Archive for December, 2010

December 31, 2010

Tournee Generale: Why can’t we be more like the Belgians!

After a Christmas where any TV choice was dictated by a Ben 10 obsessed 3 year old it was a welcome change to return home and see what the V+ box had in store.  Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar seemed like the most appealing offering but in televisual terms proves that the bar tends to be quite low these days. The format is the well worn travel mission where our hosts supposedly showcase the best of what’s on offer with a challenge in the last programme of running their own bars: for one night only that is. It’s laboured, gimmicky TV which relies on stereotypes and a scattergun approach to content. It leaves me asking: why can’t we be more like the Belgians! Yes that’s right the Belgians. Stay with me.

Such was my despair I went to the fridge, reached into the bottom shelf and cracked open a bottle of  Tournee Generale. Quite possibly the only beer created as part of a TV show (of the same name) and sold commercially? Now i’m sure I may be corrected at this point, but its the only one I know of. And yes you guessed it. It’s Belgian. The result is Tournee Generale (6.5%). It’s a cloudy, amber beer, with a creamy head and a definite  Coriander taste and smell. It’s not a classic but is more than drinkable. In some ways, the fact that its brewed (by Duvel Moortgat) as a result of a TV show is its most interesting characteristic  

For those who remember MTV in the 90s, when it was about the music and not awful teen reality,  you’d recognise the shows co-host, Ray Cokes who is paired with Jean Blaute who you probably don’t.  As the name suggests the series is a tour of brewers in search of  the countries best with the objective of brewing a Speciale Belge. From what I’ve viewed so far it’s not the scattergun approach of our BBC equivalents; crediting the viewer with a little intelligence and as and added bonus there are no shots of a hungover Oz Clarke in his pants!

Here’s a taster! Interested to know what your views are on the treatment of beer in the mainstream media.

December 24, 2010

Christmas Kriek

So we’ve all been there. It’s midweek, its wet and cold and almost everything that could go wrong, has, and that which hasn’t will doubtless be kicking you in the arse in the next few days. Christmas week should not be like this!

Perhaps sensing the cartoon rain (or perhaps snow) cloud that has been hanging over my head all week Lou hatched a very simple but effective plan involving Belgian beer and savoury snacks. 

Before even opening the front door the smell of pastry and a good amount of cheese is wafting down the stairwell, and combatting the cloud. I will say at this point that there are many skills that I admire in the people in my life but the ability to read my mood and feed me accordingly is a skill that Lou has acquired above all others. I’m generally a grouch but more so when not sufficiently fed and watered. She has been known to counter my mood by saying “shut it, eat this “… seconds later the picture is different. 

As I open the door the waft is now an enveloping blanket of cheese. At this point, without even knowing what’s cooking any thoughts of stress have disappeared.  The source of this mood altering smell, Gougères; a sort of mini cheese puff made with choux pastry and stuffed with cheese. Hailing from Burgundy these French favourites are commonly served with a glass of bubbles. I’m not adverse to the odd glass of Champers but we don’t have any in the fridge. What we do have lurking in the deep recesses is some Lindemans Kriek. I’m not a big one for cherry beers (dare I say i’ve always considered it a drink for the ladies) but the sweetness and acidity of the Kriek is an ideal substitition for the Champagne and an ideal companion to the Gruyere laden pastry.

With the Gougères polished off, and the Kriek run dry, all is right with the world and Christmas week is back on track  So in the spirit of Christmas and this Anglo-Franco-Belgian post… Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël,  Zalig Kerstfeest.

December 22, 2010

Christmas Nostalgia: Follow the Bear

You can tell its coming to Christmas as the office thins out, lunches draw out longer and the You Tube usage peaks. So in the spirit of Christmas a distinctly nostalgic offering (albeit without a Christmas theme). When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be just like George… enjoy

December 21, 2010

Obligatory Burger Post: The Luxe, Commercial Street

 There was a time, pre Crunch, that lunch was often more than just a sandwich from Pret. These days lunch is homemade, but once in a while I just need my burger fix. I’m not talking Burger King. I’m not talking Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I’m talking about something a little more upscale. For me this is The Luxe…  it’s pretty much a Friday thing but given a bad morning and no salad in the fridge and Tuesday is suddenly Friday.

