Monday, 20 December 2010

Best meal of 2010

My goodness, 2010’s best grub isn’t easy to
narrow down. It could be any one of the
many meals my boyfriend (amazing chef) has
made for me, or the April afternoon spent
with a favourite friend in NYC eating
Colombian tapas and drinking white sangria,
or a massive farewell feast at Chop Chop in
March. But what makes me really smile is
Mother’s Day. I spent one fleeting day with
my (surprised) mother, sis, nephew and bro-in-
law back home in South Carolina. My sis
and I ate greasy fried green tomato and
pimento cheese burgers, shared mama’s
peach cobbler, and washed it all down with
the champagne of the South: sweet iced tea.
Held onto each second, loved every bite.
There is no taste like home.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

REVIEW: Earthy Foods and Goods, yum cafe



Discovering a hidden gem always feels victorious, however, the downfall is realising you should have known all along. Earthy Foods and Goods, for example, has been at my fingertips for some time, and I feel like the most foolish foodie in town for its very late appearance on my radar. I am certainly making up for lost time.

Earthy, situated on Ratcliffe Terrace in Newington, began as a market/ treasure trove of all things organic, local and ethically sourced; it has evolved into not only a place to shop for beautifully dusty vegetables seemingly just pulled from the earth itself, but also a place to relax over delicious lattes and lunches at its yum café.

Yum’s blackboard menu changes daily but is consistently impressive. Uniquely, the chefs can walk around the shop plucking ingredients, creating the menu as they go. Inside the café, customers sit at community tables sifting through cookbooks, newspapers and copies of Bite magazine (plug!), or they can wander while they wait.



Menu items available on a recent visit included lamb and mint burgers with ‘Earthy sauce’ (£6.95), spicy harissa chicken (£4.25), quiches, paninis and soup. Salad plates (£6.95) are tempting with various choices as fresh as they are diverse.

My favourites lately: an Aiket cheese, sausage and just- foraged-for greens-filled baguette and, second, a Cromail cheese toastie on walnut bread with chilli jam, both resounding testimonies to food that's fresh from the ground or the cow, and supplied by passionate, local makers. The leaves were so good I had to ask what they were. The answer? Simply spinach, like I’d never had it before.



Goodies that can be purchased from the shop include everything from organic baby food to East Lothian ricotta, Black Isle Brewery beers to Chocolate Tree bars, and organic washing powder to rapeseed oils. An array of potato and mushroom varieties will leave you indecisive, as will the many flavours of ice cream.

Earthy also hosts cookbook swaps, baking and jam competitions, craft fairs and special dinners hosted by one of their many local suppliers. Event updates as well as their ever-growing supplier list can be found on www.earthy.co.uk. See you soon, Earthlings. (K. Smith)



EARTHY FOODS & GOODS LIMITED
– Earthy Food Market
– 33-41 Ratcliffe Terrace
Edinburgh, EH9 1SX
– 0131 667 2967

OPENING HOURS
– Open everyday 'til 6pm








The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes invades Scotland: Marching orders in Edinburgh


While the rest of Charleston was left to simmer in its hotter-than-a-pepper-sprout August temps, the lads and lassies of The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes were busy trading their bikinis for brollies as they set off to perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland's mighty cool capital city.

Every year, Edinburgh hosts a month-long festival which celebrates every form of art imaginable, with something for everyone at any time of day or night, from Beethoven for Breakfast at 8 a.m. to Late and Live Comedy from 1-5 a.m. It's like Spoleto on speed, on a grander scale and with marginally more Spaniards in attendance.

Entertainers take to the streets on giant, flaming unicycles. Tourists dine in the sky on gourmet food cooked and served atop a 100 foot-tall crane overlooking the city and its many hills. And the most glamorous burlesque acts take over the nightclubs shaking more than their tail feathers. But the highlight of some of the most alluring events in the world is the Tattoo, a nightly celebration where each year, about 217,000 people come from over the hill and yonder to see the spectacle of military bands from all over the globe perform in the stunning grounds of the Edinburgh Castle.

This year, in its Diamond anniversary, the Tattoo welcomed Charleston's very own as the United States' sole representative. How's that for high expectations?

"It's a lot to live up to, let's put it that way," beamed Danielle Vincent, a junior education major and bagpiper extraordinaire. "But it's been a great challenge and a wonderful opportunity. I think we've represented America pretty well."

Junior Nathan Figlewski, a trombone player, agreed. "You walk around town and people can tell where you're from because of the accent and they always ask why you're here. It's been very cool to represent the United States in that way — walking over that drawbridge and being able to play for thousands of people every single night."

The Citadel's 100 cadet musicians were among 1,000 military and civilian performers in the international extravaganza, which also included the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas, New Zealand highland dancers, and the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Contingent. Mingling with other cultures was something that proved to be quite the highlight for the traveling musicians. Their music became their language.

"There was a time before rehearsals when we were behind the drawbridge with the Jordanians, and they couldn't speak a word of English, but through music they would be like, 'Play that again,' or, 'See if you can do this, see if you can do that,'" Christine Knight, an alto sax senior from Orlando, explained. "It showed me the magic of music ... that we can communicate through music. That was an amazing experience.

