Eating Exeter: The end of year review

What a year.  It has been crappy on most levels, but this year has been great for dining in Exeter with the opening of the Queen Street Dining quarter, Exeter is becoming a firm dining destination in Devon.

Last year I tried to do a review of the year, I then realised that I had written too much and done so many fun and exciting things that trying to review it was actually a bit of a mammoth task.  So I summed up 2015 with my top three moments and this year I shall do it again, but this time with Lauren’s help.

2016 has seen a decrease in views to the blog (2015 = 72,000 and 2016 = 67,000) despite publishing more posts than last year.  This could be for a number of reasons including algorithum changes from Google? SEO not being as SEO’d as it could be? Who knows.  There are more food bloggers, more news outlets for foodies to choose from, so it is encouraging to see that although we had a decrease in numbers, it hasn’t been drastic.

In February I did a call out for guest writers.  Lauren Heath answered the call, and has been producing a steady stream of posts for blog, and keeping on-top of the EE inbox/Social Media too whilst I’ve been slightly quiet  with personal stuff towards the end of this year.  A massive thank  you to Lauren for keeping things going!

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Given the magazine-style of the blog, I made Lauren Assistant Editor and decided I would be ‘Editor’.  This sounds professional and looks good on business cards. Ah yes, 2016 was the year that I created business cards for Eating Exeter. They are awful and I’ll be making some new ones.

I digress. Lauren and myself have chosen three food moments each for 2016.

So here are my three moments:-

1. Food Reader Magazine Awards – In January I was privileged to attend the awards ceremony for Food Magazine’s Reader Awards having reached the finals completely unexpectedly.  This is one of the only big pieces of recognition that the blog has received formally, so it was an honour to attend the ceremony even though I didn’t get to the top-spot.

2. The Salutation Inn – We were lucky enough to be invited to one of Exeter’s finest dining destinations.  A beautiful tasting menu created by Chef Tom Williams followed, showing off his technical and creative skills, we really got a flavour for this restaurant and what it stands for.

I was thrilled to see that they received Best Bed & Breakfast of the year months back, and I hope that the awards keep coming as it is very well deserved given the hard work Tom and Amelia have put in to make The Salutation Inn what it is.

 

3. The Rusty Pig/The Samosa Lady – Ottery St Mary is a burgeoning force in the foodie universe.  Home to The Rusty Pig, ran by Robin Rea and The Samosa Lady which is run by Tina Chauhan, we had two really enjoyable meals at these different venues.  They are just up the street from each other, but their food are world’s apart!

Lauren here; what an incredible year it has been for me – full of food and opportunity. What I like most about all this, is not only the food, but the people I have met along the way; I love networking and making new contacts.

It’s very hard to choose a top 3 highlights but here goes:

1. My First Blog Post – Having my first review published, which was the Pig and Pallet, Topsham, was just amazing. Having never met Chris, but having seen his tweet, I thought ‘yes lets give this a go’. I’m the confident sort anyway, but I surprised myself in the fact that I could write something so easily and the buzz it gave me. The P&P are still a very firm favourite for casual dining and I have been back there many times this year.

2. Writing for Crumbs Magazine, Devon – thanks to this lovely platform of exposure as well as an alignment of chance events, I had the opportunity to write a food review for Crumbs. This was followed by 3 more and that has been an honour and a delight to ee my name in printed matter.  I hope to do more of this in 2017 if the opportunities come my way.

3. Absurd Bird Bloggers Event – This event was the best I have been to, in both my business and food circles; so informative, passionate, tasty, interactive and fun – well done to both Attention Media and Absurd Bird.  My comfort food is crispy chicken and this event was a delight as well as having the opportunity to attend 2 soft launches and munch my way through their chicken menu and discover bacon jam!

There are many more I’d like to mention and thank everyone for having us in some way or another. I’d like to add that, with all the excitement that Queen Street Dining Quarter and some well known and new chains have brought, let’s not forget the independents in this city. Having met some restaurant owners, local producers and other foodie heroes, you wouldn’t believe the passion and hard work that they put into everything they do, so that you, the consumer, can enjoy what they have to share. Buy as local as you can, it can be more affordable than you think.

I know we will help discover and expose more of these individuals as much as we can. With 3 foodie engagements already in the diary for January 2017, I can’t wait to see where my culinary journey will take me. Bon apetit!

 

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Pizza Stein set to transform into two separate venues

In January, Exeter’s popular Pizza Stein restaurant will evolve into two distinct venues, BierKeller and PS Conscious Kitchen. Pizza Stein will close on the 2nd January and re-open in April, in a brand new restaurant-only site as PS Conscious Kitchen. The current venue will close throughout January for a refurbishment before re-opening as BierKeller Exeter.

