Christmas Hits Hard At The Yard

Christmas Hits Hard At The Yard

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TALKING SHOP

Every now and then there is a person or a group of people that some how manage to start right in the middle of an over populated and saturated market and somehow manage to not only wade through it to the front, but charge forward and tear through the restraints of recent clichés and deliver something truly special. It has now been just over a year since Wayland’s Yard opened its doors on Foregate Street in Worcester and they have done exactly that. I couldn’t be more impressed by how it has gone for Sam and his team as they seemingly just gets stronger and stronger, punching above it’s weight class when situated 50 yards from a newly opened Seattle based sugared bathwater shop it is a truly impressive feat that quality and care are maintaining peoples interest better than big brand corporate coffee. This is an exciting prospect as it means people are willing to stick with real produce and have an honest, genuine experience rather than just wanting to Instagram a take away coffee cup with your name written on the side in sharpie pen.

Wayland’s Yard represents something. 12 months ago it represented Sam’s own life after rugby and his own passion, now it stands for his whole team. You get a feeling it is all about the collective now (It always was in essence but you can feel how established it really is today) the controlled chaos of a busy moment where you have sporadic blasts of food walked past you from their impressive menu, silky hand shaped latte art, smiles on the faces of all the staff and the excitement and instant fuss and joy a new dog gets when walked in through the front door. It’s a spot where you can truly be safe, comfortable and happy in an environment that sets you up to do exactly that. The best part about this is that not only is the environment that surrounds you but the stuff that is getting dropped off before you. The food is to such a high quality I honestly don’t think I am capable of eating anywhere else in Worcester anymore. Seriously man this place just ticks all of my boxes and they look after everybody so well why would you want to go anywhere else?

FESTIVITIES

This visit was to have a look round their Christmas event which I believe was orchestrated by Polly, a friendly and attentive member of the team who looked after me while I was there. The festivities were marked by stalls from local hand made gift companies and crafters, which included things like hand made jewellery, Christmas cards and organic soaps. I managed to cop some soothing foot balm for my dog as he struggles with itchy paws so that was a life saver! There was some really interesting and talented people on show which really tapped into the philosophy of the whole business. Support the proper, honest and local people trying to make their way in the world against the constant incoming tide of mass produced mediocrity. I also got a few hand made Christmas cards for my family to add a bit of a unique twist to my gift giving this year, I can attest to this being a lovely little addition to Worcester in general not just to Wayland’s Yard. Almost the definition of ‘keeping it real’ without wanting to use too much a dead phrase from the early 90’s.

In the now fully developed Victorian high walled Yard mentioned in the name, was not only the mini festive market but also a showcase of local musical talent too. Throughout the weekend there was a variety of brilliant local solo artists and groups that added to the atmosphere and collective buzz of the event and it was a really nice touch. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday which Sam said was possibly the busiest day they have ever had, however, following on their Instagram story while I was helping to cater a family event allowed me to tap into the fun from afar. Again an element of the whole package that makes a difference to people. Even when I am not there I am still constantly connected to the comings and goings at the shop and it keeps people truly invested in the long term success of their favourite coffee shop.

FOOD

I might have to make a slight apology on this one actually. Upon finishing my meal Sam asked me how it was and I shook my head. I wasn’t shaking it in a negative way at all. It was just a little big ridiculous how good they managed to make 2 crumpets. Genuinely I am not just gushing for the sake of it here they were f***ing silly good. I don’t even usually like crumpets! so to start at the beginning, I was greeted by Polly and given a quick down-low of how the weekend was working and immediately directed towards the special board which had the words ‘eggy crumpets’ sitting on it. Not usually something that would bother me at all but upon really getting my eyes in a few keys words flew into my eye holes. Halloumi. Chorizo. Smoked Chilli Jam. ermmm… yes, yes and yes. I ordered this accompanied by my usual decaf white chocolate latte (Next level. regardless of its unleaded nature) and the Mrs had the ‘Fry up’ which I have touched on in a previous write up so I won’t review that again apart from saying its worth it for the sausages and the sweet potato hash alone.

The food came out really quickly and what I was presented was a vibrant looking dish that even made the humble crumpet look like a bit of a star. What graced my plate were two, soft and fluffy, eggy crumpets (think French toast with a crumpet) with 2 grilled pieces of halloumi, scattered with crunchy fried chorizo, finished with finely sliced red chili and lashings of rich smoked chilli jam. It was bloody ridiculous. Hence my initial head shake. The textures of the crumpet, cheese and chorizo just made it a constantly changing experience that you never really got settled in to, which is great as you don’t become complacent. You pay attention for the entire meal and then from the background the chilli jam gives you a sweet heat to melt away the saltiness from the cheese. Obviously this is followed by a size 8 fresh chili shaped foot up your arse but the best way to describe it is a comfortable heat that compliments the dish. Think of a size 8 jelly shoe rather than a size 8 steel toe cap. Subtle… Its certainly present but it could be a lot more aggressive! I like my heat anyway, so more of that please. Wicked good. Overall and as always, bang on. Only major draw back is that is currently a special and not on the main menu. Petition goes live Monday and the picket line outside the shop on Tuesday guys.

