Double Gold for Salcombe Gin at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition 2017

The awards keep rolling in for Salcombe Distilling Co. this year.  Recognised as one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, Salcombe Distilling Co. is thrilled to have just been awarded a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition 2017.

 

The co-founders of Salcombe Distilling Co. are Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies. Commenting on the latest award win, Angus Lugsdin says: “We are ecstatic our Gin is now being recognised internationally, an incredible accolade after all the hard work of the past year. Our main objective is to produce an exceptional hand crafted gin and we strive for perfection in every step of the process. These awards are a real testament to our ethos and hardworking team in Salcombe, Devon.” 

Howard Davies continues: “Launched in July 2016, Salcombe Distilling Company is still a relatively new brand, so to be recognised globally at this early stage is a huge honour. It’s already been an extremely busy year for us, launching our new Gin School in Salcombe where the curious gin lover can develop and distil their very own bottle of gin. Plus the distillery bar overlooking the estuary is proving hugely popular with locals and tourists in the area. We are also busy sampling our delicious Gin at many food and drink festivals and events across the country.” 

This year’s San Francisco World Spirit Competition was held at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco on 20th – 23rd April 2017.  It was another record-breaking year that featured 2,253 spirit entries from all corners of the world.

In addition, the Beverage Testing Institute in America has awarded Salcombe Gin ‘Start Point’ a Platinum Medal adding to their ever increasing and now international collection of awards. Salcombe Gin was described as ‘superlative’ and was awarded the highest possible rating with a score of 96/100. 

Powered by the Beverage Testing Institute, the Tastings.com International Review of Spirits is America’s oldest annual international spirits competition and has been operated objectively for 24 years. It is a blind tasting, medal-based competition that awards based on a 100-point scale. Spirits are judged by Tastings.com‘s trained staff joined by top Spirits professionals and buyers from retailers and restaurants using a proven, consistent, proprietary methodology developed in collaboration with Cornell University. The Tastings.com International Review of Spirits distributes its monthly results to consumers and the trade through Tastings.com, a free consumer website with tens of thousands of unique users a month on its searchable databases and via social media @tastingsbti.

The full review and score is available at http://tastings.com/Spirits-Review/Salcombe-Start-Point-London-Dry-Gin-United-Kingdom-88-Proof-05-01-2017.aspx.

Salcombe Distilling Co. celebrated success earlier this year when awarded Gold at the World Drinks Awards and winning the coveted title of World’s Best Gin in two of the Design subcategories, judged against hundreds of other spirits from around the world. 

Refreshing, delicious and super smooth Salcombe Gin is hand distilled in South Devon using only the finest hand sourced ingredients. This new gin is produced using thirteen carefully selected botanicals distilled in a beautiful copper pot still with the finest English wheat spirit and blended with pure Dartmoor water to produce a gin of extraordinary quality and elegance with no compromise. 

Angus and Howard have an uncompromising approach to quality and an almost obsessive attention to detail which has resulted in this perfectly balanced citrus led, hand crafted gin.
Perfect served on its own over ice or with a premium tonic water accompanied by a slice of ruby red grapefruit to complement the rich and warm citrus notes, Salcombe Gin also makes a cracking dry Martini with a twist of red grapefruit peel.
 

Salcombe Gin ‘Start Point’ 44% 70cl bottle (£37.50) is available to buy nationwide from various retailers including Fortnum & Mason, farm shops, food halls and delicatessens plus from the Salcombe Gin website www.salcombegin.com and can be purchased directly at the distillery.

For more information about Salcombe Gin visit www.salcombegin.com, email ilovegin@salcombegin.com or call 01548 288180. To keep up to date with the latest news follow @SalcombeGin on Twitter and ‘like’ SalcombeGin on Facebook. 

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Grand Hotel, Torquay by Chris Gower

Sea Front, Torbay Rd, Torquay TQ2 6NT – 01803 296677 – T: @grandtorquay

Torquay: home of beaches, guest houses, palm trees, a large wheel, a marina, train station or two and lots of people of a certain age.  OK officially the oldest town in Britain is Southwold in Suffolk, and despite the stereotypes Torquay is adorned with, it has many different faces.  One face is a young and vibrant resort with clubs and ‘things to do’ and the other face is the Torquay that is friendly to the older folk.  It is multi-faceted, and much more so than its gentrified brother Exeter.

If you have never been to Torquay before, it is likely you are going to be hard pressed to find another place like it.  Like many large towns and cities the whole area is a conglomeration of small villages and towns that has grown in to one large massive built-up area; Cockington, St Mary Church and Babbacombe were all quite separate in their own right to begin with but as Torquay hit its Golden Age in the late 19th Century, the resort became much more like the resort we know today.  And with this came the railways, and with the railways came more tourists and the building of The Grand Hotel in 1881.

Torquay is a veritable warren of small roads and windy streets with a one-way system that changes with the wind and a host of stunning views across the bay from many vantage points.  Some lucky people live on these vantage points and everyone is very envious when they say how lovely the view from their loo is.

