Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Birmingham Foodie Festival: Joie de Vin

So, you've heard about my fab time at the Birmingham Foodie Festival, and now let's look in a little more detail at some of the lovely people I met there. First and foremost, I have to bring to your attention Joie de Vin.

Absolutely lovely people importing the finest French wines from small producers. Chatting to them I could feel like they had passion and commitment to the wine they were bringing to our island nation. As we are now, in splendid isolation. What more do you want?

Anyway, we tried a few wines from these guys and they were all of a uniformly good quality. My favourite was the Domaine La Toupie, Fine Fleur 2014. This was left in small barrels which gives a noticeable oak flavour, so beautifully rounded with a slight vanilla. 8 out of 10 for me.

In addition, we also tried the Patrimoine chenin blanc sec which had great tropical fruit on the nose and then delivered crisp acid complemented with a complementary rounded oak flavour and still those tropical notes. Again this is a small producer, making just 4 x 400l barrels. Very worthy of a 7 out of 10.

It's also worth noting the Domaine Salmon muscadet that they recommended, more oaky goodness (you can tell they were recommending within my palate) and another 7 out of 10. Check them out. People like this need our continuing support in the economic climate. Passionate, local but with a taste of the best France has to offer.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Happy Birthday Burleighs!

Burleigh's Gin is something of a fairy tale story for Leicester and Leicestershire. Two years ago, the very first gin was distilled in the Nanpantan distillery and since then it has been a meteoric rise to success which I have had pleasure in tracking. Phil Burley and Master Distiller, Jamie Baxter, have developed a craft distillery which produces some of the best gin which is being enjoyed here in Leicester and all around the world.

The distillery came first, followed in short order by the 45 Gin School where you learn about the history of gin as well as distilling your own to your own personal taste. That still remains one of the most fun afternoons I've ever had. Then, last December we saw the launch of 45 West, the Burleigh's bar and bottle shop. This is a great chilled out place for after work drinks, or to pick up something tasty to drink at home. I particularly enjoy their #winewednesday offer, with special offers on selected wine and free nibbles :)

Then, on Friday we got to celebrate together with an open invitation to their Second Birthday Party. I love a good party so The Boy and I headed down.We were greeted with a gorgeously summer welcoming cocktail of Distiller's Cut, elderflower, prosecco and rose petals. The mood was celebratory despite the disastrous referendum result.

We were also treated to some canapes from Lilu Fine Dining, carefully matched to the often local botanicals that make up Burleigh's signature flavour. As ever we were treated to some delicious flavours and high quality ingredients. 

For me the rise of Burleigh's is demonstrative of the upturn in Leicester's night time economy. We've seen some big new players moving in to the city of the last couple of years bringing the highest quality offering. I just hope that they all survive through the financial difficulties that are surely looming - I want to see Leicester continuing to grow and blossom.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Nosh at any time: The Kitchen at The Cookie

Edit: sadly now The Kitchen is no more. A real blow to Leicester.

You may remember we were invited to The Cookie at the beginning of the year for the swank opening do of The Kitchen, the brainchild of Nick Towarianskyj. Well, he's back with a new summer menu and me and a couple of blogger mates were invited down to be some of the first to sample his wares - with a few cocktails from The Attic thrown in of course!

I love a good night out with my blogging chums. It's so lovely to have such a diverse group of friend who are full of interesting conversation, laughter and, inexplicably, cucumber-centric discussion. We were treated to sample portions of a wide variety of dishes through the menu - taking us through breakfast, lunch and dinner. What a life!

What a glamorous bunch?
First off was brunch and a salt beef hash that smelled absolutely heavenly. This was a pan of gorgeously tender salt beef with roasted potatoes, beans, sweet caramelized onion topped off with a fried egg and of course, a bit of toast on the side. This was an amazing start and probably the dish of the day for me - full of punchy flavours this would be a fabulous pick me up. Because we had tasting portions we had quail's eggs on ours (fancy!) but rest assured you'll get a good old full size chicken egg on the full portion version. Nick is a fan of big portions too so you won't go wanting.