Finish

To end this visit to Wayland’s Yard I want to be open and say just how much they continue to impress me. As a business, as a team and as a coffee shop, it feels like so much more now. I address this to everybody there now when I say: You all clearly live and breathe the ethos Sam wanted to create when opening the shop and made what started as his personal next step into a real landmark on Worcester’s high street. The atmosphere and quality is down to all of your hard work and I hope that you continue to do what your doing as you all contribute to the heart and soul, which lots of your competitors lack. The soul of WY is what keeps people coming back for more and I am proud to say I contributed at the very beginning however little, in the crowd funding campaign. Sam, If you and the team keep doing what your doing, whatever comes next for Wayland’s Yard is going to be a big success. Keep it up and I and many others will keep coming back.

Overall a great morning was spent enjoying proper food and proper coffee… provided by proper people. Thank you Wayland’s Yard and Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

 

 

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Chatsworth country fair 2015

Deep within the Derbyshire Dales sits a house of great stature and architectural beauty. It sits yards from the banks of the river Derwent that runs through the grounds and is situated within one thousand acres of sloping grassland that acts as home to hundreds of deer and sheep, completing the backdrop of quintessential British countryside that lends itself so well to this historic building. The house in question is considered as a real jewel in the crown of tourism in the East midlands and has been voted as the UK’s favourite country house several times in its history. It is of course Chatsworth house that I speak of and it stands as a totem of country life in the UK in the most beautiful of settings and has done for literally hundreds of years.

What better place to hold an annual country fair that showcases local produce, country sports, clothing and a celebration of rural British family values than the grounds of Chatsworth? Being my second year attending I can think of no better place to organise such a festival of British country life. My fiance and her family have been attending the show for over 30 years and I have now been absorbed into the tradition, almost like a little bank holiday designated just for us at the tail end of the summer that we use to wave farewell to the warm weather and summery produce and welcome the Autumnal turning of the leaves and the bountiful harvest to come, it really is something special to us. For example the little things like leaving extremely early to try and catch the hot air balloons rising into the air (weather permitting) in the morning and eating breakfast outside the car while waiting for the gates to open in the nipping early September breeze, just becomes part and parcel of a lovely little family tradition that has been almost ever present for my new extended family and many more families that have made this show their annual haunt.

The gates open to the public at around 8:30AM and you will find yourself wandering around as some vendors are still setting up their stalls so it can take a while to get your bearings in terms of what you want to see and what is going on if like me, you refuse to use the program for fear of it taking up valuable swag space… Although I feel it is possibly a touch of the same part of my psyche that doesn’t allow me to use instruction manuals that come with flat packed furniture. There were two main horseshoe shaped food courts this year in addition to a large food orientated tent that was located around a hundred yards away. Like any food festival or show this little outdoor food village housed many different options to please any palete including the usual offerings of cheese, meats, beer, spirits, chocolate and cakes.

Foody pics of the litter

Firstly a pair of vendors stood out for me and to be honest they are the guys that always stand out for me at these kind of events and they were The Cheshire cheese company and Supreme sausages. Cheshire cheese company seem to make an effort to have a presence at most food festivals and shows of late and offer an incredible array of cheeses from the strong mature Black Bob to the superb yet bizarre sticky toffee cheese that I tried at one of the BBC good food shows. They always do well out of me at these sorts of things however I restrained myself from purchasing any as I will be seeing them at the food show in November so I figured it would be best to wait and stock up closer to Christmas, although their range is as diverse as ever and their quality still unquestionably great. Thanks for the samples!

Supreme sausages make my favourite sausage. I am not even remotely hesitant in writing such a bold statement as their Toulouse is literally the best I have ever had and I have eaten a lot of sausages in my time! They make a great range of sausages that include wild boar and apple, pork with venison and mushroom, pork with honey and mushroom (recommended) and the good old Cumberland to name a few. They have around 20 years experience in sausage making and it certainly shows in their stellar produce, some of which did come home with me in the form of a few packs of Toulouse and some of the wild boar and apple. These two food festival veterans aside there were more sights for the culinarily inclined to see at the show but listing them all would take forever to be honest, so I will give you two of my favourite new discoveries that I feel really deserve a light shining on what they are doing.

