It’s Not Jimmy’s, It’s Mine!

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I will never forget the first Jimmy’s I had. I bought it in a deli behind Ladbroke Grove on one of our first sunny days of the year. Before then I wasn’t necessarily convinced that iced coffee was a drink for me; sticking to piping hot espressos and frothy cappuccinos to perk me up. Well I was wrong. Since this very day in the middle of May, I have never looked back. It was also on this momentous occasion that I posted an alluring shot of my iced coffee on a bright turquoise bench in my friends garden….@jimmyicedcoffee ‘liked’ the picture and the rest is history.

What Jim Cregan has created is something cool,  fun and something so delicious that it is genuinely sad when you reach you the bottom. Iced coffee never tasted so good.

I grabbed Jim for a quick Q&A, to  give us a little insight into his world…

I am going straight in for the kill, which Country do you think produces the best coffee?

I think Costa Rica produces the best coffee.  I’ll put this down to ignorance of not exploring enough countries and their own coffees but when I went to Costa Rica, I distinctly remember having cup after cup of consistently incredible coffee.  That isn’t to say our Honduran coffee isn’t bad, as it’s EPIC.  I guess it’s also down to enjoying it in the place of origin, sat on plastic chairs in a road side cafe, without a care in the world after a great surf. That all adds to making a cup of coffee taste that extra bit better.
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Lying in the grass, on a hot & sunny day, I would reach for an Original Jimmy’s Iced Coffee. What is your ideal coffee-scenario?

My ideal coffee scenario is this; waking up knowing I’ve got enough time to brew an epic Iced Coffee at home using my Aeropress and cook up some scrambled eggs to enjoy with my wife whilst listening to some crazy music on BBC 6 Music. It’s super simple as everything should be, and so fulfilling for my belly and my brain.
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How long has it taken you to grow this wonderful brand from the very first seed of inspiration, to the Iced Coffee Empire it is fast becoming? 

Firstly, thanks for calling it a wonderful brand! The seed was sewn in Australia in 2008 when I first found ready to drink Iced Coffee. It wasn’t ‘watered’ until November 2010 when it turned into a weed and grew like mad. I guess the brand is me and my outlook on stuff which has always been there, it’s just needed to become a tangible object to make it come to life for others to enjoy. Does that even make sense?

Tell us about your involvement with the ‘This is Africa Initiative’? 

‘This is Africa’ is an epic little initiative run by a friend of mine, Lucy Devall.  She runs a heap of school enterprise campaigns here in the UK and in Africa, encouraging young people to actively think about being entrepreneurial.  She asked if we could be involved as a case study for the students as it fits well within their community and their climate. She figured that as Africa produces amazing Coffee and the sun shines a great deal, Iced Coffee could be produced for two reasons. One, the sunshine puts you in the mood for Iced Coffee and two, Solar energy could be used to power fridges, making it a viable business proposition. We proved to be a useful case study and it made the students broaden their ideas on enterprise, which is ace. In the future, I’d love to go out and do more, but for now it seems like we’ve managed to help out in a way that’s different and I like that a lot.
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Do you have a favorite café in the UK and what makes that place so special?

My favourite cafe…that’s a tough one as there are a great deal of them across the length and breadth of the UK. Right now, I would have to go with ‘Boscanova’ in Boscombe, funnily enough. It’s ace. There are some of the UK’s greatest baristas in there who literally love coffee to death.  Their breakfasts are off the chart and the chefs are like mechanical maniacs.  It’s always rammed, always playing the best music and if you get in before 9am, you can do 2-4-1 early bird brekkies. They love messing around with different types of coffee without being all ‘London’ about the whole thing and are so happy to explain all the processes involved without making you feel like a douche.  It’s perfect on a hangover, then a stroll down the beach. Simple.
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Where do you see Jimmy’s Iced Coffee in 5 years time? 

Wow. Big question.  In 5 years, the Jimmy’s brand will have a great presence in at least 5 countries across this fine globe in number of guises from Iced Coffee to the best portable BBQ you’ve ever seen.

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Your view right now… 

My view right now is the length of my office out into the car park at our Industrial Estate named ‘Beaver’ for some ridiculous reason. It’s not all that glam, but it’s amazing what a few plants and some optimism can do to your work space.

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Your next adventure is… 

My next adventure is the birth of my first nipper and man what an adventure it’s going to be. My wife is already experiencing contractions, so it won’t be long now, maybe a week!  It’s made me reflect on my life heaps and how much my folks have looked after me.  What a mission I’ve been on, even at 32.

And finally, what are you listening to in your (perfectly adorned) truck on a Jimmy’s road trip? 

