Three Edinburgh Restaurant Reviews

Being a food-writer would definitely be at the top of my list for dream jobs. I love trying out new restaurants and telling all my friends about them. What could be more perfect?

These past few weeks, I've actually had to chance to play food-critic a bit for my University's newspaper, The Student. In an amazing feat of human writing strength, I managed to write two reviews in two weeks (each within a 24 hour period if that makes me seem even more impressive). Most importantly, I ate at two really wonderful restaurants and tasted some delicious food all in the name of journalism.

So I thought that in the spirit of my newfound talent for food-writing, I would share some more informal reviews of the two restaurants I hit up thanks to The Student, as well as an extra find just for good measure. I'll also link to my "formal" reviews if you want a sampling of what my writing sounds like off the blog (or if you just want to read more about food).

Foundry 39 ~ West End // If you know anything about Edinburgh's food scene, you'll know that it's all about burgers at the moment. From casual independent joints to smaller chains straight out of Glasgow to fancy schmancy sit-down restaurants, everyone in Edinburgh is loving gourmet burgers. Foundry 39 sits somewhere in between on the burger spectrum- not exactly a hole in the wall, but not quite a formal restaurant either. It's the kind of place you'd go with a big group of friends for a special-ish occasion (like moving into your flat), with it's bar perfectly outfitted for a celebration. The cocktails are carefully concocted and that effort definitely shines through in the taste- try the Pink Duchess if you're feeling adventurous!

 Photo Credit: Hayley Russell

If you order one thing at Foundry 39, make it a plate of caramel chili chicken wings- sticky, salty, and sweet they're everything you could ask for in a starter! I was truly addicted from the first bite. Unfortunately, however, the burgers weren't so much to write home about. While their flavor combinations were a recipe for indulgence (think maple glazed bacon or black pudding and cheese), their actual patties weren't up to par. I guess I'll just have to go back to try their pizza! (anything for another round of those chicken wings...)

Photo Credit: Hayley Russell

By the way, I visited Foundry 39 with my good blogging gal pal Hayley who just happened to post her review of the restaurant on her blog today. You can read it here. You can also find my formal review of Foundry 39 here

Salt Cafe ~ Morningside // Salt Cafe was one of those places that I always saw on popular Edinburgh food instagram pages (let's be real- we all search for restaurants on insta before going!). But it actually wasn't my first choice when it came to a Sunday brunch. My boyfriend Ben and I had originally planned on going to our old favorite Montpellier's to try out their brunch menu, but there was a 45 minute wait for a table (serves us right for not booking ahead!) We wandered down through Bruntsfield and into Morningside and happened upon Salt Cafe- a hip, industrial-looking coffee house and restaurant.

Our stomachs rumbling for some good brunch food, we settled for a bar-seat at the window to watch the world stroll by. We started with coffee- a flat white for Ben and an iced coffee for me of course. Their iced coffee was less American and more Italian in its thickness, but boy was it strong. They are truly coffee connoisseurs at Salt Cafe. With an extensive egg-based menu (but not much else brunch-wise) an eggs florentine was definitely on the cards. And while I consider myself more of a pancakes- for-brunch kind of girl (blame my sweet tooth), I was thoroughly pleased with my eggs. From the truffle sauce to the freshly baked bread, it was sheer perfection on a plate. I didn't miss the pancakes one bit.

The Queen's Arms ~ New Town // There's nothing quite like some good ol' pub food. At least, that's what the Brits tell me. Now I may not have grown up seeing meat pies and roast dinners as classic "comfort foods," but I do enjoy them on a cold, rainy evening. However, the evening that Ben and I rocked up to the Queen's Arms was neither cold nor rainy- but it may as well have been because it was absolutely packed. Even so, the buzz of chatty pub goers on an ordinary Thursday night made the darkened space all the more intimate and cozy.

Pub food is easy to come by in a city like Edinburgh. But good pub food is a bit harder to find. The Queen's Arms keeps things interesting with it's playful takes on classics, like haggis lollipops. Now I know that many people fear the haggis, but trust me- when it's all fried up and paired with a sweet sauce, you'll immediately become a fan. And if you haven't had quite enough haggis in one night you can also try out one of the Queen's Arms famous sharing pies for two. Ours just happened to be haggis and steak, but the fillings change daily (does that mean I get to go every day?). Everything about this pie, from it's flaky puff pastry crust to the creamy gravy, was flawless. You'll want to lap up every bite. And if you're still feeling a bit peckish after the pie, there's always some pudding to fill you up. The chocolate and stout cake served as the perfect, heavenly end to the meal.

