Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 6: India Gate, Penrith

Heya, Adventurers! This is J.K.'s friend Beth on location in England, having adventures and remembering to take pictures of some of the meals.
My first night in Penrith, after a train ride with two transfers from Salisbury, the Italian restaurant the guest house proprietors recommended had a 45 minute wait because they had a large party. This was another building that looked modern on the outside but on the inside looked Tudor: low doorways and bent wooden frame. They used green oak for building because that could be worked, whereas seasoned oak is hard, hard, hard.

So I wandered and found India Gate, "modern Indian cuisine." The balti is a red curry stew cooked in one of these flat-bottomed cast iron pans used by Khyber Pass tribesmen. I had that and plain naan, and it was tasty and satisfying.

This was my first exposure to the practice of pushing papadums as appetizers. I passed because I was having a big piece of bread. I also passed on ordering rice for the same reason.

India Gate is well appointed and service is constant. There's a fancy section toward the front (up a flight of stairs), but I and others not dressed up for a Saturday night were seated in a rear section. It was still quite comfy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 5: Haunch of Venison, Salisbury

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

When I walked down the hill from Old Sarum into New Sarum (Salisbury proper), I walked the river walk along the Avon down to the Cathedral for Evensong.  After a stop at my hotel room, I went back out to the Haunch of Venison, because venison and smoked bacon casserole.  It came with a serving of cabbage with bacon, so I was baconing out.

The Haunch of Venison is an old building, and the restaurant upstairs has a very uneven floor.  Parts of it were a church building, and it’s said to be haunted.  It’s quite charming with all its nooks and crannies.

Most of the venison pieces were tender, but a couple were a tad chewy.  The bacon was more flavoring in the gravy than distinct pieces in the casserole, but there was plenty of bacon amidst the cabbage.  For a beverage I had a local brew, Ringwood 49er ale.  It’s 4.9% alcohol by volume, and when they achieved that result, they decided to name it after the California Gold Rush.  An ale named for the California Gold Rush, in Wiltshire.  Go figure.

49er Ale Ready For Its Close-Up
I was up for dessert that night, so I had the Haunch Berry Mess, strawberries and blueberries with clotted cream and meringue. £22 altogether, not bad for a full meal.  (I’d decided to treat pounds like dollars and not worry about the exchange rate, since I’d already been nicked for that at the currency exchange in San Francisco.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 4: Reeve the Baker, Salisbury

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

After my walk about the Avebury henge (stone circle, inner stones, earthen henge), I took a bus down to Salisbury.  The next morning I took one of the free walking tours.  It’s a lovely, lovely city, though I was a tad unnerved by seeing, among the flags flying in the market square, a Mexican flag.  It belonged to a burrito stand.

Needless to say, I skipped the burrito stand in favor of a Wiltshire pasty from Reeve the Baker.  Now, the Cornish are proud of their pasties and will say that you can’t call something like that from elsewhere a pasty.  Nonetheless, it made for a good lunch, flaky pastry around a beef and carrot filling.  For dessert, an almond paste and jam tart with a fondant frosting.  And a cappucino.  Somewhere between £5 and £6.  Reeve the Baker is a place to know about in Salisbury.  There’s the bakery, and a smaller take-out.

After that, I took the suggestion from someone at the Information Centre and did Old Sarum by taking a bus up (since it’s uphill) and walking back. Have you been to Salisbury? Got any secrets to share? Spill the beans Adventurers!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 3: Red Lion Pub, Avebury

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

On the road to Avebury you will likely pass the hillside with one of the older chalk horses, the Westbury chalk horse, carved out.  Locals added more during Victorian times, and I don’t know if that’s cheating or not.  It’s good that they keep them cleaned out, though; they’re a really fun sight.

When you get into Avebury, unless you’re coming from the north, you will drive in on a road that goes through one side of the circle.  It’s interesting that the edge of town grew up in the circle, a decent part of which survived the two major destructions of standing stones out of religious fears and superstitions.  The road takes a zig-zag to the right, and at the zig is the Red Lion Inn.  I had this dish of haddock with cream sauce, inside because the day was somewhat cool, but there are picnic tables at which you can eat with a good collection of stones in view.

The stones are really friendly to those who want to commune with them.  And lunch was tasty.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 2: Coach and Horses, Melton

Heya, Adventurers! This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

I have cousins in Colchester, Gary and Jen and daughter Emma. Emma has actually worked in the States and is a baseball fan, disappointed she didn’t get to go to a Giants game when she was on the West Coast. I made a standing promise to take her to one.

