Falling in love with Beaminster


Beaminster and surrounding hills


I think Beaminster is one of the most perfect places I’ve come across on our recent stay there. I can’t decide if it’s a large village or a small town, but from a food and living perspective there was so much good stuff going on.


Brassica in Beaminster


We had a fabulous dinner at Brassica, which is a delight. I loved the atmosphere, the decor and the cooking. Anywhere that does a decent wine by the carafe gets a thumbs up to (I think I heard the waitress say Louise’s dad is in charge of wine sourcing). Lovely enough for date night and a special occasion, unpretenious enough to pop out to any time.


Rubber coated ceramics at Brassica Mercantile


Next door is Brassica Mercantile, their deli and homewares shop, which you can also shop from online as well. I really loved the rubber coated ceramics, they were very tempting, and I only forgot to go back for one because we had such good weather and headed to the beach. We did enjoy English Preserves raspberry jam from there, and was pleased to see they stocked Amelia Rope chocolate.

Of course you can’t live in a village just with a fancy restaurant and charcuterie, so it was good to still have a village bakery, as well as Nick Tett’s butchers and a proper greengrocers. Beautiful flowers from the florist, and bits and bobs from the Co-Op and you’re pretty much sorted. And gifts are sorted at Cilla & Camilla, and there are several places to pop in for coffee and cakes.

For other kind of dinners, there was decent enough food the night we went to the dinner, there was an Indian, fish and chips and a Chinese takeaway. Pretty much all bases covered.

It’s far enough away from the coast to be slightly cheaper, and hopefully is not too blighted by second homes as it certainly seemed to be buzzing. Although obviously we were in someone else’s second home and were there in the school holidays. But I really loved it and got a sense of community as well as loveliness. I know they need money to get the swimming pool reopened and seem to be galvanising behind that.

I’d happily move there tomorrow, but it’s one heck of a commute back to Nottingham. But maybe one day!


View of Beaminster by Nathalie on Flickr.


How to beat the back to work blues


Here we are, for a great many this is the Sunday ahead of the Monday of going back to work. Which tends to feel a bit like this:


How to beat the back to work blues in 5 easy steps


Here’s a few ideas, sort of based around food, that might just help. A little.


Make Bircher muesli tonight for a better morning tomorrow

  1. Make a good breakfast ready to go the next morning the night before. I love Bircher muesli or any other version of overnight oats.


Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Soup - perfect for leftovers

2. On a similar theme, get your own lunch ready for tomorrow, unless you have a spectacularly good canteen at work. I’m thinking of a homemade soup with the leftover carrots and parsnips from Christmas. I like this recipe from Real Simple.


Treat yourself well with a dinner out


3. Let someone else cook dinner. Go on, it’s Monday, you’ve done a day at work, and there’ll be lots of offers around. You don’t have to go mad, but it’ll just feel really good to not cook or wash up tomorrow night.

4. Plan a trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s just a day trip or a full blown holiday, just having something to look forward to is a great feeling. There was a good guide in the Guardian of the places to visit in 2016, including Nottingham, Dublin and Penzance, for places that won’t necessarily break the bank. Do some research and make a table reservation or two as well.


Shopping lists at the ready


5. Plan some good meals for the rest of the week, and organise your shopping to be delivered on Tuesday evening so you’re ready to go. You’ll be too busy being out at dinner on Monday night.

Personally, I’m delaying the inevitable and not going back till Tuesday. If you need me, I’m taking a day of R&R at Champneys Springs and cannot wait.


Bircher muesli photo by Alpha and shopping list by Ex Smith on Flickr.


So, what kind of food year was 2015?


Seems an age since I wrote about my hopes for 2015 on the food front, when I was hoping that grip of the big four supermarkets on our shopping might continue to loosen. Well, according to reports, that seems to be happening.


#Backofchallenge - what food is lurking in your cupboard?


January saw me starting the Back of Challenge for unloved food. I have to say, I still have some of the things I took out of the cupboard then, although I haven’t replaced them and the cupboards are still somewhat emptier.


Chocolate Macarons from Drop Dead Chocolate - the most beautiful chocolates to gift to a food lover


February of course is about love and Valentine’s Day for many. I loved the chocolates from Drop Dead Chocolates, and would also have been very partial to a hamper from The Modern Pantry. To be honest, anything from the Modern Pantry would be great, any time of the year.


Beauty in the Juice? Or not.


In March I was being cynical about claims made for a fruit juice. I’m probably not finishing the year looking any younger, as I haven’t been drinking it, but then I’m also not siginificantly poorer either.