You can read my formal review of The Queen's Arms here.

So have I convinced you to try out some new restaurants around Edinburgh? I don't know about you, but I'm thinking of going back for seconds...

Thank you to Foundry 39 and the Queen's Arms for hosting me in exchange for a review. 


5 Ways to Be Productive When You Have Way Too Much On Your Plate

Count me as one of those people who spreads themselves way too thin when it comes to making commitments. Wanting to "do it all" is truly a blessing and a curse. Without realizing it, I can end up taking on far too much and end up having to make some sacrifices to fit it all in (aka missing out on a good nights sleep).

This past week was a perfect example of this for me. With it being Fresher's Week and having all the societies starting up their various activities and socials, I truly had a packed schedule. On Thursday, I had a personal tutor meeting in the morning, a stint at the societies fair in the early afternoon, a meet and great for a "buddy" program in the evening, a dinner reservation for a newspaper review after that, and a pub crawl late that night. Phew. That makes me tired just writing it out.  

I love being busy, I really do. But what I don't love is feeling overwhelmed to the point where I feel like I can't do anything. Still, I'm not the type of person who likes to say "no" when I know I technically can fit it all in. As much as I think it's important to know your limits, I think it's also important to know how to manage your time effectively.

So here are my tips to really get things done when you're just having one of those crazy-busy "I'd rather stay in bed than tackle my to-do list" days:

Prioritize what's important // This has to be the #1 rule of being productive. I mean what's the use of getting anything done if you're only doing the minor, less-important things? Obviously everyone has different ways of prioritizing, but I like to keep it simple and just put my most time-sensitive tasks at the top of my to-do list. That way, they're front and center and I can't avoid them!

Do one "have to" and then one "want to" // I not only like to include "have-to" type items on my lists, but also productive tasks that are a bit less important, but still need to get done. By switching off between them, I can use one task as a sort of reward for the other. For example, I might have a "have-to" item like sending an email to a professor which I don't really want to do. But instead of leaving it until the end of the day (and risk it not getting done at all), I'll "force" myself to send the email by saying "You can't put up that instagram photo or send out that tweet until you send the email." That way, both the "have-tos" and the "want-tos" get done.

Set a timer and race the clock // When I'm really drowning in my to-do lists, I like to set a timer and get competitive with myself. For example, I'll set a timer for 20 minutes and see just how many items I can check off my list. And then when that's done, I'll set it again to see if I can do even more. Though this might not work for longer tasks, it's a great way of checking off some nagging little things to get them out of your way!

Take a productive break // Whether it's a quick jog around the block or a trip to the grocery store or (if you're like me) taking a crack at a new blog post, you can always find ways to procrastinate productively. This means that you get something important done (though not necessarily something on your to-do list) while actually taking a break from your work. This way, you can clear your head and come back to your work feeling like you haven't just wasted time watching Netflix.

Set goals so that you know when to stop // This is actually one of my favorite essay writing strategies of all time, but it can really apply to anything. Whenever I have a long assignment to complete (say, a 3,000 word essay), I figure out how many days I have to complete it, and then divide the word count by those days (plus, a few days for edits/revision). That way, I set myself a goal of writing 500 words each day, for example, and then once I hit that 500 word mark I can throw in the towel without feeling guilty. If I don't have a set number of words, I could end up writing 200 or 700- but, let's be real it'll probably be the former.


What's New On The Blog

Notice anything a little bit different? Well, a lot has changed here on the blog in the past few weeks! From a big blog redesign to some new social media tactics, I thought I'd quickly share some of the new things going on in my little blogging world. 

New theme // I have seriously been thinking about redesigning my blog theme for the longest time. If you've been reading along for a while now (and I mean like two years a while), then you'll remember way back when I had a green and purple theme- even before my most bright blue theme (if you could even call it that). I'm honestly not the most artistic person, but both themes prior to how it is now were designed by me. In a sense, I'm proud of having taken on that role in my blog, but I knew that I needed a sleeker, more "professional" look. 

Luckily, just as I had been thinking about redesigning, I saw a tweet pop up on my feed from Serena of "Pretty Wild Things" offering blog designs. I browsed through her portfolio and absolutely loved her work. I immediately emailed her with my ideas- simple, classic, and a color scheme that was neutral but not black. She completely delivered on all fronts! I love that I still have blue in my theme without it being too bright and aggressive. It definitely feels like the sort of theme I can grow into as my blog grows! 