On a perfectly adorned road trip, I’m listening to a mix of Nas, Pearl Jam, Snoop, Black Seeds, Russ Chimes, Beirut, Fat Freddy’s Drop, stuff like that.

Amazing. Thank you Jim! 

On that note it is time to sit back with an ice cold glass of the good stuff and enjoy this…

(Stockists include: Waitrose, Selfridges & Co., Whole Foods, Budgens, WHSmith, RoadChef and many more!)

www.jimmysicedcoffee.com 

It’s been a while….

Over the past couple of months it feels as though I have been totally consumed with work, which has left little (or no) time to keep up with the blog. Really it is inexcusable but I can assure you there have been daily thoughts about it, or more like ‘daily pangs of guilt.’ It is finally time for me to give A Shuffle in the Pantry some much needed TLC, whilst I sit in the peace and quiet of the Spanish countryside…. (and breathe a sigh of relief).

I am waking up early at the moment around 7:30am and spending 20 minutes meditating- something I have been doing twice daily for the past 3 weeks. It clears my heads and provides an inner calm, which in turn prepares me for the day ahead. Prior to learning the Transcendental Meditation technique my stress levels were sky high, which was manifesting in the inability to sit down and the constant tidying up and moving of objects (to his dismay, my boyfriends belongings) around our flat. The need for a holiday was becoming increasingly apparent. Now I am here, it is heavenly and paired with TM*, contentment has captured me.

Today is no different with regard to my routine. I woke up naturally (no alarm, which is bliss!), sat for 20 minutes then made myself scrambled eggs with the essential addition of Salsa Picante, a glass of peach juice and a French press. I never make coffee this way at home in the UK but it has become habitual for me when on Spanish soil, finding the whole process satisfying and delicious.

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Now this is when I sit down to write but where do I start? There are places I have been that I’d love to share with you, dishes I have cooked or baked that I want to tell you about and lethal-but-delicious cocktails consumed which are a must, however with mention already of meditation and trascendence…it seems appropriate to touch on the book I am currently reading- “The Physiology of Taste, Or Meditations on Trascendetal Gastronomy” by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

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“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.”

I came across it on Amazon when I was buying a book on TM called the Science of Being and Art of Living. In the section labelled “Recommended for you”, was this book, staring at me with its big, beautifully illustrated artichoke. No sooner had I read “The most famous book about food ever written” in the description, I had ‘bought now’ and it was on its way…

A book that would appear to be so highly sophisticated is always daunting as a holiday read. Last year as part of a book club that I am in, I was battling my way through ’50 Shades of Grey’ poolside, grimacing with each page turn and every repeatition of “lip biting” and appearance by her “inner goddess”! As much as I would love for a minute to be the sort of person who loses themselves in a romantic fiction or the like, I am not. I generally look through cookery books, read biographies and learn from books on spirituality (although did totally adore the Hunger Games!)

Let me touch on this all ever so briefly, as I am only just starting to read this myself but firstly I will admit one thing. I am reading this book in one hand with a dictionary firmly in the other. There are the most magnificent words page after page, some I know and some I don’t (and as it was first published in 1825, this is no surprise), what a shame it would be to never know their meaning. It is easy to arrogantly breeze through a book like this and pretend to yourself that you understand all of it, which will potentially result in very little learning, however I swallowed my pride (a mildly dyslexic one at that) and made a decision after the first page to have a reference guide alongside.

The book is set out not in chapters but in ‘Meditations’, which makes clear to the reader the devotion and contemplation of this subject of Gastronomy by the author. Jean Anthelme Brillat- Savarin was born in France in 1755, aside from his epicure status, he was primarily a lawyer and politician. He spent the last few years of his life writing ‘The Physiology of Taste’ and in 1825 published the book at his own expense. He died in 1826.

From what I have read thus far, I have learned that Brillat-Savarin had a wicked sense of humour and a brilliant mind. For a foodie of any kind this book will be a wonderful education and an entertaining read. Don’t rush it, take it all in at your own pace, research as you go anything you do not understand, underline beautiful quotes and enjoy all that it has to offer on food, drink and the culture that surrounds it. It covers everything from the senses & the power of taste, to the theory of frying & the pleasures of the table.

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“Those persons who suffer from indigestion, or who become drunk, are utterly ignorant of the true principles of eating and drinking”

*TM or Transcendtal Meditation; A technique of meditation derived from Hindu traditions that promotes deep relaxation through the use of a mantra.

For more information have a look at the work of the David Lynch Foundation.

My Foodie Week: THE Full English, Coconuts & Picklebacks…

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If you want to start the weekend with a bang, then I highly recommend the Full English at The Electric Diner. It is served from 8am All Day long and it hits the spot like nothing else. Get your hangovers down their over the weekend and try it for yourself if you don’t believe me!

