My 2016 Year in Review

I think that the general consensus is that 2016 will go down as one of the worst years in history. Between the vote for Brexit and the election of Trump, we're going into 2017 with a lot of uncertainty and, in many cases, fear.

But, that being said, I think it's also important for us to reflect upon all of the positive things that have happened this year. Whether it's personal accomplishments or random acts of kindness from strangers, I think we all need to remind ourselves that there still is some good left in this world. That's exactly why I'm going to take this post to reflect on a few things in my life from 2016 that have left me with a smile on my face as this year comes to a close.

Travel // This past year I've visited New York City, Vermont, Venice, Martha's Vineyard, Spain, and Dublin, with a few trips to London sprinkled in between. I've been so lucky to be able to see so much of the world and have so many memories (and photos!) to look back on. I'm hoping that 2017 will be a year filled with even more travel- starting with a trip to Marrakech in February!

Running my first half-marathon // While running in general tends to bring me loads of happiness, I have truly never been more happy than when I was running my half-marathon in October. From the bagpipers at every mile, to the incredible support from the crowds, to the sweet soreness of my legs when I finished, it was a truly a positive experience all around. I think I might just have to sign up for another in the near future!

Redesigning My Blog // I am so happy/pleased/relieved to have had my blog redesigned by Serena! She did a perfect job listening to what I wanted and bringing it to life! I am absolutely terrible at design- I know what I want things to look like in my head, but always have trouble executing it. Redesigning my blog also motivated me to professionalize the blog a bit more, and helped me gain confidence in marketing myself.

Cooking and Hosting // This year I really challenged myself in my cooking, from trying out new recipes like homemade onion rings, to perfecting old favorites like chocolate swiss roll. I also took more time to host friends for dinners this year, and learned a lot from cooking for big groups of people. I'm hoping I'll have a lot more cooking-related blog posts coming up in 2017!

New Blog Opportunities // For me, the blog has never been (and will never be) about any sort of monetary perks I can gain from it. But I've been so lucky that I've been offered so many amazing opportunities this year that a.) Perfectly fit with my "brand" and b.) Make me excited to blog about something I truly love. From reviewing Badger and Co. to paying the Raj a visit, I've been able to add a few more places to my list of recommendations for friends visiting Edinburgh!

Thinking about my future // As I continue with my third year of uni, I've become more in tune with what I want in life and how I can make it happen. A lot has changed since I entered university, and I'm ready to try new things, go to new places, and seek out opportunities I never thought I would be interested in. I've become more confident in the skills that I have, and have focused on my ambition to drive me forward in whatever I choose to do. I know that at 20 years old, you're not supposed to have it all figured out, but this past year has helped me to figure things out a bit more.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings! And hopefully I'll be ringing it in with a glass of bubbly... (or two).


Borough Market, London: A Foodie's Heaven

For me, the holidays are all about one thing: food. Sure, the presents are quite nice, and the glittery decorations certainly put a spirited spring in my step every year, but the prospect of delicious, home-cooked food far outweighs any other aspect of the festive season. The best part is, it really is one of the only times of the year where families take the time to cook a meal (no matter how simple or elaborate) and sit down together over food. 

I feel like nowadays, we are far too disconnected from what makes up our plates. Even for a fairly experienced home cook like me, I feel that I don't look at where my food is coming from as often as I should (as a student, I just tend to go for the cheapest price!). But a visit to a food market always reminds me that I feel so much better about what I'm eating when I know who produced it, where it comes from, and how it got there. 

This past weekend when I was in London, I had a chance to visit a market which I had been dying to go to for ages. Borough Market, conveniently located just off of the London Bridge tube station, takes local, sustainable, and mindful food shopping to a new level, with dozens of stands featuring all sorts of food products that each tell their own story.   

Weave your way through the stands- which look extra festive this time of year- and forget about the boredom-inducing hours you've spent scanning the same shelves at Tesco for weeks on end. Here, you'll find an interactive food experience that is truly a feast for the eyes. 

As a true cheese lover, this was my heaven. Nibbling on cheese I had never even heard of before, I was rendered speechless by a few of the samples.

But what's most important about any food market is its commitment to transparency. At Borough Market, small farmers are favored over the big box companies. You can be certain your cheese is in good hands with people like this!   

The produce itself is a masterpiece in its own right. These fresh tomatoes were as pretty as a painting, and were just asking for their portrait. 

You can even do a round of Christmas shopping at the market, best suited for the passionate foodie in your life of course! While olive oil might not seem like the flashiest gifts, a bottle of the good stuff is sure to be greatly appreciated by all the home cooks on your list. Stop by the Olive Oil Company to pick up your bottle. Or, just endlessly swirl bits of bread in the tasty olive oil samples. 