New header // I suppose this goes along with the whole new design situation, but having a new blog header has made a huge difference in the way my blog looks. I love how it reflects my interest in travel (and writing about it of course!) as well as my two homes- the US and the UK. I think Serena did an incredible job taking into account what I wanted, and going back and tweaking a few things that I wanted changed. 

New ways of promoting my blog // Ever since starting my blog, my main driver of traffic was always Facebook because I would post the link to my blog up there every week. I know that a lot of bloggers actually don't share their posts to Facebook out of fear of being judged by their friends or family. And while I've never really had that fear (#noregrets), I also have noticed that Facebook has some very sneaky ways of manipulating what comes up in people's feeds. At the moment, my feed is no longer showing me posts from my nearest and dearest, but simply tons of videos one after another. 

So because of Facebook's sketchy formulas, I've found that it actually isn't the best platform for me to get the word out about my blog anymore. Since realizing this a few months ago, and debating on how I wanted to proceed with promoting my blog, I've stopped posting every week to Facebook. Instead, I've really upped my Twitter game. Now that I've started using Buffer to schedule my tweets, I've seen a significant boost in my pageviews (and most importantly, unique viewers). And while I know that blogging isn't about pageviews or followers, it's nice to see my blog being read by different people. 

September always feels like a fresh start to me, so this seemed like the perfect time to revamp my blog. I'm so happy that I went with a redesign and have been changing the ways in which I promote my blog. And more than anything, it's nice to be able to come to this space every week and be truly proud of every aspect of it. 


Grazing the Stands at Boston Public Market

As far as food halls go, Boston's locals and tourist alike have always relied on and old standby- Quincy Market. And while this often-packed, quintessentially "Boston" landmark certainly has it's place, there's a new (ish) kid on the block that's popped up in the last year offering a refreshing alternative.

Just steps away from the Freedom Trail you'll find a relatively quiet food hall-farmers market hybrid that will nourish your foodie soul. The Boston Public Market, which opened up on Hanover street last summer, serves up fresh, ready-made food for Boston's working crowd as well as local produce, meat, and fish for those looking to up their cooking game.

One unique aspect of the Boston Public Market is that it operates as a non-profit. Meaning, all the profits from the vendor's sales go directly to the vendors themselves. That way, smaller vendors have the opportunity to gain exposure through the Market, rather than the Market capitalizing on what's most profitable for them. While many of the stands at the Market boast products from known local favorites (such as Taza Chocolate and George Howell Coffee), some of the vendors only sell their products at the Market- talk about exclusivity!

With so many goods on offer, take your time to thoroughly explore the Market. This isn't the time to just buzz in and out! (though many do)

Enter the Market and have your senses overwhelmed by the smells of just-baked bagels, homemade sweets, and strong coffee. This place is a food-lovers heaven, that's for sure.

Enticed by the whimsical shapes of bread on display, my mom and I first headed over to the Swissbakers stand to get our first dose of carbs. In the form of a remarkably soft pretzel, of course!

Our wandering eyes had us distracted by each and every vendor we passed by, so our lunch and general haul of food to bring home became a mish mash of all sorts of treats! My mom was eyeing up the Q's Nuts stand where we sampled all manner of flavored nuts- from salted chocolate to sweet and spicy- before she decided on picking up the unique limoncello and lavender cashews for an upcoming party.

But the Boston Public Market isn't just for food- it sells everything from wholesale fruit and veg to artisan gifts you can't find anywhere else. Boston Honey Company, for example, turns their local beeswax and honey into beautiful creations, such as their handmade candles.

After picking up a few gifts, my mom and I searched for something a bit more hearty for lunch. We settled on a gooey grilled cheese sandwich from the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. I know what you're thinking- a grilled cheese is literally just bread and cheese. But I know a good grilled cheese when I taste one. I am a firm believer in life, liberty, and the pursuit of cheesiness.

And if you can't believe that I could have consumed any more carbs than I already had, then you would be wrong. Because dessert just had to be a strawberry donut from Union Square Donuts. I've heard great things about their baked goods, and I was not at all disappointed. The donut was light and yeasty, surrounded by a luscious strawberry glaze that had my mom and I saying "Oh my god" simultaneously as we dug in.

Stuffed to the brim with cheese, bread, and baked goods, my mom and I made our way home with various goodies in tow. And while I'm sad that my time here in Boston in almost up for the summer, I'm very excited that I have a brand new place to bring my friends when they come to visit!

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