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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Beer tasting through earthquakes and hurricanes

Bring on the earthquakes, the hurricanes, whatever you can throw - nothing will stop this intrepid beer reviewer. So here I sit watching the effects of the hurricane writing the beer blog. I've got a bit behind with the blog as I have been thoroughly engrossed in 'gone with the wind' which I've been reading. I finished it yesterday so can return to the blog. I have tried a number over the last week without having my beer review template to hand so soe may not get the full description an review they deserve. However, I hope you'll get the idea. So to the first beer. The Landshark lager - apparently from the Budweiser stable. It turns out that when it came to making Landshark they had run out of hops, barley and yeast so they just mixed fizzy water, sugar, added a bit of colouring and, voila Landshark lager - a very generous 1 out of 5. So returning home from dinner where I had the Landshark I thought I needed something with a bit more oomph so I decided now was the time to try the 4th and final beer from the sierra Nevada beer camp case, the Juniper black ale

Beer: Juniper black ale
Brewer: Sierra Nevada
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold
Where purchased:
Date tasted:
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: 8%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: black, light bubble rise

Aroma: slight citrus, chocolate and coffee

Flavour: slight sweetness and chocolate then coffee then really heavy hoppy bitterness into more coffee

Overall impression: again a really clever beer but the hoppiness and alcohol level were just too much for me

Rating out of 5: 3.5

After the devastatingly weak to the formidably strong I thought something in between might be better so later in the week I started on the mixed 6 pack I got in Annapolis. I began with the Ubu ale

Beer: Ubu ale
Brewer: Lake Placid craft brewery
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold
Where purchased:
Date tasted:
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: dark red with light bubble rise

Aroma: sweet honey and apricot

Flavour: mild astringency then honey and mellow bitterness followed by a lasting sweetness

Overall impression: pretty good ale - described on the bottle as an English style bitter and it is, sort of, I guess. English style in the Dick van dyke in Mary poppins English style.

Rating out of 5: 3.5

Over the week I also tried the rest...

Beer: longboard island lager
Brewer: kona brewery, Portsmouth, NH
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold
Where purchased:
Date tasted:
Package type: Brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: light golden

Aroma: light citrus and hoppy

Flavour: refreshing lively fizz, light hoppy bitterness followed by a slight astringency

Overall description: good refreshing light lager

Rating out of 5: 4


Beer: helles lager
Brewer: Fordham, Dover, DE
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold
Where purchased:
Date tasted:
Package type: Brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: deep golden

Aroma: slight hop and banana
Flavour: fairly fierce fizz, a sweetness then lasting light bitterness with some more sweetness

Overall impression: not particular flavoursome but a nice mix of bitter and sweet

Rating out of 5: 3

However the best of the bunch which I drank whilst eating hard shell blue crabs was the Chesapeake pale ale - and foolishly I didn't record my review at the time. But it was a definite 5 out of 5 with lots of flavour and just the right amount of bitterness. Top notch!



Friday, 26 August 2011

Keeping it American!

So I have, to use a nautical expression, changed tact slightly. Rather than perhaps trying the different wild food every day I thought that perhaps a bit like Dulcie i could have several wild foods on any given day that would cover several days, especially if aim having salad for example. That said Saturday i was still on the hunt for the days food. We had been told that we should find something called sassafras in the garden and that it could be used to make tea or root beer. The plant has three distinct leaf shapes so is quite easy to spot,one is just an oval shaped leaf, one looks like a mitten and the third has three sections (clearly I haven't read the botany book that I brought with me as yet!) anyway you get the gist of it. We saw some of these at the top of the drive so removed several of them. However the lemony smell of damaged leaves or the root beer smell of the root wasn't there but I took them anyway.

I made a simple tea with the leaves and tried it but it wasn't all that so after reading on my app about trying to get the caduim of the plant out I was a bit stumped as I didn't know what that was. Apparently it's the gooey bit just under the bark that transports nutrients around so I dug that out and put it on to boil with some of the bark. It was at that point that Jory arrived as we we're having a proper Maryland crab feast that evening. She looked at my concoction and told me it wasn't sassafras and we went into the back garden and found the proper stuff which instantly smelt of root beer and the leaves smelled lemony. The tea from both was lovely but I am still stumped as to what the other was as it had the three different leaves on the same plant. Still I know now what to look for. Oddly enough the day after I was first told about sassafras it was mentioned in Gone with the Wind which Dulcie is currently reading - how odd!

The new app is proving very useful as I would never have found Sunday's plant without it. Asiatic day flower which as it's name suggests only flowers for a day. There are lots of them at the top of the drive so I am having them in a salad today (Friday) and will report on the flavour later.

Monday was more fishing. I hadn't been up early enough for a few days with some spare time to go and have a go but this morning Dulcie was still snoozing and showing no signs of rousing so I thought a spot of fishing would be a good plan. I set up the night line but that wasn't attracting any attention so got on with some casting with the lure. The first cast brought me a baby striped bass which went straight back. Then a few minutes later when I was fiddling about with the lure just under the jetty something bit and we had an interesting little struggle before I brought it up on the jetty. Well it wasn't a bass or a perch it was longer than they were with a long head. It was on later inspection that i confirmed it as a chain pickerel. I knew it belonged to the pike family and must admit was a little wary of it due to the number of very sharp teeth it had and the reputation that pike have for being viscious. Even if I couldn't eat it I was going to have to kill it to get the hook out that it had swallowed. Well I also vaguely remember that they are difficult to dispatch and that was true enough. At this point Dulcie arrived and we both donked it on the head in order to speed up the procedure but it still kept twitching more than other fish that l have previously dispatched. The teeth were also putting me off. Anyway obviously it eventually stopped moving and removed the hook and carried on. Not long after I caught another perch so was happy with my morning catch.

