The Gardner’s Cottage Edinburgh


Birthday dinner has to be good doesn’t it? Especially a 30th birthday dinner. You need to ease yourself into a new decade with a little bit of something nice. It’s okay that you a teetering on the brink of your 30s when there’s fresh-baked sourdough bread with a buttery crab spread and chocolate cake at the end. I can handle being four decades old if this is how it starts!





Matt took me to the Gardner’s Cottage in Edinburgh for a delicious introduction to my 30s. Gardner’s Cottage is part of the farm-to-table movement, but not because it’s hopping on the bandwagon in a fad-y way. The building used to literally be the gardner’s cottage and they use the bits and bobs they grow in their garden in most of their dishes. So apart from being lovely to look at, environmentally friendly, locally-sourced, and very healthy, it’s some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. And for 7 set courses at £30, it’s a steal of a deal…really and truly.

And like any respectable blogger (and annoying dining companion) I took (discreet) photos of every single course:









Dear Cath,

It was terrible, terrible, terrible (times infinity!) to spend our 30th apart, but I can not tell you how much this meal eased my pain. When you and Troy are next in Edinburgh we will have to go. It’s a lot lighter than a lot of the massive dinners you guys go to, but so, so, so delicious. I wish I could send you some of that crab and fresh baked sourdough via Royal Mail. Sooooo amazing.

Also, can you tell I love that pink dress? I was beginning to worry I shouldn’t have bought it. Barbie Pink? Summer dress in Edinburgh? Peter Pan collar?! Not practical and not too “me” but it’s my favorite thing now and makes me so happy every time I see it. I actually hang it on the back of our door so I see it every day. The color makes me so happy.

Hope you are having a lovely start to the week!

Love you so much, fellow 30-year-old,


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The Scottish Highlands


Catherine and I consider ourselves city girls. We feel at home in a city, we love the energy and the diversity and all the stuff there is to do. I can marvel at quiet, beautiful, open-spaced country, but it intimidates me a little.

So it says a lot that the reason Cath and I fell in love with Scotland many years ago was not  because the gorgeous city of Edinburgh alone wooed us, but because we saw the Highlands.
A little background for those of you who haven’t been, the Highlands are the hilly and more mountainous bits of Scotland that start north of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Depending on how technical you want to get, the Highlands make up more than half of the land mass of Scotland, yet most of the population live in the cities. So when you are tramping around the Scottish countryside, you can go for miles and never see another soul.




Sure, the Scottish Highlands have been overly romanticized (overly Brigadooned), but I think you can forgive the marketing people who push the rolling hills, William Wallace version of Scotland. It really isn’t too off the mark. I mean you don’t see men running around in kilts, but the austere beauty is totally real.
What makes it so stunning, even to a city mouse, is partly the emptiness. There aren’t many people or trees — just stretches of dramatic hills and mountains covered in burnt colored peat and purple blushed heather.
It is “Skyfall” without a de-jawed Javier Bardem. It’s Brigadoon without the kitschy tartan costumes. And it’s most definitely this Johnny Walker ad with Robert Carlyle.


 But it’s also way better in person than on the big screen. It rains a lot and there are often moody looking clouds, but the air feels so clean and untouched. I almost prefer the Highlands because of their broodiness (clouds, misty, fog). The Highlands are beautiful in the sun, but they are perfect on rainy days with bruised skies.
Last weekend Matt and I took a train two hours north of Edinburgh to hike around the hills of Pitlochry. One down side to falling in love with the country? You end up forgetting about your urban sartorial trappings. I used to try to do a more glamorous hiking look (pretty boots, nice jeans, layers of jackets) — but that totally gets in the way when it’s rainy and windy and your legs ache from propelling yourself upwards for three miles. Also, you kind of don’t care how you look because you’re distracted by the beauty of the landscape all around you (until someone reminds you how weird you look on Instagram – gak!).


Strange for city girls to fall in love with a rugged, windy, lonely place. I guess it’s true that opposites attract.
So what are you? City or country mouse and has any place in the world made you want to dip your toe in the other?
Dear Cath,
One of my happiest memories will always being taking trains around Scotland with our Historic Scotland passes. Wasn’t that the best? Next time we are in Edinburgh together we have to castle hop.

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What’s the Haps in Edinburgh


While Cath has been entertaining you with lovely fashion in Atlanta, Matt and I have been desperately trying to soak up the wee bit of sun coming our way in what is known as Scottish summer: a slight breeze, just above 60 degrees — and that’s as hot as it gets all year round. Interspersed between these “hot” days is the usual weather: 38-50 degrees, windy, mostly cloudy and sometimes rainy.

