Star of Siam, Keswick, December 2017

The traditional New Year’s Eve takeaway. For the first time in a long time, we are not in Ambleside, and not going to Jade Garden, Lucky Dragon, China Cottage, Doi Intanon (on the rare year that it was open on NYE) or Jintana.

In Keswick, we turned to a familiar Thai restaurant, Star of Siam. We’ve been coming here for as long as we’ve been coming to Keswick, a lovely friendly Thai restaurant, and great for takeaways (as ever we like to drink our own beer rather than drink poor quality offerings in takeaway outlets).

Here is a case in point.

Thornbridge Serpent.

I encountered this beer for the first time on “Thornbridge night” at The Needle & Pin in December 2016. We deconstructed the beer that night, tasting a very sour and tannic Oliver’s cider, a sweet perry, and a meh bourbon. On that night, it tasted like the lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left) had really dominated this brew, a Belgian style golden ale.

A year on, and it’s even better. So much apple, the beer that’s not a beer.

On to dinner, which accompanied this fantastic beer that’s not beer. A classic starter, satay chicken with peanut chilli sauce. Just to be clear, the satay part is not the peanut bit that you like, that’s in the sauce. The satay part is usually made from lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and a few other bits.

The “slaw” bit might not be the most authentic, but it works here with the juicy chicken and tasty peanut chilli sauce.

On to the main event. Chicken gang massaman. The massaman is probably my favourite Thai curry, perhaps because of more peanut. It varies from place to place. I always used to have beef, but too many cheap cuts of steak have left me favouring chicken instead. A very simple one tonight, a few bits of carrot and some chunks of onion,

Simple, but very tasty, and a fantastic way to round out another lovely year of food and drink. Many great meals accompanied by many great beers. 2017 has been a good one.

BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2017

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the NEC to visit the BBC Good Food Show. And for the first time since the last century, we had a guest, with Mrs MOFAD’s sister (and regular MOFAD supplier) Jo joining us for the first half of the day. We rocked up at the NEC at just after 10am, after a quick detour to pick up our passenger. Note to future self – coming down the A446 from junction 9 is much better than going down to junction 6.

In to the show we go. More security this year, sniffer dogs trying hard not to be distracted by the smell of sausages cooking nearby. Guide dogs doing the same. As usual we set off for the drinks sections first, which were absolutely overwhelmed by gin producers. I thought that there were loads of them last year, but I’m sure there were even more this year. Fewer cider producers and way fewer breweries. No Renegade/West Berkshire (probably the highlight of the last 2 years). No BAD Co (another good one from last year). No Empress Ale. No Crafty Devil. Not even a bigger name like Wadworth.

There were a few familiar names as well as some new breweries (reports on them to come later I’m sure). Plenty of interesting food producers, but again some notable absentees. No Croome Cuisine and their lovely hop cheese. No Debbie & Andrew’s. We picked up the usual haul of Dean’s biscuits, always the most generous with their samples of whole biscuits (unlike some of the cheese producers who have samples the size of a mote of dust).

Santa tells me that there are more goodies to come in 25 days, so I’ll wait until then to do another round up 🙂

The King’s Arms, Hathern, November 2017

A second visit to The King’s Arms in the MOFAD era, although somewhere that we’ve been to a few times, usually for get togethers with walking friends. The same applied tonight, although we didn’t find out about tonight’s gathering until Saturday, as it had somehow slipped under our collective radar.

When you’ve got 30 odd people descending on a pub, you need a certain type of pub that can cope with such things. The posher chain pub wants everyone to be eating, the micropub doesn’t have quite enough room. So this is the level you settle for, a Marston’s chain pub, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. A range of different food options and several beers from the Marston’s empire, including Ringwood and Jennings and a few others that look like they are not from the empire, but they are. With a permanent 2-4-1 deal on food, you need to go with a friend if you don’t want to pay twice as much as everyone else.

Tonight’s beer choice was this month’s seasonal offering from Jennings, Pie in the Sky. It is alleged to be “a robust full bodied beer with pale ale malt and the finest roasted malts combined with whole cone English Fuggle hops to deliver a robust flavour”.

It was just so bland. Before they were owned by the evil empire, I liked Jennings. Hops? Malts? Where? I’m not looking for Cloudwater levels of hoppiness in every pint, but just a decent pint of cask ale would do. It was just so meh.