Tuesday we went to Washington DC to be tourists. For the capital city of such a big country its not that big a city but very different to NY which is the only major US city I have to compare it to (I fell asleep on the drive around LA!!). We took an open top bus tour and saw some of the famous memorials. Unfortunately the long reflection pool you see in Forest Gump that runs from the Washington memorial up to the obelisk was being dug up so no reflecting going on there. We then went to the White House and got some of those great at arms length photos of both of us outside.

I saw some wild spinach - that is what they call fat hen over here but with the heat it would have been a little buggered by the time I got it home. There were a few other common edible weeds along the National Mall but today was not a foraging day.

The big news though is that while we were sitting having lunch we experienced what I initially thought was the guy sitting next to me being annoying and tapping his feet rather heavily but turned out to be a 5.8 scale earthquake!!! OMG. Well obviously this was big news so suddenly the calm background music that had been playing in the restaurant disappeared and a very loud CNN came on which then continued to play through the rest of our lunch and until we left.

Washington went into pandemonium and buildings were being closed left right and centre so of course by about 3 pm a very premature rush hour had started. We wandered back to pick up our sightseeing bus as we wanted to go to George town but basically the place was in grid lock. Most of the normal buses that came by were out of service and our sightseeing bus was no where to be seen. We then walked alot, found out the underground was still running but very slowly and eventually got home a little later than we had planned.

Wednesday we took Charley (the dog we are looking after) to Greenbury point with lots of foraging opportunities. I gathered mile-a-minute which is a creeper that had almost symmetrical triangular leaves and amazing barbs on the stalks but had a lemony almost sorrel type flavour. I also got some red clover for my salad and some young Greater Plantain. Finally as a bit of an experiment I got some foxtail which is a grass with this funnily enough foxtail like seed thing at the top (really should read my botany book it would make me sound so much more knowledgeable). Anyway the idea is you grind the seeds and can mix them with flour to add a nutty flavour.

I mixed the mile a minute with onions and flaked pickerel ( which is a labour of love bearing in mind how many small annoying bones they have ) and that was lovely, and then had the clover in with my salad. The foxtail seeds are drying in a bowl on the window and I will attempt to do something with them today.

Finally we get to Thursday and it was time for more seafood. We drove toSalisbury to see a friend of mine who has lived out here for about 11 years. Charley came with us for the trip and we sat outside in 85 degrees and had lunch! I had clams which I was bit dubious about but actually covered in a bucket of butter and several buckets of garlic tasted lovely. I would quite like to try clam chowder but Dulcie reckons it's more of an autumnal thing so that may have to be another time.

So we are pretty much up to date now. I will report on the Asiatic dayflower and the foxtail biscuit experiment in due course but will leave you for now and hope to return after surviving hurricane Irene which is making it's way up the east coast of the US!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Summer drinking

The weather has cleared up a little now which has meant a few more trips out and the discovery of a liquor store in Annapolis which does a mix your own 6 pack. So I did. I have been a little more sensible and selected some lighter summer drinking beers this time. The better weather has been great in terms of getting out, however it has curtailed my beer drinking as alcohol consumption and car driving shouldn't be mixed. However I have managed to sneak in one of the summer ales, a pleasant if not overly exciting Samuel Adams summer ale.

Beer: Summer ale
Brewer: Samuel Adams, Boston
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Annapolis
Where purchased: mills wine merchant, Annapolis
Date tasted: 16/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: light golden, slight foam, swift bubble rise

Aroma: hoppy and mild citrus

Flavour: lots of fizz, starts citrusy, mild banana and light bitterness with a lasting sweetness

Overall impression: nothing out of this world but decent flavoursome summer drinking ale.

Rating out of 5: 3


I have also been to the Middleton tavern - a proper ye olde tavern in Annapolis dating back from the 1600's. I tried a couple of their draught beers but foolishly forgot to take my tasting notes so the reviews for these 2 are a bit poor. I tried the Middleton Oyster ale. A darkish amber ale with a slightly odd astringency, almost rubbery mouth feel and a little over sweet with a bitter that jarred rather than complemented. Not bad but I wouldn't drink it again, 2.5 out of 5. The other beer I tried was the Yuengling traditional lager. A dark golden, a pleasant flavoursome lager but not nearly as good as a Brooklyn lager in my opinion, 3/5.

The good, the bad and the ugly

So the weather so far has not been the hot sunshine i'd been hoping for. In fact conditions are somewhat monsoon like. However, every cloud and all that means that the the weather has been more conducive to me trying the crazily strong beers. I started 'light' one evening with the weizenbock at a mere 6.8%. Described as a Belgian style it does indeed have leffe type qualities, not bad. I also tried the double IPA at a whopping 8.5%. Now I'm not one to give up on a beer easily and I'm no wuss. I did try hard but I'm afraid I found this utterly undrinkable.

Beer: weizenbock
Brewer: sierra nevada
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Annapolis
Where purchased: bay hills liquor store
Date tasted: 15/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: 6.8%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: dark Amber, cloudy, light bubble rise

Aroma: sweet, banana, hoppy

Flavour: sweet and light hoppiness with then a big hit of banana and lasting bitter sweet combination

Overall impression: very Belgian. It has that sweetness and banana-ness with the alcoholic strength. Pretty good.

