Sunday, 27 August 2017

Podcast Review: Love + Radio

It's that time where I hand over the blog to Ginny Copley again for another podcast review. If you missed the first review, or you're unsure what podcasts are and how to listen to them, check back to the first post with its 'How to Listen' guide! Take it away Ginny!

What is it? In-depth portraits that intrigue, surprise and sometimes just blow your mind!
‘An eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime’.
However, for me this is also one of the most hit and miss podcasts. I regularly give up on episodes, and yet there are also the most incredible listening experiences in this collection, that just grab your brain. I will point you in the direction of those nuggets of gold.

Where to start? Try the episode ‘No Bad News’ from Season 5 which tells the amazing story of American hypnotist Larry Garrett. Since the 1980s Garrett had given up reading and watching news. He didn’t want the worry and negativity clouding his thoughts and focus on his clients when carrying out hypnosis. So when, in 2001, he received an invitation to Iraq to hypnotise a mystery client, Larry wasn’t particularly clued up on the political situation and he said ‘yes’. What follows is an incredible account of a trip to Baghdad leading into Saddam Hussein’s closest circle.
And if you like that one…. then meet Tim Friede and his slithery pets in the episode ‘Snakes!!!!’ Tim lives by his own rules and likes to push limits. He purposefully gets bitten by his snakes – some of the most venomous in the world. Why? Well luckily for us, he has survived to tell the tale. Season 5 also has ‘How to argue’ which discusses how to successfully have a critical conversation with someone who holds very different views to your own. This episode features Daryl Davis, a black musician, who befriends members of the KKK. And sometimes, he gets them to change their minds.
In a nutshell… Real life stories of unusual characters - unfolding and meandering to take you to places you don’t usually go to.
Don’t listen if… You prefer to have your stories and characters a bit more neatly presented and edited.

Where to listen?, Stitcher, itunes

Friday, 25 August 2017

La Cascinassa - down on the farm

This is the final post inspired by our recent visit to Italy back in June. I know, I can really squeeze the material out of one visit, right? So we went to the Gelato Artigianale Festival in Agugliano, but also took the opportunity to visit some other places - meeting wonderful gelatieri, and experiencing beautiful wines at La Campore. And just up the road from that vineyard, there is a farm. A very beautiful farm. You may remember that we actually met the farmer for the first time in Turin last September and so we couldn't miss the chance to go and see it for ourselves.

It's just a smidge on the picturesque side

La Cascinassa is absolutely beautiful, nestled like seemingly everything in Piedmont in a cosy valley in view of the majestic Alps. The incredible brother and sister team are dedicated to responsible, sustainable farming and use every opportunity to make fantastic produce and capitalise on the natural resources of their area - using the natural cycles of the land and their animals to create wonderful results.

You may be reading this thinking, "this post is just an excuse for her to post a gratuitous number of animal pictures isn't it?" And of course you'd be right. We watched these majestic white cows being fed, meeting the milking herd, the new calves and even the shed of beautiful, muscular bulls. They all have their own role to play on the farm and special feed mixes are created using foraged fodder and carefully balanced feeds depending on the requirements of each cow. All of them have their own name, written on their ear tag. I fell in love with them all, naturally.

Can this just be my job? Feeding lovely forage to lovely placid cows?

The Razza Piemontese is notable for it's grey white colouring in adulthood and a particular gene which causes them to grow more muscle producing the celebrated meat which makes the famous Carne Cruda dish, a delicious and simple raw plate which gets its unsurpassed flavour and texture from these very special cows because of their unparalleled lean to fat ration. They are also prized for their milk which makes fantastic cheese.

As well as the cows, we met chickens, goats and pigs, all of which I got up close and personal with. The goats are milked again to produce superb cheese and all of La Cascinassa's cheeses are notable for the different lengths of aging applied which allow you to compare the fresh product to one that is several months old.

They do exquisite catering using the produce of the farm and after our tour we viewed the newly refurbished classroom and hire space used for events and teaching children about where their food comes from. It's something that we have to some degree in this country, of course the wonderful Gorse Hill City Farm is just down the road from where I write, but it felt like this was something very special indeed, a real nose-to-tail approach with a focus on sustainability and respect for natural processes. It was also my first close encounter with a Harlequin Peacock - an absolutely beautiful specimen who decided to display near-continuously for us and who made an extremely odd, loud and downright hilarious noise.

Our gracious hosts then treated to a sample of their meats and cheeses, all washed down with a robust locally made apple juice which was refreshing and most welcome after an afternoon in the sun. Beautiful sharp fresh cheeses contrasted with the more earthy, strong flavoured aged cheese and this was matched incredibly with fresh grissini and absolutely awe inspiring preserved meats - all made from farm stock.

It was a real privilege to visit La Cascinassa, to see their passion and commitment to their animals and their land and to see the real dedication which leads to these building blocks being made into some of the most simple, delicious food I have had the joy to sample in recent times. A thousand thanks to them for taking so much time to give us an insight into their enviable, but extremely dedicated world.