It seems to be de riguer for a blog to have at least one burger posting but to date I don’t think I’ve heard enough about The Luxe, which seems strange given its link to John Torode and prominent Spitalfields location. Maybe the proximity to Hawksmoor; which gets the foodie vote with a fervent blog and Twitter following is a reason, but their burger lunch special at about £5 more just didn’t outshine the Luxe for me. That last sentence for some may be sacrilige. I just hope i’m not put on a foodie watchlist and barred from entering Hawksmoor (as the steak is something I dream and drool over). 

We’ve now stopped checking the menu on visits to Luxe as it always comes back to the simple burger. You can opt for egg and all the fixings but for me it’s about keeping it simple; as if the absence of a fried egg and bacon can justify a glutonous lunch washed down with a pint or two. It doesn’t fail to please, built around a great burger, a brioche bun and just the right amount of crisp, well sized chips. Oh and not forgetting the generous pickle. Can’t forget the pickle. What more could you you want?

109 Commercial Street, E1 6BG

December 19, 2010

SE1: The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

After my high praise for SE1 as the pub destination I thought I was onto a sure-fire winner with the Garrison on Bermondsey Street. It’s been a few years since my last visit but it seemed like the perfect place for a December Supper Club (albeit Sunday lunch) and another tick for SE1. This unfortunately wasn’t to be the case with an experience that is truly frustrating. There are aspects that I would rave about and others that ultimately had us walking away disappointed.

So in the interest of fairness the positives. Firstly the food. We all agreed that it was very good. Cockles going as far rating as one of the beat roasts he’s had in years. Then there’s the little things; those nice touches that stick in the mind and ultimately should bring you back. The barman volunteering a small taster of the beer was a good start and the Garrison jam recipes with the bill should have bookended a great Sunday lunch experience.

Without even stepping through the door things had already taken a turn for the worst. Despite having booked a month previous a confirmation call the day before told us that our leisurely lunch would be curtailed with just 90 minutes available for our table. I fully understand the rationale in turning tables but to find out with less than 24 hours notice gives you little choices to change. Throw in Transport for London and Gio’s Italian time keeping and 90 minutes isn’t a great deal of time.  Add the service at a snails pace and things don’t look good.  On this occasion any hope of getting a drink at the bar without waving your arms was unlikely. Once seated with the clock ticking starters are off the menu and we move to the mains; a shame as we all have something in mind; and the point of the Supper Club is indulgence, when thoughts of cost and fat content are forgotten. The mains as said are great and as the plates are cleared the dessert menu is offered. At this point there may be enough time but it doesn’t materialise for 15 minutes at which point we are told to order quickly as the table is booked. To me, in fact to all of us, this was a final disappointing act which left the bill as four mains plus drinks. Service was excluded and when explaining why it hardly seemed to register. The website boasts Michelin recommended which for the main course stands up. I obviously cannot comment on starter or dessert, but service needs to take a huge leap forward. Perhaps Supper Club will next reconvene North of the river.

99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB

December 19, 2010

Snow Days: The Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria

With the snow descending again, London faces the prospect of grinding to a halt in literally centimeters of snow. A merest snowflake sees the tube full of welly wearing Bankers, panic buying and train operators dusting of the excuses tombala. Its at these times that I spare a thought for our friends in the North.

As any good son would I ring my Mum to check that everything’s ok.  The news is invariably that their Pennine village is snowed in. To some this would be a problem but to the village its just a fact of life and to the local landlord its a winter windfall. All roads blocked means a captive market and the tills ringing all day. This particular local isn’t exactly where i’d want to spend my snow days. That pub would have to be the Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket in Cumbria. On the Northern edge of the Lake District National Park, the pub is supposedly the first cooperatively owned pub.  And did I mention there is the Hesket Newmarket Brewery in the back? I mean who wouldn’t want to be snowed into a brewery!

If you can’t arrange to be snowed in you may just have to pop by for a pint of Doris’ 90th Birthday Ale, checking opening times to avoid disappointment.

The Old Crown
Hesket Newmarket
Cumbria
016974 78288

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