Ex-tended Family

You come to me the week after the week after the week after the weekend of the engagement of my daughter…. I know but I get very easily distr…oh look squirrels!

Some of you will already know that my youngest daughter in now fiancéd by treasure hunt, for those of you that don’t, you can read more about that here.  So to celebrate Alison and I went down to Bwich in Wales to Nita’s (ex-mother-in-law) for a small party to celebrate.  We drove across country, it takes about the same time as going via motorway and a more pleasant journey, we arrived to Mike (ex-brother-in-law) cooking up a storm in the kitchen and Nita (ex-mother-in-law) brewing up a storm.  El and Ross had just arrived and first born daughter still in bed; so after chatting for a bit, I went upstairs and “gently” woke her up!  Then I sent up El and Georgina up to try again, by this time Helen (ex-sister-in-law) had arrived so we went over to the New Inn for a swifty and a chat to Robin’s boss.  I have talked about the New Inn before so will not go on about it again, but will say that if ever you are in the area drop in have a drink and do have something to eat, the food is fantastic; this time we just had a drink and a chat.  Then it was back to Nita’s where we were joined by Dave (other ex-brother-in-law) and Jacqui (ex-wife).  We had a lovely afternoon with good food, good company, much laughter and a slide show of the engagement  treasure hunt.

The next weekend was more exs, this time Alison’s and Exeter!  We drove down to Crediton to visit Charlotte (ex-mother-in-law) who is in a care home there, we spent about an hour with her before lunch and then went for a walk around Crediton, we have been to Crediton a few times before visiting but this was first time we had been for a walk round, it is a nice little town with plenty of independent businesses.  We stopped at The Three Little Pigs this is a quirky independent family run pub, where I had a couple of pints of the local beers and we shared a bowl of chilli nachos and very nice there were too.  After we had a walk round the rest of the town before going back for another visit with Charlotte.  We were staying with Rachel (Ex-sister-in-law) so after our time with Charlotte, we went there, where again we had a lovely time with good food, good company and lots of laughter, but no slide show!  In the morning we went to visit Charlotte and after that we met Rachel in The Beer Engine another img_2551.jpgindependent family run pub in Newton St Cyres, that has its own brewery downstairs! Again I had a couple of pints which were very nice indeed, to eat both Rachel and I had the scotch egg and it was good.  This is also somewhere I would recommend as the beer and the food are great.

So we had two nice weekend with our ex-tended family, as someone once said to me, divorce means your family gets bigger!

It’s Our Birthdays (cont)

For the last part of our birthdays celebrations we headed off to Ulverston, we set off about 09:30 and arrived at 11:00, so not too early a start; after parking the car near the B&B we set off to explore, one of the things we like to do when visiting a new place is find the local Tourist Information Office, unfortunately Ulverston have had theirs closeIMG_2509.JPGd down, but luckily the Laurel and Hardy museum was trying to fill the gap and had a good range of leaflets in their foyer.  After picking up what was probably far too many leaflets we went for a wander round the town calling in at the indoor market, we went to Gillam’s
Tearooms
, they specialise in tea of which they have over 50 types, all of which are loose leaf.  Inside the place was warm and cosy with a real fire in the upstairs room where we sat. Alison had a liquorice tea while I the house chai, to eat I had the Cumbrian Rarebit which was so cheesy it came in a dish and Alison had the creamy mushrooms on toast,
recommended by none other than Dave Myers of Hairy Bikers fame and very tasty they were too, as was the rarebit.  After lunch we went to the Laurel and Hardy Museum, well it would be rude not too after all we were in the birthplace of Stan Laurel.  The museum is in the main auditorium of the Roxy Cinema, as it was a cold Friday in February the place was quite, there was only one other couple in and there didn’t seem to be anybody “official” there.  The museum is a little run down but there is lots of information and memorabilia and there is a mini cinema which shows Laurel and Hardy films on img_2511a loop, unfortunately it was so cold you couldn’t really sit and watch for too long.  On the way out we found the attendant and paid our entrance fee (he had been sorting out some of the exhibits).  From

 

there it was off to Cumbrian Crystal to watch the glass blowers, it was a quiet day with not a great deal happening but it was lovely and warm.
As the B&B would still not be open for another hour or so we decided to check out the gin parlor at in Virginia House where we had a couple of nice gins while we were there we also booked our evening meal.

We booked into the Rock House B&B and were show to our room which was big room with a very high ceiling there was an on-suite, tea and coffee facilities and proper coat hangers!  After a cup of tea and a wash and brush up it was of the Virginia House for our evening meal.  When we arrived we were show into the bar were we ordered cocktails, a Forager’s Fizz (Sloe Gin, Raspberries and Prosecco) for Alison and a Autumn Angel (Gin, Frangelico, Autumn Spices and Egg White) for me. When our table was ready we were shown into the dinning room had given the menus, after much deliberation we decided to go for The Cumbrian Way Tasting Menu, with matching wine flight, this consisted of an Amuse Bouche (a Cassoulet) and home baked bread, this was followed by Duck with scratchings, beans & shallots, the accompanying wine Chateau Corbin, Montagne St Emilion, Bordeaux (France), next Mackerel two ways tartare, ceviche, pan fried; yoghurt, peanuts, the wine, Chapel Down Bacchus (England); Pheasant “Pot au Feu”; wild mushrooms, tarragon, cabbage, bacon, roasted potatoes, thyme broth, Turi Carmenere (Chile), Goats Cheese with candied walnuts, hazelnut & juniper, wine Rioja, Vega Crianza , (Spain), Plum & Figgy Pudding steamed pudding, macerated fruits, ice cream, Tokaji 5 Puttonyos, Tokaji (Hungary), finally Chocolate Orange meringue, zest, orange, Brown Brothers Orange Muscat (Australia), each dish was served with a description as were the wines, we did quite well with the wines as nearly every time we got them it was near the end of the bottle so me had more!

In the end I had to take one for the team and help Alison out with the wine; both the food and the wines were excellent and I would recommend eating at Virginia house if you are in Ulverston.

