Monday, 18 May 2015

Gin, Mothers ruin no more

Gin, Mothers ruin no more


New converts on the block.  The last time I drank gin was in the Kruger National Park about ten years ago, with a glowing campfire and listing to the lions roar in the distance.  To me gin was just gin, nothing to really write home about.  You had it with tonic water and a slice of lemon, so what!   Well that idea is out the back door, on Wednesday 13 May, our eyes were opened to a whole new world of gins.


David and I went along to The Clachan in Kingly Street London for an evening of gin tasting by various distilleries.  The Clachan is part of the Nicholson’s pubs group.  Nicholson’s pubs are revelling in all things gin this summer as they look back to their origins as Victorian gin den and celebrate what makes Britain great.

The rich history of Nicholson’s pubs and gin are irrevocably intertwined, with the original pub founder, William Nicholson, starting the company by running the family gin distillery in London and choosing the finest pubs to serve it in.  Nicholson’s colourful history even spreads across London in the literal sense, with the origins of the MCC members’ flamboyant colours of scarlet and gold paying homage to Nicholson’s: in 1866, William Nicholson saved he future of Lord’s cricket ground by purchasing the freehold of the ground and shortly afterwards the MCC colours changed to match those of Nicholson’s gin, possibly the first corporate deal in sporting history.

Now let’s get down to talking about the gins.  We started off with both mine and David’s favourite Adnams Copper House.  I would never have thought that you could drink gin neat, but I could definitely drink this delightful gin neat.  Adnams Copper House Gin is an aromatic gin infused with six botanicals creating classic notes of juniper alongside sweet orange and hibiscus.  Voted the World’s Best Gin at the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2013.  Their aromatic gin is bursting with juniper, fresh lemon and orange notes as well as warming hints of anise.  Adnams from grain to glass, their Copper House Gin is distilled from East Anglian malted barley at their artisan distillery in Southwold, where they also brew a very fine beer. Their copper pot still are handmade and create a wonderfully flavoursome spirit. This smooth, rich spirit is then redistilled with six carefully chosen botanicals to impart their distinctive aromas and flavours. Their master brewer Belinda Jennings was a delight to listen too, and you could truly feel her passion.
Belinda Jennings, Adnams

We then moved onto Bombay Sapphire, this is not one for drinking neat.  The aromatic and complex taste is described as a fresh juniper flavour with an elegant light spicy finish, making it an ideal spirit for use in all classic gin cocktails. With if floral nose and exotic palate it performs particularly will in elegant, delicate drinks like the martini and aviation cocktails and classic mixed drinks such as gin and tonic.  The new trend seems to be drinking gin in balloon glassware to give an enhanced drinking experience as the tapered rim captures the aromas of the botanicals.  Bombay Sapphire have ten botanicals.  I have yet to give the balloon glass a try.

Thirdly we tried Williams GB Extra Dry Gin.  To create their gin, they claim that they first had to create the World’s best Vodka, using potatoes from their family farm in Herefordshire.  Williams GB Extra Dry Gin is unlike most other gins where a neutral grain spirit is simply redistilled. Juniper buds and berries are used to ensure the gin is as dry as possible, also infused with wild botanicals including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon to give the spirit a distinct and robust flavour.



The final gin for the evening was Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin, pronounced (O-peer). This was our second favourite, delightful with a curry.  It is a unique style of London Dry Gin created by the master Gin Distiller at the world’s oldest gin distillers, using exotic botanicals, herbs and spices. The heritage of Opihr Spiced Gin is firmly rooted in the Ancient Spice Route. Their botanicals epitomise the exotic intensity of the Orient, with spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco.



Olivia Williams the author of “Gin Glorious Gin” also gave a brief history of Gin and I delighted to say we were sent home with a copy of her book.  I am currently immersed in it and will write a review as soon as possible.



So yes Gin and I, are now friends and I will ditch the wine next time we go out and start experimenting with new gins.








Sunday, 17 May 2015

The World Food Festival Welwyn Garden City


The World Food Festival, Welwyn Garden City



This year’s Welwyn Garden City's World Food Festival took place on the 16th of May, and yes being the foodies that we are there was no way we were going to miss this event.  Different restaurants and cuisines where brought together from around the world in the town centre. Now in its 5th year, the festival featured over 30 food stalls producing culinary delights for visitors to taste, from Indian to Italian and Caribbean to Chinese, let's not forget South Africa as well.  Our favourite Bunny Chow outlet as well Now Now Food, bringing us a little taste of home.



As well as the myriad of mouth watering delicacies, visitors were be able to watch live cooking demonstrations, relax in the picnic area, browse the craft market and take part in fun children’s activities.

