2014

2014 Leeds Food Highlights

Zucco2014

Zucco’s Deep Fried Zucchini At this particular moment I’m very excited. I’m lucky enough to have bagged a space at the bar at Zucco tonight, so Matt and I can ring in 2015 in style. And let me tell you, the anticipation is high. No big deal, but this year the Deep Fried Zucchini single-handedly changed my mind about courgettes. I know, who am I kidding? That’s a big deal. Until this year I thought they were slimy, spongey buggers with no place in my life. However, made by Zucco: dipped in milk, coated in flour, then deep fried and sprinkled with mint, I’m pretty sure I could live on them.

Zucco is my favourite restaurant in Leeds, hands down. Probably in the world, actually. During 2014 Matt and I have become regulars, all too often springing up on a Friday night a little bit drunk, without a reservation and begging for a table. The staff at Zucco are so friendly, so accommodating and always make room for us. They’re very knowledgable about the food they serve and so much of it is steeped in tradition, without being remotely old fashioned. Without doubt every time I go I order the same three dishes, leaving Matt to experiment. That’s the beauty of sharing plates, see. I don’t think he’s rumbled my tactics yet. Zucchini is always top of my list, alongside Arancini and Braised Beef Pappardelle. I could eat and drink at Zucco for the rest of my life and I’m pretty sure I’d never get bored. Throw in an Aperol Spritz to start and a Moscato to finish and I don’t think life could get any better.

Zucco 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, LS6 4AY | @zuccouk

TheReliance2014

I didn’t have a pic of the beans, sorry. Here are two other delightful dishes from The Reliance

Green Beans with Shallots at The Reliance Oh, I love a side dish. I really do. They’re the glitter top coat of the culinary world. Let me start by saying that over the last year The Reliance has really risen up the ranks for me, I’d say it’s the best cooking in the city: forever reliable and never boring. Whether you drop in for a meatball sandwich at lunchtime or a full three courses plied with wine on an evening – the food, drinks and service are all consistently top notch. Somehow the food manages to be at once comforting and exciting, a place to take both fussy eaters and real food lovers alike. It’ll please your (my) “nothing foreign – well, Italian and French is ok… I suppose” parents as much as it’ll please the part of you that wants something a bit special on a Saturday night. Simplicity done exceptionally well seems hardly praise enough for this place but it’s the closest I can get. Green beans and shallots are just that, served in a cute pie dish in all of their seasonal glory, dripping with butter. Kale in Fig Salt is also a triumph, an extra worth getting excited about – whether you eat it with a humble plate of sausages and mash or a melting featherblade.

The Reliance 76-78 North Street, Leeds LS2 7PN | @The_Reliance

PattySmiths2014

Dirty Burger on the left, Colonel Patty and Session Fries on the right

Patty Smiths’ Dirty Burger It’s no bold claim that 2014 was the year of the burger for Leeds. This year Byron, MEATliquor, Almost Famous and Five Guys opened their doors in our fair city, alongside a new, independent offering from Boss Burgers in Hyde Park. Building on the success of their launch in 2013, Patty Smith’s – a concession at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen – have been producing consistently brilliant, dirty, oozy burgers all year round. Menu originals the Dirty Burger and the Big Ron remain staples, with The Colonel Patty – a deep fried chicken burger, and Session Fries – fries seasoned with lardons, jalapeños and parmesan, as recent additions well worth trying. My “when in doubt” lunch, the Dirty Burger is just what you want on a hangover or for a cheeky treat. It basically fits any mood. Sticky like that untouchable (dare I say it?) McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger, sweet and salty, it’s cooked pink and the juices run down your chin and you just don’t give a s**t. Nothing beats a good burger, after all. And Patty Smith’s is perfection in a paper wrapper.

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen 1-1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP @PattySmithsUK

GrubandGrog2014

Grub and Grog Shop Breakfast at Northern Monk Refectory Silly I know, but I see the Grub and Grog Shop residency at Northern Monk Brewing Co as some sort of urban fairytale. Having consumed their sandwiches, stews and cocktails for over a year, it’s really amazing to see their hard work and talent turn into a sparkly kitchen at the new brewery in Holbeck. At launch night when I set eyes on their menu it was breakfast that really caught my eye, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite places to visit over the past few months. Homemade crumpets made with the yeast from the beer brewed by Northern Monk downstairs, and Breakfast Buns stuffed with celeriac fritters, hash browns, eggs and roast tomato sauce are the stuff dreams are made of. In true G&G style, there are shedloads of veggie and vegan options, along with healthier Breakfast Bowls made up of porridge, granola or Birchir muesli. Prices are really reasonable and the space is beautiful – high ceilings, big windows and perfect sunlight when you roll in at 10am, plus the added bonus of a cloud of hoppy air that envelopes you when you walk through the door. Not to be missed. 

