Issue 310
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TRULY, MADLY, YULEY

Without wanting to be a Debbie downer, replacing chicken with turkey does not a festive dish make. If you're going to do December menu additions, you need to go 'all in', like these plates and tipples that have taken yuletide to Galileo-level genius. From cocktails involving sous-vide Xmas pud, to pizza with parsnip crisps, some of the city's best independent venues are serving up the most inventive and creative of Christmas crackers. JD Wetherspoon, make notes.

EAT ME

THE BURGER
Not all burgers are created equal. The Porchetta 'bout it is an OPM construct that we'd massively favour over a stocking (no offence, Ma) and, at £10.50, is a better use of your cold hard stuff. On top of the usual aged Longhorn beef patty, you'll get a slice of perfect porchetta — this: roasted butterflied loin and belly of pork — plus Cheddar, bone marrow, herb butter, potato rosti, garlic mayo and pickled onions. A burger of biblical proportions.
THE BRUNCH
We cannot account for the Christmas soundtrack at Caneat. But we can fully recommend their sprout tops (£8), which Dom and le gang will be serving for as long as they can get away with. Coming on a slab of sourdough which has been smothered in hot sauce and tahini, then sprinkled with garlic, chilli and sugar-roasted sunflower seeds, the combination of sweet and sour creates a lovely umami flavour. Add pork popcorn if the team has any to make this creation 100% less vegan.
THE PIZZA
What you are and are not allowed to put on pizza is a matter of much discussion in the office. Pineapple? Never. Chicken? Don't even think it. No, really, STOP! For an ever so acceptable switch up, head to Peacer for their mozzarella, cranberry, Wensleydale and mulled wine onions pizza, topped off with parsnip crisps. A minimum of two varieties of cheese is always a strong play in December.
THE CHOCOLATES
Is a chocolate full of alchomafrol an eat or a drink? We don't have the answers but we do have the latest releases from The Wilderness to get lyrical about. O Little Town of Birmingham is a collection of rum, whisky and Champagne truffles (£20, pictured top) that you can order now, with pre-Jesus Day collection or delivery options. Or how's about some hand painted skulls and hearts to tell someone you care? Spiced caramel and fig are your flavour profiles for the White Christmas (£28) collection. More

DRINK ME

THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING
The dry, coined up, food-based stuff is the work of all the major satanics and we just wouldn't do that to you. But what we most definitely would do is point you in the direction of 18/81's latest menu addition. Small batch Bourbon is combined with rich orange flavours, nutty Oloroso sherry and winter spiced bitters, all cooked sous-vide with a 12-month matured Christmas pud, also the name of this new creation (£9.50).
THE BEER
Just when you thought Stirchley couldn't get anymore Stirchley, Sweetmeat Inc and Attic Brew Co have conquered the 500 metres between them and made a beer to sate your Yuletide yearnings. Crunch (3.9%, £4) is a nutty, roasty mild which was brewed up with 25kg of Sweetmeat honeycomb giving a burnt toffee flavour and hint of sweetness. At Attic's taproom tomorrow from 4pm, when Toastie the Difference'll also be serving turkey-stuffing-sausage sangers.
THE HOT CHOCOLATE
Yorks' Tangier is made up of spiced orange infused Belgian melted dark chocolate and served with orange blossom whipped cream and pistachios (£4.20). And if there's a more swoon-worthy hot choc in this city right now, the main possibilities seem to be the other two twists on cocoa the Stephenson Street massif is dealing in this December. They've also got vegan bratwurst with fries, sauerkraut and curry ketchup (£8), which is reported to be 823% more delicious than the Vic Square equivalent. Approximately.
THE COCKTAIL
Keep the change you filthy animal! is a line from the second-best Christmas film ever. It's also one of six cocktail specials (all £10) you'll find at The Edgbaston for the entire time the spot is wrapped up in its very own bow. For the team's 2019 take on hot buttered rum, add falernum, mixed spices, hazelnut and salted butter to a rum blend and, "1, 2, 10", liquid Christmas is yours. Festive afternoon tea is also on the menu, though you'll need to book up for that one.

McMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE


No stranger to firsts, Ikon opened the influx of fresh O₂ that is the debut solo UK exhibition of Meryl McMaster last week, in which the artist explores the impact of colonialisation, the discovery of self-identity and a sense of belonging. And if that sounds a bit heavy, the collection is also just a lovely experience for your eyes. As Immense as the Sky draws on McMaster's dual heritage as a member of the nêhiyawak and Siksika Nation on her father’s side and Euro-Canadian on her mother’s. Her expansive portrait pics come across a bit like a performance still, replacing how her ancestors would have used word-of-mouth to pass down their history. The artist creates journeys of her predecessor’s past through elaborate indigenous clothing, sculptures and props, which can seem everything from confrontational to inviting and intimate. Utterly beautiful, freeing and in town until February 23. Entry is free. And if you somehow happen to be plan-less tonight (Dec 12), Ikon's winter craft market, taking place across both floors of the gallery.