There was also live world music performances on the stage, ranging from Asian drumming to the Oakland College’s Performing Arts and Music students. 


David listening intently to the Miller from Mill Green Mill in Hatfield
























Friday, 15 May 2015

Thai Express, intu Lakeside

A small part of Thailand in the heart of Lakeside Shopping Centre

Thai Express




I had the pleasure of being invited to partake in intu Lakesides Big Treat event.  It is the first time that I have actually had a good look at the variety of food outlets in their food court on the third floor.  My goodness you are really spoilt for choice.  I had to pull David away from the Pie and Mash outlet, being the Eastender that he is.  It might be his heritage to eat jellied eels, there is no way I could stomach the thought of it.  Thai Express was on my radar, at least this is one cuisine that we both agree on.  Thai food is probably up there as one of favourites.

I have never eaten Thai food prepared like this before.  Thai Express has a new take on traditional Thai Cuisine.  And according to their website; “The global leading brand for fast casual Thai dining.”

The first thing that I always look for at any place I eat, is the hygiene rating; they have a five.  The manager served us and was extremely helpful, as this way of eating was all new to us.  We had no idea where to even start, so we asked her to suggest a variety of items for us to try.  The food is prepared in front of you and you can have you can have it as spicy as you like. Their food is tailored to your taste and prepared fresh when you order. They provide variety, quality and authenticity in a very modern looking outlet.

Ok now about the food, that is the whole reason why we went.  One downside was that the food hall was packed and at first it looked like we would not find a table, Danielle made a mad dash as someone vacated their table, did not realise she could move that fast.  We are not normally ones for large crowds, but once we started to eat, it was if no one else was near us.  We started off with one of the best soups we have ever eaten, family consensus on that.  In fact we all agreed that it was the best part of the whole meal.  Tom Yum Mini Tofu Soup @ £4.30.  There is no way that we would have said before that we liked tofu, in this soup it was delightful.  It consists of chicken broth spicy sweet and sour lemongrass broth with rice noodles, bean sprouts, onion, carrot, green onion, coriander and tomato and tofu.



We then moved onto trying the other three main dishes, it was a case of taste pass the plate on.  Until we had all had a taste and finally settled down to finish the one we each liked. Pad Thai Chicken @ £6.50, Danielle’s favourite.  Thin rice noodles stir-fried with sweet and sour sauce, eggs, bean sprouts, green onion, tofu and salted radish.  Must say it did not look as good as it tasted, it was very moreish.




Stir Fry Peanut Chicken @ £6.50, my favourite.  Fresh crispy vegetable with a choice of various flavours served on steamed rice. Each flavour have different vegetables.  We had the peanut flavour.  This was originally David’s choice but I really love peanuts and he funnily liked the Green Curry, even though he is not a big fan of coconut milk.


The third main was Green Curry Chicken @ £6.50.  A silky, creamy and spicy dish made with coconut milk, served on steamed rice, pepper, onion, eggplant and Thai basil.  Yummy is all I can say.



We also had a very refreshing Mango Salad @ £3.20. Mango, iceberg lettuce, coriander, shallot, red pepper and mint, served with sweet and sour fish sauce. Along with a few prawn crackers.  The whole meal with three 500ml Pepsi’s came to £32.97.  For what we had to eat I reckon reasonable value for money.  They have another two outlets, one in London and one in Guildford.  So if you ever find one on your travels we recommend you stop and have a bite to eat.







Saturday, 22 November 2014

Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker

Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker



I have finally given into temptation and bought myself a soup maker.  After doing my research I opted for the Morphy Richards Sauté and Soup Maker.  You need to do your research when it comes to prices, they vary from supplier to supplier, £99 directly from the manufacturers website, £69 at Curry's etc.  The cheapest I managed to find it was £59 from Amazon.  You can also get the non sauté one for £20 cheaaper.


  

It really is as easy as they claim. Since receiving mine on Tuesday we have had soup everyday.  One thing though they claim your soup will be ready in 21 minutes, not the case if you are using root vegetables.  I had to run it for another 21 minutes to ensure that the vegetables were cooked and the soup had a creamy consistency.

Today I decided to make roasted peppers and garlic soup.  I cut up the peppers and roasted them in the oven along with tons of garlic still in their skins.  Chopped in some celery, chicken stock cube, squirt of tomato and basil puree and finally a couple of twists of the pepper grinder.  



Once the pepper and garlic were roasted I simply added them to the soup maker (ensure you peel the garlic before adding) along with the rest of my ingredients. Add water to the max mark.