The arrival of the railways became catalysts for the very concept of holidays and hotels started springing up next-door to railways stations especially in resorts like Torquay.  The Grand Hotel was built to accommodate the GWRs expansion in to the South West, originally only with twelve bedrooms it grew over the years and in 1926 the installation of one of the first central heating systems within a UK hotel – it was the height of luxury.

We were invited (please see our FAQs to see what this means) to stay at The Grand Hotel and be their guests.  We were treated to a dinner and breakfast too along with an overnight stay.  It was a ‘nano-break’ and it was certainly needed given our life at the moment.  The Grand Hotel is owned by The Richardson Group who also own The Groservor Hotel in Torquay which Co-Editor Lauren reviewed a few months ago.

The Grand Hotel sits in a commanding position with a fantastic sea-view that would make folks back home quite jealous.  The vista encompasses the entire bay from Torquay Marina all the way over to Brixham in the distance.  With a sea-view room, you can see everything; a short walk away is The Princess Theatre, Las Iguanas (which we visited a while back) and a row of nice restaurants and cafes which are definitely worth a visit. But with the lovely food served in the restaurant, why would you want to?

It has had its share of famous residents including Agatha Christie to name but one, the luxury that comes with a name like The Grand is a calling to anyone looking for the finer side of things.  But the majority of residents are simply those who are on holiday, taking advantage of Torquay’s mild climate and local beaches.

Because of its close proximity to the station, I wanted to take the train originally but out of the sake of ease and comfort we decided to drive instead.  The romance of the image of arriving off the train and walking through the doors was overshadowed by the idea of timetables and the dire state of our local commuter trains “Oooh lets go down by train!… upon second thought, nah we’ll just drive”.

Parking at The Grand Hotel is split up between being able to park on the road directly outside the hotel, between their own allocated parking next door to the station and on the Rugby Ground.  We were fortunate enough to be able to park on the road which was free and very convenient.

We checked in, booked in our evening meal and settled in to our room.

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The height of the hotel means the views are good no matter which side you end up on, but naturally we had a sea view.

A large spacious room with nice comfy beds, a sea view and all the amenities that one comes to expect in a hotel room.  Tea and coffee making facilities, trouser press, television en-suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries, a working shower with loo roll!

But, first thing is first, a little exploration followed by a complimentry glass of prosecco.

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On the outside The Compass Lounge looks like a last minute thought, stuck on to the side of the hotel rather ungraciously, but inside it has lots of light and central bar that serves drinks and coffees.  It also serves light lunches in The Keith Richardson Brasserie as well, and is the perfect day-time destination if you miss breakfast, or if you wish to grab a light bite to eat before you head out to the wilds of Devon.

There is table service here and as with all of the service at The Grand Hotel, it was friendly and incredibly attentive.  We settled in with a glass of prosecco and watched the world through the lovely large windows, perfect for people watching as they went about their Saturday afternoon.

The Grand isn’t just about a place to stay and a place to eat, there is also a Spa and Pool area.  We did’t get a chance to experience this, but we went downstairs to have a peek at the facilities.

We had booked in to Dinner at the Restaurant 1881 for 8pm – their large restaurant area is also the place where they serve breakfast from 7:00am most mornings.  A vast room with strong coloured walls and a jazzy vintage patterned carpet – we were shown to our seat and given a menu.  We were served by the lovely Felix throughout the evening.

The menu is straight forward, there are no bells or whistles with a firm focus on the food and the quality.  We were both taken with how the whole menu encompassed a range of tastes and expectations, it wasn’t eclectic but it catered for a wide spectrum of diners.

For starters I kicked off with a starter of Wild Mushroom Risotto served with parmesan crisp and pickled mushroom.  Tori kicked off with Pan Fried Scallops which she has developed quite a taste for since being introduced to them by Chef Tom Williams a couple of years ago at the Food Magazine Festival of Food and Design.

It was moist and mushroomy – can you see why I’m not a professional food writer? – I ruminated on the words that I needed to describe this dish and the best I could come up with was mushroomy.  Earthy, savory and exceptionally moist.

For main course we both went for Pan Fried Duck Fillet served with celeriac, rhubarb and five spice. Full marks for quirky presentation, slightly post-modernist but an attractive arrangement none-the-less.  The duck was beautifully cooked, moist and full of taste as you would imagine from a restaurant with an AA Rosette.

The contrast with the duck and the rhubarb was weirdly nice, bitterness contrasted with the savory of the duck meat was a palette that I hadn’t experienced before.

Our final chapter of the meal was the dessert and for me this was particularly memorable.  I opted for the Pina Colada (pineapple sorbet, coconut panna cotta, chilli poached pineapple and lime gel)  and Tori went for the usual chocolate option which was Black Forest (dark chocolate mousse, which chocolate mirror glaze, brandy poached cherries, cherry gel, cherry jelly, chocolate soil, vanilla and cherry macaroon).

Pina Colada has so many connections, not all of them are positive.  I think of Pina Colada and think of naff cocktails and package holidays.  But something drew me to it, some sort of inner need for a classic cocktail told me to have this dessert.  I had no idea really what to expect but the whole thing was gorgeous.  It had a real summer taste, sitting on a coconut panna cotta plate, the elements were arranged like a little beach scene (I didn’t have to use my imagination too much) which gave me a very summery glow.  It was rich, sweet and coconutty, like coconut scented sun cream, it really evoked an inner feeling.

