I have always been a lover of food and drink, one of my sayings, ‘ is to try everything once.’ This is a saying that I have applied to food, leading to the eating of Snails, Frogs legs and even Whelks. I do draw the line at anything with more than 4 legs though. I have in the past tried something and not liked it, this was my case with Gin, then one day I was taken to a bar in Ghent and tried my first Jenever. My word life changed! I found out that there was not just the heavy flavours of English Gin but light botanicals that give the taste buds a dance in the meadows of the country side. Created not just by the herbs and spices added but by the storing and blending of the drink.
Why, you may think am I a beer expert waffling on about Gin?
On 9th July Norwich will be holding its 2nd Gin festival. This is the new up and coming drink, forget your Vodka, or your Whisky, Gin is where it is at. It has proved so popular that the event has added an extra day.
Norwich and Norfolk’ love of Gin is not new, in the recent couple of years we have had the local gin of Norfolk Gin crafted by Jonathan Redding and now Norwich Gin from Bullards. Recently (since succeeding in their crowd funding) Wildcraft Brewing will be presenting us with their foraged fruit Gins.
Way before these new lights we had the Flemish & Dutch bring over the art of distilling with them when they fled persecution for their beliefs. They did not just bring hops, they brought Jenevers.
What am I looking forward to trying, I would say that it is the aged Gins, for me they have a more rounded taste, they are not harsh on the palette and can be sipped.
Summer beers and foods
I am writing this after a couple of light spring days and my thoughts go to summer, what shall I eat and what should I get ready in the cellar for those hot summer nights. It is time to move away from the stouts, porters and the comforting arms of the barley wines (Audit Ale, Lacons), to the more refreshing world of, Pale ales, Wheat beers, IPA’s and Sours. Yes get ready Sour beers are coming and if you like dry cider you will like sours, but I digress. What will I go for as my all rounder of the Summer? Something that will work with Salads, BBQ and Desserts? I could go for the safe bet and say a well made pale ale, like Elmtrees, Golden Pale Ale or an IPA with some malt, like East Coast IPA, by PoppyLand but I think my star for the summer will be Wheat beers!
So it is time to look out for local versions like, Wolfs, Straw Dog and Grains, Blonde Ash, with many more besides. If looking further afield you can seldom go wrong with German or Belgium, but be warned, some of these are slightly tart and sour especially a Berliner Weisse.
But why is the Wheat beer my choice? Firstly this is a beer served cold so it starts refreshingly chilled, then as it warms you get different flavours and even mouth feel. There should be notes of, banana, coriander, lemon, orange and herbs in the aroma. When it is in the mouth you get these flavours push through but they are then met with a lovely malty background and the wheat gives a full mouth feel that is rich, yet not claggy as the citrus notes and carbonation cleans the palate.
Secondly its skill in pairing with the range of foods we have during the summer months. The Citrus notes lend its self to Salads, Chicken, fish & chips (with this it also cuts through the fat) any soft light dish. When looking at the BBQ the wheat and slight sweetness in the beer matches the caramel brought out by the charring of the meat, even vegetarians can enjoy this with Holliumi when the salt is highlighted.
I find it is also a refreshing match for spicy dishes, a green Thai curry or stir fries have their heat softened by the sweetness of the beer, yet the delicate spices are supported by the citrus notes.
Finally, desserts, Banaoffee pie, lemon cheese cake and chocolate ice cream are just heavenly.
Restaurants / pubs
Or Cheryls little gripe
I like home cooking but I also enjoy eating out and there is now a growing number of places that have good food and beer which for me is heaven, or it should be. I am the sort of person who can find something good about most places and like all English people I seldom complain, I am now starting to complain. Why? because if we don’t, how does the owner or staff know what need to be improved.
On a visiting some restaurants & pubs recently it highlighted a few issues that I have found increasing in the service industry, below are just a couple & you may disagree.
My main concern is the always beer, I like to have a beer with my food and we have in this region some fantastic beers that would match beautifully with the food that is served, yet quiet often the beers are served flat, lifeless and with little respect for a live product. When querying the beer, often the staff do not know what the beer should be like.
What I do find difficult to understand is why licences’ are missing a trick, beer is a live product, it has a short shelf life and will start to get vinegar or off flavours within 3 days. Publicans have menu descriptions and suggestions for wine, yet only a few will do this with beer. I have watched a man drinking beer at the bar then heading into a restaurant only to order a wine to go with his meal (and that wine was not a good match). I visited a bar in Eastbourne recently and on ordering a beer the young man asked if I was eating and if so what I was thinking about eating, he then suggested a different beer as this would match better. I went back to that restaurant 3 times during my stay.
If I can be honest this mostly due to staff training and the staff wishing to learn. But in a case it is also something for us the consumer to consider, do we as a nation value serving staff? Do we see it as a career? Or is it just a summer job to see a person through college?
I have no problems with paper menus, they can be printed on the premises and changed quickly. So can I please ask why they cannot throw the dirty ones into the bin? An also why they are not up to date. For example on arrival to the Pigs, Edgefield, The St Andrews Brewhouse and also Rumsey Wells I was given menus that had food on them. The thing is that I know the food is good in all the places, but this does not give me a good first impression.
I start to think, what are the kitchens / cellars / pipes like?
My grandmother had a rule about places so the next place I head for is the toilet. If it’s clean & tidy then normally the important areas are ok.
I have strangely do not have a problem with sticky tables, why? This is not because they are sticky with beer or spilt food. The tables are normally sticky because they are using too much cleaning product and not rinsing the surface afterwards.
This cannot be said for sticky carpets and on those occasions, turn round and walk out.
Original article featured in Iceni Magazine Norfolk – Nibbles and Tipples June 2016