Monmouthshire Food Festival…Don’t miss it.

 

Food Festivals are, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.

The Chef’s Theatre features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds.

Chris Harrod

The county of Monmouthshire is the food capital of Wales. It is home to the finest producers and award winning hotels and restaurants boasting two Michelin starred restaurants and many holders of AA rosettes. The Whitebrook holds a Michelin star and four AA Rosettes and many other awards. Chris Harrod, who is Chef/Patron, will be cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Saturday 20th May at 1:30 pm. For food enthusiasts this is a demonstration which is not to be missed.

Tim McDougall

Cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Sunday 21st May at 1:30 pm is Tim McDougall, Head Chef at the Llansantffraed Court Country House Hotel, holder of 2AA Rosettes followed at 2:30 pm by Mark Turton, Chef/Patron of the 2 AA Rosettes #7 Church Street in Monmouth

Mark Turton

The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers. Join in with a masterclass led by Duncan Fox from Haven Distillery – a cottage distillery which produces premier London Gin with some interesting botanicals. Duncan  will tell you everything you will ever need to know about gin!

Adrian Walker

Also in the Look and Learn Theatre will be a butchery and BBQ demonstration from Adrian Walker, Accredited Master Butcher of Golden Valley Meat and Game in the village of Grosmont in Monmouthshire. He is one of just fourteen Master Butchers in the UK and the only one in Wales and the Three Counties of Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. At the centre of the festival is the Producers Market. This features artisan producers, many of whom hail from the Marches, the border area of England and Wales. Award winning cider makers Ty Gwyn, fine artisan chocolate maker Black Mountain Gold and hand crafted ales from Castles Brewery located just one mile from Caldicot Castle’s drawbridge.

Ty Gwyn cider

Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for your young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Try a workshop on quick, simple and healthy after school snacks.

This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand and is offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work. For a little bit of fun volunteers from Guide Dogs will host “Jam and Juice”. Sighted kids can put on a blindfold to make jam sandwiches and juice drinks to experience what it must be like to have eyesight issues. And of course, there may be the odd cuddly guide dog to pet!!

Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.

Real ale

The festival will be celebrating World Day of Bees on 20th May with presentations from our local Gwent Beekeepers together with a display hive of bees (all quite safe) and information of the work being done by Monmouth based Bees for Development who work across many countries in Africa to alleviate poverty and retain biodiversity. We will also be welcoming the team from local dairy, Mead Farm, who will be bringing along a mechanical cow to show where milk comes from.

Samosa Co

So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.

How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?

Henry Ashby with Chef Chris Harrod

Links

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/Monmouthshire-Food-Festival-654281511286346/

Web https://monmouthshirefoodfestival.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief Encounter, Still Life…. And the best cream tea we’ve had this year.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,

 

It’ll be all aboard and tickets only for Tintern Station fabulous cream teas during the month of June to coincide with National Cream Tea Day on Friday 30th. For a whole summer month the very special full cream teas will be served every afternoon upstairs in the old Great Western Railway signal box to a select number of travellers who have booked their first class tickets.

This doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that one should consider depriving oneself of a top quality cream tea – since they are already available in the fabulously restored Victorian station waiting room or outside on the lawns.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.
David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

Typically, many would say, Easter saved the very best of its weather until most people were back at work on the Tuesday. But, at the risk of stirring up jealousy, we can tell you that we spent a fabulous morning at Tintern Station with many other visitors at the beautiful Tintern Station trying the cream tea – Wow! Definitely one of the best we have sampled so far this year and the setting was just superb.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

The Old Station Tintern is situated one mile north of Tintern Abbey on the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth road. And so, bathed in the morning sunshine with the Wye Valley’s railway history all around us, we tucked in to a fabulous high tea. In the middle tier, the chocolate scones were lovely and very different, with a great texture with that reassuring weight you get with a well baked scone. The accompanying ripe fat strawberries looked just right and little pots of jam and clotted cream are on hand – but which one first? The sandwiches were petite and beautifully cut with tomatoes and cucumber filling on white and brown bread sitting sweetly on the bottom layer. For sweet treats, small portions of iced fruit cake, sponge and French style macarons topped the three tier server. The best china will be in evidence during the Signal Box specials as well. And, with a selection of teas including the jasmine flower which flowers with the application of hot water – straight out of the alien movies – there is a taste for all.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Best china. Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe.

