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Cranky Pom/Cranky Apple

by Deb on April 17th, 2015 No Comments ·

This is a cranky pom. It’s quite tasty. It is a drink based on the earlier cranky apple, a cocktail I made up ages ago.

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One evening, I found myself with a bottle of cran-apple juice, some vodka, dash or two of lemon, and a bit of something for fizz (I believe that on that particular evening, it was lemon seltzer). Since the ingredients didn’t explode or smoke when I put them together, I drank it. The cranky pom is the same as the cranky apple except I didn’t have cran-apple juice one day – all I had was cranberry-pomegranate. What they hell, I thought. … and still no explosions or smoke.

So I grabbed a bendy straw and had at it.

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Banbury’s Culinary Surroundings

by Deb on April 16th, 2015 1 Comment ·

Banbury sits at the center of a robust culinary landscape. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Sure, it’s home to the largest coffee processing plant in Europe and yes, the traditional home of the famous Banbury cake. But ‘culinary landscape?’ What on earth is she on about?

Well, you know when I said, at the end of my last post – Grabbing a Bite in Banbury – stay tuned and stay hungry? I hope you listened. There’s a lot more foodie fun to cover in Banbury and the surrounding areas. Having covered some of the new and/or worth checking out shops and eateries in Banbury itself, it’s time to talk about the other gastronomic pleasures – cookery schools, food festivals, artisan shops and food tours – found in Banbury itself or within no more than an hour’s travel time.

Cookery Schools: Cookery schools are hot, hot, hot! There’s been a veritable explosion of cookery schools across Britain in the past four or five years. The country enthralled with Great British Bake Off and an unending supply of cookery TV has shown a huge appetite for courses about baking, regional cuisines, vegetarian food, butchery, cooking for kids, on and on and on.

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If you’re in the Banbury area and interested in joining the cooking throng, you are in luck. You’ve got award winning and exceedingly well established array of schools and courses to choose from.

  • I’ve mentioned our local Banbury Cookery School (formerly Pudding Pie Cookery school) in the last post. They do classes from all ages and abilities as well as cooking parties, demonstrations and other cooking events. They’ll even come to you and teach you in your own home. LOVE that!
  • The Cookery School at Daylesford – I’ve gone on a bit elsewhere about Daylesford’s mouth-wateringly beautiful Kingham farmshop. Don’t let the name ‘farmshop’ fool you it to thinking it’s just any farm shop. Yes, there is a farm and a shop but this is a whole complex. There’s a shop, farm, restaurant, garden, spa, holiday cottages, and – as is relevant here, the cookery school. They also host a series of organic farming courses, seasonal festivals and special events.
  • The WI Cookery School – yes, that WI. Whether you are a beginner or rather more experienced, this purpose built cookery school just outside of Abingdon (a mere 40 minute drive) welcomes members and non-members of all ages.
  • Dancing Trousers Cookery School – an awesome name, don’t you agree? Small yes but size isn’t the issue when it comes to food. Quality is what matters and as Dancing Trousers was a finalist in the Best Small Cookery School category of the British Cookery School Awards in 2014 (as was Daylesford), I think that settles that.
  • If you really want to push the boat out, you could check out The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir. It won’t come cheap, by any means but you won’t forget the experience or the food.
  • And in more specialist field – chocolate making.  Barry Callebau is a global manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa. We know this. But they also run a Chocolate Academy in Banbury! Now, to be fair, it’s not really aimed at what be best described as “curious consumers” – it’s not a tour. This is full on course work for people who are quite serious about chocolate, novices interested in getting into the field or more advanced chocolatier. There are consumer focused courses at some of the other locations, just not at Banbury. Still, you never know. Demand might create supply.

Still want more? Well, as the weather is warming, you are in luck because food festival season is fast approaching.

Food Fair LogoFood Fairs and Festivals: Naturally local foodies wouldn’t dream of missing the Banbury Food Fair (Sunday Aug 9) and as it’s getting bigger and better each year, foodies from further and further afield are also making this an annual stop on the foodie event circuit. Other festivals a mere hop, skip and jump from here:

Other Appetizing Links

Thirsty-quenching Tours and Tastings:  You can’t do a “food and drink highlights” round up for Banbury and not include S H Jones Wines, a real star in Banbury’s food and drink firmament.

