REVIEW: Laughing Cow Light Emmental

For me, nothing beats a Dairylea roll in the morning. I can go through a tube of Primula in a lunch break. I’ve even been known to lick the lid of a tub of Seriously Strong spread, like as if it was a yoghurt. Listen, I like a slab of artisan cheddar as much as the next ‘foodie’, but I just cannot resist a bit of spready cheese. And my favourite is Laughing Cow.

La Vache Qui Rit got me through some dark times when I lived in France: in my opinion nothing brings out the flavour of a chunk of fresh, crisp, baguette more than a wee cheese triangle. Picnic essential. Not even food snob James will argue with me on that one.

That said, you can imagine the unadulterated joy on my face when their PR company got in touch and asked if I’d like to stuff my face with sample their new ‘light’ Emmental flavour.

Laughing Cow Emmental
Piccies courtesy of ThreePipe PR

At first I was a wee bit sceptical. I like strong flavours, and to me Emmental doesn’t taste of much. In fact, I kind of thought Laughing Cow was Emmental flavour already. Still, I decided to settle down in front of Game of Thrones, pop some triangles on a plate, and have a wee nibble.

I was surprised by how good they were. Kind of sweet, kind of nutty, basically very Emmental-ly. Which is good if you like Emmental. However, the PR dudes also sent some blue cheese light triangles: now these totally stole the show. If they sell them in Spain, I’ll be sticking a box or two in my trolley next time we go shopping. They had a very distinct blue cheese flavour, but were mild enough that my very fussy mother actually liked them too. These could easily be a gateway cheese into the harder stuff like Stilton and Roquefort.

Simon the Dog Lamp getting in on the action
Simon the Dog Lamp getting in on the action

My pal Emma is already a convert, and she likes to chop them up and pop them on a salad. That’s when she’s not eating them straight out of the foil and cutting her tongue open, anyway.

Each triangle is 25 calories, which is pretty good. If you eat three triangles at a time like me, then it’s probably not.

Because Laughing Cow were so generous with their samples, I also gave my mum a box of each to take in to her work and share with The Girls. Her pals love their scran, so most of them are on diets all the time. Here’s what they thought of these lovely light cheeses:

Laughing Cow Light Emmental

All liked this and some said it was much tastier than the ordinary stuff. They started imagining that it would be nice on a croissant with smoked ham. Those with a discerning pallet thought it tasted subtle and a little nutty (just like the real stuff, apparently!)

Laughing Cow Light Blue

Good reaction to this as well. It was agreed that it was more like an essence of blue cheese but would be nice to spread on a roll or oatcake – like fondue without having to melt the cheese  They also said that they would try to melt this in to soup or mashed potato.

I wanted to try doing a wee recipe with them to show you guys, but sadly they arrived the day before I left Edinburgh. Although I did just find this awesome Pinterest board with loads of Laughing Cow recipes, so if you’re desperate to find something to do with your cheesy triangles (other than eating them neat) have a gander. Blueberry chicken salad with cheesy herb dressing? Count me in!

Essential Edinburgh Eats

Well, I made it back to Edinburgh in one piece and what a whirlwind trip it was!

The first night home we had dinner reservations with most of our friends. I made myself sick by filling myself with curry and wine, and then proceeding to bounce around the place with excitement and joy. The next morning, I drank a can of Irn Bru and then I got my luscious mane of hair all chopped off: it made me happy, but what do you guys think of it?

Hottie or whattie?
Hottie or whattie?

The rest of the week was spent getting drunk and watching Game of Thrones with my folks, visiting my beautiful friend Sarah and her gorgeous wee lad Aston, grabbing lunches and vinos with a rather random selection of pals, and stuffing our faces in some awesome places.

My mum was excited to have me home, so insisted on cooking most nights. Thankfully I still managed to pop out and eat in a few places that I haven’t mentioned on here before. I decided to pull together my favourite places from this trip and make a wee list of awesome places to grab a wee bite, if you only have a few days to spend in my home town.