The station is a lovely haven away from the rigours of the day. To build up an appetite we took the short walk along the old line past the wooden statues of some of Wales’ ultimate legends in the dappled shade of the glade to the river access. This is a short easy circular walk (but with some steps) which returns the now hungry reviewer back to the track bed and platform.  Tintern Station is also a great place to start longer Wye Valley walks, all with the promise of excellent refreshment for the walker able to time their perambulations to perfection.

We ate the lot!

Not everything went right for Alec and Laura but in the waiting room – railway food has never tasted this good!

Some rather useful facts about the tea rooms.

Tintern Station café was awarded a Gold Medal in the True Taste of Wales Awards for Best tearoom in Wales 2012/13 and the Best tearoom in Wales in the National Tourism awards 2013/14. In 2017 the tea room was awarded a Welsh Tourism Café Accolade for quality.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

The tearoom offers a wide selection of cakes all baked on the premises and includes at least one gluten & vegan free option. A carefully selected fair-trade coffee and a variety of leaf teas and fruit fusions are available.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Gojo Berry tea.

Breakfast is served between 9.30 -10.30 and sandwiches and light lunches until 3pm.

They are happy to cater for special occasions and group bookings but be sure to contact them in advance on  01291 689566. Opening hours: Daily (weekdays) 10 – 5pm from 1st April until 30th September, Weekends and Welsh school holidays 9.30 -5.30pm. Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options available.

 June – Vintage Afternoon Teas in an original GWR Signal Box

Choose from a Traditional full afternoon tea, or a Chocolate afternoon tea. There is limited availability for this special event and booking is essential. Signal Box teas will be served daily from June 6th through to and including 2nd July between 3pm and 4pm. The cost is £14 per person, a deposit of £5 per person is required to confirm your booking.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

Our tea includes a selection of freshly made sandwiches, a selection of cakes and a choice of loose leaf tea (10 different teas available) or coffee.

Father’s Day afternoon teas are available on 18th June and full menu and details are available on request. These teas include a gift for Dad as well as a complimentary ‘Have a go’ at archery session (approximately 15 minutes).

To book Signal Box, Father’s Day or special events please in the first instance email: johnsterry@monmouthshire.gov.uk heading your  email Vintage teas.

Links

https://www.facebook.com/oldstationtintern/  @oldstationtintern

http://www.creamteasociety.co.uk/national-cream-tea-day

5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival – Blackfriars Priory.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,

 

Amidst the background buzz of the conversation of friends and fellow beer and cider enthusiasts alike, the names of quality craft ale and ciders from great small producers punctuated the hubbub like little siren calls in the glorious afternoon sunshine. These sirens shouts popped out of the hum filling the square and rooms of the festival like echoes as those lucky people drinking great craft ale and cider mulled over the taste and colour of the cup presently under consumption.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Ready to go at Blackfriars Priory.

There cannot be a grander, more historic place to hold a festival to celebrate the great taste of craft beers and cider. Where once the harmonic utterings of Dominican friars echoed around the ancient quadrangle – now lovers of beer and cider, studied the form of the festival card. Some with a plan of just which beers they hoped to sample in half or third measures and some with a more randomised approach.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Runners and Riders. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Good beer and good conversation are made for each other. Beers were sipped and sampled, occasionally exchanged for taste, held skyward for  comparison of their amber hues now illuminated in the bright blue of the glorious city centre Friday. The combination of the buzz and the wonderful acoustics of the priory square filtered out just about all noise from the city that is wrapped around this ancient monument.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Early Doors on Day One. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

It’s a true oasis in Gloucester city life insulated from the noise and traffic smell of the workday commuting. Friday welcomes many local CAMRA members and beer lovers from further afield. Many locals had used their GL residents cards to proudly claim the discounts on offer but all were glad to be back in the Cathedral to Beer now in its fifth year and fast becoming part of the history of the city itself.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Stag Day starter. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Wye Valley Brewery were one of the the main event sponsors bringing the fabulous Lady Marmalade, Daisy Duke and their HPA, Chepstow’s Baa Brewery where there with a best bitter and , in this anniversary period of the crossings,  Two Bridges. The great forest brewer, Hillside were here of course with a couple of light beers, HCL and a new brew Don’t Stop.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Basking in the Spring sunshine. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

The chosen charity for the event this year was the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge and their events manager David was on hand to tell everyone about the charity but with strict instructions not to sign up any new members under the influence. That would have been a good  night wouldn’t it, to wake in the fug from the night before only to realise that somehow, you had become a member! It’s a great charity, with a great restaurant incidentally, and very close to our hearts so well done Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival.

Spring sunshine at the 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival historic Blackfriars Priory.

