Thursday, 28 July 2011

Impromptu weekend away #3: South Devon Chilli Farm - Buckfastleigh - Home (Really this time!)

Having another very good and exciting weekend to tell you about plus several recipes I figured I'd best finish off the 'IW' sequence at some point this decade! :-)
So we motored off out of Salcombe, licking ice-cream off our fingers and following the satnav built into the Chaps phone - very handy as we'd never have found the Chilli Farm without it; it's a wee bit in the middle of nowhere! After following some pretty small roads and cutting across others we pulled into their smart gravel car park. There's a bit of an industrial unit thing going on and off to one side is the timber building housing the 
shop with many different chilli items and their cafe; which we didn't partake of but which looked good. There were some interesting books which we mentally tagged as potential gift ideas - or possibly just for ourselves! There was the whole range of their chilli chocolate - including a new one to try that's not yet for sale made with Naga chilli - that was a bit hot for my taste but the others are lovely. Also on offer were dried chillis, chilli seeds, relishes, chutnies and sauces all made with some of the vast number of different chilli varieties they stock.  We settled on some orange chilli chocolate, some smoky chipotle sauce and some chilli chutney.  We then ventured outside to check out the polytunnels and peruse the plants for sale section.

The polytunnels were fascinating - as well as all the varieties they use in their products and sell they have other trial types, also tomatillos which I'd never seen
in the flesh before and remind me of big Cape Gooseberry or Chinese Lantern type plants.  We also loved the look of this purple chilli variety - sorry I can't remember the name but it wasn't one they had for sale yet.
Having had a good nose at all the plants the polytunnels had to offer we carried on to the plants for sale area.  Now - when it comes to plant nurseries or open gardens or farm shops with plants or a wee pasting table in the drive outside someones house I am truly my mother's daughter.  [Although in the case of my mother it used to include pub hanging baskets for 'cuttings' as well!!  Worse part of it is she'd get me to break off the purloined cutting as I was taller than her by the time I was about 12.]  Neither of us can go within a country mile of any or all of these places and not come away with something.  [Hence my mahoosive collection of seeds but we won't mention those - I have plans for those to keep them from taking over any more of the house!]  This inevitably meant that the Chap and I would be adding to our small family of chilli plants for this year.  (A quick aside here - the Chap has got right into the Chilli growing this year with some of his own seeds he planted from our trip to a nursey back in March, seeds from a yellow chilli I had at home that Ma grew last year and a couple of plants my Ma gave us - she's been growing them for years in the lean to conservatory at home in Dorset and makes a mean Chilli jelly - with cheese it's divine!)  So - the only question was which would we go for?  As we sauntered along the shelves checking
out the labels a sudden outbreak of fluttering and cheeping above our heads distracted us - up in the corner a few feet away was a swallows nest and every so often one of the parents would zoom in with some insectile goodness firmly grasped in beak to be met by a renewed cheeping and the 'I've got the biggest flip top head' contest from the brood.  [Excuse the pic quality but I wasn't about to use the flash on them.]  This was entrancing and we could have happily stopped there for a few hours just watching in fascination but we had plants to buy then lunch to find so, with some difficulty we finally narrowed our choices down.  The Chap got a 'Peruvian Purple' and I chose the 'Aji Limon' - one I've liked the sound of for a while.  I will keep you updated with how they do - especially as this is over a month ago now - my bad!!
Next - off to find that elusive lunch.
We ended up stopping in Buckfastleigh which is on the edge of the moor quite close to Exeter although I don't know it myself.  It was that or we were in danger of getting back home before we decided on food.  We pulled up at the Abbey Inn and sadly perused the sign informing us they'd stopped serving food but 5 minutes earlier - then we decided to stay anyway and have a bag of crisps with our pints and just enjoy the view from our riverside table.  When the sun is shining and the water is burbling all you need is a packet of Burts Salt and Pepper flavour and a pint of Dartmoor Best and the Chap and it's bliss.  Trust me.  :-D
Suitably refreshed we toddled on our way and were soon home with memories of some great places and what seemed like a much longer break than 2 days.  If you have the chance and the funds [this was the Chaps treat for which I thank him - he is a star!!] to nip off unplanned try it - it's a true tonic and you don't have to go far to find somewhere you've never visited.  Get out there my friends!!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Impromptu weekend away #2 : Salcombe - Chilli Farm - Home (or is it)

We headed to Salcombe and instead of taking the longer way round we took the back road along part of the Avon estuary.  We didn't know it until we got there but for 3/4 mile this road is tidal - how cool is that!  Luckily we got there at low tide so it was passable albeit very narrow sandwiched between the mud and water on one side and a rock cliff on the other.  The sign at the start of the road warns that it's only passable at certain times - we would have got a pic but there was a vehicle following us. 
We wended our way on up the estuary then cut across country to the Kingsbridge Estuary on which Salcombe nestles and tumbles down the steep valley sides to the water below.
This is a pretty little town; although strangely bereft of 'real' shops - ie it's got highly pricey clothes shops aplenty and some nice but also pricy delis but where does one buy one's bog roll and other such essentials I wonder?!  It seems like you have to have a boat to live here as well - certainly if you want to do your recycling!!

