Day Dreaming of Donuts in Birmingham

Day Dreaming of Donuts in Birmingham

donutslider2.jpgIf somebody was to ask me to think of the thing I was most passionate about the majority of people would be relatively safe in the assumption that I would say food without any hesitation. I think about it to the point where I have seen fit to write about it for over 3 years so far, so it goes without saying that I want to meet, talk to and ultimately learn from other like minded individuals that love it as much as I do.

I love talking to people who have a deep seeded, hard wired love for food and drink and I feel like that comes across fairly well when I have worked with now stalwart friends of the blog like Wayland’s Yard, Feast Foods and Rub in the past, so naturally finding more people and organisations like this gets me quite excited. So it is no surprise that I am so enthusiastic about unearthing a hidden gem in Birmingham that I think represents food in its purest form. A new labour of love that is being developed from the ground up, with honest, genuine food and a lot of hard work. That labour of love is Donut Day Dream, run by a certain Jonathan Barrow.

I discovered the delights of Donut Day Dream while on an all day eating and drinking session with my girlfriend in Birmingham. I had already visited Purity bar, The Alchemist, India Brewery in Snow Hill and Lost and Found so by now I severely needed something to soak up some of the alcohol slowly beginning to rush to my head! Upon wandering around the market as I quite like to do I stumbled upon a stand that was covered with an array of fresh, crisply presented, glistening donuts that made us both stop in our tracks. I had a quick chat with Jonathan and decided to go for one of each of his remaining stock, it was nearing the end of the day for him and they had clearly sold super well! I took an Apple fritter, Chocolate, Smarties and a dream Glaze.

We dragged our now quite wavy selves over to near the church and sat on the marble wall to take a look at what we had got our hands on and straight away the apple fritter seemed to jump right out of the bag and into my mouth. Guilty. What followed was a rush of rich, sweetness and a twinge of warm spice that complimented the apple perfectly. Would have been superb with a coffee or any hot drink frankly.

Next was the Chocolate and the Smarties, both very similar but I really like Smarties so sod it I got both. Again the rich buttery brioche dough really shone through and was complimented by the velvety chocolate that adorned its bronzed, crispy crown. It was banging to be fair!

Last but not least was the Dream Glaze… A very simple and incredibly well executed piece of confectionary that stands out for its pure, unadulterated self being bold enough to stand up against the other, more complex donuts in the range, very good indeed. All of them can put up a hell of a fight when put next to those other ‘Krispy’ varieties that are scattered throughout service stations and Tesco stores across the land… they are poor imitations of a truly well crafted product such as Jonathans. top marks.

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I managed to catch up with him properly to see how things were going and what got him started on his journey…

 

Phil: First of all thanks for lending me some of your time to answer some questions for me, I found your stall a few weeks ago and really wanted to get in touch and get involved. I suppose the first question is how long have you been making these badboys?

Jonathan: It’s my pleasure to take some time out to answer some questions and give the reader a little more insight into me and my company, so thank you. So, my business has been open now for just over a month, and have been selling to the public in this time but it has taken me around 6 months to get the dough just right, adding and subtracting ingredients, getting the rise times and rise temperatures just right.

Phil: The quality is right there man. As I have touched on in the rest of the article I loved every minute of all them. Do you have a favourite?..

Jonathan: Well, of course as you can imagine I love all my creations, but out of the first 5 flavours I would have to say the apple fritter. The warm, soft, sweetness and spice of the apples as you bite into the donut is just another level of delicious.

Phil: Its a pretty ballsy move going into business in a competitive market, in the days of ‘big brand’ Donuts at service stations and Tesco, what inspired you to take the plunge?

Jonathan: Well I believe whole heartedly in my product and after being in business for the last month or so, I have realised I have come up with a product that people love and are willing to make the trip back to my stall to get their donut fix. What inspired me in the beginning was the fact you have very little choice for this snack choice in Birmingham and I believed that I could come up with great creations that the general public would fall in love with.

Phil: What sets you apart from those ‘big brand’ donuts? I wont mention the name they don’t need the PR…!

Jonathan: What sets me apart from the big brands is the love, care and time I have put into my product and branding. From my dough, to fillings, to toppings many are made from scratch. We don’t use any fillers, preservatives or colourings in our donuts which I believe makes a huge difference to taste and texture.

