 5000 pumpkins have been grown across two acres of land at the farm and they come in all varieties of lovable shapes and sizes. I think it’s the McEwan family themselves that makes their farm so inviting. Time is no issue; there is no pressure to buy and no restriction to explore. Their laid-back approach is so refreshing and totally puts visitors at ease.

Rebecca’s top tips on how to choose your perfect pumpkin:
  1. Look for one with a long interesting handle.
  2. The more bumps and irregularities, the more the personality to your pumpkin.
  3. Pumpkins come in all shapes; my favorites are the short squashed fat ones.
  4. The best colour is not always pure orange, look for the autumnal colours shining through.
  5. Remember you’ve got to carry it home.

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What to do you with your Pumpkin…

FullSizeRenderWhether you grew up chiselling away at a hardy turnip until your spoon bent in three directions (in true Scottish/Irish tradition) or whether you have adopted the American approach of pumpkin carving – lanterns for Halloween have become extravagant works of art in recent years. More so than the simplistic zigzag mouth and triangle eyes we did as children! With a little help and inspo from YouTube tutorials and Pinterest boards the elaborate designs are becoming more impressive each year! Also, carving tools! Since when? They make such a difference for intricate deconstruction – it makes me question why we were ever trusted with kitchen knifes!

In the kitchen? This list goes on, and on. I overheard some recipe conversations at Arnprior – everything from pumpkin humus to pumpkin lasagne was mentioned. Mind: blown! I’d never considered anything further than roasting the seeds or making soup. I’m going to be trying a few of these recipes this week https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/pumpkin – all failed attempts and hopefully a few success bakes will be all over my Instagram story I’m sure!

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If you’re interested in visiting this wonderful pumpkin land:

Arnprior Farm is free to enter with ample free parking on site; it will be open on the following dates:

Saturday 14 – Sunday 22 October 2017, 10am – 4pm

Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 October 2017, 10am – 4pm

WELLIES ARE A MUST!

Thanks for reading

Rona X @ronamcmillan

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