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I never got the  ‘Coconut Water’ thing when the artificial looking cartons first starting to hit our newsagents & supermarkets (especially when there is a stall on the Portobello Road with the real stuff). However after much searching I have found a couple of brands that definitely do what it says on the label and i’d say are the next best thing. As Summer seems to be approaching keep rehydrated with Go Coco 100% Coconut Water (pictured above) or the equally refreshing Cocofina, Natural Coconut Water.

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Having made some rather delicious Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins last week, I was left with an abundance of grated Courgette. Making the most of the ingredients I had (1 beaten egg, a chopped green chilli, 1 grated potato, fresh parsley and seasoning) I made these fritters, which were a simple and delicious vegetarian dinner. Make sure that once you have grated your veg, you ring out the excess water (I did this buy using a clean, dry tea towel). I winged this without any recipe however here is a nice and easy one from Nigella.

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I had the rare treat of going to Nobu for dinner with a girlfriend after visiting Ronnie Wood’s latest exhibition at the Castle Fine Art Gallery on Bruton Street. We both indulged in a pre-dinner cocktail and I chose the exquisite ‘English Rose’  which my friend described as “like the breath of an Angel, having just eaten a marshmallow”- I tend to agree!

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My friend Molly had her Birthday at our fave East London hangout, The Hemmingway. The food is absolutely fantastic and this Beef Wellington, has to have been the best I have had. It was a sharing dish and came with perfectly cooked runner beans, salad and thick cut chips served on a big wooden platter. If you are looking for a quirky, cool pub with a great menu and friendly staff then head to Victoria Park Road and check it out.

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Guilt free sweetener…? Yup. You may have already heard of Stevia or Pure Via (the natural sweeteners) but until a recent trip to Holland & Barrett I had never tried Crystallised Coconut Nectar! ‘Tiana‘ is 100% raw, high in nutrients and as I have discovered, a great sugar replacement for tea or coffee.

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And finally… presenting to you The Pickleback. If you have never tried one of these then shame on you! A shot of Whiskey followed by a shot of Pickle brine…enough said!  

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

Simply Raw

What is Raw foodism? How can you live on a totally Raw diet? Is it expensive? Does it taste good?

I am sure I don’t stand alone in asking these questions about Raw living….so let’s get down to basics.

Raw Foodsim it is a diet of unheated food, or food cooked to a temperature less than 46 °C, preserving enzymes and nutrients in the foods whilst avoiding some of the toxins that we put into our bodies when they are cooked above those temperatures. Most people living on a raw diet will be vegan, however some may incorporate fish, meats and dairy.

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An Evening at Yuuga Kemistri

I have always been interested in raw diets and alternative lifestyles- reading about, sampling them and hearing about them from friends however salads and juices are pretty much as far as I have taken it. I did try Pescetarianism’ for a number of years but decided that I really love all foods too much to give up one thing completely.

I am usually throwing myself into things without much idea of what to expect and in this case, my mum emailed me a voucher from a deals website for a Raw Food Masterclass, knowing that it would be right up my street.

There is a whole wealth of recipes that transform raw foods into complex, tasty dishes suitable for any 3 course meal or dinner party and this class was about to give us a little insight….

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My friend Susie has a wonderful site called “Blusher and Blogging” and with as much interest in health & beauty as I have in food & lifestyle, I knew she’d be the perfect partner in crime.

We found ourselves at Tooting Broadway last Tuesday night with no time to spare and so hot footed it to class, full of enthusiasm. We arrive in a small gated business park, looking for the unit “with the big, white cake in the window” as per the tutor’s emailed instructions.

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Upon entering the class, which seemed a tad full for my liking, we were promptly told to wash our hands and pop our bags down. I do get a slight wave of anxiety when I see crowds of people, especially trying to see one particular thing and by the time the class started there must have been 30 people in the fairly small kitchen space. Susie and I managed to burrow our way into the only little corner with some view and settled in with our notepads. Within 5 minutes our teacher Asa had us all captivated with her calming presence. Her name means ‘healer’ in Hebrew which suits her perfectly as she extols the virtues of the health giving and healing Raw foods.

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Originally from Iceland, Asa decided at an early age she didn’t like meat. She waited until she left home (and no longer under the watchful eye of her carnivorous parents) to start living as a vegan, followed a few years later by an almost totally Raw diet. Asa never denied the fact that she is “OBSESSED” and that she did not expect any of us to walk out of the class and be converted to her rather strict regime, being careful at all times not impose her habits upon us. She did however want to share knowledge on nutrition and give a few helpful hints to go home with and did so successfully.

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Making or Cooking?