The food was standard chain pub fodder, I opted for the pulled pork burger, which matched the beer because it was also surprisingly bland. The pulled pork was naked, no sauce, no flavourings, just nude pork (that will get some odd hits for this blog post). It was all ok, but just that. And look at that cheese, it hasn’t even melted in the slightest.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the curry (she does like a pub curry), which was more interesting, although the naan bread was more like a tiny saddle cover for a bicycle seat. Her cider was more interesting, which is not something I thought I would ever say about Bulmer’s.

This does come across as a bit snobby, and it’s not meant to, but this was another of those nights when the company was more important than the food and drink. Again, there was nothing bad, it was just fairly non-descript.

The Brotherswater Inn, Sykeside, Cumbria, August 2017 #3

Veni, vidi, vici.

We returned triumphant, another 4 Wainwrights conquerered, which takes our overall total to 80. We had a lovely walk, taking in The Knott, High Street, Thornthwaite Crag and Gray Crag. We got back a little bit later than planned, partly due to battling 50mph winds on our descent from Gray Crag. Another pleasant evening outside, so there were still a few tables available inside. We picked the window seat at the other end from last night, and perused the menu once more. Another pint of Tirril Eden Valley for me, and more cider for Mrs MOFAD.

Continuing the theme of last night, Mrs MOFAD had what I had 24 hours ago, venison casserole, topped with sauteed kale and accompanied by sweet potato fries. Triple pork nirvana was at stake, so I had the gammon steak, topped with pineapple and grilled tomato.

It was lovely, and a perfect plate of protein after today’s long walk. A nice touch was the snipping of the fat to prevent the steak from curling up, which is something that you don’t see very often. The salad was a bit of a token effort, but the meaty star attraction more than made up for that.

No time to linger tonight, we retired to the Barn End Bar next door for quiz night.

Church Inn, Chelmorton, April 2017

We’ve enjoyed a lovely lazy Saturday with Kerrie, Andy, Hazel, Matt, Janette and Steve. We’ve already taken in Beer District and the Buxton Brewery Tap, as well as chilling out in the sunshine and a stroll along the Monsal Trail. We had no particular evening plans, but as we strolled back along the Monsal Trail a plan to go to the pub formed, and we phoned the Church Inn to book a table. They were reluctant to reserve a table for 8 at first, but we managed to convince them that it was a perfectly rational thing to do.

We drove over and settled in by the roaring fire (it’s April so it’s still cold!) We perused menus and the bar and ordered up some food and drink.

A Thornbridge Wild Swan for me, which I last had at the 2014 Thornbridge beer festival (the one before it got too big for its location). A good summer time light ale with enough flavour to keep you interested.

Mrs MOFAD had a Westons’ Rosie’s Pig, a nice light cider.

My dinner was something that I never usually have when out and about, fish pie. I love fish pie and make it at home a lot, but rarely have it in pubs or restaurants because they can get it so wrong.

This one was a good fish pie, good sauce, nice chunks of fish and a good cheese and crumble topping with some standard veg. A hearty pub meal in a lovely village pub.

Walmgate Ale House, York, April 2017

Another place that was on our “to go” list for York. Walmgate Ale House and Bistro is housed in a 17th century listed building on Walmgate. It was originally opened in 2001, as Melton’s Too, by Michael and Lucy Hjort. Their family has owned and run businesses in York since 1990. Before the Hjort family took over the building, it was owned by Ellerker’s. From 1795, Ellerker’s sold saddles, harnesses and rope. Ellerker’s was commissioned to make the hangman’s nooses for York Prison (now York Castle Museum). This led to the phrase “For me there is no hope – was Ellerker’s made this rope.”

Walmgate Ale House and Bistro has kept the horse’s head at the front of the building from the Ellerker’s days as a symbol of pride in the building’s heritage. The interior also reflects the history of the building with ropes, saddles and old photographs from the days of Ellerker’s.

Downstairs is the bar area, and you wait at the bottom of the stairs to be shown to tables upstairs in the restaurant area. There was a table free (we hadn’t booked) and so we were taken upstairs and sat down to order. I had a pint of Flummoxed Farmer by Ainsty Ales, a good session pale ale, hoppy and bitter, but light.

Mrs MOFAD had Yorkshire Cider from The Great Yorkshire Brewery, a pretty standard cider.

My choice was a fairly easy one – the pulled pork burger which was simple and tasty, with some good chips, and a little bit of slaw on the side. And on a plate, although it was made of wood like some medieval trencher.

Mrs MOFAD had the standard burger, which was less good.

We had more places to explore so asked for the bill. And then asked for it again, since someone else’s drinks had been added to it.

