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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

We All Scream for (Marshfield) Ice Cream

Two weekends ago we went on a blogger field trip to Marshfield Ice Cream. Who doesn't like ice cream? No one, that's who. On a grey day Bristol Bites, myself and Wuthering Bites plus Rich and Mr WB left Bristol for Bath thinking we could just get a taxi to Marshfield Farm. Well you can it will just cost you a packet, even if your taxi driver knows where he is going, which ours did not. I know there are benefits for owning a car and this is certainly one of them, but although the ice cream is good, I am not going to buy a car just to travel there. Next time I am calling upon my mum's driving services, cos that is just how rock and roll I am.
Marshfield Ice Cream
Marshfield Ice Cream owners Will and Dawn Hawkings invited us into their gorgeous kitchen to discuss all things ice cream. From humble beginnings starting out making 8 litres of ice cream per hour, 20 or so years later they can now produce 1500 litres every hour. What was really on all our minds was the ice cream itself. Dawn led us into their ice cream cafe and shop to sample the goods. All the ice cream is 60% organic (from their own milk) without any artificial flavours or colourings which is always a good sign. We decided to sample the back row of ice creams then take a tour of the mini factory before coming back to sample the other 11 flavours in the parlour.
Marshfield Ice Cream
Choose Your Flavour
Marshfield Ice Cream
Dedicated Sampling
Marshfield Ice Cream
Mint Choc Chip (my bête noire Ice Cream Flavour)
The first ice cream we tried was the Clotted Cream Vanilla, and frankly it was one of my favourites. Simple flavour, but the most creamy and luxurious vanilla I've ever tasted. I could tell this was going to be a tough test to try and come up with a top 5. Also luckily for Wuthering Bites only 5 of the 22 ice creams we sampled had gluten in, although Dawn remarked she was working on getting that number down to even fewer.

Our tour of the factory was an eye opener, actually quite a small space considering the levels of deliciousness that are produced from it. We also got to experience the extreme cold of their giant freezer, around -25 don't you know, enough to freeze the ink in biros, hence all the pencils around the place. Keen to get back to the tasting we polished off the second row of flavours.

Marshfield Ice Cream
I think my top 5 flavours were:
1. Honey and Stem Ginger
2. Raspberry Ripple with Pavlova
3. Cookies and Cream
4. Caribbean Coconut
5. Clotted Cream Vanilla

I cannot commend the honey and stem ginger enough, I am a bit of a ginger nut as it is, but seriously this was incredible. Also pleased that they had coconut as a flavour, it makes a fragrant and different ice cream that I particularly enjoy. As if we hadn't eaten enough ice cream, sugar nut Rich was offered to make his own sundae up from his favourite ice creams, he was very happy indeed.
Marshfield Ice Cream
Happy Sundaes
What is wonderful is how enthusiastic they still are about their business after 20 years, and it's hugely infectious, I returned home feeling all pepped up about ice cream and thinking about new flavour combos, my offering is apple and cinnamon, by the way. So when Marshfield opens it's shop again in Easter go along and pick yourself up a tub of deliciousness, plus by next year who knows what new flavours they will have. In the meantime check out Marshfield's website for stockists of their ice cream.
Marshfield Ice Cream
One of Marshfield's 200 Cows
Thanks to Wuthering Bites for the photos, whilst my phone was getting stitched up at the phone hospital. Read her post on our visit here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Sunday Roast at The Townhouse

This year The Townhouse won best Sunday Roast at the Bristol Good Food Awards. I am notoriously picky about my roasts, preferring to make my own or go to my mum for hers. I've only ever had one worth going out for and that was from Bill Butt at The Grapes in Clifton, before the current owners. His 24 hour roast pork with all the trimmings was a proper Sunday treat indeed. I am happy to report that I can add a second venue to my 'worth leaving the house for on a Sunday' list.

Super organised Wuthering Bites had set up our September food blogger meet up at The Townhouse for a Sunday Roast last weekend and we had the whole mezzanine level to ourselves, perfect light for photographing the food, a blogger's primary concern, obviously.
First to arrive, got my priorities...
What is great about the roast at The Townhouse is that you can choose from 4 meats, usually most places only offer two choices, so with all bases covered, and with something for the veggies, everyone is likely to be happy. As far as I know the menu changes every so often, so what's on the website is just a sample and likewise the photo of my menu, will get you drooling but don't get too attached.
Best Roast in Bristol
We were a group of 12 of hungry food bloggers and food enthusiasts I did feel a slight pang of guilt for the pressure we must have added to the staff at the Townhouse but having heard such great things from a few of our group, I had every faith we would be rewarded greatly. After seeing truffled mushrooms on brioche I decided to go for a starter as well as a main. Regular readers will be familiar with me waxing lyrical about mushroom dishes that have sent me to heaven (see here and here for more details) so my starter choice will be of no real surprise.