NOW OPEN:
THE COLMORE


Across two nook, cranny and character-filled floors of the old Colmore Row Lloyds bank, a city pub from the excellent Thornbridge Brewery has opened, and the beer is I-missed-the-last-train-home levels of yes. By keg, cask, bottle and can, start off with the OG, Jaipur, a hoppy IPA that knows all about citrus, then keep going through the Bakewell brewery's core collection. And if you thought all the pizza in Brum had already been used up for 2019, think again — The Colmore's got a nine-strong selection of beer dough pizzas, like the Tre Carne, an N'duja, Cotto ham and Pepperoni combination (£11.50 for a 12"). Go big on the garlic and rosemary mayo dip, then probably do go home.

STICK THAT IN YOUR POD AND CAST IT


The Podfather, Richard Herring, is arguably the headliner of the second annual Birmingham PodFest but it's the arrival of Drunk Women Solving Crime (does what it says on the tin) and Films To Be Buried With (less literal) that has us sliding brown paper bags full of unmarked, non-sequential bills across the table to secure tickets. Which is particularly odd behaviour given there's plenty of seats still available for all three shows — priced at £12 — and everything around them, thanks to this timely 'book now' prompt. The whole kit and caboodle takes place on March 28 and 29 in our Town Hall and our Symphony Hall. We're firmly in Christmas present get out of jail territory here, folks.
Venue: Vietnamese Street Kitchen, Resorts World, B40 1PU; website 
Choice: Lemongrass beef curry (£10.45) Chooser: Owner, Oliver

If you thought there was even the vaguest chance you were on top of Brum's new openers, we've got new news of a hard news nature. Family-owned Vietnamese Street Kitchen launched their second charm-packed venue deep inside the glossy, galactic recesses of Resorts World. We went on day one of a soft opening — because we're appalling people — and got our comeuppance with a bit of a wait on food. But If VSK's Brindleyplace original is anything to go by, this understandable hiccup on the very first day of service will already be more fixed than a Russian Olympic campaign. And when the food did come, it came thick and fast with freshness and vibrancy at the heart of each dish, hitting far more right notes than wrong. Two plates on opposite ends of the seasonal spectrum had our tastebuds dancing the salsa with Anton Du Beke. The prawn summer rolls (£6.50) were so light we swear blind they arrived hovering a full inch off the dish, with the snap of the shellfish and a nuoc nam sauce with Barry White-levels of deep making these the best we've had in Brum. Hang on, is Resorts World in Solihull? Don't sidetrack us. Pick of the zingy mix was a winter-thrashing beef curry — the melt-away meat wallowing in a rich jacuzzi of jasmine and lemongrass and joy. That said, five minutes later we managed to rub chilli oil into both eyeballs, so maybe best not to look to us for all the answers. Menu
Birmingham Brewing Company's back after a big 'ol face lift, with shinier taps, a neat new entrance and the addition of a local spirits range. Open Friday and Saturday if you're up for a nose.
Diamond earrings worth £410 by B-town's Rhiannon Lewis are totally winnable care of our little sister title, Letterbox. All you need do is subscribe for your chance to win.
If a part of you lives for Bake Off, or you know someone that does, you're probably going to want to quickly acquaint yourself with The Big Birmingham Bake. Think judges, cooking stations, a tight deadline and even a flipping marquee.
Kings Norton has the Christmas farmers' market sewn up for this weekend. Join all the angels and saints on Saturday from 9am on The Green. More
Covering off everyone from Bach to The Beatles, Miloš Karadaglić's doing his dreamy classical guitary thing at Town Hall on Jan 21. Tickets are from £12.50.
Who is left on your present list and what makes them so bleating hard to buy for? Whatever it is, a subscription to activities box, Buckt, might be worth a look-see, particularly when you factor in getting two months for the price of one when you mention us.


"It's important to live your life by a motto. I chose to live my life by the motto, 'My enemy's enemy is my friend. ' Unfortunately, as it turns out, my enemy is his own worst enemy. So, I have to invite him to barbecues."


Richard Herring



 
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Robb Sheppard
PICTURES: Meryl McMaster Harbourage For A Song (2019) Giclée Print. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain and The Baldwin Gallery

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