Back in the U.K. for Summer…Sort of.

Last Hoorah in Hondarribia…

We said adiós with heavy hearts to our home of 2 years Hondarribia…and of course all our great mates. We had a week or so of farewell get togethers that ranged from an evening pintxo stroll down Calle San Pedro to a menú del día with our sweetheart Itziar to a grand lunch @ with Gloria & Bernard @ Andoni’s (and Carmen) Txoko (cooking society). Hondarribia & Spain will be an experience that will be very hard to beat…

Back in the U.K. – Effing Cold!

We boarded the Bilbao-to-Portsmouth ferry on time post a nerve-wracking traffic jam that Hound #2 skilfully avoided by using  her Google map skills to route us through a wee fishing village – phew! Onto England…and as we disembarked in the Land Rover, England greeted us with its typical weather – pissing rain, windy as and effing cold…more like winter than effing August!

Frome’a A Pop’n! New Places Round Every Corner! – Sam’s Kitchen & the Rye Bakery Where Billie Found A Bean Bag…Loves Bean Bags!

We spent our first 4 nights camping in our old village of Frome, Somerset as Hound #1 Billie had an important vet appointment (1 of 4) to gear up for his return to New Zealand. We greatly enjoyed our return to Frome despite the wintry weather conditions as it has truly begun to blossom with new establishments popping up around just about every corner. One of our favourite morning coffee spots was the Rye Bakery which inhabits, quite stylishly, the vast insides of an old church. An amazing space that has seen some serious investment….

We also checked out Sam’s Kitchen Deli which has a truly stunning fit out & space…but we were not so impressed with the coffee in terms of quality and price, but could easily see enjoying a glass of wine or two in the 2nd floor bar & just walking the world go by, up St. Catherine’s Hill.

Fox & Badger @ Wellow – Awesome Lunch! Top Left: Bacon & Pea Risotto with Seared Duck Breast; The bar; Grilled Fresh Mackerel with Potatoes & Horseradish Cream Atop Chard

As we wrapped up our brief stay in Frome & prepared to head for Totnes for a month in an AirBnB cottage, we decided to indulge ourselves for having camped in wintry, wet conditions with a lunch @ our fave pub – the Fox & Badger in Wellow. We have never been disappointed in a meal here and this time was no exception. Exceptional quality at a more than fair price! If you’ve never been, GO!

Home Sweet Home for a Month – Totnes, Devon

We settled into our sweet AirBnB cottage late in the arvo with a cracking evening forecast ahead weather-wise. If you ever need a perfect place to stay in Totnes that is centrally located & comfortable as then check out this place. We ended up in good-vibe Totnes because my old Land Rover needed some TLC by my Devon mechanic Kevin prior to shipping to New Zealand. And Devon in August is or can be a serious challenge accomodation & price wise. But this ticked all the boxes!

Top Left: Best BLT & Avocado Sammie @ Rousdon Bakery; Venison Burger @ The Green Dragon Pub; Landcombe Cove – Stunning!

We have had sporadic stretches of an English summer & when we do, we leverage our time & our Secret Beaches book to the max. This is an excellent informational source for secluded, unpopulated beaches – a necessary bundle of information when you live in jammed to the gills England.

Top Left: Pigs Nose Pub – A Real English Pub; Macely Beach/Cove; Coastal Fields on Walk to Macely Beach

We got lucky with another forecasted, semi-summer’s day so made a plan to walk the track along the River Dart (below) to the village of Ashprington. An excellent walk was had by all and is a favourite activity of Hound #1, Billie. Hard to beat the Devon (or Dorset) countryside with rolling hills, mucho greenery & woods and a sweet river…and the pubs! Ashprington is home to the Dunstan Arms and we had a stunner of a lunch (and a pint or two).

Top: Dart River; Billie Waits for the Pizza; Lunch @ Durant Arms in Ashprington…Rabbit Rillettes & Toast Points & Cornichons.

Top: Billie Plays Hard With Toy Gift from Mate Gorka in Hondarribia; English Summer – Needs a Fire!; Another Gift from Gorka – Txakoli Vino!

We felt that after a few weeks in the village of Totnes that a day out in the Big Smoke of Exeter was in the cards. We had a few shopping missions to accomplish that could not be satisfied in Totnes, so on the train we hopped, Exeter bound.

A Day Out in Exeter…

We were able to tick a quite a few boxes in Exeter – I succeeded in replacing my about-to-disintegrate Levi jeans & Hound #2 raided all the Op Shops (Charity Shops for non-UK folks) nabbing some books & DVDs. We also managed a quick squizzy of Magdalen Road, foodie central for Exeter.