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What makes it so? Well, there’s the fact that it’s been here since 1848 (one of the oldest continually operating businesses in town and in one of the oldest buildings – which I’ve touched on elsewhere) and it’s been run by the same family since 1886. Talk about staying power and commitment :-)  The other reason you can’t leave it out is the wine tastings. Speaking of which, I hear there might be a cheese and wine tasting there quite soon involving one of my recent fab foodie discoveries, Curds and Whey. That’s where I got the amazing black truffle cheese that led to the most amazing black truffle risotto. More on that another time.
???????????????????Moving further afield, there’s the Hook Norton Brewery tour. The folks at Hook Norton conduct two tours of their dramatic brewery building every day but Sunday and yes, there are samples at the end. If you’re still thirsty, you can check out the Wychwood Brewery Tours in Witney which is open for public tours every weekend. For true brew aficianados, there are another couple of brewery tours on the edge of my 1 hour range that offer the public a chance to have a supervised poke around – the Tring Brewery and the Chiltern Brewery near Wendover (this is the oldest independent brewery in the Chilterns).  Beer not your thing? More of a wine person? Oxford Chelt Wine School run wine tastings and wine courses in Oxford, a quick 20 minute train ride from Banbury.

The Sweet Spot:  Belflair Chocolates is a lovely little shop on Church Lane (next to Sugar Rush where I get my root beer when I am feeling homesick for the US) that produces some top notch treats for chocolate lovers. That would be reason enough to list them but here’s the bonus chocolate lovers! They have an atelier in Brackley and you can book one of the “courses in chocolate appreciation” – an opportunity to watch the resident chocolatier at work, learns about the process and sample some of the goodies.  If you’re looking to focus on the sampling – why not try the Chocolate Tour of Oxford – 2 hours of chocolate? Yes, PLEASE! And it’s a walking tour so you can convince yourself you are balancing it all out with some exercise.

Local Goods and Groovy Gadgets: Looking for a special or seasonal ingredient, something outside the normal reach of your grocers’ shelves? Goodness knows the area is awash in Farmers’ markets – and that’s worth a post on it’s own. But you don’t have to wait for market day. You can peruse the offerings at:

  • The Italian Larder  – chock full of regional specialties from across the continent, some well know and some you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Steve Betts Butchers – what they don’t know about meat isn’t worth knowing and they are happy to chat with you about what you’re cooking and suggest the best options.
  • Banbury Self Pick - which is pretty much what it says on the tin -seasonal self-picking so go grab yourself some strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, apples etc. Or pick up some of the ready picked produce. Self pick is a great thing to do with the kids – so if you’re looking to enthuse the kids about fruit this summer, this is the place to go.
  • There’s nothing like cooking with fresh herbs and they’re so easy to grow! You could pick some up at the grocers or the local garden centre but if you really want choice and variety along with expert input and advice, check out the National Herb Centre. 10 kinds of basil, countless thymes, rosemaries and the like along with nature trails and kids play areas.
  • Planning on breaking bread? Literally? Well, we’ve gone on and on about Bakergirl (and quite likely will again) so definitely check it out if you want real bread, freshly made with local flours and seasonal ingredients.

abraxasShould you need to stock up on tins for day of baking or grab a few new implements for an weekend of culinary activities, you don’t want to miss checking out Abraxas Cookshop. Not only have they got every gadget or tool you could need but the staff really know what they are talking about and can offer first-hand info on much of the store’s stock. We bought a spice grinder there last year, after a very enjoyable helpful discussion with the obviously knowledgeable women at the counter. It’s one the hardest working gadget in our already hardworking kitchen.

Once again, this has gotten much longer than I intended and I haven’t even addressed the vast and varied farmer’s markets and shops in the area. That’ll be another day. But I hope this list and the other posts on Banbury (below) have given you some idea of why the foodies of TransAtlantic Towers feel we definitely landed in the right spot.


Related Links

  • Spring has Sprung in Banbury!  (April 12th, 2015):  According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.
  • Festive, Foodie Banbury (December 6th, 2014): It’s holiday time and a whole SLEW of new eateries have opened up in Banbury to keep everyone’s energy levels up for the last push to Christmas
  • Banbury’s Foodie Landscape (Nov 16 2014): One of the things we most love doing here in TransAtlantic Towers (as I always did back in NYC), is a bit of culinary exploring…
  • Grabbing a Bite in Banbury (April 14, 2015): In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related.
  • Bakergirl Bakehouse in Banbury:  Today’s culinary jaunt was to Bakergirl, an artisan bakehouse just outside Banbury.

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Grabbing a Bite in Banbury

by Deb on April 14th, 2015 1 Comment ·

In Manhattan, an empty store front showing signs of activity – especially if that store front is on a corner – is quite likely to be a Starbucks or a bank. In one instance, there is even a Starbucks in the bank.  Not so in Banbury.