Favourite end to a fabulous trip of great eating in Australia


March and April saw MGG and I on our Australian adventures, and there were flat whites on many days. Although there was a reasonable amount of the local wine taken too. And a breakfast to remember at Bill Granger’s.


Cooked apple tart


By May we were focusing on heading to France, so helping the kids get into French food. I was also discovering that not every recipe book is well tested, and so recipes do fail.


Time for iced tea for Tea Jay


Praying for warm weather in June, then I was hoping for iced tea as well as hoping to get organised for next year’s World Gin Day. I was also being tempted by the Lakeland sale. Again. Somethings never change.


The best birthday cakes ever from my tribe


I had my unbirthday in July with some great cakes from the tribe. There was also a great debate about what kit was essential or not in a kitchen. Still think I’m missing some bits.


Distill your own gin at 45 Gin School, the best lesson I've been to in years. Perfect gift for a gin lover


August of course heralds the start of Bake Off, and I was musing on the 10 things I had learnt from Bake Off. It was also the month I went back to school, and made my own gin for the first time. Amazingly, there’s still some left.


My fabulous bread basket at Cafe Einstein


There was a gin theme in September too (ok, I know, when isn’t there?) as my favourite Advent calendar launched. And it probably turned up in my round up of 53 hours eating and drinking in Berlin.Though less so in my roundup from Rugby, although that does feature eggs Benedict.


Make Your Own Bacon - perfect gift for bacon loving food lover


October saw Christmas looming, and I reflected on the six gifts that food lovers hate to get. I also did a roundup of kits to make your own foodstuffs, of which bacon was the most popular. I also showed how to get a cocktail through a letterbox, one of my favourite tricks of the year.


That's no moon: Death Star cookie jar, great gift for a food lover with a Star Wars obsession


By November, the countdown was really on to the new Star Wars movie coming out, and I summoned up the foodie force for a guide to the best gifts around for Star Wars lovers. There’s also my top ten gifts for food lovers who love to entertain, just in time for the major entertaining season ahead, not to mention gifts for those just starting out on their own cooking journey.


The Best Gin Cocktails You've Ever Made. Apparently.


December was about getting ready for Christmas, whether the fun, with festive cocktails, or the practical, with funky tea towels for the drying up ahead. Not to mention my usual roundup of options if you had forgotten that Christmas was just around the corner.

Definitely a year of contrasts, and new adventures on several continents, but some great eating with good company, at our own tables and away from home too. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016. What are your food memories of 2015? Would love to know.


Bring on the vermouth


Collector Vermouth - a great gift for a food lover who likes their drink trendy


As is usual at this time of year there’ve been a whole number of articles about trends in food for the year ahead, and I’m intrigued and excited about the return of vermouth.

I don’t suppose it should come as a big surprise, given the recent interest in things like Aperol and Fernet Branca. It seems to be about red vermouth, but sure the whole spectrum will make a reappearance. I’ve been longing for a trip back to the Ethicurean, and whilst it might not be the done thing to have with breakfast, their own vermouth, the Collector, would definitely be worth a try.

Possibly easier to get hold of the Antica Formula from Marks & Spencer, although it’s not yet on their website. TheDrinkShop have a whole range including Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and La Quintinye Vermouth Royal. Apparently we’re supposed to drink it straight up or with a dash of soda, so best make it good stuff if that’s the way.

Anyway, if it’s a choice between drinking vermouth or eating insects, being pushed again as a trend, then I know which I am choosing!


Feeling nostalgic about the end of an era at WD-50


The countdown is really on, and it is true: WD-50 will close its doors for the final time on 30 November. And it makes me sad that I won’t get to eat there again, but thankful that I did at least get to experience it once in my life.

I was reminiscing with Twiglet that it was definitely up there in my top 3 meals ever. In fact, I agreed with her, the lunch we’d had a couple of days early at Freemans is up there too. But WD-50 is probably at the top of the tree. I was lucky to share the meal with three fabulous women, and it really was a moment in time, a New York moment in time.


How it looks now, but not for much longer


There wasn’t a moment of the experience that wasn’t memorable, from the drinks, to the first read of the menu, the first time we got to our table. I’d forgotten how lovely the pH cocktails were, and think I really must have a go at recreating them.

Each course took us by surprise, but it wasn’t poncey, it was fun. Or if it was poncey then we were having too much fun to notice. I remember us thinking that it was clever, but not too clever. I mean the Eggs Benedict and Florentine were just breathtaking (cubed eggs anyone?) but were darned tasty too.


Square eggs anyone?