"Their music is not what you expect," she added. "It's not as structured, like classical music for example, but fluid and fun, and very cool to hear another culture's style of music. It opens my ears towards different kinds of music and broadens my horizons."

Spending free time away from the castle grounds, they had lunch with one "very witty" Princess Anne. But when they weren't shaking hands with royalty or coaxing crowds to sing-a-long to "Hey Baby," these cadets got a few breaks to marvel at the local flavor. They traipsed up many hills to admire the historic scenery. Some sampled a Scottish lager called Tennent's while checking out the folk music offerings in local pubs. And junior trumpet player Will Moore could be seen rubbing elbows with Star Wars theme-playing bagpipers.

"I think the best thing about the music scene here is that you see so many people playing different styles of music on the streets," Knight added. "You have a few in Charleston, but here there's different drummers, bagpipes, people on the guitar, singing, choirs — so many people who are really, really gifted and know how to use it."

And just as they saw the beauty of the streets and caught on to the benefits of walking everywhere (you get to see stuff AND burn calories acquired from greasy chip consumption), the festivities' end drew near. Whether that's a good thing is up in the air.

Danielle Vincent says the bagpipes made her feel right at home and that she regretted having to leave. But as for Christine Knight, "This may be my ancestry, but I prefer warmer weather," she said.

Auld Lang Syne, my friends. You done good.

Freelance writer and fashionista Kelly Rae Smith is a Carolina lady living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She enjoys foggy weather, long walks, and cheeky pints of ale. She loves the Beach Boys and Britney Spears equally.

For more on The Citadel Regimental Band and Pipes or the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, visit citadel.edu/band and edintattoo.co.uk.

Cafe Renroc rocks


Same name, same corner, different owners. But, same unbeatably brilliant atmosphere.

Ownership changed hands recently with Billy and Jane (also of Earl of Marchmont and The White Horse) keeping their claim downstairs at Nevo Health but giving over the keys of Renroc to Debbie Taylor. Friends old and new are in attendance tonight to see what's new at this friendly little neighborhood favourite.

Quite the wee house warming. As upstairs is buzzing, candle-lit tables lead the way through the den below with a live DJ and samples of cheese, olives, sun-blushed tomatoes and a mixed green salad with salami and marinated tomatoes. We help ourselves. Smiling waitstaff bustle about offering glasses of wine and bowls of beef stew that hit the spot on the first truly chilly evening of the season.

Debbie's a self-professed wine afficionado who is understandably chuffed at her rejuvenated wine list as well as the addition of the Belgian-style Blue Moon, the hottest US import beer of the moment. She also has a Scotland-based beer expert from Coors on-hand tonight to indulge anyone interested in all that's new with the brews.

Perfect place to spend a Friday eve away from annoying crowds and pretentious bars, hidden away in a perfectly warm and cozy corner. We at Bite Magazine whole-heartedly approve. (Kelly Rae Smith)

91 Montgomery Street
Edinburgh, EH7 5HZ
Phone: 0131 556 0432
Website: www.renroc.co.uk

What's in season? GINGER


Part of the joy of Autumn is cooking up a hot mess of comforting foods, often letting the smell of spices drift through the house to sweetly announce the season’s arrival. Cinnamon and nutmeg come to mind but what I’ve been obsessed with lately is ginger. And though it can be at its tastiest when used to bake up a fragrant treat there are so many ways to love this deliciously versatile root.

– Have you tried Crabbie’s? Not only is it an alcoholic ginger beer that is beyond lovely and quite easy to become addicted to, it is also made in Scotland.

– If that’s not boozy enough for you, try King’s Ginger liqueur. Fit for a king (Edward VII to be exact) it is ‘most royal’ when served inside a glass of champagne or on ice with tonic and lime. Check the website for a decadent cheesecake recipe.

– If King’s isn’t to hand but you love your spirits, find yourself a good ginger beer like Fentiman’s and add Sailor Jerry’s rum for a Ginger Jerry. Better yet, go to Roseleaf Cafe or the Guilty Lily in Edinburgh for some of their homemade ginger beer. – And of course, have it in your biscuits (Dean’s make a mean one with oats) or whip your own creation and celebrate the smell of Autumn baking with the following recipe. (K. Smith)

STEM GINGER AND PEAR MUFFINS

Makes 9 muffins

Ingredients

75g butter
75g light muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored, cut
into chunks
2.5cm piece stem ginger, finely chopped
finely
grated zest from one lemon
4 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
175g natural yogurt
175ml self-raising flour
1-2 tbsp ground ginger

Method

1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Lightly oil nine deep muffin tins.

2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl, then beat until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, then stir in the pears, stem ginger and lemon zest.

3. Mix the milk into the yogurt. Mix the flour with the ginger. Stir a little of the milk mixture into the butter mixture, then stir a little of the flour into the mixture. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, being careful not to over-mix.

4. Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, filling to the top. Bake for 40 min until golden. Serve warm.

(K Smith)

Bite Magazine November 2010 issue

Sunday, 22 August 2010

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Amicus Apple


REVIEW
AMICUS APPLE

Before turning up one late Saturday afternoon at Amicus Apple, one could see me doing the festival dance of rushing to the wrong venues, getting the run-around at press offices and, in some cases, seeing some tired acts try too hard. And then, a bird pooped ALL over my arm.