Rating out of 5: 4



Beer: double IPA
Brewer: sierra nevada
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Annapolis
Where purchased: bay hills liquor store
Date tasted: 15/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: 8.5%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: dark golden, light bubble rise

Aroma: hoppy

Flavour: starts with a nice astringency and citrus notes then a hoppiness, then more bitter hoppiness then more, then more that fills the mouth and nose and lasts and lasts

Overall impression: very cleverly done and if you like hoppy bitterness then great but this was just way too strong on bitterness, hops and alcohol for me

Rating out of 5: 3.5

Oyster shooters and catching fish

Ok before I forget I left out Sundays wild food and had skipped to the excitement of mint juleps while forgetting that on Sunday found wood sorrel but not the same species as we get at home but a yellow wood sorrel which grows in the same habitat but rather than just being individual stems it grows in a branched manner so you get several leaflets on any one plant. Still the same taste so I had this on top of my salad.

So Monday was mint juleps which were great and Tuesday was the first wild protein day. Admittedly it wasn't very hard in terms of having to use my foraging cunning but crabs are wild food and being in Maryland it would be impossible not to eat them. On our first trip into Annapolis on Sunday we had seen a big queue outside this deli on the high street. It looked quite cheap but there were just loads of people waiting outside for a seat so we decided on Tuesday we would investigate and it's here we had 'the best crab cakes anywhere - better than the best' in Chick and Ruth's Delly (their spelling not mine!). They were good i have to say but then haven't eaten many to compare them to. Easy foraging and some no doubt would suggest a cop out but then I do intend to catch my own at some point while i am here. We went out sailing on Tuesday evening which was fabulous and a great way to spend an evening. We were talking about fishing and asking what people use for bait and basically it sounds like anything will go.

So on Wednesday I decided it was time to try out all the fishing gear that is lying around here. I took two rods down to the little jetty at the bottom of the garden along with some left over fried chicken bits and loaded up one of the rods that had a very interesting rig on it with two arms that stuck out at right angles and various beads and stuff on it ( you can tell I get very technical when it comes to fishing). Anyway several casts of that didn't bring very much so I had a go with the simpler looking rig on the other rod. Unfortunately got that stuck on the bottom and it came off so that was the end of that. Luckily a small boat came past with a couple in it who were having considerable success and I managed to ask what they were catching, whether it was edible and what rig and bait they were using. They were just using lures and not bait and we're generally catching White perch which according to them were some of the best eating out of the bay ( Chesapeake Bay that is). I tried another type of rig but had no luck and we decided we needed to go out but thought would also try a trick I was shown on the course I did with hunter gather cook Nick Weston when he showed me about night lines. On the course we made a simple rod from a straight bit of hazel and tied a line and hook on. After throwing out some bait we tied a worm on, cast it into the lake and sunk the pole into the bank and left it. We came back and found a large carp attached to it so thought would try that here. Hazel is not in abundance here but luckily bamboo is, so I found a suitable piece and set up the line over the water and off we went to The Internet cafe for a few hours.

We got back from the cafe and I needed to find something for my days wild food. The one thing I have found about the states is it's difficult to find areas that aren't someone's property. There aren't often pavements so the edge of land where some weeds may be found are often the edge of someone's garden so a tad difficult to forage from. I drove round for about half an hour looking for somewhere to stop and have a wander round but as I say everywhere seems to belong to someone so poking around in the weedy bits looks a bit odd. Also foraging at 35 mph when you are in an unfamiliar car on the wrong side of the road can also be a challenge so I went home empty handed and a little grumpy as it was also very hot and sticky.

I checked the nightline when i got back but the bait had gone, I think because i had let it sit on the bottom I am sure crabs were eating it so no joy there as yet. I was getting a little desperate by this time as we were now off out for the evening to listen to some Appalachian music and then to meet a friend of Dulcie's. We did stop at a car park on the way into Annapolis that I had spotted the day before and it looked like a car park for a wooded walk area. We pulled in and looked at the map. You had to walk down the busy road and round the corner before you reached the trail but we thought oh it can't be far if the car park is just here but no we were wrong. After about 10 minutes walking and no sign of any trail we abandoned the idea and went back to the car. I did find what I thought was a member of the goosefoot family so picked some but thought I had better check at home first.

I didn't think there was going to be any further opportunity for my wild food for the day and had just accepted that it was more difficult over here and that i may have to have the odd day when I just didn't find anything. However we met with this friend of Dulcie's and off we went to a bar in Annapolis for some beers. The people sitting next to me ordered what I later found out were oyster shooters! Who knew you could even get such a thing. Basically it's an oyster in a small shot glass with cocktail sauce, you then get another small shot glass full of beer which you down after the oyster. Well I have never eaten oysters and have always been a little worried about my gag reflex coming into play in a public place so I have to say i was a little dubious about the whole idea but it was a wild food and I hadn't had it before so decided to go for it. The question was though to chew or not to chew. Well due to the concern about gagging and the fact I was in the middle of a bar I thought the safest thing was just to swallow so I did. I can't honestly say I know what oysters taste like apart from the briny flavour in the middle of the cocktail sauce but hey that was my wild food for Wednesday.

Thursday i was up early - the morning was glorious and went and sat on the jetty as it's in the shade until about 10 am so just perfect for a bit of quiet contemplation. I thought I should rethink my night line and also the rig on the rod and got myself a smaller hook for the bamboo pole and a lure for the rod. I set up the bamboo pole so that the line was dangling rather than sitting on the bottom and loaded it with some turkey we found in the fridge. Almost immediately you could see things were biting and as it wasn't on the river bed I assumed it must be fish. I put the lure on the other rod and started casting out to see what was out there. Fairly soon after that the bamboo pole had a taker and after some scrabbling for the net Dulcie and I managed to land a small fish of unknown type. We thought it may be a perch but then looking at the book it looked more like a small striped bass which have a minimum landing size. After all this and the fact that I was struggling to get the hook out I decided it was probably kinder to dispatch it so a swift clink on the head sorted that out. Not long after I also had a taker on the rod and reeled myself in a decent sized white perch so gutted and descaled both and was quite happy with my fishing for the day. That covered two days of wild food so we a bang up to date now and on schedule.

