The Priory, August 2016

We want plates!

I’m just saving time by summing up this review in my opening sentence. This is pretty much the same of all of my previous Priory reviews. They still aren’t getting the message that a plate is a thing.

So, on with the rest of it.

First, the new (to The Priory at least). Something other than Deuchars IPA (not an IPA) is now available. It’s Caledonian Three Hop, which is sadly false advertising. They’ve changed the glass design since I had it in The Snakecatcher, but they still haven’t put in the hops.

Next we play a game of “spot the deliberate mistake”. What is missing from this picture of a blue cheese and bacon burger?

Stupid metal tray instead of plate? Check!

Salad? Check!

Bacon? Check!

Blue cheese? Check!

Burger? Ah, err, no.

There was a bit of an error in the kitchen, and they forgot to put the burger in this burger. Luckily this was soon corrected, and the silly metal tray returned with a burger in the burger. As ever, it was very tasty, and very nicely done, but we still want plates!

Plates plates plates!

Quorndon Fox, Quorn, August 2016

Chain pubs don’t have to be bad. I talked about this when reviewing The Mitre, Oxford in May 2016.

Vintage Inns are another example of the good chain. We’ve been to them around the country, in Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire, Derbyshire and probably some other shires too. A Christmas visit to The Otter was my last trip to a Vintage Inn. You know what you’re going to get – decent food and usually a good few ales on the bar. The menu is the same up and down the country, and they change them regularly throughout the seasons.

Here’s an example of those good ales – Abbeydale Moonshine, a classic example of the session pale ale, light and hoppy.

You can also keep it light with a simple sandwich menu, offering things like chicken BLT -grilled chicken breast, sweetcure bacon, gem lettuce and tomato. There’s also chargrilled rump steak with horseradish mayonnaise, beer-battered cod goujons and samphire tartare sauce (posh fish fingers), prawn and hot-smoked salmon, Taw Valley cheddar and pickle or Yorkshire ham and grain mustard. These are  all served with “straw fries” (Stringfellows for all you 80s frozen chip children).

There are also steaks, burgers and pizzas as well as a main menu with classics like Hunter’s chicken, steak and mushroom pie, fish’n’chips etc.

I ordered the chicken BLT, which was a good bap with good chips. And served on plates!!! The little chip bowl had been heated up to keep the chips warm, so it served a purpose but I still tipped them out anyway.

On warm summer evenings there’s also a nice beer garden out the back to enjoy. We were dining in the garden, and you get to go and raid the fridge for condiments. No tiny sachets here, go and grab a jar of mayonnaise or tomato sauce or whatever from the fridge and spoon yourself some out.

A decent sandwich at a decent price with a decent price. The Quorndon Fox is indeed MOFAD approved!

Cloudwater DIPA v3

I’ve been using Untappd since the start of 2014. Everything I drink gets checked in there. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’ve drunk, what you’ve enjoyed, and, perhaps more importantly, what you’ve not enjoyed, and should avoid next time around.

As well as giving a score out of 5 (and you can now rate beers with quarters of a point, it used to be only halves), you can leave a short review of up to 140 characters. Most of the time, that is enough. Sometimes, the word meh is more than enough to describe what you’ve drunk. It’s amazing how eloquent some people can be with only 140 characters, and also how funny.

Anyway, why am I prattling on about all that? Well, because I decided that Cloudwater DIPA v3 probably deserved a little more than 140 characters to talk about it. I talked about Cloudwater on Sunday, so I won’t go into too much detail about them here.

This v3 was released on the 9th of April. I didn’t get any at the time, but did manage to snaffle a bottle when picking up my v6 and v7 at the weekend. There have been some recent reviews that suggest it is not as good as when it was fresh, but mine had obviously been stored well as it felt like it was in pretty good condition to me.

It’s a 9% double IPA (DIPA). It doesn’t taste like a 9% DIPA. With many beers of high strength, you can taste the alcohol, and sometimes it can overpower the flavours of the beer (often called “alcohol burn”). Not so here, it is very dangerously drinkable for a 9% beer. In fact, it’s wonderfully drinkable for a 9% beer. You should still try to sip it to appreciate it, but mine didn’t last all that long because it was so drinkable.