Drinks!


Mere minutes after cleaning myself up (thanks to the napkins provided by nice folks dining outside the National Galleries), I was safely inside relaying the whole poorific ordeal and sipping the kind of cocktail that's dangerously delicious.

The Hollaback Girl (4.95) is a well-shaken mix of 42 Below Kiwi vodka, apple juice, raspberries and Chambord. My fellow diner liked the black raspberry vodka, pomegranate, raspberry and cranberry combination in the Pink Angel (6.50).

There's a set menu on-hand in addition to the al a carte and we each chose from one. My friend had the set menu pairing of a stuffed portobello with lemon and coriander cous cous starter and a main of penne tossed in pesto with roasted vegetables. She was one happy vegetarian; yes, they need love too.

From the a la carte, I go for the battered prawns to start; the coating had the perfect crunch, it's served with a forkfuls of rocket and a sweet chili dipping sauce, although I'd anticipated a mango tequila sauce. For mains, I had an Amicus burger and skinny fries. The pattie was obviously handmade with onions and herbs, and combined with cheddar, fried egg and homemade relish it was all a brilliant mess, the sign of a successful burger.

Puddings did more than tempt and by the time the gooey chocolate cake and raspberry cheesecake were gone, I’d forgotten all about all the crap I’d caught earlier. (K.Smith)

RESTAURANT AND BAR REVIEW: The Underdogs + Amore Dogs


BAR REVIEW
THE UNDERDOGS + AMORE DOGS
Doggone good

The Dogs empire of Edinburgh has become synonymous with rustic simplicity, with the food sourced locally and executed imaginatively at a price that is all too kind. But lest we forget that while The Dogs, Seadogs, and Amore Dogs get all the love, The Underdogs is nestled beneath the kingdom, quietly collecting a quirk all its own.

As my companion and I discover tonight, integrating experiences at Amore Dogs with Underdogs is a move that’s seamless and all too necessary. We descend into the latter to discover a space comparable to a grandparent’s living room. Plush, faded sofas and torn leather chairs create a lived-in warmth and it’s hard to decide where to plant ourselves for a pre-dinner bevvy. When the sweet sounds of the Fleet Foxes is heard overhead, we sigh gratefully and sink into the nearest cushions, which cover an old church pew.

Perfectly-chilled Prosecco spumante goes down a treat (£3.65/glass) while we ponder over the menu of nibbles. While we hungrily spy the beef and pork ragu pie and the assorted crostinis, we must dine upstairs as anticipated, and return here for a nightcap in another cozy corner.

Up in Amore, we gush over our salads, mine with smoked mackerel, egg, anchovies, olives and capers(£4.95); hers a similar but simpler puttanescca salad with tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers(£3.65). My main is a deeply rich bowl of pesto risotto with the unmistakable bite of sun-dried tomatoes and creamy goat’s cheese (£9.95). I wish I’d done the small bowl of risotto with a large mackerel salad but hey, we live and learn. My companion’s pizza does not suck. At all. It’s made with a fresh tomato base, Gorgonzola and rocket (£7.25). I trade some risotto for two slices and no regrets.

Somehow we manage most of a block of white chocolate semi freddo with summer berries (£4.75). How one being could consume this on their own is a mystery. It’s a bit like devouring chocolate-flavoured butter but that doesn’t really stop us because it’s that doggone good.

We take our glutton with us back downstairs, leaving our shame behind as we sip on a Bailey’s and coffee and an Amaretto with the same (both for £10.10). The Underdogs is still darling and so agreeable, and on this August eve it’s a haven from all the festival fuss. Think this might be amore. (K. Smith)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Lovelace: A Rock Musical


Lovelace: A Rock Musical * * *
The Udderbelly’s Pasture
10-29 August
22.35

Porn plus musical plus late night antics = does it really get any better? Add a mulleted redneck/disco pimp with a 70s shirt that barely buttons up over his hairy chest and protruding beer belly, and you’ve got yourself some fine entertainment. Well not ‘fine’, but entertainment still.

This biographical musical depicts the life of Linda Boreman cum Lovelace, from pregnant teen to woman-against-pornography, via stellar vocals and hilarious lyrics. With the books, music and lyrics written by Charlotte Caffey of The Go Go's fame and Anna Waronker from LA band That Dog (her father is the man behind Dreamworks), the tale is conducted like a sung-through rock opera.

It divulges Lovelace's claims of having an unsupportive mother that robs her of a safe haven, an exploited career in porn that began and continued as rape at gunpoint, and her eventual escape and redemption in campaigning with Take Back the Night. Through all of the sexual, mental and physical abuse endured, this story maintains, she never saw a cent of the billions made by her main claim to fame, Deep Throat.

Amid the heaviness, there’s also plenty of t ‘n’ a for the naughty, lyrical laughs for those in need of comic relief after a long day of lackluster festival comedy, and one hour that will quickly pass you by without 'sucking' really at all.

www.edfestmag.com August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Barbara Morrison - Behind the Green Door * * * *

Barbara Morrison * * * *
The Outhouse
8-12, 16-21, 27-29 August
19.00 & 21.00

Don’t be fooled by the grays, this sister has still got it. Oooh wee, she does. With a voice that ‘don’t play’ and a saucy ol’ story to back up every song, Miss Morrison has her audience eating right out of her snappy little hands.