The desserts were just beautiful, even if we thought we weren’t going to be able to manage them. But we did. It was a magical evening, and there was no better company than Twiglet, the Nose and Boss Lady No 1, and we’ve all talked about it on several occasions since. Hard to believe it was three years ago this summer.

Hard to believe it will soon be gone.

But I guess that makes it just like great food, here and then gone. Wylie Dufresne has opened another restaurant, Alder, so will just have to go try that one. Or maybe not, maybe it won’t ever live up to the original. But I hope so, and I wish them well, and thank them for giving the four of us an incredible meal and some incredible memories. If you’ve managed to get tickets for any of these last few services then I feel quite envious and hope you too have an incredible evening.


Our Edinburgh food fun & finds


If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably know that MGG and I have been in Edinburgh, enjoying lots of Fringe shows, a night at the Tattoo and some great food in great places. These were some of our favourites:


Exploring Stockbridge


Stockbridge Farmers’ Market – I have Lea Harris to thank for this one, as she suggested we went on the Sunday when we had no shows planned. We had gyoza for breakfast from Harajuku Kitchen, great coffee from Steampunk Coffee, and smoked salmon from Dunkeld. Not a bad start to the morning.






Peter’s Yard Cafe – I’ve written before about how much I like Peter’s Yard crispbreads. Well, now we can add that we love their cafe too. So much, we went twice. I loved my sweet potato hummus with roasted peppers on walnut bread the first time, and a cardamom bun and good coffee the next time. I’d move to Edinburgh just for this being my local caff!


Starting our walking tour


Eat Walk Edinburgh – we did a great walking tour, combining food tastings and a bit of a history lesson of the lower part of the Royal Mile. MGG tried haggis for the first time, and liked it. I had Edinburgh Gin, but I knew already I liked that. We stopped in at Cranachan & Crowdie, which I thought was a great store. We came back to buy the venison chorizo that had been in the tasting, and added a few more things too. Very tempting store!


Beetroot Bacon & Blue Cheese


Tin Tin in a Tea Pot


The Crafter’s Barn – we had a late but relaxed lunch here, as we were both a bit footsore and a bit tired from dashing between shows. We were both well revived by the beetroot, bacon and blue cheese pizza (now added to our Friday night make at home pizza repertoire). I was well revived by my first ever beer cocktail, a Tin Tin. Which also had more Edinburgh Gin in it. And arrived in a teapot. Which you drank it from. Looked dodgy, tasted great! (UPDATE: Sadly, this place has now changed hands, such a shame)

One final one that I don’t have any photos from but definitely deserves a mention is Social Bite on Rose Street. If I lived in Edinburgh I would have to split my coffee time between Peter’s Yard and here, because this is social enterprise at its best and serves darn good coffee, not to mention great porridge. Go, buy your breakfast, buy your lunch, and suspend a purchase or two for someone else.

We loved our time in Edinburgh, and certainly ate really well, with great variety. I’d go back tomorrow, but think my waistline and bank account need a few weeks off first!


Fighting the bugs with burger


Sorry it’s been quiet here but had a few bugs in the system (and nothing to do with the flour moths). But I will share my photo of a fabulous burger from dinner at Annie’s Burger Shack here in Nottingham last night.


Burger night


Forget trying to get into the Fat Duck, you can’t get a table at Annie’s on a Friday night until the end of July! But for a burger with pulled pork that good, then it’s worth the wait!

Hopefully normal blogging service will be resumed shortly!


Hanging out with Shakespeare


When I was writing about the St George’s Day Hamper, it reminded me that it’s also a significant day in that it’s apparently the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and later his death. I seemed to spend quite a few weekends in Stratford on Avon last year, which may or may not have anything to do with David Tennant being in residence at the RSC for a while.


Stratford on Avon - one of my favourite places for eating, drinking and hanging out with David Tennant


I went to the theatre on each visit, but this isn’t about the amazing productions, or David Tennant. The added bonus to all the visits was some great eating, and was particularly impressed with the lunches at the Rooftop Restaurant at the RSC. The operation is very slick, with food appearing very quickly, but was consistently good, tasty and interesting.


RSC Lunch at the Rooftop Restaurant


RSC Pudding at the Rooftop Restaurant

It’s a seasonal menu, so it’s different now to when I was there. I think it was more gutsy winter tastes, so things like venison were on, which was delicious. To be honest, other than paying being a bit slow, I couldn’t fault either lunch that I had there, including really charming staff. I think it’s reasonable value for the level of cooking, at £19.50 for two or £24.50 for three.