The next day after breakfast at the B&B, we set of on a walk, it was a 12 circular walk we had picked up at the museum the day before, with it being circular you could start at any point and we decided to start in the center of Ulverston, the walk then took us up and out the back and afforded us views over the town, then into woodlands and up to the Sir John Barrow Monument the highest point of the walk, from there it was down to the Ulverston Canal which claims to be claimed to be the deepest, widest and straightest canal in the UK (there is some debate on all these points!),  From the end of the canal the walk takes you along the coast passing The Bay Horse where we stopped for something warming, which confused the staff completely!   Now the Bay Horse looks like a upmarket establishment, posh carpets and chairs so may be a pair of wind swept hikers dressed in boots and cagools may not be there usual clientele, but when we asked for two coffees with spiced rum in they were flummoxed, after explaining things in words of one syllable a couple of the bar staff came back with a bottle of Lambs Navy Rum and said that was all they had, oh and there was only one measure ,no more rum in the place; so I had that and Alison had brandy!

From there we carried on the cost before turning inland and making our walk back to Ulverton over fields.  It was a good walk that had a little bit of everything, hill, woods coasts, even a bit of industrial landscape.  After arriving back we went to Fourpence Cafe for a snack, its an interesting quirky place run by a quirky couple, but the food and drink were good and homemade and they also have homemade produce for sale, including a lemon drink which is very good with gin.  From there it was back to the guest house for a bit, before going out for our evening meal.

For tea we went to the Stan Laurel Inn which is a short walk outside the center, this is an independent pub run and owned by the landlord and landlady, straight way when entering it felt warm and friendly, they had a good selection of beers including some local ones.  First I tried on from the Ulverston Brewing  Company and after this I went for on of there beer flights, which I asked the landlord to choose for me.  To eat I had Stan’s Special Chicken (butterflied supreme, marinated in oregano, sauteed in a creamy wine and garlic sauce oozing with peppers, onions, olives and garlic sausage), Alison had Chicken Forestiere (Strips of chicken, bacon and mushrooms, sauteed in a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce)  for dessert we shared three scoops of English Lakes Ice Cream.  As I say it was a very nice local pub, with friendly staff.

I the morning after breakfast and checking out we made our way to Furness Abby for a bit of history and after walking round the ruins we did a short walk to Bow Bridge both of these are ancient monument looked after by English Heritage.

Then a short trip to Dalton-in-Furness, which on a cold Sunday in February was pretty much shut!

It’s Our Birthdays!

As you may or may not know Alison and I have our birthdays four days apart, so we usually end up with two weeks of celebrations!  This year was no different; my birthday is first and the night before the night before we went out with a couple of friends for a girls night out!  We started at the Cork of the North where the girls had a bottle of prosecco and I had a War of the Raspberries by Thirst Class Ale,img_2479 this was a raspberry oatmeal stout.  From there it was over to Vida where I may have mentioned before in these blogs so will not go on about it but we had a great meal, with more prosecco and beer,

img_2481img_2482

from there it was across the road to The Steam House for a gin night cap; again I may have metioned this place once or twice! All in all a great night with great friends.

The night before we were at a friend’s fortieth celebration, which turned into a late one, home at 03:00hrs!  The party itself was held at Kings Café in Altrincham and it was a good do; there was a  mind reading magician who was excellent.  Because of the late night my birthday was a quite affair, we had a nice lie in, followed by a walk up the canal to The Bridge Inn for lunch, the Bridge was refurbished  a couple of years ago and is having some more work done now.  It has a nice bright modern interior and the staff were very friendly, due to the excesses of the night before Alison started off with a lemonade, I however went for a beer!

To eat Alison had the Creamy Fish Pie, which she said was lovely while I went for the Slow Braised Rack of Ribs, which was huge with a very big portion of fries it was very tasty but unfortunately I was not able to finish it all.  For dessert we went for cocktails, well it wouldn’t be a celebration otherwise!  I had a Raspberry Cosmopolitan with uses raspberry Stoli vodka rather than plain and is garnished with flamed orange peel, Alison Strawberry Mojito a classic mojito with Havana Club Blanco & fresh strawberries; then it was a stroll home for a quite night in.

For Alison’s birthday we went into Town, we were going to go to Science and Industry at Cane and Grane, but there was a private party on so we ended up at the blue pig The Blue Pig where we both had the same meal; the  Crispy Buttermilk Chicken, which came with liquorice maple glazed bacon, crisp shallots and an avocado & new potato salad, to drink it was cocktails I had a Beers Knees (Botanist Gin, lemon and honey, topped with lemongrass and ginger lager) and Alison a Apple & Elderflower (Absolut Vodka, Sauvignon Blanc, apple juice and elderflower liqueur); both the food and the cocktails were very nice.  From there it was over to Dusk Til Pawn, duskthis is somewhere we have been meaning to try for ages, it a speakeasy style cocktail bar behind a pawn shop facade in Stevenson Square; inside it is basically just a room with chairs and tables down on side and a bar down the other, its quite dark inside but this adds to the atmosphere,  it was quite when we arrived but got busier as the evening wore on.  to drink we had a Devils Elbow (Vermouth, Chilli, Grapefruit and Bitters) and a Freebird (Vodka, Toffee, Lemon, Cinnamon), IMG_2503.JPGthey were prepared with some style which is always good when having cocktail, but did get the feeling the bar staff thought they were a little “too cool for school”, the list of cocktails looks interesting so will be going back at some point to try some more and may even try out some of the tunes on the free jukebox.

Next we went to Epernay to meet Alison’s girls, Epernay is a champagne & cocktail bar near the Great Northan Warehouse, it is above No1 Watson Street and has a bar area with a balcony and a large seating area at the back, which was booked for a private party.  Alison was going to try the Birthday Treat cocktail, which comes with a secret surprise, but unfortunately it had Amertto in and she is not a fan, so we have no idea what the surprise was! Instead she went of an old favorite a classic mojto, the rest of us had a  Candyshop Sling (Absolut Raspberry, Strawberry, Vimto, Citric Acid and Lemonade) and an Aloe Aloe (Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, Aloe Vera, Pineapple, Pechaud’s Bitters and Absinthe), positively

a health drink!  After more  Candyshop Slings and a couple of Estrella Damm Inedits, we made are way home ready for an earlyish start for even more birthday fun, more of which in the next post!