We finished off the meal with a lovely coffee and a stroll down The Strand to breathe in some fresh sea air, reflecting on an incredibly enjoyable meal.

The next morning we rose earlier than we normally would on a Sunday to get down to breakfast.  There is a helpful chart in the lift that shows peak times for breakfast, and the best time to get down.  This is great if you’re a super early riser, but like most people, we are not.

So there were two queues. One queue for being seated and one queue for the breakfast buffet – they merged in to one which was quite confusing.   But it was fine as a waiter appeared and seated us in a position where we could watch what happens at Breakfast time.

Unfortunately I feel The Grand Hotel suffers a bit with breakfast because there were long periods where certain things would run out at the breakfast buffet and then there would be a period of diners standing around waiting for certain things to come out.  Naturally if we had come down earlier, this is unlikely a problem when there are less bodies, but the sudden peak of diners seemed to throw the service and possibly the kitchen.

Given this we ended up waiting a bit for the queue to die down.  When we realised that the queue wasn’t going away, I sucked it up and joined in.

In the end, after a little more waiting, I was able to get most of the items we wanted for breakfast apart from Bacon.  And here is the ultimate test of any establishment, how are they going to resolve the problem?  What happens when someone wants bacon?

The resolution was perfect.  One of the waiters advised me to go and sit down at the table and he would bring over the bacon, and within a few minutes four slices of thick bacon appeared, appeasing any bacon based disappointment.

We were approaching the end of breakfast service so that was it for the bacon for the day, the staff went above and beyond; we went away feeling incredibly happy that we managed to get bacon.

Our stay at The Grand Hotel was a welcome break from the life and everything else.  The service was attentive and eager to please, the hotel itself was unconventionally homely and echoed a heritage that still draws guests back regularly.

Please note that this stay and dinner was paid for by Richardson Group.

La Petite Bouchee – by Lauren Heath

*Header image courtesy of Nick Hook Photography

Bonjour mes amis, bienvenue a La Petite Bouchee! Hello my friends and welcome to La Petite Bouchee! La Petite Bouchee you say, what does that mean? Well translation equals The Small Bite but small bites we did not have. In fact this hearty English venture with a full on French twist fed us good and proper.

What once started out in London as this 4 seater bijou mobile dining room in a beautiful Citroen HY van with maximum tantalising turquoise, parked up in various public areas has now moved to the village of Witheridge, Devon and found a beautiful old butchery building for its owners to live in. So now, not only do you get to enjoy a boutique banquet in the van, they can host 20 more diners inside their pop up restaurant too.

Said owners are Anita-Clare and Caroline; Anita-Clare enjoyed childhood adventures in France and this is where her passion lies.

A lucky bunch of us food bloggers/influencers/very hungry people got to escape to the old butchery one very drizzly Friday evening and see what was on offer.

A charming trail of twinkling lights guided us to the door, and we were greeted by very welcoming front of house team who made us feel right at home, whilst Anita was hard a work behind the scenes.

So on to the cuisine! We were going to be trying a mix of items on this occasion so we could get a good feel of their food offering.

We started of with moules gratinees, ham hock terrine with pickles, smoked goats cheese and tapenade tartine. The mussels were covered in sandy like breadcrumb topping and were delicious. The ham hock was well cooked, tender and full of fresh flavours thanks to the herbage.

For mains we were treated to Cote de boeuf, salade nicoise, vegetable cassoulet and confit duck leg with lentils. The beef was melt in the mouth and so tasty, and the duck and lentils were delicious with the creamy lentils working well with the gamey meat.

We also enjoyed amuse bouche of gazpacho provencal and roasted red pepper soup with fines herbes oil, dessert of tarte au framboise and creme fraiche served with apple and calvado sorbet and then followed by a delightful regional cheeseboard which included fromage fort – made by mixing different cubes of cheese with white wine, garlic and herbs. The tart was delicious with an incredibly fresh full on apple punch, and the fromage fort was a revelation of its own!

Thanks to the casual, personable and well humoured serving staff, you really are made to feel welcome. We had a chat with Anita after dinner, and she was incredibly passionate and charming with a great sense of humour and this definitely translates into her food.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening, so for a different type of night out, do give them a try! If you are travelling far and want to make a night of it, they have already made friends with the local accommodation so they can recommend a boudoir for the night too.

Cheers to you Anita-Clare and Caroline! Wishing your pop-up and turquoise 4 wheels a jolly adventure here in Devon. Au Revoir et Bonne Chance!

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Open Fridays and Saturdays for bookings only; visit them on their Website, Facebook, or Email them hello@lapetiteboucheebrasserie.co.uk – they are already proving very popular!

La Petite Bouchee, Witheridge, EX16 8AE   –   Tel: 01884 860654  –   Mob: 07738 703450

 

 

The Flat, 142 Fore St – Vegetarian/Vegan Pizzeria by Chris Gower

https://www.theflatexeter.co.uk/ –  I: @TheFlatExeter F: TheFlatExeter

Edit: Previous version of this review stated that gluten-free and vegan mozzarella was default, in fact these are options.