A lovely hop haze there. Juicy Citra and Mosaic hops mingle with Chinook and Comet. Vermont ale yeast makes a big contribution to this beer, bringing a peach flavour to do battle with the tropical notes from the hops. It would appear that over time the hops might have fought back a bit more than when everyone tried it back in April.

When you have a limited edition beer like this, that was so talked about on social media (not really hyped up by its creators though), it can often lead to disappointment. You can expect so many things from a bottle of liquid because so much has been said and people got whipped up in to a frenzy because they could only buy one bottle each (or whatever). Enough time has passed to be over the talk.

The only disappointment is that I’ll never get to have another bottle of this, because I bloody loved it. I love huge and flavoursome IPAs. This was very much one of those. I just kept sniffing it and drinking it. I have a sneaky feeling it will be beer of the month for August, but that could depend on when I open v6 and v7.

I just hope the others can live up to this one. A lovely beer.

Wagamama, Leicester, August 2016

I am using Wagamama throughout this post as I disagree with the lower case w at the start of their name.

I seem to be writing a lot about chains at the moment. Our travels over the last couple of months have involved visiting quite a few chain places, but they don’t always have to be bad.

Wagamama is another in the list of “good chains”. There’s been a lot written about the homogenisation of our high streets in recent years, but a little standardisation (although not too much) ought to be a good thing, because you can go to a new town or city and if you’re not prepared to take a risk, you can find somewhere to eat where you know what you will be getting.

Wagamama has been with us since 1992 when the first one opened in Bloomsbury. There are now over 140 of them around the world, with most being based in the UK. But you can also enjoy Japanese ramen style eating in Cyprus, Denmark, Kuwait, New Zealand and Slovakia, to name but a few.

With the redevelopment of The Shires shopping centre in Leicester, which became Highcross Leicester in 2008, a range of new cafe/restaurant/bar chains arrived. Wagamama was one of these. The redevelopment has left Leicester at the forefront of East Midlands shopping experiences, and it’s somewhere we often find ourselves when we actually have to leave the house to buy stuff (it’s nice to see the physical product on occasion).

Tonight we’d had a brief shopping trip so were looking for somewhere to eat without too much fuss and delay (because there are Olympic sports to be watched!) It took no time at all to decide to pop in here for dinner, and as it was a quiet Tuesday evening it took no time at all to get seated and order dinner.

Both myself and Mrs MOFAD went for our favourites. For me that’s chicken katsu curry, for Mrs MOFAD that’s teriyaki chicken donburi. Here’s that curry:-

They have also upped their beer game in recent times. One of the latest additions to the menu is this Hitachino Nest White Ale, a Japanese wheat beer. This is a very interesting beer indeed, with coriander, orange and nutmeg flavours lurking within.

As you might expect, these flavours go very well with Japanese cuisine. This might be the best beer match I’ve yet spotted in a chain restaurant.

Wagamama is a good chain. It works. A good choice of food, an excellent beer and when these both match up in a relaxed atmosphere, you have a great informal dining experience that works well if you’re watching the clock, but is also good if you have more time on your hands. If you have a choice of chains on your local high street, this one won’t let you down.

The limited edition crowdsourced DIPA experiments of Cloudwater Brew Co

Cloudwater have caused a bit of a stir in recent times. On the 7th November 2015, they released their first limited editon Double IPA (DIPA), the start of a quest to build the perfect DIPA. This went to 100 stockists around the country. I had no chance of getting hold of any.

In February 2016, DIPA v2 came out, made with Citra and Chinook hops from the 2015 harvest and the same malt and yeast as v1. Pre-release orders came in for more than double the amount brewed.

DIPA v3 was released in April 2016. I couldn’t get hold of any (until now). Version 3 was made with Vermont ale yeast, Golden Promise malt, and Citra, Chinook, US Comet, and Mosaic hops. I’m going to open mine and try it very soon. You’ve probably worked out that I do love a good IPA/DIPA/IIPA etc.

DIPA v4 and v5 came out at the same time (29th June 2016). At this point, they became almost more of a chemistry experiment than a beer, with different dry hop timings used during brewing to see what the effect would be. Emma from Crema’s Beer Odyssey wrote a great blog post about this which goes into the science as well as looking at some of the whining that accompanied the release of these two beers.

Cloudwater wanted you to try them out side by side and maybe blend them together and see what worked best for you. Once you’d done that, why not then tell them what you thought so that they could make something better. Crowdsourcing beer at its finest. A great idea in my opinion. Although not everyone saw it that way (read Emma’s post for more, unless you’re sick of experts like Michael Gove was).