Brunch it up
Next up our table with laden with a selection of some of The Attic's finest cocktail offerings. These are as  beautifully presented as the food and certainly for my money I would say they have easily one of the most interesting and diverse cocktail ranges in the city at the moment.

Hendricks, cucumber, rose petals and black pepper
We had a long, fruity Zombie, which was fresh and zinging with citrus fruit flavours. There were a couple of gins in there, including the aromatic Hendricks with cucumber, rose petals and black pepper. Although I am not the biggest fan of cucumber in a G&T (and definitely not in a Mojito) I did find the rose petal and black pepper complimented the botanical profile of the Hendricks really nicely. However, it was generally agreed that those teeny tiny cocktail straws would have been better to drink it to avoid getting bits of dried rose petal in your teeth. It's the lickle things that make a difference.

We also had a Bloom gin with fresh strawberries which was delightfully refreshing - Wimbledon in a glass for those of you who are preparing for that. Big shoutout to our friends at Leicester Market who provide all the fresh fruit that is used in the cocktails too. Delicious. This one would be perfect to drink in the sunshine out on the terrace, which is one of the best kept secret spaces in the city by the way...

And there was more - a luscious rhubarb crumble cocktail, complete with crumble topping on the frothy egg white header - this was universally agreed to be diving by all present. And, perhaps most unusually, the avocado margarita which is usually served with nachos for dipping. It's thick and velvety and the delicate avocado flavour is not lost, although unusually the tequila flavour does not come through particularly strongly. Garnished with a sprinkle of chilli flakes this is drinks with the girls, lunch and one of your five a day all rolled into one.

Anyway, back to the food and now we were on to lunch, with samples of some of the toasted sandwiches accompanied by a lightly dressed and crisp raw slaw. Naturally the chorizo and pepper sandwich was awesome, as anything with chorizo always is - the crisp bread really being a surprise star, but then the mushroom, spinach and goat's cheese sandwich, my word! Absolutely divine! Right up there with the salt beef hash as my favourite of the evening. Carnivore's be damned, that sandwich is the way forward. You can get any sandwich with homemade crisps and a soft or hot drink at lunchtime for a fiver and trust me, for this sandwich that is an absolute bargain. They also have other American classics like the Cuban and the Reuben on offer. I would happily recommend giving them a go.

And finally, it's dinner time and we were on to a sample of the burger menu. This blogger is oft tasting a burger or two as it seems to be our fine city's latest obsession, but I have to sing the praises of the Burralo Burger which was incredibly moist chicken with a really well balanced spicy rub and great griddled flavour along with some crisp and tasty slaw. The sweet potato burger was less to my liking although the creamy sauce and halloumi topping were incredible. They were great brioche buns as well, certainly amongst the best I have tried locally with good flavour and texture, although it was quite a messy affair so we all ended up resorting to using a knife and fork!

All hail The Chef!
All in all, a great night was had by all. Good food, lovely drinks and wonderful company, what more can a girl ask! Big thanks to The Kitchen and The Attic for inviting us all down and being such fun and friendly hosts. Pop in and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Big Top Zinfandel 2013

It feels like an age since I've written about wine, what with all the football, beer and top notch events going on in and around Leicester. So I was determined to pick myself up something delicious that I could write about. The opportunity came on a recent #WineWednesday at one of my favourite new bars, 45 West on Hotel Street, where they offer free cheese and nibbles as well as a selection of wines at a special price. On that occasion I enjoyed a very satisfactory white Chateauneuf Du Pape, but I also grabbed myself a 2013 Big Top Zinfandel to take away at the reasonable price of £10 per bottle.

The sun totally deluded me yesterday and when I arrived home from work after a long week, I was delighted to see it smiling down on the garden. This was the time to crack the Big Top open and to enjoy a glass or two with The Boy in the sunshine. Sadly, by the time I had got myself assembled with camera and notebook and we had poured our first glass of this vibrant, translucent ruby liquid to enjoy, the sun had gone in. Two minutes later it was raining and so we decamped back into the house. Happily I manage to capture some photos that give you the illusion it was a nice day.