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The decision comes after the restaurant owners identified the opportunity to grow two separate brands in Exeter. It means that they are able to offer a wider variety to customers, while maintaining their personality and continuing to celebrate their core values.

BierKeller will bring to Exeter a true Bavarian beer hall featuring thick long wooden benches, a fun and friendly atmosphere and a fantastic choice of drinks served in traditional ‘steins’; 16 draught beers and ciders along with 3 cask ales and over 20 bottled beers.

PS Conscious Kitchen will continue to celebrate authentic pizzas and great quality ingredients, sticking to the true Napoli rules. The menu however will be re-designed to cater to vegans, those with a gluten intolerance and other allergies, as well as offering more sustainable options. Ultimately the restaurant will maintain Pizza Stein’s ethos of good ingredients cooked in a clean way.

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Director, Paul Matthews comments:

“It’s a big change for us but we’re excited by the possibilities! We didn’t expect the popularity and diversity between the two brands so we feel that the opportunity to split and grow them should not be ignored.

We can finally offer a wider variety of food and challenge the chefs to find the best organic, sustainable ingredients to maintain the core values of the original Pizza Stein. We think this is the beginning of two bigger and better venues and another great independent offering for our city!”

Pizza Stein are encouraging customers to head to the restaurant which is located on the quay, to enjoy their last ‘true’ pizza for 3 months!’

Tasting Chocolate: Bloggers tasting session at Chococo in Exeter – by Chris Gower

We were fortunate enough to be invited to a tasting evening at Chococo’s lovely shop in Gandy St before Christmas.  It was a rare opportunity to experience chocolate under the expert guidance of Chococo co-founder and Chocolatier Claire Burnet who imparted her vast weath of knowledge and passion, taking us lucky bloggers on a whistle-stop tour of the chocolate landscape.

At the beginning of the evening, I started as a complete chocolate dunce. This is a position that I feel most UK consumers are in, it is one of our favourite food stuffs but we don’t really know the ins-and-outs of how it is the way it is, and where things come from etc. How many Joe Bloggs might know what makes American Chocolate different from European Chocolate? How many might know the different sorts of beans? and what variety of beans goes in to different sorts of chocolate?


I do hope Chococo start doing this sort of evening for the general public, it was a rare opportunity to talk to someone who has passion and enthusiasm for their art.

If you’re in to chocolate, visit their café and browse the wonderful selection of products in their shop.

Old Timer’s Wine Bar & Restaurant – by Chris Gower

Little Castle St, Exeter EX4 3PX – 01392 477704 – http://www.oldtimersexeter.co.uk/

Old Timer’s Wine Bar and Restaurant is one of Exeter’s hidden gems, of which we seem to have many!  An independent establishment that is owned by the same names that own The Timepiece Nightclub and Hole In The Wall, it has been one of the highlights on the dining scene in Exeter for many years.  This is one of the most anticipated reviews for me – given its great reputation with its Sunday roasts – this restaurant delivers excellent value with big portions.

Finding Old Timers is a little bit like trying to find a large restaurant-sized needle in a city-sized haystack if you don’t know Exeter well.  Set well away from the bustle and mania of the High Street, it sits on a wide alleyway that leads up to The Timepiece Nightclub.

On entering the interior feels a lot like a vintage emporium.  It is dark and dimly lit; I don’t know when it was last decorated but there is a timeless quality that has never left since the last time I was here about 10 years ago.  Is it how I remember? I think so…  For me the highlights included the model B52 bomber and the whiskey boxes adorning the wall.

There were five of us, we had booked in advance, but there was no need to really as there was only a light smattering of punters at various tables around the restaurant.  It was 5:30pm and we were definitely the calm before the storm.

Old Timer’s has got the right idea by providing a small yet well rounded menu, covering British classics along with Pizzas, Burgers.  There isn’t many bells & whistles,  but I was chuffed to see that most mains were around the £10 mark, with steaks being slightly more expensive as you’d expect.  The food isn’t sophisticated and the interior is quite rough around the edges, but when our meals appeared the generous portion sizes made us all do a double-take.

I went for the Cajun Chicken Burger; served with Onion Rings, Salad and Home-made Chips.  The chip portion was a little measly in proportion to the rest of the meal (but at the end of the meal I was glad that I hadn’t had MORE chips as with everything else it was a good size) but they were tasty and clearly made of actual potatoes.  The chicken was moist and well cooked with a tasty Cajun finish all encompassed in a soft fresh white bun.