Put the lid on and select the mode you want to use.  As there were no root vegetables this soup only took the 21 minutes.


And in under half an hour you have the yummiest nourishing homemade soup.  If you buy yourself any gift this Christmas, make sure it is a soup maker.  I have never eaten so many vegetables, it can only be good for my health.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Christmas has arrived in Hertford

Christmas has arrived in Hertford  

The Snug in Hertford, a hidden gem



I have driven past The Snug every day after work and never gone in.  Well that won’t be the case again.  Danielle and I received an invite to sample their Christmas menu on Thursday evening, the 20th of November.  We dragged David with us, as we did not fancy having to make him a meal before we hit the town.  We arrived to a warm welcome and were immediately made to feel at ease by the Manager Kyle, who is a lovely friendly guy and a brilliant host.   The evening started well with a lovely glass or two of Prosecco, you can’t go wrong with that. 

The purpose of the evening was to sample their new Christmas menu, and Wow did we do that.  We started with their festive platters which were piled with delicious nibbles which make a great addition to their cocktails. The platters include: Potato skins with turkey, cheese and caramelised onion topping; chicken wings tossed in a Bourbon and cherry glaze; mini sausages in a honey and mustard glaze; fig and Wensleydale & cranberry skewers; miniature prawn cocktail; bacon and Brie quesadillas and chutney and Brie bruschetta.  Our table cleared the platters in minutes and we all agreed they were delicious.




The nibbles were followed by their new Christmas burger. A first of its kind as a homemade 7oz British Beef Burger is topped with turkey, Cheddar cheese, smoked back bacon, bourbon & cherry sauce and pickles, served with a side of pulled pork in BBQ sauce and skinny fries.  It is sure to satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. They also have Rib-Eye steaks on offer too, along with creamy penne pasta and a Vegetable Medley.




Thank goodness after all the gorgeous food, we had a reprise and a chance to sample and make their new Christmas cocktails.  The Snug Bar has created two festive cocktails which combine the best premium spirits with recognisable Christmas flavours. Danielle was behind the bar in a flash to try her hand at cocktail making, she still needs a bit of practice with the making of them but needs no help when it comes to the drinking of them.  



If you want to try your hand at making them here are the recipes for their two festive cocktails:

THE CANDY CANE COCKTAIL



Ingredients:

20ml Raspberry Vodka
10ml White Cacao
5ml Minttu (or Crème de Menthe)
10ml Grenadine
50ml Cranberry Juice

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients together and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a candy cane straw

MINCE PIE MARTINI



Ingredients:

10ml Brandy
10ml Apple Schnapps
10ml Cassis
10ml Goldschlager
50ml Apple Juice

Instructions:

Shake all ingredients and double strain into a Martini. Top with foamed milk and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve with a mince pie!

One of the guests suggested they heated this one up and I must say it was a brilliant suggestion.  It had that warm Christmassy feel and taste about it.

Cocktail making and drinking over it was time to sample their desserts.  These had a divided opinion around our table, we all had our favourites, and mine was the eggnog cheesecake, a creamily decadent dessert to top any Christmas do.  David and Danielle loved the Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sundae, a combination of Vanilla Ice Cream, chocolate sauce, layered with crushed chocolate orange pieces and topped with whipped cream.



The Snugs Christmas nibbles menu costs £10 per person, a fair price for what you get.
If you are looking for a warm and a truly snug venue for your Christmas functions or just looking for a place to entertain friends, I can highly recommend you give The Snug in Hertford a try.











Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Granny Smith's Tea Shop - Foxholes Farm

(HERTFORD, HERTFORDSHIRE)

Star Rating: Food : 4 Stars Service : 3 Stars






Date of visit: 27 August 2014


Longtime overdue in Hertford, Foxholes Farm Shop have recently expanded their shop to include a delightful tea shop; Granny Smith's Tea Shop.  I have been shopping at Foxholes ever since arriving in the UK six years ago and have always loved their wonderful produce.  I was blissfully unaware that the tea room had opened until my friend Lynn and I decided it was time for a catch up lunch with our other dear friend Caroline.  We all met when we were serving on the PTA at Sele School and have formed a brilliant friendship.  Lynn suggested we go to Granny Smith's as she had been there recently and had thoroughly enjoyed it.

They serve a Traditional English High Tea, comprising of a choice of 10 fine Teapig Teas, finger sandwiches and home made cakes. They also have a delicious cream tea with a freshly Baked Scone, Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam.  When you have eaten your full you can have a gentile meander around their farm to meet all of their baby animals, they also have a children’s play area.  The tea shop is not very big, but you don't feel cramped when seated.  It is self service, the lovely lady behind the counter was very friendly and helpful.