Thurleston Beach, Devon…

We were gifted with another stunner of a summer’s day…only problem it was a Bank Holiday Monday. Hound #2’s whole family has a genetic aversion to doing anything on a Bank Holiday, especially going to the beach. But we sort of devised plan which was to leave super early, get a swim & beach time in and do a coastal walk to the village of Bantham to the Sloop Inn pub for at least a pint & maybe lunch…crowds dependent.

The beach was awesome…until the hordes horded in. General theory is that any beach you can drive to & has a cafe or beach bar will have a tsunami of folks by lunchtime. And it always strikes us as funny or strange that if you are only willing to walk 10-15 minutes farther along you will almost always find a near empty, secluded beach.

The Sloop Inn was also awesome – we knew nothing about this pub but we dodged another Bank Holiday bullet by arriving a bit early when no one was there (yet) & placed our food & drink orders & grabbed a table in the empty garden courtyard.

The meals were stupendous and exceptionally well priced…wish it was our local!

The Sloop Inn, Bantham, Devon: Smoked Mackerel Salad & Local Mussels in Cream/Butter Sauce – Superb All!

Well, as we count down the days to our New Zealand return, frantically ticking off dozens of boxes of things to do with Billie the Jack Russell, my 1975 Series III Land Rover (Gertie – going to New Zealand!) & us and all our stuff, we have this (below) to return to…a massive slip – the backyard is now ever so much closer to the back door. Happy, happy, joy, joy in our wee casa in Lyttelton :-(.

Welcome Home…

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The Food Assembly Launches in Frome!

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Yippee! The Food Assembly has made it to Frome! And many thanks to Pia McGee for taking on such a daunting task to hook us local Fromians up with our local suppliers to provide us with a regular plethora of superb produce & products. Begun in France almost 3 years ago, it has now grown over 600 assemblies across France & Belgium and now the UK.

In Pia’s own words…“Supermarket shopping isolates people buying food from those producing it. It’s time to ‘shake the hand that feeds you’, as Michael Pollan says. We love our farmers’ market, but if shopping local is to be part of our regular shop, we need ever more opportunities to do so, every week, and out-of-hours.”

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Frome Food Assembly Opening Night

The Frome Food Assembly is a weekly event – orders must be placed no later than late Monday evening prior to the weekly pickup (Wednesday from 5:30PM to 7:30PM but see holiday schedule below) at the Cheese & Grain where all the producers are on hand to deliver the goods or answer any questions or just to chat.The Frome Times did a sweet profile here….

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The Olde Bakehouse, The Wiltshire Smokehouse & Faye’s Farm Goods

Some of the local folks you will find @ the Food Assembly include:

* The Wiltshire Smokehouse…sampled their smoked salmon pate my first order & will re-order.

* Ivy House Farm…delicious dairy good for milk, butter, etc…

* Faye’s Farm…snapped up some beautiful bacon and broths.

* Baltonborough Farmshop…picked up some beef mince that made a stunning bolognese sauce.

* Vallis Veg…right on our doorstep.

So come on folks – get with the trend of doing it local….

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Anyone for a Sausage Roll?

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Ivy House Farm – Awesome Dairy…

Frome Food Assembly Holiday Schedule

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 FoodAssemblyFrome

Best Pizza in Frome…Castello Cucina Italiana

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If you are on a search for the best pizza in Frome, look no further than Castello Cucina – they know what they are doing in spades. They have a weekday (Monday to Friday) lunch offer of any pizza or pasta dish for just £5.95 – a deal to make you squeal! We had tried to take advantage of this offer one wet Friday afternoon, but at that time they were running the special from Monday to Thursday…damn.

So we vowed to come back, and we are very glad we did. Castello Cucina has now become one of our regular Frome haunts and we’ve not tasted any better pizzas. Out of town, At the Chapel in Bruton does several mean versions as they also employ a wood burning oven.

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Round & Round the Dough Goes, Up in the Air…Nobody Knows.

On our last visit, we decided we needed to get out of our rut of a Margherita (for Hound #2) and the Parma (for Hound #3) & took the ‘Y’ in the road with the Diavola (devilish hints of heat & spice) and the Contadina (subtle goat cheese & rocket & onions).

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Diavola (top) and the Contadina (bottom) Pizzas….

And to top off the excellent food, the service at Castello Cusina is top notch – friendly, courteous and attentive. So make an extra effort to sample Castello’s fine food & be very happy a place like this calls Frome home.

 

The High Pavement Evening Cafe…Yum.

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We have tried quite a few of the Frome & surrounds eating out options since arriving here in November 2013 and we have mostly been pleasantly pleased with our experiences, but our highlight has to be, without a doubt, the High Pavement Evening Cafe. So named because: (a) it is located in a elevated footpath above the cool St. Catherine’s Hill shopping area and; (b) it is only open on Friday & Saturday evenings.

