Food Pr0n


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The first iced coffee of the season, and a patch of sunshine to enjoy it on. Oh frabjous day!

I don’t have an instagram account. (At least, I don’t think I do. Not like that twitter account that’s theoretically open somewhere in the interwebs. Lurking beneath the surface with all of the wrecked ships, which sink to that magical depth where pressure and buoyancy cancel each other out and drift, out of sight, for time uncounted. Right next to my LiveJournal account.)

You would think, therefore, that you would be safe from pictures of other people’s lunches here at FarOuterHebrides. Today you are, technically, since this is dinner. I’m not sure that’s any indication of moral ascendancy on my part though.


On the other hand, I really want to show off these Reubens and quasi-Rachels (Leahs?) piled with homemade sauerkraut and sauerruben (like sauerkraut, but made with julienned turnip/swede). Ascendancy be damned.

After starting sweet potatoes for dinner last night, I decided the time was ripe to check up on my sauerkraut. My last batch was terrible, I think because the cabbage wasn’t wet enough. Compounded with the fact that I’m not sure I’d ever tasted saurkraut before, except on hot dogs. This time I compensated by skipping the massaging step (it’s not like I wanted to make my sauerkraut mushier, anyway) and pouring in water until there was a good half inch of standing brine above the top layer.

Mindful of my previous failure, I had sort been ignoring the neglected ferment on my counter, hoping it would go away. Last night I finaly bit the bullet and opened it.


BRID Does this taste like sauerkraut to you?

NTS Maybe? I’ve only had it maybe once. It’s very… mustardy.

BRID The amount of mustard seed I put in there will do that, yes. But what are we going to do with it? It’s too salty to eat on its own. I wish I had some pastrami. Like that’s going to happen here.

NTS Pulls pastrami out of the fridge.

BRID Seriously? But anyway, there’s nothing to put it on.

NTS Pulls out entire loaf of rye bread.

BRID You’ve got to be joking.


Welcome to my home, the delicatessen of Edinburgh. Pickle?

Sauerkraut recipe and sauerruben recipe. As mentioned, I didn’t massage either of these, just mixed the veg with the appropriate amount of salt, let sit 15 minutes, packed it into jars, and covered with water to about half an inch above the top of the veg. I didn’t notice any taste difference between my first batch of sauerruben, which I duly massaged, and this unmassaged batch. Thus laziness prevails. 

Islay Whisky Rout, part 2

Islay, part 1 can be found here.


No pictures from Caol Ila. But we did learn to pronounce it, thus putting to rest the speculation of so many parties.


Malting (germinating) barley.



Toddler in the smoking shed. Got to start ’em young.


Which is not to say they’re not explicit about workplace safety.


Malt mill.



The holding tanks hold 8 tonnes of malted barley. Eight.


This is just the very top of a barrel (the mash tun) that goes down a good story and a half below the slat platform.


The yeast doing its work in the giant mash tun. The yeast turn the sugar water, made from soaking the ground malted barley in hot water, into a sort of beer. It would be refreshing if cold, but it leaves a weird aftertaste; it’s definitely not for drinking at this stage.


This guy, on the other hand, is all for drinking.

Bowmore whiskies are delicious. Some tasting notes (mine, not the ones on the boxes):

Bowmore 12
– smooth and very rich
– delicious for evening sipping

Distillery Strength, 13 year
– rich & very strong
– excellent finish, lingers for a long time
– great for really slow sipping

Tempest 10 year
– light & grassy, light oak leaf notes (like Cairn O’Mohr oak leaf wine)
– tastes like spring, like germinating barley & young grass

Islay, part 1

My poor deserted darlings. I know what will cheer you up. Pictures from Islay, the tiny island with a high whisky content. (Whisky, in case you’re wondering, is Scotch, while whiskey is an Irish distillation.) Home to eight very fine distilleries, mostly specializing in deliciously peated whiskies. Three guesses how many of them we visited.


If you said, “all of them”, you’re right. Take a drink.


The tasting room at Ardbeg, our first distillery.

Our very first tour. We walked in just in time for the 10am tour. “It’s a five dram tour and tasting,” the girl behind the desk said. “Is that all right?”


So this was the sight that confronted us at 11am on a Friday morning.

To my credit, I made tasting notes for all of them. While partying with a group of Germans who were also on the tour.


Some highlights of my tasting notes from Ardbeg:

10 Year
– good introduction to Islay peats for noobs

Perpetuum Distillery Release
– sweet desserty taste
– good with smoked fish, dry cheese (smoked gouda?), dark chocolate
– Strong as fuck 49%

  – tastes like the good parts of sherry




Then we returned to our rental cottage for a hearty brunch. Nothing like pancakes to soak up your morning Scotch.


