January 2020 round up

This is an attempt to try and write a little something each month, to get out of the bad habits of 2019 when I didn’t write very much at all. Rather than piling up 10 or more drafts a month and never finishing any of them, getting at least one round up published might be the way forward. It’s got to be worth a try.

So what’s been happening in January 2020? A lovely trip to the Lakes concluded with some fantastic pizza from The Sourdough Pizza Co in Ambleside. They are not really geared up for visiting customers at the moment, with a distinct lack of counter facilities, but we didn’t have time to wait for a delivery, so collection was the quickest optio. Pulled pork and apple sauce pizza? Yes please!

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There was also the customary trip to The Mortal Man, via Wansfell as usual, a lovely pub with good food and a warm welcome. The MOFAD card left many years ago is still there. It’s a fantastic walk and it was a great day to do it.

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The only other pub trip this month was a quick pint in The Ale Stop, with MOFAD companion Andy, whilst we were waiting for our curries to be cooked. A lovely little micro pub in the centre of Buxton, full of lively locals. The only other trip “out out” this month featured a pleasant new carbonara pizza at Pizza Express (no sign of Prince Andrew), before we went to see Bad Boys For Life (quality action nonsense).

Some of my favourite beers this month have been Donzoko Northern Helles (great lager, believe the hype), Escape Pod by Pressure Drop (liquid Bounty bar mixed with crude oil) and the fantastic Sunshine by Brass Castle, a good old fashioned fantastic IPA. No adjuncts, no lactose, no fruit purées. Just a great balance of malts and hops.

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The aforementioned Andy and I also shared some big unit stouts and porters like Tokyo* Death and Siren’s 2019 Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

My least favourite beers were all of the Lidl ones, brewed under the made up “Hatherwood Craft Beer Company” name. They were very cheap, but not very good. If you pay a pound for an IPA, you get a pound’s worth of IPA.

Recipe of the month was probably slow cooker jerk chicken. Looking forward to refining that one a bit more.

So that was the first 2020 round up, hopefully I’ll get to do one each month. February should see a few more trips out, with the Leicester comedy festival tempting us into a couple of trips…

Henrys Tavern, 16th Street, Denver, October 2018

Another night, another bar full of wall to wall TVs showing a feast of sports. You certainly don’t need to miss any sporting action if you want to go out to eat in Denver. It’s everywhere.

Henry’s is a small chain which originated in Portland, but it was hard to tell it apart from Yard House, where we went last night. Not quite so many beers on tap, but still a decent selection, and a similar menu with the usual selection of burgers, tacos, pizzas, fish’n’chips and stir fries.

If I see a BBQ chicken pizza then I’m likely to have it, and that was the case here, BBQ marinated chicken, applewood smoked bacon and “sharp” cheddar (which didn’t lacerate my mouth).

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Another local beer to go with it, Upslope lager, malty with a crisp finish, brewed up the road in Boulder.

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Nothing remarkable about this place, but a perfectly pleasant place for a pizza and a pint (actual volume of pint may vary, because Americans have a smaller gallon, so if you have 1/8th of a gallon here it’s 473ml instead of 568ml). Oh, and there’s sport. World series again tonight.

Bull’s Head, Thringstone, August 2018

Only the second ever appearance of Thringstone in these hallowed electronic pages, and both have come this year. The weather forecast this morning looked promising for the evening, so we decided to venture out for a short walk before retiring to the pub for tea.

Due to rather black clouds gathering overhead after the first part of our walk, we decided to cut it short and dive in to the pub a little earlier than planned.

The Bull’s Head has had a number of incarnations over the years. It’s somewhere we regularly pass on the A512, and it comes as no surprise to see it with new branding once a year. It’s now a Stonehouse pub, which means that it specialises in pizzas and carvery (it had been a carvery in a previous life). It was fairly busy for a random Thursday night in August, probably a reflection of the competitive pricing.

We took advantage of that, with the Thursday night deal of 2 pizzas and a bottle of prosecco for £20. This was quite welcome, given that the beer on offer was awful, and there was nothing interesting in bottles. Despite being on the outskirts of the village, this is very much now a “food pub”, not a classic “village pub” where you would expect to find a friendly landlord proud of their well kept cask ales.

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That said, it’s a reasonable food pub. The pizzas were good, a decent crisp base and a good amount of topping (not skimping and saving on the more expensive crispy duck to keep profit margins up). Free salad too, in a classic Harvester/Pizza Hut “go and help yourself” style.

Good post-walk fodder to keep you satisfied. And I do love to see a crispy duck pizza on the menu, even though I suspect Italians are self-combusting at the thought of such a thing!

Pizza Express, Loughborough, July 2018

Another one of our semi-regular pre-cinema haunts. Personally, I think they are over priced and a bit samey. However, we do come back on occasion to see if things have changed. Tonight we came back because somewhere else was full.

Something different was on the menu, with this Italian meats pizza making an appearance. It was ok, but they are still not as good as our local indepenent pizza place, Peter.