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The setup is simple & appealing – preset and nicely limited food choices that tend to have a Spanish influence, in a small & intimate setting (does not seat much more than 20) and run by folks who clearly ‘get’ hospitality…almost feels like a seriously fun friends & family outing.

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Anchovie Starter & Sherry…

For a starter, Hound #2 opted for one of her tried & true flavour combos – marinated anchovies (on the menu with the Spanish name Boquerones) with a glass of chilled sherry. Fenomenal! (Needs to be pronounced with a Spanish accent!).

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Supa Dip

Hound #3’s starter of choice was the unknown Muhummra, which as explained, is a pureed dip made up of roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, garlic, bread crumbs, cumin seeds & red pepper flakes & Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Fingers were involved at the end to scrape up any residual bits left in the wee bowl…

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For our main courses, Hound #2 stuck to the healthy path and thoroughly enjoyed the amply sized Mixed Vegetable Meze while Hound #3 went paleo and hankered after the perfecty Slow Roasted Lamb Caldaretta (‘meat stew’ in Spanish) with Patatas Pobre (“poor man’s potatoes”) & Braised Rainbow Chard.

And once again, all washed down with an extremely quaffable Spanish red ‘Alquezar’ 2012…we were also quite pleased to discover that evening a thirst quenching Spanish cerveza – the Alhambra Special Reserve which, fortunately or unfortunately, is available from Tesco’s.

So if you are a Fromie (local slang), or happen to be coming to Frome for a night out, please book yourselves into the High Pavement Evening Cafe for a ludicrously fun night with food & drink to match.

 

Kimbers’ Farm Shop – The Real Deal.

It is always good to get out & kick the tyres so to speak…you meet many good folks at the local farmers markets but it is always reassuring to pay them an up close & personal visit to check out what is under the hood. So it was that I’d met Ruth Kimber & family @ the local Frome Farmers Market & on a sunny day (rare in these parts) last week, I dropped into Kimbers’ Farm Shop in Charlton Musgrove, just north of Wincanton.

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Kimber’s Farm Shop – Smack Dab in the Middle of the Farm

Ruth & her husband Paul have been farming since 1973 but the Kimber family farming history stretches back a good 300 or so years. And much of the family is still actively involved with 2 working full time at the farm & many others helping out @ the farm shop or farmers markets.

The Kimbers are proud to tell you (and rightly so) that much of what they sell, whether at the farm shop or farmers markets, comes straight from the farm. In fact, standing in front of the farm shop proper you can see it for yourself as you are standing smack dab in the middle of the farm.

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On site butcher hard @ work; a cornucopia of local products & a full range of Kimber Farm Meats.

The Kimbers sell free range beef, Gloucester Old Spot pork, farm made bacon & sausages (their butcher, also on site, has been with them for more than 10 years), lamb & hogget & mutton, welfare friendly veal, chicken, duck and turkey – phew! And if you happen to be into unpasteurised milk (and you can get pasteurised too) for your yogurt or cheese making (it makes a mean ricotta), you can get that here too.

And I was quite impressed with their charcuterie range…readers of my previous blogs may remember my puzzlement at the scarcity of charcuterie in the UK given the wonderful supply of the key ingredient – excellent meats. Well the Kimbers do it in spades here with a full range on offer from pancetta to bresaola.

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Ruth Kimber

So make an effort folks to catch the Kimbers at one of the local farmers markets (they do Frome, Shaftesbury & Bath) or drop by the farm shop or you can even shop online!

Well I have decided to close this post with one of my fave ‘go to’ recipes that the Kimber’s mixed veal was critically essential:

 Quick & Easy Thai 

600 grams Veal mince (but you can also use Pork mince)
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
100 grams green beans, cut into 2 cm lengths (or you can use carrots in season if the beans are not)
4 red shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon roasted chilli paste (or Sambal Olek)
70 ml fish sauce (5 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons each dark soy sauce & sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 handful roughly chopped coriander leaves or basil or both!
1-2 chillies optional, chopped
This amount makes about 4 portions so if you have more Veal (Pork) then scale up the other ingredients….
1. Heat about 60ml of oil in a decent sized fry pan or wok over medium high heat. Add garlic & pork & stir-fry until beginning to brown – about 4 to 5 minutes & use a wooden spoon to keep breaking up the big bits into smaller & smaller mince sized pieces.
2. Add beans, shallots and chilli paste and stir through until fragrant – about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add fish sauce & soy sauces (I pre-mix them all together in a bowl beforehand to simplify & make for a quick add) and cook until pork is cooked through and liquid reduced by about half (5 – 6 minutes). Season to taste with sugar, fish sauce and/or soy sauces. We tend to find it is just about right as more fish or soy tends to push it over the salty edge.
4. Remove from heat & toss through chopped coriander/basil leaves & serve with rice. And to add just a tad more heat we typically top with a small bit of diced fresh red chilli. Easy peezy…and makes great leftovers for the microwave the next day for lunch….