Beer festivals aren’t a headlong dash into oblivion and debauchery. They are an appreciation and days of revelry mixed with self-education and shared passions, particularly Fridays, which seems to attract many more CAMRA members. Here there is a like-minded convivial group with whom to shared passions for the craft of beer and cider and the industry and skill of small producers across the country.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Ten deep at the bar. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Whatever their style all sampled and tasted a fabulous range from Porter through session to light craft beers by breweries such as…….For lovers of the apple, great names and great ciders abounded. Many single varieties were in evidence like Gwatkins’ Yarlington Mill and Weston’s with County Perry.

Visitors ranged from far and wide. Many travelling in by train or with designated driver from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley and
even a large group from the states visiting Gloucestershire for the first time had heard about the festival and called to check it out and sample the beers on offer.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Those in need of sustenance had burgers and hotdogs available in the quadrangle and a really well stocked cheese bar in the refectory. Well stocked and well-chosen with some great local cheeses on offer including our own favourite Charles Martell Gloucester. Accompaniments included chutney and celery and fabulous pickled eggs made near Stroud.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Dinosaur eggs for sale with cheese. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Finally some post-match stats for you hot off the press from the organisers. Over 1700 people attended over the two days, with 90 and 92% sales on beer and Cider/Perry respectively – a great success for a great event!

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Voting for best beers went as follows: IN reverse order ladies and gentleman, boys and girls in third place Imperial Porter. In second place Millionaire Stout and the winner of Best Beer of the Festival went to Stouty McStoutface from Mad Dog Brewing in Monmouthshire.

All three winners being dark stouts and porters (we started the day with half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn Brewing) is a really interesting indication of where the craft beer market is going.

It’s research Jim, but not as we know it: 

Read our previous article on the event here

Watch our time-lapse of the set up here

http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/

Twitter @GlosBeerFest

Beer Festival Facebook page

Don’t Drive and Eat Ice Cream   

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,

 

There is a new ice cream dream team in town. Charlotte and Marcus Adam of Forest & Wye ice cream company based in St Briavels mean business and they have the premium product to back up their ambitions.

Charlotte was, back in the day, a qualified librarian. Turns out that those librarians trained and qualified in the dark arts of book classification and stealthy movement in audibly neutral halls of knowledge and entertainment are, all of the time, hatching plots of a utopian nature. Well, they are if they are Charlotte Adams. She is one half of the new premium artisanal husband  and wife ice cream dream team, behind the new Forest & Wye ice cream company.

As an enthusiastic amateur ice cream maker (and hearty consumer) the chance to visit the new Forest & Wye creamery, in the lovely village of St Briavels, was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Anyone who has ever made ice cream or gelato will know that the taste blows away any large brand offering no matter how fancy the box or slick the marketing. And that is kind of the problem. My own small versions, in varying degrees of delicious success, are doing well if they last in the freezer for more than a couple of days! But try and scale that process up for sale as a product and things begin to get tricky.

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye homemade ice cream.

Enter then Charlotte and Marcus Adams. Well versed in this small scale purist production of, amongst other flavours – alcohol flavoured ices, for personal use only (honestly officer) who then decide to become “clean” ice cream makers, wherever possible shunning processed ingredients to deliver what is says on the tin. The clean food movement has somehow got lumbered with endorsements by “celebrities” (this apparently now passes for gainful employment) you may or may not have heard of. In addition it bears the weight of the most damaging of food marketing monikers – “trendy”.  Clean Food has never meant anything other than just natural ingredients. The ethos of this embryonic company is seasonal, local, fresh, as clean as it can be. So, the logic goes, Rhubarb Crumble ice cream (and loads of other yummy non-alcoholic flavours) has only ice cream (milk, cream and eggs) and rhubarb crumble in it – easy. Anyone can pronounce all the ingredients.

But it turns out that there are many reasons to adulterate a product and one of them is to get over problems of upscaling manufacture. Want blackcurrant ice cream? Add a big shot of commercial blackcurrant syrup for instant and easy flavour enhancement. But what if you want to get really radical and just get all the flavour from real blackcurrants? I know, it’s a crazy idea isn’t it?

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye.