Better than the Oscar's selfie any day of the week

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Is this the most Leicestershire cocktail in Leicestershire?

We've already talked a lot about the new Leicester-inspired cocktail menu at 33cankstreet, but it really is the gift that keeps on giving.

I couldn't resist taking the opportunity to show you the Melton Martinez - the cocktail which contains the full power of the Ploughman's lunch! No really...

The drink itself is made with Burleigh's Leicester Dry Gin (which the quick-witted amongst you will remember is rumoured to have been inspired by the spicing of a Leicestershire pork pie), Amontillado sherry, sweet Vermouth, and Maraschino liqueur infused with red onion marmalade. 

It is also garnished with a cocktail onion, a spritz of Maraschino liqueur and comes with Melton Mowbray pork pie and Stilton on the side.

The drink has a real kick to it, it certainly holds true to its Martini roots! 

Plus the onion garnish adds a little something extra... However, it has lovely balance in the flavouring - even for a punchy drink it is layered and complex. And I was surprised to find that it matches excellently with both pie and Stilton!

It's a double hitter too - so you get an additional iced serve of the cocktail in an accompanying bottle ready for when you've finished your first glass. Perfect picnic fodder, when lounging around St Martin's Square.

I can't think of anything more Leicestershire that comes in a glass. Except for possibly fox piddle, but I tend not to order that in bars.

What's your favourite place for Leicester-inspired fodder? 
Have you tried the new 33cankstreet drinks yet?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Podcast review: The Sporkful

I'm giving a bit of space over to the marvellous Ginny Copley, who wants to tell you all about some of her favourite podcasts. Look out for her reviews in the weeks to come!
So over to Ginny...

Podcasts – stop, look and listen
I love podcasts. They make me curious about things I never knew I was interested in, and fill my brain with knowledge and questions. They tell me stories that have made me laugh loudly in public and also cry (once while running on a treadmill at the gym). They have taken me to places in the world that I’ve never visited and I’ve gotten to know strangers that I’ll never meet. So yes, podcasts have enhanced my life, and because I hope that you want to have your life enhanced too, I’m collecting some of my favourites together here for your listening pleasure.

How to listen

A podcast is like a radio show that you can listen to anytime. There are different ways you can listen. The easiest is just to go to the podcast website (this is listed at the end of each of the reviews). Find the episode you want on the website and there will be a play function nearby - just press play.

However, that way of listening does mean you need to be right there with your computer and have internet access. If, instead, you want to listen any time on your phone (or other device), then you just need to download the episode. To do that, you need a podcast app. This is also easy and will take 5 minutes:

For iPhones and iPads, use the Podcasts app. You get it from the App Store (it actually comes installed on newer devices – it’s a little purple icon). In the Podcasts app, search for the podcast you’re interested in and download

For Android phones and tablets, try the Stitcher app. Get that from Google Play. Search for your podcast in Stitcher, click 'listen later' and it will download onto your phone.

Once you have the podcast downloaded onto your phone, iPad or other mobile device, you can listen anywhere, no internet access required. While walking, running, gardening, tidying up, working out at the gym, waiting in the dentists waiting room, just stick in your earphones and enter the world of your chosen podcast.

Lots of cars can connect to your phone so you can play podcasts though the car speakers - no more boring car journeys. It depends on the age of the car you are in, you may be able to do this by connecting through Bluetooth or by attaching your device using your charging cable. If you can’t do this in your car, then you could always buy a Bluetooth speaker and just play the podcast in the car.

The Sporkful
What is it? A podcast that tells stories about people through food.
‘We obsess about food to learn more about people’
Where to start? Try ‘Why Lefties Buy Less Soup’ which is all about the gastrophysics of food. It explores what factors, other than the actual taste of food, influence how we perceive and react to what we eat. Can the weight of your fork make you think the food is more tasty? Does classical music playing while you eat make you happier to pay more for your dinner? Would putting ice cream on a white plate make it taste sweeter? Fascinating insights into how our brains and surroundings contribute to our eating experiences. It’s not just down to our tongues and noses!
And if you like that one … Try the episode ‘What if Willy Wonka was your Dad’ where the unusual food of Roald Dahl’s books is discussed and his daughter Lucy recalls midnight feasts with her dad. Later in the episode, the chocolate cake from Matilda is recreated and eaten – including two rather unique ingredients - blood and sweat. Yum.
In a nutshell…. People, psychology, lives, food. And it’s very entertaining
Don’t listen if…. Memories and behaviour in relation to food is just not your cup of tea
Where to listen?, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts  

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Knight and Garter

We headed over to the newly opened Knight & Garter this week to celebrate the launch of their Gallery Venue space. It has been quite the transformation, from Molly O'Grady's to K&G and the pub is unrecognisable with its sleek lines, elegant dining area and beautifully chosen drinks and food menus.

