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.