Super cakes and blooming breads

Upon exploring the inner food tent I discovered more vendors selling cheese, fudge, ciders and a few other stalls selling gadgets and utensils. One that really caught my eye was a stand near the middle of the outer side of the tent pretty much submerged in pastries and cake, and that is genuinely not an understatement as the picture below shows. They were selling brownies as thick as a dictionary and tear and share breads that you could serve an actual meal on. I think they were called something like ‘The Foccacia company’ but do not hold me to that, they made some really incredible stuff so I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t make a proper note of it. Whoever they were they deserve all the plaudits in the world for their extraordinary creations, including the halloumi wrap which was rammed with the salty Greek goodness and was absolutely superb for the £5 we paid.

Never ending baked goods

Never ending baked goods

Hops and a half wheel

My final stall of note was the Staffordshire brewery who was actually my last stall of the entire day before returning the the car for our dinner. They produce some great beers that range from their ‘Gold beer’ that runs at 3.8% ABV and answers the current high demand for golden/light ales to the severe looking Black grouse that’s peaks at 4.5% ABV and will satisfy the stout lovers among us. Funnily enough though they have combined two of my favourite things in their business plan… beer and cheese! they produce cheese under a sister company called ‘Staffordshire cheese Co’ so the chap that was running the stall offered us three 500ml bottles of beer and a wedge of the remaining cheese to take home with us. Frankly it would have been rude not to take him up on his most kind offer of beer and cheese for such a generous price, especially when my Fiance was insisting on paying. Double win.

I went for the award winning Gold beer, Double sunset amber ale and the Black grouse stout complimented with a wedge of their Cheddleton cheese that was blended with whole and split mustard seeds. A great offer with some great produce that I could take away with me and enjoy at home, good job Staffordshire beer/ cheese! The gold beer offers an unsurprisingly golden colour with a light citrus fruit, hoppy palate, citrus notes in the scent and a nice lingering bitterness with a reasonable ABV that completes the experience and rounds off a very honest, good local beer. The cheese I haven’t actually tried yet but the taster they had available on their stall was the self titled ‘Staffordshire cheese’, very much like a good debut album it made an impression that invoked a need for more. The creamy taste and crumbly texture means it is certainly destined to be a vital part of many a Christmas cheese board as this cheese is a strong contender for best discovery of my day at Chatsworth.

And the balloons start to fly…

Feeling rather pleased with the days exploration and the discoveries that we made while traversing the rows of stalls, we spoke about the other things we had seen during the day on the way back to the car. So much had happened outside of the ‘food village’ that it was hard to keep track of really, so much so that it would take forever to write about every little detail of the show therefore I have limited this to the consumable highlights. To properly get a feel for the show I encourage you to make an effort to visit in 2016 and see for yourself, load the family into the car with a picnic and your wellies and have yourself a fantastic great day out. Everything was happening throughout the day from falconry displays, aircraft displays, craft stalls, celebrity book signings, shooting competitions, the opportunity to ride a Harley Davidson on a rolling road (which I totally took advantage of) and of course the great food and drink on offer all culminated in us agreeing that Chatsworth 2015 was a roaring success. To make things even better we closed out the day sitting as a family as the light started to slowly dissolve into evening, enjoying a homemade chicken cacciatore while we watched the hot air balloons rise above the tree line and over into the Derbyshire countryside, a great and fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thank you Chatsworth, we will see you next year.

Jack Friday!

This week was a special week for Rub smokehouse and bar in Birmingham as there was a special event held on Friday night. To commemorate Jack Daniels birthday and the launch of ‘Jack Fridays’ Rub held an evening of specially created food and drink, including cocktails and an incredible feat of culinary ingenuity that I will cover a little later called the ‘Mac n Jack’ Burger.

I had promised my Fiance a night out a while ago as it seems to have been a while since we went out just the two of us and given the advert that popped up on my Facebook for Rub’s Jack Friday and the special relationship I have built up with them the past few weeks it seemed like the perfect option. So I booked a table for 8:45pm and rocked up ready to have a real feed, JD t-shirt being worn in the true spirit of the evening!

Broad street was buzzing by the time we arrived seemingly raring to go for a heavy weekend of bank holiday festivities and the high energy atmosphere as ever was carried with us and up into the lift into the restaurant which was heaving with patrons enjoying their hard earned Friday treats. We sat down and ordered a few drinks to whet our appetites before we got started and took a look at the menu, Becky ordering a corn dog out of pure intrigue while I pondered the many wonderful options available. Before long the drinks arrived and again in the spirit of the evening I went for a ginger beer with a single shot of JD’s finest, which seemingly did the trick to relax me after a long week.

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The corn dog was a really nice experience and again came quickly regardless of how busy they were which was great, not something seen regularly on these shores the Corn dog is a hot dog sausage coated in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. The result is a rich, crispy and indulgent little morsel that to be fair would go great as a side served with your food let alone a stater as it is billed, a great little appetizer all the same! For our main meals I naturally ended up going for the epic Mac n Jack as Becky chose the pulled pork platter.