The hardest part is choosing when to stop browsing and just commit to a stall. Or you could just have a nibble at each one! I’m convinced you can salvage the contents of an entire meal from the free samples that the vendors dish out. Some might be laying out for you to grab at your own discretion, while other vendors are keen to lure you in by handing you a sample as you pass by.

After making sure I had thoroughly examined the contents of each stall, I was still torn between a few favorite dishes. Should I grab a box of pad thai from the stand that seemed to have the longest queue? Or would I be persuaded by the warm smells of the nearby soul food? Always the more decisive one, Ben took the lead on deciding our fate: pie and mash from Pieminister.

While pie and mash might seem a tad boring when you’re surrounded by stands selling all manner of cuisines from around the world, the prospect of a truly British lunch won out. But hear me out- these pies are by no means ones to look over. With a range of around 10 to 15 different types of pie, you really are spoiled for choice! It was another tough decision on a day full of gastronomic dilemmas, but my passion for chorizo made the choice a bit easier.

The Matador pie, filled to the brim with steak, chorizo, butterbeans, and green olives, was the perfect fusion between traditional British fare and bright Mediterranean flavors. With game pies being one of his go-tos, Ben chose the Santa Deer, which boasted a hefty portion of venison and smoked bacon with a red wine sauce. Whichever pie you choose, though, the flaky crust is truly the star of the show. Whether you decide to cut into it with a fork and knife, or tackle it hands-on, you’re in for a real lunchtime treat.

I think it’s also important to mention the incredible value of the pies at Pieminister. With each pie on its own costing £4 and a side of mash going for £1, you’re able to have your fill for a mere fiver.  A drizzling of gravy will cost an extra 50p if you’re feeling really fancy, but it’s not totally necessary as the pies are plenty moist as is. 

To wash down these rich pies, we headed to a place we had spotted earlier, New Forest Cider for, you guessed it, a warm cup of mulled cider. Mulled wine has long been the star of many Christmas meals, but mulled cider is currently having a moment. Hop on the trendy train and let this mix of fruity cider, strong liquor, and aromatic spices warm you right to your core.  

We also had a browse of their extensive cider collection. I'll take one of each please!

And there's me, happy as a clam because I know I'm supporting small, local, sustainable, businesses. Whether it's a venue as big as Borough Market, or just a simple farmers market set up in your local park, take this festive period to support your local food suppliers. It's truly the best thing you can do for your economy, your environment, and yourself. Plus, it's a whole lotta fun! 


A Savvy Student's Guide to Time Management

"Time Management" is one of those skills that your teachers try to lecture you about at a young age- but of course we all ignored their advice. After all, with weekly assignments, tour schedules were pretty much written out for us. Once you get to university, though, there's no one their to tell you at what point you need to write an essay plan, on what day you should start studying, or how to juggle this all while keeping on top of your laundry and cooking for yourself. It's no easy feat, and I think we all struggle with time management from time to time in adulthood. 

I just finished up my end of term assignments- that is, three 4,000 word essays all due within less than two weeks. Talk about a lovely run-up to Christmas, huh? Don't get me wrong, I'd be miserable all through the holidays if I had to study for exams after Christmas like students down in England. But the holiday season is significantly less fun at university than it was back in school. 

Anyway, these three assignments absolutely had to get done on time. And even with some heavy planning from the outset, it all came down to those final three weeks where it was really a heads-down situation. It's safe to say that all my essays were written with minimal stress and maximum efficiency- plus, I didn't end up in a panicked scramble by the end of it! 

After two and half years at a fairly demanding uni, I think I've finally cracked the code to time management. And today I thought I'd share my top tips to become a master at time management.     

Know where you work best // I'm one of those weird people who does not like the library. Whenever I walk into the library, I can see the stress on everyones faces- whether it's someone who looks bleary eyed, or someone who's teary eyed. I just don't need those kind of negative vibes in my life. So I avoid it. I work better in my flat where there's tea and fuzzy socks and snacks to keep me happy. Find out what works for you (or may what doesn't work) and use it to your advantage.  

Set Daily Goals // I would not have made any progress without setting daily goals. I absolutely lived and died by my word count goals. While we would all like to leisurely write an essay or study for an exam, there's a point where you just need to force yourself to put pen to paper. Without daily goals, you'll just flounder around wondering what exactly what you're meant to do. 

Exercise, even if you feel pressed for time // I went for a four mile run almost every single morning of the period that I was working on my essays. Losing that hour or two to run, do pilates, and shower didn't take away from my essay writing at all; I actually think it made my afternoons of writing more efficient because I had gotten my blood pumping. Whether it's a walk, a run, or just some stretching, you'll feel better (and less like a potato) if you make time for movement during intense study periods. 