Phil: So what’s the long term goal for you? Where would you like to be with DDD in 5 years time?

Jonathan: The long term goal for Donut Day Dream is to be, the go to place within the Birmingham and surrounding areas for good quality donuts. The aim is to have multiple outlets, at the same time cater for other businesses and events, including coffee shops, food festivals, weddings, parties etc.

Phil: If you could pitch your donuts or even your business as a whole to my readers, how would you do it?

Jonathan: Well, first of all, my name is Jonathan, I’m 30 years old and my main passions in life are family, food and fitness. I have always wanted to run my own business, and from a young age have had a passion for cooking and baking. Once I decided that donuts were the way to go, I started experimenting with different recipes and flavours, and understanding the science behind making donut dough. From the beginning I knew that quality ingredients and taste had to be top priority. I respect honest food, and believe the consumer would value that my dough consists of 100% natural ingredients. I love what I do and my heart and soul goes into each and every single donut, so when a customer tastes my product and I hear that ‘ummm’ it makes it all worth while. In the 6months leading up to opening I literally sat and dreamt about most aspects of the business, including branding, flavours and the overall vibe I wanted customers to feel. So this is how I decided the name ‘Donut Day Dream’. To the many people this blog may reach I hope by reading you’ve been tempted to come and visit us, taste our donuts, have a chat and tell us what you think. And finally for people who don’t know, where can they find you? We are currently located in the Birmingham outdoor Bullring markets on stall A3. You can also keep an eye out for us at various festivals and events. We have recently done a yearly Barbados festival in Coventry ‘A lil bit of bim’ at the Coventry and Warwickshire sports club, where we SOLD OUT! And we have the Birmingham coffee festival coming up on the 1st and 2nd of July at the custard factory.

Phil: Thanks man, I honestly wish you all the best and hope that this brings a few more people to the stand and helps you grow. We need more people like you takings risks to deliver some good produce to people that isn’t churned out on a conveyor belt. I know what I would choose.

You can find out more about Donut Day Dream here: Donut Day Dream… Click here!!!!

 

 

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Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Plenty of us get up in a morning and wish we could follow our hearts and take that leap of faith that will finally make our dreams a reality. We all have things that we would do anything to be able to accomplish in life but sometimes can’t quite push ourselves to do it. These pipe dreams could be travelling the world, writing a book, moving abroad or to someone like Sam Smith, running your own business.

Some readers may know Sam from his time as a rugby union player for Harlequins and Worcester Warriors, what you may not know however is that he has an incredible passion for coffee. A passion that clearly wasn’t satisfied by keeping it to himself, so naturally this developed into an idea. This idea then slowly evolved into Worcester’s newest answer to the UK’s growing love of modern, progressive food and drink, Wayland’s Yard.

 Sam now calls Worcester his home and to give back to the city he wants to provide everyone with the incredible coffee and great food they deserve, enjoying the fruits of local produce in a grade II listed building with a private walled garden and every effort being taken to help you relax and enjoy. Who can argue with that? It sounds special right? That’s because it will be…although to get this going he really needs your help.

How can you help?.. Wayland’s Yard is now crowd funding.

 

Being a part of the birth of Wayland’s Yard doesn’t just come with a huge amount of gratitude but also with some awesome benefits. You can start with as little as £10 and go as far as £250 but every little helps, see below for a list of what bang you get for your buck.

  • £10 – Draw yourself into our epic wall mural, becoming part of the shop.
  • £20- 5 free coffees and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £35 – 5 yoga classes in our community room with the amazing Yaur Yoga (www.yauryoga.com)
  • £45 – 2.5 hour home brew class at the shop with Sam and a free bag of coffee. Learn to make coffee the Wayland’s way for whenever you can’t make it to the shop!
  • £50 – 15 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £100 – 10% off hot drinks, 30 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £250 – 10% off food and hot drinks, 60 free coffees, invite to a home brew class at the shop for you and 1 friend, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life, draw yourself into our epic wall mural.

 

I will be working with Sam and Wayland’s Yard in the coming months when they are open for business to show the world what they are missing in Worcester. In the meantime lets make it happen. Lets support Sam in his journey and repay his faith in setting up shop in Worcester. For more information on the project and to see where your money will go hit the ‘Make it happen’ link below. Read. Pledge. Get ready for Wayland’s Yard.