In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related. A coffee shop, Mexican food,  a bakery, a Dutch pancake house, an Italian restaurant, a wine bar. I’ve been saying for ages that Banbury is shaping up to be very much a foodie destination – and all these places joining the impressive existing ones are a big reason.

banbury_scape

Sure, there are non-eateries as well because you can’t eat ALL the time. I know this because I’ve tried. So should you want to work up an appetite before diving into the plethora of restaurants and cafes around here, might I suggest checking some of my other Banbury-centric posts from Greater Gotham Goes Global and Fabulous Foodie. I’ve done a handy-dandy Banbury round up of some of them for you over on Personal Parlance.  Some places I always like to take a peek into:

  • The Pink Pig, Independent Record and Merchandise Shop. Records? You remember records? Round, vinyl things. The ones with grooves? They have those and lots of other stuff. I have no record player but this will not prevent me from perusing their wares. I suppose I should say re-opened as it’s apparently an old favourite of many that has come back.
  • Maybe you’re more the outdoorsy type? Well, there’s Fresh Air Junkie on Parsons Street, ready to supply you with whatever you need to hike along the canals or climb … whatever one might climb around here. We picked up some sporks for our trip to Marrakech but that’s another foodie tale for another time.
  • The Banbury Museum – it’s not the biggest museum in the world (making it an ideal place to kill a pleasant hour or two) but they make wonderful use of the space they have and host an impressive range of exhibits (the Royal Photographic Society’s International Print Exhibition was particularly good) in addition to their robust displays on local history.

Hungry now? Good because so am I and there’s a lot of Fabulous Foodieness happening around here of late.

banburyfoodbar

I’ve already waxed poetic about Bakergirl Bakehouse, the artisan bakehouse at Wykham Park Farm but it is only one of many places on the culinary landscape.

  • I was very sad when Veritas closed (I still miss the poulet Napoleon) but I am glad that space remains a foodie spot. It’s been turned into Little Amsterdam – a cafe, deli and pancake house. We went for lunch a few weeks ago and I made the CLASSIC mistake. In my desire to try as much as possible, I over ordered. Good gads, I was so full at the end, I could barely walk. But I learned something from my mistake – I learned that it was ALL yummy! Pancakes aside (and don’t miss them because you’ll regret it) – the cheese balls? The reason I was so very stuffed by the end of the meal? Oh my! SO good! Lovely space, super friendly and efficient staff – and now that the weather is warmer, I look forward to checking out their patio. Little Amsterdam is also home to the Banbury Cookery School.
  • The Whistling Kettle – WHAT a great spot to take a break and indulge in a bit of cake – and who doesn’t like a bit of cake now and again? It’s especially nice to be able to sit, indulging in cake while also indulging in one of my favourite past times – people watching. Whistling Kettle, located as it is on the Market Place, is ideally positioned for such things. I shall be there frequently.
  • When I saw Lucha Burrito was coming, I must say my inner Texan rejoiced. A good burrito can go a long way toward soothing quell a LOT of ‘Tex-ican’ cravings. Pick and mix topping options means you can get it pretty much any way you like. And come hungry because these burritos are GINORMOUS in addition to be being VERY tasty indeed.
  • Sweet Tooth Pancake House – But wait, you say – I thought the pancakes were at Little Amsterdam. And they are. Banbury has TWO places for pancakes – and this is the other one, also one of our favs. In fact, @dungeekin says the chicken Caesar salad pancake is his favourite brunch EVER. I myself enjoy the chicken and mushroom one – and I am determined to try the waffles since every time I go, one gets carried past me and looks amazing. If I have any quibble, it is not food related. I wish the chairs were just a bit more comfortable. They aren’t awful. They don’t stop me from enjoying the food. They’re just not something I’d want to sit on for more than 15-20 minutes or so if all things were equal.
  • Naomi’s Cafe Bar – a cafe, art space, reading nook and performance venue all in one. Not only that, it is Banbury’s first (and as far as I am aware only) ‘pay it forward’ café. The coffee? Also a lot better than the coffee at the train station so if you’ve got an extra moment or two and you like your java, it’s across the street from the station’s front entrance.
  • Pinto Lounge – the first place we ever ate out in Banbury and we’ve gone back again and again. The burgers? So worth it. The brunch also quite good. I’ve enjoyed the baked good, the jambalaya as well so this is what I was class as a good all rounder. I have yet to try the tapas but I hear good things. Staff always nice and there’s a really good vibe to the place. Every town needs a reliable, go to place and Pinto Lounge fits the bill nicely.
  • Caffe Veneto – I must be perfectly candid. The coffee here is outstanding, the panini is delish and the place is spotless but the service? Is slow. Not unpleasant or difficult. They are, in fact, very nice, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It’s just slow and they seem to get flustered, falling behind if the place is more than half full. If you are in a hurry, give it a miss. But if you’re having a sort of lazy day and the weather is nice, grab a seat by the window or in the seating outside to enjoy a fine, fine cup o’ joe.
  • Reg’s Cafe -Fancy grabbing breakfast or brunch? Go over the Reg’s but come hungry and come with a true appreciation for a top notch breakfast at a great price because they don’t stint on quality or portion size. This place has only been open since 2013 but they’ve been racking up fans, praise and awards right and left.
  • Puddingface, the pie place – Admittedly if you aren’t in the mood for pie, they can’t offer you much but it IS called the pie place so you go in knowing their focus. Puddingface is another spot where it’s best to pack your appetite (and a spare appetite if you’ve got one). The atmosphere is relaxed, a pub full of comfy nooks and crannies. The pies are delicious, not to mention huge – when they bring them out along with the chops and mixed veg, you may well find yourself wondering how someone can be expected to eat all that. I wonder if every time and yet, somehow I end up with an empty plate. What I really don’t understand is why they offer dessert. I’m sure the desserts are delicious (they are well reviewed on TripAdvisor and other sites) but I’ve never been able to even imagine eating one after the pie and sides.

