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As I mentioned previously last weekend we headed down south to Hereford for a friend’s wedding.  On our journey home we decided to take a leisurely trip stopping off at food place along the way.  We didn’t really have a plan, just to see what we found.

The first place we came across we whizzed past, which is funny because it’s such a huge blot on the landscape it’s hard to miss!  In the midst of countryside as you head out of Hereford you come across a HUGE ‘barn’, if it can be called that, which reads ‘Oakchurch – farm shop’.

We entered this building with some apprehension and were greeted by what I would describe a confused food-cum-home-cum-DIY-mega….something-or-other!  It’s identity to me was unclear, it was utterly bewildering.  Imagine a farm shop supermarket and that’s part of the way there. 

There was a huge meat section, cheeses and produce – all local the labels told us; there were wines, beers and a selection of local cider and perry; there was a whole section dedicated to homewares (china plates and mugs, jam jars, bread boards, baskets, and every baking item under the sun).

We came away with a small bottle of local perry and a couple of packets of greaseproof bags (ideal for wrapping up edible Christmas goodies).  After visiting a friend of mine we crossed the River Wyre at a toll where the lady collecting money looked like she should have sold us some eggs and home produced honey as well as our crossing! 

From there we travelled via Eardisley and pulled in at the last minute to a natural cider and perry producer called The Orgasmic Cider Company – who couldn’t resist but stop at somewhere with a name like that?!  A friendly man told us about their different types of cider’s and perry’s and we tried some before buying a bottle to take home.

Our next foodie stop was Monkland Cheese Dairy – here we found a small shop and cafe selling homemade cheese, and a selection of preserves, chutney, bread and other local goodies.  We tried some of their different cheese and settled on their Oak Smoked for Mr Rigg and their Garlic & Chive for me.

The last place we visited was the Ludlow Food Centre, the one place I had planned to visit in advance.  The food centre is a large red brick and black timber clad new build that is light and airy inside.  It was bustling with people and on entering we were greeted by buckets of gorgeous locally grown bouquets, and local fruits including Victoria plums.

There was lots of local produce to choose from with pumpkins and squashes, purple beans, and sweetcorn.  There were modest meat, cheese and deli counters.  There were some delicious looking breads (even bread shaped like a tiny teddy bear!) and all the normal store cupboard items. 

We bought some sourdough bread sprinkled with poppy seeds, sweetcorn, Victoria plums, a bunch of local flowers, the first of the Hereford apples, two types of sausage and streaky bacon (at least that’s all I can remember!).

For lunch we ate in their Conservatory Barn Cafe – cheese and chutney sandwiches and a sausage roll for Mr Rigg, and for me roasted red pepper soup.  It was nice if slightly uninspiring food, but it tasted good.  I was very tempted by their ‘award winning’ Victoria sponge cake, but I resisted knowing that we had a tupperware of homemade chocolate cake in the car.

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Tuesday was my birthday.  Mr Rigg and I took a day off work and had a lovely relaxing day pottering in Knutsford, drinking thick hot chocolate with a spoon at an Italian cafe, and eating cake for supper.

We also had a delicious lunch at The Victoria pub in Altrincham – but I’m going to save that for a separate post as it was so good!

Mr Rigg made my birthday cake – a Victoria sponge with raspberry jam and butter cream icing.  Yum.  It was our first attempt, we bought new sandwich cake tins in Knutsford and set about making Hugh’s recipe from his Everyday book.  It turned out pretty good.  We certainly aren’t complaining!

foodmemoriesloire

I thought it was about time that I told you about my lovely food memories from my holidays in the Loire Valley in France.  The Loire is about five hours drive south into France and slightly to the west side.  It hugs ‘The Loire’ a stunning river that is the longest in France.  The part where we stay near Saumur is dotted with chateaux and vineyards, and chalky white buildings.

As a child I used to go to the south of France with my family every May half term, but the Loire is a relatively new discovery and N and I have been twice.  I never thought I would want to return to the same place, what with holidays being so rare and costly, and there being so many places to visit, but last summer we knew that we wanted to go back for a second time.  We ended up in the Loire after I found this pretty little campsite on an internet search – Le Chant D’Oiseau

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Many of our holidays are chosen by beautiful places to stay – we find somewhere that we think “we’d really like to stay there” and then we look at what the areas like, then off we go.  We are now good friends with the English family that run Le Chant D’Oiseau and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a home-away-from-home; a relaxing retreat; or a safe, family-friendly site.  They also have really nice gites if you want a few more luxuries.

N and I camp.  I am currently of the mind that France is the only place I’m really happy to camp, as the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be nice during the summer hols.  A fair weather camper, is me. 