Rich went for the Lyme Bay scallops with applewood smoked bacon, black and white pudding, English peas and beans with a cider butter sauce. Not everyone in the group went for starters, with hindsight I almost wished I hadn't because the roast was so massive.
Truffled Mushrooms on Toasted Brioche

The TownHouse Bristol
Truffled Mushrooms, a closer look
The Town House Bristol
Lyme Bay Scallops with Applewood Smoked Bacon

The Town House Bristol
Scallops with a Cider Butter Sauce
My starter was a delight, the buttery brioche melted in the mouth with the cream, sage and mushrooms giving off growing flavours with each chew. Personally not quite as good as the breakfast truffled mushrooms on toast at Rosemarino but pretty much there, very delicious indeed, I urge you to order this starter if it's on the menu when you go. Rich's scallops were cooked to perfection and the cider butter cut through the richness of the black and white puddings. We had never had white pudding and it was very tasty indeed, complete revelation to me so will be looking out for it on menus eagerly next time I am out and about.

Roast wise I plumped for the roast belly of Devon rose pork which came with Stornaway black pudding and a rhubarb and ginger sauce. Rich was swayed by the truffled bread sauce and white pudding that accompanied the roast chicken. He adores bread sauce, something which I cannot understand at all, and proclaimed this one to be the best he's ever tasted and was only a bit sad that there wasn't more of it.
Roast Pork in Full

Juicy Flavoursome Rolled Pork Belly

Roast Chicken with all the Trimmings
The Town House Roast Bristol
How hungry are you now?
As you can see from the photos they are generous with the portions and I haven't even covered the vegetables yet. Wonderful meat and more importantly for me, being a roast potato nut, these were some of the best I've had. Properly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Check the close up photo below for proof of roast potato nirvana. We got a wonderfully creamy ramekin of cauliflower cheese and some mixed vegetables to share but for a lot of people roasts are all about the Yorkshire pudding. Both Rich and my mum are massive Yorkshire pudding enthusiasts, mum will make a tray of 12 for lunch but her and Rich will have about 5 each leaving one a piece for dad and I, there is no sharing on their watch.

Luckily The Townhouse have solved this conundrum by supplying their roasts with a Yorkshire loaf to share between 4. It is enormous, even Rich could not finish it so I will be interested in how my mum does when we visit there with her. Also very impressed with the service, nothing was too much trouble, even when the table asked for a few extra roasties a couple of small dishes plus crispy bits were brought to us to crunch over, delicious.
The Town House Roast Bristol
A Crunchy Potato Dream
Best Roast in Bristol
Vegetable Sides
Best Roast in Bristol
Yorkshire Pudding of Doom
So there you have it, Bristol's best Sunday roast. One course will cost you £12.50 or you can get two for £16 and 3 for £20, which is a great deal considering the high quality of food on offer. There are some non roast items available on the menu, but after seeing what we were given, are you really going to choose anything else? To have a browse at the menu check out their website, they are also pretty active on Twitter so give them a follow @TownHouseBris.

Coming up on the blog, American diner style food from London, dinner at Noa and a trip to Marshfield Ice Cream farm.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Beautiful, Brilliant, Bragança

Bragança another city that begins with BR like my beloved Bristol, so close enough, maybe we can start a theme going here? Behold a guest blog from photographer, writer and Lusophile, Mark Sparrow on his visit to restaurant, Solar Bragançano.
Bragança Castle
Bragança in the far north east is a remote city, probably the most remote city of any size in mainland Portugal and as such it feels set apart from the rest of the country in its own time warp. In a way, that’s how Solar Bragançano feels. This elegant old restaurant is situated on the upper floor of a long, two-story former manor house, facing the cathedral in the Praça de Se.
Solar Bragançano Restaurant
Solar Bragançano Restaurant
From the outside Solar Bragançano doesn't appear to be very much but step into the entrance hall and admire the classic blue Portuguese azulejos tiles and gorgeous granite staircase and you’ll be enchanted. Okay, so the crimson stair carpet is a bit worn in places but that only adds to the charm of this restaurant. This isn't a slick place and neither are the prices nor the menu.

