Kona: Making waves

Kona: Making waves

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to avoid cliché superlatives and bold statements to describe a new experience, you just can’t manage it. The second, third and maybe forth time, it probably diminishes a little… becomes more familiar. Whether that is the first time you had a certain dish at your new favourite restaurant or maybe the first time you tried skinny dipping at Brighton beach, its very much a personal thing.

With this in mind, it takes something really quite special to allow you to categorically say every time you experience it, it is as f**king great as the last time. Big Wave by Kona Brewing Company is just this kind of experience and it deserves as many cliché superlatives as you can throw at it.

 

33221615283_6152d7ec6d_o

Golden ales are ten a penny now lets be honest, and it takes quite a lot of effort to wade through the almost limitless amount of pale offerings from new start up’s trying to make their mark, bigger more established players trying to get in late on the game (here’s looking at you Rev James) and everything in between. So when I came across Big Wave it came highly recommended by a friend at work who has an outlook not too dissimilar to mine when it comes to beer. Luckily I happened to stumble upon a bottle on a trip to Waitrose a few weeks later. shit. Game changed.

The Important Stuff

Upon cracking open the bright blue cap the beer pours a beautifully crisp golden colour and holds its head well, releasing a punchy tropical aroma from the Galaxy and Citra hop varieties used. The flavours back this up with a prominent but still subtle pineapple and tropical vibe, finished with a gentle bitterness and stops just short of making the beer too sweet. One word can describe Big Wave perfectly… that word is balance, providing sweet aromas, moreish flavours and at 4.4% with an IBU rating of 21… this is as balanced as a beer gets and as far as I am concerned, this is in my top 5. I love it.

Flavour matching

Traditionally a good golden ale like this goes with white fish such as a piece of flame grilled cod or Pollock, spicy poultry such as buffalo style wings or Piri Piri smoked turkey legs. Even better still, how about pairing it up with the perfect ocean side burger recipe in The Honu burger, I will be honest the write up is from a few years ago and the photography and writing isn’t great. I will be remaking and updating this one soon so keep your eye out for that one, but for now you get the general idea!

In the meantime, don’t forget to look out for Kona: Big Wave in a bottle shop near you.

Kona_Big_Wave

Mugs of joy: Why you should put PG tips on hold and have a ‘Bluebird day’

Over the past few years, everybody has become familiar with the idea of coffee as a real treat, thanks to the large chains such as Starbucks and costa. These companies find new and extravagant ways to entice use through the doors of their cafes with variations of the strong stuff that a lot of us crave during our daily commutes. This could be a caramel latte with sugary crunchy nuggets sprinkled atop a small mountain of cream and caramel sauce or a simple dusting of chocolate to cap off your mocha, however these come at a price, and not a price everybody can afford regularly.

So this naturally leads to the astute business types in their lovely suits and offices, backed up by a small army of marketing gurus to take the opportunity to get these drinks, put them in a nifty bit of packaging and sell them in your local supermarket making it more cost effective for you to keep drinking their products. This has been on the up for a while and the coffee sections in our shops seem to be getting bigger all the time, with seemingly endless amounts of combinations of flavours, strengths and styles to chose from. However something stirs on the opposite side of the aisle that peaks my interest.

Tea. The third food group a vast majority of the world assume we in England, constantly consume next to roast beef and scones. A product that is consumed in such vast numbers all over the world, in so many different forms, it makes coffee look pretty drab! From the traditional English breakfast, earl grey and Darjeeling, to the incredible array of fruit teas and eastern favourites such as green and white tea. The potential to have a different tea, every hour for the next year is a distinct possibility if you look hard enough I’m sure. Now for a nation such as ours that is famous for our consumption of tea, are there any companies out there trying to push the boundaries and offer us something completely different? Well, yes. there are. There are a few. But one comes to mind that beats all of the others that I have tried so far.

logo-new

The Bluebird tea co: You can find them at http://bluebirdteaco.com/

Who are they?

In their own words ”Bluebird Tea Co. is a fairly young, happiness spreading, independent, award winning, unique, caring little Tea Mixology Company on mission to make people happy with tea!”

I like this, not only because they’re not just another version of Twining’s or PG tips, designed to grab you on your way into kwikcutter or costsaver or whatever your local shop is called, designed only to increase the margins of an already huge company, but because it is quite clear they love what they do and really believe in it. The ‘award winning’ part of the statement says that somebody else does too, and the quality an innovation shows when you drink their teas.