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Going back for a second year meant that we knew quite a few places that we liked, and it was nice to know that we sort of knew our way around a bit.  However, since the first time we went my passion for all things edible has increased so now most of the holiday was based around food – markets, lunch, dinner, local food production etc.  I have to remind myself that it’s N’s holiday too and that he might like to do something other than trek round France looking for a small village that produces poires tapées…

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Poires tapées is a unique way of preparing pears (and apples – pommes tapées) from a village called Rivarennes.  The pears are scalded and peeled before they are cleaned and put into a furnace.  From my understanding, the furnace is there to dry the pears out, not cook them.  A couple of days later the pears are pressed using an unusually wooden device called a ‘platissoire’ that presses them flat, hence the ‘tapées’ part. 

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In Rivarennes we went to a small cottage where they used to make poires tapées and watched a short video on its history, and then got to try some of the products they make with the pears.  We were given a whole pear that had been rehydrated in red wine…blimey it was strong and I only managed to nibble at mine (I’m not a red wine drinker).  Then they gave us these little bowls with diced dry pear – each bowl had a different variety of pear and it was really interesting to taste the differences between the varieties.  My favourite was the funny sounding Queue de Rat.

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So where else did our food travels in the Loire take us…  Well, we fell in love with two pretty towns right on the banks of the Loire – Montsoreau…

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…and Candes-Saint-Martin. 

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We ended up spending a large part of our holiday here, whether it be wandering the quiet streets of Candes-Saint-Martin and dreaming of living in some of the stunning houses, or sitting up on top of the huge hill that overlooked the towns and the Loire with stunning views. 

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Many a cheese and saucisson picnic was eaten in the dappled shade on this hill.

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In Montsoreau we found a popular little cafe that was full of locals and therefore bound to be pretty decent food.  We ate here twice in the end, because the food was honest and tasty, and the waitress was extremely friendly and tolerant of our attempts to order in French (we’re not that bad I don’t think…).  If I remember correctly, I think we ate the same food both times – very adventurous of us, I know.  I had Croque Monsieur (yum, yum, yum) and N finished off a big plate of Steak Frites.  It was some of the best cooked steak he’s ever had, almost mooing on the plate! 

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We also had starters of locally-grown mushrooms in a simple vinaigrette sauce (can’t remember the details of it which is a shame), but it was really good.  There are lots of caves along the banks of the Loire, some were used as dwellings (troglodytes) and others are now used to grow mushrooms in.  Lots of mushrooms.

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We went into the mushroom caves on our first visit to the Loire, which was back in 2006, so I can’t remember the types of mushrooms.  But this is how they grow shitake type mushrooms…

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I’ve realised that on two trips to the Loire there is quite a lot of lovely food experiences to share.  For now I shall leave it here, and will post Part 2 in a couple of days, and I shall tell you about possibly my favourite place to eat ever.  The place I would go back to for my last meal.

Have a great weekend!

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The Organic Farm Shop near Cirencester in Gloucestershire was one of my first experiences of a farm shop.  It is my ‘local’ farm shop when visiting my family, and stopping off here on the journey is a sign that we’re nearly there. 

As you turn off the road and down the long tree-lined drive to the farm shop, you pass piggies in a field and a market garden sized field of fruit buses and pollytunnels, before you reach the farm shop nestled amongst a grove of trees.  There is something lovely about seeing the produce growing in the fields before you enter the farm shop, something reassuring – and a great reminder about where a lot of the produce you buy in the shop comes from. 

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In addition to the farm shop (which is stocked with fantastic goodies) there is a cafe serving delicious, home-cooked vegetarian food.  Meat-eaters do not be detered by the veggie menu, it is scrumptious food and you won’t sit there wondering where you steak is.  If N can cope, anyone can.

As it was my birthday weekend, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the cafe.  It serves daily specials and have a standard menu which comprises of a variety of baked potatoes and omelettes.  Most meals are served with a selection of salads, which are displayed on the counter. 

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You can pick and choose which salads you want – N and I turned down the mung bean, red cabbage and cauliflower salad, but were really surprised by salad of celery, cucumber, fennel and sunflower seeds.  I was also converted to the true potential of polenta – an ingredient that I have had disastrous-throw-in-the-bin results with – these were crisp, cheesy ‘croutons’ that topped off our salad.  Yum yum.

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So N opted for a selection of salads topped with melt-in-the-mouth goats cheese (he had eaten his before I had a chance to take a snap).  I chose from the specials board and tasted my first asparagus of the season – an asparagus and cheese tart with salads.  This tart was so good and would really like to recreate, or at least try to!

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As you can see it didn’t take us long to finish it all off.  I am also coming to the realisation that I am a bit obsessed by taking photographs of empty plates (those that are empty because the food that previously was on them has all been gobbled up).  I was so tempted to take a photo of the table next to us after the family had left, there was something fascinating about the empty plates, cutlery, cups and crumpled napkins strewn across the table.  N gave me such a look at the suggestion that I quickly put the camera away.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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