So, this weekend, they released v6 and v7. I’ve been lucky enough to get hold of some thanks to the lovely Sean at The Needle & Pin who got some in and invited pre-orders. I picked mine up (along with a v3 and a couple of others) tonight.

I’m looking forward to being part of this next experiment very soon, drinking beer and sharing feedback with the people that made it. The early reports suggest that v6 is quite special. It seems that v8 will be on the way soon too, influenced by the results of the v4/v5 experiment.

If you want to get hold of some v6 and v7, this awesome map might be of use, but don’t wait too long…

Wicked Hathern Fest, August 2016

This blog is almost always about food and drink, and Wicked Hathern Fest has already generated two posts about food and drink (Pete on the Street and The Hog Stop). However, I wanted to write a quick post about the festival itself, as there are some other bits and pieces to write about.

Primarily a mini music festival, there is plenty of other stuff going on. This year there was a stage with acts specifically for children, craft stalls and people exhibiting cars. You’ll notice sponsorship from a local car dealer, pretty hard to miss. This is a sign that the festival is growing. There was also a comedy stage which sadly clashed with the main headliners – a shame as there were some good acts from the circuit on.

Unsurprisingly for a village with a brewery (although not represented here) there is a beer tent, this year “curated” by a local pub. Unfortunately, when we arrived at around 4pm many of the ales had already gone. However, this running out of alcohol also had an interesting effect later on, because the filth known as Strongbow ran out, and people were being forced to drink real cider. Although they appeared to be unprepared for the increased ABV of the more flavoursome beverage…

And so on to the music. If you had ever told me that I would one day see a Grammy-nominated Motown star performing in a field on the outskirts of a sleepy Midlands market town, I would have laughed at you for at least an hour. In fact if you had told me that *I* would ever see that star performing anywhere outside of the USA I would probably have also chuckled quietly to myself for a bit…

As well as local bands performing original songs and covers, including 1980s covers band We Tried Kylie (who play no Kylie but are great) and indie covers band The Zufflers (who definitely play no Kylie but are also great), tonight there were two headline acts. First up were 1990s indie kids Dodgy, who decided to perform quite a lot of new and unreleased material to a not all that interested audience. They were an ok band who never really set the pulse racing, and that was replicated tonight.

On to the real headliners then. How on earth do you get Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (Lois and Delphine, who are just two of Matha’s many sisters) to turn up to a field just off the A6? No, I have no idea how the organisers did it either, but they did.

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were brilliant. She is 75. You would never know. Full of energy and obviously having a great time, she was even impressed by meeting the mayor before the show.

She arrived on stage in a Native American head dress, opening with Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”. She was quick to remind everyone that Hathern was a long way from Detroit, Michigan (in case we weren’t aware). Another cover soon followed, an odd choice of George Harrison’s lovely Beatles song “Something”, which was nice but not a big crowd pleaser.

Plenty of her most famous songs throughout the set too, including Heat Wave, Jimmy Mack, and Nowhere to Run, with a special introduction reserved for Dancing in the Street, with Martha thanking many of the artists who had also covered it, even Bowie & Jagger.

Marvin Gaye was one of the writers of Dancing in the Street, and the band paid tribute to him with a version What’s Going On? which soon turned into that concert staple of “the song where everyone in the band does a solo, including every separate member of the horn section, and the drummer”. The set finished with fireworks and a Motown medley – at least this one was performed by an actual Motown legend!

A great day out, I have no idea how they will top it in 2017, although not running out of lots of the good beer before 4pm will probably help! I can now add a Motown legend to my list of legendary artists seen live…

The Hog Stop at Wicked Hathern Fest, August 2016

I have already talked about The Hog Stop a couple of times back in April. As I mentioned, they also have a dedicated catering trailer which can be found around the town on market days and at various other events. Today’s Wicked Hathern Fest was one such event. After some tasty Peter Pizza earlier, we needed more sustenance before the headlining acts.

Luckily The Hog Stop trailer was on hand to delight us with porky goodness. The full line up was available:-

English – apple sauce, sage and onion stuffing and crackling.
Italian porchetta – garlic, fennel, rosemary and chilli.
American BBQ – apple coleslaw and BBQ sauce.
Jamaican jerk – scotch bonnet pepper sauce & banana chutney.
Chinese 5 spice – hoisin sauce and Asian leaf salad.