Hailing from Chicago via LA, Morrison sang for seven years with Ray Charles and her wealth of experience is on show for all to admire. She is joined tonight by the Tom Finlay Trio in the mood-appropriate Outhouse off Broughton Street. With spirits on ice and red wine filled to the rims, the tables are as full as the chairs in the warm and dimly lit loft.

The songstress begins with ‘the most recorded blues song in history’, wailing ‘Lawd have mercy on me’ to T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday (But Tuesday’s Just As Bad). The next two are courtesy of Percy Mayfield, followed by Don’t Touch Me, which she dedicates to ‘all of my ex husbands’. She’s especially flirty here, squinting those sparkling but mischievous eyes with a sinful grin.

Some Texas blues follows along with a song that Willie Nelson wrote but Mr Ray Charles sent straight to the charts: You Don’t Know Me. Her ode to legends continues with a dirty rendition of BB King’s Never Make a Move Too Soon. Morrison insists that if you see her on the street you should be friendly, and call her Sundown (cue the music), ‘I do my best work after dark’ before finally ending the night with the classic, and title of her show, Behind the Green Door.

There’s nothing not to love, and that’s why she draws a crowd of adorers each and every Fringe. See you next year, little lady.

www.edfestmag.com August 2010

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Like Little Girls in a Sweet Shop * * * *


Like Little Girls in a Sweet Shop * * * *
theSpaces on the Mile @ The Radisson
2.10pm
6-14 August (not 8)

These are true stories, told with real tears. Four girls act out verbatim conversations told by their own mothers in a delightful piece of theatre that turns out to be just as touching as the concept itself.

The multitude of events that can happen between four women in the 70s is extraordinary. As teens, there are crushes, boys, silly dates and smooching; but there are also moments quite unforgettable like being picked on by the Mean Girls because she is less fortunate or seeing grossly unjust abuse over dropping a slice of bread.

As adults, the intertwining of joy, heartbreak and devastation continues: being blissful when a marriage begins; honeymooning at the Isle of Wight; a child is born when it’s already dead; miscarriages are a fact of life; and a marriage ends when an affair is admitted one Christmas night.

It’s all told charmingly by these grateful daughters and one could scarcely think of a more beautiful way to honour their very different, but all very phenomenal, mothers.

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Cirque de Legume *


Cirque de Legume *
Gilded Balloon
12-30 August (except 18)
14.30

I should start by saying that the next time I opened my fridge after this show, I spotted an onion and carrot and shut the door quickly, somehow now scarred and afraid of these innocent vegetables.

Circus of the vegetable. Hmmm. Okay so there’s a couple of clowns. The scenes that flash before me, the ones I’ve tried to block out, involve a girl clown shoving carrot after carrot into boy clown’s mouth while he pretends to be the ‘horse of Spain’ and chucking chunks of orange bits onto the stage and into the audience; she also crazily beats the ‘horse’ with lettuce and leeks until they’re also torn and shred all over the place.

Another flash reveals an onion striptease, which he promises us to find ‘most a-peel-ing’. I love the pun but the rest, weird. Funny? In a slightly terrifying and confusing way, yes. In that sense, there is much laughter.

Now I’m sensing something else - oh yes - there is the bit where she is hypnotised by the radish I believe it is. ‘How ‘bout that?’, they ask. It’s all they say basically throughout the entire show, which is, I admit, pretty cute. Oh yes, the radish - she is made to believe she’s a mouse or a rodent of the sort from Poland, and then furiously eats the radish, leaving her face gooey, wet and red-tinted. A bit of the red of some peppers/pretend knives also regurgitate out of boy clown’s mouth, and onto the stage.

Basically two people spend an hour playing strange, bizarre games/roles with vegetables; the other people stare aghast at the scene while praying that they’ll be spared from flying chewed-up veggies.

I have managed to muster up one star because one person did actually get it, and yelled ‘Bravo’, so good for her. I also respect that I will have this story to tell for ages to come; I only hope the fear of carrots will subside sooner than later.

www.edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL REVIEW: The Roaring Boys Will Set You Free


The Roaring Boys Will Set You Free * * * *
The Underbelly
5-29 August (except 17 and 24)
5.40pm

Admittedly, when the Fringe Guide was released this year, I scoured the plethora of adverts and listings in hopes of finding the return of the guys that did Tim: Against All Odds during last year’s festival. That was a highlight of my August 2009, the kind of show that makes you love this time of year as it takes you by surprise in the late afternoon, and when you think you’re too jaded to sit through any more tired and unwitting acts, the next thing you know you’re giddy despite yourself and exiting the venue with the act's stickers, signs and sweets.

I almost gave up but then stumbled upon The Roaring Boys. Yes! There they are, my old pals! And it’s like deja vous- the same venue, on the same row, only this time with quite great expectations. And I can’t help myself, I still can’t get enough.