The Grub & Grog Shop Northern Monk Refectory, Marshalls Mill, Holbeck, Leeds LS11 9YJ | @grubandgrogshop

Bundobust Leeds 2014

Bundo Chaat top centre

Bundo Chaat at Bundobust On pretty much every most-loved list of 2014, it’s safe to say that the launch of Bundobust – a collaboration between Bradford’s craft beer pub The Sparrow and Drighlington’s award-winning vegetarian Indian restaurant Prashad – has been the Leeds success story of the year. A bustling bar with canteen style seating, it offers arguably the best beer selection in Leeds and matches them with little pots of Indian street food. Bundo is a great place to start a night out, or refuel as you hop from place to place. The Bundo Chaat is my must order everytime I visit – crunchy, sweet, sour and gently spicy. It’s made up of chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney and crunchy samosa pastry and it’s like a bloody party in your mouth. The Masala Dosa is also pretty tops. A great place to take visiting friends and a real treat for veggies – a whole restaurant for them – imagine! A real highlight of 2014 for me, and I’ll keep going back.

Bundobust 6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ @bundobust

Chatting

Chatting

This morning, I read a post on Amy’s blog which sparked my interest. I’ve been lucky enough to gain a few followers recently (HELLO!), and save for the few of you who have diligently followed me everywhere since I was a young whipper-snapper, there are only a couple of my readers I know well. I think this idea originated with Allie, and it’s a great way to share a bit more, and to get to know you guys who read – I’m grateful for you, so will you be my pal? Let’s chat. Answers (any or all!) on a postcard, or, you know, in the comments section.

1. Tell me about your family.
2. What is your best/most vivid food memory?
3. Money and teleportation are not issues, you have one day. What do you do?
4. Is there something you’ve enjoyed recently? Tell me about it! 
5. What traits do you value most in other people?

My answers?

– My family… they’re nice! I have a mum and dad who have been married for 42 years, they live by the seaside, and I’m the baby – with two older sisters who are 10 and 11 years older than me. It’s safe to say I was unplanned, and have brought my parents a relatively large amount of stress, what with the dicky health and all, but they still love me so that’s sweet of them. My dad is tightly wired and highly driven – he’s my inspiration, he’s supportive and insightful. My mum is more laid back – loving and fun. Likes a party. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when I was 19, which was a weird experience and continues to be so everyday. My sister Kyley is a bit of a live-wire. She’s creative and she makes you feel like you can do stuff you’ve previously doubted. My sister Gemma is one of the people I feel most comfortable around, we speak a lot, even though she’s over 200 miles away, and she visits Leeds every few months. She’s 6 months pregnant so that’s exciting. They’re all a long way away but they’re a huge presence in my life. Oh, and these days I have a husband too.

– I have a vivid memory of eating roast beef at Castle Combe in Wiltshire when I was about nine. My mum, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying, is not the most confident or accomplished cook, so it felt like this was my first real memorable experience of real food. It was cut in thin, pink slices on a white, porcelain plate, and I ate it with crispy roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese. It was like a lightbulb had switched on.

– I would eat all day, naturally. It would start with coffee at Courier in Portland, then a trip to Blue Star Donuts for a Blackberry, Bourbon and Basil bad boy. I’d travel to San Francisco to see my friends Adam and Heidi for lunch – I’m thinking they’ll have a taco place in mind. I’d spend the afternoon shopping for books, comics and cookware, then settle into a nice, comfy coffee shop to read what I’ve bought. The evening would be spent at Zucco with my best friends, getting quietly drunk on Aperol Spritzes and Merlot and scoffing plates of Deep Fried Zucchini. I’d fall into bed at 21212 in Edinburgh around 1am, and I’d wake to bright skies and birds, with no hangover.