But one way Matt and I are coping with this mostly-winter-all-year-round business is by embracing all things that make rainy, dark-skied living bearable: becoming members of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society (oolala), dragging our visitors around town and reminding ourselves how beautiful ole Edinburgh is, and eating good food.


Last month Matt became an official member of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society. How do you become a member, you ask? Love whisky and hand over some  moola, et voila! Not only do you get exclusive rights to sit in the Society’s leather-chaired club rooms around the city, you also get to swirl more drams of whisky (sniff, sniff, glug, glug) and pretend you taste all the 32 different notes you are supposed to taste in each cask.


whisky-smws   asiancajuns-whisky

These days I’m not actually tippling (the above photo is all a farce! deep sigh) but I still love going with Matt to the whisky rooms. The arm chairs are so comfy, I love the smell of whisky (and think you can get tipsy after a few deep inhales of this 60% cask strength dram) and you get to read all the descriptions and tips for how to drink the stuff. The text is all a bit tongue-and-cheek (or at least, I think it’s supposed to be!). Here’s one suggestion for a whisky from the peaty regions of Scotland:


And here are some of the descriptors I pulled from another cask entry in their whisky bible. Even if you aren’t a big drinker and particularly dislike the intensity of whisky, doesn’t this make you want a tipple?


So good, isn’t it? The doughnuts are just on there because I liked the way they looked and think a whisky that tastes of doughnuts would be pretty high up there on the lists of things I would drink daily.

If you aren’t a big whisky drinker and know very little about the stuff, the next time you want to impress someone do this: pour yourself a wee dram (no water until after the first sip, and definitely no ice), swirl, sniff (with mouth partially open — yes you will look a bit dopey, but impressively so), sip and then say something like “a note of vanilla with a bit of peatyness.” Not nearly all whisky is either of those things, but hopefully the person you are trying to impress won’t know that, and vanilla and peat seem like fairly common notes in whisky. Or you can be inspired by the descriptions above and make up your own favorite meal and pretend you taste that in your dram.

Ever wonder what peat is/looked like anyway? Now you know:



I leave you with one last delightful swirl of a description:


But we aren’t just pretentiously sniffing amber liquids over here, Matt and I have also been playing tour guide to our lovely friends from the states! Here’s a classic Edinburgh Tourist Photo:


Edinburgh very rarely looks this (above) sunny, but I’m so glad she was all sun-shiney and almost-T-shirt weathery for Alison and Greg (note: the hardened Scot in the T-shirt on the right, reasonably attired Atlantans on the left).

And of course, no good haps wrap-up is any good without food pics! These are a little subdued on the food front because I’ve been following a wheat-free, mostly dairy-free, meat-free diet for months and months. At times the old foodie in me cries a little at having to eat another bowl of beans and rice, but it’s all in the name of hopefully going pain free one day. And it’s not all bad — just look at the deliciousness below:




I hope you guys have been enjoying a lovely spring/summer too. And if this kind of weather isn’t your thing (you love layers and roaring fires), come for a visit in Scotland the other 11 months of the year. You’ll be in love!


Dear Cath,

I’m sorry that you always have to slog through my mishmash posts. You always have such beautiful fashiony things going on in the ATL. My fashion awareness I believe is at an all-time low. The strange thing is I don’t miss it until I see how lovely you look and I’m like “ooo I should wear a dress again.” I blame it mostly on the chilly weather here and my inability to wear contact lenses any more. I will give it a try once we are in Italy though! Speaking of which, I’m actually getting really excited for our trip. It seemed too far away to dream about until recently.

I hit up the library yesterday and got all of this:


That Eat, Pray, Love in Rome book is actually by the guy (Luca Spaghetti) that Elizabeth Gilbert met in Italy. I thought it would be kind of cheesy and as if he were just coat-tailing it (maybe just a tad), but it’s totally gotten me so excited to go to Rome. You should see if the DeKalb Library has a copy. Unofficial AsianCajun Book Club, book one.

Hope you are having a wonderful time at the Southern Blogger Society brunch today! Wish I could be there with you!



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Edinburgh Pop-up Shop


Ziggy Sawdust + Paper Aeroplane: First Birthday Pop-up Shop! from Fiona Purves on Vimeo.

