Archive for October, 2009

Bella Italia, Shawlands

A strenuous day of listening to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and analysing business systems for drains (oh dear, Tony!) led to two hungry figures appearing at the door of Bella Italia in Shawlands.
The pavement was slick, the rain heavy, our coats shabby (not really). The double windows of Bella Napoli radiate light, pleasant bustling and all kinds of warmth. Most excellent.

The staff are Scottish-Italian and swing from indulgent-auntie-type hugs to stern-grandfather-type scowls (when it takes me 25 minutes to choose a pizza topping). After receiving several such scowls (very much deserved) – we stuck with our indecisiveness and went for a half and half. We each had half a portion of spicy veal meatballs with spaghetti and half a pizza with spicy chicken strips, smokey bacon, green peppers, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil on top.

Really very, very good food. The pizza base is stone baked so there’s no residual oil from pan-baking, it’s completely crisp. The toppings are fresh and not dried out at all in the oven. They now offer a new ‘low-fat’ pizza with half the dough (rolled even thinner so you still get a good size pizza!) and half the cheese. It’s a good idea but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Half the cheese? Oh my.

Dessert was tablet ice cream. Crumbly homemade tablet mixed in with extra vanilla-y ice cream. Delightful is the word.

All of this for about £25. And a two minute stagger from our flat. I’m spoiled. Bella Napoli have a giant display of festive pannettone which appeared in my dreams last night. Less than 50 day until I can justify gorging myself.


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The Dining Room, Glasgow

After an annoyingly prolonged period of busyness and general life-getting-in-the-wayness, my friend Hazel and I managed to meet up for dinner last night at Jim Kerr’s new restaurant on Bath Street, The Dining Room.
I’d read the glowing reviews, especially those pertaining to the excellent desserts, and was buoyed up with high hopes (and saliva) as I rushed down Bath St – late (but not my fault) as usual.

I was met by three menus – the 5pm one (3 courses and a bottle of wine for £50 per couple which seems like great value), the pre-theatre (£12 for 2 courses, £16 for 3) or the a la carte. Rushed into a decision as the bell was about to toll on the end of pre-theatre, we went with that.

The starter kicked us off to a good start with a tasty chicken liver pate and crunchy oatcakes. Just the right side of salty, with a very smooth texture. The high hopes were back.
They faltered with the main meal however. Faltered like a small boy weighing down a silver weather ballon. The truckle cheeseburger was dry and the chips were ‘good’ frozen ones, not proper handcut chips. Most disappointing. The chicken dish didn’t fare much better and was also very dry. The free glass of wine with the main course did cheer us up and we agreed that a Monday night (most likely without their head chef) was never going to show a restaurant at its best.

Skipping along to dessert, I think the fact that was finally cleared away with only two small spoonfuls out of it says it all. An iced caramel parfait is apparently another name for ‘the sweetest, sugariest, teeth-hurty, headache-inducing dessert ever’. It was, frankly, inedibly sweet. Which is a shame, as the reviews had been so excellent.

I would say, if you go, don’t go on a Monday. But what I’ll say instead is ‘don’t go’. There are many really good places in Glasgow and most of them don’t reside in a tired basement restaurant on Bath Street.

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Hot Dinner

The lovely Laura, Nikki, Jen, Stu and less-lovely-more-grumpy Adam came for dinner at the weekend. I’ll cut to the best bit right now and explain that the reason Adam was grumpy was that he was thoroughly trounced at Articulate by the team of girls. Victory was, and still is, mine.

Anyway, I decided to make Jamie’s slow-roasted shoulder of pork and set off to the excellent Gillespie’s butcher in Anniesland to procure my piece of pig. The guys in here are really knowledgeable and prepared the shoulder exactly as I requested (bone still in, rind scored, not tied, cut to 3.5kg).
I popped my porcine delight into the oven at 1.30pm, intending to eat at 8.30pm. I think this extra hour for the extra kilo might have been slightly too much but the crackling was the best I’ve ever made. The pork fell off the bone really easily and the gravy was delicious. The dog was in raptures with the leftovers, lucky bitch.
Eight hours of a very hot oven in one-bedroom flat does leave a rather toasty temperature so dinner was eaten with windows open and clothing removed. I’ve never gone in for formal dinner parties – and just as well.