The Sicilian Pastry Shop

Despite living on Albert Street for six months, and living in Leith for even longer, I hadn’t been to the Sicilian Pastry Shop until this particular visit to Edinburgh. We wanted to thank my parents for letting us stay for the week, and my dad loves cake, so we popped in and picked up a box of treats. Everything was delicious, and everything cost around £1-£3. An absolute bargain when you think about the prices in places like Patisserie Valerie. I loved the croissant with strawberries and cream: so simple but so good. Everything was amazing though.

Sicilian Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

M1 Sandwich Shop and Deli

We had a lovely day wandering around the boutiques on Easter Road; my parents were both baffled when I pointed out the ‘Dugs n Pubs’ stickers on the doors, and told them that it means they can bring their gremlin Ziggy in. My mum even shouted at my dad in Cornelius, and the poor guy behind the till had to say “no, dogs are welcome here!” anyway, I’m getting off track.

PicMonkey Collage

Aidan (James’s wee bro) told us that M1 make a lovely espresso for 80p, so we ended up popping in every morning for a wee shot of coffee. Lovely and rich, it reminded me of the espresso I’d been drinking in France for the past 8 months. They also have some fresh made jam, cakes, and sandwiches: although we always used to pick up a lovely sourdough loaf for dinner. My dad still pops in there every day. If you want a cheap, tasty coffee: in you go.

Cafe Renroc

I used to walk past this place all the time on my way to James’s house, but I haven’t actually been in until this year when my parents moved into town and started frequenting Renroc all the time. They’re on first name basis with the staff: although I think that’s down to the staff’s friendliness, more than anything else. My folks took us out for a nice Sunday breakfast.

renroc2

It was delicious. I had a ‘full monty’ (full english, basically, ’cause I’m a fat pie) while everyone else went for something a bit lighter. What can I say? I love me some baked beans! As well as having tasty food and friendly staff, the place is also beautifully decorated with a nice big downstairs. There’s a really lovely atmosphere, and I’d love to come back one night for dinner and drinks. I know that in the summer they put on entertainment, so y’all should make this your new after work hang out spot!

Café Renroc on Urbanspoon

Amigos

This wee takeaway is perfect for a late night snack. I got a vegetable wrap (potato wedges, chilli sauce, garlic mayo, awesome) and chips.

Jemma Chips

 Unfortunately my mum didn’t think it was awesome, although I think James’s dad got jealous when he saw just how many chips I got to stuff into my fat face! It was super cheap too, and probably one of the best takeaways on the East End of town. Give it a bash next time you’re staggering home.

Amigos Edinburgh on Urbanspoon

Sushiya

There’s some debate over which sushi restaurant in Edinburgh is the best, but for me it’s always going to be sushiya. Nothing beats their rainbow roll. It’s the first place I ever tried proper sushi, back when I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to nibble it or chuck the whole thing in my gob in one go. I’ve had amazing dates there, I’ve dined there after kicking ass at laser quest: it’s one of my favourite wee places to pick up a bite in the ‘burgh. We popped in for lunch and the food was just as great as it usually is, although I didn’t take any photofaffs.

Sushiya on Urbanspoon

Where should I visit next time I’m in Edinburgh? Let me know what I’m missing out on!

Stoke(d) on Trent

Over New Year, Sam and Shara mentioned that they had booked tickets to see Derren Brown in Edinburgh. I swear I saw James turn green with envy (or maybe it was the escargot). Because I’m a great girlfriend, I decided to check and see if Derren was doing any shows in April, when we’d be in the UK. As luck would have it, he was doing a show in Stoke on Trent the night before we were due back in Edinburgh.

It only made sense to break up the drive with a little pit stop…

Stokelington

The Hotel

We booked our hotel, the Quality Hotel Stoke (I’d have named it The Master Stoke), and put a note in the booking that we’d like a room with wifi, because we had to get a few hours of work in. All this travel doesn’t pay for itself, you know.

