Cantina de Guadalupe – Hondarribia

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Cantina de Guadalupe, Hondarribia, Espana

One of the things that strikes you quite clearly here in Spain is how cheap it is to eat out. Whether you are partaking of an evening pintos stroll or diving into the Menú del Día as we did here at the Cantina de GuadalupeMenú del Día can be awesome value deals as the price usually is for a 3 course meal (entree, main & dessert) and includes water, wine (a bottle!) or beer or cider and coffee. Our lunch at the Cantina set us back €12 each, (€11 if you did not want to be seated on the outside terrace) which translates into $17NZ/AU, £8.6BP and $13US. I think you just might be getting a glass of wine in Melbourne at that price! And for the most part, at least in our limited experience, the food is damn good…

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Chorizo & Patata Sopa…

For my starter I opted for a more substantial dish — chorizo and patatas sopa (I am guessing that is what it was or could have been a stew) which was presented in its own serving bowl allowing me to refill my bowl until it was all gone…which it was.

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Ensalada Mixta…

Hound #2 went her usual healthy, wealthy & wise route and was presented with a ensalada mixta fresca that included some sweet tuna & a hard boiled egg…

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Pollo Asado – Estupendo!

I could not not try the Pollo Asado (Roast Chicken) and was rewarded with half a bird…Billie helped out. It was perfectly done & tasty and the patatas perfecto.

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Bistec con Patatas

And Hound #2 decided to get some serious sustenance under her belt and ordered the Bistec con Patatas – seriously large cut of meat for the price & well cooked and half ended up as Billie’s dinner…lucky dog.

The vino was the house tinto which was nicely chilled – wine, like the food here in Spain, is absurdly cheap. Not only when you are buying at the stores but also when eating out. I am not totally sure why that is – low taxes? cost of production? loss leaders? And it is not swill by any means – you often see or get very recognisable wines from some serious producers. Granted. these are not their aged, reservas but their crianzas or jóvenes (young wines) but they seem to bring a reasonable amount of effort & vinification knowledge to bear & make a decent quaffer. Most pintxos bars offer glasses of blanco, rosado and tinto at €1.30 to €1.80 – deal to make ya squeal!

We finished out lunch with a very nice flan – sorry, no pic – and a very decent cafe con leche.

We will go back…we actually tried last Sunday & they were fully booked out.

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National Trust’s Killerton House & Farmers Market

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In our efforts to visit as many accessible Devon farmers markets as possible, the super combo of a visit to the National Trust’s Killerton House and a farmers market was a no brainer decision. It is a small market as they are working hard to replace several producers who have left due to work & time contraints but what is there is very good.

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The Hounds Stroll the Market

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Cheese Please!

Two great locally farmed meat folks were on hand – West Kidland Farm & Burrow Farm. We chatted with Catherine (red haired one in photo below) from West Kidland Farm about her lamb (Lincoln Longwool) which she swore was the the ‘best in Devon’, so we snatched a beautiful rolled shoulder (being weighed in the photo) which is one of our favourite cuts. It needs to be cooked slow & low to let it tenderise but we feel it is the cut that tastes the sweetest. West Kidland is a family run farm and Catherine calls herself an ‘accidental farmer’ as it was her parents that bought the farm 9 years ago to accommodate their fast growing menagerie of various animals. She moved in with husband Nils to help out and the rest is history. Besides the luscious lamb, West Kidland Farm also has rare breed Berkshire pork, Dexter cattle and a mix of chickens, ducks and geese on offer.

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NB: Food Hound #2 has a guilty pleasure – diet coke!!!

Burrow Farm is a fascinating tale – Neil & Sally Grigg had never farmed or raised cattle before but were keen & undaunted to take on the tenancy in 2007. Six years into the ‘experiment’ they have successfully established a pedigreed herd of Red Ruby cattle, opened their Red Devon Beef Farm Shop and a bed & breakfast. Phew! Just recently they won the National Trust Fine Farm produce award for beef – seems they took fine to farming.

