Bag-in-Box wine tasting at 1000 Trades

I am the first to admit that the only thing I know about wine is that I like drinking it. So the idea of ‘wine tasting’ has never really appealed to me; it has always seemed a bit snobby and pretentious. However, when I saw that 1000 Trades were running a Bag-in-Box wine tasting for only £5 I was quite intrigued.

1000 Trades are a champion of these natural Bag-in-Box wines and I’ve always really enjoyed drinking them. I was really interested to find out more about them so I took the plunge and booked my first ever wine tasting!

The evening was run by Tom Craven of Vinnaturo and Sam Olive of Wine Freedom. Sam works with importers to supply fine natural wine to bars/restaurants etc, mainly in the Midlands area. Tom sources natural wine from farmers, puts it in bags and pouches and sells it. In his own words he “buys wine he likes from people he likes” – sounds like a pretty good job to me!

We started with a quiz to find out where on a numbered scale our palates lay. We then lined up in order and were given a small piece of paper to taste. Some people (myself included) found the taste absolutely disgusting – like when you leave a paracetamol on your tongue for too long – and some people weren’t at all bothered! The point of this was to show how different people’s palates are and therefore how different people’s taste in wines would be. As I was at the lower end of the scale, I am more likely to enjoy lighter, fresher whites than robust reds, which fits pretty well with what I usually drink.

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Tom and Sam then explained a bit more to us about why they choose to import and distribute organic (no man made chemicals except copper & sulphur) and biodynamic (‘supercharged organic’, using spiritual philosophy) wines which haven’t been messed around with either in the vineyard or the cellar. I was surprised to learn that supermarket wine has 1000s of permitted ingredients and manipulations, and part of the reason you feel so awful after a night of drinking wine is the effect of all these chemicals on your body (I have to admit that I drunk a LOT of organic wine that evening and didn’t feel nearly as bad as I normally would. I happily got myself to work for 8.30 without even needing a coffee!). In addition to being better for the people drinking it, natural wine is much better environmentally for the vineyard land and the people who live around it.

They also explained why they put the wine into boxes and pouches rather than bottles. By using this method they are able to make huge savings on shipping, which can then be passed onto the customer. It’s a great way to make really good wine more accessible to more people. Again, it is more environmentally friendly as it cuts CO2 emissions by around 50% compared to importing bottles.

Most of the wines we tried were from grapes that I had never heard of. As the famous grape varieties – Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon etc – have become more and more fashionable, more vineyards have started growing them over the wealth of other varieties (some of which have sadly now been lost). 1000 Trades are trying to introduce people to some of these other brilliant varieties, using the wine list to give you cues on which ones you might enjoy.

My pick of the evening was definitely the Trebbiano. This was a lovely easy drinking white grown in acidic volcanic soil, which actually makes the wine more alkaline. It’s fresh but also has a creaminess due to a second ‘fermentation’. At the time I said I could happily drink this all day. This was confirmed yesterday evening when I managed to put away about 5 glasses in a couple of hours…

I came away from the evening feeling like I’d learnt so much more about wine, without being overloaded with information. The format of the wine tasting, where we moved around and tried wines at our own pace, having conversations with Tom & Sam rather than being lectured, made the evening really fun and accessible. And as if everyone wasn’t already convinced, they brought out a cheese board and charcuterie platter at the end – HEAVEN!

Bag-in-box organic and biodynamic wines are available at 1000 Trades, 16 Frederick Street, B1 3HE. WEBSITE

Original Patty Men

Credit to Original Patty Men for the photo. I forgot to take any photos because I was so hungover and the food was so delicious.

On Sunday afternoon my hangover was in full swing and there was nothing in the fridge. Original Patty Men was calling my name.

I’m ashamed to say this was my first visit to Original Patty Men. It’s been on my ‘list’ forever and I’ve had countless recommendations but have somehow never made it there. But now I’ve been. And it was amazing. And I want to go again and again and again.

Sadly it was a bit cold to sit outside in the funky outside area (goodbye summer…) but I loved the laid back industrial-ish vibe and holy cow artwork inside. The menu is short and sweet with 3 burgers plus specials. Details of the specials & other burger porn can usually be found on their Twitter (@originalpattym).

We went for both the specials; I had the ‘Alabama Slammer’ and he had ‘There will be Blood’.