We both went for the American BBQ which was delicious once again, a perfect festival snack, filling and fab. The Hog Stop are purveyors of perfect pork!

Pete on the Street at Wicked Hathern Fest, August 2016

I’ve already talked about our best local pizza place, Peter Pizza, and their takeaway pizza options. They also have a third option if you can’t eat in or get a takeaway from them. They can come to you.

Pete on the Street is essentially a fully functioning wood burning oven in an old shipping container. On the back of a truck. Don’t believe me? Well, here it is:-

You can book it for your party or event (be that a wedding or music festival, such as the one we find ourselves at today). It is a well-oiled machine, both in terms of the old DAF truck at the front (my dad used to fix these for a living), and the team knocking out pizzas at the back. They say they are equipped to serve 60-70 pizzas an hour in almost any setting.

At today’s Wicked Hathern Fest they were certainly working their socks off, serving up three options, the classic margharita, the ham and salami and the pepper and courgette. Several Peter classics, all served up from this very unique vehicle. There are no frills here, it’s Italian peasant food served up in very humble surroundings. Absolute genius, and great tasting food. A great pizza for 5 quid.

I should really show you a picture of the pizza, but we ate it too fast. Imagine a smaller version of this:-

img_5056-1

And just served on a paper plate. There you go. Great pizzas, great concept! There were queues to get some until they ran out at around 8pm…

Supreme Champion Beer of Britain, 2016

At the Great British Beer Festival yesterday, a speciality beer won CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain for the first time. I’m not able to attend this year, but I thought I’d pass on the news and look at any of the beers that I’ve tasted…

Bingham’s Vanilla Stout, a 5 per cent dark stout infused with vanilla and dark malts, and brewed in Berkshire, was named the best beer of 2016 after almost a year of local tasting panels and regional heats. These saw the best beers from across the UK invited to compete at the Great British Beer Festival.

Snow Top, a 6% old ale “with fruitcake and marmalade flavours” from Old Dairy brewery in Kent came second, and Tring brewery’s Death or Glory, a 7.2 per cent Barley Wine brewed by appointment to the Queen’s Royal Lancers (they have good taste) came third.

Let’s have a look at all of the categories.

Mild

BREWERY BEER Position
Williams Bros Williams Black Gold
Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde Silver
Acorn Darkness Bronze

I’ve not had any of them, so no comment on the specific beers here, but I’ve had other beers from each of these breweries on my travels.

Bitter

BREWERY BEER  Position
Timothy Taylors Boltmaker Gold
Tiny Rebel Hank Silver
Hawkshead Bitter Bronze
Salopian Shropshire Gold Bronze

Boltmaker was the 2014 champion, and is one I’ve had before. An utterly classic English bitter which goes perfectly with fish’n’chips.

boltmaker

Hawkshead Bitter is another one that I’ve tried, after a great day out walking in the Cartmel fells. I probably didn’t have enough time to appreciate all of its subtleties but it was a nice bitter.

Best Bitter

BREWERY BEER  Position
Surrey Hills Shere Drop Gold
Salopian Darwin’s Origin Silver
Colchester Colchester No.1 Bronze
Tiny Rebel Cwtch Bronze

Darwin’s Origin is another that has passed my lips before, a very nice bitter sampled during the Ludlow Food Festival in September 2014, brewed to celebrate Shrewsbury’s most famous son Charles Darwin.

Cwtch (Welsh for cuddle) was last year’s champion, and was also my beer of the year for 2015.

IMG_3767

Strong bitter

BREWERY BEER  Position
Heavy Industry 77 Gold
Hawkshead NZPA Silver
Adnams Ghost Ship Bronze

Hawkshead NZPA is another that has found its way into my beer cupboard, back in July 2015. This was a big hoppy monster, which is one of my favourite styles. Having tasted some very good pale ales in New Zealand this year, this one definitely qualifies as authentic in my opinion!

nzpa

I’m not sure how Ghost Ship comes in as “strong bitter” as it’s 4.5%, and weaker than Cwtch which is 4.6%. For me it only had a little touch of hoppiness and some floral notes. I’m a little confused as to how it made the top three.