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Tonight’s film was Ocean’s 8, an all female re-imagining of Ocean’s 11 with lots of nice nods to the most recent Ocean’s franchise, a very entertaining film in its own right though, and no knowledge of any of the other films needed.

Bucks Head, Camden, June 2018

Hot town, summer in the city,
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.

Yes, it’s summer and I’m in London. After a lovely weekend away camping, it was back home and then off to the station to catch a train down to that London. I’m here for a week. Five days of 9-5 solid training course on quite a dry subject. With two exams, the second of which is 2 1/2 hours long.

What this does mean is a run of blog posts, because I have to go out and have dinner each night, and to stop myself going insane there are a couple of comedy gigs lined up too, my reward for revising and doing mock exam papers most nights.

I’m staying in Camden again because I’ve stayed here a few times before, the hotel is reasonably priced (for London, and it meets corporate pricing requirements) and the Northern line is handy for travelling for the daytime activities and evening ones (although I hadn’t spotted that the station is exit only in the early evening whilst they are upgrading escalators).

I picked a familiar pub for dinner, The Bucks Head. Nice and close to the hotel, we were here in November for a drink, and the menu had some interesting items on it. And the football was on. The World Cup has had some cracking games this year, and this was my first chance to watch one down the pub.

Drink first, and another “same as last time” beer, LPA – London Pale Ale by Southwark Brewing Co, a simple session ale with a gentle hoppy hint hidden in there somewhere. And some happy Colombian fans (I think Yerry Mina had just scored).

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The super smoked meats pizza was calling me. Pulled pork? Yes please! Slow cooked hickory smoked brisket? Yes please! “Sauce drizzles” of cheese, teryaki and BBQ? Probably. “Superfood side salad” – probably a good idea to have something a bit healthier. Apparently it was the last pizza in the kitchen tonight.

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The pizza didn’t quite live up to its billing. More meat was required, the teryaki didn’t seem to make it on, and the “cheese sauce drizzle” was just weird. It needed some vegetable matter.

The superfood side salad was hardly that. A few slices of cucumber, avocado, tomato, onion, pepper and a few leaves is not exactly the greatest side in the world. Bit of a rip off and lacking super.

The atmosphere inside wasn’t the greatest, so I decided on plan B, and headed off to Brewdog to watch the second half.

Vapia-no pizza, Soho, March 2018

This is going to be one of those moany posts. I ordered pizza. I left without eating pizza. I went to the Soho Theatre. I bought a wrap. I ate that after the show. I was still thinking about pizza.

Let’s get on to the good bit first. I like the Vapiano concept (when it works). If you’ve not been to one before, a quick explanation. When you go in, you get a contactless card (much like a hotel room card). You find yourself a table or a spot at a shared bench (more likely on a busy Friday night in the west end). You visit the counter that you want to order food from, you order food, drinks etc. You tap your card on the reader and the charge for whatever you’ve ordered is applied to the card. When you’ve finished, you take your card to the till, and pay. Easy. Simple. Quick.

When it works, it works. However, if it is a really busy Friday night, and you choose pizza, you might run the risk of not getting pizza. I’m willing to take that risk for pizza, but it backfired. I did manage to get a pint of “British Pale Ale” from Caledonian (yes I know, evil Heineken subsidiary). Six quid a pint though – super ouch!

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Coupled with eating some of Mrs MOFAD’s chicken alfredo (chicken, mushrooms, onion, cream, egg and Grana Padano), this was all that I had to sustain me. The pasta orders are cooked in front of you while you wait. Despite ordering pizza in what seemed reasonable time, there appeared to be a backlog of pizzas, and orders that went in after mine were definitely coming out before. When they messed up another order (missing three quarters of it!) then they had to get the rest of that through the oven.

In honour of the recently departed Jim Bowen, let’s have a look at what we could have won, with a previous visit to Vapiano in April 2011…

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My plan to come here because it would be quick rather blew up in my face. You can’t win them all. At least they were good enough not to charge me for the pizza I didn’t eat. I would come back, but I’ll make sure there’s another half hour available next time. Can’t win them all.

Brewdog Nottingham, January 2018

A very rare excursion to Nottingham. Very rare. In fact, I think the last time we came here was because the Derby Assembly Rooms had burned down. So that puts it in 2014. Four years on, and there’s still no Assembly Rooms. Apparently it will be knocked down in 2020 and rebuilt in 2022. On that occasion, we were here to watch Sarah Millican’s rescheduled show. Today, there was a Christmas present to exchange. We just don’t come to Nottingham these days.

After achieving our goal, we wandered down to Brewdog for lunch, as it was our closest option for good food and an interesting beer. Well, one of us had an interesting beer. My Indie Pale Ale was a very dull biscuity lager which did not exhibit any of the “pear and banana notes” that were claimed in the tasting notes.

Mrs MOFAD’s beer was far more interesting. Raspberry Popsicle Parade was fruity, smooth and a little tart, a 0.5% raspberry Berliner Weisse. If only all low alcohol beer was this good.

