Monday, 25 June 2012

Dartington Ways with Words Festival, 6-16 July 2012

Ways with Words  is a literature festival that is usually just slightly off my radar.  I'm not sure why as I'm a regular visitor to Totnes, the local town next to Dartington.  I spot a leaflet or poster for the event and then forget about it.  This year I've actually got a ticket to see Ziyad Marar in a talk entitled 'Searching for Intimacy' which sounds fascinating.  It probably wouldn't have been my first choice - but so many fantastic speakers coincided with important events at my son's school or doctor's appointments!  I was rather gutted that I couldn't go to see some of the foodie speakers:  Three Hungry Boys, Tom Parker Bowles, Alex James and Monty Halls are all appearing plus Kim Sayer who'll be talking about setting up the Cornworthy allotments in Devon.

So many writers that I would love to go and see: Hilary Mantel, Siri Hustevdt, A C Grayling, Helen Dunmore, Fay Weldon, Jung's amazing how many great people that will be there.

Dartington Hall is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit even when there isn't a literature fest going on.  It's a not-for-profit charitable foundation with an illustrious arty past.  It now has a pub, restaurant and newly renovated hotel rooms (not so glowingly reviewed in last Saturday's Guardian by Sally Shalam.)  I'm a huge fan of the on-site Barn cinema -  small barrel shaped room showing non-Hollywood films. It sometimes turns itself into a music venue - the famous Dartington International Music School and hosted a wondeful gig last year when local band Metronomy played in the Great Hall.  We've even cycled around it with our kids.  The overall feel of the place is a little bit community country manor and a lot Oxford college with quadrangles.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Devon Cafe Review: Cafe Ode, Shaldon - Sustainable & Stunning

Cafe Ode has opened at the top of the car park on the high point in Shaldon, South Devon, known as The Ness.  The man responsible is Tim Bouget, chef-owner of Ode restaurant just down the road in Shaldon village.  His eco-credentials are very high - he won the national award 2012 for Sustainable Restaurant of the Year (runners up River Cottage and Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons!) and has renovated the old stable buildings in a sympathetic yet ultra-modern way.  

 At the moment there are loads of refectory style benches and tables outside and one table inside (very similar to the ones at Eden Project and Town Mill Bakery, Lyme Regis).  Within a month there will be indoor seating and a huge sunshade over part of the terrace.

 The food and drink is very high quality - wonderful ice creams (the raspberry sorbet is heavenly and so is the butterscotch ice cream) in tasty proper wafer cones but the prices are kept low to keep the customers flowing through.  The food kind of 'rolls out' - there's no fixed menu (maybe there will be later?) but there's a chalkboard where specials appear throughout the day, a bacon and chilli jam bap for elevenses with a square of sticky homemade gingercake, and then a couple of hours later a platter of Devon produce or a salmon and potato salad...and proper fish and chips in the early evening.  

 I haven't yet tried the fish and chips, but I saw the fish guy delivering the (line caught in the Lyme Bay) fish and it looked wonderful.

This place has got to be a top priority for summer dining at any time of the day.  Views, great value, lovely staff, beaches on the doorstep and great food.  Simple really.

Open 10am - 7pm.  Closed Tuesdays

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I Love The Lizard, Cornwall

This is my 100th blog post.  Wow.  I was delighted to write my first piece for the Guardian about great places to eat on a budget in North Devon.  Busy busy.  To celebrate I'm going to indulge in a couple of photos of one of my favourite places in the world: The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.  These places are all within about 10 miles of each other.
 This is The Lizard Point, the most southerly part of mainland England.  I met a friendly forager here who tempted us to nibble a couple of the local plants.  From this position there were about seven different wild edible plants within four feet of us.
 This is Mullion harbour


The archetypally Cornish fishing village of Cadgwith.  Beautiful thrift in the foreground.

It is beautiful, rugged, remote and  just a very relaxing place to be.  

I have previously described some of my favourite things to eat there including the sinfully divine Hope's Cinnamon and Pecan Buns, Polpeor Cafe and Ann's Pasties, but actually you can't beat a little rustic picnic featuring Hope's gruyere and cumin bread, spiced pears, Helford Blue cheese (plus Tesco olives, Cornwall haven't got around to producing those....yet)

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