Monday, 21 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Sunday Lunch at House of Tides, Newcastle


Since we had a mostly stellar dinner at House of Tides, I had wondered if they were going to open for lunch at any stage.  The cheapest midweek menu still clocks in at £45 per head, not including service etc which takes dinner here into what for us is very much the "treat zone". When I heard they were indeed opening for Sunday lunches I got us booked up and then wondered what we'd exactly we'd be eating. A full-on roast presumably, but how would this most traditional of meals look once refracted through the "casual fine dining" lense? And what would the pre and post-roast options look like? Read on.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cafe Review: Cabosse, Warkworth


There are a few things I should tell you about Cabosse, although only one thing I really want to, such is the singular, opulent brilliance of the item in question. But, in the interests of utility and context, let's set the scene a little first.

Allium Overdrive


We must be either mad dogs or Englishmen, because it was sweltering in the midday sun on Saturday. Having been frolicking up in Northumberland (of which more in due course) during the first of two weeks off work, the weeds required tackling. As did the autumn-planted onions and garlic, as the first really substantial harvest of the season was undertaken in earnest.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Beaches, Alnmouth


What's the value of objectivity when trying to write a bit about food? Very little I hope, as the ensuing screed may or may not demonstrate. The idea of trying to wrench something as fleetingly ephemeral as a meal eaten, with friends, in someone else's room into the semi-permanence of words that live on the internet, the better that others might elect to have a similar experience seems daft enough to make it worthwhile. That's my excuse in any case. And so here I am, about to tell you of just such an occasion.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Plot 65: A Tour


Yesterday was spent pottering and picking. Weeds were trimmed and everything that needed it watered - we've had a really dry spell lately - before the fun bit of liberating food from the ground. Broad beans, peas, beetroot, kale, strawberries, radishes, chard, spinach, tarragon, borage and lovage all came home with us in varying quantities

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fruition Ignition!


And so finally the harvest begins. It feels like this point has taken longer to get to than in previous years, but looking here and here shows that we're about level par; some things are further ahead and others behind where we were in each of our first two years. The headline news is that a whole bunch of food is just about to come on-stream which is pretty damn exciting.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Restaurant Review: Jeremy's, Scarborough


Scarborough is my kind of English seaside town. Just a little bit down at heel, it evokes a nostalgia for childhood holidays you either had yourself, or sense that, coming from these islands, you should have. Either way, it's hard to look now at endless rows of B&Bs, retro ice-cream parlours and two-penny falls palaces through eyes unadjusted by a lense of mild ironic detachment. But I love all this stuff. I don't think there's a more melancholy sight than a beach-side pleasure park on a drizzly November afternoon, and melancholy is one of my very favourite things. Happily enough, the pleasures in the meal we had at Jeremy's on the Saturday evening of a visit to friends on the North Yorkshire coast were neither ironic or nostalgic ones. The (excellent) choice of our hosts, Jeremy's specialises in good cooking of fine ingredients, in very sensible combinations.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Tale of Two Potato Patches

Spuds in flower
No allotmenteering for us this weekend gone as we were away in Scarborough (of which more in due course), but I did manage to sneak in a few post-work hours down there on Wednesday of last week.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Restaurant Review: Persian Delight, Stanhope Street, Newcastle upon Tyne


There's a temptation when doing a bit of this eat-stuff-then-write-about-it thing, to talk about those places that are new and untested at the expense of trusted old-timers. Similarly, a meal at somewhere that is in some sense "special" seems to merit a few hundred words of effort more than one had in a regular haunt. Well, allow what follows to remedy these imbalances, at least for my own part. Thankfully a recently scoffed meal at one of our favourite local eateries was up to the normal standard to allow me to advocate for it thus.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dodging The Deluge

Nature in action
Two fairly fruitful visits to the allotment this week, one each side of a mahoosive downpour on Saturday which certainly negated the need for us to get the hose out and has actually made things a bit plodgy on some of the paths. We're getting desperately close to the point at which we'll actually be able to eat decent quantities of the stuff that's growing, which'll be great; it has been a while.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Recipe/ Product Review: A Nice Cup Of Coffee/ Pact Coffee


Remember the olden days, before we all turned into a bunch of aspirational food/drink-ponces? I do. I remember when, on visiting someone and being offered a tea or coffee, the sight of a jar of Gold Blend was sufficient evidence of your host being a person of taste and no little refinement. "Coffee; thanks". Simpler times. Coffee, in common with just about everything else that goes into a person's mouth and comes out as waste material, has, at the higher end, been subjected to a serious up-lift in quality over the past decade or so, with all manner of cottage industrialists springing up to cater for our allegedly more refined tastes.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Just couldn't be doing with it...