– Something I’ve really enjoyed recently, is the #ShowMeYourPump tag on Twitter. I took part earlier in the week, and I think it’s an excellent way to raise awareness and bond with my fellow pals with diabetes. The diabetes community on Twitter is something I’ve only recently discovered and it’s been a consistent source of support for me. While forums have always been helpful, it’s understandable that you generally see a certain type of person posting and asking for help. I’ve always felt a little out of my depth in that crowd. Twitter is open to one and all and it goes a long way to help me feel normal. The #ourD tag has a chat every Tuesday from 8-9 which I generally join in with if I’m at home, and users tend to post on it throughout the week, things like “Woke up at 15.0 this morning – feeling groggy. Time for a correction!” It’s nice because there’s always been a sense of shame for me before, like I’m the only one getting it wrong. This helps me understand that we’re all in the same boat. Plus, pictures of 2 year olds wearing their pump with a big smile never fail to make me tear up.

– Honesty. The ability to laugh at oneself. If you look at the people I surround myself with, they’re overwhelmingly silly. People who repeatedly say silly things, put themselves in silly situations or do things to make themselves and other people laugh. I like that, I think it’s admirable, and I’m trying to be more like that myself. As I get older I’m realising that being achingly self-aware is tiring, and at the end of the day you should just enjoy yourself. Who gives a shit what other people think? (Me, most of the time, but I’m trying not to)

So there you go.  If you have a spare five minutes please take the time to share an answer or two below, or even just talk to me over on Twitter. The internet is a wonderful place to connect with people and make friends, so let’s get to know each other.

Where to Eat in Leeds

I eat out a lot. To the point where I’m almost ashamed. The other day I was outed on Instagram, tagged to do the #widn tag with the comment “@whipuntilfluffy who is prob out having an awesome looking lunch again” … What can I say? Guilty.

So with this (excessive, if anything) experience, I thought I’d put together a little guide to eating in this city. Whether it’s a 3 course meal or a quick snack, here are what I consider to be the best bites in town at the moment.

Where to Eat in Leeds: Shears Yard

Shears Yard A firm dinner favourite since its opening in August last year, Shears Yard is my go-to for a special occasion. Brought to us by the team behind the Arts Cafe on Call Lane, Shears Yard serve seasonal, British cuisine with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. Each plate throbs with tastes and textures, every element seems painstakingly created so that it all sings together on the plate. Not even the bread is boring (whipped truffle butter, anyone?). The dishes are complex, elegant, but they’re not pretentious. You might struggle to choose just one dish, so coordinate with a partner and go halvsies. Visit on a Thursday night, it can get noisy on the weekends. Dishes pictured include Duck liver parfait & homemade duck “ham”, black pudding brioche, white onion chutney & blackberry gel and Local corn fed chicken breast & leg, crab & lobster fritter, sweetcorn & chorizo salsa & lobster mayonnaise. Starters from £4.50, mains from £10.95.

Shears Yard 11-15 Wharf Street, The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EH | @ShearsYard

Where to Eat in Leeds: Zucco

Zucco This is the neighbourhood restaurant that dreams are made of. Draped in a candlelight blanket, Zucco serves Italian small plates, classic cocktails and really good house wine. It’s dark, atmospheric and there’s a clatter from the open kitchen just loud enough to feel exciting. The menu changes every day depending on the produce available but some favourites are there day in, day out. I’m talking fritto misto, served simply with the lightest, crispest of batters. There’s aubergine parmigiana, deep fried zucchini and mint and, what I believe to be the best plate of pasta this side of Rome, braised beef pappardelle. Zucco has become a regular in my friday night routine, the perfect place to rock up to after a couple of post-work pints, feeling a little tipsy and positively buzzing at the thought of the weekend. Treat yourself to a Negroni (it comes with a stripy paper straw!), order enough food to cover the table top and return the next day to nurse your hangover, sitting at the bar with a pizzette and a carafe of wine, ready to flick through the newspaper. Plates from £2.50 to £8.50. Book early in the week to secure a table on Friday or Saturday nights, but don’t panic if you didn’t plan ahead, time it right and there’ll be room at the bar.