The impetus for turning passionate hobby into a cottage industry business was supercharged by friends who tasted Charlotte’s’ home-made alcoholic ice cream. Right after they’d asked for a second helping they implored her to make a business of it and presumably therefore to ensure a continuity of supply. Let’s remember the ethos, when Forest & Wye make alcoholic ice cream, like their supreme “Baileys and Kahlua” – Baileys “flavour” just doesn’t cut it. It has to have, erm Baileys and Kahlua in it. Not as easy as you might think given the well-known anti-freeze properties of alcohol. Why stop there? Let’s go with their Vanilla and Cognac or Coffee and Whiskey and – our absolute fave Amaretto – wait for it smooth creamy taste followed by the Amaretto taste which builds toward the end – Wow! All of this raises the tantalising notion of adults only ice cream parties all purchased from licensed premises – that’s right they have real booze in them and you need a licence to sell them!

Having spent the past 15 years living in St Briavels and raising their family of 3 kids, the two thought that now was the right time to launch their dream business. It’s not been easy though, having decided to go for it, their ideas of clean ice cream with only the freshest of whole ingredients therein proved to be a challenge. Everyone they met, they bought training or equipment from, in fact everyone told them you need to make commercial ice cream with emulsifiers, stabilisers and bla, bla, bla. There was a dark and heart breaking time for Charlotte when, already having trashed several full scale batches, she thought that it might be true and that they might have to consider the worst case scenario and go with the advice. But a golden coloured revelation came to them on a quiet St Briavels night. A natural golden, sticky solution. Known of for centuries, and incidentally something that has a shelf life measured in a atomic half-lives, – honey. Together with a little natural bean flour, hey presto! They had cracked it.

ice cream, amaretto,
A very rare pre-production model complete with typo’s. Sadly now gone!

This is the first hurdle for most passions turned into businesses – where and how will you supersize your enthusiastic experimentation. With their eldest child now fourteen and the youngest pushing seven – playtime is over kids! The kids were evicted from their playroom and its transmogrification into modern creamery separated from the rest of domestic life began. Our exclusive peak into the creamery tells the story of the couples’ commitment. Fully kitted out with the latest brand new ice cream/gelato making equipment – no one could accuse them of “not going for it”, it’s organised, well laid out and tidy with a five star rating.

Telme,
Forest & Wye homemade ice cream.

Starting a new businesses can be scary. Lots of money going out and a really frightening period when no money comes in – self-employment  is not for the faint hearted. But for people who know what they want and know that they want to achieve it’s the only way. What you need now are customers! Deborah Flint, founder of The Pantry village shop (now in new hands, the shop previously featured in this magazine) and big supporter of quality local producers was the first to help out. She commissioned a blind tasting competition with other brands and Forest & Wye. Topping the taste test was a breeze and they were stocked! A local brewery used Forest & Wye products at one of its events but Charlotte and Marcus are looking for more outlets. For the time being, their footprint is limited to a 30 mile radius of the Gloucestershire border but that is bound to change as tasting pioneers spread the word.

Forest and Wye, ice cream, St Briavels, Gloucestershire, David Broadbent Photography, WyeDean Deli Confidential, food, artisan,
Forest and Wye creamery.

The packaging, like the ice cream, is simple, brilliant and wholesome. A plain brown fully recyclable pot with a stylish card label and you can feel good about your carbon footprint while you tuck in too. So here they are with a great creamery set-up and all the vision, passion and knowledge that you can shake a stick at. They have a fantastic premium product packed with goodness from as close to the creamery as they can possibly manage.

Over to you outlets…….

Links

Web                      www.forestandwye.co.uk

Facebook            www.facebook.com/forestandwye

Twitter                 https://twitter.com/ForestWye

The Pantry         www.facebook.com/thepantrystbriavels/

 

The Monmouthshire Food Festival 2017

 

Food Festivals are great fun and, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.

The Chef’s Theatre always features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds. The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers.

Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for our young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.

 

This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work – and of course help out with a small donation. So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.

How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?  

 

Abergavenny Bakery Goodies

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,

We talk sourdough and all things bakery with the innovative bakery team at The Angel Bakery in Abergavenny. Unbelievably good!

Exactly one week ago I was sitting in the middle of the A40 roundabout in my stricken Landrover, holding up the juggernauts of the morning rush hour on the A40 roundabout just outside Abergavenny. Sitting helplessly waiting for a recovery vehicle when I should have been talking sourdough with the staff at The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

No panic though, my meeting With Jo at The Angel Hotel to see their new bakery has been temporarily put on hold and I’m thinking that today could have gone better – good coffee, the smell of fresh bread and pastries enchanting my sense of smell. Sadly, that will now have to wait for another day. So with time on my hands until the breakdown gets here it occurred to me just how well some of our local DeanWye towns and villages are doing. We’ve written before (The Pantry) about the effect that home working may be having on our previously “dormitory” villages and towns. In fact, a little like Brexit, our towns and villages seem to be bucking the UK trend of the last 30 years against all the predictions of the naysayers.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

