Yes, we’re late, but here’s the weekly vlog! There’s Superbowl, there’s sushi, there’s tapas…go, go, go!
Minmin Noodle Bar is a regular spot for my friends at work. It’s close to work, and has become a go to choice for birthday, leaving or payday lunches. Tucked just behind the Arcadian, Minmin is in a great location for lunch while you’re shopping. It’s bright white and green interior gives us a slight cafeteria air, but the food quality speaks for itself. Dave and I visited for lunch during the Chinese New Year Celebrations.
The place was packed out, but we were seated instantly and the service was quick throughout, despite how busy they were. We started with the Mix Combo Starter, which serves two. This was vietnamese spring rolls, chicken spring rolls, spare ribs and yuk sung. The ribs were perfectly cooked; the meat just fell off the bone. The chicken spring rolls were a particular stand out too. The batter was light and crisp, and the rolls were packed with well seasoned, flavourful filling. As a starter for two, the portion size is about right too. You eat one of everything each, and a few mouthfuls of yuk sung, so you’re still hungry for the main course, without feeling short changed.
For mains, I opted for my usual order of Salt and Chilli Pepper Squid. You get a very generous portion of squid, lightly battered and stir-fried with fresh chilli, salt, peppers and vegetables. I always order this, because it is delicious. Served with rice, the portion size is generous, with plenty of juicy squid. The spice is just the right amount of kick, adding flavour and heat without melting your face. The fresh veg adds crunch, and attractive colour on the plate.
Dave ordered the Salt and Pepper Beef Cutlet, and a side of fried rice. The cutlet is slightly battered and stir-fried with salt and chilli pepper. Still on the bone, the meat was tender, with enjoyable crunch from the light batter. As with the squid, the chilli adds enough heat to give a kick, without overwhelming all other flavours.
Minmin is a great place for good value, well cooked food. I’ve eaten here a lot, and the service is always fast and friendly, the food is always spot on, and the bill is always pleasantly low. Definitely visit, if you haven’t already.
Bunny Plans – I caught up with Bunny Mother Katie Cosplays for a prosecco or three and a cosplay chat. Katie is one of the founders of Cosplay Bunnies UK. I’m joining the Bunnies for two conventions this year, and I’m super excited. First up, I’m going to be Batgirl Bunny for DC Bunnies at MCM London in May. The girls are all posting their designs and early tests on the Facebook page, so keep an eye out for updates!
Chinese New Year – Dave and I went along to check out the Chinese New Year celebrations. Photos to come, but you can see some footage of it in the weekly vlog. Unfortunately it poured with rain most of the day, but the crowds still come out to watch traditional lion dances, shop at a variety of stalls, eat street food and watch amazing performances of dance and acrobatics. Despite the rain, it was a lot of fun, and nice to have something so colourful in the midst of all the January grey.
Cosplay Shopping – I’ve been buying cosplay supplies this week, which is always enjoyable. I did very well buying fabrics at the Bullring markets, and even managed to finish my Batgirl Bunny ears.
Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row is one of Birmingham’s premier destinations for modern dim sum, traditional chinese dishes and quality cocktails. The restaurant has primarily been a destination for business clients and workers from the surrounding offices, but Chung Ying are gradually making updates to their menu to bring in some more traditional dishes, in line with their other branches. As diners move away from sticking with the ‘safe’ Katsu curry or chicken chow mein, allowing Ching Ying Central to get a little more creative. Myself and a selection of other bloggers were invited along to Bloggers Bites to test out the new menu items.
We were greeted with a Shanghai Rose cocktail (lychee, rose syrup, vodka), which was incredibly drinkable, as evidenced by the array of empty glasses by the end of the night. It was sweet, and reminded me of turkish delight.
First up to taste was the Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle, wheat noodles in broth with minced pork and prawns. Once we’d figured out how to get the noodles onto our plates without dropping them all over the table, general agreement was that these noodles are delicious. The chili oil added to them gives a pleasant background heat without being overpowering. I hear they’re also a favourite with one of Chung Ying’s owners, so you know they’re good.
