Archive for the ‘holidays’ Tag

Burning Excess Vacation Days Cider Fest   Leave a comment

aspall dry suffolk cyder

The employee holiday year ends 30th September and I still have four weeks of vacation and a Bank Holiday to take, so I’m doing a few long weekends and then a couple of whole weeks; but I can’t really afford whole weeks away so we have been doing day trips to nearby attractions (e.g., Gloucester Cathedral and the nearby Dockyards development and Food Festival).  But, the extra time at home means idle hands which I have filled with popular, but not especially challenging, ciders for the past few days (as an exploration for my uninitiated palate).

aspall dry suffolk cyder label

First up was Aspall’s Cyder from Suffolk.  I was already familiar with Aspall’s from our time in East Anglia but the ciders I have tried before were spelled the traditional way and were fairly run-of-the-mill.  Cyder with a ‘y,’ however indicates single variety fruit AND the first pressing of the fruit–it is sort of the difference between extra virgin olive oil and the stuff only fit for frying or using in the bedroom (don’t judge me).  This cyder was crisp and dry and had a depth and range of apple flavours that changed — but didn’t diminish — as the glass warmed over the next half hour or so.

bulmers pear

Pear ciders or perries have become my favourite warm weather tipple, lately.  Mind you, when it is truly hot nothing beats a cheap lager (I’m really partial to Old Style and PBR back home), but when it isn’t too viscous and/or sweet and the lightly malic acid goodness of the fruit can clear away the residual flavours of sip just taken NOTHING refreshes quite like a perry.  Surprisingly, Bulmer’s is pretty good as these go; I reckoned that as cheap as you can get this on special deals it was going to be more suited to cooking than drinking but since this bottle went into the recycle bin I have purchased a fridge full of Bulmer’s.

bulmers cider 1

The Bulmers apple, on the other hand was viscous but still pretty tasty; like a lot of these it would be better on ice.  Searching for an opener I finally found a good use for a race-finishing medal.

Stella lager has a reputation as a yob beer so I didn’t have high hopes for the ciders which they insist on spelling ‘cidre.’  The pear cider was particularly good on this past hot weekend, though.  The colour was pleasant and the flavour of pears predominated.

stella pear cider 2

Both Magner’s (the pear cider is reviewed below) I tried were a bit syrupy and are more suited to serving on ice than any of the other bottles.

magner's cider 3

The weekend wound down and we settled into some telly by way of documentaries, one about Paul Simon and another about Rod Stewart.  The Stella apple was a good companion drink for these–not too sweet and it actually matured as it warmed.

stella cider 4

Nightcap after television found the Magner’s pear last in the fridge.  Better than the Magner’s apple, I think there are better choices…that’s right, you just read me giving advice on ‘better choices.’  Too many ciders…too many….

magner's pear cider 5

Posted 2013/07/24 by Drunken Bunny in beer reviews, running, tourism

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Bloody Mary Mix   3 comments

Holidays mean poor nutrition and hangovers. Bloody Mary’s are a perfect remedy for both.

This is a fantastic Bloody Mary mix if you aren’t vegetarian; the original was published by Paul Woodford (aka ‘Flying Booger,’ a hashing acquaintance from Tucson who is a wealth of nifty info on a number of topics). The original is at this link.

bloody mix 1 start beef broth

Requiring some beef broth, I started by roasting some bones acquired from a Halal butcher in Swindon (using them for no other reason than they do a good job on this particular product, as well as goat and lamb). The bones are about 70% by weight meat and some of it very good so I roast these to barely rare and trim half (the best half) for sandwiches then put the rest, about a pound and a half, just under water, top off with a glass of wine (plus one for the chef) a sprig of rosemary, a quartered onion, an unpeeled head of garlic, and the leafy bits from a bunch of celery. This simmers (never boils) for three hours and then after straining it is reduced from about a quart to a cup and a half (this will be enough for 3 batches).

bloody mary mix a short batch

Take a third of this thick broth and add one teaspoon salt, some good (and dangerously hot) chilli sauce to taste — go light because you have to add a shot glass of Worcestershire sauce and another of lumpy horseradish sauce (do wasabi if you are a yuppie, or have tried this at a yuppie’s house, a half shot is plenty). Whisk this with about three and a half cups of a good quality passata, and stir well. Even up the spices starting with a hefty dusting of black pepper then go through the other sauces in order — the chilli sauce should call for an obvious amount up front. Refrigerate (make up to 3 quarts like this and freeze the extra amount).

To serve, split a celery stalk and put half in each of two tall glasses with an ice cube. Put two shots of vodka in the bottom and pour in some of the mix. You might get two more bloodies out of one of these small batches if you like them strong. Squeeze a quarter lime over the top and dump the lime carcass in the glass. Drink deeply.