Abergavenny is a case in point. Vibrant, lively and with a significant proportion of independent shops (new rates assessments permitting)  as well as well-known high street brands – the town is faring better than some of its neighbours.  The Angel Hotel on the towns Cross Street is a particular beacon of this new found hope for our high streets. Stylish and trendy with well trained staff to ensure attention to detail and a top quality service, the hotel is working hard to offer visitors a quality experience in this great Welsh market town. All in all there are good reasons for confidence to be up! And so in this optimistic mood, The Angel has furthered its already impressive and ambitious plans and gone and opened a bakery across the street!

And now one week to the day since my breakdown (car), I’m standing in the bakery early morning amidst all of the buzzing, but focussed activity of the 5 staff. Baguettes and sourdoughs are already out, croissant (breakfast with an espresso) and pain au chocolat are on the counter together with, a very sexy looking, rhubarb Danish. In the clean spacious bakery engine room behind the tall plate glass which fronts onto the narrow street, dough is emerging after its 36 hour incubation to fulfil its destiny and be turned into flavourful, bread and buns with taste and great texture. My baguette (eaten at lunchtime back in the office) was crisp and strong with beautiful real bread flavour. A long bake made for a nice crispy crust, perhaps not one for the denture wearers, and the result of having had a decent amount of time to prove properly was a light open texture inside. These little cavities now swallowed more mayonnaise than is probably good for me, lashed to my cheese and tomato filling – wow, fantastic.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

In the old days of the Tour de France cyclists used to slice a baguette and hollow out the centre so that it could hold even more nutritious carb fillings for the long cycle ahead. At the Angel Bakery that light airy centre is fantastic so you’ll want to keep it in and just stuff everything else in as best you can.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Sophie. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The bakery opened officially on 23rd December and so now, a couple of months in, and the principal bakers Sophie and Polly, have the place running like a sewing machine. It’s well equipped with the latest bakery apparatus but the work is still all about traditional hand crafting. The two ladies met whilst working at the well-known London artisan bakery, The Little Bread Pedlar. This Bermondsey based bakery tucked into several railway arches has developed an enviable reputation and you can see the DNA of the Pedlar here in the work of the two ladies at the heart of The Angel bakery. Traditional methods and proper proving, deep bakes that are all about flavour, texture and crumb all done with style and innovation.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Rhubarb Danish. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The results are all good. And the sourdoughs are amazingly so. A good bake really brings out their natural nutty flavour and again the texture is fab, nice crusty outside and soft, firm inside with an open texture to capture a good spreading of butter or mayo. Sourdoughs are great family loaves. They taste great, obviously, but they also keep well and make the most amazing toasted soldiers for soft boiled eggs. We also tried the fig and walnut sourdough – triumph! Nutty sourdough flavour again combined with crunchy walnuts pieces and figgy goodness throughout with every now and again a little motherlode pocket of sweet hit of fig. Really, really tasty.

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
Fabulous Sourdough. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

The steampunk coffee machine with its enormous lever handles makes great stealth espresso using home roasted coffee without uttering a sound, unless the steam jet is activated. There are a few seats in the modest customer area which, really nicely, has a view into the bakery too, so you can see the magic unfold.

The Angel Bakery with Sophie and Polly at the helm will go from strength to strength. They have a great base to work from and the quality of what’s on offer is impressive. Even if you don’t live in Abergavenny, it’s worth going to the bakery for the croissants alone!

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, David Broadbent Photography, bakery, bread, baking, artisan, Cross Street,
C’est Magnifique. The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.

Web: http://www.angelabergavenny.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lovetheangel/?hc_ref=SEARCH

Twitter: @LovetheAngel https://twitter.com/lovetheangel?lang=en-gb

 

The Queens Head Micro pub, Chepstow

Queens Head micro pub
Lights back on at the Queens Head

 

On the face of it the last thing Chepstow needed a couple of years go in the high street economic climate of the day was another pub. Why then is Glen Ellis’ Queens Heads micropub on Moor Street in this quiet border town, still going strong?

In an age when reality TV delivers anything but reality, people have become jaundiced by tripe served as prime beef steak. This group of people, who are largely immune to advertising, are known by the red spectacle wearing advertising crowd, as the Millennial Generation. Traditional methods of advertising conjury don’t work on this group – a phenomenon so worrying to TV market traders that actual scientific research has been done into this disconcerting group. They are sometimes defined as “native digital” (Forbes magazine) and the first generation to have grown up with digital communication and social media rather than mainstream media. But, whatever age you are, you may be one of them.