Tune in later for more the ocean, a cute wee doggy, and lots and lots of whisky.


Five Things


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1. A refrigerator full of homemade ginger beer and a beautiful jar of kombucha (probiotic soda made from tea) from my new SCOBY


2. A newfound appreciation for silk scarves. And old ladies who kindly donate them to charity shops where grad students can afford them.


3. The artistic talents of a sister (the best belated Christmas letter ever)


4. Homemade organizer pockets for my backpack


5. Going to Iceland on our anniversary this year. Partly for a conference. But mostly because Iceland has been the top item on our (well, my) Europe bucket list, and it’s time. Also, three cheers to airbnb for costing literally half of what a hotel would have cost. In case you’re not familiar, this is a site where you can rent rooms or whole flats from people in various cities. Everyone I know who’s used it has had good experiences with it. So we’ll be staying in a cute little Icelandic flat with a kitchen and tiny yard, instead of a hotel. Because we’re going to Iceland.

I’m just a little excited. Can you tell? I just booked the tickets and flat today, so I’m still riding that high.

BRID calls NTS at work. Hi, sweetie. I see there’s a good deal on flights to Iceland today. I’m going to buy them now, ok?

NTS  …

Right. You do that.

o O o

Happy weekend!


Leuven Town Hall and Cathedral, Part 2


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For the rest of my interlude in Belgium, see here, here and here.


For the Christmas season, they seem to have erected a garden in the space between the cathedral and the town hall. Or maybe it was already there, and they just added a few things. IMG_8416

Like a stable. And a reindeer that changes color every few seconds. IMG_8434


And a sprinkling of large, white… snowballs?IMG_8438IMG_8431IMG_8413IMG_8453IMG_8444IMG_8429IMG_8455





Leuven, Belgium


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As far as I can tell, Brussels and Leuven really aren’t what you could call tourist towns. And I don’t mean that they’re off-the-beaten-path gems, either. From my experience, you can miss them out pretty safely when planning your big tour.


But any town, no matter how small, has interesting angles to photograph.


It’s all about focus, after all. Amateur pictures of things that catch your unique interest are way more interesting that amateur photos of touristy edifices. I usually buy a postcard to get a proper shot of that picture everyone takes when they go there. It’s the other views that are fun to shoot.


So, Leuven. College town.



Coffee College: Take it or stay


Louvain if you’re standing in a French-speaking part of the country. Leuven if you’re in it. If you think that doesn’t cause the hell of a lot of confusion standing at the airport train station… you’re probably Belgian. Trying to figure out which of the Brussels stations are different and which are different words for the same place was also exciting.

But I digress.



Some entertaining small shops.


Nice farmers market. I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy escargots from a deep-fry street truck, though.



Next up: the town hall and cathedral, all dressed up for Christmas.

The Busiest Month


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Usually, after Christmas come the winter doldrums, a period of downtime that can be distressingly dull. But not this year. Oh, no.

First there was the conference. In Birmingham. 4 hours away on a good day. 8 if you find out too late that the rail bridge is down on the first leg of your journey. It was a hard  night. Good conference, though.

From the conference, it was (happily) only a short hop to Stafford, where a 12th night re-enactment awaited us in atmospheric Ingestre Hall. Old portraits, beautiful moldings, tasteful paint choices over the 12-foot-high paneling… After an action-packed week, I chose to bask in the atmosphere instead of record it, but I tell you, it was grand.

But there. With the rush of Christmas, I hadn’t finished showing you my trip to Belgium. Here’s a December photo tour of Brussels, for your viewing enjoyment.


Spectaculoos Speculoos: A sort of caramelly cookie-dough, speculoos is a popular flavor in the Netherlands and northern Belgium. Spectaculous is a great adjective. I need to work it into conversation more often. What a spectaculous hat you have there.IMG_8339

This is the back of a giant creche scene in the town square.


Nothing says “Christmas” like a spectacle of lights. Giant, jellyfish lights, floating through the streets of Brussels.


A man and his dog. (I probably should have read the placard. I was distracted by the puppy. This is a fairly consistent theme.)IMG_8323

The architecture in parts of town can best be described as grandiose. (I would say baroque, but it would definitely have to be baroque with a lower-case B. Words are right up my alley; architectural distinctions, not so much.)


Tiny houses filled with confectionery.


Belgian Dickens village, complete with brewery. The piles of kegs on the right balcony totter most convincingly.





Christmas Cards from Edinburgh: The Fruits of Christmas Eve


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Christmas cookies and cranberry sauce. (A lot of cranberry sauce.)


After all, there’s only one more sleep ’til Christmas.


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