Zucco 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, LS6 4AY | @zuccouk

Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen While it may not be the obvious choice for dinner in the city centre, this music venue and bar holds some serious culinary gems. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you might not get past the door without a lumberjack beard and full sleeve of tattoos, but never mind that, just bust on in there and get yourself some pizza. Belgrave currently offers three food options: Dough Boys Pizza, Patty Smiths & Fu Schnickens. Each offering is outstanding in its field, but the Guo Bao by Fu Schnickens are really something to behold. Little steamed buns made on site and filled with pork belly, hoisin, cashew nuts, sesame, palm sugar, pickled carrot & mooli, they originate all the way from Taiwan and I would go so far as to say they are the best single bite available in Leeds right now. The crispy panko chicken version is pretty tasty too. Here’s my advice: arrive at Belgrave, buy a pint of Symonds cider from the bar or a flat white from the Laynes pop-up, get yourself a guo bao, wait a bit (optional), get yourself some pizza, wait a bit (optional), get yourself a Patty Smith’s Dirty Burger, repeat. Grab a half price slice (£1-£1.40) everyday until 7pm, get two Guo Bao for £6.

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen 1-1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP | @Belgrave_Leeds @DoughBoysLeeds @PattySmithsUK

Where to Eat in Leeds: The Reliance

The Reliance What I consider to be one of Leeds’ unsung heroes, The Reliance is that perfect, solid option to keep in your back pocket and play as your trump card. Sure, it’s pub grub, but it’s more refined than rustic. The dishes are seasonal, they’re simple but in the most glorious sense of the word. No foam, no espuma, no soil, but flavours that bowl you over. It’s good, honest food and I never leave one morsel on my plate. Not one. Whether you’re soaking up last night’s gin with a fish finger sandwich, or getting rosy cheeked over candlelight and featherblade, The Reliance is that old friend who’s just easy to be around. With good beer and relaxed, friendly service, you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I wish I lived next door. Oh, and they cure their own charcuterie too. Starters from £4.25, mains from £9.95.

The Reliance 76-78 North Street, Leeds LS2 7PN | @The_Reliance

Where to Eat in Leeds: Trinity Kitchen

Trinity Kitchen I thought and rethought Trinity Kitchen’s inclusion in my top five, and while it feels wrong to tarnish the indie attitude of this list so far, it is true that some of the best things I’ve eaten over the past six months have been part of the shopping centre’s street food line-up. Trinity plays an important role in bringing exciting and diverse street food to the people of Leeds, and without the capitalist big-guns I wouldn’t have discovered this month’s favourite, Dorshi, or even (heavens, just imagine!) my beloved OFM. I can’t endorse any of the main-stays in the Trinity Kitchen set up, I’ve tried all of them and been thoroughly unimpressed, but the street food rotation is always interesting and provides somewhere different to go on an otherwise monotonous lunch break. I look forward to seeing what’s new every month and I like that it brings London traders up here to Yorkshire, somewhere they probably didn’t give two hoots about before. Highlights have been the Bacon Blue Burger (@OFMLondon), crispy chicken with fried “rice” (@eatDorshi) and just about everything from Cafe Moor (@CafeMoorLeeds). Street food meals starting from around £4.50.

Trinity Kitchen Top Floor Trinity Leeds Albion Street Leeds LS1 5AT | @TrinityLeeds

Sharing the Love

Sharing the Love January

1. Prepping beef bourguignon for NYE 2. The calm before the storm 3. Bread & Butter Pudding at my favourite coffee shop @cupandsaucer_ca 4. Posing with my new mug 5. Lemon chicken, roasted new potatoes & a mixed bean salad by Matt 6. New breakfast resolutions 7. A bloody good burger from @OFMLondon 8. A new year means new decorations for my desk.

Last week was busy. We threw a New Years Eve party for the first time ever. It managed to be a kind of house warming too as it’s the first time the majority of our friends have been in since the house has been in a liveable state. It was fun. We made roast pepper puree (see what I turned the leftovers into here), potato and apple rostis topped with steak, glazed honey and mustard cocktail sausages and pear and gorgonzola crostini. Then we served a beef bourguignon out of a big, steaming pot on the hob. Our first experience of feeding that many people actually went pretty well, but I’d like to get some more practice in… Supper club, anyone? Just kidding.