People don’t change and they know genuine when they see it. And you could never accuse this great little pub tucked into the row just above the town gate and next to the Police Station of being anything other than good and honest! Walk into the single room bar and it feels like a pub. The wooden bar, tables and seats have the homely warm glow that only good old solid wood can offer, a rough timber post props up the roof while a ramshackle shelf, just about, holds thick tomes on craft beer. The timber floor leads to a decoratively carved bar and the bare stone walls are decorated in beer mats and other treatise to drink good beer. The pub strap line is the famous Hunter S. Thompson quote “Good people drink good beer” – I thank you.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micropub

There’s a good reason for all this architectural pub bonhomie. It’s in the building DNA.  It was The Queen’s Head for many years but was closed as a pub for about 20 years (it had a midlife crisis and became a hairdresser, clothes shop and an office in the intervening years). Glen found it on the property website Rightmove and fell in love with it and the town of Chepstow. Having secured the change of use back to a pub he has just sort of revived it in a way, brought it back to life with a real ale defibrillator in a craft beer paramedic kind of a way. The bar is actually an old church altar, Glen purchased before ever finding an actual venue for his dream micro pub.  The carving IHS in the middle stands for the first 3 letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. The Alpha symbol on the left stands for the first, and the Omega symbol on the right for the last. So, ladies and gentlemen, please step up to the altar of great Welsh beer.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micropub

In many ways what you see today is the manifestation of Glen’s lifelong dream. Now 34 years old and married to Catherine with a 9 month old daughter called Ivy, Glen has worked in pubs since university days. Back in the day when you could choose how you spent the student grant, Glen invested very wisely in an appreciation of good beer and he’s had – important word here – passion for Real Ale ever since.  After university Glen worked at his mum and dads (The Tower Hotel in Talgarth), running the public bar for them which is where all of that academic research became practical experience and customer service.

Don’t get the idea that this is some sort of beardy man cave though. This is a pub for all, young old, couples, workers – all are welcome and the common denominator is that they like a proper pub for proper people who like their beer to be interesting and taste of something. We chatted to Jon at the bar during “early doors” on Friday. He owns Toytastic the toyshop nearby and calls in for a pint after work. OK, he has got a beard, but otherwise he’s largely normal and very charming. Mike runs Trans Wales Trails, horseback trail riding based near Pengenffordd at the foot of the Black Mountains. He is a regular customer in my Mum and Dads pub at Talgarth where Glen learned his trade craft in working a bar. Mike always calls in on his occasional visits to Chepstow from the hills above Pengenffordd .There’s a northern saying that you can’t stand in a pub there for more than a minute without someone talking to you. At the Queens Head – make that a few seconds and after a few seconds more the regulars will also be congratulating you on your discerning choice of hostelry and telling you what a great pub this is.

Queens Head micropub
Queens Head micropub

Generally and not unreasonably being situated in Wales, Glen offers a wide and ever changing range of beers and ciders from the home nation. He’s a bit of an authority on small Welsh beers in fact and something of an almanac on the breweries they are made in. There’s a “when it’s gone, it’s changed” approach to stock and the result is a roving travelogue of Welsh craft beer, ably assisted and illustrated by a chalk board map of Wales hanging on the wall. It’s not all about Welsh beer though and when the context allows – like the Six Nations Rugby you’ll find suitably partisan guest beers from your own backyard.

There is of course good beer and cider, a warm and genuine welcome from a knowledgeable and enthusiastic landlord and great Welsh beers. But, there is something here that not all pubs have got. There was good conversation at the bar with nice and interesting people. You could hear what was being said because there’s no “musak” or escalating irritating digital pings or distracting light show from a Tardis in the corner offering Las Vegas style riches at the pull of a handle.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

There are difficult choices of where to start given the range of beers on offer. You could of course go the logical/analytical route and start on the left working your way across during the night or, more responsibly, you could opt for the Queens Head beer tapas. Tapas (sampling the beers in third of pint measures) will be familiar to anyone who has been to a big beer festival, like the upcoming CAMRA Gloucester event (article coming soon). It helps you sample several new beers, without turning the evening into a train wreck. We tried Grey Trees’ JPR, a very nice IPA beer from the Cynon Valley of South Wales (Cynon Valley lies between Rhondda and the Merthyr Valley).