We had a little wander about before turning our minds to where we would rest our heads that night.  Having checked out how much a room in one of the hotels would cost us [£180!!  For 1 night!!] we fetched up outside the council/tourist office [closed] and perused the list of B&B's and pubs they had attached to the board outside - trying to spot the roads on the map also handily affixed to said board.  After a handful of 'no vacancies' we were pointed in the direction of Pengwern; usefully just up the road from our location.  We ended up in their self contained appartment for the night - fantastic view and with the addition of a few essentials for brekkie from the Spar hidden in the depths of the residential area [apparently the only 'real' shop in Salcombe] a snug little place to stay for the night and at £50 for the both of us a fair bit more reasonable than the hotels on the front.  After a quick change we set forth for the evening in search of a couple of fine pints and some supper.
We'd earlier checked out the various menus of places to eat in town and had also picked up a leaflet in the apartment for the new Oyster Shack in Salcombe which had decided us on our eaterie for the night so we decided to try a couple of pints in the local pubs first.
The Kings Arms was the first to be graced by our presence; seemed quite locally but friendly enough.  We didn't stay over long here though as there were no free seats to sit outside admiring the view which is of course what we wanted to do on a warm summers evening away.
A little further up the road is the entrance down some steps to the Ferry Inn - built into the nigh on sheer cliff sides it has a fab view through the windows over the river and once you've purchased your pint you can exit and go down another flight of stairs to the large outdoor seating area immediately adjacent to the water.  There was another bar down here as well.  It's a bit of a hidden gem I'd say with a rather nice sounding specials board and good smelling food.  We had a drink here; were inspected by the pint police (cheeky!) and then thought we'd best move on for dinner.
Well - we traipsed up and down the road (not long) that the Oyster Shack* was supposedly on twice and saw not a hide nor hair of it.  It was all boat sheds, boat shops and one distinctly cheesy looking bar that boasted it was open until midnight and did burgers or something equally unappealing.  Damn.  Back to the centre of town and into our second choice [I think it was 'The Galley'] - a nice but pricey looking menu having caught our [my] eye earlier.  They'd stopped serving - we checked the time - just gone 10pm!  Eek - we hadn't realised it had got so late at all.  They told us to try over the road at the kiddy friendly place I really hadn't wanted to go to [Captain Flints] and told us they thought that or the burger / late opening bar place we'd just turned our noses up at were probably our best bet at that time of night.  Oh well we thought, at least we'd eat and they did some ok sounding pasta dishes even though it was still fairly busy with small people at that time of night.  But no - they didn't want our custom either when we ventured in the door although I can't say I was that saddened - it was more that we were both rather hungry by this point. 