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Now, confession time. I don’t have a pithy wrap up. I know, I know – this is a shock. After all, am I not the queen of pithy wrap ups? But the thing is this – this post was originally intended to be a quick hit list of where to get a decent bite to eat in the centre of town. It grew both in length and in scope so it’s now a two-parter.

Having covered some of the new and/or worth checking out shops and eateries around here in this part, the next part (coming super soon) will touch upon some of the other places – food festivals, cookery schools, local markets, etc. – that foodies might find of interest both in Banbury and in the surrounding (an hour’s drive or less) area.

So stay tuned – and stay hungry!

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April is BLT Sandwich Month

by Deb on April 1st, 2015 2 Comments ·

Now, I know what you’re thinking – a whole month to celebrate a BLT? And I agree with you. Don’t misunderstand – I could totally get behind a month dedicated to exploring the glories of bacon sandwiches – seeing as there are so many kinds of bacon sandwiches. But a BLT is just one kind of bacon sandwich and I’m not sure we need 4 weeks to delve into the details of a BLT.

But then, others – those with stronger feelings about this classic sandwich – would no doubt disagree and use the entire month arguing the ins and outs of BLT construction and assemblage.
blt_basic_smThe components needed for a typical BLT are: bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and bread. But don’t let the simplicity of this list fool you. BLT lovers have strong views on:

  • What bread is the right bread? Time and time again, I see the basic sliced sandwich white listed as a must have but I really don’t see how this can be. I’d want something a TAD more substantial. White yes – nothing to interfere with the taste of the bacon – but something with a bit of structure, a bit of crust to it.
  • Should it be toasted or not? Again, I speak as one who is more or less ambivalent in re BLTs but I would assume MOST people come down on the toasted side of the argument.
  • In what order the sandwich should be assembled? General consensus is that the bacon should be sandwiched between the lettuce and the tomato but conflict seems to arise when it comes to whether there should be lettuce and/or tomato on EACH side or just one each. (Ed Levine over at Serious Eats went so far as to suggest that the BLT could do without the L!)
  • Should the mayo go on both sides or only one? I think this is related to the type of bread issue. Who wants a soggy BLT? In related side debates – the “saucing up” of the mayo is sometimes suggested. Martha Stewart, naturally, suggests making your own. I have nothing against making your own mayo – I have discussed this in The Myths and Making of Mayonnaise, which also has some “saucing up the sauce’ suggestions. But if what you are after is the relatively quick satisfaction of a BLT, who’s gonna take the time to MAKE mayo?

These are the types of things the BLT-mad debate and debate hotly – and while I don’t have strong feelings on this particular sandwich, I do have “order of ingredients’ issues about other types of sandwiches. So I mock, but I do so gently and with the awareness that I am living in the glass sandwich house. :-)


Related posts:  August is Sandwich Month: Sandwiches are wondrous in their scope, flexibility and variety – so it’s not surprising that they are often on our minds at Fabulous Foodie

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Happy Spanish Paella Day!

by Deb on March 27th, 2015 1 Comment ·

I’ve talked about paella before in A Plethora of Paella and Ode to Paella – and reading either or both of these will definitely get you in the paella party mood. But it’s not really Spanish Paella Day until you’ve watched the paella episode of Posh Nosh.

Ole!

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