Solar Bragançano Restaurant
Solar Bragançano Interior
When you reach the upper floor you'll be greeted by one of the family members. Mother, father and daughter run things and you can tell from their elegant appearance and slightly formal dress that there's something a little old-fashioned and, dare I say it, aristocratic about them. If it’s summer you'll probably be asked if you would like to eat outside. Do so if you can and you'll be taken through to a charming little courtyard bedecked by plants and ivy with the gentle splash of a small fountain tinkling away in the background. It's a hidden and charming little world that adds an ethereal quality to the meal.
Solar Bragançano

The food on offer is typical of the Trás-os-Montes region, a part of Portugal that suffers nine months of infernal heat and three months of bone numbing cold. Prices are around €5 for a starter and about €12 for a main. It's an average price for a Portuguese restaurant. Special dishes included pheasant with chestnuts, partridge with grapes, roast kid, wild boar stuffed with cabbage and fried apple, Trás-os-Montes trout and of course the infamous bacalhauIf you visit, do be adventurous with the menu, there are plenty of eating adventures to be had here.
Solar Bragançano Restaurant

I chose the melon and presunto as my starter. Presunto is the Portuguese version of Parma or Serrano ham and very good it was too. The portion wasn't huge but the melon was perfectly sweet and the presunto had just the right amount of flavoursome fat on it. Presentation was nothing fussy and slightly rustic but that only added to the charm. For main course I chose a vitella steak. This is listed as veal but it's more like a fairly large and tender steak and was accompanied by some thinly sliced fried potatoes, rice, the omni-present Portuguese side, and some green salad with a vinaigrette dressing. The flavour was excellent and I chose to wash it down with a jug of the house red wine served in a pressed glass decanter jug - another little touch that was homespun yet perfect for the surroundings.
Solar Bragançano Restaurant

The staff at Solar Bragançano can speak English and they will be happy to advise on what to order. The cuisine of Trás-os-Montes is robust country fare but the ingredients are all fresh and well cooked. If you're looking for lean cuisine, dainty portions and Michelin-star presentation then you will be disappointed but very few restaurants in Portugal offer that type of food in my experience.

The service from the lady owner was attentive, fast enough but not so fast that you felt rushed. The wine was slightly robust and came with a certain amount of sediment but tasted good and wasn't too badly price at €5.50 for almost a litre. While there, the garden was slowly filled by the arrival of a Spanish family, a Dutch couple, a French couple, two Estonians and a local Portuguese group – the atmosphere was busy but certainly not noisy. Everyone seemed happy with their food and with the average bill working out at €44 for two including coffee and wine, it was easy to see why.


For me the whole meal felt like travelling back 30 years in time and I loved it for that. Give the restaurant a visit should you ever find yourself in Bragança and you will be pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.
Northern Portugal at its Best

Friday, 14 September 2012

Mexican Food Delights at Taqueria

Last week Rich and I went to London for a night. I had bought him tickets for John Foxx and The Maths gig so we decided to extend our stay overnight and have a whole day in London. After an amazing night of synth beats the following day my foodie friend Julia led us to Taqueria, a taco cafe. I love Mexican food, something Bristol is lacking is a really good Mexican restaurant, Casa Mexicana I've heard reports has gone down hill in the last year, so it would be good to get the Latin vibes going again in Bristol.

Taqueria, near Notting Hill Gate, is a real gem. The menu is pretty extensive and does not just cover tacos. We decided the best way forward would be to get a couple of dishes and sample everything, although Julia had recommended a Sope each to start as they were the most heavenly dish she'd had in a while, how could we resist such a pitch? Sope is a sort of fried pastry filled with beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa, coriander and optional chorizo, which of course we opted for without hesitation.
Sope with Optional Chorizo
Julia was not in the least bit wrong in her pitch. This was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in a long while. So many flavours it sort of tasted like a crisp Latino pasty it was amazing and I am glad we ordered more than one. Our mains we picked the Vampiro, Conchinita Pibil and the Tinga.
The Vampiro
The Tinga
The Vampiro was a char grilled tortilla with melted cheese, char grilled skirt steak and vampiro salsa. For me easily the best of the three. The steak melted in the mouth it was juicy and was complimented by the tangy salsa on top, I could have eaten at least 3 more of these and still been begging for more. The Tinga was generously filled with shredded chicken in a chipotle, tomato and onion sauce topped with avocado. This was tasty and smoky but pretty difficult to eat delicately as the tortillas were pretty soaked in the sauce.
Conchinita Pibil
Conchinita Pibil, or puerco pibil, is a traditional slow roast pork dish marinated in achiote and citrus juice. Here the tacos were topped with habanero flakes and pickled pink onions. The piquant pulled pork piled high on the tacos did not disappoint it was hugely flavoursome and each mouthful revealed more and more flavour. As with every dish I could have eaten twice as much but I restrained myself. Rich adores churros so ordering them to finish our lunch was a no brainer.