Only when I saw a few of the Mac n Jack’s pass me by did I begin to worry about my capability to actually finish the damn thing! It was huge! A mountain of meat enriched with Tennessee’s famous exported whiskey and three wooden skewers holding it all back from gravity’s cruel and unforgiving attempts to bring it crashing down all over the serving tray. I was not waiting long before it was time to see for myself if I could manage this monolithic masterpiece and was presented with a tray containing the towering burger alongside a nifty little JD branded box containing my lightly spiced fries. The Mac n Jack burger is a coming together of two 6oz cheeseburgers, cooked with a JD ice cube on top of it to imbue with the whiskey’s deep flavours, their signature 16 hour slow Brisket with JD gravy, breaded macaroni cheese (Yes. breaded. macaroni. cheese. If I break it down into singular words its easier to process!) all pinned into a burger roll and garnished with a JD rubbed chicken wing.

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Now if you think its a mouthful when reading this then try eating it! It was a surprisingly fantastic balance of deep beefy flavours, rich and silky gravy with the crispy saltiness that comes from the crunchy breading and smooth insides of the macaroni and cheese cutting through the richness without being stodgy or overbearing. A real treat and something that I hope sticks around on their menu. I couldn’t possibly try and pick it up so I had to dismantle it using my trusty steak knife and break it down into parts, starting with the top part of the burn and using it as a vehicle for the wonderfully wilting beef brisket and slowly working my way through the first layer to get to the mac n cheese below.

Meanwhile Becky was enjoying her pulled pork platter, a rather decent helping of slow cooked pork shoulder served with two sides, her selections were the smoked cheddar mash and the corn on the cob. The pork was smokey and luxurious, with the hickory really coming through as a primary flavour and creating a perfect pairing with the smoked cheddar that was running through the mash. She seemed to really enjoy it but unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish it as she hasn’t quite got the glutinous resilience that I have stored beneath my relatively modest belt line, It was however willingly put into a takeaway box for us by a very helpful member of staff and enjoyed as part of lunch the next day.

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By this point the restaurant was starting to calm down and people were slowly disappearing to do whatever they usually do on a Friday night on Broad street, which for many I assume involved quite a lot more Jack Daniels than was on my table. Myself and my good lady however were sat waiting for me to complete Rub’s latest offering, by this point I was well into the 60z cheesburgers and the spiced Rub fries, which were a really strong aspect of the meal in their own right. Crispy on the outside and temptingly fluffy on the inside which were superbly complemented with a slathering of ketchup and French’s American mustard as most fries are.

Needless to say I didn’t finish the Mac n Jack, but as the trend that Rub seem to be developing since they opened in Birmingham goes, It was an incredibly satisfying experience that did not leave you wanting for more. An all encompassing combination of flavours and textures that leaves no stone of detail unturned, no craving unquenched and no belly empty. A great addition to an already stellar line up on the menu, only enhanced by the Jack Daniels party vibe. We finished the evening with a drink at the bar (Brewdog Punk IPA on tap. Don’t mind if I do!) and a quick watch of the band that was setting up for the evenings festivities. Unfortunately our parking time restraints did not allow us to see the whole gig however they sure looked the part and sounded great while they were starting up. I hope the gig went well for them as a bass player myself I can appreciate the hard working musicians of this world as well as the food.

So as ever Rub gave us a great night out with some great food and kept me busy while also reminding me that as greedy as I am, even I have my limits however much I would of loved to have polished off the Mac n Jack and gone again on another one. The staff were excellent in such a high pressure, busy environment and they kept everybody well looked after and happy as per usual. Great work as ever guys and I’m sure it wont be long before we see you again.

….Oh and Happy Birthday Mr. Daniels I am a big fan or your work!

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Rub – The return

As some of you may have seen I recently reviewed Birmingham’s new American inspired restaurant on Broad street, Rub smokehouse and bar. In summary, I gave them a good review and said it was a good place to eat with an enjoyable atmosphere with plenty to offer its customers, although my burger was ever so slightly over done as I prefer my beef a little rarer. This was by no means a criticism just an observation made within an overall good experience at Rub.

As it turns turns out they read my review and got in touch. Throughout the review I had plenty of positive things to say about the experience but they paid special attention to the fact that my burger was a touch past my preference and it really mattered to them that it wasn’t a 100%, so I was invited back again to have a look around their kitchen to see how they prep their service, meet the management and have something else to eat. Naturally I accepted their generous offer and went to see them after work on Thursday of last week.