Golden Ale

BREWERY BEER  Position
Golden Triangle Mosaic City Gold
Grey Trees Independent Craft Brewery Diggers Gold Silver
Marble Lagonda IPA Bronze

Again, I’ve not had any of these, so no comment. In fact I’ve had nothing at all from any of these breweries.

Speciality

BREWERY BEER  Position
Binghams Vanilla Stout Gold
Titanic Plum Porter Silver
Saltaire Triple Chocoholic Bronze

From the final category, Triple Chocoholic is one that definitely lives up to its name, stuffed full of chocolatey goodness. We won free pints of it at the Talbot Arms pub quiz in May, which made it even better 🙂

The Titanic Plum Porter is one that I’ve definitely had, but it must have been in pre-Untappd days as I have no record of it…

A great selection of beers that made the final lists this year, I’m hoping to find some more of them out in the wild as the year continues.

Cheers!

Beef casserole with savoury scones

It’s another recipe post. I love a casserole. It’s something that has a bit of a bad reputation to shake off, as it’s a dish that is often associated with cheaper cuts of meat. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If they are treated properly, they are often the tastiest. Look at the rise of pulled pork, and to a lesser extent, beef brisket. The shoulder of pork and the breast of beef are cheaper cuts, but when subjected to long and slow cooking, they turn into some of the nicest. If you rush them, they can be tough as old boots.

There are loads of recipes for beef casserole out there so do we really need another one? Well, why not? This is my version. What you serve it with can vary a lot too. We like  savoury scones, so they are included here too. Casserole first. This should serve 4 people, I usually make 6 or more portions and freeze them. It heats up in minutes to give a quick and easy meal at a later date. You can substitute your favourite veg in here, squashes, swedes, or whatever else.

500g beef – stewing beef, casserole beef, brisket, shin, featherblade, whatever your choice of cheaper cut
4 carrots, chopped into thumb sized chunks
4 parsnips, chopped into thumb sized chunks
Small (around 200g) jar of cocktail onions, drained and rinsed under cold water
1 tablespoon of olive oil (or any cooking oil)
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of plain flour
500ml of liquid – water, beer, wine, or any combination of these
Your choice of seasoning

Method

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the beef over a high heat until it starts to brown. If you add all of the beef to the pan, then it will probably release a bit of water. If you don’t like this then you can fry it in batches, but I just don’t have time for that. Once the beef is brown enough for your liking, add the carrots and parsnips and fry them until they have taken on a little colour. Something like:-

Now add the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes until it has coated everything. Now add your liquid. A quick note on this.

I recall a Delia recipe from the 1980s called “beef in designer beer”. It was a take on boeuf en flammande, the classic Belgian beef stew. Her advice in the recipe was:-

"Not sure which one to use? Do what I do and go for the prettiest label!"

Don’t do that. You need to choose something that’s going to work with the beef. A really hoppy IPA, pale ale or a light lager are just not going to do the job. You need a darker ale, a malty bitter or stout or porter. If the end result tastes too “beery” you won’t win any friends. If you’re worried about the beer flavour being too strong, just add a little bit and make up the difference with water. Water on its own is just fine too, a lot of flavour comes from the beef as it slowly cooks.

Now your liquid is in, stir everything around and then add the tomato puree, stir a bit more, stick a lid on it and put it on the hob on a low heat or in the oven at around 160 degrees C for at least 2 hours, preferably 3.

Now let’s get on to the savoury scones. This should make around 6 scones.

230g self-raising flour
60g butter, cut into cubes
half a teaspoon of salt
150ml milk, and a little extra to brush over the tops
1 teaspoon of grain mustard
1 teaspoon of your choice of dried herbs

Method

Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor, and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then slowly add the milk and continue to pulse until combined. Now add the mustard and herbs and give it a final pulse to mix in.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, to around 3cm thick. Cut into rounds using a pastry cutter (6-8cm in diameter). Place on a lightly oiled baking tray, brush the tops with the remaining milk and then bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees C.

When you’ve finished, the casserole should look a little something like this:-

You’ll spot some peas there, I tend to cook these separately and then add them in at the last minute. If you mix them into the casserole they tend to go grey and don’t look very appetising on reheating.

If you prefer something a little spicier, stirring a spoonful of chilli jam into your bowl brings a gentle warmth to proceedings.

The scones will look a little something like this:-

A tasty casserole dish, easy to make and very rewarding for little effort.