Deep Fried Chicken Karaage with Honey and Garlic offers a twist on the ubiquitous fried chicken. Made used chicken thighs and deep fried in tempura batter, the chicken was packed with flavour. The sweet flavour of the honey was unexpected, but worked perfectly with the richer meat. With limited heat, this could be an excellent choice for kids, or for anyone in the party a bit suspicious of more traditional dishes. The chicken was a firm favourite with all the bloggers.
Next, we tried Pei Par Tofu. Be aware, despite the tofu, this is not a vegetarian dish. The tofus is combined with prawn and pork, and then deep fried, before serving with mushrooms and spring onion. The tofu is perfectly silken, with added crunch from the deep frying. Not convinced by tofu? Order this, and be converted. The tofu’s texture is pleasant, and soaks up so much flavour from the other ingredients.
Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao are sweet buns filled with, surprise, pan fried fork and vegetables. The filling was delicious, with the saltiness contrasting nicely with the sticky sweet bun. Personally, I felt there was a little too much bun to filling ratio, but it wasn’t too stodgy despite this. The sweet bun was a little divisive, but those salt-sweet flavours are a Dim Sum classic.
Perhaps the most controversial dish of the night came next. Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now, before turning your nose up, it’s worth remembering that most good quality sausages are made with intestines too; we just don’t name the product after that fact in the UK! For some, the idea of it was too much, but I found these really tasty. Anything with salt and chilli is a winner for me, and these were crisp and tasty. Almost like pork belly in texture, the flavour was rich and intense. Be brave and give these a try.
Last on the savoury side was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Lap Cheong, or Chinese Sausage, is essentially the Chinese equivalent of Chorizo. It added plenty of flavour to the fried rice, which would be a great accompaniment to a main dish to share between a few of you.
As if we haven’t eaten enough, a selection of desserts hit the table. Chung Ying Central has a portion of it’s desserts supplied by Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. I am one of those odd people that can find things ‘too chocolatey’, so I skipped the Triple Chocolate Brownie, but judging from appreciative noises from Brummie Gourmand next to me, if you’re a chocolate fiend, this is an excellent choice. Instead, I dived into the Salted Caramel Brownie. Anything involving caramel is alright in my book, and this was excellent. Gooey, sweet, indulgent, and with plenty of caramel.
On the more traditional side of things, we also tried a Steamed Caramel Bun. The sweet bun had a filling of egg yolk and sugar to make a rich, caramel custard. I had expected this to be more oozy, whereas when I cut into it, it reminded me an over cooked poached egg in appearance. It was tasty though, but I don’t think I’d want the stodgy bun after a large meal. Lastly, we sampled Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. To me, this looked more like jelly than paste. Some of the bloggers loved this, finding it a refreshing palette cleanser, but for me, I couldn’t get my head round it. I wasn’t prepared for it to be warm, for some reason, and I found the chunks of water chestnut a weird texture against the soft jelly. It doesn’t taste of much either. Not for me.
Finally, as if I hadn’t drunk enough, there was Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. Ice wine is made with grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. This creates a sweeter, more concentrated wine. The wine had notes of lychee and honey, and was delicious, if syrupy and strong tasting. Definitely a dessert wine to be drunk sparingly!
I was a guest of Chung Ying Central and East Village PR. All words and opinions are entirely honest and my own.
Today, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama left the White House, and Donald Trump was sworn in. I’ve already starting seeing the posts telling those of us are vocally upset here in the UK to get over it because it won’t impact us. If only that were true.
On a purely practical level, America has a lot of impact across the globe.
NATO has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy for over 60 years. But there are fears about it’s stability, after Trump attacked the organisation as obsolete. NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means…this is what Trump views as obsolete. America spends more on defense than any other NATO member, meaning an American exit from the agreement could have heavy impact financially on other members. Including the UK.
Instead of NATO and it’s members, Trump appears keen to forge closer ties with Russia. He has praised Putin as a strong leader. Russia’s brutal anti-gay legislation, tough laws against foreign nationals reporting on human rights from inside Russia, environmental destruction, vote-rigging, murders of foreign journalists and jailing of activists makes them an unnerving bedfellow for the world’s largest super power.
Trump has threatened to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, which he blames for job losses. He has also suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization.