Starter

Starter

I was greeted by a few of the front of house staff and asked for Sean, who came out to meet me and take me to a table he has set aside for us to talk at. We sat for a few minutes and talked about the history of the company, how Rub came about, their philosophy and where they are going next, which was quite an interesting chat. The company is run by three people who all have strengths in different areas but all really care about what Rub smokehouse presents to it’s customers, this trio consists of Sean Singer, Luke Billingham and Jason Rowe who have a combined experience of 45 years in the food industry. All three have come together to successfully create a brand that is stylish, loud, fun and friendly, starting with their branch in Nottingham and as of just under four weeks ago, Birmingham.

Marvin and his pork shouldersInside the kitchen

Sean walked me through their smoking process and showed me the kitchen during service which was an enlightening experience as the kitchen wasn’t nearly as big I thought it would be but they use the space so incredibly well. One side of the kitchen is used for meat preparation and is home to Hank and Marvin. These two guys are very good at what they do and do a minimum shift of 16 hours straight, seven days a week… mainly because Hank and Marvin are the names of the smokers! Hank holds the beef brisket and Marvin is your guy for the pork shoulder. Smoking the meat for 16 hours using Hickory creates a mild and universally appealing flavour and ensures the meat gives up any hope of being anything other than melt in the mouth. They are the stars of the show and are an invaluable asset to the kitchen and it shows in just how much they are used, as Sean informed me they actually get through around 3,500kg of meat a week. Yes guys that is not a typing error… 3,500kg of meat a week, which begs the question:

‘How good is the meat and do they cut any corners to keep up with demand?’

The short answer is; very good and no. All of their meats are sourced from a farm in North Yorkshire called Sykes house farm and they receive 7 daily deliveries per week. Not a single piece of meat is frozen at Rub as it is used at its freshest straight from the farm. There is a large walk in fridge that holds it all until it is used as day one is spent planning for day two, for instance, Monday’s are spent prepping Tuesdays meat in the smoker etc. All other fresh produce such as vegetables, salad and none meat based produce is kept in a separate walk in fridge closer to the main runs of the kitchen, Interestingly enough there are also two microwaves in the building and they are used for two things and two things only, heating babies bottles and warming up porridge. Not a single drop of food that is served on the main menu enters them. Which is fantastic as everything from the burgers, steaks, fries, corn dogs, smoked cheddar mash and all the other fantastic sides are made fresh that day. Not too shabby for a place that can cater for 400 covers at once.

After looking at the kitchen and food storage I took a peak into the ‘cellar’ to look at their keg and cask set up which was also an interesting part of the visit for me as its very much an aspect of my day job working in sales for Marston’s brewery. They have multiple beers on tap at the bar including Blue moon, Brew dog’s Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Adams and Budweiser to name a few, making their selection predominantly on message with the all American theme with the exception of a few great European beers (I’m looking at you Brew dog). All in all they cater for most beer drinkers and can offer you a decent amount of choice when looking for a drink to go with your ribs.

The cellar

Once this was all said and done we sat down again and talked for a little longer about their POS system and how the staff will take orders as the restaurant develops. The system is used by each member of staff using an Ipad strapped to their wrists making notepads a thing of the past and offering the customer a more interactive experience, for example if I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rub-dog millionaire or the Rub burger I can ask the member of staff to simply press the option on their screen to reveal a picture of the dish in question. Better yet when it comes to adding my optional extras I can be handed the Ipad to select my own additions such as extra meat, cheeses, onions, pickles and that sort of thing to make each meal a truly unique, customisable experience. A really great idea made even more unqiue by the fact they are the only company to use the system in the UK at the present moment in time, paving the way for the rest of the industry to look and take note. Rub smokehouse and bar are making waves and showing people how its done in more ways than one it seems.

Sean then offered to order me some food using the system so I could see the whole process and get to grips with it, I accepted his offer and ordered the Reuben sandwich, which is a wonderful combination of the slow cooked beef brisket, slaw, Monterrey jack cheese and pickles on a sour dough roll smothered in their Jack Daniels enriched gravy. I was then handed the Ipad to select my additional extras and customise the dish, a very simple and effective way of creating something truly awesome, however I restrained myself and only had a few bits like bacon, extra pickles, extra cheese and switched the standard fries for sweet potato ones. I didn’t want to take anything away from the brisket itself as I wanted to experience it fully and not overload the sandwich so I could judge it on its own merit. Hank had done a stellar job of looking after this one as it just fell to pieces as I attempted to cut it, I gave up any hope of picking anything up with hands the minute it came to table, it was a glorious gravy laden mountain of meat and sour dough bread and I loved it. The fries were delicate and sweet on the inside and had a wonderfully satisfying crunch upon biting into them, they were not in the slightest bit greasy either which was fantastic! A good helping of salt and French’s mustard took them to another level and completed the dish. The rest of the sandwich was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it all came together to put something really special on my platter! The bacon provided a strong salty hit, the gravy was a rich and silky quilt over the entire sandwich, the extra pickle spiked every bite with a tangy punch that sliced through from the background and left enough room on the palate for the cheese to enter the fray. Fantastic.