Use your friends // Whether it's someone to work side by side with, or someone who you send over your essay to for proofreading and comments, your classmates can be your best resource. They know the material you're looking at, and they'll be open to your ranting. But if you're more the type of person who likes to go at it alone, then that's okay too! 

Know when to walk away // If you walk away with anything from this post, let it be this piece of advice. Staring at your computer screen isn't the same thing as doing work. If it just isn't working out that day, then let it go. Come back to it later. There's no use wasting your time in the library if you'd be much better off getting some much needed sleep. You'll find your groove later, I promise. 

Now that I've given you unsolicited advice, you can master those end of term exams and essays! Oh, and you can also be jealous of me for already being finished (but hey, we all deserve a break!) 


Less Thinking, More Drinking: Top Tips for Holiday Gifts

Buying the perfect gift is truly an art form. From the planning, to the searching, to that "ah hah" moment you have when you find something that perfectly suits the person you have in mind, shopping for gifts is truly a joy.

But sometimes, when perfectionism and lack of time get in the way, finding that perfect gift can be a real challenge. It's especially hard when you're a student who has looming essay deadlines preventing you from brainstorming gift ideas or heading to the shops.

I have a fairly large family, with three brothers who all have different interests, a dad who doesn't seem to want anything, and a mom who would love to have anything from the Williams Sonoma catalogue. Add in two grandparents who really appreciate anything, a boyfriend with a distinct taste in fashion, and friends who expect some classically British treats from abroad and you've got one stressed out girl who just wants to please everyone. But I've handled it all in years past, and I'll be able to handle it this year. And today I'm prepared to share with you my top tips for buying the best gifts for your loved ones.

If they drop a hint, write it down // Around the holidays, everyone seems to be weaving their wishlist into everyday conversations. Maybe your mom keeps complaining that her baking pans are rusty, or your boyfriend is going on about how his nicest sweater has a hole in it. Even if you're keen to surprise someone with something totally unexpected, you should still take note of what they really want as a backup plan.

Make a list (check it twice) // This ensures that you don't miss out on anyone! It doesn't have to be a definitive list of exactly what you're going to buy everyone. Instead, try brainstorming what type of things each person may like, what new interests they've acquired over the past year, or even what you might buy if money were no object. If anything, it helps to keep ideas flowing and makes you feel a bit productive.

Scour the stores; order online // I find that most people are always loyal to one camp or the other when it comes to shopping. Some people are Black Friday fanatics while others are Cyber Monday masters. Whatever method you choose for your shopping, I'll let you in on my personal favorite way to get the most out your shopping. It may seem time consuming, but I always head to the stores for inspiration first, and then check online to see if I can get a better price somewhere else. Having a visual for what stores have to offer is the best way to figure out what you might want to keep your eye on. You can't do that online! But if the price seems steep? Check out the deals online- they're usually much better.

Keep returns in mind, and don't take it personally // We all jokingly call my dad "the returner." Not because he's ungrateful, but because he always says that he doesn't need anything. For that reason, I've always been extra careful about making sure everything I buy has a sound return policy (and I attach the gift receipt to the gift!). And don't get too upset if someone doesn't like your gift (or already has it). It's the thought that counts!

Personal gifts are always the best gifts // Whether that means it's that pair of sunglasses they've wanted for ages, a monogrammed item that it truly theirs, or a photo album which brings back memories of your adventures together, the best gifts always come from the heart. A box of chocolates or fuzzy socks might do the trick, but if you really want to make someones heart sing, always go into shopping with them in mind.

Happy gift hunting, and start checking off that list!


The Raj, Blackhall: A hidden gem outside of central Edinburgh

We really are spoiled for choice here in Edinburgh when it comes to Indian restaurants. But beyond the usual BYOB curry houses which host sports socials by the hundreds, there are a handful of Indian eateries which stand out from the crowd. The Raj is one of those places. 

Newly relocated to Blackhall from its original home in Leith for 30 years, the Raj might seem a bit far away to travel for a student who's based in Marchmont. But if there's ever a reason to escape the central Edinburgh bubble, it would be for this top-notch Indian food.

The Raj is conveniently located next to a bus stop, making the long journey stress-free. Hop off the bus and walk straight into the restaurant where you'll be warmly welcomed by the friendly staff. Decked-out for the holidays with fairy lights of all colors, the interior of the restaurant was as cheerful as our waiter who quickly stopped by to take our drink orders. It truly is a rarity to find an Indian restaurant in Edinburgh which serves alcohol, so it was quite a treat to order a glass of house white to pair with the spicy curry to come. 