Last year Exeter lost two great pizza restaurants.  The Base & Barley became The Book Cover and Pizza Stein turned into Bierkeller, leaving diners in Exeter without a central place to grab hand-made thrown pizza.  Yes, there are plenty of little Italian places that do good pizza but nothing in the city centre.

Enter ‘The Flat’, a vegetarian/vegan pizzeria set-up and run independently located in the heart of Exeter’s quirky and wonderful West Quarter on Fore Street.

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I had heard rumours about the launch of this restaurant for a few months from multiple sources, so to finally see it in full and set up ready for business was very exciting.

I never normally visit restaurants within days of the opening, it isn’t fair to review a restaurant when things are being tweaked and they are bedding in, but we were anticipating great things so we couldn’t wait.

So Tori and myself headed down with our good friend Lewis, owner of Exeter’s premier comic book shop to give Exeter’s newest restaurant a test-run.

Great things happen when pizza is met with passion, and here is a restaurant that produces some delicious pizza.  There is a strong desire to accommodate those with particular dietary requirements and they offer gluten free bases and optional vegan mozzarella which I might add, is home made!  The interior of the restaurant is simple and unassuming with exposed utilities following the trend for modernist, exposed ducts and dark woods.

We hit the evening off with Beavertown Session Neck Oil IPA which was reasonably priced given the way drink prices are going at the moment for £3.75.  Then a Garlic Focaccia (£3.50) for starters, which wasn’t technically focaccia but we ignored this fact, as it was moreso Garlic Flatbread which is just as nice!

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There was three of us so this was a perfect for nibbles size but for those with a bigger appetite, this would feed one person comfortably.

The selection of pizzas is concise but includes a well thought-out range of different tastes. All the bases are gluten free, and everything is hand-made and hand stretched.

Tori went for the Garlicky (£9.50 10 inch), I went for the Smoked (£10.50 10 inch) and Lewis went for the Olive Tree (£9.00 10 inch).

The pace of the restaurant tonight was distinctively European.  It had a relaxed atmosphere which was only enhanced by a large gathering of Italians on the next table – I could close my eyes and be somewhere in Florence or Rome.  It also makes you realise what a fantastically diverse city we live in.

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The Smoked was a lovely hand-made pizza, full of flavour and covered in delicious Smoked Halloumi.  Tori’s Garlicky was covered in veg and looked colourful, Lewis’ Olive Tree was well topped and tasted very nice, we were told.

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We finished off procedings with a long espresso and some people watching from the big windows that look out over Fore Street.

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One of the things that Fore Street lacks is a good evening destination.  The Flat joins The Jasmine Thai restaurant a little further up, a few kebab shops and Angela’s at the bottom. There have been drives to market the West Quarter and get shoppers down from the High Street beyond South Street.

This will always be a challenge, but I like to think that the more restaurants that open at this end of Exeter will add that little bit more to the Many Reasons To Visit Fore Street.

I am stoked that this is a Pizzeria in the centre of Exeter and I am chuffed that this is a vegetarian/vegan establishment that is joining other similiar places in Exeter like Herbies, The Plant Cafe and Rabbit up near Sidwell Street.

To add to it the pizza is nice, it is cheap (Beer and Pizza potentially for under £15) and their ethos is in line with my own.

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Love us? Nominate us! Brilliance in Blogging Awards #BiBs2017

BritMums have launched this years Brilliance in Blogging Awards! Highlighting the best in parenting and lifestyle blogs across the country, it recognises the most creative, inventive and compelling bloggers of the year in a variety of categories.

Both of us, Chris and Lauren, are not freelancers who fit all these lovely things in between projects or clients (how we wish!) – we work full time, fitting in all our foodie adventures in around the day job. We absolutely love blogging; the eating and the wonderful people and businesses we meet along the way just makes it even more special.

We would love a nomination from our fab followers, if you can spare a few minutes, and you think we are worthy. We’ve broken it down a bit for you so you know what to do and can quickly get on with your daily grind, reading of random online news or playing that addictive game you were on until you saw this post!

Nominations close 11:59 on 7th June!

Follow this link: http://bit.ly/BiBs2017

Scroll down the ‘inner form’ on the BiBs page. All you need to do to nominate us, apart from entering your name, email and phone number is

Locate Number 5 Food Category – The award that celebrates the tastiest blogs around and fill in as follows:

‘Blog name’: Eating Exeter

‘Blog URL’: https://eatingexeter.co

‘Bloggers Twitter ID’: @eatingexeter

‘Blogger’s Email’: eatingexeter@gmail.com

‘Why do you feel this blogger deserves to win’: aha…that’s up to you and in your own words

‘URL of your favourite post’: Up to you to choose or see below

Then SUBMIT! We’ll send you virtual foodie hugs!

We realise this may seem a bit of effort for some and so we have put a selection below to jog your memory. If you think of any you have enjoyed then just look through our review directory or google Eating Exeter… xxxx review and copy and past the URL into the form.