The reuben

Funnily enough I really loved my Thursday and Sean kept me entertained for well over an hour, which I cannot convey enough gratitude for as he is a busy man. The Birmingham branch is a perfect representation of everything that makes Rub and their philosophy so great in my eyes as it is a fun and welcoming atmosphere, offering amazing food and an incredible amount of passion. Passion for their customers and the food they serve, passion for the way their staff feel and a passion for making sure everybody leaves with a smile on their face wanting more, while literally being incapable of putting anymore in that is!

Directions anyone?

Directions anyone?

Rub smokehouse and bar is the perfect place to eat and have fun with family or friends. If you want a restaurant that offers more potential in one menu run (which changes around every three months) than some places do in a whole year’s worth of menu development, an atmosphere that is comfortable with itself and happy knowing it doesn’t apologise for being true to their philosophy, produces extraordinarily great food and cares so much about their customers they will spend precious time with somebody to talk about the hard work that do on an everyday basis then this is the place for you. A special mention has to go to Sean for taking the time to see me and looking after me so well, I also feel like this is the start of a great relationship between this blog and Rub and I thoroughly hope they continue to go from strength to strength, making all of their future plans possible so more and more people can share this brilliantly unique dining experience.

Rub is unapologetic in its quest for unique awesomeness …and I love them for it.

10/10

Meeting Brewdogs Black Russian

Flavour matching food with beer is something that is certainly on trend at the moment and for good reason. Beer is not just something to be taken in with salty snacks and pub grub, there is a beer for every meal or occasion be it sitting at home with a steak, eating seafood with friends or even when enjoying a luxurious, rich dessert.

I would quite like to focus on the dessert aspect for this post as there is a lot to be said for a beer with your after dinner treat as I have started to appreciate recently. If I was to ask you to think of ways to describe a dessert I’m sure words like rich, thick, luxurious, sweet and decadent would possibly pop into your mind, which is pretty much what you need from a sweet. The reason that those words relate themselves so easily to the final course of a meal is, I would safely assume, that you have had some pretty damn good desserts that fit the profile. So its only natural that you need a beer of considerable quality that also fits this description itself to go with it right? well you’re in luck, as Brewdog have got you covered.

Last week I tried their Cocoa psycho: Russian imperial stout for the first time in their Birmingham bar and my god was I impressed. I have not been a stout or porter drinker up until this point in my life, as I am usually drawn to lighter ales such as their ‘Dead pony club pale ale’ (Which by the way kicks some serious ass too as far as sessionable ale goes) Hobgoblin gold, Ringwood Boondoggle and that sort of thing, so I ordered this particular drink out of pure intrigue. I had had a little look at the bars ‘Menu’ of currently available beers prior to arrival to try and plan what I wanted and at a mean 10% this Cocoa psycho fella seemed like the only option that not only challenged my usual choices but also tested the outer limits of my threshold for alcohol!

Brewdog- going Coco!

Upon ordering from the bar I started to pour the stout into the awesome glassware they hand out for each respective drink and was met with a mysterious, thick, delightfully black drink that meant business from the beginning. A decent little head initially graced the glass before slowly dissipating into the moody abyss, leaving behind a scent that gave notes of oak, a little vanilla, coffee, and offered some subtle chocolatey highlights.

First taste opens up a world of tongue led exploration that wont get you in trouble with the wife, giving you a lot to think about without overwhelming you. Waves of dark chocolate and coffee dominate this stout while only a subtle bitter note nips through. Malty, vanilla afters linger with a twinge of its 10% ABV appearing only when it starts to warm a little.

In summary: This beer would be a brilliant accompaniment to a Tiramisu or dark chocolate fondant, finishing off your evening with this would be advisable as you feel incredibly satisfied, spoiled and a little disappointed when you have finished your glass. Decadence is provided in droves as promised by Brewdogs description of the product on their website, all of which is spot on. While not being particularly sessionable due to its high ABV and maybe being a little too rich for some peoples blood it is a must buy for any discerning beer drinker who either wants to try something new or just enjoys a really great, well made drink. Good job Brewdog!

9.5/10

http://www.brewdog.com

York – Hungry Buck on tour

These past few weeks have honestly been very eye opening for me. I have always thought of the south of England as the place to be for the discerning foodie to get their ‘rocks off’ as it were and I am not ashamed to say that I wasn’t entirely right.

I still think that the south stylises food trends in a way that is hard to match, for instance; The traditional sleepy Devonshire seaside town with its cream tea’s and fish bars, the fashionable edible universe that is Brighton, Food markets and street food gems of London and everything else that incredible big city has to offer. However the UK has thrown me a curve ball in the shape of the walled medieval city of York, and what a place it is indeed.