Lunch was pizza. My Brewdog dining experience is generally formed of burgers or pizza, and this is a pizza establishment. Which means I will be choosing King of Pigs, gyula sausage, leeks, tomatoes, with mozzarella and watercress. As usual, it was delicious. 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 lot more watercress.

Another solid Brewdog experience.

Mamma Mia, Vidamar Resort Hotel, Algarve, October 2017

We always like to finish a holiday with a meal out. The hotel that we’ve been staying at all week has an Italian restaurant attached (not quite what you’d expect in Portugal, but there we go). Hotel guests can dine there at a discount, and they accept non-residents too, so a group of us decided to make this our dinner place for tonight.

We booked a table for 8pm, arrived on time, ordered drinks and food.

At 9:17pm the first part of our dinner arrived, for those of us that had chosen starters. We had a few preferences between us that needed to be accommodated, but we had already discussed these in advance when making our booking, and were assured there would be no problems.

There were problems. They were just unable to cope with more than 2 customers at a time. When you are absolutely starving, this is absolutely the worst.

The eternal dilemma over starters reared its head, some of us ordered one, others didn’t. Those that didn’t really regretted it, as they needed some kind of sustenace whilst waiting for almost 90 minutes for the main course to arrive.

Eventually it did, and mine was a rather average calzone, lots of dough and not a lot of filling. Others weren’t even this lucky, as not everything arrived as we had requested, and a few things were cold/undercooked.

All in all a very underwhelming experience for a pizza restaurant attached to a 5 star hotel. At least there was a nice view of the pool on our way back to the hotel.

An underwhelming end to a bit of an underwhelming stay at a place that promises much on its website.

Pizza Express, Loughborough, October 2017

Another quick pizza post as a result of another night out at the cinema with regular cinema and dining companions Karon & John. It’s always a bit tricky to judge which of the various restaurants to choose when you’re on the clock. We thought that pizza would be a safe bet, because once you’ve made it up it cooks pretty quickly. Were we right? Find out in a moment.

My choice tonight was pizza campana, a current special featuring crumbled pork & fennel sausage, friarielli (a kind of Italian broccoli leaf), tomato, garlic oil and mozzarella, finished with Gran Milano cheese and parsley.

It was a nice pizza, good to have something a bit different for once. We also shared a standard side salad, which is ok, just rather uninspiring.

Pizza Express have not upped their beer game since last time, so I opted for the Belvoir (pronounced beaver if you’re not from round here) ginger beer, a lovely and refreshing ginger beer (non-alcoholic).

So did they manage to get our dinners out in time? No. The trailers had nearly finished by the time we had got out and in to the cinema.

Tonight’s film was Kingsman : The Golden Circle which was a really good fun action romp, the perfect action nonsense antidote to one of the busiest weeks of work I’ve ever known.

The Narrowboat #1, Skipton, September 2017

After a gentle bimble around Skipton this afternoon we wandered back to the hotel and then back out again for dinner. We’ve booked a table somewhere for tomorrow night (a lesson learned from 2015) but tonight we just decided to wander until we found somewhere. We didn’t take long to find our dinner destination, settling on The Narrowboat, which we’d visited as part of 2015’s walking tour of Skipton.

The first reason for visiting was because I had spotted Hawkshead’s Passion Fruit Gose on the bar. Mrs MOFAD has been looking out for this beer since it was first announced, and we missed it at this year’s Thornbridge Peakender (along with many other great beers which came and went in the blink of an eye). It looked like it was finally time to try it.

So near, and yet so far. I’d ordered it at the bar, but the last few drops dribbled out of the keg. The pub let Mrs MOFAD have it for nothing (to compensate for the sadness), and she had to choose something else. Pogo by Wild Beer Co is fruit salad with a little hop character.

My first was Sorachi by Bristol Beer Factory, a decent cask ale but for me the Sorachi Ace hop was too muted. It’s a Marmite hop but I love its flavour which is why I was looking for more here.

A gentle golden ale next, in the form of Mallisons American SIPA. A decent pint but nothing to really excite.

Just in case you weren’t sure that we were in the North. Chips and gravy. Northern gravy. Although sadly Hazel’s pie had to go back, as during the likely reheating they had burned it rather badly, and it was inedible. It was eventually replaced with pizza, but they didn’t refund the difference.

No such problems with my pizza which they got right first time. A porky fest with bacon, sausage, pulled pork and black pudding.

Black pudding is northern filth, so it was distributed to other plates… Apart from the filth, this was a tasty, porky and crisp pizza, just what I wanted on a Friday night. If that wasn’t good enough, then Mrs MOFAD was even more delighted, as they had found some more Passion Fruit Gose. Her review was simple:-

“OMG. Best. Beer. Ever.”

Fairly clear cut.

My final pint tonight was Citra Star from Northumberland’s Anarchy Brew Co, one that I’ve had before in a can, and it’s even better on cask.

A shame that they burnt the pie, and didn’t really sort the situation out properly, but we did all eventually have a nice dinner and some great beer.