Archive for December, 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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I’ve just had a very enjoyable couple of days, at home, with friends.

First of all, on Friday lunchtime and afternoon, I was joined by ex-NLN and MoLeNET colleagues: Lilian Soon, Karen Ford, John Whalley, Ron Mitchell and Nick Jeans. [See xxx for more information about how I met these friends]. John was first to arive, by train from Beverley in East Yorkshire. The others arrived over time, having had a variety of journeys. Nick drove over from Sheffield, Karen from the Welsh Borders and Lils from Selby. Ron had caught the train from Newark. By One o’clock we were all together.

Lilian had brought some garlic prawns and John’s wife June had made us some delicious sausage rolls. So with my samosas, albondigas, chorizo potatoes and feta-bacon salad – we had a delightful meal. followed by Bara Brith courtesy of Karen.

It was great to catch up after what, for most of us had been two years. I still see Karen regularly and work with John online but we haven’t been together like this for many years.

Open House
Then yesterday, Saturday, we’d organised a house warming party. It’s six months since since we moved and we’ve finally completed all (most) of the stuff we’d hoped to complete this year. We’ve had fires fitted back and front (rooms), bedroom furniture (our previous home had built-in wardrobes) has been bought and we have anew telly. Sorted.

So now was the time to welcome friends into our ‘new’ home. I’d decided on an ‘open-house’ theme as I know that people have busy visiting calendars at this time of year – so it gave folks chance to just pop in and move on or to stay a while. Everyone seemed to get on with each other, we fed them, watered them and wished them a happy Christmas and New Year as they left. Hopefully we will see much more of friends in the coming year.

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I’ve eaten out several times since my birthday last week; its that time for year. My experiences have ranged from the sublime to the downright careless.

I mentioned The Crown at Roecliffe in my previous post and the food there was delicious. The customer service was careful and attentive without being overbearing and the whole evening was faultless. Yet, locally, I joined three ex-colleagues for lunch the other day in a well respected eatery and it verged on being uneatable.

Because I have dined well here before, I won’t mention the venue but, as I also ate here again a few days later (see below) with just as little care in some of the food preparation, I will blog about it and only re-visit when some time has passed and I fancy risking it again.

Us four ex-colleagues were there to chat and catch up, so the food was only of secondary concern – I had a Sausage Sandwich (with caramelised onion and apple sauce). What can go wrong with a sausage sandwich? Well first of all, I was offered ciabatta or baguette – neither of which would be my preferred choice of bread for a sausage sarnie. Nevertheless, I chose the former based on my knowledge of the sort of baguette bought and served in pubs up and down the country: tasteless lumps of microwaved-from-frozen cooked dough – unlike their crunchy French namesake.

Old grumps

Sadly, the ciabatta was a bad choice too because it lacked any substance that allowed me to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich. I had to use a knife and fork (God forbid!). As the rectangular plate contained a smidgeon of salad and half a bag of sliced, raw, red onions, and as the sausages themselves (I’m coming to them) were blobbed with tinned/bottled apple sauce, the whole thing was pretty unmanageable.  The onions were a surprise inasmuch as the menu suggested they’d be there, it just didn’t say they would be raw – why would they be? The sausages themselves, particularly knowing their provenance and the competition this well renowned butcher has locally, were sadly lacking in flavour. Just thin grey fingers of ‘something’ to hold the name ‘sandwich’ together.

They were busy though, I’ll give them that and for that reason I’m forgiving the barely cooked and lightly coloured chips and I’m forgiving the time it took to serve three sandwiches and a steak pie – but I cannot forgive the poorly kept beer. Watery Hobgoblin! I can’t re-live that.

Mum’s Birthday
My mum was 85 last weekend, she won’t mind me saying because she keeps forgetting 🙂  However, as I say, we’ve had some good meals here before and had booked a Sunday lunchtime table to celebrate. Remember, this is the same pub/restaurant as mentioned above.

I avoided the Hobgoblin.

The service on each occasion was good. Better on Sunday than Thursday but on each occasion the service and attention to orders etc. was good.  My starter was OK: A small piece of Halibut with sweet and sour sauce. I didn’t expect any more than I got, a few bones still in it and commercially tinned/bottled sweet and sour sauce. I still ask myself “why?” but can’t really say. Anyway, my main course was better: Roasted belly port with prawns and saute (ish) potatoes. It was good, the only thing letting it down was the prawns served on top – which prevented the skin from properly crisping up. But it was tasty.

