The Swine That Dines – #RootstoShoots

 

download

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Easter Photo Fun – 2016 – Square

Cfm1vd-WwAIxwIh

Easterphotofun has been a bit of weird one this year as here in Leeds the majority of schools don’t actually take the holiday around the Easter weekend.  A couple of years ago the decision was made to standardise the holiday to the first two weeks of April.  For photofun this meant that this year over the Easter weekend people were tweeting me asking what we were doing and I had to explain that it wasn’t starting for another week and of course by week two this will have meant that most people who are not in Leeds will have gone back to school.

However the photofun themes have been designed to fit around our holidays in Leeds so although it’s a bit odd for others it’s what works for us.  Of course the result has meant not as many people taking part, either that or people are bored with it ?  However I still enjoyed the interpretations during week one for Square.  We’ve done quite a few shape themes and I always like them, they are so open to interpretation and I find that when you look around the world is very simply made up of shapes so they are everywhere.

As always there were some lovely interpretations and I am always fascinated to get a glimpse of how other people see things.  I particularly liked the photo at the top that used squares to make a circle, I like how it messes with my mind a little bit as it’s the circle that is the first thing I see not the squares.  Nice.  As always thanks to contributing, it’s a real pleasure to have your interpretations drop into the timeline and show them to the kids who set the theme.  It’s a nice social connection.

Click on the gallery below to view the pictures in full size and you can then scroll through them.  Do let me know which ones you liked.

Half Term Photo Fun – Contrast (2)

CbfKoMrWcAAcIvP

One of my daughters has chosen to do Art as one of her GCSE options and is hugely enjoying it.  She has recently been doing work around the theme of contrast so we thought what better than to use that as our Halftermphotofun and see what you came up with.  We’ve done quite a few of these now over the last two years and I must admit I don’t have a list of them but in pulling the photos together for this week I realised that we had done contrast before but hey you can check back to that post and contrast it to this one.

The kids are obviously much older than when we started doing this, teenagers, making their own choices in life and while they are happy to pick themes for us they are less likely to take part which is totally fine.  However it does change the dynamic from when we first started this so I guess I need to think whether I carry on just pulling things together myself, stop, reinvent?  I’ll give it some thought but open to your ideas as well.  I must admit that each time I think to myself maybe it’s a stale thing or that I or you are not interested I’m always fascinated my the interpretations that come in.  I’ve been thinking a bit about culture recently, Leeds is going to bid for city of culture at some point I believe, and conversations are taking place across the ‘cultural sector’ on what should go into the cultural strategy.  I’m not in the sector but am interested in culture – whatever that may be.  I think that culture for me is activity that brings people together, comfortably, even though you may be challenged.  In bringing people together it can help you to make sense or to interpret the world around you.

I think that the photofun things that we do are great at this, I see the world through your eyes for that brief second when you hit the button on your phone / camera and in doing so I realise how privileged a position that is.  So till next time ……. ?

Year of the Snail 2015

IMG_7715

Solo, with strangers, with friends, on new trails and old routes, from the front door and abroad, to work and back again, on a road bike, mountain bike, Dutch bike, quick spins and epic rides, in sunshine, rain, hail, snow, ice and plenty of mud, these have been my rides this year, which is my third year of Project Snail – trying to have more fun on my bikes and in particular to increase my skill, confidence and fitness through mountain biking.

I’ve definitely ridden a lot this year, regularly commuting and then getting out most weeks on the mountain bike as well.  Our regular weekly evening rides have been a god send, demonstrating how you can fit riding into a busy work/ life balance arrangement and it has kept me riding with people who are much better than me.  Their encouragement has meant that I think I am slowly improving.  It’s really hard to tell as confidence and perceived lack of skill remain rather large issues for me, but judging by how I ride some of the sections locally I definitely think things are on the up.  I must remember that it apparently takes 10,000 hours before you become a master so I’ve got a bit of work to do yet.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some of my trips to North Wales this year, #MTBMeetUP was a great weekend ,I’ve I returned to ride Llandegla a few times and we’ve had some great weekends crashing in bunkhouses and doing Penmachmo, Marin etc.  Getting round these as well as some of the more challenging local riding has definitely helped and I look forward to more in 2016.  One day I’ll find the flow.

As well as riding it’s been good to take in the Tour of Yorkshire and the Nationals in Lincoln and I launched the Leeds Bicycle Film Club showing monthly bike related films and documentaries that has been good fun and has sold out every event so it would appear that I’m not the only one who likes a beer and a bike related film.  I’ve got a good programme lined up for 2016 so grab yourself a ticket and come along.

For me more than anything though I love the social side of riding and I’ve ridden with some ace people this year, my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you, look forward to more pedals out across the New Year.  Cheers.

Independence

Each year we go away somewhere warm for our BoysBookClub and as we go away for the weekend (Malaga this year) we decided a couple of years ago to do something creative ourselves as well as reviewing our monthly book.  We tend to decide on a theme and then you can choose what you do, people do short stories, essays, poems and this year Phil did our first graphic booklet.  The theme this year was independence, chosen after our trip to Barcelona last year and despite having ages to come up with something I was frantically typing the week before, a deadline sharpens the mind I guess.  My effort is below, I was happy with the idea but it could do with quite a bit more work to get it where I’d like but I thought I’d put it up as it was. Happy to hear what you think.