Long term readers of Extreme Housewifery will know that it is pretty much visiting California and meeting amazing people there that really got me bitten by the wine bug and so I'm always on the lookout for something a bit special from CA that makes it to our shores. They definitely keep the best for themselves and many of the truly special small producers don't have the capacity to export here at all because of ridiculously high tax on vino.

So I was really happy to find a reasonably priced Californian wine of this quality. The aromas spring from the glass, bursting with red fruit and a dash of enticing, sweet jam. Although this is a relatively light wine in the mouth, with no heavy tannins, it still has wonderful texure, the rounded fruit flavours filling the mouth with cherry and blackcurrant flavours which are ripe and full of sunshine. It is incredibly refreshing and unbelievably fresh and zinging. 

I award a smiling 8 out of 10 for this wine and will certainly be returning to it time and time again when I want something that is full of fruit, without going for the predictability of an Italian Primitivo (which is essentially the same grape). Truly Zinfandel is something that the New World handles with love and great skill.

While I've got you, this is probably a good time to let you know that my latest restaurant review, of Roma Cafe Bar, Leicester, is out in the Leicester Mercury today, so don't forget to pick up a copy and find out what I thought of my visit! Happy Saturday everyone!

I purchased a bottle of Big Top Zinfandel at full price for the purposes of this review.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Birmingham Foodie Festival

I won some tickets to the Birmingham Foodie Festival on Twitter a couple of weeks ago so of course I immediately booked the next day off work and in the morning The Boy and I dutifully trotted off to St Margaret's Bus Station to get the coach to Brum.

After a short walk from the city centre out to Cannon's Hill Park in the blazing sunshine, we were already ready for a little nibble and something to drink. We were presented with a real festival atmosphere, already in full swing on an absolutely faultlessly beautiful early June day. There was a rum bar in the shape of a pirate ship, a small stage for musical performance, lots of kid friendly activity and hundreds of foodies already getting stuck in with all of the food and drink stalls and the three main presentation tents for talks, demonstrations, tastings and masterclasses. Absolute paradise.

Tunes in the VIP tent!
Naturally we had VIP passes, so we got ourselves a coffee and a biscuit in the VIP tent while we orientated ourselves and booked our seats for the sessions we wanted to attend and had a little nosy in the goodie bags we had been given - both of us happy to have received a jar of pesto, because you can never have enough pesto!

Then we started our wander round the stalls. There was a vast array of different goods on offer - from full meals to buy to samples to try and everything in between. I absolutely adored the fun folk at the Snowdonia Cheese Company - their smokey Beechwood is to die for and the subtle flavour ing of the Green Thunder is something to behold.

We also got some vegetable seeds to plant and some tasty pasta dishes to try from Seeds of Change, tested cuisines from all over the world both savoury and sweet, and we even tasted Spam chips whilst watching a Spam cooking demonstration. Yep. Probably the craziest thing I've ever seen in my life, but that guy did make a pretty impressive fajita out of the tinny meet stuff. We had chicken wings in a spicy Caribbean sauce and... well... who am I kidding? We did try some food, but not much. Naturally, as a wine writer in my heart I managed to turn the Birmingham Foodie Festival into a celebration of all things alcoholic.

The very first stall we hit after the VIP tent was Silent Pool Distillers. Based in Surrey, their standard gin is made with 24 botanicals and the spring water filtered through the chalk at, you guessed it, the Silent Pool. It was a delicious light gin, full of citrus flavours with notes of orange, honey and pear. Smooth enough to drink on its own, it was an instant classic for me. The Boy also loved the fresh strawberry flavour of the Strawberry and Gin cordial, made with their locally grown fruit, which would pair beautifully as a refreshing summer spritz with Rothley Wine's Sparkling Orion.

