The Link Hotel, Loughborough, December 2016

Another Christmas party post. My turn tonight, as our work Xmas party returns to The Link Hotel (formerly the Quality Hotel and the Friendly Hotel). We’ve rotated around this and Burleigh Court in recent years, due to their proximity to the workplace.

The best news of the night arrived right at the start, during my first trip to the bar. At last they have caught up with “beer trends”, and there is finally some decent ale on, including plenty from our most local brewery, Charnwood Brewery. Other choices on tap too, including the Curious IPA from Curious Drinks (a subsidiary of English winemaker Chapel Down from Kent).

The most curious thing about it is that it’s not an IPA. A decent pint, but just not an IPA.

To start our dinner, smoked salmon and cray fish salad with beetroot purée and vodka crème frâiche. The fish was nice enough (more salmon would have been nice, and a heavier smoke), but the beetroot puree was very muddy and not particularly pleasant. There was also a terrine and a soup on offer.

Saving my turkey rations for the big day (it’s all too easy to get fed up of it during December), so I had the herb-crusted loin of cod with braised fennel, creamy celeriac purée, micro cress “salad” and salsa verde. This was pretty tasty, served with the usual seasonal veg (no sprouts thanks).

As with the turkey option, Xmas pudding was shunned in favour of chocolate brownie with Belgian chocolate sauce and salted caramel ice cream and some weird “soil” stuff. It was the right decision as ever, although a little too rich for some.

After poor coffee and very average mince pies it was time for dancing. Except that (just like last time) the DJ was rubbish. Just couldn’t read the room, no mixing skills, and playing great tunes for a few minutes and then following them up with dancefloor emptying garbage. Christmas party nights are very lucrative gigs, but if you’re not up to the task, it’s no fun for the punters.

At least the couple who were sat at the next table (who looked rather out of place amongst 20 odd tables of work parties) had left by this point so were saved the pain of Whigfield…

Convenient, and with decent beer at last. Thanks to Sharon for organising as usual.

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Brewdog Edinburgh, June 2016

Another trip to Edinburgh, another trip to Brewdog. After not one, but two, trips back in April, this was high on the list for a return visit. A well timed tweet this afternoon mentioning that there would be live music on tonight sealed the deal, and we headed on down just after 7pm. It was busy as usual, but we ordered a couple of drinks at the bar and hung around for a table to become free.

We’ll start with Mrs MOFAD first this time. Mrs MOFAD has become more of a beer drinker over the last few years, particularly enjoying sour beers, wheat beers, and fruit beers (as long as they aren’t too sickly sweet). Hops are her nemesis, so any “beery beer” is to be avoided. The joy of somewhere like Brewdog is that you can always find yourself a beer in your favourite style(s), with helpful staff to guide you along your way, and advise what’s in the fridges today.

This led to drinking “Berry White” (strong pun work) by To Øl from Denmark. This was a good mix of fruitiness and sourness, way better than any fruit beers currently around in UK supermarkets.

My first beer was a guest. A Go To IPA by Stone Brewing. A bang on trend session IPA all the way from Escondido in California. Quite subtle hoppiness for an IPA, but that’s where the session part takes over.

Next up pizza, one of the three reasons for being here tonight. Several Brewdog bars are now offering pizzas, which is a great move because they can be brilliant and go so well with beer. I always have pizza with beer.

My choice today was the King of Pigs – gyula sausage, leeks, tomatoes, with mozzarella and watercress. This was delicous. Pizza done simply and done well is a thing to behold. This had tasty sausage, with the piquancy of leeks and great peppery watercress. I wouldn’t mind a few more slices of sausage and a bit more watercress.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the Hamlet – kassler (cured and lightly smoked pork), artichokes, tomatoes, granda padano and mozzarella. This too was delicious, although a pile of greenery would also have been nice.

More beer was required to accompany this, and since it was released tonight, it had to be Black Hammer, a dark version of the popular Jack Hammer. A mix of burnt toffee and grapefruit flavours from the hops. Having a beer on “release night” is a very modern thing, which is fine if you live somewhere where you can do this! It also went well with the sausage on the pizza.

Whilst all of this was going on, we were enjoying music from “The Wandering Man” aka Peter Dyer, who was playing down by the pinball machine. An excellent selection of acoustic tunes including many interesting covers and medleys. A great night of live music.

Another drink to accompany this, a pint of Kingpin, the new Brewdog German Pilsner, an upgraded version of This.Is.Lager. Most commercial lager is gassy garbage, this is something much better. Not sure they’ve nailed it yet, but this is a good effort, with some biscuity malt flavours and a touch of sweetness. More hops coming through would be great.

A great night out at Brewdog Edinburgh, it reminded us very much of our trip to Fat Monk back in March – the perfect combination of pizza, beer and tunes. As my dad’s old Musicians’ Union sticker said “Keep Music Live”.

MOFAD approved of course, and the customary MOFAD card was left.

Musical interlude – David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Otis Clay

This blog is all about food and drink, but I am a music lover too. And 2016 has seen its share of deaths in the music industry already. This is not going to be one of those long, rambling outpourings that you see everywhere in the wake of such events. If that’s your thing, then fine, but it’s not for me. Instead I’m just going to share a few songs with you.

First, “Heroes” by David Bowie, who passed away on 10th January 2016. The perfect song for Olympic highlights compilations (this or Gold by Spandau Ballet are the go to tunes). In fact, Team GB entered the stadium to this during the London 2012 opening ceremonies.

Next we come to Take It Easy by Eagles. They had disbanded acrimoniously by the time I went to primary school, but returned in 1994 for Hell Freezes Over, a live recording for MTV, which featured four new songs. The title is a reference to a quote from Don Henley, who said in 1980 that they would perform together again “when hell freezes over”. At the start of the performance, Glenn Frey, who passed away on January 18th 2016, explained “for the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14 year vacation”.

“Take it Easy” was written by Glenn Frey and his neighbour Jackson Browne. In Winslow, Arizona (mentioned in the first line of the song), there is a statue depicting a guitarist standing on the corner.

TakeItEasy_WinslowAZ

And finally, on to Otis Clay, who passed away on January the 8th 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, despite 16 albums. However, you’ve probably heard of a song called “The Only Way Is Up”, written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson. Otis Clay released this song in 1980, but you probably know it as one of the biggest hits of 1998, released by Yazz & The Plastic Population. Here is the original recording.