Goat’s cheese tarte tatin

However, Sharon’s choices were badly made (in both the sense that she made a bed choice and the sense that the dishes were in fact badly made). How can you ruin hummus? This is one product the chef should have bought in! It was lacking any real flavour, was watery and under seasoned. I know there are different ways of combining the chickpeas, the tahini (if used) the garlic, the olive oil and the seasoning but this, served to Sharon, was just home-cooked chickpeas (drain these well Chefs, drain them well), food processed to within an inch of their lives and lightly seasoned. And to dip in it? Griddled Asparagus (the menu said that) and boiled Chantenay carrots. Boiled!! Sharon had misunderstood the menu – it said griddled asparagus and carrots – she’d expected raw carrot. But boiled! ffs.

Her main course was less of a disappointment but still not what it should have been. A goat’s cheese tarte tatin. The picture here is what she expected (from elsewhere), what she got was something a whole lot smaller.

Rant over.

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As anyone who read my previous post – https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/the-old-telephone-exchange/ – will know, this (long) weekend has been spent in North Yorkshire, celebrating my birthday.

Sharon had planned a fabulous weekend of good food and time to relax, so after our trip to Ripon, on my actual birthday, I relaxed. Sharon had tea to cook after all – from scratch and from goods she’d brought along with us. We had Butternut Squash Ravioli for starters, with a spicy tomato garnish and spinach. this was followed by a Griddled Rump Steak, battered onion rings (remember – all from scratch and there was no fryer), mushrooms in a cream sauce, Roasted Sweet Potato and some delicious potato skins. Yummy. This was followed by Tarte Tatin. There would have been cheese – but we were too full.

The following day, breakfast was scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (how lucky am I?) and then although Sharon had researched some walks around the area, and because it was cold, we decided that following our breakfast we would set out and take a look at Thirsk and Northallerton. There was a nowtish market on in Thirsk and I found it disappointingly depressing, whereas Northallerton on the other hand was a whole lot better. So, anyway, we ‘did’ the charity shops, bought a Christmas special Fat Rascal from Betty’s and came home to light a fire and relax before popping out for a splendid meal at a pub five miles away.

The Crown Inn at Roecliffe

is a 16th century coaching inn that retains the inn’s historic features, such as stone flag floors, crackling open log fires and oak beams

and has a fabulous reputation for food and for service. Both of which, following our meal last night, I’m happy to say were richly deserved. We were made to feel welcome throughout our evening, service was attentive without being ‘in your face’ and the food was delicious. I had a pressed belly pork starter and Sharon had ox-tail tortellini. Both were home made and fully flavoured. Mine came with spicy noodles, most of which i had to leave for fear of over-facing myself.

Next, our mains arrived: Sharon had a Venison dish that was just right; whilst I had the Yorkshire Lamb. Two cutlets, perfectly seasoned and a small side dish of shepherd’s pie. We managed to finished a bottle of Malbec too – so a good time was had by all.  Home now and eating left overs 🙂

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Once again, it’s my birthday weekend and like last year [SEE] Sharon has brought me away on a delightful ‘surprise’ weekend. When I say surprise, I don’t mean that I didn’t know I was going away – what I didn’t know is where, or what it involved – just like last year.

The Old Telephone Exchange

This year, we’re at The Old Telephone Exchange, Bishop Monkton in North Yorkshire.

We arrived yesterday (Saturday) just before it got dark. The car was as full as it could be because Sharon has planned to do all the catering herself and she had purchased all ingredients etc. prior to departure. I was given charge of drinks and, being caught out by surprise guests last year, had decided to cover all eventualities by bringing enough booze to sink a car ferry. I’d also brought half a bag of logs that are too big for our log burner at home and another unopened bag of logs – just in case. So unloading the vehicle took a while.

Once unpacked Sharon set-to straight away cooking dinner. I set-to making the fire (man work). I then settled down to relax which is something I rarely do at mealtimes, as it’s usually me doing the cooking. I’ve a stack of Sunday papers, books, Facebook and this blog. Too busy to move 🙂

Last night’s surprise was the arrival of Jo and Mike just in time for dinner. I knew ‘someone’ would appear ‘some time’ but not who or when. So that made for a pleasant evening. The food was delicious. Parsnip and Ginger Soup, Chicken and Ham Tangle Pie, Creme Brulee and (no) cheese and biscuits, which were left in the fridge. 🙂

And that was day one.

Today, my actual birth date, I was presented with Eggs Benedict for breakfast (lovely). Before this though, I walked into the village to see if there was anything resembling a paper shop – Google Maps had suggested there might be, but it was wrong. Nothing to buy here 😦

It was a bitterly cold day, so we decided against taking a hike anywhere and drove instead to Boroughbridge, which was closed and Ripon which wasn’t. The folks around here drive like maniacs – the speed of traffic in the town (City) of Ripon is something to be observed! And, on the way there and back, the amount of overtaking on narrow roads was just TOO much. Nuff said for now. Dinner is being prepared 🙂

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