They gave us a room in the furthest corner of the hotel. The only place we could get wifi was sitting in the bathroom, and that was if we had a satellite plugged in.

James went down to the hotel swimming pool and I decided to have a bath. I got excited because the tub was a jacuzzi, but then I was immediately disappointed because the bubbles didn’t work, and my bath was boring. Then I found out there were no towels in the room. I thought maybe James had taken them to the swimming pool, but when he came back looking grumpy. He had to use his t-shirt to dry himself. Not impressed so far, Quality Stoke!

The Restaurant

At least the hotel was near the theatre. We decided that we wanted anything but Indian food, as we already had reservations at Kismot for the following night. But then the nearest restaurant to the theatre happened to be a curry place, so we wandered in anyway. It ended up being one of the best curries we’ve ever had, and the very young, very stressed waiter managed to provide some pre-theatre entertainment too.

“Can we have a bottle of the house white?” I asked.

“NO!” he said, looking quite perplexed. “We have no bottles.”

We kind of looked at each other and then I said “Okay. Two glasses then?”

“Of house white wine?”

“Yes.”

He wandered off and came back with some nice and fruity white wine: stunning. I was upset because a bottle of it would have gone down a treat. Then I ordered a lamb saag, and James ordered tandoori chicken.

“Would you like the chicken on the bone?”

“Yes please.”

“BUT SIR! You can’t have the chicken on the bone! It takes forty minutes to cook, and you might miss your show at the theatre!”

“Um. Okay, I’ll just have it not on the bone, then.”

“Okay!”

So he waddles off, we relax a bit: the boy knows we’re going to the theatre, so we don’t have to panic about our food being late. About ten minutes later, he appears from the kitchen.

“Madam… I’m sorry, you ordered the ghosht saagawalla?”

“Yes.”

“But… madam. That’s lamb.”

“I know.”

“Like, a little baby sheep. You know. Lamb.”

“…uh huh?”

“But madam,” he sighed, “we don’t have any lamb.”

“……”

“…..”

“Okay. Can I have chicken saagawalla?”

“Yes.”

Anyway, the food arrived, and it was absolutely amazing. Even although it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, it was divine. The spices were well judged, the flavours were terrific, everything was cooked perfectly. I would go back in a heartbeat. In fact, after the show, I wanted to pop in and have seconds!

The Show! 

Derren Brown was also amazing. He told us not to blog about it though, so all I’m going to say is that if you have a chance to see him live, you probably should.

The Verdict?

We didn’t see much of Stoke on Trent, but the little area around our hotel and the theatre was pretty nice. I enjoyed the restaurant, I enjoyed having a bit of banter with the friendly bar staff in the theatre, and even our room was okay when you got over the fact that there were no towels. All in all, it made a nice little pitstop on our way back north.

Portsmouth in the Winter. Er, I mean, Spring?

My English friends and colleagues are constantly banging on about how much better the weather is in the South of England compared to drab, dreary, Scotland. It’s probably because of this that my hopes were pretty high when we arrived in Portsmouth during the first week of April.

Portsmouth

If you remember my last post, we arrived at 11pm at night. This was pretty sad because, for once, we actually had booked into a gorgeous boutique hotel. Not the kind with plastic sheets, either. The kind with egyptian cotton sheets, and actual toiletries in the bathroom! I took a few pictures but they didn’t turn out well, so if you want to see just how posh we’ve become you can look at their website.

After nipping out and getting a kebab (which we had to eat carefully on the floor because we didn’t want to dirty up the bed or carpet), we pretty much went to sleep. It was about 1am or so at this point, so we didn’t have much of an option.

In the morning we wandered in to get our continental breakfast, which was lovely. It was especially lovely because it was included in the price. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re a couple of cheapskates. Posh boutique hotels aren’t our usual forte, but this one was very reasonably priced. I’d highly recommend it to anybody visiting Portsmouth; although I’m not sure why anyone would visit Portsmouth. (I’m just joking, I’m sure it’s lovely when it’s sunny and I can’t wait to go back!)