With a wide-ranging menu combining the influences of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj encourages you to stray away from your usual order and try their more unique dishes. While vegetable pakora and chicken tikka masala can be found on the menu, they might pale in comparison to the more uncommon options. 

It wouldn't be a proper Indian meal without some poppadoms to start. Crisp, light,  and addictively salty, these massive golden discs were served with various chutneys, raitas, and other sauces.

Enticed by the thought of fluffy dumplings for a starter, I ordered the mysore bonda- a dish I had never heard of before. These doughy balls were bursting with aromatic spices, and served with a coconut chutney that satisfied my craving for a sweet and savory pairing. 

The lamb lal mirchi was Ben's starter of choice. Stewed pieces of lamb served on a bed of crispy onion bhaji, the lal mirchi was a perfect winter warmer. 

After mulling over the list of mains for quite some time (the staff here don't make you feel rushed), Ben and I both settled on lamb curries- a type of meat which doesn't often fit into a student budget. As we awaited our mains, our waiter presented us with silver tea light trays to keep our food warm, and add to the romantic ambiance.  

In my mind, a curry that perfectly balances creaminess with spice is the ideal candidate for a winter dinner. And my lamb pasanda certainly fit the bill. Morsels of tender lamb immersed in a spiced yoghurt and almond sauce, I was in heaven after the first bite. 

Always keen for something fiery, Ben ordered the laal maas, which put my mild curry to shame. I should also let you know that the Raj really goes above and beyond when it comes to portion sizes- there's plenty of meat in each dish, and there's enough curry sauce to soak up with your naan (in our case, that of the peshwari kind). 

The real winner in both of our books, however, was the saag aloo. While you might overlook this simple combination of potatoes and spinach, it is not to be missed. Fluffy potatoes tossed in a velvety spinach and paneer sauce, you'll have to stop yourself from eating it all in one go. 

Much to our surprise, the waiter immediately brought out a plate of sweets after we had scraped the last morsels of food from our plates (the Raj offers free sweets to all customers!). Without explanation of what we were presented with, we tucked into the mysterious selection of desserts. Now, I can't fully describe what each nibble exactly was, but one stood out above the rest. Owing to my upbringing in a half Iranian family, I was able to identify one of the sweets as similar to the Persian dessert, zoolbia- crispy, fried dough drenched in honey.

As we were picking at the last crumbs of dessert, our waiter appeared once again wheeling out a cart filled with after-dinner drinks. Not one to usually indulge in a post-meal swig, I was suggested by Ben to try a Baileys on ice (a favorite of my Nana's). While I sipped on my creamy concoction, Ben finished off a shot of Drambuie. 

With a menu that highlights the best of both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, the Raj hits that sweet spot between familiar and exotic. Owing to it's friendly staff and comforting food, your experience here will surely be one of warmth from start to finish.

Buy your bus tickets now, because the Raj is certainly worth the journey out of the city centre.

Thank you to the Raj and Laura at Crimson Edge for the lovely meal! You can view the Raj's full menu online here (don't miss their Sunday buffet!).    


Planning an Epic Friendsgiving

Ever since I moved to Edinburgh, Thanksgiving has been a strange time for me. I see snapchat stories of my friends hanging out back in my hometown, miss out on watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and don't get to bond with my family over a hearty dinner. I'm more used to it now, though, and I know how to better fight off those Thanksgiving-abroad blues. 

In years past, I've gone to a big Thanksgiving Ball at the Balmoral Hotel. But this year, the timings didn't work out, and I realized that my time might be better spent gathering my friends together for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. They are mostly British, after all- and it's my responsibility to introduce them to American culture (true story: most of my friends have never had pumpkin pie before!). 

I've decided that I'm officially crazier than my mom, now, having invited over 15 people to my flat for dinner. I will single-handedly (well, with a little bit of help!) be putting together a dinner made up of cocktails, appetizers, a starter, mains and sides, and not one, but two desserts! I'm in way over my head here, but I absolutely love it. If you know me well enough, you'll know that cooking is one of my greatest passions. And what better way to show your friends you love them then by stuffing them full of food and drinking endless bottles of wine? 

Since this is my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I'd share a bit of my planning process here on the blog, and a few tips which I've picked up from the internet which I think are worth repeating. Before I do that, though, I will say this: if you want to host a Thanksgiving dinner, you have to plan and prepare in advance! That is, if you want to have an epic one, like me. As I sassily said to my mom over the phone: It's Thanksgiving dinner- this isn't child's play, mom! 

Create a menu that suits all diets // Always always ask people what their dietary requirements are beforehand. I know it can seem tedious, and most people won't really expect you to cater to them individually, but you should always keep this in mind. Your menu doesn't have to be entirely dairy-free, but make sure there are at least some options (separate out some mashed potatoes that have no dairy, have an apple pie and a pumpkin pie to suit everyone). It doesn't take much more effort and your friends will thank you! 