If the definition of cooking is “to prepare for eating by a heating process”, then I guess we can refer to Raw Food preparation as “making”…Asa did mention that for some dishes people may want some heat through them and warming the plate or bowl (below 41 c degrees) is doable and will still manage to preserve the enzymes in the food.

Our starter was a Creamed Avocado and Spinach Soup

Much like a gazpacho, it was cold and flavoursome. She literally blended spinach, avocado, celery and garlic with water, added herbs and then finished it with some diced red pepper and sunflower seeds as a garnish. Asa seasoned with Himalayan salt, a little cumin and cayenne pepper. The colour from the raw vegetables when it was blitzed together was just incredible, you could see the life in the dish in bright, vibrant green. Incomparable to some of the lifeless ready made soups we see on the supermarket shelves…

Main course was Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with Marinara Sauce

Using the Spiralizer (see below!) Asa showed us how to get long strands of courgette, that did not look dissimilar to spaghetti. Raw courgette is really tasty and although I have used ribbons of courgette in salad before, had never tried this method.

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The Marinara sauce was blended red peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs (rosemary, basil, parsley) a seasoning of sea salt and pepper and finally, a dash of olive oil. It tasted so fresh and complimented the courgette perfectly. I even went back for a second helping!

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And for dessert…Apple tart with Almonds & Dates

For the base of this tart, it is simply Medjool dates, ground almonds and a pinch of Himalayan salt. Asa had made up enough little balls of this mixture prior to the class to hand out to each of us. They can easily be prepared well in advance and put in the fridge until you are ready. Once we all had our ‘pastry’ cases nicely put together, we made a big batch of the filling- Apples, vanilla extract, grated ginger, cinnamon and lemon juice whizzed in the blender.

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Using the Spiralizer again, we thinly sliced apples and mixed with a little lemon juice, agave syrup and vanilla essence for the topping.

Susie and I carefully wrapped these little beauties in cling film and took them home to enjoy with a cuppa. They were absolutely delicious however I wouldn’t advise carrying them across London again unless in an appropriate container- the raw, fresh apples contain a fair bit of water and we incurred a small leakage on the Central Line!

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Life After Class

With all diet and lifestyle changes, it is important to find your “own suitable path for nutrition” based on budget & beliefs. It is undeniable that there is an abundance of health benefits following a Raw Food diet, as Asa does. It is said to slow the ageing process, help control your weight and lead to an increase in energy levels to name but 3 of them, but one thing this class really opened my eyes to was the intensity of flavour that comes from “making” with living fruits and vegetables. Flavour that is sometimes lost when boiled, baked, heated, fried and so on.

I, however, will not be cutting off the electricity supply to my cooker or oven any time soon and will continue with my fairly balanced diet of all things weird and wonderful, but what I took away from this particular class was heightened interest in this way of life and a few amazingly healthy dishes to add a spring to my step and a glow to my cheeks!

Shopping Tips…

Think seasonally -I have talked about this before in previous blogs but eating seasonal fruit and vegetables is more cost effective, higher in nutrients and tastes better! End of.

Look out for offers- Holland & Barrett often have some great deals in store and on their website. It’s not just specific health food shops but also some delivery websites like Ocado where they have health & wellbeing sections with plenty of discounts.

Go organic– or as much as possible and within reason given that we are all at time of budgeting a little here & there. I have been very happy with Abel & Cole in the past, an Organic delivery service. You chose the specifications of the box (small, medium or large/gourmet, veg. or salad) and they provide you with the seasonal, organic produce to you door!

Some Raw Essentials…

Himalyan salt has endless benefits. Found at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, it contains 84 essential minerals that are found within our own bodies and beneficial for day to day health. It is pure, raw, unrefined salt. Contains no chemicals or additives and helps to restore & rebalance.

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Agave Syrup (or Agave Nectar) is a natural sweetener that comes from the Blue Agave plant, most commonly grown in Mexico. It is the vegan alterantive to honey, has a low glycemic index and so keeps your sugar levels balanced. Delcious, without the highs and lows of a sugar rush.

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The Spiralizer is a piece of kitchen equiptment used to cut fruit and vegetables from thin slices to long spirals. You can create dishes like Courgette ‘spaghetti’ or strips of carrot or cucumber to add to salads. It is simple and easy to work and adds a little fun to the whole process. The Spiralizer below is by Lurch and can be found here.

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Fruit & Vegetable wash removes Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers, Dirt, Waxes, Micro-Organisms, Bacteria, Mould & Mildew. Because it is impossible for foods to be 100% free of chemicals (yes, even Organic produce!) a vegetable wash like this will easily and successfully remove all contaminants improving the flavour and extending the freshness. It is also easy to make your own, see here.