Melissa Cole
We also attended a brilliant beer tasting session with award winning beer know-it-all Melissa Cole, who was an entertaining, knowledgeable and deeply engaging speaker. I particularly liked her discussion of checking for 'friends, passengers or paddlers' in your glass. We went through a number of samples - the Caledonian Three Hop craft lager, which was herbal and light, but still surprisingly full of sweet, caramel, malty flavours. Also from Caledonian came the Coast to Coast pale ale which was much fruitier but still had some earthy notes - although that one didn't impress us as much, we thought the flavour was quite flat - perhaps it had been too long in the bottle?

Next up was the Fraoch from William Brothers Breweing an intriguing heather ale which was delicate, floral and herbal as you would expect but still packed a lot of body and structure from its malty elements. Finally the next from Williams Brothers was the Redact red lager - definitely the best name and the best beer! An American style red ale it had brown sugar, grapefruit as well as floral elements -the combination of citra and calypso hops making a beautifully complex session beer.

Anyway, as I'm sure you can imagine, I've got blog fodder for months out of that day, so stay tuned for the wines we tasted and a whole lot more. Fabulous day!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Epic coffee, coming your way!

I got invited along for an exclusive preview of the new cafe coming soon from The Coffee Counter today! Yep, me first, VIP access all areas! So I am delighted to present news of The Coffee Counter's expansion, from coffee and equipment wholesaler to fully fledged super-friendly, expert barista-led coffee shop of your dreams!

Thanks to The Coffee Counter for the pics! I forgot my camera :(

Ariyan is part of the magnificent dynasty that brought us Babylonia, the superb Greek restaurant on Bowling Green Street whose absence I still mourn. Can nowhere be bothered to do Greek food anymore? It's pretty much my favourite. Oops, as usual I digress. Ariyan has grown up in the service industry and is an absolute whizz when it comes to coffee. He knows it all and he has an amazing palette to match. He's been doing well supplying his freshly roasted beans and blends to businesses all around the area and now he's ready to bring his skills direct to you.

You've just got a couple of weeks to wait until the doors are flung open and the best thing is that although The Coffee Counter is all about the bean; providing the very best quality coffee, special seasonal blends and more, they are also very friendly and welcoming. No coffee snobbery here, which is of course the worst kind of snobbery after winos. You wanna know what something on the menu is, they'll happily tell you. You want to know what something tastes like, you want a recommendation, you want to try something totally new? You can get it.

The final touches are going in now to the rustic, wooden finishes around the coffee shop. The rough pallet wood sets off the sleek lines and bright chrome of the roaster. The top notch coffee machine is flanked by homely wooden panelling. It's cosy, it's local. The wood has been sourced just down the road, and some of the cute vintage chairs, well they've been sat in the Babylonia basement for decades, just waiting for an intimate cafe atmosphere to come along where it'll be their time to shine!

So, keep your eyes open for more on The Coffee Counter. I'm hearing whispers of locally sources cakes, exciting collaborations with other businesses in the city centre, fun events and big, big plans for the future. I'm so excited to have another high quality small business in town. I tried a latte (thanks guys!) and I can confirm I will definitely be the first through the door when they open.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Pedal power for a season ticket to the Euros!

One of the things I love about being a Leicester blogger is all the batshit crazy stuff that people in this city come up with to pass the time. So when I got asked if I wanted to have a go on a pedal bus around the King Power Stadium, with a free beer thrown in, naturally I was in!

There she is, in all her glory.

Of course, as you can probably guess by now, it was a marketing stunt, but a wholeheartedly good natured and fun one. The aim was to get the word out about the new Season Ticket from Greene King which is free to get and gives you 10% off  selected drinks one hour before, during and one hour after televised games in the pub, including Euro 2016 and Rugby Union. When you register your card, you also get a free pint, plus there is the chance to win other great prizes when you use the card (like 1000 Euros... nice!)

Locally, you can pick up and use a Season Ticket at The Counting House, The Local Hero, The Bees Knees, The Oadby Owl and the Narborough Arms as well as many more pubs further afield.

Anyway, we turned up at The Counting House on Freeman's Common on a blazing hot day and proceeded to use our pedal power to take #LeTourDePub on the road and out down to the KP and back.