We wandered back along the main road not seeing any positive or open type signs anywhere until I thought I'd try the little bistro up a side alley we'd spotted earlier.  Boatswains [no website of their own - missing a trick there guys!] had some people in still - with a menu with things like wings and potato skins [:-(] etc on but a great looking specials board when we'd checked it out earlier.  I popped in and enquired if they were still serving?  After checking how many we were the very friendly lady said she'd check with the kitchen and returned shortly with the very gladly received news that as they had a table in that had only just started eating it was fine.  She led us upstairs to our own corner table in a window, flanked by a funky metal oil burner and several candles and even brought another couple when she saw it was a litle dark.  The whole place is done out in a tasteful contempory fashion with out being pretentious and the service was super friendly and attentive without making you feel pressured or under the spotlight.  The lady that originally led us in was American - those wings and potato skins were making more sense!  The specials board looked fab and we both chose starters from  it - I had scallops baked in their shells in a parsley and garlic butter and the Chap had grilled squid in some sort of chilli basting.  [I can't remember the exact terminology used.]  Wow - this was seafood of the highest and freshest calibre.  My scallops were to die for - they were sweet and creamy and the flavours were well balanced and complementary.  Chap's squid was equally lovely - and it was a whole one!  I'm afraid there's no pics though because sometimes [just sometimes mind] you have to put the camera away and concentrate on living the moment instead. 
For main I was going to choose a cod dish in a sauce I liked the sound of - it's rare for me to choose something like cod otherwise; but they'd run out of it.  However, the friendly American lady told us of a dish 'off-menu' that she had which was a monkfish tail that'd be big enough for both of us and came in a similar sauce with a bed of spinach as the cod had done.  Well - we were sold both loving monkfish and yes - it was absolutely fab too.  Really really special and the best meal I've had out for some time.  You could taste the freshness of the fish in all the varieties we had; something that's emminently important and can make such a difference to the taste.  That the place was so friendly and welcoming even at that time of night just made it.  [BTW there is no material advantage to me in writing this glowing review in case you were wondering - they're not in the least aware of it and we paid our bill in full already!  This is my honest opinion - as is everything else found here.] 
Having polished off every little scrap of monkfish, spinach, new potatos and sweet potato chips (yummy btw) we decided we really could fit a pudding in - very rare for us as we're both way more savoury people but it was that sort of night.  Incidentally they were more than happy to offer us dessert even though it must have been gone 11pm by then.  I chose the honeycomb ice-cream - creamy and rich with chunks of honeycomb in - very good indeed.  Chap had the baked vanilla cheesecake - also good and very rich.  We eventually left and waddled back up the hill to our appartment for a sound nights rest.  :-D
The next morning I woke early and took a couple of pics of the view from the window at about 5am.  Sadly Chap had parked pretty much bang slap in front of it (!) but you can see how stunning it is overlooking the estuary.
Once we'd actually got up properly, had a leisurely breakfast and paid our bill to the nice people that run the place we took the van down into the town and found a car park so we could have more of a potter about while stuff was open this time.  As it was Fathers' day [yes - this second part of the post has been rather a long time coming!] Chap was thrilled to be allowed to have a wander in a fishing tackle shop.  :-D  In return I was allowed to have a peruse round Gallery 5; a gallery run by a collective of locally based artists I think.  A mixed offering with some painted driftwood pieces in amongst various different painting styles from the different artists.  We had a proper look round the town checking out some of the expensive yet stylish shops - I was especially taken
by these silver plated mussel pickers for eating your moules with - I generally use the empty shells of one.  Something for the chrimble list maybe?  They were in a fab kitchenware shop that was however quite hideously overpriced.  I saw a wood and glass cheeseboard I rather liked - £80odd without the knives!!  They were a further £60odd I think!!  Sheesh.  It being a shop full of lovely lovely kitchen things though there were many items I coveted but as they were well out of what I'm prepared to pay Chap was safe from me managing to clutter up the kitchen any further.
We had a poke about the local wine shop and picked up a bottle of Rosehip Cordial whilst there - which I can now later confirm as refreshing and 'virtuous' feeling [but in a good way] when drunk with sparkling water.
I spotted these and liked the fact that Salcombe has pretty kerbs - my town doesn't manage anything quite this spiffing.  I thought they were pretty cool but then I'm like that.  :-)
We popped into the local Salcombe Dairy's outlet place and had [another] ice-cream.  Chap went for Rum and Raisin with Navy Rum soaked raisins and I had Stem Ginger with real ginger pieces in.  Ooh yum - really peppy and gingery whilst creamy at the same time.  I much preferred it to the Rum and Raisin though that's not a flavour I'd go for anyway - Chap assured me it was delicious!
We decided we'd done Salcombe for the time being and would set a leisurely course home taking in the South Devon Chilli Farm and a spot of lunch en route.  In fact that is where I will leave you as I feel this post is in danger of getting far too long for it's own good and aside from threatening the very fabric of space time with it's sprawling gargantuanness I'm plenty sure you've had enough by now.  [I know I have.]  Stay tuned for the thrilling part 3 - Impromptu weekend - the return!  [That reminds me - the last Harry Potter film is released here today - end of an era or a chance to return to the magic of the printed word?  Whilst firmly being in the 'the book is always better' camp I must admit to a guilty liking of the HP films.  If you go see it let me know if it's any good.]
*The mystery of the missing Oyster Shack - quick google search upon returning home reveals it closed around easter to be replaced with the bar we saw.  Damn.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Oi Blogger people - fix the frigging comments!!

Since about May I have been unable to comment as myself on my own and a lot of other blogs.  Having checked the 'known issues' the other day this has now been tagged as fixed.  No it's bloody well not.  Unable to see any obvious place to report this I went in search of help on the forum instead and by swapping to a pop-up comment box rather than having it embedded under the post I can now comment as myself on my own blog.  Hoo-bloody-rah.  Not an ideal fix as I don't like the pop-up box much but it'll have to do.  However, having just attempted to comment on  Azza's Blather (pop by and see her - it's entertaining) it seems I still can't comment on some blogs - hers wouldn't even let me comment as anonymous.  I just got locked into a mobius loop of word verification - log in - word verification - log in so I gave up.  Rather that than heave the whole PC out the window!
Oh - and if you want to utilise the less-than-ideal fix of having pop-up box comments go to Dashboard-Settings-Comments and click the radio button to choose 'Pop-up Window' then scroll to the bottom and save.  Tsk.  What a pile of faff.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A tussle - and a summer weekend