Independence

All things end, life, my life, relationships, the bed I’m lying on will someday be no more, the planet we live on and the sun that warms it, all things end. I think that it took me many years to slowly realise this but this inevitability has a calmness to it, you can’t change it it just is. My life is drawing to it’s end now and the physical decline being hurried along by a debilitating illness means that although I cannot predict the actual time, my time is drawing to a it’s end.

I tend to wake early now, never quite sure of the time as the stiffness means I’m unable to turn my head to see the bedside clock. I try and judge the hour by the light that seeps in through the edge of the plain cream curtains that just reach down to below the window sill. Pam would have hated these curtains, she always wanted heavy patterned luxurious curtains that reached down to the skirting board. She was fastidious about how they were folded back and tied each morning, I can see her doing it now, fussing and brushing and making sure the folds were exactly the same on each side. It’s funny the things you remember about those you love, it’s always these weird little actions and manners that only we know. These dull excuses for curtains will not be tied back and they will not be opened carefully, the staff will breeze it at some point bellowing “Morning Mr Davis” and briskly sweep the curtains aside. I’m not sure why they shout so loudly, ill and fading away I might be but deaf I’m not. I’ve also told them repeatedly that my name is Bryn not Mr Davis, my dad was Mr Davis not me, it’s even written in my care plan apparently but with the dizzying changes of names on their shiny lapel badges I guess they don’t have time for the nuances of care any more. It’s all function, get in, get him up, bag emptied, washed, dressed, medicated, and sat in ‘the chair’ and then move on down the corridor to the next lucky soul.  Continue reading

Amsterdam Movement

IMAG5828

Lithe, easy going, effortlessly gliding; understated coolness moving to a different beat.

Water ever present adding it’s own shimmering, chugging splashes to the palette of the cities movement.

Like looking into the ever changing flickering flames of a late night outdoor fire I find myself hypnotised by a city that flows like no other.

Trams snaking through the middle of ancient streets, utter modernity alerting you to their presence with a timeless 1920’s bell.

A progressive political and social heartbeat, tolerant, boundaries pushed outwards in art, philosophy, architecture, enlightenment shining through still.

I adjust to it’s rhythm, thought processes slowing but clearer, more space as my mind relaxes, body too in no rush, gentle movement and wandering seems the best pace.  Natural not forced and I instantly feel the better for it.

Then I join the flow, turn the pedals, relax and just journey randomly taking the temperature of it’s perpetual movement of which I’m now part.

I stop at a canal-side cafe and settle into the Dutch state of being, gezellig.  Time for my pen to move and distil thoughts.  I sit and watch trying to work out how to capture the moment and the movement that aligns with my soul.

The Shop Ride

Screenshot 2015-03-09 at 15.44.36

Photo Credit: Amy (@akersh91 on Instagram)

As I talked about in this post one of the great things about mountain biking is that it is fairly unique I think in enabling people of different abilities to ride together and for everyone to get a lot of enjoyment out of it.  Nothing perhaps epitomises this spirit more than The Shop Ride. Garage Bikes, my local bike shop is particularly brilliant at organising regular shop rides and huge thanks must go to Al and Sarah for doing this.  Once a month a motley crew begins to gather on a Sunday morning, I was one of the first at the shop yesterday and it was ace to watch the riders arrive in ones, twos and small groups until a pretty impressive collection of bikes and riders of all hues was arrayed outside the shop gathering bemused looks for the passing traffic and pedestrians.  As is always the way some riders I knew, others I’d seen but didn’t know and for some it was their first ride with the Garage Bikes crew.  The brilliant thing is though all are welcome, it’s a very social ride supported brilliantly by the shop, the staff ride (unless they are racing) and guide and support all comers around our local trails.

The atmosphere is always good and outside newcomers were made to feel welcome and all were chatting away and engaging in the MTB ritual otherwise known as the pre-ride faff ! and with so many riders there was some serious faffing to be done.  29 riders pitched up yesterday in the drizzle, which was on top of the ladies ride on the Saturday which also gets a good turnout and as we set off we looked like some ragged bright baggy peloton.  As we ride along I like how you can chat, get to know new people move up and down the group or just peddle along in your own thoughts but surrounded by like minded people.  We ride at an easy pace and someone rides sweeper to ensure that we all meet up at various points.  Back at the shop we all pack in for steaming mugs of coffee, tea, biscuits, rum and banter.

The shop ride is a magical thing for me, the very essence of community and what is great about MTBing and MTB riders, friendships are made and groups spin off from the ride to organise other get-togethers and adventures.  The people I’ve met through the shop rides and the riding that has resulted has hugely improved me as a rider and really enhanced my whole riding experience so I’d like to say a big thanks to the good ship Garage Bikes and all who sail in her.