Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Devon Pub Review: The Fat Pig, Exeter

We went as a family (two adults, a daughter aged 14 and a son aged 12) to the Fat Pig in Exeter for Sunday lunch a few days ago.
It was great!  A relaxing hang out serving some top notch micro brewed ales.  My other half had the Steam Hammer Ale and really enjoyed that.  We were intrigued by all the hanging pictures.  They did tell a few stories as we asked the waitress (owner, I'm not sure) about one and heard a wonderful story about the man portrayed.

We shared a Smoked Garlic with toast to start with.  All four of us enjoyed that.  Like everything, it was  served on a board.  There was a whole bulb of soft and smokey garlic and plenty of toast.  We should have ordered two portions really as we were hungry and there was plenty of grabbing going on! 
For main courses, two of us had the smoked prawns and chips (the prawns were recommended to me by Countrywoodsmoke, a local foodie and BBQ/Smoker expert), my daughter had the Roast Pork and my husband had the Smoked Pheasant.  The pub has recently acquired a new 'smoker' and is making the most of it.
The prawns were smoked, but not overly so.  They were served whole - so we had to peel them but my son loved doing this.  Personally I could have done with a debris bowl or dish as I was quite messy, but this is splitting hairs.  The large quantity of serviettes and finger bowls were appreciated and used.

My daughter enjoyed the Roast Pork - there are some reviews on Tripadvisor to say the Sunday roast isn't great - it was good for her.  Plenty of meat, veg and gravy.  The only weird thing was that the roast potatoes were enormous and could have been smaller - that is a small gripe.  The meat, veg and gravy were all fine.  My husband liked the pheasant - of which there was a large quantity - and when I had a small 'taster', I managed to get the only piece of 'shot' in the whole dish.  Typical.

All four of us enjoyed our meal and we will be back to try lunch on a different day of the week.  I liked the vibe, the ethos, the decor and the food.  The place was very busy by 1pm so it's worthwhile reserving at the weekend.  They have a great system of chalking the reservations on the actual wood of the tables.  I liked that.

I was a guest, but I was free to write what I wished.  

Saturday, 14 December 2013

A Stroll Around Stover Lake, South Devon

I visited Stover Country Park today as part of my self-inflicted Future Learn course about Eco Systems.  I never particularly enjoyed Biology or Geography at school, but now I am in my 40s, it all seems a lot more interesting.
Future Learn offer online FREE OF CHARGE courses.  This is the second one I have done and I love it. The Future Learn courses are in their infancy (but fully tested) so there is the odd glitch (really nothing serious, but the forums have not yet matured, so the discussions between users could be more fruitful) but overall they are very enjoyable, good quality and easy to fit into a hectic / unpredictable life.

So here are some of the photos I chose to take.  Nothing rare - not that interesting - but relevant to the food chain stuff I have been learning about (woodlands, fungi, leaf litter, logs) and then we had to upload them to a free wildlife website called iSpot.  And also it all looked rather beautiful in a seasonal kind of way.

We also visited the bird hide (a paradise for twitchers) and walked around the lake.  The wind was seriously swirling the dead leaves.  It was a great circular (short) walk.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Wind Meal at River Cottage Canteen, Plymouth + Mount Edgecumbe, Torpoint

I was invited to hear all about Wind Energy at Mount Edgecumbe and enjoy a meal at the River Cottage Canteen last week.

We were whisked over by ferry boat from Royal William Yard to Mount Edgecumbe (only takes about ten minutes and with the sun shining, it was very pleasant).  Royal William Yard needs some signs for car users!  I love going there and know about it - but what about others who do not?!  

Mt. Edgecumbe is a very grand building and parkland with stunning views over the River Tamar.  It would be an amazing wedding venue...and there was a wedding appointment after we left.  An interesting discussion (just about the right length too!) was held about the benefits of renewable energy, Wind power, in particular.  There were five speakers and about 150 of us in the audience.

The speakers were: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; Nicky Conway, from Forum for the Future; Maf Smith, Deputy CEO of RenewableUK plus Robin Hanbury-Tenison Bodmin farmer, explorer and author; Bill Martin chaired the discussion, Editor of Western Morning News.

We then returned by electric cars and Land Rovers to get a ferry back to Royal William Yard.  I met a really nice Cornish food blogger, Kate (yes, another one) but the weather was now windy and grey with the threat of rain so we sat inside for the journey. This is a link to her blog which has a review of the same event (her photos are brilliant, her review of the speakers' arguments is concise, plus there is lots of other really good stuff and some delicious recipes.  There is also another really good review of the day here on Robert's blog.