We’er Back

Where have you been I hear you ask, why the long hiatus?  Well there are two main reasons, both on my part laziness and my incredibly short attention (oo look shiny) span.  Two thing which if you read Curious Month of May’s blog you will see are somewhat of a family trait!  But I thought I would give the blog another go and see how long I can keep it up for this time (oh er misses); so with apologies for the spelling, grammar and interesting use of language, but dyslexic as a bat and all that, here we go.

Saturday we decided to go the the cinema and then out for something to eat; what did we go and see I here you ask?  The much hyped La La Land, which as you probably already know is up for 14 Oscars, but then again so was Titanic!  Was it brilliant or was it terrible, neither it was ok, some nice songs, an ok story and an interesting ending, probably trying to be too clever for its own good in parts and maybe a few more big production numbers would have helped.  Lots of people have been saying it harks back t0 the Golden Age of Hollywood, nah! not really, a few too clever nods and tries; but I think Moulin Rouge is nearer the mark.

After leaving the cinema we went to look for somewhere to eat, we hadn’t booked and with it being early (18:00) we thought we would try on speck, we went to House in Goose Green a place we have been for drinks but still not eaten at, but they were booked up.  We decided to head towards the Market and on the way came across the Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Bar a new restaurant on the site of what was Bloom on the corner of Regent Road and Stamford New Road.  It didn’t look that busy, so we thought we would give it a try.  The place looked nice with a large bar and raised seating area, a large dinning area, nice decor but nothing special.  We ordered a couple of cocktails while we perused the menu, img_2466Alison went for a Pornstar Martini and I chose a Long Island Iced Tea, mine was ok but Alison said that here tasted more of orange than passion fruit.  From the menu we chose a half and half garlic bread (half cheese, half tomato) as a shared starter and a couple of Plank steaks (Sirloin stuffed with mushrooms, fresh rosemary, garlic, shallots and served with a green peppercorn and demi glace sauce).  To be honest it wasn’t that good, the garlic bread was on an under cooked pizza base, but it was nice and garlicky.  The steaks were cooked ok, medium rare, but they were a bit chewy and there was not a great deal of mushroom, rosemary, garlic or shallots but the sauce was nice and the accompanying vegetables were cooked well.  The staff were friendly and the service good, but we will probaly not be going back unless things improve.  I suggested we go to Sugar Junction for cocktails and cake for dessert, but unfortunately they had closed early, so we thought the Market House but that was completely full with people patrolling the edges looking for seats.

We nipped across the road to Riddles, one of our favourite places in Altrincham as I have probably said before, it has a speakeasy feel and very knowledgeble staff.  To start with Alison had a Winter Solstice (Chairmans Spiced Rum , Lime , Pineapple, Fraise, Absente Absinthe, Aromatic Bitters) and I had The Eye Of The Chairman (Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, Cognac, Peach Bitters , Chocolate Chilli Tincture , Lime , Ginger Ale) and very nice they were.

Next up was Lanique, and Lime (Lanique, Yellow Chartreuse, Lime) and Alison said she wanted something smokey, one of the guys behind the bar suggested a Sazerac, but with Johnnie Walker Double Black rather than Cognac or rye, both sipping drinks and again they were very nice.  From there back over to the Market House for another go at getting pudding, but unfortunately Sam Joseph had run out of chocolate fondue, so we had a glass of prosecco and a beer with some wasabi popcorn!  As it was getting late we thought it would be a good idea to get the tram home; we had to wait as there was a problem and they were running late, well there’s a surprise.  While walking home from Sale station we made one last stop in Sale, Vida (which is probably not must of a surprise) IMG_2472.JPGfor a couple of Esspresso Martinis and profiteroles. So leaving the house a 14:20 and arriving home at 23.40, the second part of the evening was the better part but all in all another good day.

PS Guess who has discovered the semi colon!  I now just need to learn how to use it.

Key West, Life 

The next day I took the hire car for petrol,the original idea had been to get a small SUV but due to there not being one available we ended up with a huge 8 seater beast, a Ford Explorer! IMG_0843.jpgBack to getting the petrol, in the USA it turns out that the green pump is diesel and the black unleaded and you pay for your petrol before you put it in, so you have to know how much you want!  After the fun filling up it was off down U.S. Route 1 to the Florida Keys and our destination at Key West. Once out of Miami and onto U.S. Route 1, it was a very straight forward drive one road all the way, with some great views of the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

In Key West we were staying at The Artist House on Fleming, upon arrival we were greeted by Cindy who checked us in, gave us some local info and showed us to our room, this was a large room on the ground floor at the front.  Out front there was a porch with some outdoor sofas and a swing seat, out the back a lovely shaded seating area with a dip pool and waterfall.

We asked Cindy to recommend somewhere for a quick lunch and she suggested Bien, a short walk away this is a Caribbean-Latino takeaway with some seats outside, Alison had a Pork Steak sandwich (shear slices of marinated pork flash and piled high) and I had a Smokin Thighs sandwich (marinated, skinless, boneless, chicken thighs grilled & basted with Bien marinade) it was excellent, very tasty indeed. We then went back to the B&B to unpack and then we joined in with the free happy hour and had our drinks sat on the porch swing.

After getting changed it was off to Malory Square for the sunset celerbration, this takes place every evening and is one of the things Key West is famous for.  Malory Square was buzzing, full of people, jugglers, singers, stalls selling all sorts food, jewellery and nik nacs and even a wedding!  After some people watching we decided to get a drink, we found a stall doing cocktails and ordered a couple of mojitos, the mint and lime was already in the plastic cup so I was not expecting too much, but it was the best mojito I have ever had!  We then went to find somewhere to watch the sunset and enjoy the mojitos, at the moment the sun went down there was applause!  But then everybody left, so we had the place to ourselves to watch the colours and the stars come out whilst enjoying our mojitos.

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We then went back through Malory Square, where we stopped for some guacamole, that was made fresh as we watched and very nice it was too, then it was off down Duval Street, stopping of at Caroline’s Other Side, which had been recommended by Cindy, for a cocktail!  This is a bar in the historic Porter Mansion on the other side from The Porch, Alison had a Proper Dark & Stormy (Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, ginger beer, lime juice sugar fire) and I had a Hemingway Daiquiri (Papa’s Pilar 3yr blonde rum, grapefruit and lime juices, sugar, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur), the decor is beer hall on the Porch side and quirky on Caroline’s Other Side.