The other thing that I am hoping will increase my likelihood of success is an app I found while playing in the apple shop the other day and looking for some info on another plant that may appear in this blog quite soon. A guy called Steve Brill has written many books on the whole wild food topic and has developed this great app so I have the lite version at present but think I will invest in the more weighty version today as I think it is only right to have the full fat version while i am here!


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pine needle tea and mint juleps

Pine needle tea and Mint Julep

Ok so as i was saying Friday was a travelling day and I had thoughts of getting to our woodland hideout and finding something to consume before we went to bed. However by the time we got here my body knew it was really 3 am so defeated I went to bed.

Saturday we got up and decided to go to a farmers Market that was on up the road to load up with local provisions. It was great so much fresh and lovely produce under one roof and not in a supermarket. We got okra, aubergine, massive tomatoes and white corn. Then there was a trip into Whole Foods Market to get nearly everything else except the alcohol. They are not allowed to sell alcohol in supermarkets in this state which I think is a great idea.

So on our return I asked Dulcie to drop me half way down the long drive so I could see what was about. We are in the middle of a pine forest which borders a creek so lots of open space. However not much obvious foraging as I don't seem to recognise many of the plants. I am aware I need to keep an eye out for poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac but of course there are so many other unrecognisable plants as well. Well I decided to go a little off track to see what I could see and followed the waters edge round to end up back at the house. Nothing was leaping out - I saw some small bushes that I thought may have had some berries on them at some point possibly blue berries but there was definitely nothing edible there now. I was also hoping that with all these pine trees perhaps a cauliflower fungus might show up. Anyway nothing was showing up so I was nearly back to the house when I felt a sharp needling pain on my ankle so as I scrabbled back under the fence I rubbed at my ankle and rushed in and then felt another sharp pain. Once in the house I went into the bedroom where Dulcie was to tell her of my adventures when she brushed something off my arm, I looked down and saw something else on my tshirt and frantically ended up waving my arms about and before we knew it there were several wasps flying around our heads so 5 minutes of rushing around waving rolled up newspapers ensued before we were satisfied that we had killed them all.

Not the best start to my foraging experiences in the US but there you go. I ended the day with pine needle tea which is delicate and I am sure I have read somewhere that it is high in vitamin c so that was my first foraged food of the US leg.

Yesterday we went to Annapolis as there was another farmers Market on where they were selling bison and I was keen to try this. We now have some new York style steaks and some burgers so will let you know what they are like.

On the way back from Annapolis I was as ever on the look out for somewhere to collect something. Disturbed ground is often a good start so an uncared for lot of land that looked like one day a house may be built on it looked good to me. After a swift turn into the next street we parked up. Dulcie is more concerned about the law of foraging than I am so came as look out while I potentially stole some weeds. The sky was quite dark and a storm was once again brewing but luckily the rain held off. I wandered all the way to the back of the lot and saw something that resembled fat hen or wild spinach as they call it over here but I wasn't convinced so carried on and then it jumped out, the lovely little lilac flowers of mint. It was a really strong scented variety as well. So rather than do the usual and think of putting the kettle on my mixologist partner immediately suggested a mint julep so that was my wild food of the day yesterday a slug or two of bourbon mixed with muddled sugar and mint and stacks of ice. Never let it be said that my wild food uses are boring!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A few days catch up before the US leg starts!

Got behind again, days 6-11

Ok so I am now sitting at terminal 5 in Heathrow waiting for the bag drop to open. Have dropped Finny off at his Shoreham holiday home with the McAulays and Agnes Bassett has just been left charging about with a young boxer with Toni near Reading. I think perhaps she will have an exhausting time playing non-stop so that is good. I am not sure Dulcie is feeling so happy about the situation not having gotten used to leaving her dogs. However having had years of convincing owners that there dogs would survive without them and watched them happily trot through to the hospital ward for the day I am under no illusion that we will miss her more than she misses us.

So what have we been up to, well I guess if you read the beer blog you will know that we finished in the New Forest on Friday and head for Dartmoor. My last wild food was an unsuccessful Jack in the Hedge so I was hoping for better things on Saturday. Having arrived at our friends house in daylight. Had a quick tour of the garden and I soon spotted Saturdays food - burdock was happily growing in Barry's garden so I thought as I have the landowners permission to dig it up this would be Saturdays food. The first one I dug up was quite small but as there were several I dug up three. Being in a bit of a rush I cleaned them of a fashion and shoved them in the oven to roast. The japanese cultivate a lot of burdock and eat it generally finely chopped and cooked in teriyaki sauce and in fact I have eaten it that way and thought it was lovely. However clearly I hadn't taken enough care of my preparation or in fact my research I think as when I got them out of the oven they resembled dried twigs and although the flavour was ok they were very woody and of very little substance. I had seen one of the Ray Mears wild food episodes recently where he cooked burdock root in an underground over with a couple of legs of venison and they looked really good. However I feel it was possibly the wrong time of year - I think I need to get them in the autumn when the foliage has died down or in the spring just before they sprout in order to get most of the goodness in the root and not in the plant itself. So another less than great day but then also good to try and learn about these things first hand. I always believe you are much more likely to remember what to do when you have yourself learnt what not to do.