I am so very inspired by these two lovely ladies. Fiona (aka Paper Airplanes) makes beautiful, handmade stationery and Amy (Ziggy Sawdust) rehabs furniture into wonderful retro pieces. And these two creative entrepeneurs happen to have a pop-up shop this weekend in Edinburgh: May 25-29 at Whitespace, 11 Gayfield Square.

I know a lot of you guys aren’t Edinburgh-based, but Cath and I love highlighting independent creatives who are charting their own course and making beautiful things. I wish you guys could join me this weekend. Local Edinburgh readers, let me know if you’re going!


Dear Cath,

I know you really, really want to go to this. Where is our windfall of money when you need it? I’ll take lots of pics and send them your way and buy some bits and bobs to send back to you — or give you when I see you in August.

So glad we got to skype today — it’s not enough, but I guess I should be grateful that we don’t just have to rely on payphones and calling cards (remember good ole Spain or our first trip to Italy?).

Hope that you have a wonderful week! Miss you ooooodles as always. I’ve now come to accept the fact that being apart won’t get easier. Boo to infinity.




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What to Do in Glasgow


Glasgow feels like another world compared to Edinburgh, but it’s just a short hour train ride from our flat. It’s the grittier, younger (as in Industrial Revolution versus Edi’s medieval), bigger, less expensive (yahoo!), rainier (I know), but warmer (usually — it’s all relative) and flatter city. It has the majestic River Clyde running through its heart and delicious food on almost every corner. Matt and I were just there for the weekend but are smitten, so if you have 48 hours in Glasgow, this is what we recommend:

1) Do something arty. There are museums, galleries and house tours galore. Might I suggest House for an Art Lover, designed by Charles Renne Mackintosh in 1901. At £4.50 — that includes the audio tour — it’s a steal-of-a-deal. Yes, audio tour. We are wild and crazy when we city hop.


2) Take a wee stroll through the city and hit up some of the beautiful parks. We went through Kelvingrove to get to Byres Road — home to all things delicious.


3) Shopping. Since moving to Scotland I’ve put the kabash on my spending habits, but I’ve been saving my pennies (pences?) for a trip to Cos. Glasgow seems to have at least twice the number of high street shops that Edinburgh does.


4) Riding the subway! Edinburgh’s bus system is brilliant, but I miss subterranean public transport. Glasgow’s is like a mini London tube — it just runs in a circle (you can’t make a mistake regardless of where you want to go) and is known as Clockwork Orange (it’s round and its branding is orange).


5) Eat delicious food! Our new favorite restaurant? Hanoi Bike Shop (yup, it’s a restaurant). The most delicious Vietnamese food I’ve ever had. We loved it so much we had dinner and brunch there (15 hours apart).Hanoi-bike-shop



I can’t believe you’ve never been to Glasgow! I think you would love it because it feels like Edi is to Washington as Glasgow is to New York — and you loves New York! People are also much friendlier (again — fits the analogy!) and warmer — it made me miss the ATL. Strangers never come up to you in Edinburgh, but in Glasgow we had people start conversations with us in elevators (gasp!), at restaurants, on the street! We have been so Edinburghified we both just kind of blinked at people.

Next time you are in Scotland, we’ll go together okay? Save your pences for Cos! Do you see the boots in the pic? They are heavenly!

Miss you terribly terribly mucho.

Your Banh Mi-ified Sis,


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News Alert: The Sun Came Out in Scotland!

AsianCajuns-Lar-Edinburgh Edinburgh-walk Edinburgh-sunny-day

This is a rare, rare sight: Edinburgh basking in the sun. In fact, we’ve had three consecutive sunny days — and that hasn’t happened since August! It’s still barely more than 45 degrees, but Matt and I spent three hours Sunday morning sitting outside and clawing wiggling our fingers at the vitamin D coming from the sky.

For those of you lucky enough to be in sunny climes, let me give you a few stats about Edinburgh to put our euphoria in perspective:

• Seattle is 50% sunnier than Edinburgh (and we’re much further north, so the sun we do get is quite a bit weaker)

• Oslo is sunnier than Edinburgh 10 months out of the year

• Throughout the year, on average, Edinburgh has less than four hours of sunlight per day

• Atlanta has twice as many hours of sun per day on average than Auld Reekie (see above)

• On the shortest day of the year in Edinburgh, the sun is only 10.7° above the horizon — that’s dusk for most of the world

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but my-oh-my can she be gloomy and moody.