To top this meal, they were selling pints of Exeter Brewery’s Avocet Ale for £3.00 a pint which was a perfect accompaniment for what was one satisfying meal!

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New Wood Fired Oven Cook Book Published in Time for Christmas

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Experts in everything wood fired, David and Holly Jones of Manna from Devon Cooking School have released their second wood fired oven cookbook just in time for Christmas entitled “Wood Fired Flatbreads and Pancakes”.  The book is available from the 8th of December and responds to the increased interest in the wood fired oven trend which is set to be even bigger in 2017.

Holly comments on the launch of the second book: “With more restaurants, food vans and hotels choosing to cook with fire, it is no wonder people have acquired a taste for the smokey delicacies wood fired ovens produce and are opting to install wood fired ovens at home.  The new cook book teaches readers how to prepare, manage and use the fire to cook a whole range of flatbreads and pancakes, from luscious creamy naan breads to Yorkshire puddings, sweet and salty pissaladiere and breakfast pancakes. There’s so much more to flatbreads than pizzas!!”

David says: “The release of our second wood fired book stems from our passion for cooking with fire and our knowledge we’ve gained over the past 10 years both here at the school and in our worldwide travels. We had to share our findings! We’ve also developed a new way of telling the temperature in a wood fired oven as there’s so much more to it than turning a dial – that’s all explained in the new book.”

Several new recipes* feature in the book, both traditional household favourites and those inspired by David and Holly’s travels to India, Vietnam, Spain and beyond. There are lots of beautiful photographs by Devon-based photographer Nick Hook so you’ll know exactly what’s going on.

The American Style Pancakes make a great breakfast or brunch and are a sure fire winner if you have children to feed – Holly and David noted that kids particularly love them with crispy bacon, banana slices and maple syrup drizzled over the top! Another important recipe, particularly this time of year, is for Yorkshire Puddings, which cooked in a wood fired oven turn out perfect crisp, light and puffy. *see full recipe details at end of release

Recently becoming the brand ambassadors for Morsø Wood Fired Ovens, Holly and David are excitedly looking ahead to 2017 and have a lot in store for the year.  Watch this space!

“Wood Fired Flatbreads and Pancakes” is available direct from the Manna from Devon website priced at £15.97 RRP, the perfect Christmas gift for the foodies in your life.

If you know someone who hasn’t got a wood fired oven (yet) why not get them a gift voucher which they can spend on a course next year! Just visit  http://www.mannafromdevon.com/gift-vouchers-2/  or call 01803 752943 to find out more.

For forthcoming dates, and to book one of Manna from Devon Cooking School’s wood fired courses, visit http://www.mannafromdevon.com/cookery-courses/woodfired/ or call 01803 752943. Follow Manna from Devon on Twitter (@mannafromdevon), Facebook (facebook.com/mannafromdevon) or Instagram (mannafdevon).

Warren’s Bakery presents The Gingerbread Muffin

Here is a fun thing to consider whilst Christmas shopping in Exeter.  Not our usual sort of news but worth a punt if you’re in need of a festive sugar top-up! – Editor

Put a smile on someone’s face in the lead up to Christmas with Warrens Bakery’s delightful new Gingerbread Muffin.  Bursting with flavours synonymous with Christmas, this festive muffin is lovingly handcrafted by the oldest bakery in Cornwall.  The moreish ginger sponge has been deep filled with a luxurious cream cheese frosting and then topped with crystallised ginger and a characterful miniature gingerbread man.

The Gingerbread Muffin costs £1.25 and is available from Warrens Bakery’s 50 stores across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol.

The muffin is just one of the tempting treats in Warrens Bakery’s festive feasts this Christmas and joins their much talked about Mince Pie Pasty, Turkey and Cranberry Pasty and new Port & Stilton Pasty, inspired by the Christmas cheeseboard. Their annual range of hand decorated Christmas cakes, sumptuous Christmas puddings, traditional mince pies and Stollen are also available.

The delicious Christmas range is all in addition to the artisan bakery’s core offerings which includes pasties, they are after all the oldest Cornish pasty maker in the world, fresh sandwiches, savouries, luxury scones, artisan breads, tray bakes, sweet treats and speciality biscuits.

Warrens Bakery’s hard work since 1860 has seen them receive a long list of accolades for their pasties and artisan sweet bakes.  In 2015 they were recognised in the prestigious Craft Business Award in the Baking Industry Awards 2015 and this year they won a haul of awards at The 2016 British Pie Awards and the World Pasty Championships.

Visit www.warrensbakery.co.uk for further information. To hear the latest news from Warrens Bakery follow them on Twitter (@WarrensBakery) or link up with them on Facebook www.facebook.com/warrensbakery.