Saturday, 4 January 2014

2013: Best of the Rest

As always, here's a random selection of 2013's eating adventures, from the down and dirty to the glitzy and glamorous, that haven't made it on to the blog elsewhere. While I ate, and enjoyed, far more than I could possibly chronicle, here are some of the happiest memories from another year of great grub.

The year started with a lovely visit to the sea where we ate pasties at The Star and Compass in Worth Matravers and walked along Hengistbury Head. One of the best bits was the lovely Jo's 'Saturday Roast'. A triumph of crispy chicken, cauliflower cheese stuffing, parsnips and roasties. Add a jug of gravy and some trashy TV and you've got the perfect girl's night in.

For our 1/4 wedding anniversary (we tied the knot on Leap Day), the Ewing took me back to Vinoteca in Marylebone, the venue of our wedding breakfast. Known for their wine list, we made our way through a rainbow of libations, topped off by a bottle of Estay, Dominio Dostares, which went down a treat with my main of  Elwy Valley lamb, puntarelle and Ancho├»ade.

To finish we enjoyed a glass (or two of) of desert wine, an awesomely rich slice of bitter chocolate tart with blood oranges for the Ewing and a good old crumble with custard for myself.

And while the afternoon's plans to go to a gallery were scuppered, but I did buy a rather natty pair of blue suede shoes while horribly drunk and we finished the day on a high with a trip to Tommis Burger Joint for juicy steak burger slathered in bernaise mayo.

While the Ewing may be a chocoholic I have a, deep love of fried potato snacks. The best way we found to soak up a surfeit of beer on our trio to Belgium was with giant bags of crisps (I have a endearing fascination with finding strangest flavoured crisps while abroad) mostly eaten in our hotel bed; the best examples were Lay's, flavoured with Pickels, an accompaniment served with the local frites that is rather similar to piccalilli, and 'Bicky', a fast food burger found in Belgium.

And I was in tuber heaven after our trip to Korea Foods Mart in New Malden following lunch at Jee Cee Neh. Many of their snacks seem to combine sweet and savoury and we enjoyed potato tubes that had been glazed in a spicy honey and tomato sauce, octopus flavoured chips and, most novel, potato 'flavoured' crisps.

Our visit to Ghent also saw us making an acquaintance with Cuberdons, or 'little noses', a cone shaped jelly shaped confection that is unique to the area. These can be found in local sweet shops and are also sold from carts in the town square, by the famous mustard shop. Above is the seller manning the 'Original Noses of Ghent' cart, waiting fro the post-pub crowd, taken as we we staggering our way back home after a night on the cobbles.

Sometimes the simple things are the best, and that was certainly the case with this restorative full English (fried eggs kindly swapped for extra bacon), enjoyed at the Harte and Magpies in the heart of the Chilterns,and washed down with a pint of local stout.

Sister pub to the marvellous Royal Standard of England, as well as all day breakfasts they also serve a classic menu of game, pies and puddings and very good fish and chips.

Good Friday saw the best present a girl could ask for; the Ewing bringing me a brilliant brekkie in bed consisting of bacon sandwiches, tea, chocolate rabbits and the new JT album for our customary Easter journey up to Leeds.

Of course Leeds had many culinary highlights, too. The best of these including my Aunt's homemade simnel cake, topped with marzipan and chocolate eggs, of which the Ewing was particularly fond.

We also had a trinity of roast meats - a fabulous roasted leg of lamb with greens and carrot mash, and crispy shoulder of pork, both slow cooked in the Aga at my Cousin's; and majestic rib of beef roasted by my Uncle on Easter Sunday. All superlative, as always. There was also a long awaited triumph in the village pub quiz to finally crow about.

A Thames side walk on the late Spring bank holiday saw us end up at the Bell and Crown in Chiswick, where we enjoyed a pint of London Pride by the riverside before going indoors to enjoy a decent plate of fish and chips with a lovely view over the water. A proper English summer's day.

We also had an impromptu pit stop at the Pink and Lily, deep in the Chilterns, for  Friday night fish and a pint of local XT ale. While I wasn't a big fan of the Brooke burger I ate there, they have since been taken over by locals and the food appears much improved. The garden's rather nice on a sunny afternoon, too.