A pleasant enough meal in characterful surroundings, but with so many great places to choose from, you don’t have to settle for pleasant enough.

The Field Head Hotel, Markfield, Leicestershire, April 2017

A story of two halves. Before label and after label.

Before label.

A lovely sunny spring evening. We’d been out walking just over the other side of the M1, a little circuit taking in views from some higher points of Leicestershire. We crossed over the M1 for dinner at the Field Head, somewhere we’ve been before, although not for a while.

A quick browse of the menu and up to the bar to order. For me, a pint of Britannia from Evan-Evans brewery:-

I was a bit suspicious of this at first. Greene King pubs often sneak in a house ale with a faked “craft” name, but this is a real beer from a real brewery in Llandeilo, West Wales. A decent session bitter. Mrs MOFAD opted for some Aspalls (nice posh glass)

After a bit of chat, dinner soon arrived. For me, a simple chicken and chips, with coleslaw, corn on the cob, fries and a chilli salsa thingy:-

It was very nice, simple flavours but all of them work together nicely. Juicy chicken, crisp fries and a nice piquancy from the chilli salsa thingy.

Mrs MOFAD’s choice of sea bass and scallop risotto looked like a good one too:-

A very tasty dish, nice fish and creamy risotto. But then.

After label.

There was a label in it. Initially it looked like a piece of fish skin, but on closer inspection, it was a label from some kind of kitchen implement. That’s enough to put anyone off their dinner, and it did this for Mrs MOFAD.

The bar staff were very apologetic about this when Mrs MOFAD returned to the bar with the plate, and they offered a refund for the dish when asked. A mistake in the kitchen, and a shame, because it rather spoilt what had been a nice meal up to that point.

We might be back. These kind of incidents do put you off though, even if they are handled well.

The Lansdowne (Orange Tree), Leicester, February 2017

Another night of comedy, and another food venue. We’ve been here before, but not for a few years, so there is no MOFAD visit recorded.

You may recall that when attending events around this part of Leicester, we usually go to the The Marquis Wellington, which is just a few doors up the A6. After our last visit, we vowed never to return. If you don’t have time to click on that link, the food was going downhill and we had to give up waiting for 2 out of the 4 meals that we had ordered on that visit.

A new venue was requited. Our plans were actually to go somewhere else after the show we were going to had finished. Those plans changed earlier this afternoon when the venue sent an e-mail to explain that there had been a change of timings. This meant we needed to eat before the show, so a new plan was hatched. We needed somewhere with good food and good service, as we needed to be in and out fairly swiftly.

The Lansdowne (owned by small local chain the Orange Tree group) fitted that description. It is handily located close to the station, and not far from handy parking places (although some of those have now been removed).

A quick check at the bar and there’s no long wait for food, so we had very quickly got ourselves, sorted, ordered and sat down.

A pint of Air Mail for me, from Très Bien Brewery, a tiny little brewery in Tur Langton, which is in the south eastern corner of Leicestershire. I used to follow them on Twitter, but they were always tweeting about TV shows, and nothing about their beer, so I stopped! Anyway, Air Mail is a bitter and hoppy pale ale, a very nice pint. Mrs MOFAD had some Aspalls, which is available on draught.

It didn’t take long for our food to  arrive. We both ordered the breaded chicken burger, served in a brioche bun, topped with chilli slaw, hand cut, twice fried chips (both normal and sweet potato), a small side salad and your choice of dips (we both chose BBQ).

A very nice chicken burger indeed. Juicy chicken, simple salad and really good pub chips. Exactly what we needed tonight, tasty and quick. The perfect place for pre-show dining.

Just a few minutes after we had finished we were up and on our way, down the road to the O2 Academy 2, which in old money is Queens Hall inside the University of Leicester Student Union building. Tonight was the first of three nights of James Acaster performing each of his last three tour shows. Tonight’s show was “Recognise”.

There won’t be a review of the venue, given that there wasn’t anything decent to drink!

The Mortal Man, Troutbeck, January 2017

The Mortal Man is another MOFAD favourite. As I mentioned back in 2014 (twice) and 2016, we always do a walk which incorporates it, usually over from Ambleside via Wansfell. Today was a lovely crisp winter’s day, with a tiny bit of snow and a lot of ice on the ground (necessitating the use of the Kahtoola microspikes), and the pub was warm and inviting as ever.