After this we carried on down Duval Street saw some interesting sights and made our way home.

Day two started with breakfast at the B&B and very nice it was too, it was a buffet continental and there was lots of choice plenty of hot coffee and even champagne so you could make yourself a Buck Fizz!  IMG_0865After breakfast we made our way to closest stop for the trolly tour, as we got there we could see one just leaving!  So we had a look at he boats in the harbor, a few little shops and Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe which sells much more than Key Lime Pie, in fact if you ever go you will be amazed at what they get Key Lime into!  We boarded the trolly bus when it came and after a quick change at the next stop we were off with our driver Zack, who is a Key West native and member of one of their oldest families.  It was fun and informative with lots of local knowledge.

After the tour we were a little bit thirsty so thought we would nip into the Rum Barrel for a quick drink!  As the name suggests, the Rum Barrel specialises in rum and has more than 150 rums, we had a Marooned (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Vanilla, Creme de Coconut, pineapple, orange juice and Cruzan Black Strap) a Island Barrel (Cruzan Coconut, Cruzan Pineapple, Cruzan Mango, pineapple, cranberry and orange juices with a splash of grenadine) and a sipping rum from Guatemala, Zacapa Centenario 23 Year, which was very nice.IMG_1656  While we where there talking to the barman he told us about the six bar challenge, a cocktail in six separate bars and and the end you win a t-shirt!  There’s no time limit he told us, well that’s fine we said but this is our last day here, even with only one day to complete, we knew we were up to the challenge!  From the Rum Barrel we went across the road to look at Key West’s first legal rum distillery, where you can taste the rums and have a walk around the distillery, the rums are great on of my favourites was Key West Devil’s Rum, which is flavoured with cinnamon.

Next we went to another bar on the challenge circuit, Island Dog Bar, where we had a Key Lime Colada (Don Q coconut rum, pina colada mix, fresh pineapple, a key lime floater, rimmed with Graham cracker crumble) and a Rum Runner (Meyers dark rum, Don Q light rum, blackberry brandy, banana liquor, pineapple juice.  We also decided it might be a good idea to eat, 

so we had Island Tenders (fried chicken, shoestring fries and a honey mustard dipping sauce) and Island Dogs Cobb Salad (Grilled pineapple, avocado, red onion, cucumber, bacon, queso fresco, egg and croutons served on a bed of baby spinach with a citrus vinaigrette).  We eat and drank sat on the front porch watching the people from the cruise ships wandering about.  From here it was some sight seeing on our way to Charlie Mac’s where we had two Charlie’s Lemon Mint T (Deep Eddy lemon Vodka mixed with sweet iced tea and mint sprigs).  

This time we sat inside and watched the chickens wandering about thought the open sides (there are lots of chickens wondering around Key West).  

The it was off the Green Parrotwhich in near the end and therefore the beginning of US Route 1, where we had two of their signature drink, the Root Beer Barrel (a shot of root beer schnapps nestled inside a glass of ice cold lager). 

The Green Parrot is the bar most used by locals and has a great atmosphere and is the one recommenced by Zack our guide on the trolly as the bar to see the real Key West in.

We then went back to the B&B for a wash and brush up, oh and happy hour and time on the porch swing!

The evening started off with a pleasant walk to the next bar Turtle Kraals where we sat on the roof drinking Key Lime Margaritas (Margaritaville coconut tequila, local key lime juice, triple sec and a dash of Kele Key Line liqueur, eating pretzel balls with honey mustard dip and watching the sun go down over the boats.

Then it was off to the last bar the Half Shell Raw Bar where we had a couple of Texas Teas (Tito’s American Handmade premium vodka, ice tea and lemonade) and also get our t-shirts, you may see us wearing them at sometime!  I can say that a bar crawl is a very good way to see Key West.  From there it was a walk round the harbor and coast back to front street where we has a celebratory cocktail at the Rooftop Cafe, Alison had Jimmy’s  Boat Drink (Cruzan banana, mango pineapple rums with a splash of orange juice and pineapple juice) and I had a Perfect Gentleman (Gentleman Jack with a dash of sweet and dry vermouth on the rocks) we watched to quite streets for a bit before heading up Duval Street calling in a few shops and heading back to the B&B.  In the morning it was up for breakfast, a farewell walk round calling in a shop selling local salt, honey and crafts and going back to the distillery to get some of the Key West Devil’s Rum, before getting back in the beast and heading back to along the Ocean Highway to Miami.

Miami Vice

We have not posted for a bit, mainly because we have been busy with shows, but we are now on our holidays in Miami.

We flew out from Manchester, where Alison had booked us into the Escape Lounge in Terminal 1, I must say this was slightly disappointing, it was a bit grubby, there were no windows so you could have been in an anonymous room anywhere, a view of the airport would have been nice.  There was tea and coffee from a self service machine and Carlsberg larger in the fridges, orange and apple juice and you could get a G & T etc from the bar, but if you wanted a Buck Fuzz or Prosecco it was extra, if you wanted full in English, it was extra!  There were  sausage butties, so I ordered one, it was one and a half sausages on a barm! Alison got some fruit and yogurt from the buffet which was nice and there were some small Danish pastries, but these ran out quite quickly and took some time to be filled up.

As usual at the airport it was a lot of hurry up and wait.  The flight itself was fine if a little bumpy in places aIMG_1594nd even in economy there was enough leg room for me!  The food was by James Martin and for airplane food it was ok, the main meal was BBQ chicken with a macaroni cheese, there was a chocolate millionaire mouse and cheese and biscuits. We were met at the airport by our friends Julie and Antonio who whisked us back the their place and it wasn’t long before we were eating and having a few drinks by the pool.

We spent most of the morning and early afternoon of the next day lazing by the pool, although I did help out by doing a bit of yard work!   In the afternoon Julie took us to Coral Gables, where we had a walk with some great views of Miami,

on the way back we called at Pinecrest Wayside Market for some lovely shakes.