Product focus:

I first discovered them at last years BBC good food show tucked away at the back of the show, while I was, and ill be honest, prowling for cheese and chocolate. I was talking to a guy about a sugar free chocolate that he was selling and I realised I couldn’t see my partner, so naturally I poked my head round the corner and happened upon the Blue bird stand to my left, I decided to investigate.

It was quite busy and the guys that were on the stand were quite occupied talking to other customers so I had a look at some of their products myself. The one that stood out to me was the “Coco chai no.5” so it came home with me. (Naturally I waited and paid!) Once home all of the goodies that filled our copious amount of bags were unpacked and the kettle went on. The pyramid shaped bags revealed the contents of the teabag, which look and smell great. A promising start. The teabag contains Indian Assam tea, Ginger, Cardamom, Cloves, Red peppercorns, Coconut, Natural flavour” the coconut in particular seems to be a winning combination when added to the classic chai experience, as once the hot water is added you can really smell the exotic twist slinking out of the mug and up into your nose.

Once the water goes in you have to leave it for 4 minutes to infuse, which allows it to get to more or less perfect drinking temperature for myself, then add milk if you take it that way. I have been taking it with milk and a sweetener but its doesn’t need a sweetener to enhance the flavour at all, as the coconut does come through very well considering its in bed with the diverse combination of flavour’s found in chai tea. However I do enjoy my chai a little bit spicier than this comes out, but I appreciate that the coconut aspect of the drink would get lost in translation if the spices were to be cranked up a notch. This teabag provides an intriguing and comforting experience that helps you melt into your chair after a day at work or a long day out, I can also report this is consistent throughout the whole box and not a one off great teabag as I have now finished them all!

coco_chai_no.5

What else do they offer?

The website provides a lot more detail into their range but to give a quick overview, they provide a great range of caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks. I myself have to drink predominantly decaff drinks due to having given up coffee some number of years ago and not having anywhere near the caffeine tolerance ever since, but I can drink some caffeine in small doses. Which is lucky as the coco chai does have some ‘caff’ in it I believe. I do find it hard sometimes though to get interesting decaff (or low caff) options. Blue bird provide a good range of teas including fruit, black, green, white and herbal teas, as well as all sorts of other tea paraphernalia to expand your experience with their products. Full information is available on their site so pop over and have a look!  http://www.bluebirdteaco.com/

Final verdict

There are alternatives on the market when it comes to chai tea but personally I would recommend you look no further than Bluebird tea co. This particular product stands out as something very different, while simultaneously not losing its basic promise of being a cup of chai tea. They are out to fill a void in the tea market that has been filled to the point of total saturation when it comes to coffee, and I can see them doing very well if people continue to look for diverse ways to enjoy a hot comforting beverage in the comfort of their own home, that offers something more than an industrial strength mug of Yorkshire tea can ever hope for but not something so ”out there” that it completely loses its way. The bluebird tea co “Coco chai no.5” never left me thinking that it could do with something more, I am quite confident you will feel the same way.

8.5/10 – recommended purchase.

Also available at http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/bluebirdteaco

BBC good food show winter 2013

December 1st 2013 marked my first visit to the BBC good food show winter at the NEC in Birmingham, offering a day full of food and drink and a chance to meet some great people with similar passions for the edible delights our world has to offer.  There were plenty of celebrity chefs rolling around the halls to grab a quick chat with some real giants of the food entertainment industry, and it was quite surreal to meet some of my own media influences.

Me and Cyrus Todiwala CBE

We purchased the tickets fairly early at a charge of around £25 each with a ticket to the super theatre show with the Hairy bikers, two of my favourite TV chefs (also quite easily a two of the nation’s nicest people, as I found out). We got their early enough to park relatively easily and made our way down to the main NEC halls, accompanied by a growing hoard of other tired looking hungry people. We entered the hall at around 9:30 on the button, this being fairly early for a Sunday morning everybody’s heavy looking eyes and drooped shoulders in the queue were absolutely justified. The perfect tonic however was the smell of the supreme sausage stall cooking their wild boar and apple sausages www.supremesausages.co.uk, The smell crept around the peripheries of the show, right by the exit, for the entirety of the day making it possibly my favourite place to stand throughout the day.

Before we had chance to start trying any food we had to dash to the super theatre to catch our early morning appointment with Si and Dave, the Hair bikers. I initially thought it would be a lot more intimate and was a little concerned with how back our seats were, but I have to say it was set up perfectly. Having the monitors behind them so you didn’t miss a trick was great and the sound work was great meaning you could hear it all happening, it really was worth the ticket price just to see them work their magic with the crowd and the food. They really are more than just talented cooks, they are natural entertainers and made everybody laugh while really getting people involved in their show, it really was an enjoyable experience.