On to Sunday, the weather was looking decidedly busy and went from hot sunshine to grey looming cloud. We set out for a walk up to Kestor with Agnes, Finny and Reuben under a cloudy but blue and sunny sky. We reached Kestor quite quickly and saw the volcanic bowl that the Tor is known for and from which Finny and Agnes had a drink. The weather had been slowly changing and now it began to pour and pour like it does when you forget your waterproof pants or have not got water proof shoes on. Obviously I am on the look out the whole time for some free food but the weather made that a little more difficult. I handed Finny over to Liz and disappeared over a stone wall to wander around under some beech trees in the hope of finding some exciting fungi but alas nothing popped up apart from a couple of chewed brittle gills so I returned to the pack where we walked down this fabulous path that felt like it had been there forever. I love these old droves and can almost feel the hundreds of past lives that have wandered down them in haste, in busyness and in aimless wandering. I am still at present having to keep half an eye on the young hound as I had let her off the lead. She is quite good but I am still not confident on switching off to her completely and focusing fully on the hunt for food so although there were things cropping up to pick I was still mindful of saving things for the Scillies and on the look out for something different and currently more seasonal.
Not too far along my patience was rewarded and as I had heard speak of today's food I was glad I waited. In the pouring rain there they all stood - easily missed by the speedy walker - wild raspberries many canes of them so I gorged on as many as I could collect in a time frame that was acceptable to my soggy non- forager companions. A great delight to find and a whole load better than burnt to buggery burdock root I can tell you!!!

We returned to Brighton late on Sunday evening and the next few days we had to get the house ready for our guests and wash and pack for the states. I spent much of Monday morning sorting out the garden and then after a trip to the dump and a coffee and cake in Hudson and Bridges ( they do very good hot chocolate ) it was back to the packing. I did take the dogs out today but my wild food had already been organized by Dulcie's attempt to get us to eat the contents of the freezer before we left. I had sorrel soup which I had made for the first ever wild food course I ran back in May. The sorrel was common sorrel and collected from a field on the way to Ditchling Beacon that I know. The place is full of the stuff but then so is most of Devon it seems as I saw a lot of it while out walking on Sunday. I have to say it wasn't my best sorrel soup but then you can't always make fabulous soup, sometimes it has to be mediocre to make the other stuff stand out!

Tuesday I was in Suffolk having driven up Monday night. I took my mothers carer out for a walk with me on my circular walk that I like to do from my Mothers house. The woods are lovely and i have found many things in there before but again nothing was leaping out. Anyway we then also ended up wandering into town and it was there in a hedge on the edge of town that I saw Tuesday's food. Hops!! I was a little dubious as again they are better eaten earlier on but then I had read in the Tree House Diaries that Nick Weston ate a lot of them throughout the season so i picked the young looking tops and took a good handful home. I am not sure what my Mothers carer thought of my free food but i steamed them when I got back to Brighton and had them with butter and pepper along with some pressed tongue that I bought in a farmers market in Devon. A very good meal though I say so myself. Since returning to the life of an omnivore I have embraced the nose to tail eating philosophy - if you are going to ask something to give up it's life to feed you at least have the respect to make the most of the whole thing.

Wednesday was more packing and an informal chat with the partners of a vet group in Eastbourne. The pub was lovely and the company very good. Dog walking was a trip to the the racecourse and I thought a tisane may be nice today so picked some chamomile and at the end of the day I mixed it with ground ivy for my last drink of the day. Chamomile is very soothing and a great tea to have before bed. It is best collected when the petals start to face backwards and it can be dried and stored for quite some time.

That brings me toThursday and I have to say a slight disappointment and confirmation that many greens are best eaten in spring. I was once again up on the racecourse this time in the rain with three dogs as Monsieur La Courge (Marrow to his English friends) was with us for doggy day care. Again I wanted something less common and found wild marjoram but also knew of a patch of golden marjoram so thought it would go well in the salad I had planned for lunch. Well it smelled lovely and the flowers were pretty but I have to say the bitterness was not adding to the overall enjoyment of the salad. I will try the other variety when I get home but in the spirit of the challenge I did eat it.

That brings us to Friday and a slight dilemma. I have now progressed onto the plane and am currently somewhere near Greenland many thousands of feet in the air. We land 7.50pm local time but I am reliably informed it will be dark when we get there. Of course I should have factored this in to the short morning walk we had with Paggles this morning but alas I did not grab any of the hundreds of blackberries I could have scoffed as I have been saving those for Scilly. Anyway we shall see and I will report accordingly and hopefully on a slightly more regular basis.

Finally my physical challenge is not doing well. I exercised with Dulcie and Barry on Sunday and the punishing regime ensured I did many press ups but I have been inexcusably crap at following the programme so will rectify this tomorrow and get my act together.

Here in the USA!


And so here we are in the very hot and humid Annapolis. Having discovered, after going into several supermarkets on the hunt for beer and finding nothing, that you can only buy beer from liquor stores we visited a local liquor store (off license for those of you reading in English). Now considering we are in the 'burbs here this place is amazing. I have never seen so many varieties of spirits, wines and beers in a local shop. The only problem with the US, leaving aside politics, is that you only seem to be able to buy beers in a minimum if 6... What's that about? Luckily though we spotted a couple of mixed cases so this evening I am trying Pale Moon, a belgian style ale from the Blue Moon brewery whose original beer has just arrived on draught in the UK and.... some Sierra Nevada 'best of camp'. I am a big fan of the pale ale so it seemed a good opportunity to try some others. It turns out that Sierra nevada have this experimental beer camp where they try new ideas out and this year they have bottled some off them. So I now have a case of 12 consisting of 4 different kinds. The slight issue is that it is only now I have them home and out of the box that I discover the lightest beer is 6.5% and one is 8.5%. So if i start slurring my blog you'll know why.