In Italy all bars offer “Aperitvo” to the early evening crowd, often vying with neighbouring bars for the reputation of the best or tastiest. It’s just a complimentary selection of tasty nibbles to go with a few drinks after work. It suits the Italian psyche of food at every opportunity, enjoyment, talking and above all – welcome. The Queens Head does it Gwent style with short dated food on the “offers” shelf from Marks & Spencer’s across the road – plump and tasty sausage rolls the night we were in!

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

When the new M & S opened about a year ago, regulars from the pub started doing their bit to reduce the food waste mountain by bringing in reduced price bargains to share out amongst the other patrons. Thus, the Yellow Label Club was born. In the Queens, as all over Italy, competition has set in and the goal to find the item with the greatest reduction is now a grudge match. Currently in the lead is another Mike who found a Banquet Pie reduced from £25 to £2.50.

There is a movement to “Save our Pubs”, a fine cause and never a more relevant sentiment than now. You can do your bit too – by drinking in them! Occasional aperitivo is one other way the Queens rolls out the welcome carpet. Saving pubs is important because we are only just now realising that the plight of all those great pubs, now gone, was a litmus, a precursor to what’s now happening in our high streets.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

Going for a beer is many things. Going for a quick beer after work is a specific thing. It’s an opportunity to unwind and put the working day behind you before going home to family. Psychologists would say that it’s a chance for the brain to compartmentalise whatever has happened in the day as “work”, provide a clear separation between work and home and also to stop you boring the pants off the family with tales of the widget you made today that mysteriously appeared with the face of Jesus on it.

Queens Head micro pub
Queens Head micro pub

Perhaps though the Millennial Generation should be redefined? Perhaps they are in realty just a group of cross-generational discerning men and women who use their powers of research to seek out places like the Queens Head they heard about on the grapevine, who don’t need the hype but instead rely on their own ability to go there and use their eyes and quality of judgement to recognize the real deal when they see it.

Queens Head micropub
Queens Head micropub

We’ll be writing all of our Grand Tour Wye Valley postcards from here in the future…..

Head over to Glen’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/queensheadchepstow/ and hit the “Like” button to support the pub. If you are part of the Twitterati – you’ll need this  @QueensChepstow you know what to do.

12 Moor Street, Chepstow. Call 07793 889613

Ugly Tomatoes.

tomatoe, David Broadbent Photography

 

I bought some tomatoes the other day. To be honest they were as ugly as sin itself. They were lined and wrinkled and had a few little black spots on them. Not really very pretty at all and they were all shapes and sizes – not one the same as the other.

Obviously I didn’t buy them from the local supermarket. These little blighters would have been strangled at birth, given the boot by the automation that sizes and grades fruit and vegetable and be now littering some landfill somewhere.

No, I bought these from a greengrocer running her own small shop in a little back street. I paid a very small amount of money for something that has taken weeks of care to bring to bring to market. When I got home I put the ugly bunch on the kitchen worktop and went back to work. They were so ugly that they would have made small children cry, old ladies feint, turn milk sour or made the Elephant Man gasp in amazement.

But, and here is the thing – they tasted fantastic! Out of this world in fact! The kitchen smelt wonderful because of them and they made amazing and super tasty bruschetta, and Caprese salad and the next day with a light grilling they made the breakfast kitchen smell wonderful as well, full of warm tomatoey goodness. They also made the grilled bacon taste even better. Who knew that bacon could be made to taste any better?

“Hello” magazine readers should look away now – As in life, it’s always in the quality and not the looks so give a lot of love to the ugly ones too.

 

Mint & Mustard opens in Chepstow

 

Last night I went to a wake and a christening. All at the same time and at the same place.

Sadly, after many years, the Mughal Spice Indian restaurant in Chepstow is no more. The wholesome food and bonhomie of the brothers is a thing of the past. However, in its place is born an additional iteration to the very successful Mint & Mustard. The south-west based Indian food explosion has finally cracked the holy grail of the “Indian”, to offer distinctive, regional, genuine menu’s with a dash of great service and in cool surroundings. Although the new Chepstow outlet is pretty much just a lick of paint and a refresh for the old Mughal upstairs rooms at the moment, they have great ideas for the downstairs lounge. Anyone who has been to their other restaurants, particularly Penarth, will know that the decor style of this quickly expanding group is definitely upmarket and trendy with nods to all of the interior design trends and tricks of the new wave of uber-cool bars and restaurants.

Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room
Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room

As most now know, many of our beloved “Indians” have in the past been run by Bangladeshi folk. Nothing wrong in that, but since the days of the Raj, Asian food has been adapted and adopted by the British palate as only we seem to do with any world cuisine. Partly because of this restaurant menus became the anonymous high streets of the restaurant business. Homologous lists of dishes you could get from anywhere – with often differing resemblances to the stated contents.