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Further Reading…

The Complete Book of Raw Food by Julie Rodwell is jam packed with recipes for raw meals, juices and smoothies plus heaps of information on the benefit of this diet. For help with a more structured program then I can definitely recommend the Raw Food Cleanse book by Penni Shelton, which helps you to follow a 3, 7, 14 or 28 day plan along with recipes and weight loss advice.

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Yuuga Kemistri is run by Asa and based in Tooting, a 5 minute walk from Tooting Broadway tube station.

Information on Asa’s classes can be found on the website.

Off to Camden Town…”Hell Yes!”

Last Thursday morning, I went down to the Camden Town Brewery for a tour and sampling of all their beers! Pretty great way to start the day….

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A drizzly 5 minute walk from Kentish Town tube station found us winding down the back streets of Camden, closely watching our iphone maps to see which way to turn. It seems strange to imagine a brewery existing in this part of town…aren’t they big, industrial factories, usually along the side of the motorways with great big bellowing chimneys? The only notable recollection I have of a Brewery until this day, was on the journey into Edinburgh Old Town as a child exclaiming “it’s marmite mummy!” every single time the yeasty aromas from Caledonian Brewery wafted into the car. Oh and of course Fuller’s Brewery, whose exterior I am all too familiar with as I tiresomely wait in traffic along side it each time I am heading west out of London…

Turning into the Mews in NW5 however took us by surprise- 7 small units underneath the railway station sees the cosy home of Jasper Cuppaidge’s craft beer brewery.

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There is always a risk with a ‘tour’ that it will be boring, overly informative (resulting in loss of concentration) and potentially body achingly long but to our total delight, breezing down the stairs of the reception area was Christine our guide; a perfectly groomed, energetic and knowledgable asset to the Camden Brewery’s family.

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The 4 brand new tanks outside the brewery are a sign of just how popular this brand is becoming and the ever growing demand for the product. Starting with a home brewing kit, Jasper decided to sell his own beers to customers in his pub The Horseshoe, in Hampstead back in 2010. In just 3 years the company has come to supplying hundred’s of pubs and restaurants across the UK (with a couple of accounts in Europe too).

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The brewery is certainly high-tech and I couldn’t even begin to get my head around the computer programs and terminology written up on big white boards, but the system in place is slick to say the least.

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Christine talked us through the brewing process from start to finish, walking us around the building unit by unit and allowing us to see it all happen ‘live’. We talked about, felt and tasted the different malts used at the brewery, our guide ensuring we were engaged around every corner, albeit it with puckered lips; ever tasted a grain of roasted malt?

The guys working there were just getting on with the job in a cool, laid back fashion as we cautiously stepped over pipes and hoses in our protective eye wear (and of course these were in the form of geek chic glasses- true to the quirky style of the place).

Before moving through to the ‘Fermentation’ stage we are led to a chest fridge that looks no different to a one you might find in some dude’s garage, adorned with skateboard stickers and scribblings. At this point we are given an insight into the world of Hops, the key to the bitterness, flavour and aroma of all beers. Until today I never thought there could be a passion for Hops but how wrong I was! Christine is Passionate about Hops. Opening the chest I imagined some sort of angelic chorus would be released along with a bright heavenly light…and I am sure to a beer connoisseur that would be the case. To the untrained eye however, it was a puff of cold freezer mist and the distinctive hum of a generator, unveiling stacks of plastic bags filled with several varieties ready and waiting for their time to come.

I remember there was a time at my Junior school, when I had to do a pencil drawing of the Hops flower in art class using an example in the middle of the table. I must have drawn at least 5 different angles some lightly coloured in green, some just grey and cone like…but that was the first and only time I had ever inspected or seen this plant ‘in person’.  Today, Christine let us feel these sacred hops with their pungent (and sort of illegal smelling) aromas, whilst we talked about where they were from, the difference between USA and UK hops and lingered on the topic of  the ‘Simcoe’, a unique American hybrid Hops used in their Camden Pale Ale.

I would do the plant and the Brewery an injustice to go into detail myself as there is SO MUCH you can learn, so this tour is the perfect place to further your Humulus lupulus’ education.

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After the Fermentation stage, it was through the final unit- where the bottling and packaging happens. This is where they get the barrels ready to send out to the pubs and restaurants too and so the walls were absolutely lined with their kegs, coloured stickers for each brew determining what goes where.

Whilst we were in they were getting the labels on the USA Hell’s Lager Beer, which is back by popular demand and apparently “better than ever”, so keep your eyes peeled for the red, white and blue!

With the tour finished, our increasing thirst for the stuff was at an all time high so like the pied piper, Christine led us back to the water hole….

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Let the tasting commence!