BbNpvJSIEAI5457

After around 40 minutes, the show finished and we were released upon the rest of the show to view the stalls and start getting some decent food in for our late breakfast, so naturally we made a break for the supreme sausage stall again. Upon browsing the range they have to offer it was apparent we had come across something special, but I will go into this in more detail later. I had a million and one ideas that I could use the sausages for (check out the recipe in the prior post for a good one), and we really weren’t disappointed with what we tried. We ended up buying two packs the wild boar and apple with a pack of the venison, pork and mushroom sausages and at £10 for the 3 I can’t complain at all.

The W.H.Smith stand provided an opportunity to buy and get your books signed by some of the celebrity chefs in attendance, but their strict ‘one book to one person’ rule was a bit harsh but I do understand why it was in place as the queues got a little bit hectic.

 

1456781_10152077219102152_527044422_n

The show was huge and to go through everything we saw would be a rather mammoth read so I will give you my top 5 stall highlights from the show and then fill in any details afterwards if I miss something, so to get us started we have:

5: I am not known to be a drinker but towards the end of the show we uncovered a stall doing a variety of flavoured alcohol, there was a few flavoured vodka’s and a really refreshing limoncello which I enjoyed quite a lot. The star of their range was raspberry vodka, which I must say tasted amazing, but dangerously not like alcohol! A definite winner though and I would recommend them to anybody, unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the company and I cannot find them on the exhibitor list so I will update this if I find out who they are.

4:  Coopers gourmet sausage rolls. I can pretty much sum these up in 2 words really, yes and please. These babies are probably among my favourite sausage rolls that I have ever had, the mixes they came up with looked great but between me and my girlfriend we had pork and leek and I had black pudding and pork. They were really tasty and to back up the size they packed some really big flavour, we bought a couple to take home and heat up for our dinner. It was a really hearty end to our day back home. Good stuff coopers! www.coopers-sausage-rolls.co.uk

3: Napton water buffalo. When you find yourself feeling hungry at a food festival or food show, there’s either something wrong or you’re not trying hard enough! We spent so long walking around taking everything in and going to book signings that we neglected to really fill up that much, luckily for us Napton’s caught our eye. Fresh water buffalo burgers, made with their own animals reared on their farm. The meat was cooked to perfection, Just the right side of rare with a nice bit of bite to it. Was a great little treat that we would be able to eat it over and over! They produce a whole host of buffalo products not just meat, including milk, cheese and ice creams. Mainly available local to them or at the shows they attend. Find out more at www.waterbuffalo.co.uk

2: Pie mania. These guys are a Banbury based gourmet pie producer and have a small but strong showing of handmade pastries that are good value for money and are very pleasant, while not being too heavy which I find some pies can be. We opted for the Goats cheese, sweet potato and spinach variety. Upon arriving home we reheated it in the oven for about 25 minutes and when warmed through it became a completely different animal and we loved every mouthful, only downside was we thought it would have been nice to have been able to buy them warm at the stall. Apart from that they were incredibly moreish and look forward to seeing them again so I can nab another one.  www.pie-mania.co.uk

1: Already mentioned and deservedly so, Supreme sausages. Amazing. This company provides some of the best flavour combinations found in sausages that I have encountered, being somebody who loves game and other alternative meats they really do cater for my tastes. We both agree that they deserve the number one spot purely down to the fact that eating that first sausage kept them on our minds all day. Not only did the initial sausage make us marginally fall in love with their produce but the ones we took home created some great meals that pushed us further over the line. Their range includes (As mentioned above) the venison, pork and mushroom, the wild boar and apple along with the Toulouse, Cumberland, the fire sausage, pork with tomato and black pepper, pork with honey and mustard and also lamb and mint to name just a choice section of their range. They also offer an online delivery service guaranteed delivery within 24 hours of despatch, packed with icepacks in polystyrene boxes to guarantee they maintain their freshness en route. Visit www.supremesausages.co.uk to order yours or to find out more.

 

 

Other honourable mentions are, the Cheshire cheese company, the Snowdonia cheese company, the arm and hammer soda mixology stand, Lakeland, the world cheese awards (never seen so much cheese!), The potted game company.

Overall the show worth every penny of the entrance fee and I would recommend it to anybody who loves food. The next one is in July just in time for all your summery gluttonous needs, Fingers crossed ill see some of you there, in the meantime visit the links and help support these great companies!