Still tussling with the 2nd part of our impromptu weekend post - not sure what's happening there but I will get it to work!!
In the meantime a little update on my last weekend which seemed quite quintessentially English summer to me.  I mentioned I would be in Dorset for at least the Saturday.  So - I caught the train on Saturday morning to Axminster and changed here to one of the Jurassic Coast buses - these take the long way round along the coast visiting all the little coastal villages and towns en route so they're not the quickest way to travel but I've never been on one before and it was a very pretty and relaxed way to see the countryside from the top deck of the bus.  We wended our way up and down valleys towards then away from the sea and passed through Uplyme, Lyme Regis (road full of people dancing with big colourful umbrellas - it was the Jazz Festival so we sat gridlocked there for a while) followed by Charmouth, Morecombelake, Chideock, Bridport (main road closed for an antiques fair), Winterbourne Abbas, Martinstown (great plant stall outside someone's house) and finally into Dorchester through Poundsbury at the top end.  Now these names are a litany from my childhood - guaranteed to spark all sorts of nostalgic and coming home type feelings so to be swaying along in the sunshine surrounded by the green of the beautiful countryside and the sparkling of the sea - well - it was truly great.  Plus of course you get to be extra nosy from the top deck of a bus.  I saw some great gardens and then in the window of a bungalow a toy bear the size of a, say, 10-12 year old child sat in an armchair gazing out.  Their lawn was massive and all grass - it was crying out for veg or even vines given the site but instead was this big featureless turf. Anyway - if people would rather spend hours mowing and scarifying etc than tend their own fresh veg that's their affair.  In Lyme Regis I spotted a shop that seemed to specialise just in roast meat sandwiches - mentioned this to the Chap and he seemed quite taken by the idea of a visit!

Anyway - having met with the folks in Dorch' we made our way to the New Inn at West Knighton.  It's a pretty place; surprisingly large but I think must have been a coach house originally going by this arch type bit into the yard. 

The food was lovely, generously portioned and good value for money.  I had the linguine which was on the specials board as coming with Chorizo, Crayfish tails and Chilli and asked if I could have it without the Chorizo.  This was no problem for them and they made up the difference with extra crayfish (or I assume so - there was certainly loads in there) and peppers and mushrooms.  It was tasty and filling and a testament to the friendly nature of this place.

Having supped and eaten our fill here we pootled back to Dorch and had a quick gander at big sis's allotment plot, stopped into the town centre so I could buy some Dorset Blue Vinney cheese at The Fridge deli then I clambered back aboard the bus for the journey home.
I managed to get one of the seats at the front on the way back - the windscreen was the site of a thousand insectile deaths but afforded a wonderful view.  It's warmer though as you're missing out on the cooling breeze further back from the open side light windows.  I got these views coming into Lyme Regis.  There were masses of holidaymakers at the stops here - I had no idea people still travelled this way so much.

There is one reason I gave up on bus and coach travel years back - the punctuality or lack thereof.  Now we were 20 minutes late into Dorch' due to various festivals and fairs as mentioned.  I was very much hoping this wouldn't occur on the return journey as I had 13 minutes time between the bus getting in and the train supposedly departing...  You've guessed it - we pulled up at Axminster station 2 minutes after my train was due to leave - with an hour before the next one was due.  Well -  bless the spirit of British Rail that still lives on in my train's 8 minute delay meaning I caught it and was soon headed back home to the Chap.
He met me off the train and off we went to a friends BBQ where I could sit down and relax; first having been presented with a glass of Pimms.  How British-summer is that?!

On the sunday we took a little wander down to the quay to see some of the dragon boat racing - this time I took a hat as I was a little pink from the day before in the sun!  We had a can or 2, dangled our feet over the water before heading back for an after-bbq bbq in the arvo to use up the leftovers from the day before.  Time spent well with good friends and family in the sun.  A thoroughly lovely weekend.     :-D

Friday, 1 July 2011

Week of work mentalness

Well - it's been a tad busy at work this week on the Ruthdigs front hence the frankly digusting lack of posts.  I've half written the rest of our impromptu weekend up - it's just having the time to get in and pick the photos and finish it.  Anyway - I've had all I can take for today - a particularly frustrating one amending study plans only for the student / agent / whoever to turn round and change their mind.  One girl's up to her 4th change form...  Garn!!

Copyright Craig Damrauer
 I'm off to Dorset for at least tomorrow for big sis's birthday - we're visiting an hostelry going by the name of "The New Inn" in some tiny back of beyond place called West Knighton.  [Coming from a tiny back of beyond place myself I'm allowed to say that.]  Don't think I've ever been there before but it's possible; back in the 'glass bottle of fizzy pop and a packet of salt-n-shake crisps' days.  Anyway - I'm looking forward to it and hoping the nice weather stays with us.