The Swine That Dines – #RootstoShoots

 

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Now I’m no food writer or blogger but it would be remiss of me to not attempt to sum up the astonishing eating experience I had at the Swine That Dines vegetarian evening RootstoShoots.  I’m a meat eater but my partner isn’t, this has actually been very beneficial to me as my diet has improved, is more balanced and fits in much better to the  ethos that it’s better for us and the planet if we all eat a bit less meat.

Whilst there are some notable exceptions in Leeds, generally the level of vegetarian food available on most venues’ menus is sorely lacking in imagination or choice.  The culmination of this is perhaps no better illustrated than when it comes to Christmas menus which seem to default to some form of risotto.  Now who doesn’t like a good risotto but come on people is that the best you can do?  It comes as very much a welcome relief therefore to go somewhere knowing that from a vegetarian perspective you are going to potentially be able to eat everything on the menu.  This is especially true when you consider that The Swine That Dines very much specialises in nose to tail eating, or so I thought.  What I learnt is that they just specialise in very good cooking.

For those who don’t know The Swine That Dines is an offshoot of The Greedy Pig on North Street and opens up on weekend evenings, with the vegetarian menu (#rootstoshoots) being the first weekend of the month.  The setting is a small (about 14 covers) cafe and therefore does not come with the airs and graces of a fancy restaurant, however that is  just fine by me.  You can relax, bring your own wine and enjoy what’s on offer.  It had the feeling of being somewhere that you long to randomly discover while walking around an unknown neighbourhood of some continental city.  A place that you are going to rave about afterwards and long to return to, luckily for me I’ll be able to any time I want.

The evening works like a tasting menu, but you don’t have to order everything, indeed there was a guy in there just having a couple of dishes with a bottle of beer.  Obviously we went for everything on the menu which they explain they bring out two dishes at a time.  Each dish is of a starter size and I love this sort of British tapas approach enabling you to share a couple of plates at a time, relax and wait for the next ones.  I also loved the way the menu was written, just three or four ingredients with no hint really on how they would be prepared or served which for me added to the intrigue.  It was a welcome relief to not see the words foam, air, jus, pan fried (how the hell else do you fry something?) anywhere near the menu.  Our menu was this:

1.

Coco Beans, Goats Curd, Lemon, Rye

2.

Sweet Potato, Burnt Butter, Nori, Yuzu

3.

Carrots, Romesco, Ewes Cheese

4.

Fava, Quails Egg, Dukka, Pomegranate

5.

Buttermilk, Polenta, Wild Garlic, Aiolli

6.

Duck Egg, Smoked Potato, Buckwheat, Sorrel

7.

Oyster Mushrooms, Quinoa, Hazelnut, Porter

8.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Tomato Sambal, Peanut

Now if you are like me and you read that menu you have to be intrigued either thinking ooh what’s that or mmmm how are they going to pull those things together, what will it look like, taste like etc.  Either way you can’t wait for the first couple of plates to arrive.  When they did arrive and you tasted the humble ingredients beautifully presented I was simply mesmerised.  I don’t think I’ve ever tasted food as good or certainly not better.  Each plate was a dazzlingly array of taste and texture, flavours meeting, marrying and exploding in your mouth sending your senses into overload.  I found it quite incredible how someone could take a carrot or a potato, surely the humblest of humble ingredients and make you feel like you were eating the most luxurious food imaginable.

I cannot pick a stand out dish even though we spent a lot of time discussing it, they were all brilliant although there were a couple of stand out elements, the carrot, smoked potato, oyster mushrooms did it for me.  The only ingredient that didn’t appeal to me was the buckwheat, didn’t stop me almost resorting to licking the plate clean mind.

If you’ve seen the film Ratatouille then this for me was that film come to life, an astonishing chef cooking from the heart and creating dishes to die for.

Going out for food this good is for many people a very special occasion type of affair, one that you know is going to seriously cost.  Here though the evening out was such astonishingly good value that it puts the experience within reach of most people I’d suggest.  Each plate was £6 – that’s £48 for all 8 or £24 each !!!!  There cannot be anywhere else where you can get food this good for such good value.  I often eat out thinking blimey this is a lot of money for something I could basically cook myself.  Never has that feeling been further from my mind at The Swine That Dines.

