Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

It has been a while since I have been this active on the blog let alone been in touch with my good friends at Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, but I must say they have caught my eye of late on social media. They have recently launched a super saver menu to rival the mainstream fast food chains in terms of their value and quality while also going viral yet again with what I believe was the worlds biggest chicken nugget. Nugzilla is real.

I have made no secret that I have always been a proponent of Rub’s unapologetic spirit and the fact that the heart of the business seems to be very much worn on their sleeves. The jovial nature of their attitude towards food bleeds into their model of spreading their message on social media with things like this but ultimately they still have good food at their core. While Nugzilla and the challenge options in that sort of wheel house don’t necessarily appeal to me personally, it gets bums on seats and gives them a platform to show off the sorts of things I ate on Friday. I literally got into cooking traditional BBQ because of Rub Smokehouse and watching Brian Mujati’s YouTube channel so these guys have really imprinted on my development as writer and a cook, so it was a pleasure to be hosted by them again on Friday evening (06/07/18).

Upon arrival I was greeted by the smell of the art of meat alchemy and a really accommodating member of staff, (apologies for not remembering your name) seated at my table and was given 5 minutes to mull over the menu. I decided I wanted to go out like William Wallace and get Hung Drawn and Quartered, which as pictured below, is a platter of smokehouse treats and American inspired sides. To start at the top we have baby back ribs, pulled pork, Brisket, BBQ chicken with white Alabama BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings that’s are served with sides of onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, fries and red slaw. Quite the list right? this can all be yours for £36 to feed two people or £68 for four, which when you break it down is actually very reasonable per person for the amount of food you actually get presented with while also seeing what their food is all about across the board.

It’s also worth noting I upgraded the fries to the ‘poutine’ option (gravy and cheese) which were really a really nice touch and not something you see very often on a British menu.

As ever for me my experience eating this was consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. I am a self confessed burgerholic but when it comes to a place like Rub I need some smoke rings and wings in my life. The brisket was moist while still retaining a healthy bark on the outside that ran into a vibrant pink smoke ring, the chicken and the buffalo wings were a flavoursome punch that packed the odd bit of crackling spice and the pulled pork was an equal partner in the dish as sometimes PP can get lost amongst the bold flavours of a smoked variety dish but it stood up well and in being served dry, retained it’s ‘porkyness’ rather than it just being about the sauce it was in.

One thing I have always struggled to get right on a wood fired smoker is the humble rib. A relatively cheap cut of meat that can be make or break for a cook if they don’t treat it with enough care. It has taken me a long time to be able to get up to a standard where I am even remotely happy with my own rib cooks (I can’t begin to tell you how many racks of ribs I have eaten while simultaneously pissed off about shoulda, woulda, coulda elements on the days grilling) but Rub are really consistent. Every time I have eaten their ribs I get the same effect. I get enough stability where I can pick them up without complete disintegration, enough give that I can pull the bone clean out of the rack or in this case just pull through it with a fork like I’m eating a cake, which in itself has always really impressed me. Something I learned very early on is that you can tell the quality of a smokehouse by how their ribs behave and Rubs ribs were very well behaved little guys.

It really does showcase the size of the dish when I haven’t even touched on the sides yet by this point of the post, however I don’t want to take any shine away from them. I have maybe had corndogs twice in my life as again very much like the poutine, they aren’t really something that has broken into the British culinary lexicon that often. A good example of the American carnival ‘anything on a stick’ attitude, the corn dog offers it’s participants a frankfurter that is deep fried in batter to create a breaded meat rocket on a wooden stick. Rub’s take on the corn dog is fluffy and almost decadent in it’s own way while also offering you some real variance away from the rest of the dish without being odd. It is certainly at home here but just allows you to go somewhere else for a quick minute… which is nice.

Poutine was very pleasant and the gravy just helps you continue on when you start to hit a wall in the third quarter of the platter. Trust the process as Joel Embiid says or in this case just trust the poutine. Onion rings were probably up there with my top 5 onions rings as they were full and fluffy unlike some the scraggly shit I have been served elsewhere in the past. Slaw was refreshing against the heavy nature of the meat and the corn was… yellow. Because I haven’t eaten it yet… because the meal beat me and I essentially brought home an entire further meals worth like I always do when I go to Rub.

We are a few years down the line since my first visit and it is good to see Rub still pumping in it’s original vein. The spirit has not died and neither has the quality of the food. They embrace challenges and change and even enforce some of their own by trying to ‘break the internet’ and some may criticise that or think it to be at the behest of the quality of their actual product, but it isn’t. Which has always really impressed me. We are in the age of social media where even your local butcher is putting something rogue on their A boards in the hope you will tweet it and it will drive more business (or in some cases on Mumsnet or Reddit and you get chased out of business..), Rub has embraced that and built a reputation around big, bold, brash statements and an experience that anybody with an ounce of adventure in them wants to be a part of. It’s always been a interesting ride watching how they develop and long may it continue. Birmingham loves you so just keep doing you, as it’s still working.

 

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Tiny Rebel Peaches and Cream IPA.

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First of all, Tiny Rebel. Just stop. Your breaking my brain.

Every time I think they have done another number on me and raised the bar for craft beer and given me something to hang my hat on they hit me with a crossed left and leave me sitting in front of a pint thinking about how I can ever do better than what I am drinking. It’s really annoying when you try and come at a beer from a neutral perspective and end up sounded like a gushing little fan boy. If anything though, those kind of reactions are rarely  undeserved and this beer is one such product. Take a bow TR and Urban Brewhouse.

The pint was served to me at the Hogs Head in Wolverhampton from their craft rotational keg boards. The pub is run by Stonegate pub company who, to be fair, are probably becoming one of the key proponents of great craft beer in the managed retail sector in the UK, especially by providing Wolverhampton with the best pub in the city. It comes at no surprise to me that they are working with Tiny Rebel on a tap takeover, as they are both the shit.

  • Look: The beer pours golden with a slight haze, adding to my intrigue. A short head that dispersed fairly quickly but not really fussed by head retention on keg beer as don’t want to sound like some pompous CAMRA lifer. Plus the average customer wouldn’t take into consideration the pain in the arse changing 10 rotational dispense systems from CO2 to mixed gas every time there is a new product coming in. Fact is – looked inviting.
  • Nose: Citrus fruit, sweetness and almost a vanilla scent.
  • Taste: No surprises here… Peaches. Was a gorgeously smooth beer with a velvety peach note and a hoppy punch from the Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic used with a light creamy finish from the added lactose. Yes mate.
  • ABV: 5.5%. Not shy. Not apparent on the taste, dangerously drinkable.
  • RATING:

4.5/5

Image result for 4.5 OUT OF 5

 

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!!!!

 

 

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.