Beer: Pale Moon
Brewer: Blue Moon brewing company, Colorado
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold, MD
Where purchased: Bay Hills liquor store
Date tasted: 13/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: 5.4%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: golden, light bubble rise

Aroma: hoppy and fruity

Flavour: refreshing at first with the carbonation and fruitiness, then a nice level of bitterness

Overall impression: it is a nice beer, not quite as interesting at the original blue moon. It feels almost too 'just right'. It's a bit like an 'air brushed' beer. Too much of the right balance of everything that it loses it's personality. But having said that, a nice beer to drink

Rating out of 5: 3.5

Beer: California common
Brewer: Sierra Nevada, California
Country trying in: USA
Town trying in: Arnold, MD
Where purchased: Bay Hills liquor store
Date tasted: 13/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 12 fl oz
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: dark golden, light bubble rise

Aroma: banana, spice, lightly hoppy

Flavour: starts with the fizz mouth feel then a little hoppiness, moves into a light banana taste followed by a spicy clove then finishes with a little bitterness with lingering spice.

Overall impression: an interesting beer with the cloves and fruitiness. The flavours can all be distinguished but none over power. A lovely, complex beer. Shame it's so strong as one will be plenty...

Rating out of 5: 4.5

Two with top marks...

So a few days back in Brighton after the trip to the West Country and a chance to try a beer that I'd picked up while we were away and what a thing of beauty. The Exeter brewery Avocet ale. An organic devon ale designed to be served chilled. So I'd put it in the fridge and on a balmy August evening I sat in the garden with Brighton's finest take away pizza (from Pizza face in kemp town) and drank a beautiful beer. It is the perfect real ale alternative to cold lager. Now a cold lager can hit the spot but it is still fizzy lager beer. The Avocet ale was perfect.

Beer: avocet organic ale
Brewer: Exeter brewery
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Brighton
Where purchased: Crediton farmers market
Date tasted: 9/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: June 2012
Size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 4.2%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: light golden, medium carbonation

Aroma: fresh and light hops with a mild citrus aroma

Flavour: refreshing with a light citrus flavour followed by a full hoppiness but not overly bitter. A full but refreshing mouth feel.

Overall impression: a thing of beauty. A perfect mixture of citrus, a light bitterness and lasting refreshment.

Rating out of 5: 5 (the first with top marks)

And now the beer challenge moves to the USA, Annapolis, MD to be precise. But not before a stop to some friends in Bracknell who introduced me last night to a beautiful beer from the Badger Brewery. The Golden Glory.

Beer: Golden Glory
Brewer: Badger
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Bracknell
Where purchased: ?
Date tasted: 11/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: golden, clear, light carbonation

Aroma: a whopping great hit of peach and a mild hoppiness

Flavour: a zesty astringency with sweet peach a medium hoppy bitterness

Overall impression: Gorgeous, I can't believe I haven't tried this before. I think perhaps the description of peach has put me off before but it is a stunningly well balanced combination of bitter, sweet, peach and citrus. Top notch

Rating out of 5: 5 (the second with top marks - I think I must be going soft...)

And so the next beer will be an american one - any suggestions....?

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Exeter brewery and a beer safari

The Devon beer fest continues. After my other challenge workout this morning we headed off to the Crediton farmers market. A small but perfectly formed market with some great meat, cheeses, pate and... an Exeter brewery stall selling 4 of their bottled ales for £8. Well, what can you do faced with a bargain like that. So this evening I'm trying the Ferryman Bitter. I highly recommend getting a tasting notes sheet and using it as a guide when trying beer. I'm really appreciating the aromas and subtle differences in beers now I'm making myself really think about what I'm tasting. My tasting notes and general knowledge about tasting beer came from the fabulous day-long beer course run by a small company called Food Safari based in Suffolk (www.foodsafari.co.uk). If you want a great day visiting a hop farm, barley farm, a personal tour round Adnam's brewery with the head brewer and the most gorgeous lunch and dinner with more beers to try than you can shake a stick at then get on their Beer Safari course.

And so to beer number 7

Beer: Ferryman
Brewer: Exeter Brewery
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Chagford
Where purchased: Crediton Farmers Market
Date tasted: 6/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: ?
Size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 4.2%
Tasting temperature: room

Appearance: reddish Amber in colour, slightly cloudy, light bubble rise

Aroma: toffee-ish with a hint of banana

Flavour: first you get a tingly mouth feel of the carbonation followed by a slightly sweet citrus then a medium lasting bitterness

Overall impression: a really good easy drinking bitter. Flavour wise it's not particularly out of the ordinary but a good classic bitter.

Rating out of 5: 4

Three days catch up

Days 3,4 &5

Well got a bit behind with the blogging limited time around wifi and general lack of organisation on my part!
Beginning to realise this is definitely going to be a challenge especially as we get to America and also while we are in the Scilly's so I am trying to keep some more obvious and easy to find stuff for then.


So while in the new forest thought i would do some mushrooming. I certainly found some interesting specimens. On wednesday it was incredibly hot so after a short trip to a very crowded beach we headed back to the coolness of Ringwood forest so the dogs could have a charge about. It was there I found my first mushroom which I thought was going to be the choice of the day. It was a brown birch bolete and although edible it is not the greatest of edible mushrooms. However the day was speeding along and nothing other than the obvious apples and blackberries were appearing. Anyway we went on another walk over the forest to the pub and this is where I found Wednesday's wild food. To my delight I found sheepskin sorrel a plant I had never found before but very distinctive due to the "ears" at the bottom of the leaf. Not as potent in the lemony, sharpness stakes as common sorrel but lovely never the less. Funnily enough we have just arrived on Dartmoor and I have found a massive patch in a friends garden - odd how you never see a plant then once you find it you seem to find it everywhere.