The weekend just gone was spent painting. Having had a 4 week break while we celebrated Christmas, I was glad to get back to work on the construction site we call home. We’re actually very nearly done with the renovation now, just a few aesthetic bits left to do. We wanted to have the walls finished before our flooring is fitted next Monday, so I feel pretty chuffed. Once the floors are in we can scrub and paint the gloss-work, including the sage green front door and stair risers that I’ve been dreaming of! We’re getting closer to fiiiinally unpacking all of our furniture and belongings, and after nearly 5 months of living out of a suitcase I am beyond excited. Once the floors are fitted we’re also planning on bringing home 2 kittens from Yorkshire Cat Rescue. Too much good stuff on the horizon! Here’s how I’m occupying myself:

Last week I finished watching The Sopranos, which was possibly one of my favourite series of all time. I’ve now got a mob shaped hole in my life. We’ve started watching The Walking Dead now, and I have to admit that I’m loving a bit of Andrew Lincoln back in my life. I’ve read some of the comics so it’s interesting seeing how they’ve been developed for TV. Tonight was the first episode of The Taste on Channel 4. To be honest, I don’t think it’s for me, but I’m going to give it a chance. Sad man-children crying into Nigella’s bosom is all a bit weird for me. What do you think?

Goals for this month:

  • Unpack every box from the garage in the week after the floor is fitted.
  • Buy, collect and construct my new wardrobe before springtime.
  • Work on my idea for a Cook-along Book Club (as mentioned on Twitter). I’m thinking monthly, but I need some inspiration for affordable book ideas – I want to go less straight forward recipe book and more sources of inspiration. Any thoughts?
  • Find some awesome new food blogs to follow and do more to promote the amazing ones I already love.

What have you been doing this week? Did you try any recipes over the festive period that you’re particularly proud of? Do you have resolutions or intentions for 2014? If you’re a blogger, link me up to your new years posts. Say hi down in the comments or over @whipuntilfluffy. Have a great week!

Food Resolutions for 2014

Food Resolutions

Give certain things another try. There are a couple of things I’ve always been really annoyed that I don’t like. Most things I’m not impressed by are related to texture, and though I’ve tried long and hard, I don’t think there’s anyway I can train myself to enjoy them. Some things though, I’m still sure there’s some way to change my opinion. The main culprit is coffee. Having watched Matt discover proper coffee over the last year, it’s occurred to me that I’m probably missing out. I’m going to attempt to train my tastebuds in a new series on the blog coming soon, named “Learning to Love”.

Spend cash on quality. I eat out so much. Probably too much. There are so many restaurants and cafes I want to try but it’s easy to fall into a routine. You get used to the places that are near to you, that are dependable and easy. That’s not to say they’re not good, just that there are probably more exciting options out there. This year I vow to try new places. Eat out less but do more research and even spend more money if necessary. I’m interested in trying a few more fine dining restaurants, especially those close to home in Leeds and Yorkshire. I want to try street food, corner cafes and local favourites too. Basically, I just never want to pay over the odds for a mediocre lasagne at Jamie’s Italian again. 2013 saw my dislike for chain restaurants grow but hopefully in 2014 I can visit more independents than ever. No matter how much my friends might like Nandos 😉

Expand my skill set. 2013 was the year I finally learnt how to bone a chicken properly. I want to work on classic techniques and build up my repertoire a bit – I’m talking filleting fish, tempering chocolate, making the perfect choux pastry. I can do a few things really well, through a bit of practice. I’ve got a perfect chicken stock down, I can make my own pasta. But this year I want to round those skills out, Julia Child style. It’s surprising how many things I don’t know how to do to, just because I didn’t eat them growing up. I might even go back to basics and learn how to boil an egg from Delia. Basic skills can act as the start of so many dishes, so I’m hoping it’ll seriously help with putting together recipes and menus.

Commit to seasonal eating. In 2013 I learnt a lot about what to eat throughout the year. By picking foods that are in season I’ve found that my diet has become much more varied and I’m always willing to try something new when I make meals at home, especially when I’m under pressure, if I’m in a hurry or I’ve just got home from work and want something quick. It saves me from falling into ruts with midweek meals, something I’m really thankful for because I get bored easily and a constant rotation of spaghetti bolognese, Thai green curry, sausage and mash and the like can get me down. I’ve definitely also seen a decrease in the times I reach into the freezer for a pizza or borderline looking leftovers. I’m not saying that everything I eat is always in season but I definitely use it as a guide when thinking about what to rustle up. In 2014 I want to commit more to that way of thinking and eat more of what’s ripe as opposed to what’s on the shelves at the supermarket. If you fancy looking into eating seasonably too, I found this infographic pretty helpful.

What are your food plans for 2014? Are you changing anything up? Is there anything you want to try in the year ahead? If so, share it with me down in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. What have you been up to over the festive period? Keep up with my shenanigans over on Instagram. I’ll be back with a recipe in a few days.