Dear Cath,

You might have seen President Obama in person, but I saw THE SUN in person! Can you tell my brain has been mangled by the lack of vitamin D? All I can do is dream about sunny climates and yearn to be there. Thank goodness spring is coming or I would have to start walking around with my SAD lamp permanently strapped to my body.

Is it the weekend yet? I want to skype with you!




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Chinese New Year + Mardi Gras = AsianCajun Week!


Illustration by Lar • King Cake photo

Don’t tell me you didn’t know about the international holiday that is AsianCajun Week! Neither did I until Cath mentioned that Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras were happening within two days of each other. And Valentine’s Day also happens to fall on (what I am now officially calling) AsianCajun Week too — which makes sense because we love love and chocolate.  So that’s Chinese New Year + Mardi Gras/Pancake Tuesday + Valentine’s Day. Too much of a good thing? Nevah!

Matt and I celebrated Chinese New Year on Sunday by having dinner at the most delicious Cantonese Restaurant in Edinburgh, misleadingly named Karen’s Unicorn. Yes, that’s right. Karen’s Unicorn. Karen might have been there, but there was nary a unicorn in sight. No mattah. We gnoshed on char siu bao and the most delicious sweet and sour tofu I’ve ever tasted.

Our plans for Mardi Gras and Valentine’s are far more humble — as in, we don’t have any. But I want to hear what you guys have planned for AsianCajun Week (or Valentine’s Day, et al as you may know it). Whatever you’re up to, let the good times roll and may you have a prosperous year of the snake!


Dear Cath,

Did you and Troy eat pancakes last night? Swing some beads around? Bite into a king cake? It seems so wrong that we have managed not to be together during AsianCajun Week. Terrible planning, AsianCajuns!

Are you guys doing something romantico for Valentine’s Day? Matteo and I don’t usually celebrate Valentine’s, but we were thinking of starting a tradition: gluten free crepes from this guy and watching a classic Cary Grant rom com.

Gong Hey Fat Choy and Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez and LOVE YOU!




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Do You Still Read Magazines?


Cath and I used to gobble up magazines in our teens and early twenties (good fiber and whatnot), but about 3 years ago I noticed a definite decline in my reading of Vogue, InStyle, Elle, et. al. Instead of adding to my stacks-that-became-night-stands of magazines, more likely I’d be glued to a computer screen reading blogs. I thought, why pay for this stuff when there are all these great bloggerinos out there who share their wisdom and know-how for free?

Well, I’ve had a magazine rebirth* — a magazine renaissance, if you will! But this time around I’m not as interested in the hefty, glossy Condé Nast-ers. Instead I’m hoarding their less famous, independent cousins. And it’s not just fashion I want (or get), but magazines about food and travel and booze. I don’t plan to amass stacks of these guys, I just want to curate a neat little library of inky-perfumed goodness that I can delve into whenever I want to learn something new and tantalize my eyeballs.

I still love me my blog reading, but it’s nice to have something that slows you down a bit. On the internets when I read, I tend to be fairly fickle and distracted; clicking around different tabs constantly and scrolling down pages at a mad rate. Sitting down with a magazine and a cup of tea slows my brain down in a way intertube reading can’t.

How about you guys? Do you still read mags or has that gone by the wayside for you too? If you are reading mags, which ones still manage to pull you away from your computer? Or are you all faincy-pants and do all your reading on a mobile device? What does the future hold for us content-gobblers?

hot-rum-cow-cider magazines read-magazines


* I blame a massive part of my magazine rebirth on two things. 1) I’ve just started working as a designer for an agency that produces lovely magazines: see Hot Rum Cow (also in the pics above). 2) There is a great shop in Edinburgh called Analogue Books that carries a satisfying selection of these tomes — in Atlanta I never knew where to shop for really good independent magazines. If you guys have places in your cities that carry the indies, leave that in the comments as well!


Dear Cath,

Remember our Seventeen magazine days? Or wait! Further back: American Girl, Girl’s Life — hah! Do you remember those? I forgot that we were magazine addicts before we turned 10. I still remember some of my favorite articles: that girl who illustrated that book about a clumsy ballerina (American Girl mag) and a blurp about Kirsten Dunst (at 11) doing Interview With a Vampire, and I remember thinking “kissing Brad Pitt? Eh.” 10-year old me was not impressed easily.

Do you have time to read anything other than case studies and work memos? If not, I’m going to make sure I hang on to all these guys so you can read them when you next come to visit!