So Thursday was a challenge in that we were still camping and having been so incredibly hot the day before we were somewhat surprised to be kept awake half the night by torrential rain which just kept on to eventually take up the whole morning. We barely left the tent except for the obvious so never actually made it out until 3pm - the joys of not working! Anyway we were on our way back to town when I decided to stop by a river just to see what I could find and thinking that I would need to resort to nettles, suddenly there they were - a small patch of red currants over hanging the river. So of course I clung precariously to the edge and picked them all to eat for tea. They were lovely and i was very pleased with my find - two days and two foods I wasn't expecting to find.

Yesterday was a travelling day from the New Forest to Dartmoor via Exeter to see a school friend I hadn't seed for over two years. Anyway that meant not much foraging time so it was on the drive from Exeter to Frenchbeer in the middle of Dartmoor that I found todays food. I was trying to navigate via the small map on my iPhone, listen to music, avoid hitting another vehicle or drive into the hedge while foraging so not too busy then. Anyway I rounded a bend and was looking at the hedge and thought I saw a familiar leaf shape. The foragers emergency stop and a handy passing place meant could check if my eyes were deceiving me but they weren't. It was Jack in the Hedge or Garlic Mustard but it looked in it's early stages rather than the blown seed burdened plant that is normal for this time of year. I wasn't sure whether there had been some hedge cutting going on and this was new growth. Disappointingly it was not great, the garlic smell was there but as one would expect of a plant that is best eaten in spring it was by now rather bitter so I ate it but it wasn't one of my better finds.
That is the problem I am finding in that all the spring greens are past there best and many of the summer fruits are not out yet hence the challenge that I referred to earlier. I think Dulcie's is much easier personally!!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Ahhh, Devon

And so the beer tasting roadshow moves on from the New Forest to Devon. However, I do have 3 bottles from Ringwood Brewery to try should the draught pickings get a bit thin at any point. So first stop was my favourite pub, the Double Locks in Exeter (www.double locks.com). I tried a pint of Otter Amber. I am quite a fan of Otter Ales (www.otterbrewery.com) but I've never tried the Amber ale, and what a treat.

So beer number 6...

Beer: Otter Amber
Brewer: Otter Brewery, Honiton, Devon
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Exeter
Where purchased: double locks pub, Exeter
Date tasted: 5/8/11
Package type: draught
Best before date: ?
Size: pint
Alcohol by volume: 4%
Tasting temperature: room

Appearance: Amber, clear, small creamy head which clung to the glass perfectly

Aroma: hoppy

Flavour: refreshing astringency, light, fresh hoppiness, with a light lasting bitterness

Overall impression: A lovely drinking refreshing ale, top notch. I could definitely spend a long afternoon drinking this.

Rating out of 5: 4

Thursday, 4 August 2011

2 unique ones...

A gorgeous hot and sunny day in the New forest so what better way to spend the evening than wandering over to the Red Shoot pub with on site brewery. It was a proper New Forest journey with 2 people on horseback, 2 on mountain bikes and 2 of us walking the dogs. The pub brews a number of beers and two were on draught this evening so I had to try both. The first was the bitter, Tom's tipple and the second, a dark mild called Muddy Boots. Both were really different and I would highly recommend trying this place if you're in the area.

Beer: Tom's Tipple
Brewer: Red Shoot, Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Ringwood
Where purchased: Red Shoot Pub
Date tasted: 3/8/11
Package type: draught
Best before date: ?
Size: half pint
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: cellar

Appearance: dark golden, clear, very light head

Aroma: peardrop, banana sweetness

Flavour: creamy then a little watery followed by a hit of banana and peardrop, then a mild bitterness which disappears

Overall impression: In spite of the odd description of flavour it was actually quite enjoyable and quite different. However, I'm nit sure I could drink a lot of it

Rating out of 5: 3.5


Beer: Muddy Boots
Brewer: Red Shoot
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in: Ringwood
Where purchased: Red Shoot pub
Date tasted: 3/8/11
Package type: draught
Best before date:?
Size: half pint
Alcohol by volume: ?
Tasting temperature: cellar

Appearance: dark ruby, clear, small but creamy head

Aroma: burnt chocolate, honey, coffee

Flavour: sweet chocolatey, mild bitterness and creamy texture. A lingering chocolate taste with a lasting bitterness and mild astringency.

Overall impression: lovely, chocolatey mild. Probably not quite the right weather for it but one cold winter afternoon in front of a log fire and you could through quite a bit of this. The only thing that stops me from giving it 5 out of 5 is that it could be just a bit too sweet after a while.

Rating out of 5: 4

a citrusy one for beer number 3

The third beer is my other purchase from the Cambridge wine merchants - this one is date though... It's Citra from Oakham Ales. Made using only Citra hops which are relative new to the UK. Grown mostly in the US they impart a citrus, grapefruit flavour. Oh, and first day of exercise too so what with the fruity beer and the workout I positively a health fanatic.

Beer: Citra
Brewer: Oakham Ales
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in:
Where purchased: Cambridge wine merchants, kings parade, Cambridge
Date tasted: 3/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: march 2012
Size: 500ml
Alcohol by volume: 4.6%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: light golden, clear, moderate bubble rise

Aroma: citrus, grapefruit, light bitterness

Flavour: astringent in the mouth but quite refreshing. Citrus and lychee immediate flavours. Then a lasting bitter finish.