Make sure your menu is diverse // One of the best tips I read online, that I easily could have glossed over had I not read it, was to make sure you have at least one green vegetable that isn't smothered in cream or sprinkled with bacon. I know it can be tempting to make everything ridiculously rich, but people will certainly want a break from the overwhelming flavors of Thanksgiving. Have an option of a green salad on the table to freshen things up! 

Don't fuss too much over decorations // To be honest, nobody really cares about this stuff. They might snap a photo or two for their instagram, but after that it's all going to be about the food and the good chat. That being said, it's also important to go to some effort as far as the tablescape goes. I'm planning on whipping up a quick and easy tablescape of pumpkins, candles, and white flowers. I also bought a solid-colored table runner earlier this week; simpler than a tablecloth, and no need for exact measurements! 

Plan a timetable // I'm kind of stressing because I haven't done this yet but it is absolutely crucial to hosting a successful dinner! Find out what can be made ahead of time and served cold (for instance, pumpkin pie, cold appetizers) and what can be made ahead but warmed through before serving (like soup or stuffing). Write out a list of what needs to go in the oven when, and check it off as you go. Much easier said than done, but so worth it! 

Ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine (or two...) // You can never have enough wine. And if like me, you love to take on all of the work and glory that comes along with cooking dinner, and don't love to delegate tasks, then this is a great way to get your guests involved. Also, this ensures that there will be enough wine for everyone (the general rule is a bottle per person). But don't forget the cocktails!

I'm not quite sure whether writing out this post has made me more excited or anxious for cooking up a storm on Thursday, but I really can't wait to have everyone round for dinner! I'm going to try not to sweat the small stuff, and just enjoy the night. Fingers crossed it goes according to plan!


Dear Hillary Clinton

Dear Hillary Clinton,

Let's talk about you. Not the man who you competed against in this election. For there has been far too much attention directed at him. We seem to have forgotten that despite your loss, you still have had a tremendous effect on this nation.

Thank you for your dedication to this country, for your commitment to serving the needs of families, and for your diplomacy as Secretary of State. With a media culture that thrives off of scandal and negative rhetoric, we often forget the good you have done for this nation. Sure, you've had your missteps. In over 40 years of public service you are bound to. But that doesn't diminish your resounding successes.

After all was said and done, people wanted to place the blame somewhere. Sometimes, fingers were pointed at you. Other times, people wanted to hold the DNC, the FBI, the Electoral College, the far-left Bernie-bros, or the media accountable for the outcome of this election. But the only thing we can blame is our ignorance. We failed to realize how deeply entrenched racism, sexism, and (perhaps most importantly) disenfranchisement, are in much of the country's mindsets. I was living in my liberal bubble, and so were you.

Though I fully supported you throughout the election, I must admit I had a problem with the whole "email scandal" (if we could even call it that). No- I wasn't one of the "lock her up!" folks, coming at you with torches and pitchforks. I did my research, and I made my judgements. Indeed, the media promoted a false narrative that was at once poorly timed, and perhaps unethical. However, much of the country was understandably troubled by this issue. You were so assured that you were in the right (you were), that you failed to ever fully explain the situation to a nation that had so many doubts.

You fought with confidence, fending off tough questions with poise and grace. And for that, I greatly admire you. But for others, your poker-face gave them more reason to be hateful. Criticisms came flying at you left and right, accusing you of being emotionless and cold.

For us women, this is an entirely familiar story. Politics has been dominated by men for so long that any woman who wants to throw her hat in the ring must play by their rules. It's a man's world, and women are simply living in it. Women must take charge, without being too bossy; be serious on the issues, but also smile enough. We carry the weight of these conflicting expectations no matter what position of power we choose to go after- lest we be dissuaded by those same unattainable standards, ultimately giving up in this seemingly futile battle. As my mother always says, women have to work at least twice as hard to go half as far as men do.

At the end of the day, we have to to realize that the reason that in over 200 years of our existence as a country we have never had a female president is not because women don't want to be in positions of power. It is because the political world was largely created by men, and continues to systematically work against women, discouraging them from participating in politics. After all, we do account for more than half of the American population.

Despite my nihilism, though, I say enough. This election, and your role in it, has taught me that we need more women in politics. And we need more minorities in politics, too. We need more diverse voices to be heard in order to cater to the needs of everyone. That's not to say that one has to be a woman or a minority to work in the best interests of oppressed groups; but it sure doesn't help that our presidents have had largely similar backgrounds over the last two centuries.