 Make it happen!!

www.waylandsyard.com

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The revolution reaches Codsall

The revolution reaches Codsall

In recent times the West midlands has started to go through something of a renaissance when it comes to food and you have to look no further than Birmingham to get a feel for what is really going on. The restaurants are starting to change and there are new and interesting places popping up on the high street like Rub smokehouse, Buffalo and Rye (review incoming) and grand centrals food court, but it’s on the side streets of the city that the real noise is being made. Just a 15 minute walk from New street station is the district of Digbeth, the birth place of the ever popular and ever growing Digbeth Dining Club which is a perfect representation of how peoples attitude towards food is evolving in the area.

No longer are people satisfied by the monthly chippy tea or rashly palming Justeat to get the nearest greasy pile of whatever thrown at you through your door, people want more. We as a country are starting to realise the power of street food and what it can do to elevate your meal times to a whole new level. We are no longer happy with what we would expect to see and that drives us to want to try new things like craft beers, foreign twists on traditional favourites and every possible level of edible ingenuity we can get our hands on. Digbeth Dining Club delivers all of these things and still leaves room to push on even further. Good job then that this food revolution has reached my doorstep in sleepy Staffordshire.

Codsall is very close to my heart as I had a family connection in the village during my childhood, going there is always an incredibly nostalgic event for me but today was not just a trip down memory lane. It was my first time at the dining club here as it has popped up several times this year already but upon walking over to the stalls, the atmosphere was as good as I imagine the first day was. There was a real buzz of anticipation around the place and I think it stands to reason it has done so well and been able to return so many times because people really do love this kind of thing now. We quickly scanned the stalls which included some mouth watering, internationally diverse food styles such as Philippine, Greek, American and Mexican.

As you can imagine making a decision and committing to something is always an issue at these kind of events but being recently initiated into the world of smoking meat I was drawn to the bright red stall of big daddies diner. Hot dogs that offer something for everybody whether that is a straight forward dog in the Slim Jim or something a little more ambitious such as the Edna. Naturally I ordered the Edna, two Slim Jim dogs on a soft white roll topped with Brewdog Hardcore IPA chili and topped with cheese and crispy onions. First off I will say the sausages themselves were really quite good, with a prominent smoked flavour and a sturdy skin that has just enough bite to make it last a little bit longer, as it’s very tempting to not savour any of it and just savage the whole thing. The chili that is smothered across the top of the sausages in all its velvety glory, is a smooth and subtly spiced beef chili that is mild enough to appeal to all but can be perked up with a touch of hot sauce. The chili would almost be a star if it was available on its own but paired with the smoke of the Slim Jim sausages it just creates such a cavalcade of complex flavours it would be sad to split them up. I don’t really feel the addition of the IPA stands out in any apparent way but it is a quirky selling point and I like it, it is a good chili and would stand up against the best of them. Big thumbs up from me and good value at £6.00.

 

Next up was The Flying Cows and their decadent selection of burgers. Anybody who even half knows me instantly makes the connection between me and a good burger, which is fine by me as the battle of the burgers was genuinely a huge achievement at the time and even helped me get the a job! It did spark a passion within me for burgers as a medium of culinary creativity, the opportunities are endless between the halves of a bun, but a good burger relies on the quality of its content and not the volume. Too many places think that a gourmet burger just means piling too many excessive,expensive or odd ingredients between a half arsed burger bun is acceptable, when really all you need is to think about the sum of its parts a little more carefully and keep it simple. It feels like The Flying Cows gets me when I ate their ‘Barry knows best’ option from their menu. I will walk you through levels here… A brioche bun, a scattering of red onions and crispy greens, a steak burger topped with melted blue cheese, a few thin slices of chorizo lashed with mayo and finished with the other half of the brioche. What an absolute champion of a burger this was. Everything just worked and you could tell these guys cared about the food that was being passed to the customers through the sheer quality of the burger itself. It was a firm and juicy patty that bordered on creamy in its texture and bonded so well with the toppings. The richness of the blue cheese paired up with the warm paprika hug of the chorizo make this a definitive burger experience. Possibly even the best one I have had this year to be fair and at £6 I can say it is great value for money. This would probably be north of £15 with sides and fries in a restaurant. Just awesome.