Gary and Jen have a friend, Pauline, who’s a docent at Sutton Hoo, a 6th century Saxon burial site north in Suffolk. The lady of the manor, who was something of a spiritualist, had a vision of a warrior standing on one of the many mounds on her property. She hired an archaeologist, Basil Brown, to do a dig.  He was good, but he didn’t have the degrees or affiliations to get treated with importance locally. When he went down to the pub after a day’s work, people would tease him by asking, “So what did you find today, Basil?” And one evening he answered by pulling out a big, beautiful gold belt buckle with really fine inlay work. No more teasing, even if he did have to put up with an important archaeologist who went to The Right Schools becoming the public figurehead.

They’ve now found three of these ship burials, with someone important being buried in each ship, laid out in the cabin with treasures. Those Saxons were trading with Byzantium, so there’s been some fabulous jewelry.

Between a site tour and Pauline’s special museum tour, we went out for lunch at the Coach and Horses pub in Melton, outside nearby Woodbridge (where Gary and Jen first met).  Pauline and I each had a smoked fish platter (trout, mackerel and salmon) that came with a dessert, a lemon posset with almond biscotti.  Salmon and mackerel and trout, oh my!  I went for a local brew, an Adnam summer bitters.  Yum.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 1: Fish and Chips Outside the Tower of London

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

On my second day in London, I finally got to meet my adopted cousin Henry. Forget those Dos Equis commercials, Dr. Henry Ayshford Sanford is the most interesting man in the world, a brilliant polymath with a degree from Cambridge and a great uncle who was a fabulous art deco artist.  We’d been corresponding for years about Sanford family history and genealogy research. When the tale of the scrape (DNA evidence) proved we weren’t his Sanfords, he was quite disappointed. We told him not to go anywhere, because we thought he was incredibly cool and intended to adopt him.

We met at the Tower of London, outside the White Tower (William the Conqueror’s original building). England is, understandably, making a huge deal about the centennial of the Great War, and we encountered a living history sketch. An officer was recruiting stockbrokers for a new regiment, on the “pals” theory that men from the same class and profession would bond quickly as comrades in arms. He and his sergeant (a dead ringer for Rowan Atkinson in the Great War season of Blackadder) were doing their God and Country thing when they were interrupted by Sylvia Pankhurst, the suffragist.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Henry. “This is the 10th Fuisiliers. That’s my old regiment. They may recognize me and try to pull me into this.”

So, together we toured the White Tower, now an armour museum. He wanted to take me through the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula (in Chains), but it was closed for refurbishment. Many who roam the Bloody Tower with their heads tucked underneath their arms are buried there, and there’s a lovely modern memorial to them outside.

After chatting on a bench, Henry bid me cheerio until the next day, when he was giving Cousin Gary and me lunch. I spent the rest of the day at the Tower, which is quite fun.

Around closing time, I exited (or, in British fashion, should I say way outed?) and looked for something to eat. I saw people with fish and chips, and up the rise outside the Tower entrance I saw a small chippy tucked under a carpark promising fish and chips for £5 if you showed them your Tower ticket. I did, then tucked in, slanting my chair at the picnic table to have the backdrop above. As you can see, when they serve you fish in England, they don’t mess around.

When I went to toss my container in the dustbin, a lady offered me a seat, thinking I was bringing over my meal. I explained that I was done, and disposed of the container with my best Ringo line, “I like to keep Britain tidy.” They were finishing up, too. One of the daughters had just spent a day as a volunteer placing ceramic red poppies in the dry Tower moat. It’s an art installation, aiming at placing 888,245, one for each British or Commonwealth war casualty. A worthy endeavour, and a striking piece of art: you see a lot of poppies, turn a corner and see more, turn another corner and see even more. They flow down from a wall of the Tower as though in a waterfall.  Makes you stop and think.

Beth's Excellent Adventure—Part 10 - Breakfast at the Brandlehow Guest House, Penrith

Heya, Adventurers!  This is J.K.’s friend Beth, reporting from England, where I had many culinary adventures and remembered to take pictures of some of them.

While in Penrith, I stayed at the Brandelhow Guest House, where Lanie and Mel Hancox have won Automobile Club awards for their breakfasts.  Deservedly so.  I had this egg with haddock cakes on a bed of leeks with hollandaise before catching a bus to Keswick (“Kezzick”) for a stroll.  It fortified me for a walk along Derwent Water (beautiful Lake District Lake), then up and over one of the fells (hill/mountain ridges) and on to the Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is a thousand years older than Stonehenge.

Now, at the top of the Walla Crag ridge, I had a couple of bars, so this backdrop doesn’t match the breakfast picture.  But what the hey.

Keswick is indeed a tourist town, though theirs aren’t as tourist-tacky as ours; there isn’t quite the souvenir t-shirt culture as in the States.  So, I wouldn’t take it as a knock when I apply the Carmel appellation and say Keswick is Carmel with fish and chips (like Santa Fe is Carmel with chile peppers, etc.).  I had a steak pie in a pub at the end of my day, but didn’t get a picture; I was too involved in a delightful conversation with a couple from Dorset who get to the Lakes often.