Posted 2012/12/26 by Drunken Bunny in booze, food

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Christmas Orders: Bryan Turner, High Class Family Butcher   1 comment

I love having a decent butcher.  In Cambridgeshire, the one we used was ten miles away in Cottenham but worth the trip for our weekly shop.  They regularly had wild game (pheasants, rabbits, pigeons, grouse) and could get you anything you imagined you might fancy.  We finally used some 19th and early 20th century cookbooks we have been carrying around lo these last 3 decades and it really lent some atmosphere to our Sunday dinners in our 18th century farmhouse.

The butchers in Bicester were not so great and the ones in Oxford close too early for frequent visits.  When we moved to Swindon, though, we found a peach of a butcher shop run by Bryan and Kay.  They know their regular customers by name and interests, keep abreast of cooking trends so as to dole out tips and suggestions, and they are just fabulous folk.

They started taking orders for the Christmas larders a week ago.  I don’t know everything we are going to get, but there will be cheese, cassoulet fixings (garlic sausages, duck, lamb), a bird of some sort for Xmas.  We missed out on the order last year and made do with what I could scrounge at a supermarket (wasn’t too bad, but not what I wanted).  This year, I will not make that mistake.

Posted 2012/11/11 by Drunken Bunny in food, neighbours

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Netherlands Trip: Maastricht and PinkPop   4 comments

Nice afternoon in the Vrijtof

We planned the Netherlands trip around a Bruce Springsteen concert at PinkPop, a music festival going on during Pinkster weekend every year since 1970.  Unusually fair priced (we also saw the Hives, the Specials, Seasick Steve, and 8 other acts on our day ticket), even the food tickets were reasonable (although the food sucked…€2.50 for a beer seemed fine, though).

Maastricht is a little city in the conservative southern Dutch province of Zuid Limburg, full of students and bars and tourists largely from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.  When I last visited in 2001, hardly anyone spoke enough English for me to communicate (but my rudimentary German and French kept me from starving lost in town).  This trip it was hot and sunny and everyone spoke English to us as soon as we tried to use Dutch.

The Specials and some of the mostly white crowd.

On Sunday, the convention centre near our hotel had the annual Eerste Pinksterdag Vlooienmarkt (flea market) and we had a wander around since the rest of the city was locked up (save for the bars and some restaurants).  I got the clock, here, for €20; it was running a little slow but I think I got it adjusted.

Stolen web picture, but we are under the orange circle at the right

As the Specials note, though, “it’s later than you think.”  We continued to enjoy ourselves the rest of the weekend before heading back to Amsterdam for my birthday pancakes, and stashing the little pipe I brought along for this trip near the RAI Station.

This was my first overseas trip since moving to Swindon and the Advertiser publishes photos of idiots holding up a copy of the paper in foreign lands (a segment called ‘Where in the World?’).  I got in two of these but they haven’t yet been published:

In a Maastricht neighbourhood on one of many stylised donkeys


time = Bruce minus 20 minutes

Biscotti and Vin Santo–Thanksgiving Week 2011, Day 2   7 comments

I love Thanksgiving…too much drink, too much food, and most of it exotic.  After yesterday’s visit to Casa Paolo I had a hankering for some Tuscan Pasta (farfalle, sausages, cannelini, some light spices, a little escarole soup and some stewed tomatoes), so headed up to Franco and Anna’s (a superb Italian deli in our neighbourhood a dude in Lechlade tipped me off to, months ago).  Anna stocks the only decent fresh sausage in the south of England (and the cured meats look as good as what you might find in the Polish places around) and she knows (or is related to) every Italian in the county, it seems, so is always worth a visit.  I also wanted to ask about ordering some Vin Santo for the Christmas holidays (this is something amazing if you dip almond biscotti into it–a discovery from our first trip to Firenze back in 2002).

Turns out, they stock this stuff all the time at less than you pay for it in Italy, so I got a bottle and some almonds and went home to do some baking:

You toast a cup of almonds 10 minutes at 175°C and let them cool.  Meanwhile, mix 2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, and a cup of sugar; also, melt a knob of butter (an ounce or two–use a shot glass, ’cause we know you have one).  Once the butter is back to room temperature splash in some vanilla extract (1 or 2 teaspoons) and three eggs, stir ’em up and pour into the flour mix, and knead.  Once it holds together start dusting with flour and pulling through the bowl until the stuff at the side starts to cling.  Dust it one more time and push the almonds in, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes for the liquids to absorb and the lump to thereby dry a little.  Roll into two cylinders about 16 inches long and bake on a floured sheet at 150°C (300°F) for 40 minutes.  Cut at a diagonal, once cool, into 1/2″ wide slices and toast another 50 minutes at the same temperature.  Divine.

Off on holiday!   Leave a comment

This is what I look like in my office 2 minutes before leaving for my first vacation longer than 4 days in 10 years.  Sure, I’ll be seeing the in-laws, but some of them make their own whiskey….

Posted 2010/10/04 by Drunken Bunny in tourism

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