First of all I will say that I know Yorkshire has a lot to offer but I have always just been more drawn to the in vogue south as all of us textbook, cliche foodies are, so apologies to Yorkshire for ever even remotely underestimating your produce. From the moment I got their I was completely and utterly spoiled for choice when it came to choosing our plan of action in terms of where to visit, the vast and rich history seeps out from under every cobble and brick. The Minster has a fantastic presence in the city as its Gothic architecture pierces the skyline from every direction, the walls mark the outskirts and whisper the tales of hundreds of years of marauding invaders with its visible battle scars, weathered but ever present. So many battles that have since been forgotten by the modern world happened in the city, a person would be forgiven for stopping in their tracks while walking the walls, running their hands across the ancient wall and wonder just how many people have done the same over the thousands of years it has existed.

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All this makes for an incredibly dramatic backdrop for a gastronomically motivated tour of the city. Speaking of which, I guess I should show you some of what we found. First of all, we arrived needing to find something to eat quite badly so it was very much a case of diving in and seeing what we could find. Now there is a LOT to get through so I will give a few mini reviews and tips regarding what to do and where to eat in this post, then finish off with two more thorough, extensive write ups about the top marking places that we discovered during our stay.

Bagel Nash

We arrived early afternoon in York and checked into our bed and breakfast with food already on our minds. We walked around the city scoping out everything available and came to a place called ‘Bagel nash’, a brand that I wasn’t familiar with until I did a little digging. They are predominantly a northern based chain who operate from their Leeds HQ and prepare bagels while you wait, in a sort of ‘Subway’esque way and also have a range of smoothies to go with their extensive bagel and filling options.

We went for the mozzarella and pesto bagel and the smoked salmon, cream cheese and olive (New york) both on wholemeal, with a fruit smoothie each. It wasn’t a cheap meal for the amount of food that we had but it was very enjoyable filler and it certainly serves its purpose. The decor was modern and quite interesting without being over the top or soulless. Luckily, It also didn’t have any underlying guilt factor like most fast food and it felt like we were only putting good, positive things into our system after a fairly lengthy drive. Overall it was a very pleasant experience and I would encourage you make a visit to them if you get chance.

Visit rating: Give it a try

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The Shambles

Following this we went for a bit of an exploration around the Shambles, which is a series of lanes, market stalls and eateries that have a more independent feel to them. What a hidden gem the shambles is, although a diamond in the rough in comparison to say The lanes’ In my beloved Brighton, the shambles has a lot to offer. There is so much going on down there its hard to keep track of but its certainly worth a look, every turn of the head presents a new cafe, pub, sweet shop or another foodie oasis in a beehive of cobbles and hungry punters. We didn’t end up eating anywhere around the shambles in the end as we were spoiled for choice and seemed to be a little overwhelmed with choice, while also being short on time trying to pack so much in to a few days. The Shambles is a place well worth a visit and there is a lot available to see, eat and drink.

Visit rating: Essential.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Cafe Concerto

Walking around for a while and taking in some of the culture on offer (such as the best busker I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across playing a full on piano int he middle of the street) I developed a need for coffee and cake. As some of you may know the need for coffee and cake is an insatiable one and in my experience can lead you into two types of places. Really good ones that leave you feeling as happy and satisfied as a ‘pig in muck’ as they say, or alternatively leave you fuller but no more satisfied than if you’d eaten a bowl of dry porridge. It might fill you up but its not good for the soul.

Luckily on this occasion it led us to a little place by the Minster called ‘Cafe concerto’ that comes with tag line of ‘Truly independent -The ultimate neighbourhood restaurant’. This appealed greatly as we saw there was a few attractive options on the dessert menu and tea/ coffee was available too, so we sat down and I ordered the Vanilla and chocolate cheesecake and a cup of coffee while my fiance ordered a tea and a banoffee pie. After a few minutes the desserts were dropped off at our table by a pleasant member of staff and we got stuck in.

The cheesecake was a baked new york style vanilla cheesecake with little flecks of chocolate running through it, I find cheesecakes can be a little too much towards the end but this one was enjoyable all the way through. I found it wasn’t overly dense which is usually a bit of a bug bear when it comes to cheesecakes and the biscuit base was pretty good too to be fair, even better when paired with a coffee. My partners banoffee pie however was just too sickly for me as it was just a bit too sweet, if you like a lot of cream and to take sweetness to the next level then that is the best choice for you. Just a bit too rich for my blood I think.

Decor was a bit ‘woody’ but it was really a nice place to be. Its a little bit out of the sun so it can feel a little dark in there but its certainly not dingy, the wooden chairs aren’t the most comforting but the service and food on offer is warming enough, paired with the cool ‘chalky’ drawing of the Minster and the sheet music used as wallpaper it provides a very intriguing, jazzy feel to the restaurant which I love, being a musician myself. Very much enjoyed our visit here and would recommend you give it a try, its got a real individual personality and should be appreciated for it. Support the real independents!