The theme of the act this year is funny enough as Danny and Jonny, with their expensive banners, aim to ‘set you free’and Stop the One Show. You know, the one on BBC One that features topics like ‘Hardeep Singh Kohli wears dresses’ or insert-celeb-name-here ‘tells the history of pate.’ These boys have had enough of time-wasting telly and are campaigning for its demise.

The mission takes many nonsensical, and therefore hilarious, detours: girlfriend stealer and tall man Robert (tall, very tall) tauntingly appears and reappears, an ode to French grandparents is sung at an awkward intermission and sis Clare/Jonny declares herself ‘a poorly conceived character’

And when the mission is on the right track (ish), there are truly bril songs (‘we are the roaring boys and you are the people who were paid to come and see our show’), the obligatory audience participation aids in constructing a bomb (Stop the One Show plan A) from a watch and a shoe (a gun is produced in the form of a Fringe guide), and the talk of transporting poo only to smear it on the BBC walls as plan B of operation Set You Free.

The sequence of varied, bizarre events is swift, the wit, sharp and the quantity of kooky, just right. As I still carry their catchy tunes in my head, I look forward to next year's laughs from this endearing duo.

www.edfestmag.com

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

EDINBURGH JAZZ FESTIVAL REVIEW: Brian Auger's Oblivion Express



Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express * * * *
Voodoo Rooms
2 August
8.30pm

Brian Auger, acid jazz god and master of the Hammond, brings a flood of sentiment from the sixties in a room full of long-time admirers to the Voodoo Rooms tonight with his Oblivion Express.

The ensemble is impressively comprised of the son of a Sample on bass, and Auger’s own son on percussion; his daughter is the blond born with the amazing chops.

Savannah Grace Auger’s sure-fire voice delivers jazzy, soulful belts that sends shivers. Beginning with a track entitled Truth, she is a chip off the old block as the tune brings life to the room in the form of bobbing heads, shaking hips and tapping toes.

Brian, or as Savannah calls him, ‘the craziest man in showbiz’, flaunts his incomparable skills on the organ in every instance, firing away at the keys with blinding speed. It’s easy to see how he has played alongside legends like Jimi Hendirx, Led Zeppelin and Eric Burdon (the latter also playing in Edinburgh this Jazz Festival - is a brief reunion in the works?). He even recalls to the audience recording with Donovan fiftyish years ago before performing the Oblivion Express version of Season of the Witch - a highlight.

I’d have preferred another hour of way-back-when storytelling but maybe that’s just me. It seems that all is well while the devotees depart, humming with the nostalgia that Auger’s Hammond has commanded.

Also published in August 2010 on edfestmag.com

Sunday, 20 June 2010

FILM REVIEW: Thunder Soul


Thunder Soul, Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010
Fri 18 June 20.20 Cineworld
Sat 19 June 15.45 Cineworld


The Kashmere Stage Band formed in a predominantly black high school in Kashmere, Texas in 1969 under the direction of Conrad O Johnson, known to the kids as 'Prof'. Just as African-Americans had emerged out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, they saw the 70s as their time to shine, to pay homage to the generation that made opportunities possible - like the opportunity to be in a first class band so extraordinary that, although composed of teens, wins best stage band in America two years in a row. This is their story, told 35 years later for the purpose of reforming as a tribute to a frail, 92-year-old Prof.

The reunion is heart-warming and full of emotion as every member travels from across the world back to the very same band room where they escaped to so long ago, away from the streets and away from trouble and into the hands of Prof - a man who taught the fatherless to be a men and became a patriarchal figure to the entire group. The resulting sound is a phenomenal mix of funk led jazz, every work created by Prof and recorded onto LPs that are best-selling collector's items today. The group's success took them to unimaginable places, first beating all white bands across America, and then accepting invites to be treated as bonafide artists across Europe and Japan, lighting up every stage they danced across.

The reunion is a spiritual time as they dust off untouched trombones and stroll misty-eyed down memory lane, and this documentary captures unfathomable events that will move every single viewer, fans of soul and funk or not. (Kelly Rae Smith)

Also published on edfestmag.com

FILM REVIEW: Thelma, Louise et Chantel



Thelma, Louise et Chantel, Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010
Mon 21 June 18.15 Cineworld
Tuesd 22 June 20.15 Cineworld


Like Thelma and Louise, Thelma, Louise et Chantel is a feminine adventure but with a middle-aged twist a la Mamma Mia!, all wrapped up in hilarious and raunchy French dialogue with a soundtrack that really kills it.

Three very different old friends come together for a road trip to the south of France in order that they might attend the wedding of Gabrielle's ex and father of her children. As any escapade will do, this one has its detours and so it unfolds that the other two companions have their own interests in this husband-to-be, along with each of their own insecurities, sadness and an urgent need for liberation.

Gabrielle is a vivacious, sexually charged and gorgeous woman who loves the attention of young and older fellas alike, until she discovers more than she wanted to know about the ex. Chantal is a wife and mother in the process of beating cancer, a battle that has robbed her of one breast and thus her confidence as a desirable woman. She can't let go of things like the death of her dog (she carries him everywhere with her in a cooler) and the memories of her dead sister that link her rather insignificantly it turns out, to Gabriella's ex - a revelation that worsens her feelings of being invisible first before eventually liberating her. And Nelly is an English teacher who is quite literally stripped down to her barest bones before she looks at her life honestly enough to make some changes.

