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Cheese of the Moment #3

14 Apr

Well, it was a fine morning over here. Made even better by the farmers coming to town with their fine produce. Now, I’ve never been a massive fan of cheese with ‘stuff’ in it and I’ve always liked my cheeses more on the sharp side but this morning I was charmed, taken in by the moment.

The cheese I most enjoyed today was like a softish Cheddar with added garlic, herbs and cider in the mix. All of those ingredients I like so what my problem was with ‘stuff’ being in cheese, I’ll never know. It’s made by the Traditional Cheese Dairy from Sussex (again!) I think I like them. Herby, garlicky and a little cidery sweetness to boot. The photo will tell you more.

Give it up for ……….SUSSEX SCRUMPY!!!!

Info above

Meet the London Brewers

31 Mar

Down, down, deeper and down. Down, down, deeper and down…..

These, I believe, are the words to the famous Status Quo hit single. They also represent the feelings of many a misguided Londoner who is forced to travel beyond zone two of the London travel system. To some, a  journey to zone 5 might put them in mind of the journey of convicts going down under all those years ago, does a man ever return and if he does will he ever be the same again? But those of that mindset would be missing out on the local phenomena which is The Hope.

London Beerfest at the Hope

The Hope is a small, local pub run  It has won awards and it is easy to see why. It still falls slightly into the category of ‘old man’s pub’ in that it would be slightly difficult to persuade someone not of the beer persuasion to go there but it is so much more than this. It’s a local pub in one of London’s so-called villages. In fact, you can still easily see the villageyness of the surrounding area despite it lacking Dulwich or Wimbledon Village levels of wealth. The pub sits well in its environs, not being t0o olde worlde but retaining enough of that classic pub charisma. Its owners put on regular festivals and some very traditional events such as wassailing, hog roasts, straw jack and fireworks. It also serves its community well and includes regular meetings of a local environmental group. The place even has its own ‘joanna’!!

I’ve had beer in a lot of pubs with good reputations which have fallen woefully short of my expectations, the Bree Louise near Euston station being one that springs to mind. Not so in the Hope. I’ve visited on quite a few occasions now and have been extremely impressed not only with the condition of the beer but also the variation on offer. The pub is run extremely well by people who seem to care about what they are doing. They seem bright, friendly and very knowledgeable about their products.

Thursday night saw the opening of their latest beer festival, one which was showcasing the new breed of London brewers.  Two of the brewers, from Brodies and Redemption, were there to talk and answer questions about their breweries and beers and there was a decent turn out for them. Not so many years ago, the brewing situation in London seemed pretty inadequate with Young’s moving out and only Fuller’s and Meantime flying the flag. As one of the brewers pointed out on the night, this situation was absurd when we remember that about a fifth of the population of the country live in the London area. Fast forward and now the situation is far healthier with Sambrooks, Kernel, Brodies, Redemption, By the Horns, Twickenham Fine Ales, Moncada, Camden, East London, London Fields, Ha’penny….

In a marquee in the pub garden, the brewers turned out to be very open and friendly and, amongst other things, talked about their history, inspiration, plans for the future and the difficulties they faced getting hold of new world hops . They passed round sample hops in plastic bags and looking around the room one could be forgiven for thinking they were at a middle-aged glue sniffing convention.

Hopsniffing

Well, man’s not a camel as they say so I did sample a few of the beers on offer. The following are not intended to be tasting notes but they are the nearest you’ll ever get to them from me.

Boggart Dark Mild 4% (This was off the bar and not actually a London beer – OK)

Brodies London Lager 4.5% (A very hoppy lager, Simcoe and Centennial hops – Quite nice, interesting but I wouldn’t have too many)

Moncada Notting Hill Blonde 4.2% (Session pale ale Citra and Cascade hops and Maris otter and Munich Malt, the most laid back of the beers I tried but perhaps, boringly, the one I really liked)

Brodies Brainwave 4% (Simcoe hops. Described as a session pale ale but far too grapefruity and even peachy for me, very, very hoppy, belied its strength)

Redemption Port and Brandy Porter Special 5.8% (brewed exclusively for the festival, this was the first time I’d had brandy added to a beer, more of a christmas beer to my tiny mind)

Brodies Summer Saison 8% (Felt like a much weaker beer, a little fruity, citrus, didn’t really taste like the classic Belgian saisons but was very enjoyable)

All in all I’ve only got high praise for The Hope, if there was one drawback it’s the lack of food but then that’s not really the point of going there. In a month from now they are having another beer festival and the theme for this one is ‘extreme beers’, sounds like fun. I, for one, will be returning.

Short video here

How do you like them apples?

15 Mar

Apples! I love them.

As I was biting into a particularly delicious and large Sussex-grown apple today, I started a thinking. Shouldn’t we be celebrating them more? I know we don’t like to sing and dance about good things in this little island of ours but why are we buying boring supermarket apples. When people come from abroad to our little island and ask about good produce, we invariably answer that we don’t know what is good. We hide it from ourselves and let supermarkets do our thinking for us. Apples love England. English weather loves apples. Did you know that you could eat a different variety of English-grown apple everyday for over 6 years without having to have the same one twice? Thousands of varieties. Dessert apples, cooking apples and cider apples, we have the lot and until quite recent history really respected them.

Nowadays, you could probably count the number of apples available in any supermarket on one hand and about half of these would probably be imported. I’m sure if this was Italy or Japan the situation would never be tolerated. Is it true that we don’t care about our fruit trees? . There are new housing estates built with names such as Orchard Way or Cherry Tree Gardens. No prizes for guessing what was there before the houses, yet a signpost is often the only remaining clue to the previous incarnation of the area. Why, when rebuilding, could these things not be made to co-exist? Perhaps there have been so many apples available that people just got plain bored with them. There is a fruit tree in nearly every garden in suburbia, but it can be a pain getting apples off the lawn. Industrially, nearly two-thirds of England’s orchard areas have disappeared in the last 50 years, and with them many traditional (and tasty) varieties, yet we still import blander varieties.

Apples are healthy and are a great culinary ingredient: Apple pies, cider and mussels, pork and apple, herring and apple, apple and cinnamon, apple this, apple that… They have been part of the food and landscape here for a couple of thousand years. The Victorians, in particular, ‘went mental’ for bringing on new varieties leaving us a cultural legacy, which we are squandering. Doom doom doom!! This sounds depressing, doesn’t it?

So why don’t we plant a few more traditional trees in our gardens, protect our orchards, demand local apples, cook with them a bit more, celebrate apple day, even go wassailing (even in pubs around London there are a few people who still do this). It would be nice to celebrate the good old English apple with a touch more pomp.