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Deelicious Brazilian Food in Edinburgh


Here’s a fun fact (that I made up): Edinburgh’s answer to the food truck is an old police box (the latter recognizable to Dr. Who fans around the world). If you are a long-time reader of AsianCajuns you’ve heard me wax lyrical about my friend’s Indian food police box: the Bollywood Coffee Box. But it doesn’t stop with mouth-watering curries and spicy chili pakoras. All around Edinburgh (and probably other British cities too), entrepreneurial  souls are selling hot drinks, ooey gooey chocolate-filled crepes and aromatic soups from a space no larger than a small American walk-in closet.

Take this guy, for instance:


Awesome, obviously. (He posed like this for the photo — I didn’t just mistakenly catch a fleeting smirk). This guy makes incredible brazilian food from his police box called Tipiniquim. Most days he whips up gluten-free crepes that he fills with your choosing of sweet or savory delights, but on Saturday, oh boy, you are in for a treat. If you haven’t been introduced already, let me tell you about Brazilian bean stew, or feijoada (pronounce fay-jah-dah):

It’s like this: black beans cooked down with sausage and ribs for hours with delicious spices. Serve over a bed of fluffy white rice, ground cassava root (adds a lovely texture and a very light nutty flavor), perfectly tender steamed greens, and a squeeze of orange. Shovel into mouth. Fall into blissed-out food coma.




Apparently feijoada is usually made on Saturdays in Brazil, kind of like red beans and rice Mondays in Louisiana. Have you guys ever had feijoada before? I seriously think Matt and I will be haunting Tipiniquim every Saturday afternoon (stew’s usually ready after 12:30 pm). Apart from the delicious food, standing by the vividly painted police box with tropical fruit hanging in baskets temporary transports me to some place that gets sun more than two days a year. Some people take vitamin D, we’ll just take our weekly dose of Brazilian bean stew.

I love small, independent food movements like these and really am curious what the different manifestations are around the world. Any food trucks or police-box-turned-cafes in your cities?


Dear Cath,

Definitely on the list for when you next visit. And we’ll get gluten-free nutella crepes for dessert. Have you guys been food trucking lately? Not living in the States anymore I was wondering if that was just a trend or if they are still going strong. Matt and I will have to scope out the other police boxes in the center of town. I think most of them are sort of coffee and soup places — I feel completely spoiled by the Bollywood Box and Tupiniquim.

Miss you so very, very much!

Brazilian Bean Stewly Yours,


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Just Like Downton Abbey

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK for obvious reasons, and Matt and I spent last year’s turkey day eating Mexican food and pretending we weren’t missing our families. We totally made up for the lameness of last year by acting like the Granthams (minus the downstairs staff). We rented a manor house (that comfortably sleeps 13) on the west coast of Scotland for a few days and lived like lairds and ladies (lords and ladies that cook and clean for themselves, mind you).

How? Just check out the Landmark Trust properties website, choose a castle, estate, tower that suits your fancy and book away. What’s incredible to me is that the rates are totally reasonable and our chosen house (Saddell House — click to see more pics) was huge, warm (for an old Scottish house), incredibly clean and had amazing showers (again, something you wouldn’t expect even in a refurbished house from 1774).

Just take a gander at all this loveliness:

Apart from exploring the house and the surrounding estate (including a castle, abbey, beach and hills), we spent much of our get-away eating delicious food (thank you, Sara!), watching movies, making s’mores in front of the fireplace, and drinking copious amounts of mulled wine and gin and tonics in tea cups:

This is not a sponsored post:
The Landmark Trust have no idea about AsianCajuns. I found out about them because my smarty friend Sara (the lady in the blue shoes in the photo above) found out about holidaying with Landmark Trust, and we decided to book a massive house for Thanksgiving (not celebrated on these green isles — so rates were even cheaper during Thanksgiving week). It was just £500 for four nights, and there were just five of us — the house had enough beds for 13 people. Amazing, non?


Dear Cath,

Isn’t Saddell House awesome?! The whole time I was thinking about how all those house museums that we went to growing up are newer than this place. And remember how we used to always dream of living in one?! All the secret passages, basements, attics, expansive grounds, big rooms — Saddell had all of it.

We are hoping to explore more Landmark sites around the country this year, but we definitely want everyone to come over some time so we can meet up at one and stay for a week. A shooting party (rah-di-rah-di), without the shooting and just the eating and walking and dozing on feather-down couches in front of crackling fires.

Hope you had a wonderful turkey day. Miss you ever so much!!!



p.s. JUST 20 days!!! See you sooon!!!


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