The ‘Alabama Slammer’ (pictured) was a fried chicken burger available with either a white mayo-based sauce or a chilli sauce made with Pip’s Hot Sauce & butter. It’s basically a McChicken sandwich on steroids. Like, as in, the ‘Alabama Slammer’ is an Olympic gold medalist and the McChicken Sandwich is your dad going for a jog round the park. Because they use chicken thigh, the fried chicken is juicy and delicious and full of flavour. It’s smothered in delicious sauce and served in a Peel & Stone bun. It literally couldn’t get any better. OPM, can you please put this on the menu full time?!

‘There will be Blood’ was black pudding, sauerkraut, pickles, mustard mayo and rigatello cheese. According to him it was “gooey and glorious, the cheese was really melty and it was fucking tasty”.

We also ordered a side of the ODB fries which come piled high with OPM spice mix, jalapeño slaw, sriracha mayo, crispy onions and spring onions. Obviously these tasted amazing but I would have added more heat to the jalapeño slaw. I would also have added more sriracha mayo. Because sriracha mayo is delicious.

Original Patty Men may not be Michelin-starred but it is rated THIRD BEST RESTAURANT IN BIRMINGHAM on Trip Advisor and has 5 stars on Yelp. Clearly no one needs me to tell them how amazing it is but, for the record, it’s amazing. I’ll be back very soon!

Original Patty Men is located at 9 Shaw’s Passage, B5 5JG WEBSITE

Cocktail tasting at Bar Opus

On Wednesday evening I was lucky enough to be invited to Bar Opus to try out their new cocktail menu.

Bar Opus is the newest addition to the Opus family and is located at One Snowhill. I’ll (very conveniently) be starting work in the same building next month and can see myself spending far too much time here – post work drinks anyone?!

As is to be expected from the Opus family, the interior is beautiful – modern & upmarket but still with a friendly, laid back vibe. I especially love the huge grey bar  and the pretty outside area.

However the cocktails were the stars of the evening, with 12 from the new seasonal menu on show. Here’s the list:

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On arrival there were a few cocktails that I immediately picked as winners and these did not disappoint!

The Hereford Scrambler, an ode to the Chase brand which Bar Opus has a close relationship with, went down an absolute storm. Similar to the well known Bramble, it was rich and fruity without being too sweet. I could drink these all night!

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I’m a massive Bellini fan so couldn’t wait to try the Ginger Bellini – prosecco poured over stem ginger and a little syrup. In this case less is definitely more. The flavours worked perfectly together and I loved the fact that I could recreate this at home.

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Their version of the Clover Club was executed well and looked super elegant – definitely an Instagram worthy cocktail!

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As well as the above, which I was pretty much always going to enjoy, there were a couple on the menu that pleasantly surprised me! The first of these was the Beggar’s Banquet, with Sadler’s Peaky Blinder ale and Makers Mark alongside bitters, lemon and maple syrup. I am really not into whisky so the idea of a whisky and beer based cocktail didn’t excite me. I WAS WRONG. IT WAS DELICIOUS. TRY IT.

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Continuing to crush my whisky phobia, the Port Cobbler was also lovely, with rich warming flavours which made me feel all cosy and Christmassy!

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Other honourable mentions go to the unusual Pear & Cardamom sidecar and the classic gin/elderflower/cucumber flavours of the English Collins. At this point I also want to mention the duck and spring onion rolls we tried from the bar plates menu – these were incredible and I would go back just to eat these!

There were a few cocktails on the menu that I didn’t enjoy as much. The Milk Punch was a bit too sweet and creamy for me, and the Cowboy Hoof Martini had a hint of toothpaste! However with cocktails, a lot is down to personal preference.

Overall I think Bar Opus have done a great job with this new menu. Everything is beautifully made using quality ingredients and the menu has a wide range of original cocktails to suit everyone’s taste. Whether you want a winter warmer or something more tropical to transport you away from Birmingham, you’ll find it on the menu. Prices range from £6.50 – £9.50 which is pretty reasonable considering the quality and prime location.

Disclaimer: I was invited along by the lovely Travel Girl and as it was a bloggers event, we did not pay for the cocktails. As I was a +1, I was not asked to write this blog post and all opinions are honest.