After getting changed we went to the Sonesta Coconut Grove for cocktails and views over Miami, Alison and Julie both had mojitos, Antonio a G&T and I had a rum punch.IMG_1601.jpgFrom there it was off next door to the Peacock Garden Cafe for a meal. The girls both had grilled organic chicken breast stuffed with goats cheese, roasted garlic and tomatoes and fresh basil served with roasted veg, which they both said was very nice, we boys had angel hair pasta, with diced tomato, roasted garlic, fresh basil and goat cheese, mine with added grilled organic chicken breast and Antonio’s with spicy shrimp, unfortunately Antonio’s pasta was cold so he had  to send it back, but when it came back it was fine, for desert Alison and I shared a chocolate brownie.

To drink it was Bud light for Antonio, pinot grigio for Alison and Julie and I had a Key West Sunset Ale from the Florida Beer Company, which was an ok amber beer, but nothing special.  From there it a was back home to bed.

The next day, after picking up the hire car (from here on in known as The Beast), was spent on South Beach enjoying the sun, I even went in the sea!  In the evening we all went to Dolores but you Can Call Me Lolita, where the concept is you choose your main from a price selection and the starter is included. Julie had the Huevos Rotos (fried potatoes and onions and top with lightly sautéed chorizo poached eggs) with Smoked Mozzarella and Pesto, Alison and Antonio the Caes-Art Salad “Shaken, not Stirred” this came in a big Mason Jar the waitress added the dressing at the table and shook the jar!  I had the Asian Vegetable Spring Rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce, they were all nice and tasty.

For mains Alison and I had the Angus Grilled Churrasco, chimi-churri and chorizo infuzed yucca mash, Julie had Lobster Stuffed Peppers and Antonio Yellow Fin in batter.  The food was ok apart from the fact that mine and Alison’s steaks were over cooked. We then went to The Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne, for G&Ts and a Dark and Stomy and a great view of the Miami skyline across the water.  IMG_1626From there it was home to bed, as the next day we were off to Key West.

Visits in Exeter

We have been on a trip to Exeter, visiting relatives and friends, we left early Friday morning made good time and when we arrived we went straight to our first visit.  From there it was on to the hotel, The White Hart.  This is a pub in the centre of town with free parking so two plusses already, there are rooms in the old part of the pub and more rooms at the back in the “modern” part, built in the 1970s is my guess.  We got there about 12 and check in is at 2pm but they let us leave the car in the car park and so went for a walk along Exeter Quay, nipping into the little shops in the old warehouses and then along the river.  After our walk we went for lunch at The Prospect Inn,IMG_1481 an independent pub that prides itself on using local ingredients.  To eat we both had paninis, a blue cheese and mushroom for Alison and a Serrano ham, goats cheese and fig jam for me,  both came with sweet potato chips, to drink we had a white wine spritzer and a pint of Legend, from Dartmoor brewery, whilst at the bar I noticed a gin called Wicked Wolf IMG_1483which is distilled in Exmoor, so we thought we would give it a try, it would be rude not too!  All of the above were very nice and we would recommend giving the Prospect a try if you are ever in Exeter.  From there it was back to the hotel, a good five minute walk, to check in.  The hotel is a little bit dated front of house and there is a knack to using the lift, but the room was warm and comfortable and as I said earlier it is central with free parking.

 

For our evening meal we thought we would try the Fat Pig, sister pub to the Rusty Bike where we had been on a earlier visit to Exeter, the Fat Pig is a pub / restaurant / brewery / smoke house / distillery!  We arrived at 19:30 with out booking and the place was heaving put they managed to find us a small table for two, which was fine. Having tried their beer before at the Rusty Bike, I thought this time it would be good to try their gin, they distille three types, a sipping gin, oak gin and chestnut gin, the later two referring to the barrels it is matured in, the gin is called Bad Fagin’s, they also distille a vodka, a whisky and an “Apple Pie Moonshine”.Out of the three gins the oak was our favourite.  Whist trying the first gin, the sipping, we had a look at the menu and after much umming and arring we went for oliIMG_1492ves and smoked bread and garlic butter to share as a starter followed by polenta, butter nut squash, roast onion and parsley dressing for Alison and smoked and glazed shoulder of pork, with bbq haricot beans form me, both were very nice, mine also had slices of smoked sausage in.  For desert we had smoked banana parfait IMG_1494and chocolate which again was lovely.  The Fat Pig is another place that try to use local seasonal ingredients and is another place worth a visit if in the area.  From there it was back to the hotel for an early(ish) night, well we had been up since 05:30!

The next morning it was up for breakfast which is held downstairs in one of the bars, breakfast was “interesting”  as well as the hotel guests it is also open for none residents to get breakfast, so it was busy.  It was self service for tea, coffee, juice , cereals etc, with a menu for the hot breakfast with the order taken by one waitress.  The coffee was from one of those big filter machines so was a little stewed, but still drinkable, there was not a great choice for fruit, mellon slices, apple and very under ripe bananas! but there was some nice Greek yogurt and plenty of choice of cereals, for the cooked Alison ordered the sausage sandwich and I went for the “Breakfast Stack” this caused some confusion as the waitress taking the order didn’t know what it was, so I pointed it out to her on the menu, she still didn’t know about it!  I went for the full english with fried egg!  After finishing breakfast it was off on more visits, the second of these was in Exmouth, so we decided to get there early and have a walk along the front and round the 10639836town, while going round the town we came across The Oddfellows another pub with a sister pub in Exeter, as it was a bit chilly we decided to nip in for something warming, this was a coffee with some dark rum in!  Alison wasn’t hungry but I was, so I had Devonshire Rarebit, like Welsh but using a local Devon cheese and vey nice it was too.  From there it was off to visit friend then back to the hotel to change before going out on another visit, this time to have a curry and watch the rugby.  Breakfast the next day was every bit as chaotic as the first day only this time they ran out of tea pots!

On the way home we visited Knightshayes a National Trust property, where we went round the house and gardens and had a little snack in the tearoom, potato skins with cheese and bacon.

All about the beat!