So where are all the foodie, artful, Instagramed pictures of these marvellous plates.  Simple, no picture can possibly do the food justice.  Just go eat there and see for yourself, but leave space for me as I’ll be taking up residence I think.

 

 

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MTBMeetup

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Social media, a bit like the news or politicians gets a bad press – usually I think because we seem for some strange reason to be drawn to the negative in many things.  So social media when it hits the headlines is usually because of people using it to do bad things, rarely do you hear it as a force for good but that in my experience is very much what it is.  It enables you to spread ideas, entertain, inform, bring people together and coalesce them around an interest or idea.  That bringing together can be done virtually but it can also be a physical thing.  On the weekend Si Bradley (@_Si-Bradley) used that very concept and a simple hashtag to bring mountain bikers from around the country together, not to race or be competitive but to share, to meet, to socialise, to eat, to drink and to enjoy the simple pleasure that riding a bike off road can bring, irrespective of your skill or experience.

Myself, Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) and Brian (@oldstuntmonkey) left Leeds very early and got down to Llandegla for 9am to find scores of mountain bikers of every hue milling about and chatting doing that awkward thing of trying to introduce yourself to someone who may only know you via a twitter name …. i.e. hello I’m yetiridingdragon or whatever.  Amazingly the sun was out (I know it’s always sunny in Wales isn’t it) and with charity raffle tickets bought and a brew drunk with the mornings riding began.

Si had organised a great range of options for people to do if they wanted to or they could just do their own thing and people had kindly given up their time to pass on skills or lead rides.  Groups of riders headed out to ride the Blue, Red or Black runs, Craig (@P9ADV) ran a kids ride, Trail Takeover led a women’s ride, Chris (@CMJDavies) led an adventure photography workshop and I went on a skills session delivered by Steve from (@chasingtrails).  All of these people kindly gave up their time and skills for free.  Talking of free after the morning session the fab guys from Kirby Lonsdale brewery were handing out their specially produced Berm Basher beer.  Happy days indeed.

In the afternoon I headed out with Rob and Bri to have a crack at the red run and see if I could put my new found skills into action.  I was a tad nervous as I always am but I got round in a reasonably ok fashion I think.  Slowly my projectsnail confidence and skills are improving.  The beautiful day was finished with tea and cake provided by (@puremountains) and of course a bit more beer.

Could a day get any better ?  What I really liked about it was that there was none of the macho radness that can sometimes infect the MTB world, an attitude I detest.  The atmosphere was really chilled people rode, passed on skills, shared the trails and the tales and a good time was had by all.  Huge thanks must go to Si and all the helpers and sponsors for making it such a great day.  Si had even organised us a great campsite (Llyn Rhys Campsite) so we stayed over and rode the trails again on the Sunday before heading wearily and happily home.

So anyone who knocks twitter again – ignore the naysayers there are good people out there using social media to bring people together to share good times.

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The Awkward Press

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The light bulb moment, we all have it don’t we? At some point, somehow something will pop into our heads, quite how it happens is one of the great wonders but happen it does.  The Awkward Press have taken this idea and want to help us turn on the creative switches to our own light bulbs.  A couple of days ago @24Tom tagged me in a post on Instagram from The Awkward Press, a brilliant light bulb to signify a new idea for Leeds and beyond that they have kicked off this week.  The post said this :

Good Morning! We’re the awkward press. The brain child of a small creative studio based in Leeds. Our purpose? Well, you might have noticed, the news is a pretty bleak place at the moment, we don’t’ really like hearing it, seeing it, or talking about it. But we do like to stay on top of what’s going on in the world, so… Our aim at the awkward press is to create a news feed that highlights, the nice things, the inspiring things and the great people that do awesome things. Whilst also encouraging creativity, because that’s what we love! But who are our journalists, researchers, illustrators, photographers? You lot! Every week we will set a series of simple creative briefs, that won’t need hard work, you could probably do them on the bus, or whilst having a cuppa, but all will be varied and linked to the news in some way. It will be a sort of creative exercise, but mainly, a bit of fun. Our favourites responses to the briefs will be posted throughout the week, and in turn this feed will become, The Awkward Press. For now, like, share and tell people about us. We’re teaming up with one of our favourite little independent businesses in Leeds for a nifty prize give away for the best response to one of this weeks briefs. But we need some followers first! Tag us if you do decide to share, so we know who were behind us from the start. It’s always good… for future reference… Thanks guys, and have a great day!