Visit rating: Essential

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The Fudge Kitchen

One for the sweet toothed confectionery hunters out there, The Fudge Kitchen uses their own take on fudge to provide something a little bit different. They provide plenty of choice in terms of interesting flavours and even have a viewing area in the back of the shop so you can watch them make it.

In terms of the quality of their fudge I must say its very good and is well worth poking your head around the door for a sample. We went for the dark chocolate and sea salt. Very creamy and quite moreish but you will have to go in and see them if your a fudge fan, well worth a look. You can also buy online (go to the bottom of the page).

Visit rating: Worth a look

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These are a few of the notable stops that we took while in York and would genuinely recommend you have a look at if your in the area. The historical atmosphere and bustling city streets is a real treat for anybody who decides to visit, it is a fantastic place that really should be seen to be appreciated. I have two more reviews to go but I will be putting that into a ‘part two’ post this week, as this post is getting quite long and I want to go into a lot of detail on the final two restaurants. Nobody wants readers fatigue after all!

The final two big hitters that I have left to write about that really impressed me were La Vecchia Scuola and GBK: Gourmet burger kitchen. Keep your eyes peeled for comprehensive reviews on them both at a later date, In the meantime here are a few useful links if you are interested in traveling to York.

http://www.visityork.org/

http://www.fudgekitchen.co.uk/

http://www.cafeconcerto.biz/

http://www.insideyork.co.uk/what-to-see/shambles.html

http://www.lavecchiascuola.co.uk/

http://www.gbk.co.uk/

Ed’s hotdog stand, meadowhall shopping center.

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When out on a day of shopping, especially post Christmas,  it’s always vital, for your own sanity, to break up the repetitive jumps from packed clothing shops teaming with January sale hunters to toy shops full of kids with their freshly full little pockets brimming with Nana’s Christmas money.  This year we decided to hit the shops early so we could get in and out quickly, but this also meant the need to quench mid shopping hunger pangs struck early.

To find somewhere to replenish our quickly depleting fuel tanks we wandered into the food court of the meadowhall shopping center and ambled around wondering what we could really justify eating at 10:30 in the morning, as let’s be fair, tapas or pizza just isn’t usually a plausible option to me before the sun is past the yardarm. This brought us to Ed’s. Situated in the central part of the food court it is bright and stands out. Ed’s brings what you would expect from a place playing on the ‘American style’ experience that is becoming increasingly more popular in the UK at the moment, offering hot dogs, milkshakes and malts as a quick option rather than the full ‘USA’ grill or restaurant experience offer by its other branch located just upstairs.

The menu – As mentioned the menu offered a selection of milkshakes, soda’s, malts and hot dogs as an alternative offering to the constantly busy vendors surrounding you in the food court, while also giving them a presence on both floors. The menu doesn’t offer a lot but it serves its purpose, giving you the choice of around 4 hotdogs. A normal hotdog, a cheese dog, a BBQ dog and a chili dog which are all available in regular or large sizes. The milkshakes are quite extensive but cover most of the usual flavors you would expect to find. 3\5

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Service – Polite but quite slow. Not going to lie it was a little poor given the fact its sole purpose is for a quick bite to eat while on the go. Being left waiting for 15 minutes for a large chili dog, one regular and one large milkshake doesn’t sound like much, but if you added a few more orders to the queue you could be there a fair while longer. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though it was 10:30 and we were probably among their first customers, nether the less, if you’re not 100% ready for service it will always reflect badly. The staff on the whole were friendly and couldn’t apologise enough when the card machine was not working correctly and losing signal. Credit to her for her patience and her manners whoever she is. 3\5

Taste- The milkshakes were very tasty, I had a peanut butter and banana deluxe and my partner had a straight banana one. They had a good thick consistency and weren’t too sweet, which is a pet peeve for me with milkshakes. The chili dog, a hot dog topped with a layer of chili beef served on a soft white roll, was OK but really benefitted from the addition of the tangy cheese sauce for a small supplement but didn’t justify the total fee paid as it tasted like something I could throw together at home for a fraction of the price. 3\5

Value for money – In total the visit to Ed’s cost me around £14. For 2 milkshakes and a hotdog this is pretty poor. The hotdog alone cost nearly £6, and then I was asked to pay an extra £1 for the cheese sauce. For that kind of money I would expect at the very least a meal deal or a small helping of fries. Ridiculous pricing when you can get 2 meals of similar quality at any chain pub. Not great. 1\5

Overall not an amazing experience and not somewhere I would recommend or go out of my way to return too. next time I go to Meadowhall I will probably try somewhere else. Sorry Ed, not bad but there’s some definite room for improvement.

3 out of 5.