So after hearing all about the Great British Summer and how superior English weather is to its Scottish counterpart, I was ready for a bit of sunshine exploring on the beach. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold and snowing.

Still, it would be a shame to miss out. We donned our winter jackets and set out along the front to take some photos. It was pretty quiet that day. The pier seemed to be closed, which was a shame, and although we made it as far as the duck pond, nobody was out on the swan boats. It was quite sad. We walked back to the car.

I say we. I mean I walked back to the car, as my cardboard cut out boyfriend was starting to get soggy in the snow.

More 065 More 066

So that was Portsmouth! Next stop, the glamorous Northern City of Stoke on Trent!

Back Across the Channel

We woke up in Tours with only five hours to reach the ferry terminal in Le Havre. I was pretty glad that James had booked us into a hotel on the Northern outskirts of the city. Tours is one of the biggest places I’ve ever driven through, and I wouldn’t have fancied trying to do it during rush hour. This was probably the most stressful part of the journey, because we couldn’t be late or we’d miss our ferry. This resulted in quite a few arguments.

LeHavre

Argument #1: Stopping for a Coffee when we filled up on Diesel. I wanted to keep moving, James wanted an espresso. Cue him enjoying a leisurely coffee while I downed mine and started panicking.

Argument #2: DO WE GO RIGHT OR LEFT AT THESE TRAFFIC LIGHTS?! After the coffee, there was a set of traffic lights. “James, do we go left or right here?” I asked, quickly because obviously the light would be turning green soon. James sighed and drawled “well, you can go left. Or you can go right. Or you can go straight over.”

“OK, but which is the quickest? Left?”

“Hmmm… left does have its good points, but you could also go right, maybe.”

“JAMES!”

“WHAT?! I TOLD YOU YOU CAN GO LEFT OR RIGHT OR STRAIGHT OVER, JUST BLOODY PICK ONE!”

Argument #3: We should just queue up now. The ferry leaves in 2 hours! OK, I admit it. I’m one of those radges that stands at the departure gate even when there’s no plane to board. I just like to make sure I’m not going to get left behind, is all. We arrived at Le Havre a wee bit early, and I wanted to join the queue. James wanted to go and get some food. We bickered but then I gave in, and we parked up.

Argument #4: Storming out of a restaurant Well, it was a sit down restaurant and I didn’t think we’d have time to relax and enjoy a leisurely French lunch AND go to the supermarket for nibbles and wine AND get to the ferry before it launched. We had menus, but it was taking a while for the waiter to take our order. James was pretty embarrassed when I said to him “let’s go”.  He moaned at me a bit for being embarrassing and indecisive, but then we had a delicious baguette with salmon and cream cheese so it was all good. 

Those are just the ones I can remember. I’m sure we bickered a bit more than that, too. 

When we were boarding the ferry we noticed a sign saying that they had a few cabins left for £12 a pop. We contemplated it then decided it would be silly, since we were landing at 10pm and had a nice hotel to go to. Sitting in the lounge would be fine.

I’d like to say just now, dear readers, if you ever find yourself in that situation please do not hesitate to book a cabin. Ferries are hell on Earth.

We sat down. I got myself comfy and started reading my…iPhone. My Kindle killed itself a few months before (sob!) but luckily for me I’m not a pirate, so I was still able to enjoy reading my book via the Kindle app. Amazon were amazing: when I told them what happened, they sent me a new Kindle even although it was out of warranty. Happy girl.

Anyway, James went off to explore and came back all excited, telling me there was an emptier lounge we could sit in with less people around. I was like, yay! Turns out it was quiet for a reason. It was right beside the kids play area. After ten minutes of listening to English children gabbing to each other I was about ready to jump overboard.