Long Time, No Post…

Ahuriri Collage2

Ahuriri RIver, Otago, New Zealand

…and the reason being I was in New Zealand for 3 months fly fishing for the most wily of trouts they have there…we miss our home as the scenery, even for some jaded Kiwis, is still on the magnificent side. And the fly fishing…well lets just say it is a wee notch or three above the UK. Best thing is once you have paid your $126 NZ season’s license fee, the country’s rivers are your oyster. Next to no ownership of water or fishing clubs controlling water rights or your fishing limited to a couple hundred metres of the right bank. Fishing Freedom – with 2 capital F’s.

Photos from 4 Events

Wily New Zealand Trouts

But glad to be back on the UK home front even if the weather still mostly sucks…Spring seems to have sprung a big leak but I am assured that this is nothing compared to the winter I mostly missed.

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Stourhead Farm Shop – Sweet.

So with a peep or two of sunlight yesterday, I fired up my trusty Series III Land Rover to re-start my local food tiki tours and first on the “drop in” list was the Stourhead Farm Shop at this lovely National Trust property.

And just like the property itself, the farm shop is equally lovely and stuffed with wonderful array of local culinary goodies. The farm shop is run as a separate business by the Harris & Hoare families. Stephen Harris has won awards for his organic beef and the awesome looking venison comes from the Hoare family’s woodlands which is the part of the Stourhead estate they retained. And the lamb and pork are also locally sourced from Richard Hickman’s Sparkford Farm & Mr. Riggs of Shepton respectively.

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Fruit & Veggie Stand

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A Deli of Delights

So it was far too hard to resist pulling the wallet out & these were my goodies of choice – go & check it out & choose your own!

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Sunday’s Roast

 

The Farmers Market @ Frome’s The Cheese & Grain

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Frome Farmers Market @ The Cheese + Grain

It was with a bit of trepidation that we waited for & then approached the Frome Farmers Market as many local farmers markets can be at best described as mediocre. And our hearts sank a bit as the Cheese & Grain came into sight as it appeared the Farmers Market was going to be no more than the regular, weekly Wednesday market – mediocre & selling 2 pound tat.

But our hopes were raised when we realised the market was actually inside the Cheese & Grain – phew! And what a difference that made – the hall was chocka with local producers and crammed to the gills with delectable goodies. Frome’s Market has built a reputation as one of the biggest & most successful of all the Somerset markets. We had to go around twice, left and came back for a third go! Each time adding more & more items to our bulging bags and depleting our wallets.

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Great Market!

One of the litmus tests we apply to a farmers market is: can you put together a complete meal? And by that we mean something to nibble on prior to dinner say (like cheeses, charcuterie, pates, dips & breads), a full on meal (roast meat or fish, veggies, potatoes) and possibly dessert. Well the Frome Farmers Market has it in spades – very dangerous to your wallet folks! But you will not be disappointed!

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Tempting Cheeses & Breads…

There were nibbles galore – we choose a dense & aromatic sourdough bread loaf from the folks at The Hill Bakery & when we told them we wrote the Local Food Hound blog they gifted us a marvellous raisin loaf. Excellent toast it makes we tell ya!

And as our fridge is already overflowing with local cheesemaker’s wares, we had to restrain ourselves from partaking of a regular fave Wootton Organic Dairy (blogged about several times before) and a stunning looking newcomber – White Lake Goats Cheese. Next time….

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Freshest of Fish…

And the Dorset Shellfish Company were also on hand & we’ve seen them at several other farmers markets like Crewkerne. Unfortunately, they had just sold the their whole lot of squid (a hound favourite) minutes before, so it pays to be early and quick at these markets (the Frome Farmers Market is having a special Christmas Market this Sunday, December 22nd 10AM – 1:30PM – make it a date!).

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Charcuterie & Taters & Carrots

And we were most happy to meet up again with the folks from Moonacre Farms – besides the super spuds on hand – the Linda’s make an awesome mash – and other veggies, they are a provedor of excellent charcuterie. The Coppa is a killer so may need to stock up for the holidays…

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Cornucopia Of Delish

So if you have not been to the Frome Farmers Market, nor finished all your food shopping for the holidays, make a bee line to the Cheese & Grain (and check the C & G out too – lots cook’n there) this Sunday!