Maybe you enjoyed Lauren’s Business lunch at Bills?

https://eatingexeter.co/2016/05/16/a-business-lunch-at-bills-exeter-by-lauren-heath/

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Or Chris’ soulful write up of the much loved Harry’s

https://eatingexeter.co/2016/11/14/harrys-restaurant-longbrook-st-by-chris-gower/

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Lauren’s meat-tastic day out with Pipers Farm and Exeter Cookery School…

https://eatingexeter.co/2016/08/17/exeter-cookery-school-full-day-meat-butchery-course-with-pipers-farm-by-lauren-heath/

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Or did Chris’ write up of Topsham’s Salutation Inn make you salivate…

https://eatingexeter.co/2016/09/16/the-salutation-inn-topsham-chris-gower/

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Or one of the fantastic Q&A’s showcasing local food heroes and producers such as local (but nationally popular) wine expert Susy Atkins?

https://eatingexeter.co/2016/04/18/10-questions-with-susy-atkins-by-lauren-heath/

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Thank you in advance for your nomination, we really appreciate it!

Recipe: Hanlons Port Stout Chocolate Cake

Our second recipe from Hanlons Brewery, using their Port Stout.

Hanlons Port Stout Chocolate Cake Recipe

Cake

250 ml Hanlons Port Stout

250 g Unsalted Butter

80 g Cocoa Powder – Green & Blacks is best

400 g Caster Sugar – Golden best for flavour

2 large eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract – not Essence!

140 ml buttermilk – use the rest to make scones or tenderise chicken pieces

275 g Plain Flour

2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

½ tsp Baking Powder

Icing

50 g Unsalted Butter

250 g Icing Sugar, sifted

125 g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – Full fat

Preheat oven to 160 C Gas Mark 3.

Grease with butter and dust with flour a 9 inch / 23 cm spring-form cake tin and cut a circle to line the bottom with baking parchment.

Melt together the stout and the butter in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder and sugar, stirring well until dissolved. In a jug, mix together the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix thoroughly with the above mixture.

Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and add to the mixture. Mix thoroughly so that everything is well amalgamated. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until the cake starts to pull from the sides of the tin and a skewer emerges with just a little stickiness from the centre of the cake. Set aside to cool and remove from the tin to your serving plate.

To make the icing, mix together the butter, sugar and cream cheese until light and smooth. Top the cake with the icing and enjoy!

If you want to find out more about their beers, events or foodie pop ups visit www.hanlonsbrewery.com/

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Exeter Food Festival: A quick round-up by Chris Gower

The Exeter Food Festival is a massive part of the culinary calendar for foodies in this wonderful city.  Each year Eating Exeter has written about it and attended dutifully, watched the demos, tweeted and blogged about the experience enjoying the wealth of talented producers and chefs that our region produce.

This year myself and Steve Heath (Chilli Head Chef) had the honour of being part of the action in more ways than one.  Not only was I part of the Question and Answer panel in the BBC Radio Devon Tent, but I was an ‘official’ (ish) photographer and Steve took co-hosted a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm in the Dart’s Farm Teepee.

The festival started off with a photo-call where we were able to snap some newspaper worthy photos in the presence of the great MC himself.

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It was a very informal meeting, where Michael proved that having an Otter Valley ice-cream for breakfast was part of living the dream!

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Neither Lauren or I could make the Saturday, but we definitely had Sunday and Monday covered!  This wasn’t the only thing that was covered, because it was a good thing the majority of the food festival was covered as it rained pretty much solidly on both these days.

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But across the board, this was the only dampener on a fantastic event that constantly draws a large and eclectic array of people from across the region.  The Northernhay Gardens is Britain’s oldest public space having been laid out originally in 1612, the gardens curve around the base of Exeter Castle which makes this the ideal space for holding an event like this, and with the inclusion of the Castle as part of the Festival too, not only can festival-goers experience the best food and drink, they are treated to a walk through history at the same time.

I genuinely love this festival.  The structured program of events, the vast range of activities and goings on, the producers, the after-dark parties and the sheer number of organisations and businesses make me proud to be in a county that takes as much pride in its food & drink as ours does.

Now know that this post is completely bias.  It is also mostly made up of photos so please scroll down for more images of the Sunday that I attended.

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The first stop for us was the Beer Tent.  I had pre-radio nerves and needed some liquid assistance.  As usual I go for Otter Brewery Otter Bright and Tori went for her Dartmoor Ale favourite Jail Ale which was very much needed.

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Being invited to speak on the radio was a great honour.  I was lucky enough to share the stage with my foodie friends Tara (Tara’s Busy Kitchen) and Harry who was standing in for Nick Hook who is Mr Devon Food Hour.

Thirty minutes passed like five, and before you know it, its over.  We had a blast talking about writing a food blog and the fun that it can be, also how easy it is just to start writing.

In no-time at all we were sat waiting for the highlight of the day in the Question Tent, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Tom Kerridge and Michael Wignall answering questions.

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It was fascinating to see into the minds of these great chefs, what a rare opportunity to have four of the UK’s best in one place!

Then it was time to hot-foot it down to the Cookery Theatre to see the mighty Tom Kerridge demo a classic British favourite.

But before that, we were lucky to catch Michael Caines and Adam Little’s demo.  Adam is a fantastic chef and is Head Chef at the Exeter Golf and Country Club that we reviewed a while back; it was great to see Adam taking the stage even though he was going back later for evening service!