Now let's get down to the food, they have a great selection on their menu.  Lynn had a Ploughman’s @7.95 served with crusty bread, Foxholes Butter, Salad Garnish, Ploughman’s Pickle, Pickled onion & Apple and Foxholes Saddleback ham.  Lynn did not want the bread so they gladly substituted this with added salad.  This is one of the first ploughman's that I have seen in a long time that actually looked like it had some substance. Normally you find them adding so much lettuce and hardly any nice goodies.  Not this one, Lynn had this the last time she was here and loved it. 




Caroline went for their Homemade Quiche of the Day @6.95 an individual tartlet, made with their hens eggs, served with a dressed mixed Salad.  As you can see from the picture well worth the price, and the salad was not just a plate of lettuce.  Next time I go, this will be my choice.




Me being the usual piggy that I am, I wanted some meat so went for their Chilli Con Carne @ £6.95 on their specials menu, served with a mixed salad and sour dough bread.  Yummy is the only word that I can use to describe it.  The mince was so sweet and the bread delightful.




Overall Experience

Delightful and a definite must, I will be dragging David their very soon.  Yes it is small but who cares.  They are holding a supper club on the 18th of September at a cost of £39 pp for a five course meal, so give them a try.

http://www.foxholesfarm.com

London Road, Hertford, SG13 7NT

Tel: 01992 552900

                                                                                 


Rating Guide


5 Stars - Perfect
4.5 Stars - Exceptional
4 Stars - Excellent
3.5 Stars - Very good
3 Stars - Good
2.5 Stars - Average
2 Stars - Bad
1.5 Stars - Very bad
1 Star - Dire

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: The Cock & Dragon

(COCKFOSTERS, BARNET)

Star Rating: Food : 4 Stars Service : 4 Stars





Date of visit: 19 August 2014


The Cock and Dragon, in Cockfosters, is dated back to 1798 and is ideally located near the Tube Station and is opposite Trent Park. Inside the pub is very relaxed with a separate traditional bar area and contemporary Thai styled restaurant where they serve authentic Thai cuisine. The bar is stocked with British Cask Ales and fine wines from around the world. 

David and I decided to make use of our Tastecard before it expires next month.  This gave us 50% off our food bill for two people.  I was in the mood for Thai so we searched their website and found this little gem, that I would not normally have found on my own.  When you walk in you think you are in the wrong place as it looks like a normal pub.  But a surprise awaits you round the side, behind the bar.  You walk through the doors and a whole new world opens up to you. The decor is stunning and the service on arrival was very welcoming.



I ordered a bottle of their house white, as you all know a meal for me is not complete without a bottle of chilled white wine.  David went for green tea as he was as usual our designated driver.  I unfortunately did not take photo's as at that stage I had no intention of reviewing the place as it had been a while since my last review and needed something inspirational to kick me into action again.  This place did the kicking, but only after finishing my meal did it dawn on me to write a review.

To start with we ordered their Tiger Platter @ £10.50Pork ribs, chicken satay, beef satay and duck spring rolls. Served with sweet chilli and satay sauces. All I can say is finger licking good.  I did not want to share this, but alas I had to be social.

I ordered the Kaeng Daeng @ £7.95, Bangkok's famous Thai red curry with lime leaf, coconut milk, peppers and pineapple.  Kau Khai @ 2.95, Thai fragrant coconut rice.  This was probably one of the nicest's red curries I have ever eaten.  Well worth you giving it a try.

David ordered The Weeping Tiger @ £11.95Grilled sirloin steak marinated in oyster sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil served with a spicy Thai dressing with a side order of been sprouts that was not on their menu but they gladly made for him as he does not like rice or noodles.  He said that it was delightful and would definitely try it again.


Overall Experience

Well you already know that I loved the place as it has inspired me to blog again. I will be going back and would highly recommend you give it a try. The whole meal for the two of us with my bottle of wine cost just over £42.  This is where the Tastecard starts to pay for itself and I think that I will be renuning my membership next month, thanks to my sister-in-law Janet who gave it to me as a Birthday present last year.

http://www.thaipubs.co.uk/location/cock-dragon

Chalk Lane, Cockfosters, Barnet, EN4 9HU

Tel: 020 8449 7160


Cock and Dragon on Urbanspoon

      

Rating Guide


5 Stars - Perfect
4.5 Stars - Exceptional
4 Stars - Excellent
3.5 Stars - Very good
3 Stars - Good
2.5 Stars - Average
2 Stars - Bad
1.5 Stars - Very bad
1 Star - Dire