Last week has been all about music, on Friday it was Post Modern Juke Box at the Albert Hall in Manchester and on Wednesday it was the Puppini Sisters at  the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale.  For the Friday Alison had booked us into the Victoria and Albert Hotel, so we could stay over.  We got into Manchester about 12:30 pm after braving the snow on the way in and we did a little shopping.  For lunch we thought we would try El Gato Negro a new tapas restaurant and bar that has opened on King Street.  When we arrived we were informed that the restaurant was full but that there was space in the downstairs bar, where they have a small Charcuterie menu, we took a seat in the window and the waitress brought us the menus and some water flavored with rosemary and coconut.  We ordered a bottle of rosé (Centelleo Tempranillo Rosado 2014, VdT Castilla) to drink and Padrón peppers with Halen Môn sea salt, roasted corn kernals, IMG_1431gin-cured salmon with Greek yoghurt and truffled honey on coca bread, pork chicharrón with crackling, apple purée, olive oil and toasted sourdough the waitress also suggested that we try the Bikini (toasted sandwich with jamón ibérico and Manchego).  The food was lovely and we were glad we were persuaded to have the Bikini!
IMG_1434We were not going to have a desert, thinking we would go on somewhere for cake and coffee, but the waitress again persuaded us to have a look at the desert menu and we ended up choosing the chocolate fondue, marshmallow and fresh fruit which again was a good choice.  The service was a little slow and haphazard, but I think this was due more to the fact that it had only recently opened and things were still “bedding in”.  After we had finished we got taking to the manger who told us about future plans and offered to give us a tour, which we took up.  The ground floor is the bar area with a small charcuterie area, in the summer the front window wall will open up onto King Street, where there will be tables and chairs.  The next floor is the restaurant which has large windows overlooking the street, the kitchen is open with passé bar which I am looking forward to trying.  On up to the top floor which is The Black Cat at El Gato Negro cocktail lounge, with its retractable roof!  It looks like it will be a great place to sit in the sun during the day or watch the stars at night, weather permitting.  There is a lot of bare brickwork Edison lamps and the large windows let in lots of daylight, even on a snowy gray Manchester day!  We will definitely be back to try both the restaurant and the cocktail bar.

From there it was off to the hotel, the Victoria and Albert hotel, which was originally a warehouse built in 1844 on the banks of the River Irwell, check in was quick but we did have a little trouble with the key card, the room was a good size, warm, with a very big comfy bed and IMG_1435in the wardrobe there was plenty of proper coat hangers!

After getting washed and changed we made are way to Épernay champagne and cocktail bar, where we met Alison’s daughter Jess for a few drinks before the gig.  Alison started off with a Sloely Going Crazy (Botanist gin, sloe berry infused plum sake, Dolin dry vermouth, spiced cranberry syrup, orange juice and orange bitters), Jess had a Candy Shop Sling (Absolut raspberry vodka, Briottet fraise de bois, Vimto liquer, citric acid solution, lemonade garnished with gummy bears, cola bottles and sour cherry sweets)  I went for a Cobbled Together (Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, Grahams port, orgeat Luxardo Sangue Marlacco and ginger ale.  IMG_1439Next it was a classic Mojito for Alison, Cinema Highball (buttered popcorn infused Diplomatico Blanco rum,  Coca-Cola topped with popcorn) and I had an Inedit Damm.  We have been to Épernay a couple of times and it is somewhere we like, it is especially nice in the summer when you can sit on the balcony.

After saying goodbye to Jess we went across the road to the Albert Hall for the gig, this was our first visit to the Albert Hall, which is an old Wesleyan chapel, it is a fantastic space and great for a gig, with its large open space, balcony and the stage backed by the organ pipes and stained glass windows.

The show was excellent and they are a very talented bunch of artists, if you get the chance to see them do go and defiantly take in the videos on their website or YouTube channel.  Afterwards we got to hang with them too!

From there it was off to Mr Cooper’s House & Garden one of our favourites, where Alison had a French Martini (vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice) and I had a gin and tonic (Gin Mare, garnished with olives and rosemary), IMG_1447IMG_1450we also had some of their caramel, chilli and black pepper popcorn, we followed this with a couple of espresso martinis to finish off the evening.  Then back to the hotel, where we had some fun getting into the room.  The room card did not work and there was a do not disturb sign on the door we had not put there!  The night manger was very helpful and we got back into the room and more importantly it was no one in our bed!

IMG_1457The next morning it was up at the crack of 11:00 am and of to 47 King Street for breakfast, which was a smoked Scottish salmon and cream cheese bagel for Alison and a full English for me accompanied by two Engl-ish Breakfast Martinis (Ish gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and orange marmalade)

Wednesday Started off with a meal at Linguine in Sale, we have been before but not for  some time.  When we got there is was very quite, but it was early on a IMG_1464Wednesday evening.  IMG_1465We where told we could sit were we liked were given the menus and informed of the specials.  For starters it was Salmone Affumicato (smoked Scottish salmon, with
a pink pepper corn and dill dressing) for Alison and Bruschetta alla Linguine (cherry tomatoes, grilled peppers, goats cheese and mushrooms) for me.  Mains were Taglitelle alla Sorrentina (Tagulitelle cooked with chicken, courgettes, pine nuts, chilli and pesto) for Alison, which she said was very tastyIMG_1466 and Filetto Rossine (Fillet steak cooked in a red wine sauce, with pate on a toasted crouton, served with seasonal vegetables) for myself the steak was perfectly cooked and tasty, IMG_1467with this we had a bottle of Vero Sangiovese.  From there is was over to the Waterside to see the Puppini Sisters, as they let you take drinks int the auditorium we got a prosecco for Alison and a Black Sheep for me,  The gig was very good the Puppini’s close harmony was a joy to listen to and there band were very tight.  One of the numbers they did was a compilation and there was a prize of a double brandy for the person who guessed how any songs there where in it, we won this, I think mainly due to my big gob!  After the gig we stayed to get a CD signed and have a little chat to the girls.  Again check out there videos on their website and You Tube.  From there it was over to Vida for a cocktail, we went traditional with a Porn Star Martini and a Long Island Iced Tea.  IMG_1468The owner came over with a bottle of Limoncello and a couple of shot glasses, he had just become a granddad and so to celebrate  poured  us a couple, then a couple more, then a top up!  After giving him our congratulation we left and where going to go home but somebody suggested the Steamhouse Alison said it was me, I am sure it was her!  Once there Alison had a G & T with Monkey Shoulder gin and I had a beer brewed in Chorlton, sorry I can’t remember the name!  Both where good, we also got chatting to two girls who had been at the gig.  At chucking out time we made our slightly unsteady way home…..

