The Plough at Ford

The setting was fabulous, the architecture and décor transported me back in time and warmed my soul. The service really was wonderful and the food was reasonable. Local game (mostly in season) and homemade food, honest and well-proportioned.

The Plough

I liked it. But… what’s with children’s menus being so lame? I understand that you get fussy children that are fed rubbish most of the time and that restaurants want to cater for the masses, but it breaks my heart to see fantastic local Gloucestershire Old Spot sausages chucked on a sea of baked beans and piled high with nasty looking chips. #uninspired

I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph the plate.

Kids menus are equally important, and if we start to think about building good food habits and laying the foundations for our future generations… you can see where I’m going with this.

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in France as a child, eating out most of the time and experiencing a broad range of gastronomic delights. I’m fairly convinced that my views on food were forged during that time and led to my current fascination with all things edible. I don’t recall ever seeing a ‘kids menu’. We ate what our parents ate, and never questioned it; we didn’t know any different. Snails, fish on the bone, frogs legs, clams, wild boar…

Our children are adventurous when it comes to food, and it’s all down to getting in there early and sowing the right seeds in their minds. Most people don’t like the thought of eating, say, tripe. Urgh. How many of those people have ever actually even tried it? Do you think that maybe they’ve simply been influenced by those around them?

Back to the Plough, and needless to say, our 4 and 6-year-old tried the rabbit, venison and pheasant. No fuss, no complaints.

The weather was great, allowing the children to make good use of the awesome fort in their spacious beer garden. It’ll certainly be a destination for us in the future.

www.theploughinnford.co.uk

Felix

Breaking The Law

Jailbreak.  If you like beer and you’re anywhere near Baltimore or Washington, you should pay these guys a visit. So let’s set the scene. Nestled in Laurel and founded by Kasey Turner and Justin Bonner, Jailbreak is a relaxed, inviting and generally cool little bar. Actually, it’s rather spacious.  Most importantly, it’s an awesome microbrewery producing knock-out beers. Jailbreak Laurel

I love the fact that the bar looks straight into the brewery through a huge glass wall. This place is clean, calculated and professional, yet laid back and unpretentious.

Now here’s something I found interesting: craft beers in the US are predominantly canned. Their cans are lined, keeping the beer in great condition and preventing the metallic, ‘tinny’ taste provided you drink it from a glass. Cans have a bad reputation in the UK, with consumers associating them with lower quality and ‘park-bench-drinkers’. It’s cheaper than buying beer in bottles, and without venturing into the BPA debate here, I’d say that I’m all for switching; surely it makes sense for everyone? The positives really do stack up – the beer stays fresher, as unlike bottles the cans prevent light getting to it. Shipping and environmental costs are reduced, as cans are much lighter and less bulky – we all know that cans are easier to carry… I’ve smashed plenty of bottles en-route to picnics and parties; so much safer on camping trips. Impatient? The thermodynamic properties mean your beer will chill quicker in the fridge/ice bucket.

Jailbreak Brewing Co. beer

Jailbreak’s beers are quirky and exciting. For me, it was all about the Dusk till Dawn, an imperial espresso stout packing a 10.6% punch in the face. Key Lime Pale Ale anyone? What about a basil infused Belgian style wheat beer: ‘Made Wit Basil’? Clever. Check out jailbreakbrewing.com for further info.

Right.  So this is where it gets really interesting. Jailbreak stood out for me as their bar supports local food trucks. Now, in the UK, most people would turn their noses up at this point and conjure up images of dirty burger vans and the smell of fried onions. Think again. We’re talking the real deal. Jailbreak advertises which trucks are going to be parked up outside the front door each day, and even more astonishingly awesome, you place your order and they give you a pager to let you know when to pop outside and collect it. I’ve never known a pub to allow you to bring your dinner in and eat it at the bar.

Food TruckT&J Waffles fayreNaughty Chicken Waffles

As T & J Waffles had the prime spot, we went for Chicken Waffles (When in Rome…) and sampled the salmon for good measure. Good with beer? – how couldn’t it be.

To top off this visit, we got an impromptu brewery tour. I kid you not. Could this night get any better?

Touring Jailbreak Brewing Company

You Sir, are a Legend.

view of the bar from the brewery

A privileged view of Jailbreak Brewing Co. Bar

Did we hit a few beers and pick up a few more from the fridge to keep us going?  You betcha.

6-pack of Big Punisher

Funky carrier, but I’m sure our flimsy translucent ones must be better for the environment..? Discuss.

Keep up the good work Jailbreak – I can’t wait to be back in town.

YOU

Here’s the latest offering from Jamie Oliver – a neat social media app called ‘YOU-app’.

Its USP?  Mindfulness.

The concept is an application that provides you with ‘micro-actions’ to complete each day.  They’re straightforward and easy to complete, and above all, make you feel better about yourself.  They may be small, but the effects are cumulative and empowering; guaranteed to leave you feeling virtuous.  It’s all backed up with science!