Hilarity ensues throughout and though it can be argued that this is another passenger on the train of films about confidence-seeking older women, it will still make you want to high five them all when it's all said and done. It is hot, it is funny and it is, especially, honest. (Kelly Rae Smith)

Also published on edfestmaag.com

FILM REVIEW: Frontier Blues


Frontier Blues, Edinburgh International Film Festival
Cineworld
Mon 21 June 12.15 and Tue 22 June 13.55


The title Frontier Blues refers to the lonely landscape, the vast isolation of the Steppes that is the barren backdrop for the different lives of four Iranian men. Each story is ordinary but void of a human connection that they all so obviously need. Hassan connects with the audience first while showing us his box of license plates which he collects when he's not combing or cleaning or simply walking about with his other obsession, his pet donkey. Hassan wanders uselessly while claiming to be very busy, and carries a cassette player that plays Francois Hardy's Tous les Garcons et Les Filles, which is indeed so lovely that locals give him free rides in the back of a truck in exchange for hearing the beautiful ballad. He lives with his shop-owning uncle who receives so little satisfaction at his business that much of his time is spent gazing at his own monotonous ceiling fans. Hassan eventually goes to work with Alam, who works on a chicken farm while also learning English so that he can escape one day, he prays, by boat with the Persian woman for whom he has fallen. And finally there's the minstrel who still holds a torch for his wife even though she ran off with a guy in a green Mercedes Benz three decades before. He poses throughout the film with four young boys for a photojournalist wishing to make a series about Turkmen in their regular habitat, a move that shows off the incredible craftsmanship that has gone into shooting this film. It is a slow-going production because of its delicate message of despair that is told so tenderly but one that still favourably received for its thoughtfulness. It isn't harrowing, but may make you sad, and it isn't a happy film, but it may make you smile. Kelly Smith

Also published on edfestmag.com

Film review: Barry Munday



Barry Munday, Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010
Mon 21 June 21.35 Cineworld,Fountainbridge
Tue 22 June 21.45 Cineworld, Fountainbridge

It's such a pity when a pretty lovable and respected cast such as this chooses to take part in a film that was probably as good and definitely funnier when it was done the first time and called Knocked Up. Who knows who thunk it first but it's also a shame that whispers of 40-year Old Virgin sneak in there too and cause one to leave the cinema feeling as if perhaps it should have been titled Barry Mundane.

It's an enjoyable rip-off though, if you dig the actors, and I do. A believably obnoxious Barry Mundane played by Patrick Wilson likes to invite women out of his league for happy hour at Chilis. He also wears Hawaiian shirts, pretends to do insurance work and drifts through life as your average douche bag until two things happen. One, he has a forgettable but conceptional sexual encounter with the virginal and undesirably-attired Ginger, an irritating character made endearing by Judy Greer, just before he (Two) quite rightly has his testicles attacked by a trumpet and then surgically removed.

Typically, this one night stand turns into more than that and well, let's not pretend that you don't know the rest.

Some special people also include the adorable Chloe Sevigny who plays a Miss Perfect by day and pole dancer by night, and the always welcome face of Cybill Shepherd as Ginger's mother.

It's entertaining once the redundance is accepted but steer clear if you want what most of us want out of the EIFF, something that's wonderfully unconventional.

Written for edfestmag.com

Film review: The Kid



The Kid, Edinburgh International Film Festival
Wed 23 June 2010 20.35 Cineworld, Fountainbridge
Thur 24 June 2010 18.00 Cineworld, Fountainbridge
Director: Nick Moran


The Kid, based on a best-selling novel by Kevin Lewis, is Lewis' own horrific account of growing up in a council estate in 1970s London. As a child, Kevin is locked away, friendless save for his drawings on the walls, and beaten by his haggard, chain-smoking mother (Natascha McElhone) while his alcoholic father consistently escapes to the pub. After temporary relief at a foster home, an unthorough and gullible social worker mistakenly sends Kevin back home where, as a teenager, he is finally beaten unconscious and sent to a home that saves and forever affects him. A school teacher also becomes a hero at this point of the story by physically ensuring Kevin's retreat to his new haven and sends him off equipped with a set of headphones, cassette player and the classical music that beautifully soundtracks the entire film.

Kevin's new father shows him the foreign feeling of affection and supports him in every endeavor no matter how senseless or grand, until the father's unexpected death which causes his life to gruesomely unravel. Rupert Friend is the adult Kevin, with a performance that makes the hard realities to come so real, it's often unbearable to watch the harshness happen to a character with whom the audience undoubtedly loves and sympathises.

In the events that follow, including loss of his girlfriend and mortgage, and becoming a janitor by day, money-making punching bag by night, Kevin squirms in and out of danger and finally back to his derelict childhood home to attempt suicide. During this time, he also decides to document his life story in an effort to explain his emotional incapabilities to the woman he loves, his future wife, who would later transcribe his words and submit for publishing, resulting in the 2003 autobiography.