Each brief comes as an instagram post and while it’s obviously early days I love this idea, although not being a ‘creative’ type it will I think often be a challenge to come up with something, but I’m going to have a think about it and try it out.  As I’ve been running our photofun themes for a couple of years with my kids it’s interesting to be on the other end of this process.

As I can’t draw or do graphic design type things I’m going to have to think of otherways I might be able to interpret the briefs and I think that if people get involved then it will be fascinating to see the varying different ways that people might choose to interpret the briefs as well of course of their take on that brief.  The current brief is below and I’ve had a little go at coming up with something but I really hope this idea comes off, people get involved and The Awkward Press becomes a fantastic creative alternative narrative to the events of the day.

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Scavenger Hunt

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City centres are, much to my dismay at times, places that seem to exist purely for commerce they are not generally somewhere where you go to play but they are full of all sorts of building, objects and people and so in many ways they are perfect places if you think of them in different ways.  Doing the photo fun projects that we do has helped me look at my city through different eyes as I try to interpret the themes set by my kids.  I cycle through the city most days which odd as it may sound enables me to turn the streets into my own private play ground, not in the stunt cycling way, but just in the way that cycling instantly transports me back to my childhood.

Today we used the city centre as a different type of playground as we undertook a family scavenger hunt.  I’d been chatting to my kids recently about a scavenger hunt I’d done when I was a kid and they liked the idea of this.  One of them said could we do one and perhaps could we go into Leeds to do it so this morning we split up into two family teams and standing outside the city museum we were handed our list of things to find that one of my kids had created and set off to see what we could find.

It was a great list, split between photographs of things and objects:  The full list was this

We needed to find the following photographs:

  • One of the team in front of something that begins with a J
  • Something that sums up the best thing about Leeds
  • Graffiti
  • A woman wearing a green shirt
  • One of the team in a window
  • Something spotty
  • The adult of the team in front of a well known building
  • Something that is American themed
  • Something that sums up the worst thing about Leeds
  • The number 82
  • One of the team stood on / in front of a statue
  • Something beautiful
  • One of you with a hand dryer

Objects to collect / find

  • A leaf
  • A takeout menu
  • A receipt with the letter ‘k’ on it
  • A sample of a product
  • A stranger’s autograph
  • A leaflet
  • A train ticket

Some of these were relatively straight forward but the task was not just to find and/ or photograph the things but to try and interpret them in the best way we could.  I completely loved the variety of tasks we had, some of which asked us to potentially go up and talk to strangers, not something that I (perhaps like many of us) are totally sure of but hey most people are lovely and we got an autograph and photos of women in green shirts.  Also by not stopping for the first thing we thought of but keeping that as an option we moved on to better things, the yellow American school bus being a great example.  It was so nice to explore the city centre with one of my kids chatting away, getting their ideas for things we could interpret and seeing the city through their eyes as well.

When I asked what photo we could take that best sums up Leeds she simple said this here on Briggate right now, all sorts of people from all different cultures eating all sorts of street food from all over the world.  There’s hope for us yet.

I can hugely recommend this as a great way to turn the city into your own playground and have some fun.  Feel free to use the list one of my kids came up with and interpret it how you want or come up with your own list – put the kids in charge it’s great fun.  Do let us know if you go on a hunt and what you found.

Cyclism

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The cracking ever changing exhibitions at Leeds Gallery has this week seen the gallery go all things bike for their Cyclism show which brings together a collection of design, graphics, film, bikes, photography in a delightful mix of art and design centred around the bike.  There is some delightful work that has been produced for the exhibition (all of which is available to buy) together with some great cycling jerseys and bikes hanging down from the roof.  I’m not a huge fan of the whole fixie scene but I must admit the Colnago is a fantastic looking machine that I’d happily enjoy learning how to master riding fixed on.  There is also some beautiful old footage that you can sit down and watch with a coffee from Cafe 164 next door.  Whether you like bikes, bike art or just great graphics pop down, the exhibition runs through till the end of July.