The food at the River Cottage Canteen was superb.  They were catering to many media and PR people, but nevertheless I would never have guessed that they were serving to so many people.  The food was from wind-powered farms (and was not necessarily local - a fact that Hugh mentioned and apologised for)  but it was wonderful.

I had the following and it was all of the highest order and absolutely delicious:

Vine House organic cauliflower soup with Lincolnshire Poacher fritter

Sheepdrove organic farm lamb, parsnip and thyme gratin, green sauce (amazing!!)

Caramelised apple tart with Mackie's traditional ice cream and yummy Yorkshire organic vanilla ice cream (also amazing - a true 'caramelised' Tarte Tatin style one, and the two types of ice cream perfectly matched it, there was also a splash of custard!)

Over lunch, I sat opposite Nicky Conway from Forum for the Future.  And yes, we talked a little about renewable energy....but mostly about Devon and food!  There was no time for tea or coffee as my lift arrived and we were a little bit later than anticipated.

Thanks to all the wind powered food suppliers, Renewable UK plus the River Cottage Canteen and Forum for the Future plus the fab PR agency, HK Strategies.

I was a guest, but I was free to write what I wished.  

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Great Charity Supper Club at Huntsham Court

I enjoyed a great meal provided by Posh Nosh last night at the fabulous Huntsham Court near Tiverton.

The venue was luxurious, the host-owners were super friendly (and so generous to donate the venue for the two evenings to the local charity), we met some really nice people and enjoyed listening to the entertainment provided by The Westenders.

If you ever go to Huntsham Court (it is a private venue suitable for huge house parties, weddings or other special events), get good directions - we got so lost in the maze of country lanes in the dark and rain - but that was our own fault.

A great night out.  Not one that I would have anticipated enjoying, but I did because it was so well done!  Check out their future events and supper clubs.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Review: Not so Jolly Good - The Jolly Good Fish Cafe, Teignmouth

Three of us had lunch at the Jolly Good Fish Cafe in Teignmouth in November 2013.  We all chose the cod, chips and peas (there was no chicken or haddock that day. They also said that the fish were one size only - this didn't bother me).  This picture is not an actual shot of our meal!

Thanks to Tripadvisor for this interior photo.

Number 1 fish was discoloured and smelt strongly and wasn't eaten.
Number 2 fish was slightly discoloured and had a slight whiff and was partially eaten
Number 3 fish was slightly discoloured and had no smell and was mostly eaten.

The woman working there said that she was 'unhappy' with the fish that was delivered.  Personally, I wish she had rejected it - that's what I would do.  I certainly wouldn't have served the fish to paying customers.

My companion chose a pineapple fritter from the menu as a replacement...they had no pineapple....and came back to tell us they couldn't buy any locally.  I have a fresh one and tin of it at home and ALMOST went back to get them.

They also forgot to bring my bread and butter which was included in my meal deal.  What a shame.  We are local to this place and eat fish and chips regularly.  So, they tried to remedy the situation, but the situation shouldn't have arisen in the first place.

We will be returning to Finn McCools next time - that place has never let us down in any way.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Langage Farm Clotted Cream - Devon's Best

These pictures don't really need any additional description!  

One of my favourite things to eat: chocolate brownies made by my daughter (she is 13 and already a great cook) using the River Cottage recipe, no nuts for us, and then glammed up with some local raspberries and a mountain of Devon Langage Farm Clotted Cream and served in a vintage glass sundae dish from Antiques Ad Hoc in Ashburton. Perfectly delicious.  And a great treat to serve some visiting members of the family at the weekend.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Dawlish Warren: New Farm Shop and Blackberry Picking

 The blackberries were easy to pick this year...(and will be turned into many many crumbles!) there were so many, they were of good ripeness, colour and size and they weren't covered in cobwebs!  It is probably too late now - sorry.  Although they may still exist in other parts of the country or world, but the Devon ones were early.
 We stopped when we noticed a Farm Shop near Dawlish Warren.  We bought some pies for lunch and some Devon cheese (Sharpham) because we fancied it.

The guy in the shop is very friendly and his primary focus is  Mushrooms - they were the best I have ever seen....but I cannot eat them unfortunately.  Please try them - they looked incredible.

They are based near Dawlish Warren, East Devon, about half a mile from the sea.  They also lent me two books which was a really kind gesture.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Revamped Exeter Pizza Express

 The Pizza Express in Exeter overlooks the Cathedral and is a good building.  We couldn't get into the Torquay one on a Saturday night so went to the Exeter one instead.  It has had a revamp (I have no idea when).  The oversized pepper mills have gone and the 'one flower, one vase' per table also seems to have gone.  I had a soft spot for that.