I restrained myself, and then we arrived in England: the country where queuing is king.Take a ferry to France or Ireland, it’s a case of flashing your passport and driving off into the sunset. Not in England, oh no. You have to wait for 30 minutes after the ferry has landed before getting off the boat, then you have to queue for about 40 minutes before you even get near a border guard. Seriously.

“Welcome to England, we’re known for our queuing! Yes it is 10pm but I’m sure you’re all looking forward to a nice bit of queuing up!”

We eventually got to our hotel at about 11pm: by which point most of the local takeaways had shut. So we had to make do with a kebab and chips, which we ate on the floor of our beautiful boutique hotel room.

5 Reasons Why Road Trips Basically Suck

Hello everybody!

I thought I’d better get this blog up to speed on my travelling adventures, so I’m snatching a bit of time between work to write about our trip from the South of France up to the North of France. The thing is, I can’t really remember that much of the journey. Not because it happened, like, two months ago, but because road trips basically suck.

PicMonkey Collage

Here’s why.

Reason #1

Although you get to drive through beautiful little towns, you’re too stressed and knackered to appreciate them. Our sat-nav took us cross country when we reached Bordeaux. As our car meandered along single track farm roads, with acres of vineyards sprawling everywhere we looked, the only thing passing through my mind was “FFS WE’RE NOT GOING TO GET TO THE HOTEL UNTIL 10PM NOW AARGHH!”

Reason #2

You end up having to go to McDonalds. Blame the free wi-fi, reasonably clean toilets, and the fact that they actually serve food outwith the hours of 12 and 2pm, or 7:30pm and 8:30pm. 

Reason #3 

If you’re a fool and don’t have a pair of sunglasses specifically for the car, you end up frowning your way across an entire country. Leaving you with a great big wrinkle between your eyebrows and a blistering headache that no amount of mineral water, ibuprofen, and quietly sobbing in the dark can get rid of.

Reason #4 

For every pretty church, quaint river, and beautiful town square you drive through, you’ll end up driving through 50 miles of boring countryside.

Reason #5

You end up arguing all the time. James and I rarely argue when we’re stationary, we’re both pretty easy going and hate confrontation. When we get in the car, ’tis a whole ‘nother story. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME TO COME OFF AT THAT EXIT?!” “DIDN’T YOU SEE THAT POTHOLE?!” “CAN WE LISTEN TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN BLOODY FALL OUT BOY?!”

Poivre Rouge

To be honest, I might have a better perception of road trips if James and I weren’t such a couple of cheapskates. We avoided the toll roads, which meant that the trip from Caussade-Riviere in the South of France to Tours in the … kind of middle of France… took us around 10 hours.

It should have only taken 8, but there was the Bordeaux fiasco and we also managed to get a wee bit lost driving around Poitiers. It involved myself (and a couple of French people, I’d like to point out) accidentally driving through a fence onto a road that wasn’t quite finished yet. We also ended up driving in a circle round the main square of St Maure du Tauraine (really pretty place, you should go!) for about 10 minutes because the road works confused the sat nav. And the navigator. *cough* me *cough*.

By the time we reached our hotel, the rather inspiringly named QUICK PALACE, we were pretty famished. Thankfully there were a few places nearby to grab a bite at the ludicrously late hour of 8:45pm, and we managed to straggle into a Poivre Rouge.

This was the first time in over six months that James and I were both able to enjoy wine with our dinner. We obviously pushed the boat out and ordered the “vin de maison rouge.” 

To manger, James had a rosti burger: the genius idea of using two potato rosti instead of buns to hold your burger in place. The waitress asked if he wanted frites too and the greedy bugger said yes. I ordered salmon in filo pastry, avec frites. It was basically posh fish and chips, but damn it was tasty!

We finished the meal with an affogato and stumbled back to our rather “boutique” hotel room. If boutique means gaudy decor, plastic sheets on the bed, and a sauna that was probably an actual brothel.

Next Time: Jemma and James drive to Tours, argue a lot, and then get on a bloody ferry! Stay tuned for more adventures in the world of awful road trips.