After Adam and Michael’s demonstration finished, the crowd swelled in readiness for the main event.  Tom Kerridge, chef-owner of the Hands and Flowers which has two Michelin Stars demonstrated essentially Steak and Chips, a perfect accompaniment to the Otter Ale that was being served at the VIP guest table.

It was quite awe-inspiring to see the master at work, and even more of an honour given the photos that I ended up taking were some of the best (imho) of my dubious photography career.

I was also thrilled see the legendary Paul Ainsworth’s demo towards the end of the day as well, I have never seen a man handle a lime with so much ease and grace!  Joking aside, I really enjoyed his demonstration – he explained everything carefully and really engaged the room.

The come-down from seeing these demos needed food and by the time we had got our fill of chefs doing magical things with meat, we needed food badly.

I had my eye on a couple of vendors but I was particularly taken with The Guildable Manor, a fresh import from Borough Market in London and we met the lovely affable Dan who introduced us to his lovely sausage-kebab creations with his scratch made sauces and fresh baguettes.

By the end of the day we had run out of time, so we didn’t really get to look at the producers this year.  We did enjoy a small glass of Crispy Pig before we left, but our day was tiring and it was definitely time to go home.

Had we made it to Monday as well we would have seen one of my favourite food bloggers, who coincidentally happens to also be the husband of Co-Editor Lauren, the Chilli Head Chef Steve Heath take part in a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm along with another one of my favourite food bloggers, Mr Marcus Bawdon (in the Hawaiian shirt)!

Steve co-hosted with Phil of SDCF and answered questions from the public.  Steve also helped out with the chilli sauce eating competition with James Dart of Dart’s Farm compering, and Marcus cooked some meat in one of SDCF’s newest sauces.

Exeter Food Festival will always be my favourite food festival.  We are lucky enough to live in a county with a reputation for exquisite and epic food producers and culinary creators, and the festival is a gleaming example of how to celebrate this.  Next year the fun repeats with big names and awesome events  – Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink returns for its 15th year on 5th, 6th and 7th May – the early May Bank Holiday 2018.

http://www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk/ 

Recipe: Hanlons Steak and Port Stout Family Pie

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Our next couple of recipes are from the lovely Hanlons Brewery who are based in Newton St Cyres, Exeter.

A family brewery producing some fab ales and also having pop up foodie nights – if you want to know more you can read Chris’ review here.

Even though Summer is just about upon us, what more could you want than a hearty meal with family or friends after an active day out!

Hanlons Steak and Port Stout Family Pie

This is great to prepare ahead for a family feast, after a bracing walk or watching the Rugby. Go Chiefs!

1.5 kg lean braising steak, excess fat trimmed off, cut into fat cubes

2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

Rapeseed or other flavourless oil

1 large or 2 smaller onions, peeled, halved and sliced

200ml beef stock made from half a cube or homemade

150 ml Hanlons Port Stout – use the rest for the recipe below or Chef’s treat!

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

A 375 or 450 g pack of all butter puff pastry

1 small or medium egg, lightly beaten

Sea salt and freshly milled pepper for seasoning to taste

Preheat the oven to 160 C Gas Mark 3.

Toss the beef cubes in the seasoned flour. Heat a good slug of oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat in batches, adding oil as you go. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown. Transfer the browned meat to a large casserole dish.

Add some more oil to the pan and sweat the onions with generous seasoning until soft. Stir in any leftover flour and cook off for a minute or two, stirring from time to time. Slowly add the stock and the stout, stirring in any caramelised bits, until smooth. Add the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes. . Check for seasoning before pouring over the beef, stirring, covering and cooking on the oven for 2 hours. Transfer to a large pie dish and cool completely.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 220 C Gas Mark 7.

Roll your pastry out quite thickly to cover the dish with some overhang and bits for decorating if you wish. Place some dampened strips of pastry brushed with water around the rim of the pie dish. Lower the pie lid over the pie and stick down or crimp the edges to seal. Make a slit in the top for steam to escape and decorate with scraps of pastry if you wish. Just before placing in the hot oven brush on the beaten egg as an egg wash to make the pie shiny and golden. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes then lower the oven to 190 C Gas Mark 5. Bake for another 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling under the pastry.

Allow to stand for a few minutes and Enjoy!

Visit their website for events and beer sales: www.hanlonsbrewery.com

hanlons pie

Michael Caines’ MBE luxury dream finally takes flight with estuary estate at Lympstone Manor – by Lauren Heath

Down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds and the bees, is a hub of activity, and no it’s not the Poddington Peas…

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…It’s Devon’s very own 2 Michelin starred chef Michael Caines MBE. The Exeter-based chef, who left Gidleigh Park at the beginning of 2016 after 18 years, sowed the seeds of his vision a few years ago during his notice period, as he sunk his heart, soul and many great British pounds into what once was Courtlands House. This elegant Grade II listed Georgian mansion, that was a wedding and event venue, was in need of much love and life injecting into it to bring a slightly ugly duckling to its full potential as a graceful swan…and my oh my, he has done it.