Mint & Mustard is changing that. The reason for their success so far is simple? Of course the great levels of service are important but it’s the food. Genuine south Indian, predominantly Keralan, dishes all served up with lashings of style and presentation. Finally! An Indian restaurant that gets it all right.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Kerala, known as the “Land of Spices” because of its history as a spice trading centre to the world, sits on the Arabian Sea on the tropical Malabar Coast. No wonder then that fish is one of the staple elements of the Keralan diet. But it’s also famous for its meat and vegan dishes (Hindus in the Brahmin community are vegan). Coconuts abound in Kerala and, in all its forms, it’s a significant feature of the local cuisine.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Our starters of Scallop Thengapal served in their shells with an unctuous soft lemon and coconut milk sauce and the theatrical Keralan tiger prawns, deep fried in chilli and turmeric paste – delightful. A selection of mains followed which included expertly spiced chicken Kori Gassi, King Prawn Peera, chicken Dhaba Murgh with chilli, garlic and ginger and a Master Chef Mixed Grill Platter with an assortment of meat and fish tikka dishes. Accompanying sides of dals – Olan (butternut squash and cow peas) and of course Tarka dal.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Tarka dal is such a domestic staple of Asian cuisine from Nepal to the southern tip of the continent that it’s a litmus for the quality of any Asian restaurant. If a restaurant can’t get this right, the thing they have been cooking at home and eating for years, then it doesn’t bode well. If the tarka dal is good, you can have confidence that everything is going to be just fine.   M&M’s tarka dal is great. Just the right amount of sauce, spice and texture in the lentils – a real treat.

Add to that a full house and lots of early evening atmos – and that’ll be another winner for Mint & Mustard!

 

Macaron A Sweet Indulgence

David Broadbent Photography, macaron,

Becks Gough is a perfectionist – in all things. This bright eyed and enthusiastic Cinderford young woman is not the type to give up easily. And when, by chance, during a weekend in Paris she happened on the eye catching shop front of Ladurée on 75 Avenue de Champs Elysées she had – found her thing as they say – Macaron making. The window display of this famous patisserie and tea room, which has a history that began in 1862, definitely has the WOW factor and Becks and her friend bought some to try and also to take home to her mum. Macarons are delicate things but with lots of soft packaging and careful handling Becks got the colourful pastries home to Cinderford after a 15 hour return coach trip. Both Becks and her mum, Chloe, were impressed!

As so often happens, a life time’s work can begin with the belief “I can do that”. That was two years ago and in between time Becks has had several successes but many, many more failures whilst trying to perfect her own macaron method.

What could possibly go wrong? How long have you got? A slightly different mix and – fail; folded too much – fail; not folded enough – fail; try a different oven on exactly the same settings – fail! Becks’ list goes on. She purchased the Ladurée book and took control of the process and slowly but surely she got there. Soon friends were asking for some and then friends of friends and so it continues.

Why macarons? Was our obvious question – “Both mum and dad are professional chefs with a services background and I wanted to do something different” just to find MY thing.

David Broadbent Photography
A Sweet Indulgence

So, how do yours compare to the best? Rather coyly and for some unknown reason a hint of embarrassment Becks says “Better”. A few days later a very colourful rainbow of macarons appeared to sample and photograph. Pushed to deadlines and up against competing demands we didn’t think that we could do the tasting justice. So, we took them, all of them, to a very fine country house in Lincolnshire which had been hired in its entirety for a, appropriately, a Royal Navy wedding!

So in the resplendent Edwardian halls and sitting rooms the night before the wedding over drinks and bonhomie we tried out Becks’ creations on the assembled close family and friends. The colours when you open a box of Sweet Indulgence macarons are what immediately grab your attention. Let the tasting begin….

The verdict was in from a very tough crowd. Wonderful and numerous other superlatives in the stampede to try all the flavours – lemon cream, strawberry and cream, raspberry and cream, blueberry and cream, Chocolate ganache, orange blossom and salted caramel.

The bride herself loved them, but daren’t try any more than one since her dress was very precisely fitted for the big day following. The bride’s mother loved the orange blossom ones best. The bride’s father loved them all (as did we).  And, Ali, a flight stewardess for an American airline and someone who has visited the Champs Elysées outlet and tasted the original – loved them and pronounced them even better than the Paris version!! There you have it – confirmation that you should try some.

Contact Becks on b.gough1991@hotmail.com