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Isca Ales were also on hand, unfortunately for them 10 o’clock in the AM is a wee bit too much south of noon for a bit of beer tasting. But they are local & looked damned good.

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Pies, Pies, Pies

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A Plethora of Piscine Pates..

So folks, the Killerton House Farmers Market is this Saturday – JUNE 15th!!! If you don’t find something to tempt you at the market (unlikely) then you can grab a coffee & cake @ the cafe, sniff your way round the 2nd hand book store, peruse the National Trust shop or just simply enjoy a stroll around the stunning grounds and gardens – much of it dog friendly as Billie the Jack Russell will attest.

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Viola! A Dash Through France….

In order to get to Spain, we took our car across to Cherbourg on the ferry, which meant a bit of a mad dash southbound, traversing France at a less than a pleasurable, relaxed speed. Bad planning meant forking over a small French king’s ransom to use the toll roads – sacre bleu! At last count, France had squeezed £150 from our weeping wallets. Some of our pain was dutifully eased by a 2 night crash at the sweet Le Moulin Pastelier, run & hosted by expat British folks Donna & Chris.

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Just a spitting distance outside of Toulouse, in the verdant French country side, it made the perfect place for rest & exploration. We were handed some good tips on the local villages and that the big, regional market would take place the next day in Revel.

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Cheeses, Glorious Cheeses – Charles de Gualle was wrongly right.

We love French markets – it puts our faith back (after many years absence) that the French really do know their food. Zut alors! We circled the market square half a dozen times, eyeing up the plethora of cheese, charcuterie, butchers, bread, condiment & veggie stalls and developing a massive case of market produce envy. Our UK markets are good, but the Revel village market was in a seriously different dimension.

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Revel Market Charcuterie Stall – yum.

The charcuterie stalls elicited the most drool as it is an artisanal art form not widely practised in the UK and just beginning to catch hold. In our searches for UK charcuterie courses we have come across just one not in London proper, taught by – you guessed it – a Frenchman.

The choices at the Revel market were beyond overwhelming and it was quite hard, knowing we were going to be in Spain for 3 weeks, to hold back on packing the wee Nissan Micra to the gills with a decent assortment of just about everything the market had on offer.

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The French, besides knowing their food, also know how to do a damn fine job of presentation. They seem to have that je ne sais quoi factor that, with just a minor, subtle twist, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. Example numero uno – bowl of olives (below) flecked with bits of red peppers.

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Or this almost irresistible, savoury scented humongous pan of a French styled paella…

FRStew And to add the final nail in our argument coffin, whilst having a rest stop at a service centre on aforementioned toll highways to hell, who but the French, instead of shelves stacked with junk food, offer you the option to purchase servings of Duck Confit or perhaps some Raclette or Comte cheeses for your journey…

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River Cottage: Pig In A Day

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WARNING: If you are vegetarian or vegan or just generally against the eating of meat, the following post and pictures may not be to your liking…may be a good time to leave. 

A very generous Hound #3 procured a full day course at the River Cottage Cookery School aptly titled a Pig in a Day for Hound #2’s birthday. This is a porker of a day for anyone who wants to demystify the art of butchery and gain hands on experience, or build up their confidence to tackle the world of charcuterie.

The day began at 9:30AM with a tractor ride down a steep & winding lane, past River Cottage HQ and the Cookery School’s old barn home (destroyed by fire but being rebuilt) to the ‘temporary’ tent headquarters. Though it is a tent, it is a damn fancy tent with a full on commercial kitchen, dining room & bar & cookery school instructional classroom.

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We were greeted with piping hot coffee & tea, juices & amazing duck rillettes on house-made English muffins – awesome savoury start to the day. Laid out on a sizeable solid wood butcher’s block was the English Large White Pig. Our instructor, Steven Lamb (Head of Events), told us that River Cottage had been struggling to find a source of organic, free range pork ever since their original primary supplier outside of Dorchester, Dorset had stopped rearing them as it was not economically feasible.