I was thrilled to be invited along as part of a bijou group for a local press lunch and tour on what became a splendidly sunny Tuesday. After parking in the car park, with no building in sight, I meandered awkwardly in my heels along a wood chip path.  From the moment you emerge from the forest path, which is peppered with stone art work for your enjoyment and seasonal bluebells, the positioning of Lympstone Manor really comes into it’s own – the view that opens up to the right is SPECTACULAR.

As you enter into the spacious foyer the furniture, décor, details and warmth hit you from every corner; it took me a moment to soak it all up and I’m sure reception will get used to guests entering and not even realising they are straight ahead of them as the arriving guest breathes everything in.

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With sitting areas to the left and right, and a bar area right back leading onto the beautiful verandah with such detailed archways that run the length of the main building. Sit here with a coffee or a glass of something and just soak that view up.

If it’s a bit chilly and you can’t face the outdoors, the comfy and well filled lounge areas will keep you warm. I found it to be really well decorated, nothing was cold, bare or chintzy, just filled with warmth, comfort and exuding elegance and individual quirky seating in places.

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The theme and colour palette of the bedrooms is in keeping the blue calm of the Exe estuary along with rooms named after local birdlife and hand painted by local artist Rachael Toll.

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Prices start at approx. £230 per night, 5 of the 21 bedrooms having views to the rear of the property, but fear not as the interiors will make you enjoy your indoor surroundings. Plump cushions, fluffy carpets underfoot, accents of gold, complimentary Williams Chase laden gin trays, Nespresso coffee machines. L’Occitane toiletries (and the all essential GHD’s for the ladies) await you. Rooms also contain local Devon made beds from Enchanted House Beds and plush duvets from Devon Duvets.

The majority of the rooms have garden or estuary views; ranging in size, one suite even has double gold roll top baths whilst other suites boast glass fronted balconies, outdoor patios areas with fire pits, outdoor soak tubs and even private garden entrance.

For locals who don’t need an overnight expedition in the cosiness and exclusiveness of Lympstone Manor’s rooms, then the dining is where it’s at, with menus to tempt your budget when you are looking for something special.  Three dining rooms – Berry Head, Powderham and Mamhead, all with their own personalities and possibilities, adorned with Kurt Jackson artwork, are perfect for couples dining, groups celebrating or business deals over dinner. There’s even a wine room that will be available for wine tasting too, what’s not to like?

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And now to the food – as Michael quotes, “after love, there is only cuisine”…

We were very lucky to be treated to canapes on the veranda before indulging in 5 courses with matching wines.

Canapés of tuna tartare, a carrot creation and breaded quails egg with the essential runny yolk.

Beautifully made selection of breads to start before diving into the first course of Pipers Farm Chicken Terrine with truffle, hazelnuts and green bean salad.

Stephanie of Exploring Exeter was impressed with the vegetarian second course of Goat Cheese Mousse with jasmin raisins, apple and candied walnuts whilst I was delighted with Warm Salad of Cornish Lobster with mango and cardamom vinaigrette and curried mayonnaise.

Third course included Fillet of Darts Farm Beef, braised cheek, horseradish and shallot confit, celeriac, mushroom puree and red wine sauce whilst the vegetarian option was a Slow Cooked Duck Egg surrounded by peas, jersey royals, asparagus and black truffle.

Pre-dessert was a beautiful Apple Mousse, with green apple sorbet and vanilla foam followed by the main dessert of Poached Rhubarb with Hibiscus, lemon sponge, lemon curd and rhubarb sorbet.

All of the courses were beautiful in texture and flavour and all tasted absolutely divine. I was even allowed into Michael’s domain to see him plate up the desserts and, having worked in kitchens myself, I was impressed by the space with plenty of room for a growing brigade.

So if you are done salivating or I’ve got your tummy rumbling….shall I remind you of the view?

I must admit I was a little sad to leave, although I did so with a smile on my face.

After lounging around like lady (or man) of the manor, perhaps you’ll find the energy to explore part of the 28 acres, soon to be vineyard (with this spot being in the top 5% of suitability due to ideal conditions), or even escape on one of the Pashley bicycles available – with private access to the public cycle trail you could dip your toes in the estuary that makes this view and venue mouth-wateringly priceless. Unique, sumptuous, delectable – and it’s right here on our doorstep.

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Lympstone Manor

Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, EX8 3NZ

Telephone 01395 202040 or email welcome@lympstonemanor.co.uk

Find out more on their Website, Facebook or Twitter

The City Gate Hotel: The first impressions of refurbishment

http://www.citygatehotel.com/  – Iron Bridge, Lower North Street Exeter, EX4 3RB

The last time The City Gate hotel had much of a refurbishment was back in 2003, a rebirth from the days when it was The Crown & Sceptre hotel.  It sits in a commanding position over the Longbrook Valley roughly where the old North Gate had been situated before being removed in the early 1800s.

For me it was always the choice place for staff drinks, lunches and long afternoons in the beer garden, or watching people from the sofas in the conservatory.  And now, thirteen years later, it has had another revamp by Young’s and it is looking fabulous.

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We were invited along to see what has changed and meet their new Head Chef.  They were eager to show off the new surroundings, and we were eager to see what to see what has changed.

Gone is the well-trod carpet and the dark wooden bar area; there is now a light laminate flooring with modern light furniture.  Gone (sniff) is the sofas from the conservatory, now replaced with more tables and seats for dining.