Even the new Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Stephen Corrall had turned up to take in the spectacle, although it seemed that he must have had a tiring day already as he was unable to *actually* participate with the cycling.

I hope this isn't killing the magic of the media for you

The music was turned to the max and the sunshine meant that everyone had a smile on their faces even though we were inexplicably engaging in voluntary exercise at the end of the working day. It was laughter a-plenty as we took to the highway and held up the traffic all around the Freeman's Common and Aylestone Road area. Happily, most of the drivers who were stuck behind us seemed to take it in relatively good humour, even though it was getting to rush hour.

Apologies to the legit road users. We were slow.

And now all I want in life is an Extreme Housewifery Pedal Bus. Although I imagine I wouldn't be able to convince anyone else to ride on it with me so I guess I'll just stick to riding The Tank around the city. What's the weirdest thing you've seen happening in the city recently?

As well as a free Budweiser at the end - which was much needed due to the heat, we were also surprised to be presented with a Budweiser football, selfie stick and bottle opener for our efforts! What a result, I was just happy to be doing something a bit mental and pointless for half an hour.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Celebrating the Queen's Birthday at The Parcel Yard

Sometimes I don't know what it takes to convince you lot that something is good. This year the Parcel Yard have offered up a Burn's Night menu, which was lip-smacking. Then they gave one of their young chefs a chance to shine at Jamie's Takeover, which I absolutely raved about. I tweeted and I facebooked and I warned you all that their next special menu, a celebratory meal for the Queen's 90th Birthday was coming up. 

She insisted on a selfie.
Were you queueing out the door to get a table? Were you 'eckers like. It was surprisingly quiet. Well, more fool you, it was stunningly good.

We began with a welcome drink of Dubonnet and gin, apparently the Queen's favourite. This was doubly fitting as it was also #WorldGinDay and I'm always going to get on board celebrating that! It's a lovely little drink actually, pretty alcofrolic but nice and sedate fruity and herbal flavours. Very refreshing.

While we enjoyed our drinks, the fantastic Lizzy Rushby treated us to a beautiful vocal performance, singing some vintage classics. It was the perfect backdrop to this most English of celebrations and suited the menu perfectly. Her and her support singer achieved the silkiest harmonies and they looked simply gorgeous to boot!

On to the starters, and we were truly given the royal treatment, being presented with a platter of all of the starter options (which was a bit of a relief actually, it was a devil to try and choose just one!) There was a deconstructed cucumber sandwich, which may make you laugh when you read it but was actually delicious. Delicate slices of fresh cucumber sat atop a light mix of cream cheese spiked with lemon zest and a hint of gherkin on everyone's favourite white sliced - what else?

Next up was the duck terrine, my favourite of the dishes, a rich and flavourful squish of ducky goodness, served with a sharp onion marmalade which cut through the fatty treat perfectly. Alongside that we had a Coronation Chicken, made to the original Coronation recipe - not a crappy sultana in sight! It was delicately flavoured allowing the taste of the chicken to come through which was moist and succulent. An incredibly well prepared dish.

And as if that wasn't enough, there was also the lightest salmon mousse I have ever had, which was achingly delicate and would seriously have made Her Majesty proud. Naturally we scoffed the whole lot and were already full. But that would never deter us from carrying on!

Happily it was time for a break and a glass of Prosecco to toast Ma'am with while we made our minds up about the mains. A delicious sounding chicken supreme was on offer, and the freshness and quality of the Dover Sole was talked up by the chef. But neither of us could resist the opportunity to have the haunch of Muntjac. Sorry! We normally order different dishes so I can get you more photos, but this time we just had to go with our hearts.

We were both so glad we went for this dish though. The earthy flavours of the crisp roasted root vegetables matched the deep gamey flavour of the HUGE pile of Muntjac haunch we were presented with, which was cooked slightly pink and was so tender it would make a weaker soul weep. This was all tied together with a Dubonnet and juniper jus, which again had just the right amount of earthy herbaceous to give the dish that wonderful flavour of the English countryside. I cannot stress enough how fantastic this meal was.