Beer taps line the white brick tiles in the perfectly minimalist bar set up here. They serve popcorn in an original looking tabletop popcorn machine (a lovely touch) and have couple of independent wines and spirits ready to serve but the main attraction is of course, the beer.
We were all accustomed to the Gentleman’s Wit beer (they add roasted lemons into the brewing process, it is very special!), so we started to work through the other guys on offer and discuss the story behind each one.
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1. Hells Lager; so ready to drink this when the sun decides to come out. This is everything I want a lager to be. Refreshing, crisp and interesting pale lager made with a Pilsner malt (4.6% ABV).

2. Pale Ale (USA);  I went into a restaurant that had this beer not long ago and made the insane decision not to order it because I wasn’t sure if Pale Ale was for me…WRONG. This is delicious. Fruity. More, more, more…American and Hop-heavy using that beloved Simcoe Hop varietal. Can’t wait to get back to the brewery to enjoy this with friends. (4.0% ABV).

3. Jopa (UK Pale Ale); did anyone see the Food Fight Club program on Channel 4 with Jamie Oliver? Well this beer is Jamie’s creation so to speak and literally stands for ‘Jamie Oliver Pale Ale’.  The brewery had to come up with this name to keep it all secret before it aired back in December. The beer is totally British and true to that style of pale ale, had a much more bitter quality than the previous…(a little more on the ABV too at 5.1%).

“Think of it like walking through a forest – spicy and earthy and fragrant and herbal – while listening to a punk rock cover of the National Anthem. That’s the vibe” – Camden Town Brewery

4. Ryeld; a limited release, Rye Mild beer. Definitively nutty on the nose and to the taste, creamy texture and with a low ABV (3.7%) perhaps the perfect lunch break treat!

5. Camden Ink; I would definitely call this a sexy stout. It is dark and mysterious to look at and surprisingly light to drink. Launched in December and is only available on draught for obvious quality purposes (4.4% ABV).

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6. Dopplebock; another limited beer on tap with an ABV soaring above the rest (6.7%!). Glad we tried this last, because tasting on an empty stomach already had us rosy cheeked and smiley. This is Camden’s version of the German Dopplebock classic, which is typically strong and sweet (and apparently first brewed by Friars around the 17th Century & consumed as a ‘liquid bread’). A number of flavours arise and proved popular among the group. I’m sure we’ll be back for more when we don’t have to go straight to work after!!

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Coming soon to Camden Town Brewery…

‘The Growler’

Yes, the name caused me to giggle into my Pale Ale however a growler is ‘a thing’ in the beer world and not just something crude from the Urban Dictionary!

If a refillable, takeaway beer bottle sounds good to you, then lucks in. Camden Town are just about to launch their own Growler beer bottles, which will enable us to pop in for a big helping of their finest and take home to enjoy with friends or all to ourselves (consumed in a sensible fashion of course).

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The growler dates back to the 19th Century and was a mode of transporting beers from one place to another. Apparently the sound of CO2 when the cap was unscrewed similar to a growl, hence the name… 

Further Information…

Booking a tour at the brewery is easy, just click here and choose the date, but get in there quickly because they get booked up a few weeks in advance.

Open 12pm to 11pm Thursday through Saturday, you can pop in for a lunchtime pint or gather after work to enjoy a beer and some street food. The food calendar for March is below so see what takes your fancy and check the website for future updates.

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Follow @CamdenBrewery on twitter

http://www.camdentownbrewery.com

Excellent Choice, Madam.

Two of my favourite wines from a selection tried in January. Enjoy!

A Gulp of Spanish Red…

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Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso Reserva 2006

Region: Rioja, Spain.  

Classification: DOCa Rioja

Grape Variety: Tempranillo

ABV: 13.5%

Vintage: 2006

Initially discovered at Christmas thanks to my dad, Glorioso Reserva really was the wine of the festive period for me. Quaffing it along with cheese platters, foie gras and red meats but really very perfect on its own too. From the Bodegas Palacio in Northern Spain (not far from Pamplona- famous for the running of the bulls!) it is aged in Bordeaux style barrels of French Oak. I stopped to pick a bottle of it up last week on my way to a friends for dinner and she was a huge fan. It is so easy to drink, silky smooth and really coats the whole mouth with a welcomed warmth. Dark, fruity and delicious.

Bodegas Palacio, Glorioso Crianza 2007 is also worth a try and in my opinion, a wine best enjoyed with food. Also medium bodied, fruity and elegant with a touch more tanin about it than the last.

Interesting Fact: Spanish Wine

Spain’s strict wine laws ensure cultivation, production, ageing and quality of wine is maintained in the ever growing industry. There are two categories that Spanish wine’s may fall under; ‘Table Wine’ or ‘Quality Wine’, the latter generally being held in the higher regard.

DOCa stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada and is the credit given to wines that have achieved the highest quality over a long period of time. The only two regions to be considered worthy of this status are Rioja and Priorat in South West Spain.