Trump has spoken about dismantling Obama’s deal with Iran that prevented the country from pursuing nuclear weapons. He has suggested Japan and South Korea should have their own nuclear weapons, while dismissing concerns that North Korea may soon be testing long-range missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.
President Trump has said that he will “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement within 100 days of taking office and will do everything in his power to reverse climate change regulations introduced by President Obama. He has repeatedly denied the science of human-caused climate change, describing it as “fictional’.
Still nothing to worry about?
Even without global impact, we should surely care about those in the USA who are having their rights threatened.
Within hours of the inauguration, whitehouse.gov underwent a radical change. Pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change and health care have been removed. Instead, pages ignoring climate change, calling for more police in black neighbourhoods, and sharing false statistics on inner city crime went up in their place. The Affordable Care Act is under threat. In the days after Trump’s election, hate crimes surged in the USA. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report identifying 867 incidents of harassment and intimidation between November 9 and November 18. Many of those incidents involved harassers invoking Trump’s name. The attacks included anti-LGBT, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-semitic, and anti-Muslim related incidents.
Even if it isn’t on our soil, we should care about this. A strong message has been sent that hate wins.
It’s easy to despair. But there is hope. A movement sprung up today. Bridges Not Walls dropped banners around the world on iconic bridges. The website says, “We will build bridges, not walls, to a peaceful and just world rid of oppression and hatred.”
Let’s leave the last words to Obama n his final tweets as POTUS, who launched the Obama Foundation in a video with Michelle. “I’m still asking you to believe – not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours. I believe in change because I believe in you.” #yeswecan
Sometimes it can seem like there’s a new food spot opening in Birmingham every time you look away for a moment. One of the most recent editions is pretty exciting though. Michelin star winning chef Tom Aikens, known for his appearances on Iron Chef and the Great British Menu, has opened a brand new restaurant and deli in the Mailbox.
Tom’s Kitchen already has four locations in London (and one in Istanbul), making this new opening a testament to the pull of the Birmingham food scene. Each of the restaurants has a real focus on British produce and top notch suppliers, farmers and chefs. The deli offers affordable, express versions of their food, as well as coffees and alcoholic beverages.
I went along to the launch of the Birmingham branch, and was given a tour of the restaurant by the manager. The relationship with suppliers is immediately clear. Photographs of suppliers and farmers with their produce lines the walls, and a large glass cabinet displays sides of meat, and whole birds. There is no ducking away from where your food comes from in this place. Should you feel like watching your food being prepared, you can book one of the two private dining rooms, which has large windows into the kitchen, and even a serving hatch straight from the pastry section. Perfect. The other private dining area also focusses on suppliers, with one wall dedicated to the venue’s wine offering.
The rest of the restaurant is made up of a main dining room, a faux ‘al-fresco’ section that juts into main Mailbox, and a bar area, with plenty of cosy booths. With dark wood and leather chairs, the place feels warm and has the vibe of an upscale country club.
If the canapés we enjoyed at the launch are a good indicator, the food at Tom’s Kitchen is going to be excellent quality.
Every member of staff we dealt with was incredibly friendly and obviously very proud of their new work place. The main restaurant is pricier than is perhaps average in Birmingham, with mains between £15 and £26, but would make a fantastic choice for special occasions, or corporate dining or parties in the private dining rooms. The deli, however, offers Tom’s Kitchen for a bargain price. Located in the main Mailbox concourse, the deli offers a lunch deal of a sandwich, crisps and a drink for £5. Mailbox shoppers can also stop for some bubbles, with two glasses of Prosecco for a bargainous £10 during the week, between 3 and 8pm.
Tom’s Kitchen is open now. To book a table, or find out more, visit the website.
Apparently I took no photos this week. Oops. It’s been mad though, so I hand that over as my excuse.
Comics – Moving in with Dave means there are now a lot of comic books in the flat, with our combined collections. We’ve spent several happy hours researching clever storage methods, and found some excellent ideas we can use our existing Ikea furniture for. How exciting.
Work – It’s been very, very busy. I’ll leave it there.