Soldiering on, we had the element of choice removed with yet another platter for pudding so we could sample the full range. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and led to me having to waddle home rather than walk, but of course good pudding cannot be wasted.

The Queen of Puddings was a fluffy sponge layer, topped with summer fruits which had been lightly stewed and finished off with a barely there meringue which was as light as a fairy's fart. The chocolate biscuit cake had a heavy chocolate top and was essentially a Nigella-level of posh Rocky Road, definitely my favourite.

Finally there was the poached pear with homemade ice cream, which had everything, fruitiness, creaminess and a lovely touch of cinnamon which made the pear flavour really stand out.

So there you have it. At £18 for the three courses and two drinks, it represented absolutely outstanding quality for the truly stunning quality of food we received. Next time I tell you the Parcel Yard has a special menu on I recommend you get a table booked straight away. They are undoubtedly providing some of the best quality cooking, with fantastic ingredients in the city at a price that really cannot be sniffed at.

Many, many thanks to The Parcel Yard for inviting us along to sample the menu and for kindly arranging for the England game to be shown on their big screen once we had finished our meal. Truly the whole thing was a feast for all of the senses.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Western Park Beer Festival

Don't tell me you missed out on the Western Park Secret Beer Club back at the end of April? You did? Now that's a shame.

There were only 150 tickets up for grabs though, and of course, you had to be in the know to nab one. A select, but perfectly balanced choice of ales and ciders were available and all of this was backed with good banter and some really nice live music. 

It was chilled and, once the rain at the beginning tailed off, it was a balmy Spring evening that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Reasonably priced and community led, this is exactly the sort of event I enjoy supporting. And the samosas were good too.

That may be all over, but now we can confidently look to the future, safe in the knowledge that the full Western Park Beer Festival is back! Oh yes, 19th and 20th August, just a fiver a ticket including your pint glass. Oh and there is a special family session on Saturday afternoon so you can bring the kids along for some family-friendly fun between 12pm and 6pm - entry for kids is free.

For when the excitement gets too much. Not really.

There will be over 40 firkins of real ale and craft beers, Flamin' Mo serving up his woodfired pizza and much much more besides. So do me a favour, don't miss out on this one, huh? Get it in your diary and come and support these lovely people and their super lovely venture.

Western Park Beer Festival did not know I would write a blog post about either event. 
Me and my pals paid for our tickets to the Secret Beer Club in full, all fair and square guv'nor.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Posh BBQ

We popped down to the Birmingham Foodie Festival last week and got given some free samples of Levi Roots Reggae Reggae original Caribbean BBQ marinade.

Since the weatherman is being a dick and forecasting rain for the next week after the amazing run of beautiful weather we've been having, we decided to live it large and get our spicy barbecue on. And of course I took some snaps along the way.

We love our big dirty burger BBQs but just sometimes we like to mix it up a bit and make something a bit special. Especially for an average weekday tea. And today we went all out. With stupendous results.

We got the steak on to marinade while we lit the barbecue and prepped the rest of the food. I took over the new potatoes, which I simply parboiled in their skins, drained and then put in a foil parcel with salt and pepper, olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, oregano from the garden and a knob of butter. They sat on the coals of the BBQ and came out a treat, indeed I think the sweet, caramelised garlic might have ended up my favourite part!

The Boy made some beautiful Mediterranean vegetable kebabs, which he dressed with pesto. Courgette, peppers and mushrooms were all seasoned and ended up with delicious caramelised edges. In fact they were the first thing to go on the BBQ, just in advance of the sweetcorn which was rubbed in butter and wrapped in foil to steam and sizzle away nicely. You don't get the same char on the outside, but it does keep it deliciously juicy.

Next on was our steak, just using the marinade. Of course, we kept brushing marinade on during the cooking time to ensure the best possible sticky glaze finish. It came up with some beautiful shine and a lovely spiced finish.

So this is how we roll this evening. Welcome, and probably Farewell, British summertime. How have you been celebrating the beautiful weather this week?

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