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This course is mos def hands on. Steven Lamb solicited (and sometimes made) folks to jump right in during the butchering sessions & grab a knife or saw and work through the various pig sections to extract the tenderloin, the loin (our lunch), the chump, etc…until all bits & bobs (including the head) were accounted for.

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Besides the butchery session, we were also treated to a variety of methods on what to do with the various cuts of meat. We have always been fascinated with the world of charcuterie (preserved meats) but a wee bit timid in attempting it solo, with no instruction. A bit like mushroom foraging – we would not want to make a simple mistake using a book & end up in the A&E.

So it was immense fun to jump right into the making of everything from bacon to prosciutto to sausages & chorizo. It is a small wonder that fresh meat, packed in a seasoned salt cure for a few weeks & then hung to air dry for months & months could end up as such a scrumptious taste treat. The only other natural thing we can think of that gets better with age is wine – not a bad complement to some damn good, home made charcuterie.

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Included in this awesome day is a delicious lunch – we had the roasted pork loin with great au jus & savoury potato cake & fresh garden kale. And dessert (see below) was a stunner too – all washed down with a couple of decent biodynamic / organic tempranillos.

If you are tempted to attend this course – HURRY! They are tres popular and get booked out in a nanosecond…check the course calendar & get yourself to a Pig in a Day! You will come away with your brain hurting with so much new information.

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The Bridge Inn & Pub – Topsham, Devon

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We happened upon the Bridge Inn in Topsham due to, and propelled by, the 2PM pub lunch rule and we were most pleasantly pleased. As the owners aptly describe it – “Not so much a pub, more a museum with beer”. It is the living definition of “higgledy piggledy” with narrow, twisting hallways leading to tiny, crooked doors that lead to rooms on a severe tilt (parts of the building date from the 16th century). The pub has been in the owner Caroline Cheffers-Heard’s family since 1897. Summertime will bode well too as there are plenty of outdoor seats with a view of the river Clyst.

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The food is what you’d expect and want from a pub like this – simple, straightforward, fresh and tasty. We each had sandwiches – a home-cooked ham @ £4.70 and a smoked duck @ £5.65 (from local Mike’s Smokehouse) – that hit the exact right spot. Drinks, like the food, are ordered at the door to the back bar – casual as. Savoured a pint of Adnam’s Broadside which was aptly described as a “fusillade of mahogany colour and flavour”. The Bridge Inn was also given a tip of the hat by none other than the Guardian as one of the top 10  best budget eating places in Exeter and Topsham – we concur. Bridge-Sandwich2

And #1 hound was duly appreciative of a few ham table scraps….Bridge-Bill

Darts Farm – Farm Shop and More

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On our way to explore Exmouth we got sort of sidetracked into the town of Topsham and stumbled (you really cannot miss it!) upon Darts Farm.

Darts Farm started in the 1970’s as one of the small farm shops you would find dotted around East Devon, selling it’s local produce at the end of the farm gate. Well, it’s not small anymore. It is a giant retail complex of mostly food (though there is an Aga showroom, outdoors store, tile & paint shop, florist and a spa). Though big, it is still run by the 3 sons of founder Ronald Dart and claims to “continually endeavour to keep to the original values at the heart of the business…(Darts Farm) is the product of passion for farming and providing good quality, local produce to a community that cares about its cultural heritage.”

There is a cafe (which we might have gone to for lunch, but for the enormous queue) as well as what is regarded as or heralded as one of the best fish & chip joints in the country – the Fish Shed.

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There are all sorts of food stuffs and a great deli section (where Hound 3 stocked up on her favourite chorizo).DartFarm-charcuterie

And you will find the Gerald David & Family Master Butchers in residence (Hound 2 is always drawn to the butchers… as would Hound 1 be if he had been allowed out of the car). These folks have won Devon Life’s Best Butcher Award 3 years running and it was not too hard to see why. We learned in a brief chat that the beef we were perusing was raised & slaughtered (they have their own abattoir) on the Dart farm. DartFarm-butcher

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Having gotten accustomed to the Seaton retail world, our one visit was kind of overwhelming – we will return.