Two portions rocked up very shortly after ordering accompanied by a goat's milk toffee dip. It won't surprise you when I say, after such delicious food so far, that these churros were the best I've tasted so far, although I am fairly new to churros. They were light, slightly crunchy and coated in cinnamon sugar. The toffee dip was very sweet and rich but definitely better than any chocolate dip I have had to accompany my churros in the past.
Churros with Goats Milk Toffee
Therefore if you find yourself in London and fancy an inexpensive lunch or dinner, under £10 each, then head to Taqueria it does fresh super tasty Mexican food and there is so much to choose from. Check out their website for a menu browse and prepare to drool over the many options.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sunday Milkshakes and Brunch at Rocotillos

Last Sunday we had arranged to meet Rich's youngest sister for brunch and she had chosen Rocotillos, famous for their delicious yet filling milkshakes and American diner food. We arrived just before 11am and it was already rammed, luckily Natalie had secured a booth. The booths in Rocotillos are notoriously tiny, they do not make for overly comfortable eating if there are more than two of you in a booth, and we were a four so it was implementation of t-rex arms and elbows so as not to knock your neighbour's food off their forks.

Seat grumbling aside we eagerly pawed at the brunch side of the menu, eyes bigger than our stomachs. There was no question of not ordering a milkshake, I tried to protest but I was met with many voices of derision and 'but they are the reason to visit here'. So I ordered the week's special which was Raspberry Pavlova and Rich went for his favourite Banana one. Now for any of you who has experienced the sheer indulgence of a Rocotillos milkshake knows how huge and daunting they can be when paired with food. This was no exception. I had chosen the three crumpets with scrambled egg and side order of hash brown for my brunch whilst Rich went for the banana pancakes with maple syrup, bacon and a scoop of ice cream, a complete American style sugar overload.
Rocotillos Bristol
Uber Milkshakes
I can be overly picky with scrambled egg, I make some of the best scrambled egg I've tasted, other than at The Vineyard hotel when I was 15 and breakfast was made completely to order, there has been no place to top that or my own. I make mine loose, creamy and you must cook it on a very low heat and take it off before it looks ready, it will have time to finish off on the residual heat. It is no accident that my family used to get me up early on a Sunday to make them breakfast by affectionately poking my cheeks and calling for the Egg Monitor (or Egg Mont for short) to rise from her slumber.
Rocotillos Bristol
Crumpets with Scrambled Egg and Hash Brown

So in retrospect I should not have broken my, never order scrambled eggs out rule, because they were slightly disappointing in texture but that is only because I have such ridiculously high expectations and standards. After a little salt and crumpet placement they were pretty tasty though and the home made hash brown was good too, nice and soft but with a slightly crispy coating on the outside.
Rocotillos Bristol
Banana Pancake Stack

By the clean plate that Rich presented after about 10-15 minutes of steady munching I am guessing he found his generous portion of banana pancakes the perfect partner to his hunger pangs. The bacon of his I sampled was certainly great quality and the maple syrup really brought out the smoky flavour, although an American staple it's definitely a combo that us Brits are still getting used to but it does really work. I first tried it when I was about 8 at my uncle and aunt's house, she is American, and always used to cook up American pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon and the obligatory maple syrup. However I still build a pancake fort to protect my eggs from total contamination to this day.
Rocotillos Bristol
Veggie Breakfast (companion breakfast)
Rocotillos Bristol
Steak Breakfast (of one of our dining companions)
I do recommend Rocotillos for a lazy weekend brunch they offer something a little different to the usual, it's not super fine dining but it's certainly fun and comforting, now if only they would sort out the seating.  Follow Rocotillos on Twitter for their latest news and updates.