Hillary, it was a hard-fought battle. But know that you never failed us. Your loss only further exposed the great strides that women still have to take in order to have their voices heard. That women continue to be defined by their husbands. That women are still subject to criticism for their looks, despite their actions. That even one of the most iconic, powerful figures (man or woman) in American politics can't escape the micro-aggressions that come with the package of being a woman.

With your immense passion and dedication for this country, I know that this certainly won't be your last stand. You will emerge again as one of our country's greatest leaders, no matter what role you take. You won't give up on us, so we won't give up on you.

With utmost respect,



Badger and Co: A Fantasy World Come to Life

Book lovers, wander-lusters, and foodies alike are all welcome at one of New Town's latest gastronomical additions, Badger and Co. Duck in from the winter rain showers, and you will be whisked away into the world of the Winds in the Willows, where Badger and Co will provide you with a dose of childhood nostalgia in a effortlessly elegant setting. 


The perfect space for a cozy date-night, the restaurant's flawless decor will have you oohing and ahhing at every last detail, from the copper flower vases to the wooden clip-board menus. Sink into the cushy chestnut brown couches, and you might forget that you're in a restaurant at all. 

You would be right though, to think that this space feels more like an old friend's living room than a city-centre restaurant. Travel back to 1859, and this was the very building which Kenneth Grahame, the man who penned The Wind in the Willows, called home. 

Inspired by Grahame's famous and fantastical tale, Badger and Co opened up on Castle Street in the spring of 2016, adding to Edinburgh's dynamic and ever-growing food scene. But where Badger and Co stands out from the crowd is how it is at once familiar and fresh. 

Having been graciously invited to try out the menu, Ben and I ditched any soggy Halloween plans we had (we celebrated over the weekend), and opted for a quiet night of dinner and drinks instead.   

Starting with it's cocktail menu, Badger and Co. sets a playful tone for the evening. "Picnic on the Banks" and "Forage & Fortify" are among the many quirky drinks you can treat yourself to. This particular Monday night, a glass of "There's more to life than money" was my chosen poison. Featuring my favorite aperitif, Aperol, combined with orange bitters and a good few good slugs of wine, I think I may have just found my new favorite cocktail.

Cocktails aside, Badger and Co also offer up beers from far and wide, including it's most unconventional addition to the menu- the banana bread beer. While neither of us bit the bullet on trying it, it would surely make for a lovely mid-day brew.  

Liquored up with some offbeat beverages, we were ready to take a crack at the food menu. While Badger and Co's menu generally falls on the traditionally British side of things, they are also quick to surprise guest's with little changes that go a long way. 

The potted confit salmon fit the bill in terms of a light, flavorful starter. A ceramic pot filled with shredded bits of tender salmon and microgreens matched perfectly with the creamy nutmeg aioli. A true winner on all fronts. 

The black pudding and scallops, a truly British combination, made a stunning first impression in its presentation. Ben found the scallops to be a tad overcooked, but was won over by the composition of the rest of the dish.  

Badger and Co's attention to every detail shines in its main dishes. Focusing mostly on game and other local cuts, meat is certainly the way to go. The roast rump of lamb was cooked medium-rare, allowing all the lovely juices to seep into the greens below. Paired with a block of crispy polenta and bacon lardons, this dish is the epitome of true indulgence.  

A good plate of fish and chips is not too hard to come by in a city like Edinburgh, but Badger and Co's twist on the classic ranks it above the rest. Dipped in a curried batter before frying to crisp perfection, the haddock is laid over a bed of mint and lime (yes, I said lime) crushed peas. Combine all the elements with a smear of tartar sauce, and you'll know when I say that these fish and chips are really next level.   

As a devoted watcher of Bake-off, I have quite high expectations when it comes to dessert. While the lavender creme brûlée took on a bit more lavender flavor than either Ben or I would have preferred, it had a wobble that even Mary Berry would have been proud of. 

Keen to go full-on autumn to finish up the meal, I decided on the intriguing BBQ Maple Cake. The generous slab of cinnamon cake drizzled in sweet syrup, however, was no match for its pairings. I could have eaten the spice roasted figs and maple clotted cream on their own and been perfectly content! 

Grounded in tradition as old as Wind in the Willows itself, Badger and Co keeps true to its British roots, but adds a touch of whimsy on the side for good measure. With scrumptious plates and colorful cocktails, this Edinburgh eatery is the type of restaurant even the fussy Badger himself would approve of.      

A huge thank you to Badger and Co for inviting me down for a review! You can visit their website and check out their full menu here


A Fun & Easy Date Night In (+ Cookbook Giveaway!)

While I do love discovering new restaurants around Edinburgh, Ben and I are definitely the kind of couple that prefer cooking together far more than going out. And while we tend to cook with each other almost every night of the week, having the same sort of one-pot meals can become a bit boring and lose that "special feeling." Having a designated "date night in", however, is the perfect in-between of spending time together in a way that's not too extravagant, but still special.