Brassicas go into a raised bed
I hope I don't give the impression here that trying to get stuff to grow on an allotment is a care-free jape, in which the protagonists - us in this case - skip merrily from one bountiful crop to the next, nary a care in the world as all around nature provides a soundtrack of pastoral idyll. But, just in case I have done, let the following stand as a corrective.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Restaurant Review: The Herb Garden, Newcastle upon Tyne


When doing these restaurant write-ups I've spent a bare minimum of time talking about the actual interiors of the buildings in which we've been sat. I'm generally a good deal more interested in the stuff on the plate than the carpets, lights and other bits and bobs you have to throw together to create something called a "room". Maybe my priorities are changing with age, or maybe it's because recent meals out have involved a repetitive -ad nauseaum almost - diet of chemistry lab stools, exposed brick and filament light-bulbs, but The Herb Garden, sited in a railway arch just round the corner from Central Station, may just be the first restaurant in which I've enjoyed being sat there looking around more than the food itself. Not, I hasten to add, that there was anything drastically wrong with the meal we had; but the do-out is both pretty unusual and a real looker.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Green Is The New Brown

Broad bean flowers
A flat-out stunner of a weekend on the plot, and no little progress made. Blue skies all day long on Saturday and - bonus! - nearly all of Sunday too, contradicting more gloomy forecasts. The allotment is, slowly, beginning to look a lot greener and a good deal less brown, as plants of all persuasions begin to put on a proper bit of growth. The ground is alive with the promise of a decent harvest to come.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Bittersweet Plot Action

Strawberry flowers are out!
Both the great and the awful sides of allotmenteering were in evidence today. The good bit was that, amply aided by Kasia's mum, we got a load done and the place is looking damned neat and tidy, at least by our standards. The other side of things is that there has been further damage to both the water system and a number of allotments. As in the past, this was directed chiefly against committee members. The sheer dedication to such boneheaded gittery - these comedians must be getting up halfway through the night in order to avoid detection - is astonishing. Anyway, I haven't much to say about that which doesn't involve a vast and unending torrent of expletives, which would make for poor, and indeed demoralising, reading, so lets focus on what we got done.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A Garden for Free

Oot the front
When we bought our first house last year, one of the main things we were looking for, having previously been constrained to shared back yards, was a decent bit of outdoor space. We hit the jackpot a little bit as we've a paved area and a sort of rockless rockery out the front, and a decent bit of lawn out back. I spent part of a very pleasant day today tidying up, so I thought I'd bung up some pics.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Seeds, Sprouts, Buds and Sun

Carrot Seeds. And my hand.
The coinciding of a bank holiday with some of the finest weather of the year so far allowed us to put in a pretty full day on the plot on Saturday, sandwiched around a very pleasant and allotment-related trip to Wylam Nurseries. Much was sowed, prepared, bought, tilled and picked, the highlights of which herewith.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Recipe: Charred Leeks and Salmon, Sauteed Potatoes, Preserved Lemon Mayo

Ingredients
After pulling up the first of our over-wintered leeks on Sunday I had wanted to do something a bit more interesting with them than bung them in a soup, stew or curry; something a bit more befitting of a vegetable only two hours out of the soil. The overture to a stonking feast at House of Tides recently (did I mention we'd been? Yes, I think I did...) started with a whole steamed baby leek with onion puree and truffle. I liked the idea behind this, so thought I'd do something vaguely similar with our own. I've enjoyed them charred in fancy-pants restaurants before, so steamed-then-charred it was. Salmon fillets, spuds and a lemony mayo seemed like good companions for these mini-alliums. I pretty much freestyled this on the hoof, but it came out great. As far as recipes go it's a little bit of a faff on, but the whole thing only took about an hour to prepare from scratch, so not too onerous. If nothing else, I'd seriously recommend doing the leeks in this way on their own, especially as bbq season swings into view. Done over coals I reckon they'd be even better.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mad, Bad and Dangerous Upon Which To Grow.

Full of chit
Don't let anyone ever tell you that allotments aren't wild and dangerous places to be. Within just a minute or two of arriving on site Sunday gone, and while doing my customary scout round checking for new growth and progress I was very nearly brained by a massive sheet of corrugated plastic, released from its moorings on our neighbours' greenhouse by a ferocious gobbit of wind. Having leapt out the way, pausing only to screech out some choice expletives, I did my best not to curse the neighbours' workmanship, reasoning that these things happen. Whether I'd have felt so magnanimous if I'd been decapitated by the thing is moot.

Massacred
A fate that sadly became of this fellow. What is it, a female blackbird or a thrush or something else? Something had a right go at it, feathers everywhere. Must have been a cat I thought, although someone at work reckons blackbirds themselves can be absolutely ferocious and sadistic killers when the mood takes them. Anyone else heard of that? All of which excitement and alarm has hopefully grabbed your attention, but has admittedly been top-loaded into this post. That's the gore and murder done with, now let's talk about potatoes. Again...

Friday, 4 April 2014

Restaurant Review: The Fat Hippo Underground, Newcastle upon Tyne


Can ever a foodstuff so ostensibly humble have been so venerated, so lusted after, so - hyperbole klaxon! - fetishised as the burger? Having had to put up with some bloody awful specimens over the years, these sceptered isles have in recent times seen a wholesale improvement in standards, thanks in no small part to a certain London-based chain of grease-houses and all who followed in their slippery wake. Whole websites are now devoted to the things. My own personal epiphany came over a Dead Hippy a couple of years back. Holy effing shit! I remember thinking, as the perfectly calibrated mix of sweet, salt, meat, cheese and tang zeroed in on the cerebral cortex. Pretty much everything else has since then seemed sepia-tinged and tired by comparison, and so I'd basically given up on burgers, deciding that there's a glass ceiling on how good they can be in anything other than the most expert of hands.

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