Stories, harrowing ones such as Precious, about troubled teens who find their way with the help of the teacher who went above and beyond have, of course, been told before but this film proves they should be told because they're true. It's an inspirational story with the cast and direction that convey it with brilliance.

Lewis has since followed up The Kid with the novel, The Kid Moves On.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

ALICE IN EDINBURGH: Everything you need for a mad little tea party!


Create your own tea scene



Just two hours before penning this, I actually purchased my third charity shop tea set of 2010. Before I even knew Alice was back on the scene, I'd already succumbed to the tea cup obsession. Between having beer in tea cups at the Roxy Art House bar and pot-tails at Roseleaf Cafe, I'd decided that having a wide selection of pretty tea pots, cups and saucers would result in many creative uses. The last survivor of my wine glasses got broken last weekend, but I need not fear! As I write, I'm enjoying a lovely tea cup of wine. Last night, I served up homemade mushroom soup with basil and Granada Padana and it was of course doubly amazing in a darling cup and saucer. So I encourage all to scope out your local charity shops and be imaginative with what you find. And if you end up with a cupboard of totally mismatched bits of china, then all the better. Happy digging!

Loopy Lorna's and Tea Cosies


If Alice were to arrive in Edinburgh today, I can think of no place more appropriate to welcome her than a place called Loopy Lorna's. Situated on Morningside Road, Loopy Lorna's caters to every sort of tea connoisseur. The staff girls are all friendly and clad in sweet pink and frilly pinnies that complement the general pink incorporated decor. The menu boasts ice cream sundaes, cream teas, afternoon teas, 'scrummy breakfasts', 'moreish mains' and 'luscious light bites'. The tea menu includes pots of hot stuff called things like Sparkling Darjeeling, Loopy Lapsang, Oh my Masala Chai and, served in a glass tea pot, Jasmine Dragon Pearls. My very favourite thing about Loopy Lorna's? The tea cosies! Not just nice knitted tea cosies, we're talking fuzzy cosies - beaked and tailed cosies. Yes, every tea pot presented is wrapped with adorable knitted animals; and since you are bound to love and want to keep them, they also sell various sizes for under £20. Amazing, I tell thee. Have a looksie at 370 Morningside Road.

Roseleaf Pot-tails

You've probably heard us bang on about these in the past so I just have one reminder: Rosewater 'O' Leith pot-tails! Yes, cocktail plus tea pot equals pot-tail. Imagine vodka with rose syrup, lemonade and red chili flakes served on ice, with straws, and poured from an old tea pot, into old mismatched tea cups. Let them make you, or mix for yourself, this stellar drink. Between the fun, creative flavours and the hot pink colour, we reckon Alice would down it faster than you can say 'I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date'! Roseleaf is located off the Shore in Leith at 23/24 Sandport Place.

Vintage aprons


Alice is perfect proof that a girl can don an apron over a dress anytime and she still looks fab and makes many friends! Armstrong's Vintage (Grassmarket, Teviot Place, Clerk Street) has oodles of gorgeous vintage aprons that are too pretty to stay in an old box or a messy kitchen. They really are charming little works of art that look amazing as a unique addition to a less exciting skirt or dress and with handy little pockets in them as well, it's a great place to stash sugar coated sweets ala Alice post Caucus-Race! Grab one at any of their three locales or find one on their online shop at www.armstrongsvintage.co.uk

Go on, go mad!

Also published in the March 2010 issue of Bite Magazine in Edinburgh, UK

Monday, 25 January 2010

FROM THE ARCHIVES::GIG REVIEW:: Dan Deacon, The Teenagers


T on the Fringe, August 2007
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh

It's rare that an opening act blows the headliner out of the water but this is certainly the case tonight in the final hours of T on the Fringe. Dan Deacon is the said opener who composes an imaginataive and marvelously maniacal set of electro-futuristic sounds while turning his hospitable audience into his very best mates. He begins with a chat that confirms his insanity before transforming the performance into an audience participation playground. After a crowd-assisted countdown, there's also a dance-off that the kids embrace whole-heartedly. Deacon is intriguingly fun and his approach to his cosmic creations has a contagious quality that can make ya feel really damn good.

What an impossible act to follow, particularly for The Teenagers. Profoundly dull and tragically talentless, it's hard to imagine how these detestable scenesters secured their names to appear in such large print. With juvenile lyrics that are self-indulged and nauseating like "I fucked my American cunt", there's really no reason any thinking person should ever consider The Teenagers to be as cool as The Teenagers esteem themselves to be. If an hour spent on this band is to ever be remotely forgiveable, perhaps they should steer clear of sharing bills with bona fide artists such as Deacon.

Also published on edfestmag.com in August 2007

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

TAKEAWAY REVIEW: Spicebox



SPICEBOX
The tastiest Thai around

EVER SINCE BITE INTRODUCED ME TO SPICEBOX TAKEAWAY OVER A YEAR AGO, I HAVE NOT, NOT EVEN ONCE, BOTHERED DINING OUT FOR THAI. HAVING FOOD DELIVERED TO YOU IS ALWAYS A TREAT BUT WHEN IT'S YOUR FAVOURITE KIND OF CUISINE AND IT'S BETTER THAN ANY RESTAURANT AROUND, WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE THE FLAT?