When I first found Ashley Rodriquez's book Date Night In while browsing the tables at Anthropologie, I knew that it was the type of book I would love. I scanned the pages of her book, pouring over the beautiful images and scrumptious looking recipes, but unfortunately didn't buy it. But today I'm offering all of you readers out there the special opportunity to get your hands on a book I've personally been dying to have!

 At the end of this post, I'll spell out just how you can go about entering for your chance to win the book, but for now, I thought I'd share our own Date Night In inspired dinner.

While we didn't have a copy of the book to refer to while planning our meal, we took to different reviews of Date Night In to see what reader's favorite dishes were! Our first item on the menu was roasted sweet potatoes with bacon and thyme. Working off of this simple Martha Stewart Recipe we crossed our fingers that we would finally get it right and end up with crispy sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case- but if anyone knows how to make them crispy instead of soggy please tell me your secret! Despite the off texture of our sweet potatoes, the flavors from the bacon and thyme made for exactly the sort of autumn comfort food we were after. 

What I think is most important for having a date-night in is that the meal must fall into one of two categories: 

1.) Elegant, sophisticated (and, dare I say sexy?) dishes. 
2.) Fun, exciting food that you would normally eat in a restaurant. 

For our meal we went with the "fun" aspect, which was perfectly epitomized in Ben's genius idea to make onion rings as a sort of pre-dinner snack. We had all the ingredients we needed already, so it was a no-brainer. Inspired by this easy-to-follow recipe we set about filling a pot with loads of vegetable oil as a make-shift deep frier. I was skeptical at first, but the results were incredible. Warm, but still slightly crisp, onions surrounded by a fluffy, crunchy batter- we were in heaven.  

For the main event, we were inspired by Date Night In's well-regarded honey siracha chicken wings recipe, improvising a bit on the glaze. Still in line with our "fun" theme, this addictive food was not for the type of couple that's just starting out- you'll want to know each other pretty well before you witness your partner licking sauce off their fingers. While not the most aesthetically pleasing of dishes, I promise you they were good. 

For dessert, which as you probably already know is my personal strong-suit, we kept things light and fruity with a classically British dessert, Eton Mess. Initially, we thought we would buy the meringues, but after we couldn't find them in Tesco, I settled on making them. While the might look finnicky, meringues are actually incredibly easy to make by just whipping egg whites and sugar together before baking them at a low heat for just under two hours. Plus, with a dish like Eton Mess, your meringues can be as lopsided as you want- it all ends up being crushed anyway! (though I think mine do look pretty good)

Just layer the crushed meringues with whipped cream and tart strawberries, top with some mint, and you have a beautiful and romantic dessert. The perfect way to finish off your date night in! 

Now that you're inspired to have your own date-night in, why not enter for a chance to win the whole cookbook? 

*No purchase necessary, US residents only*

 I'll be thoroughly jealous of whoever wins! 


36 Hours in Dublin

Sometimes 36 hours is all you've got for a weekend break. Is it difficult? Maybe a little bit. Is it doable? Definitely!

I've always been a big fan of condensed travel-guides- from the "New York Times 36 Hours In..." series to Anthony Bourdain's TV Show "The Layover." Something about the challenge of fitting all of your sightseeing into a short period of time has always been attractive to me.

And maybe that's because weekend trips are really what's most realistic for me. Time-wise, weekends away are best because I don't have to sacrifice any lectures, tutorials, or meetings. And money-wise, taking two days for a trip means you only have to pay for one night in a hotel! I'd say it's a win-win.

Over the summer, Ryanair was having a very premature sale that was meant to celebrate the UK staying in the EU. Of course we all know how that went, but Ben and I were still able to reap the rewards of their sale, picking up some dirt cheap flights to Dublin. Fast forward to October, and we were zooming off to the airport early on a Saturday morning to start our mini-holiday. 

As far as accommodation in Dublin goes, it was not nearly as cheap as we thought it would be. They have a wide range of hostels and hotels available, but if you're used to the hostel prices on continental Europe, then you're in for a rude awakening. A standard hostel in a dorm will probably put you back about 25-30 per night. If you stay on the North side, you might be able to get a better deal (as it's less central to the main sights). 

We stayed at the MEC hostel on the North side of Dublin. Once a large townhouse, the MEC hostel is located on a quaint, residential street that is almost always quiet despite it being around the corner from the main road. Upon arriving in Dublin (we took the airport bus for 10 return), we dumped our bags at the hostel- that is, after I had properly marveled at the beautiful foliage surrounding the nearby buildings #instagramgoals. 