 

These were my two major highlights but it goes without saying that you can only eat and drink so much in a single visit and it is clear that every single vendor that had turned up was bringing their ‘A’ game and that they really cared about their produce. Honourable mentions have the go to ‘Shake that ting’ for a decent banana milkshake and ‘Street Souvlaki’ for making the place smell incredible with their Greek BBQ, although the Greek platter looked great with it’s mixture of pork, chicken and halloumi, I would say it maybe didnt look the best value of the day at £8 but there were a lot of moving parts to the dish and I was told it was super tasty and my friend did enjoy it. Broughs brewery from Wolverhampton had two cask ales available on their bar but we only tried the golden ale. It was quite a generic ale in terms of its flavour profile but it would have been easy to drink in the warm weather had I been in it for the long haul. I just hope next time I can get round a little bit more and try some of the other delights that are delivered to the village in such exciting fashion.

To close out I have to give a huge nod to the organisers of this and Digbeth Dining Club for bringing something different to our local area, making amazing street food something we can get almost at will rather than it only being something we experience at borough market. Up until recently street food in the West Midlands started and finished at a jacket potato covered in tinned beans or a boiled hot dog in a 30p white roll. Thanks to these wonderful people I can honestly say the axis of gastronomic monotony has officially been broken. Settle for Greggs no more my friends. Go to Codsall Dining Club and join the revolution!

 

 

 

The Bayeux burger

As you may have seen in my recent post ‘Moyaux than meets the eye’ I went to France in July of this year and to be frank, I adored every second of my journey around the region of Normandy and found inspiration at every turn. The local produce was such good quality I actually left Normandy disappointed that I couldn’t stay longer and learn more about how everything was made and just sit one more time in the summer sunshine with a few different bits of cheese and some fresh bread, slicing tiny slithers of soft cheese away and pairing it with locally sourced cold meats and a cold beer. It really was bliss.

While I was there I was inspired to write quite a few recipes as there was plenty of ideas flying in and out of my head when we were exploring the local area but as ever, I am known for my burger recipes so it is only right I try and combine the flavours that Normandy is famous for and fit it between two halves of a bun for you all to experience at home. There are three things that stand out as essential ingredients to this burger and they are Pont l’eveque cheese, Calvados and Brioche. As long as these three things are present then you are onto a winner!

So here’s the recipe that screams out Normandy loud and clear to me while celebrating everything I miss about this beautifully wonderful place.

To make four burgers….

Ingredients:

  • 350G ground beef
  • 2 95% pork Sausages, removed from skins
  • 1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon herb de provence
  • A jar of large sliced pickles
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 150g wedge of Pont l’eveque cheese (or Brie) sliced into thick horizontal pieces
  • 2 finely sliced red onions
  • 1 single measure of Calvados (or good brandy if you cant get it)
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 4 teaspoons of Aioli
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Add the beef and sausage meat to a bowl with the Tarragon, Herb de provence and season well with the salt and pepper. Mix well to form a patty mix with an even consistency.
  2. Split into four even balls of meat mix. Roll, pat and press them into four burgers. (Quick tip: Size them to the buns!) Cover with some cling film and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove them from the fridge and preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the burgers and place onto the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. In a preheated frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the onions. Season well and stir regularly until translucent and soft. Should take roughly the same time as the one side of the burger.
  5. Turn the burgers in the griddle and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat up on the onions and add the Calvados. This will simmer down really quickly, lower the heat again and leave them ticking over on a low heat stirring regularly.
  7. Turn the burger once again and add at least two large slices of cheese across the top of the burger, cover if you can and add a touch of water to create some steam. Don’t cook for longer than another minute or so as the cheese wont take much melting. Rest the burgers in a warm place for a few minutes.
  8. On the bottom part of each bun, spread the aioli and place onto the bun, cross two of the pickle halves across the cheese and top with a spoonful of the onions.
  9. Cap with the other half of the bun and serve with herby roast potatoes or sweet potato fries for a treat.

There we have it… the Bayeux burger. An oral tapestry of contrasting flavours and my own little dedication to a great part of the world.

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VIVA LA FRANCE!…Apart from in relation to the Rugby World Cup of course…. not even a little bit.

COME ON ENGLAND!!

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.

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