A visit to Kew Gardens saw us call into the famous Maids of Honour teashop of the Kew road to stock upon a picnic lunch of quiche, coffee eclairs and their eponymous tarts.

These little curd cheese pastries were supposedly named by Henry VIII, who came across Anne Boleyn and her Maids of Honour eating the cakes at Richmond Palace and confiscated the recipe to keep under lock and key. After trying them I can see the appeal, and the tea shop is an old-fashioned gem - deliveries are still made in the 30's Austin van - that's worth a visit.

It wouldn't be summer without ice cream: here we have a trilogy of frozen deserts starting with the pineapple sorbet (and caramelised banana) at Kew gardens, to tie in with the giant interactive bromeliad boat ride for the summer IncEdible exhibition.

A highlight of our day down at Hurley, picnicking sunbathing and playing football by the river with the family, was the sight of the ice cream boat moving its way upstream. After flagging him down, taking off our shoes and rolling up our trousers we were rewarded with Mr Whippy's and chilly toes. 

Finally, the surprisingly modern and very delicious, Gelados Santini, in Cascais on the Portuguese coast. I went with scoops of almond, milk caramel and chocolate while the Ewing went with a fruity combo including black grape and raspberry.

Another walk along the Thames - this time down on the South Bank - with my aunt, got off to a good start with lunch at the Real Food Market behind festival Hall. Pints of Grenwich Meantime accompanied by takoyaki (Japanese octopus balls sprinkled with seaweed) for me, and a vast chilli paneer wrap for my aunt that kept us going until our dinner at Hawksmoor Bar that evening.

A late summer treat saw Stealth preparing a fabulous carpet picnic in her London flat. Pieced together form goodies collected at Borough and Maltby earlier that day, this was a fantastic feast. Highlights included Hansen and Lyderson smoked salmon, St John Sourdough, grilled Bermondsey Frier and an awesome section of British cured meats and jerky.

The biggest cheer of the night came from the revelation that Stealth had stocked the bath-cum-fridge with a range of the Kernal brewery's finest libations. You can see the unbridled joy (grimace) on the Ewing's face at the prospect of a cold beer on a warm evening.

Of course, where would a yearly round up be without some of the Ewing's finest bakes. As usual, there were many contenders, including her apple Chelsea buns and the ginger cake filled with home made lime curd that's become a bit of a favourite. Here we have the cocoa cola cake with chocolate marshmallow sauce - made to cheer me up - and the blow-torched lime meringue pie made for our the lovely Monkey Kirby, joined by the berry buttermilk streusel cake collaboration for my Aunt and Uncle's visit.

Finally, I had to include the gingerbread and Guinness cake that is kept on the bar at the Old Red Lion in Kennington to tempt drinkers. A fabulous old fashioned pub that has good beer, comfy sofas and plays the Smiths. A fine place to while away a Sunday evening.

My Mum's 60th saw us hosting a weekend of her favourite food and drink. The centrepiece was this whole shoulder of lamb, raised in the Chilterns and picked up from the Farm gate the day before. An afternoon slowly roasting with plenty of garlic, herbs, and served with local kale and sticky lemon potatoes, it was a roaring success. The bottle of port bought home from our trip to Lisbon and the stinky cheeseboard were also demolished with consummate ease.

For my birthday we spent a marvellous few days in Somerset, and while I had fabulous meals at Bell's Diner and the Ethicurean during our stay, my birthday night feast of KFC - complete with hot wings, gravy, sweet corn and a Malteaser shake - and drunkenly scoffed in our hotel room, was right up there with the best. Now that's living the high life.

A trip to Bath that coincided with the city's Great Bath Feast meant we got to enjoy the 'Posh Pig Feast' in the Historic Pump Room for a mere tenner each. 

A nicely pink Old Spot tenderloin with crackling, carrots, parsnips, mash, local Somerset apple sauce, a couple of Bath Ales and, to finish, a drink from the famous spa waters which are pumped up into the dining room through the King's Spring.

And finally, an old favourite, with a winter's lunch at the Royal Standard of England. My steak and kidney pudding with mash and cabbage was perfectly matched with their Britannia Pale Ale, brewed on site. And, with a roaring log fire to recline in front of after our food and the company of good friends, things don't get much better.

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