I had no idea that there was a downstairs space, and the refurbishment of that area is of just a high a standard as the rest of the venue. It makes the perfect room for an intimate exhibition, and can also be hired out for private events. In particular, I was interested in the various menus that are available for catering for groups - everything from sandwiches to hot meals and also beautiful canapes for just £5.95 a head which struck me as very reasonable, particularly as we had the opportunity to sample some of them for ourselves and see the quality of the ingredients used.

The exhibition opening that night was work by local artist Kirsteen Thomson, who is originally from Scotland but trained at DMU. She has been heavily influenced by the discovery of Richard III in the city and much of her recent work examines different elements of his life, both contemporary and modern.

Her style is full of colour and texture and often uses intensely complex levels of detail and symbolism to portray complicated themes and stories. As well as the Richard III theme, LCFC's recent Premier League success and the wave of blue that washed over the city is also represented in her work. For my tastes, I preferred the simpler landscape pieces, in particularly the representation of Kirby Muxloe castle which does of course have strong links with the ebb and flow of the Wars of the Roses in the time of Richard III.

It was a busy old evening at the Knight & Garter and guests were also treated to a range of samples from the menu. The arancini were definitely one of the highlights for me, but you won't go hungry down there as they seem to offer absolutely everything - the restaurant and bar offers weekend brunch, an elegant cocktail menu, a variety of light lunch options, full dinner menu with, in particular, carefully sourced meats, and of course a lovely coffee and dessert offering to round it all off.

Thanks to the Knight & Garter for inviting us along. With their outdoor terrace and friendly team I don't think I am going to be able to resist going back. Regularly.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Curve

I was invited to Curve to see A Midsummer Night's Dream this week - an unexpected pleasure! The production is only on until 20th August, so if you fancy experiencing it for yourself then get in quickly!

It is a Curve Young Company and community production and they have done an absolutely bang up job. Every element of the performance is captivating, leaving you absolutely spellbound the whole way through.

Image by P Raith

I adore A Midsummer Night's Dream anyway, it's such a fantastic, amusing tale and the cast of 70 actors, young and old, really do it justice here in Leicester. I particularly enjoyed the impromptu musical numbers which really delighted in some super choreography and passionate energy from the dancers.

Image by P Raith

Visually, the whole thing looks stunning too - from the intricate set (with real grass!) and a floating fairy bower to the beautifully designed costumes. I loved the mixture of digital effects and physical set dressing, particularly as scene changes were so swift and professional. I think we can all agree that we would like fairy horns and wings on our shoes.

Image by P Raith

There were quite a number of stand out performers. Bottom had us all gasping with laughter, and I enjoyed the performances and the dancing of Puck(s). But it was clear that the whole cast had put in an insane amount of work to making the production perfect and I for one appreciated that effort.

Thanks to Curve for inviting me along to review. A delightful summer's treat indeed!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Pop your cork: 45 St Martin's

We popped along last week to the soft launch of Leicester's latest wine bar. 45 St Martin's, on St Martin's Square, is a sleek, airy space, beautifully refurbished in the unit formerly occupied by the lovely Futurecycles (who are still around, just on Market Street now).

They are a wine bottle shop and bar, dealing in fine wines and champagnes and offering a high level of customer service in refined surroundings. There is a little bit of outdoor seating available for you to enjoy when the weather is fine, and it is an altogether pleasant place to sit and while away an evening.

The staff, although a new team, have clearly been well picked and well trained as they are all universally polite and welcoming and extremely attentive. The menu is extensive, there are many wines for you to take away, but equally the wine list for drinking at the bar is carefully chosen with a range of palates catered for.

I opted for the Californian Zinfandel on the list, because I am a sucker for that grape and always looking for one that is as good as those that I tried in Cali. I can confirm that this is probably the best I have had in the UK - it was full and rounded in the mouth and full of that fabled jamminess that for some reason doesn't seem to be often present in the Zins that are exported to this country. There certainly was a little hint of that West Coast sunshine which I find to be so elusive in imported wines from my favourite American state. Two thumbs up from me.

If you fancy something a little different, there is of course a range of fine champagnes, but also a very exotic looking list of champagne cocktails, to add a dash of refinement to your evening. I haven't tried those, but I have seen some pictures on their social media and they certainly look very beautiful! As you would expect, there is also a modest selection of beers, soft drinks and more - we found that these were very reasonably priced, so for the quality of both the wines and the other drinks over all the value for money is very good as the wines on offer are definitely worth the £5+ you will pay for a glass and the beers and soft drinks are much less.

As it was the soft launch, we were also able to enjoy a range of nibbles, which matched well with my wine and added to the experience. I don't know how often they will be doing that on a regular week but I'm pretty sure if it becomes a regular thing then that will coax me in to becoming a regular!

Initial impressions are therefore very good! Let's just hope they don't start employing bizarre dress policies like the 'no trainers' rule which suddenly appeared at their sister bar, 45 West. After all, the unpretentious and honest enjoyment of a quality wine doesn't come with a dress code.
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