Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Aberdyfi again...

We've eaten well in Aberdyfi this past few days. The main news is that Derek's Plaice, the fish shop, is now Gill's Place. Gill took over officially at the start of the month and a new name board is proudly in place above the shop.

The other mention I must make is the lovely Thomas Butchers & Delicatessen in Tywyn. Having sampled their range extensively during the summer, I was pleased to see that they've extended it still further. The Welsh eggs are a particular treat on the delicatessen side and the bacon and 30 day hung fillet steak very special from the meat end of the counter.

If you're ever in the area I hope you'll visit both!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fresh Hop Beer and Business Awards

Meandering home from the Crooked Billet, we decided to stop in at Loddon Brewery in Dunsden Green to see if Chris or Vanessa were there. Sameer and Mary hadn't visited the brewery before and rather fancied taking home some beer for Sameer's father. Luckily for us Chris was in, although looking slightly worse for wear owing to a late night at the Henley Business Awards where he won the Business Person of the Year Award. Congratulations!

Fortunately Chris was happy to conduct a speedy tour of the brewery and dispense some Dragonfly for Sameer to take away. I'll be visiting Loddon tomorrow to pick up some of the new Wolf-Bine beer which contains this season's fresh Golding hops from Charles Farm hop merchants. Fresh hops are rather riskier to brew with than dried hops as the alpha acid content is unknown. Apparently 'the intial samples showed a pronounced ripe orange freshness and gentle bitterness' so I look forward to tasting it.

The Crooked Billet

Last Saturday we made a pilgrimage to Stoke Row to eat at the Crooked Billet with good friends of ours; Sameer, Mary, Hazel and Phil. It was a particularly special lunch as we had all managed to find babysitters (and thus could enjoy a child-free restaurant visit) and very exciting for Hazel and myself as our previous trip to Stoke Row sadly didn't include the pub but instead centred on the Maharajah's Well.

The pub itself is delightfully rustic, with low ceilings, endless nooks and crannies and the lovely red dining room where we ate. The arrival of the menu and wine list were cause for much contemplation, dithering and finally decision-making. To begin with I ate half a dozen Galway oysters served plain and simple with a glass of apple-scented Bozedown Sparkling to go with them. The miniature bottle of Tabasco which accompanied them was instantly discarded although the beetroot relish served in a dish in the centre of the plate was rather good. The Bouillabaisse with rouille, croutons and gruyere was excellent too, and I had quite a bit as Mary very kindly shared in order to save room for her main course. I didn't taste the white crab meat salad but it looked lovely and certainly disappeared quickly.

We rambled on through lunch (such a pleasant change not to be rushed), taking in beef fillet, rack of lamb, calves liver and lamb shanks between us. The calves liver, which Sameer and I ordered, was accompanied by bacon crisps, carrot and parsnip rosti, spinach and sherry vinegar jus. The liver was perfectly cooked and the rosti and bacon crisps provided a delicious contrast. The beef fillet with seared foie gras looked wonderful and the dauphinoise which came with the rack of lamb was perfect although personally I thought the lamb a little overdone.

Although we'd all eaten more than adequate amounts we found ourselves seduced by the pudding menu. Phil's portion of cheesecake could have fed two, with some to spare, and the sticky toffee pudding was sublime. Adam's cheeseboard and port looked excellent but unfortunately I was far too full of muscat and toffee sauce to try any.

I think it's fair to say we'll be going back. As soon as we can.