…and a Splash of French White!

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Domaine La Condamine L’Evêque

Region:  Languedoc, France. 

Classification: IGP Côtes de Thongue

Grape Variety: Viognier 

ABV: 12.5%

Vintage: 2010

Produced by a family run vineyard in a village called Nezignan L’Eveque in the Rhone Valley, Southern France, this Viognier was recommended to me in my local wine shop. I was really looking for a dry white to go with fish and this full bodied, aromatic wine did fit the bill.  If you aren’t keen on rich, heady wines that are more yellow in colour, then this is probably not for you and my boyfriend and I both agreed that while this is a wine we loved with food, perhaps we wouldn’t necessarily chose it as an aperitif.

Having never heard of it before, only a few days later I found it again on the wine list in my local Pan-Asian restaurant and I felt very confident in choosing it with this meal. Turned out it was an absolutely perfect match for spicy tuna, seabass sashimi and  fragrant chicken curry.

Interesting Fact: The Viognier Grape

Pronounced ‘Vee-ohn-yay’, this varietal is a real challenge to grow! It is susceptible to disease and unpredictable so the producers work hard to get it right and this can be an expensive & timely process. It is because of this that it is considered one of the most prized varietals. 30 years ago,  this wine was almost extinct but in the last few years has become a more fashionable, popular choice.

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I bought both the Rioja Reserve (£13.00) and the Vin de Pays/ Viognier (£9.50) from Oddbins

http://www.oddbins.com

For a Rainy Day…

I woke up bright an early this morning to blue skies, so decided to don some warm clothes and go for a walk. Five minutes in and grey clouds appeared as if by magic. Drizzle soon followed. Back home now and ready for a cosy day inside.

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The books I am browsing through at the moment are particular handy on a day when the weather can’t decided what it’s doing….

1. Drink Me by Matt Walls (see blog post here)

2. Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers; secret restaurants & underground supper clubs! Sounds amazing! Ex-Rock band photographer Kerstin Rodgers was one of the first people to start this dining phenomenon in the UK. This book is full of quirky illustrations and ideas for starting your own ‘Supper Club’, (which I am currently in the process of organising for my friends and I- you’ll hear more about this next month). Along with her yummy recipes and personal photographs it is a really fun book with plenty of hosting and culinary tips polished off with a directory of people doing this in their homes worldwide. So you too can venture into the unknown….

3. Baking Bible by Annie Bell; I love baking but have so much to learn. I make mistakes (often) and get very frustrated when I see the sponge sinking in the oven. Annie Bell was a food writer for Vogue, The Independent & more, who has gone on to write books like ‘The Camping Cookbook’ & ‘Soup Glorious Soup’. This is her ‘bible’ of 200 very trustworthy recipes for cakes, puddings, bread, tarts… the list goes on. It is pretty much fail-safe & easy to understand for beginners, yet still exciting and enticing for the more experienced. Totally delicious.

4. Eat London: All About Food by Peters Prescott & Terence Conran; If you live, or have visited London, then you may have realised that there are restaurants and cafes popping up at two-a-penny. This is the ultimate directory for someone wanting to discover old and new put together by the well-known Terence Conran. Plenty of recipes to keep you entertained in between reviews and a front cover that doubles up as a big map of London, so no worries about getting lost whilst in the depths of Dulwich, looking for a butchers!

5. Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo; Following her perfectly kitsch, Paris based TV show. Rachel Khoo has let us into the secrets of her life, style and recipes. Her illustrations are adorable and thankfully there are no overly complicated methods or long winded techniques to try and follow. If she can make it work, so very well, in such a small and intimate space then there is nothing stopping us all from trying it out….follow her lead. Oh and her ‘madeleines à la crème au citron’, are a must! Mmm.

6. The Simple Things; a glorious monthly magazine of all things home & garden with recipes, crafts and inspirations! A total gem. WHSmith sell the mag, but you can also look on their website to find out about the subscription. January was filled to the brim with pasta making, lantern stitching and home made pizza nights! The February Issue 6 is out now. This could be the only reason I venture into the rain again today!

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A small Arpeggio coffee from my Nespresso machine sets me up nicely for the day ahead. My pastel pink cup is from Ikea, perfect for espresso’s but also for desserts like ice cream, or a mousse! I am not sure if they are in stock at the moment, but a lovely alternative are the Ikea 365+ pastel espresso cup and saucer.


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My candle of the moment is Roses by Diptyque. It is so gorgeous and fills the entire room in seconds. For me the smell of Roses reminds me of my childhood. It is nostalgic, romantic and puts a gentle arm around me in times of need. Diptyque candles are not cheap but they are, in my opinion very, very good. Their standard size are £40 and the mini candles are £20. I got this mini Rose for Christmas, they make a really special present!