Highlight of the meal (if I may say so) was the cheesecake – Nigella’s London Cheesecake, no less. Baked in a waterbath, it really did create the most velvety texture and received rave reviews. I used half mascapone and half Philadelphia. Twas fabulous.
Anti-cheesists (weirdos) had brownies and ice-cream, which took a good second place.

If you do nothing else this week, make Nigella’s London Cheesecake. Eat it until you feel sick. Then, maybe, throw it all up and eat more of it. I shouldn’t be recommending that really, but it is that good.

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Last weekend Tony went climbing in Glen Tilt, near Blair Atholl and I made the emminently sensible decision to drop him off at the bottom of the hill and head into Aberfeldy for the day.
You have to, have to, have to go to Aberfeldy – which is a pretty little place in itself – but , more importantly, it’s home to Homer, one of my new favourite shops. Full, seriously crammed, with vintage furniture, linens and tablewear as well as new pieces – sections for bedding, kitchen accessories, ribbon, garden things, candles, glassware. Suffice to say it’s about the size of a two storey garage and yet I managed to pass over an hour in there. Looking. Picking things up. Putting them down. Picking them back up to smell them. Taking them to the counter to add to my speedily increasing pile. I got a beautiful slate chalkboard, many candle holders, proper grosgrain ribbon in deep red and buff colour, card, hand-blown glass baubles (no, I will not mention the Ch-word just now…) and more. Just go!
Above this is the Watermill, a really excellent bookshop, stocking some lovely titles on the area, as well as a great philosophy and world affairs section and a cosy children’s nook.
Their busy cafe stocked me full of carrot and courgette soup and lemon drizzle cake before I tripped merrily off to Dunkeld for further shopping and general mooching, but I believe that’s a story for another day – go forth and shop and browse, my lovelies.

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Or drop scones, to be precise. Or maybe Scotch pancakes – I’m not sure if there’s a difference? Either way, here’s our batch. A sleepver with the girls last weekend led to this delightful breakfast, served with fruit, honest.

Following Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe, here.


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Loco Coco

Meet the new addition to the family – our puppy, Coco!
She’s proving to be a very fiesty and bouncy companion for the spoiled firstborn, Luxy.
It’s hard not to smile at a squeaky handful of puppy-fluff barrelling through the house to meet you in the hallway.
I predict, though, that it will be very easy not to smile in a few weeks when I find her needle-sharp teeth and some pretty belonging of mine joining in an almighty, mess-creating union…

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My friend, Gillian, told me about a new gift shop in the Southside, specialising in locally produced crafty delights.
I decided to test-run the place with the intent of finding a birthday present for my oldest friend, Laura. (She’s young, by the way – the friendship is old. Just to clarify, for my sake.)
When it comes to trinkets, temptation vs futile resistance = objet du désir finding its way into my bag hence my haul of  a badge for Laura — in fact, I’m going to call it a brooch. I think it’s decorative enough to be deemed brooch-worthy, no? — And so, my haul of a brooch and a purse mirror-compact and a flattened wine bottle. Here we are.laura gift I want one badly (a champagne one for use as a cheeseboard, just in case people are desperately scouring this blog for gift ideas for moi. Hello, by the way!)
And a doggy birthday card that made me smile. I’m sure it will make Laura smile too as she’s been bitten (not literally, I hasten to add, for fear of tarnishing an innocent pooch’s name) by the dog-lover’s bug with the acquisition of the very fabulous Dino, the (black) goldendoodle!
Gifted has only been open for a few weeks and will no doubt be  tempting me with more lovelythings in the run up to Christmas. I’m not complaining.

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