Bar Opus is located at One Snowhill, B4 6GH WEBSITE

 

 

Tonkotsu Birmingham

The arrival of Tonkotsu’s only offering outside London – in the form of a Selfridges noodle bar – has been eagerly awaited by the population of Brum. With the help of an amazing ‘I Choose Birmingham’ 50% off voucher, I went to see what all the fuss was about.

On arrival, we ordered a beer & a cocktail. There were only a couple of cocktails available, but with flavours of gin and elderflower over subtle notes of cardamom and Earl Grey, the ‘My Friend Martin’ was beautiful and I would probably have picked it off a larger menu anyway! Unfortunately the beer we ordered got forgotten about and we had to ask again, but as it had been open less than a week I’ll forgive them a few teething problems!

We ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen and Chicken Katsu Curry, and as it was 50% off we went all out on sides and ordered Salt and Shanso Pepper Squid, Chicken Kara-age (marinated fried chicken) and pork gyoza.

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THE GOOD: The ramen. The pork was perfectly cooked, the homemade noodles were fantastic and the whole dish was packed with flavour. The fried chicken left us fighting over the last piece and the chicken katsu curry was, as ever, the ultimate comfort food. Their signature ‘Eat the Bits’ chilli oil has a lovely rich flavour (although I could handle a bit more chilli!)

THE BAD LESS GOOD: I wasn’t a fan of the gyoza, they were a little stodgy and cold whereas I prefer them served hot. The salt and pepper squid portion was small for £6 and could have been saltier.

Price wise, without the offer our meal would have come to just under £50 (with the offer it was around £29) – for me, if I was spending this on dinner I’d prefer to go to a restaurant. However if I was in town shopping I would love to stop here and grab a ramen bowl for lunch instead of the usual sandwich.

Tonkotsu are famous for their ramen and on this front they definitely delivered. Whether you are a diehard ramen fan or have never tried it, my advice would be to get down to Selfridges and let Tonkotsu show you how it’s done!

Tonkotsu is located in Selfridges, Birmingham WEBSITE
The ‘I Choose Birmingham’ 50% off food bill offer is running until 14 September for email subscribers WEBSITE

Kebabylon at 1000 Trades

Confession: I am a massive fan of kebabs in any form. Yes, even the greasy, 3am, back-of-a-taxi variety! So when 1000 Trades announced their two week Kebabylon takeover I was (understandably) delighted.

It didn’t take much persuading for my boyfriend to join me on Tuesday evening. Living in the Jewellery Quarter, 1000 Trades is fast becoming a favourite after work hangout with its chilled vibe, quality drink selection & a soundtrack that’s always on point!

The (boxed!) wine there is always fab but as I was about to bite my hand off in hunger I can’t remember which ones I tried. He drank the Titanic Stout & the Wild Beer Co Millionaire Stout. Both got good reviews but the Millionaire Stout was the stand out favourite, with rich decadent flavours of chocolate and salted caramel.

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Kebab-wise, we went for the ‘Med in Brum’ (chicken, sun-dried tomato, olives, feta, guacamole etc) and the ‘El-Chapo’ (chicken, chipotle en adobo, scotch bonnet pink slaw, jalapenos). Containing all my favourite flavours, the ‘Med in Brum’ couldn’t fail to deliver and I think I managed to finish it in around 2 minutes flat! I also loved the smoky, tangy chipotle en adobo sauce on the ‘El-Chapo’. I thought the heat was perfect but my boyfriend is a chilli addict and would have preferred hotter – so let them know at the hatch when you order!

Unlike those 3am kebabs, the fresh, natural ingredients wrapped in light Lebanese flatbreads mean no morning after regrets as you are left satisfied without it being too heavy on your stomach. What more could you ask for?!

Side dishes are often an afterthought and as such, massively disappointing. Not so here. The sweet potato fries were honestly some of the best I’ve tried – perfectly seasoned and beautifully crisp – and topped with the scotch bonnet pink slaw (creamy & crunchy with a gorgeous heat at the end) they made an ideal side. I didn’t manage to try the grilled avocado halves but have heard great things.

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I’m now officially a massive Kebabylon fan and will definitely be back for more! Get down to 1000 Trades while you can and let me know your thoughts.

The Kebabylon residency runs until 18 September at 1000 Trades, 16 Frederick Street, B1 3HE. WEBSITE