Sunday, 17 August 2014

Alas Poor Polytunnel...


...I knew him, Horatio. Although thinking about it, people usually give inanimate things the female gender, don't they? And you're almost certainly not called Horatio, so what the hell am I on about? Oh well, at least I didn't get the quote wrong like everyone always does. Never mind Shakey Bill, the big news I'm trying to communicate here is that our polytunnel is shafted. Again.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Restaurant Review: Fatoush, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne


About halfway through our meal at Fatoush I realised, in a rare moment of clarity, why it is that I like Lebanese food so much. It's basically a big old barbecue! There's a whole bunch of salads, dips and breads to get things going before the main event - great wodges of meat grilled over flames of varying intensity - demands everyone's attention. It's a convivial way of eating which lends itself to sharing. Civility and deliciousness all at once, what else could a person want? Saying that, it's still perfectly possible to mess up this kind of stuff, resulting in neither of those fine outcomes. Thankfully that was not the case at Fatoush, a newish joint up the top of Westgate road where we recently enjoyed a cracking rendition of Lebanese favourites.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Food out, Rye Grass in


Just in case you think it's not actually us that does the work on our plot - I noticed the other day that all the pics on here are of veg, without any evidence of who's toil produced it - here's me digging up some onions. In a couple of hours at the plot we managed to get on with some harvesting and weeding, and sowed some green manure which will be a first for us if it germinates.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Restaurant Review: Osaka, Newcastle upon Tyne


I might as well say it straight off the bat: if I know anything about any food, then Japanese is not it. In the unlikely event that you're here in search of some sort of, I don't know, expertise, then sorry, but the next few hundred words are set to disappoint. Is the food they're serving up in Osaka - that most contentious of words - authentic? No idea. Does it conform to the conventions of any particular region of that place? Not a clue. I've had my fair share of chicken katsu and half-arsed sushi in my time but that's about it. As blind a guide as I may be, what I can tell you is that the food we had in Osaka went down a treat and I reckon it's well worth your consideration.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hot Hectic Harvest


You'll no doubt be relieved to hear that the lack of recent allotment-based noise coming from these parts does not result from a total failure of the harvest, but slightly the opposite. Trips to the plot currently resemble a vegetal version of supermarket sweep as we career around, trying to keep on top of harvesting/watering/weeding. We've got more food resulting from our toil than we've ever had before, resulting in straightforward meals of salads and roast veg, enlivened with a sprinkle of za'atar here and a splash of sriracha there. The weather has been great in this corner, verging on heatwave conditions. I stole a few hours at the plot Saturday gone, managing to give our parched plants a rare morning drink before it got too damn hot to dig.

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.
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