I’d also highly recommend the small bar area on that floor, especially early evening. We stopped in for cocktails, just before curtain up one night, so it cleared out quickly but not emptied, and it was great cocktails, lovely environment and good atmosphere. Also worth popping up here in the interval, it’s quieter than the main bar.

We stayed at a hotel that had seen better days, but if I could have my choice, then I would definitely stay at the Church Street Townhouse. I went for dinner, and could have just moved in! I know several friends who have stayed there, and absolutely loved it. If we’d had more time, then we’d have spent more time in the bar, it was just a great atmosphere. I don’t mind which room I have, though a lovely bath would be a treat!

There’s definitely more to Stratford than twee tea rooms and naff tourist traps, and I am looking forward to my next trip. In fact so much, I’m spending my birthday there!


Where was your best eating of 2013?


It’s getting to that time of year, when it begins to feel like time for Blue Peter reviews of the year. It made me think of the places I’ve eaten over this year, some new, some old favourites, some never to be returned to. Skipping this last lot, then these are five that I would definitely think might get a return visit in 2014:


Burger & Lobster


Burger & Lobster – this is probably the trendiest place that I’ve eaten at this year, and I’m not particularly big on trendy. I did have a great evening here though, even after the long wait (to be honest, we went round to Sofra for a mezze plate of starters and a glass of wine first). The lobster roll was one of the best I’ve had, and the cocktails were pretty darn good too. I would expect the queues would drop off at some point and so make a return visit a good prospect.


The Ethicurean


The Ethicurean – this one is most definitely on my return list. I only went for breakfast, but we had a most fabulous time, and lingered a long time over great scrambled eggs and coffee. Being offered warm caramel apple cake straight out the oven to taste was a delight too.


RSC Lunch


The Rooftop Restaurant at the RSC – I had two great lunches here, and a few cocktails, and was impressed on all counts. As I know from my work with Cast, a theatre restaurant needs to turn out great food speedily when people are heading to a show, and full marks to the RSC for that. Great choices, great service, great setting and fabulous views. And no, that wasn’t just David Tennant.


Langar Hall


Langar Hall – this was the perfect place for an English summer’s evening, for a perfect birthday for Strictly Northern. The food was great for a summer’s evening, particularly my lobster ravioli, and there was quite a lot of Pimms drunk on the lawn. Couldn’t get more divine than to be in that environment with friends on one of the most perfect nights of the summer.


Picture Cafe


The Picture Cafe – this is a great place and a great local business to support. I am pleased to see that it is regularly significantly more busy than the Costa that was allowed to open across the road from it. Great for breakfast, for lunch, for just stopping in for great cakes. And it’s in Bingham, voted as Best Place to Live in Britain. Having a place like this might just have swung it for them.

I am looking forward to many new adventures in 2014, particularly as I know I have trips to NYC and Edinburgh to look forward to. But it’s always lovely to have some places to return to, that feel like old friends that you’re always pleased to see again. Where would be on your list?

Langar Hall shot by Rutty,


The Modern way to Pantry loveliness


I love my trips to London, especially when there’s a chance to go and try somewhere new to eat. The only problem that gives me is that there are then some places that I want to go back to again.

And again.

I feel that way about The Modern Pantry. I had a wonderful catch up lunch with the equally wonderful Lisa Eldridge there, and it’s been calling me back ever since. I loved the ambiance, I loved the styling, I loved the company I was with, and I was very much in love with the fig leaf ice cream.


The Modern Pantry


I could have chosen many things off the menu, and am only sorry I’ve not been back since. I loved the clever use of flavours, particularly more unusual flavours, but also very modern and clean flavours, like the fig leaf. So I’m really happy to find that their online shop is now properly up and running, as it will allow you to get some of those flavours into your own pantry, or to make fabulous gifts for other foodies on your gift list.


Modern Pantry Dessert


You could make up your own selection, or choose one of their ready made selections. I love these for the more adventurous cooks amongst us, so for things like the Dessert Selection which gives you liquorice paste, tonka beans and rose petals. I have no idea what I’d do with them but it would be fun to experiment.


Middle Eastern Collection


The Middle Eastern collection provides flavours I’m more familiar with, and love. I mean, what cupboard doesn’t need pomegranate molasses, Persian spice, sumac and rose petals? I feel warmth and sunshine just thinking of those flavours and what I’d do with them.


Canvas bags from The Modern Pantry


And there are the beautiful canvas bags, which would mean you could choose different lovely products and wrap them up in one of these, job done. I think the prices are incredibly reasonable for something this lovely, and a bit different. And if you want to slip in a reservation for afternoon tea, then I don’t imagine that will go down badly either!