You app image

Pinterest, 2 Facebook pages, Twitter, WordPress blog… I can’t even find the time to open an Instagram account.  Am I really going to post more pictures on yet another platform?  Initially I was thinking “I’d really like to hope so, but I’ll take some convincing”…  it’s been a week, and now I’m all over it.  I write a diary every day, and I can assure you that taking a snap, adding a sentence and posting it, is far quicker.

As a technologist, futurology tells me that my list of ‘daily technologies’ is only going to grow – so I wonder which of these will be the first MySpace, and cease to exist?  I predict mergers and takeovers as the public decide with their feet and the big players become increasingly ubiquitous.

Anyway.

Everyone requires a little encouragement, and the social aspect of this app genuinely motivates.  Imagine Pinterest, but with everyone posting under a common theme, sharing beautiful images, ideas and thoughts.

In summary, do I like it?  Yes.  Has it got legs?  It has, but I suspect that mass-uptake might be slow.  Did it need to be its own standalone application?  Maybe not..  I think I’d have been on-board simply subscribing to a Facebook page, but of course, not everyone uses Facebook (yet).  If anything, it’s a shame it’s limited to mobile platforms.

Give it a go and see how you feel (remembering that change rarely just happens overnight).  The overhead on your daily life is certainly worth the gamble.

Check out you-app.com.   The application is currently available for iOS, with an Android version due for release.

Faith Restored

The hunt for real food is top of my agenda every time I visit the USA on a work trip.

It never fails to shock me just how difficult it is to get hold of food and drink that isn’t highly processed and loaded with corn syrup.  Obviously America is a big place and I shouldn’t make such sweeping statements, but I’m usually confined to the big cities.

How do the locals manage it…?  Generally, they don’t.  Enough said.

The lack of healthy options is insane – hotel fruit bowls are too often ‘just for show’, and breakfast contains enough calories for an entire day.  Whole Foods is usually my saviour; we’ll make a beeline there to pick up supplies shortly after landing.

The standard diet in America hits me hard.  My teeth actually ache from all the sugar, and after a few days of Eggs Benedict and enough beef to march an army across the globe, the desire for anything even slightly green becomes insatiable. Maybe my metabolism would adjust after a few weeks/months.  I’m certainly not willing to test the hypothesis.

And then there’s the exception to my dietary principles…  Adventure.  Anything that’s both local and new is simply irresistible. So, after the misfortune of experiencing Chick n’ Ruth’s of Man v’s Food fame, all was looking fairly bleak until Cantler’s Riverside Inn stepped into the ring…

This place is a veritable oasis.  Reassuringly understated and refreshingly unpretentious, Cantler’s of Annapolis is exactly what it is: A Crab House.  In my eyes, the simple things tend to be the best.  No fuss.

Simple dining American Style

American Rustic

Given there were a few of us sharing a bench in the casual family atmosphere, we made the most of it and sampled an array of dishes, accompanied of course by cold local beers.

Oysters Riverside at Cantlers

Of all the oysters I’ve ever eaten, I can’t believe that I’ve never had them baked before.  These little bad boys were baked with horseradish, bacon, jalapeno and cheddar.  I should have ordered more.

Side salad and Drunk’n Mussels?  Go on then.

side salad

drunk'n mussles

And now for the main event.  I probably didn’t need to order both the King Crab and the Snow Crab whilst sampling the local Blue Maryland crabs, but hey, adventure!

Snow Crab and King Crab

Steamed to perfection and served with some rather large onion rings, coleslaw, Old Bay and fried green tomatoes (we are in America after all).

The Old Bay seasoning is a local Maryland delight traditionally made with paprika, celery salt, mustard, bay leaf, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cloves, allspice, mace, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom.

blue swimmer crabs

It’s all fairly healthy if you can resist the drawn butter with its nutty allure.

Now here’s a new one on me that I’ll be replicating this Christmas; ketchup laced with horseradish… stunning.

 horseradish ketchup

This place even has free docking for customers arriving by boat!  Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Annapolis, hell, if you’re ever in Maryland.  Top marks.

Have a look at http://www.cantlers.com for more info.  458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21409.

Not All Service Stations Are Created Equal

It feels particularly odd to be writing an article about a motorway service station, but this one really is something extraordinary. The newly built facilities between junctions 12 and 11a of the M5 Northbound have been stunningly crafted to blend into the rolling countryside.  Step inside and you’ll be won-over by the beautiful architecture and plethora of fantastic local produce.  Not only are they stocking goods from 130 local suppliers (within 30 miles) and 70 regional suppliers (within 30-50 miles), but they’re fairly competitively priced too!

I’m starting to wish I commuted…

Gloucester Service Station

Why here?  Because ‘Gloucestershire and its surrounding counties are practically unrivalled in the quality and abundance of their food produce’.   

I’m so glad I popped in to satisfy my curiosity, I’m certainly feeling proud to live in Gloucestershire.

Now imagine if all motorway services were like this…

http://www.gloucesterservices.com/

produce at gloucester servicesbaked goods