Tom’s Kitchen – I went along to the launch of Tom’s Kitchen at the Mailbox, to cover it for Brum Hour. I took quite a lot of pictures, so I will likely write a proper write-up in the week, but in brief, I was very impressed. The restaurant itself is gorgeous, and I had a hell of a lot of fun drinking prosecco with Brummie Gourmand and Out In Brum.
It’s been a while since I posted a round up. I took a little break from the vlog over Christmas and New Year, partly because I was spending it with family, and partly because I was super ill over Christmas. I went down with flu just before, and spent several days wishing I was dead, basically. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.
What was fun though was my work Christmas party. It had a bit of a secret Speakeasy theme. There was an open bar, a great live band, an actual Narnia entrance to the food trucks and fake snow. There was a lot of dancing, a lot of laughing and lot og photo boothing.
Christmas itself was spent up North with David’s family. Between nursing the flu, we managed to go and see Rogue One, which I absolutely loved. It led so beautifully into A New Hope, and it was interesting to see a Star Wars film with such a dark tone.
Geeky Brummie’s Christmas dinner involved burgers made of donut (yes). There’s also been hot chocolate, tapas for New Year and quite a lot of Prosecco. Rather a nice round up this time, I think.
I’m an only child. I never had to share my bedroom or deal with a younger sibling borrowing my toys. I like living alone, and I’ve chosen to spend more on rent and not share with housemates for quite a while since I left University. I have shared with partners before, and as some of you might know, my boyfriend David moved in with me just after Christmas. If, like me, you’re not a natural co-habiter, it can be tricky, especially if one of you moves to a house the other lived in alone before. I’ve picked up some tricks and tips along the way though, so here’s my guide to learning to share your space with a partner.
Remember it’s their home too
If you’ve been living alone for a while and then your partner moves in, it can be hard to adjust thinking of it as their home too, not just yours. Before they arrive, have a good clear out and a move round of your own belongings, so there’s actually somewhere for them to put their things and they don’t feel like they’re intruding. Don’t let yourself get precious about where things go. Choose homes for their stuff together, but let it go if they want to store something in a way you wouldn’t. Make sure some of their stuff is on display too, not just stuffed into a spare cupboard. It’s a shared space now.
Talk about your quirks first
Anyone who has shared a home will know that sometimes really tiny things make you really angry. Everybody has their quirks about what they like at home, that others just don’t think about. For example, my mum really hates plates being left in the drying rack after you’ve washed up, whereas I don’t care. It feels silly, but talk about these pet peeves before you’re under one roof. That way, you’ll know if your partner will be filled with irrational rage if your shoes are lying by the front door, and they know if you can’t stand it if the bed is left unmade. It saves arguments later.
Be honest and open about finances
If your other half has giant credit card debts, or something of that sort, it’s always best to know before you move in together. Discuss money. Decide how you’re going to divide up the bills, and if there’s something that only one of you will pay for. For example, when I lived with my ex, we split everything down the middle, except for the internet, which he paid for, as he wanted superfast fiber (which was pricey) and I was happy with the cheap option. Agree on any budgets. Don’t assume that your other half feels the same way about money as you do.
Divide up the chores
If it was originally just your place, that doesn’t mean you’re still doing all the jobs. Make sure you’re dividing up tasks fairly. That can mean taking it in turns to do each task, or splitting them up between you, say one of you cooks and the other does the washing up. You might find certain tasks divide up naturally, but find whatever works.
Choose large items together
Need a new wardrobe now there’s two of you? Eyeing up a new sofa? Remember it’s theirs too now, so make sure you’re choosing items for your home together.
Remember you’re both grown-ups
If you’re mature enough to live together, you need to get over yourself a little. Now is the time to let go of things like hiding your tampons or the spot cream at the back of the bathroom cabinet. Trust me, your partner knows you’re a human. Everyone has their own comfort levels on privacy, and that’s fine, but disguising the fact you’re a human is pointless. Plus, it’s much nicer to have your partner look after you when you’re dying of the flu, instead of hiding alone in your bedroom hoping they don’t notice how snotty you are.
Don’t be roommates
They’re your partner too, not just someone you’re having a flat share with. Don’t let yourself settle into just being roommates. Keep up date night, make an effort to do nice things for each other, even if they’re small like making a cup of tea.
Most of all? Enjoy it!