Morvelo City Cross 3 – Leeds – The Snail races again

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Trumpets, cowbells, cheers, beers, thrills, spills, music, laughter, beards, baldies, fat bikes, thin bikes, mountain bikes, cross bikes, single speeds, bananaman and a werewolf were all present as the third iteration of the Morvelo City Cross concept hit the mean streets of Leeds.  Never mind the Tour de France, Holbeck Urban Village surely hosted the most fun bike racing that Leeds will see this year, all thanks to Emma Osenton and her mighty crew of helpers and sponsors.

As regular readers of this blog and my projectsnail idea will know I’m no racer and have no ambitions to be but I made my debut at City Cross 2 and seeing as City Cross 3 was basically a roll down the hill from my house I thought it would have been rude not to have another go.  This is racing Jim but not as we know it and while there were some very keen bees riding, plenty were there for the fun and I found it a very inclusive, supportive and encouraging event.  Yes I’m way out of my comfort zone doing these events but there are times in your life when you need to do that and in doing so you will be richly rewarded, City Cross delivers on this for me big style.

As I rode down to the event I reflected on my hydration preparation the night before and as I peered through the fog of a hangover realised I might have been a tad too enthusiastic and the thought of a hard physical effort ahead made me feel, well a bit nauseous to be honest.  I was really intrigued however on how the course was going to be laid out as it was in a part of Leeds I know well owing to the cracking nearby pubs and I wondered how Emma was going to shoehorn a race circuit into the streets, alleys, ginnels, cobbles and courtyards that surround them.

Before I knew it I was going to find out as I lined up for the novice race start.  It had been mentioned by my garagebikes colleagues that I had looked terrified before City Cross 2, that was because I was so this time while very nervous I didn’t feel quite as scared – I’d ridden the warm up lap and was confident of getting round.  Whistle goes and we’re off swooping into the main arena, missing the traffic bollard (phew) to the sound of The Smiths (nice one Brant) and as I got into the swing of things I decided to put my race strategy into action.  This was to ride as hard as I could, smile when not grimacing, physically stop every lap for a beer break (yes beer is kindly supplied to riders who want it – and why wouldn’t you?) and to get to the end without being lapped by a fellow garage bikes rider.  There were a good chunk of us in the race all fiercely contesting the #raceyourmates race within a race category which gave a prize to the fastest lap from among your club / mates at any time during any race of the day.

Slow I may be and undoubtedly looked but I was burying myself and legs were screaming after a couple of laps but on the plus side I’d not vomited on the course.  I was wearing my Snail from South Wales shirt in the first race and Brant kindly gave me a shout out on the mic as I rode back into the main section, this happened throughout the day with kind encouragement from him such as ‘come on Ian the bloke in front only has one gear you can catch him’ and other helpful hints while all the time keeping the tunes spinning.

I totally loved the course, it was so weird to ride in this way around areas I know so well and to swoop into courtyards of the Midnight Bell and the Crosskeys with spectators lapping up beers and racing felt amazing.  My weapon of choice for the event was a Kinesis Pro6 kindly lent to me by Sarah (the not so silent partner of garagebikes) and even in my prosaic hands the bike felt fantastically agile and was a joy to ride the event on.  I may not have looked it but I felt like a proper rider out there, leaning into the corners, swooping and flowing, flying off the steps, flicking round the tight bends all the time inches away from the concrete edges.  It felt incredible, I was completely buzzing and it was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  As I approached the final bend my race objective was in sight, behind me though breathed Chewie, he took the berm whilst I attempted to hold the inside line but Chewie went by me over the top on the line and went on to take the garagebikes race your mates fastest lap time.