The usual pint of Loughrigg by Hesket Newmarket awaited (I seem to have it every time we come here). The cider festival was on as usual so Mrs MOFAD treated herself to a few halves. The first was a Monkey Mango by Cockeyed Cider…

With so many visits, we can now compare the changing of the club sandwich. It’s fair to say that it was at its peak in 2014 and has deteriorated a bit since. The flavours are still good, but the removal of the plate and the lack of toasting change it from being a proper club sandwich.

Let’s see 2017 in close up:-

It was a tasty sandwich, featuring the right number of layers at last, but a club sandwich should be toasted. Mrs MOFAD also had a good sandwich which was enjoyed with Side-r Elderflower cider by Glebe Farm, intense floral notes but a little acidic.

My bonus beer today (no driving at the end of this walk) was a familiar name, Sally Birkett’s Ale. Until early 2016, it was brewed just down the road by Hawkshead Brewery, exclusively for The Mortal Man. The beer takes its name from the poem on the sign outside the pub (which is also where the pub’s name comes from):-

“O mortal man that lives by bread
what is it makes they nose so red?
Thou silly fool, that look’st so pale,
‘Tis drinking Sally Birketts ale.”

The beer is now brewed in Carnforth, by Old School Brewery, and is still exclusive to The Mortal Man. A good session ale.

A MOFAD card was left on a previous visit, and it is still here :-

A lovely visit to The Mortal Man as ever, and suitably refreshed we began our return journey to Ambleside…

Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin, December 2016

On the first day of December,
My local pub gave to me,
A great event with Thornbridge brewery…

We are just shy of the first birthday of The Needle & Pin. It has been a great first year, and this event seems like an appropriate way to celebrate that first year. Thornbridge are one of our greatest breweries, and one of the best in the world. The word craft has perhaps become tarnished in recent years, but they are it and have been doing it since they began in 2005.

I can still remember my first pint of Jaipur IPA just yards from this establishment. It was an instant hit with us drinkers and for Thornbridge. And they have gone from strength to strength ever since. I wrote about The Great Peak Weekender back in 2015 (we attended in 2014 too).

To have such a brewery (who have their own pubs and also do regular tap takeovers around the country)hosting an event at our local micro pub is a great achievement for Sean and the patrons of the N&P.

Tonight sold out long ago and we were looking forward to the main event, a deconstruction of Serpent, a collaboration brew with Brooklyn Brewery. Along the way there would be a few little surprises, including many new (to me at least) Thornbridge brews. My drinking companion for tonight was MOFAD regular Alec, and we arrived at the bar within a few minutes of each other.

First up, a half of Sequoia, an amber  ale with lovely hoppy notes:-

Next we went for a half of McConnel’s, a smooth stout with vanilla notes and some smoke:-

Proceedings then continued upstairs, when Sean introduced the assembled drinkers to Meghan from Thornbridge (who we’d already been chatting to at the bar) who would guide us through the Thornbridge maze tonight. Our first bottle was Lukas, a Helles style lager, and Meg told us the tale of the work that gone in to making it possible to brew and store this (it’s a lot more complicated than it might appear). Lukas is super pale, a summertime lager.

On now to the main event, Serpent:deconstructed. Serpent is a Belgian style golden ale, brewed with cider lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left), and then aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. For two years. It’s a project that they were really committed to. And it certainly needed commitment.

To deconstruct it, first we had a half of Oliver’s traditional cider (the supplier of the lees). I do like a cider, but this was really sour and tannic. A thumbs down from me.

What followed was much better, a half of the Classic Perry, a proper perry that was really nice, full of delicious pear sweetness.

The deconstruction finished with a shot of bourbon, to demonstrate the flavours that come from bourbon barrels. You probably already know my feelings on bourbon, I’m very much a Scotch man.

On then to the real thing, the Serpent. It’s a cider, not a beer. The lees have really dominated this brew, and that’s by no means a bad thing. Good complexity here, almost wine-like. I think this will go well with the Xmas turkey, so I might do that. You can certainly taste some of the flavours from the cider, and some of the sweetness of the perry. Not much of the bourbon coming through, but it’s a very nice “ale that’s not like most ales.”

It wouldn’t be a Thornbridge night without an IPA, so we finished with Huck, their new Double IPA full of sweet pine flavours. Lovely stuff.

As ever, there was time for a little shopping (picking up previously reserved beers). Looking forward to these, particularly the ice cream beers (the ones with the little legs) and the next Cloudwater instalment, v9.

A great night at the N&P, thanks to Meg for the Thornbridge tales and Sean for the passion to make it happen. Looking forward to doing it all again next year!