Eager to explore the city, we wandered around the North Side before meeting our guide at the Spire to start on a free walking tour. It's easy to get caught up in the hordes of tour-guides offering tours (usually for money but sometimes free of charge), but do your research beforehand to find one that's right for you. I'm a strong supporter of free walking tours because they're largely tips-based meaning the guides work really hard to give you a good experience. Plus, the guides are usually locals themselves who truly love their city (I did one in Venice as well as Barcelona and have never been disappointed!). 

Our guide, James, was everything you could ever want in a tour guide- witty, friendly, and hugely knowledgeable. While 3 hours might seem like a long time, the tour flies by as James takes you around the sights. From the Trinity College Campus to Dublin Castle to St. Patrick's Cathedral, James kept us engaged and entertained with his many tongue-in-cheek Irish accents. He also provided us with some helpful tips on where to go and where to avoid (long story short: avoid Temple Bar at night- they'll charge you €9 for a pint!) 

After hours on our feet, Ben and I were starving and ready to eat just about anything in sight. On this trip, we weren't too concerned with seeking out "authentic" Irish pubs and restaurants, as the cuisine is quite similar to that in Edinburgh. Instead, we were on the hunt for cheap, student-friendly food. We found just that at Pablo Picante in Temple Bar, which serves up hefty burritos that will fill you up for just €6.50 with a student card. You'll find a smattering of these burrito bars around Dublin, so keep your eyes peeled. Though you won't be able to miss it with signage like this: 

Fueled by the power of Mexican food, we sauntered down the River Liffey (taking a few quick snaps by the iconic ha'Penny bridge) and made our way towards our next stop: the Guinness Factory. We were a bit early for our 5PM time slot, so we found a nearby pub to warm up in, where I immediately experienced the consequences of ordering any drink that isn't Guinness. Pro tip: if it isn't Guinness (or another Irish beer) it's not worth the price tag. This was probably the first time in my life I ever regretted ordering a gin and tonic. 

After our cheeky afternoon drink, we were ready to find out the nitty gritty details of how Ireland's most popular beer is made. We were pleased with our decision to book our tickets in advance online, that way we didn't have to brace ourselves for the long lines to come. 

The first bit of our self-guided tour was a bit of a disappointment- it was crowded, and it felt like we were being shepherded along from floor to floor without having enough time to absorb the information. Luckily, the further we went up, the less crowded it became. The Guinness Storehouse has a lot to offer, using the latest technology to explain how Guinness is made. Even if you aren't a big beer drinker you'll find it hard to resist a pint (or at least a sip in the tasting room). The best part of the tour is arguably the views from the top. But don't expect an unobstructed view- it gets crowded.

Full of booze and in need of some dinner, we set off toward the more student-centric part of Dublin. We had two restaurants in mind down on Camden Street, but unfortunately one was just too busy for us to feasibly eat at before closing. Luckily, we found that Green Nineteen served food late, and we'd have to wait just 45 minutes. A perfect excuse to duck into a nearby bar, grab a pint (cider for me), and listen to some live music with a group of rowdy pub-goers. 

We found that Green Nineteen was exactly what we were looking for that night- a casual atmosphere, local food, and a reasonable price. I was keen to have a burger no matter where we went, and at just €10 I couldn't say no to this organic Irish patty doused in homemade ketchup. Ben ordered the pork belly with savoy cabbage and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit jealous. Since we nixed drinks with dinner (it had been a pretty boozy day) we splurged on dessert instead- a fudgy brownie for me and a zingy lemon tart for Ben. Talk about perfection. 

The next morning we decided to keep things close to home and opted for the €2 breakfast at the hostel. It did the trick, offering up toast, cereal, and juice among other things. We kept our second day relatively chill compared to the first, strolling around St. Stephen's Green before popping into the Dubarry store for some wishful thinking. We even took in some (free!) culture at the National Gallery which, while small, housed some pretty significant works by the likes of Picasso and Monet. 

What had to be the highlight of our stay was seeing my Grandparents whose Dublin trip just happened to overlap with ours! We booked a roast lunch at the Exchequer and all of us were thoroughly impressed by the sheer size of the meal. Tender beef, honeyed carrots, fluffy potatoes, and garlicky stuffing all made for the perfect meal to catch up over before parting ways. 

We still had one more stop to make before heading back to Edinburgh, and that was the Natural History Museum. Another of Dublin's many free museums, the Natural History Museum looked straight out of an old-fashioned storybook with "stuffed" animals every way you look in displays that seemed as though they had not been touched since 1900.

It felt as though we had left as soon as we had arrived, but we had truly packed so much into our mini-stay in Dublin. And with what seemed like a snap of our fingers, our 36 hours in Dublin had ended and it was back to uni we went. 

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