For those of you that are interested we now have an Instagram account #cocktailsfortwouk.

 

A Bit Of Culture

Alison had booked tickets for Husbands and Sons by D H Lawrence at the Royal Exchange, so I thought lets do one of our stay overs and did secret hotels on Late Rooms and managed to get the Arora Hotel, where we have stayed before.  I went to work in the morning and Alison came in to Manchester in the afternoon to meet me.  Before checking in to the hotel we went to The Alchemist on New York Street for cocktails.  With it being a Friday afternoon is was quite busy but we were lucky as a couple of seats became free as we got there.  Alison had Bubble Bath (Bombay Dry Gin, Chambord, Aperol, Apple Juice and a Dash of Sugar Syrup and a little bit of magic!) IMG 1399and I had a Ball Breaker (Bombay Dry Gin, Lemon and Sugar, topped with a Blackcurrant Orb!) as you can see from the picture Alison’s was foaming and when I burst the orb on mine blackcurrant liqueur came out!  From there it was off to the hotel, as I have said we have stayed at the Arora before, this time we were on the second floor in a room with two double beds.

 

After unpacking it was off to Stevenson Square, I had thought to call into Dusk till Pawn as we have not been there yet, but it was closed, it was 3pm and it doesn’t open till 4pm, so it was off to the Rosylee, where we were booked in for 3:30pm, we were going to have a drink at the bar first but there were no seats, so we went straight through to the restaurant.  We ordered drinks (kiwi and lime, Old Moot cider for Alison and a Birra Moretti for me) and some nibbles, honey & mustard glazed chipolatas and red pepper houmous with croutes.  After looking at the menu we ordered the 8oz ribeye steak for myself and chicken supreme, stuffed with Blacksticks Blue for Alison, with these we ordered the hand cut chips and the Inka roast veg.  My steak was good and cooked medium rare like I asked, Alison said her chicken was good but it did take her some time to find the cheese stuffing!  The chips were fine, but the roast veg was more steamed than roast.  For desert we had chocolate brownie and I had the sticky toffee pudding, both came with ice cream, again both good.  While the food was good the service left a bit to be desired, it was slow and a little haphazard, when we arrived there was only the barman about and he showed us to our table, as this was by the door leading to the toilets we asked to seat somewhere else, which he did, but there were hardly any empty cleared tables, the one he showed us to had to be wiped and reset, I would say that about have the tables in the place had not been cleared. Now this was not totally the fault of the staff as it seemed that there was only two of them on.  After leaving we walked, in the rain, to the Royal Exchange where Alison had got tickets to Husbands & Sons by D H Lawrence,

IMG_0683it was very good, as usual the set was clever and innovative and the cast excellent, you did not notice it was a three hour play.  After leaving the theatre and on the way back to the hotel we decided to call into the King Street Tavren the restaurant and bar that is part of the King Street Townhouse hotel.  We had a G & T and a Rum & coke, not the cheapest place to go for a drink but nice surroundings, off the restaurant and bar area is a lounge area and a mezzanine lounge which are both very nicely set out and comfortable.it was very good, as usual the set was clever and innovative and the cast excellent, you did not notice it was a three hour play.

We had a G & T and a Rum & coke, not the cheapest place to go for a drink but nice surroundings, off the restaurant and bar area is a lounge area and a mezzanine lounge which are both very nicely set out and comfortable.  Then it was back to The Arora and to bed.

The next morning we decided to go to Moose, where we have been before, for breakfast, but as usual there was a queue and as it was raining we decided not to queue thought we would try the Infamous Diner instead, this bill itself as Manchester’s first independent all-American diner.  Well the place certainly looks the part with it’s red booths, American licence plate wall and metal tiled ceiling.  To drink we had a Classic Mojito for Alison and a Harbour Master’s Lemonade (for Evan Williams bourbon, triple sec, sweet and sour mix) for me, we also had a glass of orange juice each, it was breakfast time!  IMG_1409To eat we both had the Bacon French Toast (Brioche loaf, crispy bacon, sugar cinnamon and maple Syrup) and while it was nice they were stingy with the maple Syrup!  And while it looked the part and even the staff were dressed like you would expect, there was just something missing with the atmosphere.  From there it was off the Marks & Sparks for a bit of shopping before going home.

Birthdays

As it was my birthday on the 5th of Feb and Alison’s on the 9th of Feb, we decided to have a weekend away in Shrewsbury.  On the way there we visited Attingham Park, a National Trust property.  As it was winter the hall was shut to visitors, but they were doing guided tours so we went on one of those and very interesting it was too.  We also saw things not normally seen, then we had a cup off coffee and a snack in the cafe, followed by a pleasant walk round the grounds.  We then made our way to Shrewsbury, we were booked in at the Lion & Pheasant , we were staying in one of their “cosy double” rooms, it was on the top floor corner with a view over the Severn towards the Abbey on one side and the street on the other.

 

The room consisted of a vestibule with a built-in wardrobe off which were the bathroom and the bedroom, it was a very cosy room (see what I did there!) with a lovely cast iron bed with a good comfortable mattress, flat screen TV, tea, coffee and home made biscuits.  The bathroom was a nice size with a powerful hot shower.  The only complaint is the usual, not enough hangers in the wardrobe!  After checking in and unpacking we went down to the bar for little drink, Alison had a G & T made with Aviator gin, the bar has over 40 different gins, and I had a pint of Ludlow Gold.  We then went for a walk round Shrewsbury before returning to the room to get changed for tea.