So since I am partial to a few favourites on the menu, I request, for unbiased review purposes, to have a bag of surprises delivered to my door. The first of the mystery boxes held starters of gai hor bai teoy (£4.65), tod mun pla (fish cakes, £4.25), por pia jae (spring rolls, £4.05) and por pia gai (also spring rolls £4.25). The gai hor bai teoy is favoured especially - Thai whisky, sesame oil and spice-marinated chicken is already perfectly juicy and flavourful before wrapped in Pandanus tree leaves. The sesame honey dip is a perfect complement and the presentation of the dish alone is worth it.

The tasty fish cakes are packed well with cod, salmon and haddock that are fresh from Eddie's Seafood Market. Our spring rolls are filled with first veg, bean sprouts and glass noodles and wrapped in pastry with a sweet basil leaf, and the latter is made with the traditional fillings of delicious chicken and herbs. Starters are often my favourite part of a meal and this is no exception.

Probably the sweetest surprise is the 'salad' we receive - the yum nua yang beef (£6.45). It's a rather ample and hot dish resembling the likes of a curry more so than a salad. Strips of beef are cooked on a flame grill and entwined with a leaf salad with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, shallots and an outstanding Thai salad dressing. This dish is a hot one and layered with flavours, each bite unravelling a different taste. Tremendous. Eat it as a main with a side of lovely jasmine rice.

The final fave is number 39: gaeng ped yang (£8.95). Said to be a central Thailand fave, it's made with red curry paste, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, grapes (yes, grapes!!), chili and sweet basil. The many complexities of this dish is what makes it a must, and yes, the sweetness of the grapes with the cherry tomatoes help to nail it.

Orders usually take an hour as they're made from scratch but I'd have waited longer to consume the best Thai in town in my own living room. (KELLY RAE SMITH)

Spicebox
201 Pleasance
Edinburgh
EH8 9RU
0131 662 4411
www.spicebox.sy2.com

OPENING HOURS
Tue-Thu,Sun 4:30pm-11:30pm; Fri-Sat 4pm-12am

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Pani Solinska, Broughton Street


REVIEW
PANI SOLINSKA
Warming for both heart and belly!

THE SNOW THAT BLANKETED THE CAPITAL A FEW WEEKS AGO BROUGHT WITH IT TRAVEL FRUSTRATIONS, A LOT OF SHIVERING AND A FEW FALLS, BUT I THINK WE CAN ALL RECALL IT WITH FONDNESS TOO. CERTAIN MOMENTS WILL LINGER FAVOURABLY IN OUR MINDS, LIKE THE PARTICULARLY FREEZING JANUARY NIGHT THAT I FOUND A HAVEN OF WARMTH (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE) INSIDE PANI SOLINSKA ON BROUGHTON STREET.

With enlarged black and white family photos (circa WWII, Poland) aligning the walls, the promise of comfort abounds. The owner, Dorothy, welcomes my friend and I and explains the tasting board we are about to share while we settle in with a Zubr (a tasty, citrusy beer), Redd's apple lager (both £3.50) and a basket of Polish bread. Soon we begin the feast complete with a Polish vodka tasting that will ensure that we stay nice and toasty for the remainder of the evening.

The range of vodkas (six altogether) fare wonderfully with the Polish meat board (£19.95 per person for the board plus vodkas). The classic Polish vodkas are all very distinctive and are as follows: Krupnik (sweet, smooth, cocoa), Żołądkowa (orange), Starka (whisky-flavoured), Śliwowica (plum, fiery), Wisniowka (cherry, great finish) and, from the freezer, Żubrówka (nutty, marzipan-like).

On the charcuterie board, we have Wiejska, a Polish village sausage that's smoked, garlicky and peppery with a nice, crisp skin; Kindziuk, salami-style cured sausage, rich with all-spice and brilliant flavour; Debowa, a more delicate-flavoured ham sausage; and long-aged, smoked Parma ham-style cuts of pork. All is served on an impressive, hand-made board with salted gherkins and mustard. We also try the smalec, a very traditional dish of pork fat fried with onions and served with bread - immense; a side of horseradish and beetroot salad that refreshes the palate sweetly; and finally the dish I have yearned for since my arrival, bigos. Hunter's bigos, a 1300 century recipe, is a stew-like, sour and savoury bowl of cabbage, Polish sausage, prunes, red wine, juniper, all-spice, sauerkraut and mushrooms. Nothing could have been more well-suited for below-zero climate than a warming bowl of bigos washed down with a series of exciting vodkas!

A couple of hours later and you can't kick us out of the place. Dorothy's passion shines through discussions of each flavour we've tasted (from the meats to the bigos to the vodkas), of the family-oriented decor and, essentially, of her precious Polish origins. We're not the only ones who feel so at home; because so many locals have endearing, ancient family tales from their Polish homeland, storytelling nights are arranged every so often. The next one is on the 23rd of February. (KELLY RAE SMITH)

PANI SOLINSKA
-73 Broughton Street
Edinburgh
-EH1 3RJ
-0131 557 6900
-www.panisolinska.com

ALSO IN THE FEBRUARY 2010 ISSUE OF BITE MAGAZINE