They have painted the woodwork, put in some new lampshades, paintings and transformed the old seated window areas upstairs.

There were also a party of fancy dress superheroes when we were there which was very entertaining!

This is a photo of the children's dessert!

The children used the vouchers they received for Christmas from their grandparents, we did the usual paying our own way thing.  It is worth remembering that it only costs 25% menu prices if you use Tesco Clubcard vouchers.  £2.50 vouchers translates into £10 at Pizza Express - what a bargain.  Always a good night.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Cafe Review - The Courtyard Deli, Falmouth

It was a really hot day in August and I sat outside in the 'courtyard' of the Courtyard Deli, Falmouth.  Nobody took my order for over half an hour - I was waiting for three members of my family, but I would have liked a coffee or tea while I waited.  My family were in Beerwolf  next door.  This place has developed from a book stall into a pub / bookstore and we all love it.  Apparently their food isn't really great (yet) so it might be worth popping next door for coffee / tea/ lunch.

I also had a long chance to look around the courtyard of the deli.  I think they could do more with the area.  The bins and air con unit from the pub adjacent are TOO visible and the table where I was sat was so sloping that the waitress had trouble putting glasses on it without them sliding downhill.  There was also quite a bit of litter around, plus flowers that needed deadheading more than my own at home.  And that's saying something.
Sooo, I was feeling worried about the food as the attention to detail in the 'courtyard' just wasn't there.  When my companions arrived we all ordered different dishes so I got a good idea of the menu.  My son ordered the homemade tomato and basil soup with garlic bread which he loved.  My daughter had the quesadillas which she thought were alright (we have them a lot at home so they might have had to live up to them!), my husband had a plate of local bread, cheese and charcuterie which he loved and I had some spinach filo pie with salads which was fine, although not outstanding.

I had a wander around the shop later and thought the interior was charming.  The friendly owner chatted to me and even provided a website for me to source a difficult to find ingredient that she didn't have in stock.  I was very grateful and I bought some local cheese.  A satisfying but not perfect lunch.

I was a guest of the Courtyard Deli but I was able to write what I wished

Friday, 23 August 2013

Quickjars Jam Jars - Handy at this time of year!

I used these great jars from Quickjars.  I have to say they were well packaged and so spanking new - it was lovely to pot up some compote into brand new jars rather than some hastily washed ones that I have been keeping.  So far, they have served me well and I still have masses to use.
Autumn is approaching and my veggie patch is telling me that it is now time to make jams and chutneys.  I made my first JAM of the year with some amazing plums that some visitors brought from their garden in Cheshunt. Thanks to C and S!  They were delicious just to eat but they brought me kilograms so I had to make JAM. didn't set.  I used the Pam Corbin recipe from the River Cottage Preserves book - I know my daughter used it last year and the jam did not set.  You need to boil it for longer than it says I think as this is not at all set.  Not even remotely, so it has now been renamed Plum Compote.  It is delicious on ice cream and last night we had roast apricots, mascarpone and a splash of the compote.  It was amazing and I wouldn't have ever thought of using runny jam.

There were still some plums left over so I made three plum cakes from a random web recipe that I can no longer find.  It contained ground almonds (but only 50g) and plenty of plums.  The large cake needed at least ten minutes longer to bake and it was still a bit gooey inside - but we really don't mind this!

I was given the jars free of charge from Quickjars but I was free to write anything I liked and use them as I wished

Friday, 16 August 2013

Southdown Farm, The Elephant Restaurant's Farm, Brixham, Devon

After touring Brixham Fish Market, we headed to Southdown Farm in Brixham where we were greeted very warmly by the owners.  They supply The Elephant with most of their raw ingredients.  Simon Hulstone from the Elephant proudly showed us around and even gave us some ideas for what he will use the ingredients for.

The gardens and poly-tunnels were in full bloom and we all had a nibble or two.  This is a multi-coloured beetroot from Dobies of Devon.  The candy stripes remain when raw but disappear upon cooking

 All of us avidly listening

 Borage - there was masses of this.  Perfect to add to a Pimms or Gin and tonic.

Southdown Farm also keep livestock and it was the day of the sheep shearing when we were there.  The well trained sheepdog was amazing at keeping them under control and it was all fascinating.

 Simon Hulstone treated us to a slap-up lunch in the beautiful and very hot courtyard of the farm

Delicious and nutritious!

I was a guest of The Elephant Restaurant and Dobies of Devon but I was free to write what I wished

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