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After a short while recovering with a few beers I entered the last chance saloon race for all those knocked out of the earlier motos.  a mighty herd of us set out, this time with me resplendent in full orange garagebikes kit.  This race there were no beer stops so I just had to keep riding as hard as I could until I finished shattered, gasping for air but utterly exhilarated before then taking up the cowbells to cheer on the riders in the finals.  Special mention must go to all who supported the event, I personally recieved lots of shout outs (thanks to Timothy Pulleyn for doing this every lap) and of course my garagebikes mates who supported from the barriers and from within the race itself.  Of course the biggest thanks must go to Emma and all who made it happen.

I’ve tried to describe the race but Timothy Pulleyn (thebrokenline) filmed a lap from the handlebars so strap in and take a ride:

 

Here’s a fab video highlight of the event (however note the amateur nature of the riders failing to stop and enjoy their beer – shocking behaviour).

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proof that I did put some effort in

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I watch all the riders vanish into the distance

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On the charge (ramp)

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The garage bikes crew – top day out and a very handsome devil in model pose

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Remember I mentioned there were fatbikes and Werewolves

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Thanks to the following photographers for the photos on this post:

Joolze Dymond – flickr of garagebikes day out  and official photos from the event to purchase here

Stuart Petch – flickr of day here and website here

Jack Chevell – flickr of day here and website here 

 

Good For Nothing ?

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Now over the years it’s true to say that I’ve often been labelled as good for nothing but the weekend just gone is the first time I’ve actually worn an actual label advertising the fact.  I had the label as I was attending the first ever gathering of Good For Nothing Leeds (@GFNLeeds).  The whole approach of the Good For Nothing crew caught my attention as they aim to simply bring talented people together to fashion creative solutions to good causes and they do this by chucking everyone together for a weekend and seeing what happens at the end of it.  The get together happened at Duke Studios in Leeds which was a great place, perfectly suited to the occasion.

So what, I hear you ask was I doing amongst these creative movers and shakers, well I was actually pitching one of the good causes #GFNRecovery which you can read more about here if you are interested but this post isn’t about that really as that starts straying into work type stuff but if you keep your eyes on the sociable organisation blog I’ll write something up on the idea and the reaction / development there in due course.  This post is more about the concept of Good For Nothing and my experience of it.  What I will say is that it felt a bit weird taking an idea that I’ve had mulling over in my head and suddenly standing in front of people talking about it and seeing if they thought it was a good idea and whether they fancied helping.  Was this work, not work, I wasn’t really sure and perhaps it was an introduction into a different way of working (and if it is then it’s definitely a future I want to be a part of).  Now I’m not a coder, designer or anything like that but if you’ll indulge me for just a second I do think that I’m a creative thinker.  As pompous as that may sound I have, and always have had lots of ideas but I don’t really do anything with them because at the end of the day I’m perhaps inherently a thinker not a doer or just plain lazy – good for nothing even as this post explains.  I have an inherent distrust of hierarchies, structures, organisations and to be honest people but as I didn’t know anything about the Good For Nothing crew I just acted on impulse and though what the heck.

I’ve often felt that the way we structure and divide our society with regard to work – those in work, those not, perceived status given to certain things, third sector v statutory v private creates an unhealthy environment that is not conducive to actually solving societal problems.  There are great people in all of the situations and sectors I describe but it is often never the twain shall meet.  The brilliantly simple idea behind Good For Nothing is that it provides the space where barriers and egos and status and sector are left behind.  Get in a room and come up with solutions.

So after I did my pitch I sat at a table and people came around and worked on looking at solutions, they were genuinely interested and had lots of varied perspectives to offer and they came from all different sectors with mutual respect being shown.  I can’t recall many instances in my life where I’ve actually seen that happen.  Throughout the weekend people just pitched in and helped on any of the three ideas; you might need a website building, no problem someone would help you on that, same with app development, or funding or business planning or copy writing or blog development of filming or content strategy etc etc or and this should never be underestimated, getting tea, coffee and toast.  How refreshing and this photo series by Lisa Jeffries gives a good flavour of the atmosphere.

This was the first one to happen in Leeds but this could be the future, an ideas lab, bringing people together who are interested in making a difference in the city, breaking down barriers across sectors and enabling good people to do good stuff.  I felt honoured to have been allowed in.  Maybe my old teachers were right I am Good For Nothing.  See you at the next gig.