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Listening to Classic FM. Yup, tis’ true. I EVEN downloaded the app! This is coming from the same person who used to squirm when anyone (my sister!) put it on in the car, I thought it had to be ‘cool’ music or nothing at all. How things have changed. All I want on a day at home, is to have classical music playing quietly in the background. I find it so unbelievably calming and so does the cat…

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Daffodils are ALREADY in bloom in some parts of the UK. My mum excitedly informed me of such a carpet of sunshine spotted on a walk at the weekend. I decided to get myself a few bunches to have a big, early dose of Spring time in my home! Tesco’s currently have £1 a bunch on offer so forget S.A.D. and treat yourself.

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Right then, I have procrastinated enough. On with some writing!

And have a great day come rain or shine…

Fancy A Drink?

I adore wine. Red or White and sometimes Rose (but did some damage with cheap bottles & sunshine as a teenager so it’s no longer my first choice!) I can’t say I have a favourite bottle at the moment but definitely have my ‘go to’ options. That is getting a little boring though and I am now at the point of wanting to move on from the norm.

My dad has great taste in wine, so I have always been around the good stuff. It wasn’t until recently that I wished to explore the different grape varieties and viticulture to get to know what I love, appreciate and dislike in some rare cases. I long to confidently recommend a bottle when at a restaurant with friends or pair the perfect glass when I am cooking a meal. I started the year planning a wine course and am currently looking into options for tastings around London as well doing my own research and I have come to realise that you can really learn a lot from simply stepping into a nice wine merchants and asking a few questions. Tell them what you are eating? What you like? What you don’t? If they are working there for the passion of it all then most likely they will be keen to offer advice and this will definitely help to get you off the usual suspects and try something new.

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In my local off licence just yesterday I picked up a nice bottle of Rioja and as I was talking to the very informative chap at the counter I spotted this book, ‘DRINK ME!’ by Matt Walls. It was immediately appealing, not only because of the recycled-look, cool cover and graphics or reasonable price but because Matt states in the first paragraph that it is “a guide for people who drink a bit and know a little but would like to know more.” – simply put, that’s me!

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I can already recommend grabbing a copy from a local book shop or on Amazon, especially if you are a newcomer to all of this and petrified at the thought of tucking into the heavier read that is the ‘Wine Encyclopeda’ which believe me, I have attempted.

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Matt's blog is also a good platform to start picking up helpful hints and recommendations without much effort involved on your part. He keeps it concise and leaves out the gumpf.

Hopefully this is the start of a wonderful (& potentially boozy!) journey and I look forward to sharing some of the treasures I find along the way.

Find out more about the book, the blog and the expert here-

http://www.mattwalls.co.uk
@mattwallswine

Get Me To The Farmers’ Market….

It is Sunday morning at 9:30am, there is 15 cm of snow on the ground and it is still falling thick. Not a person to be seen on the roads nor streets but waiting tenaciously under the tarpaulins at the top of Ascot High Street, is the Farmers’ Market.

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Ascot’s Farmers’ Market runs on the 3rd Sunday of every month all year round and the produce really is the best. It is part of the Thames Valley  Farmer’s Co-Operative, which you can find information about here -their motto to bring ‘local food, to local people’.

Slipping and sliding all the way there in my inappropriate footwear was worth it, because not only do you get to sample some of their delights (homemade fudge, sausage baps, goats cheese & chilli jam), you have to admire their love of excellent produce.

These days it is easy to forget where food comes from and at the Farmers’ Market food is produced for flavour and not to feed the masses. The prices are comparable with that of supermarkets but you really can taste the difference!

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With several dedicated butchers on hand to explain the heritage of the meat (pork, beef, chicken…) you come away feeling more knowledgable and satisfied. I had a brief discussion about pork chop with a farmer from Reading, who explained about the distribution of fat and demand for leaner cuts resulting in essentially flavourless meats. Personally I would much rather eat less meat with better flavour than a huge great chunk of meat which tastes of nothing, which is why seeking out these kind of market’s is worthwhile to me.

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Huddled together, with freezing fingers and toes is just part and parcel for the farmers, who rely on our custom for their livelihood. Some of them deliver of course if you can’t wait until the next month’s outing or make the most of it on the day and stock up your freezer.

Check out their website and find out when and where your local Farmers’ Market is. I promise you won’t be disappointed because this is what food should taste like…. and not a horse in sight, not even on the race course!

Thames Valley Farmers’ Market Co-operative assesses all producers before they’re accredited to trade at our markets. This means you can be sure you’re buying food and drink from the people who’ve grown, reared, baked and made it, all to the highest standards. All our markets are FARMA certified.