The downstairs area is now a swanky craft beer and cocktail bar that is bookable for meetings and parties, the back room that was a bookable meeting room is another dining area with more tables etc.

The beer garden, one of the best in the city in my humble opinion, is all about Al Fresco dining, with more seating for eating, sofas for kicking back and relaxing whilst you order a burger from the swanky burger bar that is now making use of dead space.

The rooms are redecorated; gone are the days of being a fuddy little hotel that provided a place to sleep, it is now fully embracing the ’boutique hotel’ moniker.  The gentrification of The City Gate has gone down well with the regulars, we are assured, but will it strike a chord with the rest of Exeter?

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The ethos of The City Gate has changed too.  Gone is the standard pub food, in its place is a seasonal-local ethos being driven by their new head chef Jason Mead who had previously been at The Conservatory, just over the road.

His fine dining background has armed him well and with this experience, Jason is determined to introduce Exonians to this new and improved menu.

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Our feedback evening was a chance for The City Gate to show off and make contact with foodies and bloggers who would spread the word.  In my mind, this was also a chance for me to see properly what has improved and to confirm my suspicions that they had gotten rid of the sofas from the conservatory.

The menu for tonight was a taster of the spectrum of dishes that The City Gate are introducing.  Below is the menu with annotations – the mind of a food blogger is a scribbley messy thing sometimes!

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For our starters we had the choice of a Devon crab cake with homemade tartare sauce and pickled cucumber tarts, or Crispy duck, spinach & watercress, pomegranate, hazelnuts with an aged sherry glaze.

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Naturally we went for the duck (a Gressingham duck) which Jason gets from a local source – which was beautifully moist and tender.

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Next up with had Lamb Rump, again it was locally sourced and was beautifully cooked. With a rump like this, it has to be tender and medium rare to pull it off and Jason did this expertly.

Then the final lovely thing (which my camera refused to capture properly) was a Soft poached rhubarb and lemon curd Eton mess which was, as the rest of the meal was, absolutely delicious.

In lieu of a photo of my dessert this is Lauren’s.  A gorgeous Dark chocolate delice with a salted caramel sauce and honeycomb.  I felt a pang of dessert envy when I saw this come out.

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The food was a great improvement – it is refreshing to experience the passion of a chef who has been given the reigns to create a remarkable casual dining experience.  And I severely hope that readers come and support Jason and his fantastic menus.

Young’s Brewery are firm believers of autonomy as each pub is very different, and that individuality is emphasised in the way the pubs are run.  Diners can experience different menus presented in different ways, as chains go they are not bad at all.

But now the great journey starts for this pub, convincing visitors and locals alike that The City Gate Hotel has turned over a new leaf.  I think they have and I would urge you to come down and give it a try.

Try the lamb.

Salcombe Crab Festival – by Lauren Heath

What a food filled weekend! On Sunday 30th April, I attended the Salcombe Crab Festival; I was not going to let our British weather make us crabby by stopping our bank holiday weekend fun, so my family and I donned the raincoats and wellies and off we drove.

Salcombe is approx. 1 hour south of Exeter, on a steady drive and boy you do know when are you nearby; the sea down below just peeking through the trees, and the lushest bright green roadsides guiding you down to the bay.

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Salcombe Crabfest is a smaller annual festival, organised by volunteers from the Rotary Club of Salcombe and sponsored by Favis of Salcombe and Coast and Country Cottages. It has music, food stalls and food related events spread throughout the town which creates a lovely festival vibe.

This year the event was being opened by Matt Tebbutt, well known for presenting Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped as well as Saturday Kitchen and a being a regular contributor for Waitrose Kitchen magazine.  He would then also be cooking up a storm (although nature had already given us one) with local food hero and seafood ambassador Mitch Tonks, the co-founder of the Rockfish restaurants and takeaways as well as The Seahorse Restaurant in Dartmouth.

The cookery demo was great, very free flowing with both of them having a good time and answering any random questions thrown at them. Mitch cooked Singapore spicy crab as well as deep fried soft shell crab rolls which made their way around the lucky few in the audience and Matt cooked crab ravioli using spring roll papers – a trick I am going to try at home! The ravioli was absolutely delicious, served in a crab broth – I was near enough to the front to be fast enough with a nearby spoon!

There was an hourly tour at Salcombe Gin Distilling Co and this was an eye opener; we got a shortened version of their new Gin School offering, so learnt a bit about how they make the gin, chose some ingredients and got to taste the final product. Do look them up for a gift for yourself or a loved one (they are award winning already too – see recent press release here) you get to create your very own flavour of gin and not only take a full bottle home, but also enjoy your drinks in their lovely bar afterwards.

We saw JB Preserves, Bell and Loxton Oils, Favis of Salcombe, Salcombe Brew Coffee, South Devon Chilli Farm, amongst others. My son loves crab so enjoyed a fresh pot full and he even tried an oyster!

Live music filled the air wherever we were, the local shops were buzzing and who can resist a view like this round every corner?

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For a free event, it’s a great day out – perhaps plan a night or two away for next year and wander around the festival enjoying the many food and drink delights on offer without having to drive home.

Look out for next years date and get it in the diary!