We had booked into the Hayward which is the restaurant of the Lion hotel, when I booked I was told they were busy but they could squeeze us in at 8:15, more of which later.  Before eating we went to The Libertine Cocktail Bar a quirky place, where Alison ordered a Let’s Talk About Passion (gin, passIMG_1359ion fruit, raspberries, lime and pineapple) and I a Libertine Love and Tea (damson gin, hibiscus, lime and cranberry), Alison said her’s was nice but I was not so keen on the one I had, nothing wrong with it just not to my taste preference.  The place had quirky decor, bird cages hanging from the ceiling, hats as lampshades and even a vaulting horse as a table.  We met one of the local “characters” while we were in there, who had maybe had one or two too many, he talked at us for a good 10 minutes telling us about his troubles with the law, how it had started when he nicked a policeman’s bike when he was 12.  At least that’s what we think he said we could only understand one word in 20, after he left one of the barmen come over to apologise and give us a bit of background, at least that’s what we think he was doing, we only got one word in 10, it must be a Shrewsbury thing!

From there we went to the Hayward, remember we had been told that they had said they were busy but could squeeze us in.  Well we walked into the restaurant and there must have been at least 6 people in there!  The room was empty with half the tables not set and a couple not cleared.  We sat down had a look at the menu and ordered.  Alison went for the sun blushed tomato, chickpea and rocket salad with percorino crisps to start followed by rump of lamb, crushed minted potatoes, carrot and cumin puree with a pan jus.

I had potted wild Shropshire rabbit with pickled mushrooms, followed by roasted chicken breast, confit drumstick, beetroot jam, fondant potato and a butter sauce.  The food was good tasty and well cooked, but the service was a little iffy, bread was served cold and late, just as we got the starters, the wine pouring was a little haphazard.  When we walked past on Saturday night the whole restaurant was in use and lookedIMG_1371 busy so maybe it was us!  IMG_1373We then made our way back to the Lion and Pheasant
where we went into the bar for a nightcap,  an Oscar Bow Tie (25 year old Martell Cognac, prosecco finished with a blackberry bow tie) and a Spring Garden Daiquiri (white rum, elderflower, apple juice and lime)  we took these in the Inglenook Bar next to the fire, and very nice they were too, to finish the evening off we had a couple of Espresso Martinis, for a change!

After a comfortable nights sleep we got up for breakfast which at the weekend is served till 10:30, I had the full English and Alison had eggs royale, they were both very good all locally sourced ingredients well cooked and tasty.  We then went out for a walk round Shrewsbury in the pouring rain!  First off to the Abbey, then into town as it was pouring down we thought we would try out the Old Market Hall cafe bar and cinema, a little 80 seat independent cinema in the 16th century market house, getting a ticket was a little fraught but we got the last two seats for The Danish Girl, unfortunately all the two seater sofa seats had gone.  126When we came out it was still raining so we went to an independent coffee shop called Ginger & Co for a coffee and cake, the place was heaving but we managed to find two seats at a shelf table, we had ginger crunch and banana caramel cakes and very nice they were too.

From there it was more wandering and nipping in and out of shops and the obligatory walk up Grope Lane!  IMG_1376In Our wanderings we came upon St Nicolas a cafe – bar – spa, in on old church!  StNicholas-103The spa is down is on the ground floor and the cafe, bar in an upstairs area created over what would have been the chancel.  There Alison had a prosecco and I had an Hawaiian Redneck (dark rum, Southern Comfort, pineapple and grenadine), I then had a Peroni and Alison another prosecco.  The place was great and unusual being in a church.  The staff all looked very young about 12 or maybe that was just to us, however I did need to give instruction in opening and pouring sparking wine!  After our drinks we went back to the Lion and Pheasant to watch the Ireland, Wales game in the six nations before getting ready to go for our evening meal.

Earlier, when we came out of Ginger & Co we noticed a yellow, slightly tired looking doorway, this was the entrance to the Renaissance restaurant, reading their menu board we noticed that on a Friday and Saturday they do a six course surprise taster menu, sounds interesting we thought, so whilst in St Nicolas I phoned up to enquire.  I was told there was space at 8 o’clock, so I booked, on the phone I was asked if there was anything we didn’t eat, or dietary requirements or allergies.  When we arrived we went upstairs where we were met, had our coats taken and shown into the small bar, here we ordered a couple of G & Ts and had a look at the wine list, we were again asked about dietary retirements and if we had any food allergies.  We were then shown into one of two Regency dining rooms (the layout of the restaurant looks as thought it hasn’t changed since the Regency) and shown to our table and some lovely warm herb and salt bread was brought.  The first course was brought and the waitress described it, this happened for each subsequent course, apart from the sorbets where there was a little quiz.  The first course was a shot glass of sweet potato soup with a nutmeg foam, a parmesan and leek tart and a quail egg on a mushroom mousse with truffle, next came steamed bass, goujon of bass, with a pepper cream sauce on a small amount of puree potato.

Then we had the sorbets, there were two each of two flavors and we were asked to try and work out what they were, we got them wrong, there was an apple and pink peppercorn and an orange and cranberry, after this it was confi tof duck, duck breast, cooked pink with a damson sauce, parsnip mash and cabbage with chestnuts.  Then we had treacle tart with an orange and rosemary custard, a chocolate pot with amaretti biscuit ice cream and a lemon and ginger posset, the final course was a selection of three cheeses with biscuits, thin slices of celery, grapes and a date, we were also offered port which Alison refused but I accepted!  Quite a lot to eat but because of the small size you did not get over full.  The Renaissance is owned and run by Julie and Stephen, she does the front of house with the help of one waitress, while Stephen does the cooking with the help of one kitchen porter.  The decor is a little dated, the bar not overly well stocked, but the food was excellent and the service good, so I would definitely recommend it if you are ever in the area.

For breakfast the next day Alison had scrambled egg with smoked salmon and I had eggs bennedict, as I said earlier the breakfast was very good and both the scrambled and poached eggs were cooked to perfection.  We then packed and checked out, the hotel let us leave our car in their car park whist we went for a walk along the river and back through the town where we stopped at the Bear Steps Coffee house for a drink and some cake, we shared a piece of lemon and blueberry cake, IMG_3768The Bear Steps coffee house is quite small and low inside but there is lots of outside seating, the seats under the veranda also have heaters, it’s a nice place to sit and watch the world go by for a bit.  After finishing our coffee and cake it was back to the car and home.