Overall impression: Nice refreshing beer, different and interesting with the grapefruit and lychee but the bitterness was a little too much for my taste and I felt somewhat overpowered the fruitiness.

Rating out of 5: 3

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Day 2 - meadowsweet beer

Day 2

Well today I had to use my get out of jail card free as I have realised that leaving my foraging until 7.30pm will not be a good plan with which to go forward.
Today's plant was meadowsweet. A plant formerly used to sweeten mead which is where it's name comes from - rather than anything to do with meadows. It does like to grow in meadows though and prefers damp edges near water. I found the batch I used on the roadside on the edge of a ditch.
It flowers after elder in July so having found a recipe in the The Tree House Diaries by Nick Weston I thought I would have a shot at this brew having been successful this year with the very easy to make elderflower champagne. I have to say it's a great drink. Not entirely sure how high the alcohol content was and it is on my list to buy a hydrometer so I can start working all this out, but fizzy and cold it went down very easily.
Currently being in the New Forest I am aware of the mushroom possibilities and am constantly gazing up at oak trees in the hope of discovering some chicken of the woods but we will have to wait and see tomorrow is another day and another wild food so we will see what appears.

Beer 2 - a Spelt one

I was excited to try this evening's beer as it was a brand new discovery at the Cambridge wine merchants the other day. Unfortunately it was only when it was too late to return that I realised it was a month out of date. Nevertheless I was still intrigued by the Gladiator Spelt Beer from Glebe Farm. So the barbecue was heating up nicely, the beer was chilled and then what a disappointment. Not unpleasant and probably not helped by being out of date but really nothing much at all.


Beer: Gladiator Spelt Beer
Brewer: Glebe Farm, Huntingdon, Cambs,UK
Country trying in: UK
Town trying in:
Where purchased: Cambridge Wine Merchants, Kings Parade, Cambridge
Date tasted: 2/8/11
Package type: brown bottle
Best before date: end June 2011
Size: 330ml
Alcohol by volume: 4.2%
Tasting temperature: chilled

Appearance: golden

Aroma: citrusy and hoppy

Flavour: watery, fairly fierce carbonation. Disappears in the mouth, slight bitterness after taste which doesn't last.

Overall impression: Not unpleasant but nothing much at all

Rating out of 5: 2

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Beer number 1

Day 2 of the 56. Unfortunately another rest day for my exercise challenge due to travelling and putting up tents. We have travelled from Brighton to the New Forest and, due to a rather pessimistic route planner from the AA, we set off very early and arrived in very good time. All to say that I manage to sneak in an unplanned cheeky half in a pub in the New Forest. So I'm sitting in the sunshine in a lovely garden, with my trusty drinking buddies, Kathryn, Agnes the puppy and Finley the terrier, listening to the water feature (somewhere between a spitting frog and an actual stream) sipping beer number 1 - Seafarers Ale from George Gale. A lovely start to the challenge.

Beer: Seafarers ale
Brewer: George Gale, Hampshire, UK
Country trying in: England
Town trying in: Ringwood, Hampshire
Where purchased: Alice Lisle pub
Date tasted: 2/8/11
Package type: draught
Best before date: ?
Size: half pint
Alcohol by volume: 3.6%
Tasting temperature: cellar

Appearance: clear, slightly foamy head which disappeared quickly, darkish amber in colour.

Aroma: honey and banana with a slight maltiness.

Flavour: light with a light astringency, light carbonation. Mild honey flavour and a lasting bitterness.

Overall impression: nice, light easy drinking bitter but nothing exciting. Does improve the more you taste.

Rating out of 5: 3

Monday, 1 August 2011

Day 1

Ok so finally we get back from the festival and the challenge starts in earnest.
However before I tell you what today's wild food isI must just mention about something amazing that happened over the weekend - not to me but my dog.
Anyone who knows anything about terriers will know they are tenacious by nature and are not generally to be trusted around chickens. Well when I am a more experienced blogger I will post a couple of pictures but to get to the point my terrier has been trained to leave chickens alone and can now be left to mingle freely with them and not do them any harm. So how was this achieved. Well after hearing this story form a friend I told my mate Gav who took custody of the aforementioned terrier Finley, last Wednesday. Finley then found himself subjected to having a chicken placed on his head each day ( picture to follow when I work out how to do it) and then on Sunday I receive a photo of Finley in his bed with a chicken sitting beside him - no restraint of the dog and no stress or panic on his face just acceptance that there happens to be a chicken in his bed!! How amazing, and then I get reports that he has been left to wander round with them in the garden unsupervised so there you have it Gav is now the chicken whisperer as far as I am concerned!!

Ok slight digression - today I have had ground ivy tea. This small plant that is actually a member of the mint family and not related to ivy is also called ales hoof as it was
Used in place of hops for brewing. It was also sold on the streets of London as a form of tea Called gill tea ( not be able to establish whether that's gill as in the things fish breathe with or the girls name) Anyway it is one of the nicest herbals teas if you ask me and goes very well mixed with nettle or mint. Once
You find some you will usually find a lot but it can look very different if you find it in the shade as opposed to having been exposed to full sunshine. However
I would encourage you to try it if you never have - dried or fresh. I dry a lot to use over winter and as I say if you find some you can usually find in in profusion.

I also started the journey toward shot putters shoulders and did my 12 press ups with various intervals in between but we will see how that goes. I have no desire to have muscular shoulders but it would be good to actually do a press up without feeling like a dweeb!!

Kathryn