Tuesday 31 May 2011

Vale Tucker's Grave.

Tucker's Grave Inn closes today. After some 200 years as a continuously operating Inn, tonight, when they shout 'time please gents', a curtain will come down on a small slice of SOLE, and the souls of those who have known and loved it.

There's no big story.. not corporate pirate chasing the little man from the land. The owners are too old to continue. Margaret and her husband (who's fought ill health for some time) are just finding the burden of running a pub.. and not just any old pub.. but possibly the most famous cider pub in the area.. too overwhelming.

Tucker's Grave is a three-roomed pub with no bar counter and a  tap room. An 18th-century former cottage which has been a pub for over 200 years. The pub name comes from the burial place of a suicide, Edwin Tucker, who died in 1747. The two original delightfully unspoilt pub rooms with simple panelling and fixed bench seating are either side of a central corridor with ancient panelling. On the right is the tap room - note the Georgian lettering on the door which probably dates from the early 19th-century, if not the late 18th-century, and is surely the earliest pub lettering in the country. It survived because, at some point, it was covered by a screwed-on-sign. This small basic room has wall benches and the odd bell pushes. The mantelshelf over the old stone fireplace was replaced in 2007 when the original one caught fire and the room required re-painting as a result of smoke damage.

On the left of the corridor a latch door leads to the tiny public bar which has a genuine Victorian tiled fireplace, some old bar back shelving near the door and above the window but more modern shelving opposite. There is no bar counter - casks of beer and cider are stacked in the bay window which has external shutters to protect the barrels from the sun. A third room to the far left was formerly the living room and was brought into use in 1985 - it has a Victorian tiled fireplace with marble surround. At the end of the passage which gets very narrow is a door leading to the outside gents and ladies on the rear right of the building. There is a skittle alley in a separate stone building at the rear.

Like the above description, there's not a lot to Tuckers. No food, no pokies, no gastro-pomp. It's a stone Inn, in the middle of nowhere, servicing the locals and a few discerning (read DAMN LUCKY) outsiders who know of it.
I got taken there via a tenous connection to The Wurzles, The Stranglers, a lab called Dougie and a thick leathery thing that I didn't like having my lips on. The scum on the rim of said leathery thing was nice, tho.

Tucker's Grave serves Thatcher's Cheddar Valley cider, a classic Heritage cider. Cheddar Valley cider, which is cloudy with a distinctive orange, almost red, colouration. These rough ciders have a short shelf life and are generally tapped straight from a barrel kept in a pub's bar rather than its cellar. Thatcher's Cheddar Valley is a lurid orange cloudy cider, served at room temp.

It looks like a glass of flat Fanta. However, at 7% it has a kick. Not a 'get you pissed and all argy-bargy' pissed. More like a mellow, giggly 'toke on a good joint' glow.

Simply, it's like no experience I've ever had with alcohol (and believe me, I've had a few!).

Thatcher's cider brewery is another local gem. Still run by the original family, it pumps out 1000 litres of various ciders a year. All made from local Somerset apples, sourced from local farms.
SOLE is where the heart is, and Somerset still has a fine tradition of supporting and encouraging local producers to stay true to heritage values. Like Thatchers. And Tuckers. Even the Bath Farmer's market was the first SOLE market in the UK. (as oppossed to farm gate purchasing)

**Blogger is being a tool, and the server is regecting my photos, so come back tomorrow and I'll upload some more.**
Then it was off to the Faulkland Inn for a pint of Phesant Plucker, some whitebait and a trad Sunday roast beef, Yorkshire pub and all the trimmings.

Given that most breweries, inns, ale houses and pub-grub houses are sadly owned by chains here in the UK, next your over here, give a wee thought to what you're drinking/eating and who your hard-earned £££ are supporting. Like Tucker's, they're a dying breed.

get in while you can.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Bath Farmers Market


I'll let the pics speak for themselves.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Foodie bucket list.. check!

"Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is quite my favourite of all the prominent food-writers and presenters. Never quite as shaggy, messy and disgusting as he first appears, his great knowledge, passion, insight, intelligence and skill are hidden under the silliest hair in Europe," say Stephen Fry.

River Cottage Cafe @Komedia Bath  01225 471578

Hugh's 'Rustic Fish Cakes with Tartare, Devon greens and toast', accompanied by organic River Cottage nettle beer.

Friday 20 May 2011

Last day in Paradise.

Will blog more later. Off to the aiport to catch a flight back to Gatwick, and London for a few days.

One step closer to going home. (**happynixiesigh**)

Just needed to share the **headtilt** moment of the tour.

Posted this FB update.

Sitting on the beach, listening to P!NK's " Get the party started", 'cept it's being sung... by a Shirley Bassey wanna-be... and sung all "James Bond Theme Song" styles. Think the theme song from "Goldfinger", but with P!NK's lyrics....  **headtilit".. while watching Eurotrash women and old fat men in budgy smugglers.

Well, it turns out it IS a Shirely Bassey cover version.

My head just might explode.

Press HERE if you dare.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

SOLE for the soul


There's more to eating locally than you think.

I'm here in Greece. Specifically in Mykonos. More specifically in Psarou Beach.

Psarou Beach looks like this:

Which is what most people think Greece and its Islands look like. And it does. I know this, I took the bloody photo. But this isn't all.

Greece is a bloody hard, rocky, barren, goddamn difficult palce to eek out a living. Moreso now with the oft-reported and usually over-hyped "Greek-led second wave GFC"

Behind the glam and the night life and the minor celebs and the dancing all night and the naked lovelies adorning the beaces, is the harsh, sun baked reality of Greece.

Quite literally like this:

All that grey 'stuff' behind the azure-blue-and-white Cycladic architecture is where the locals ply their farming trades. And it's bare, sun-baked rock. 

So. to Cavo Psarou.

It's owned by friends of mine, I will admit that up and foremost. Cos and Petroula have run the family-owned resto since 1993. It's been in Petroula's family since the 50's.

Cos and Pet have a severely physically disabled son, and the only access they can get to appropriate and reasonable health care for him, is in Athens.

So every Tuesday morning, Petroula and her son fly to Athens for 4 days a week, for him to get therapy. It's difficult, and it's costly.

Costas and their daughter stay and run the restaurant. And every day, they watch ships and planes fly in crates of caviar and sushi for the endless appetites of those frequenting more "known" venues.

Petroula hasn't the faintest idea what sushi is. She learnt to cook as a child, and then started working in the kitchen of Cavo when she was 15. Her food, and that of the restaruant reflects all that is SOLE. Apart from the very basics of flour, sugar, salt and a few other 'bits', every single thing you eat at Cavo is grown on the family farm at Drafilki. The lamb, goat, most of the beef, the vegetables, the olives, the olive oil, the oregano, the beans, the sweet baby zuccini's. The whole freaking lot.

And it's all grown without pesticides, because they just can't afford them. Like farmers in PNG, 'organic' is a term that is unknown amongst locals here.. it's just food.. As Mani says "why you put chemicals on things that just grow?'

And they reap all of the above out of the rocky, thankless soil of the hinterland of Mykonos, far away from the wanker-azzi oonce-ooncing down on the sunlounges, hoping for a glimpse of Adnan Khashoggi's grandaughter.

They serve:

Chicken souvlaki, on home-made pita, with kale and garlic, and beans in tomato sauce.

Greek salad, with all the ingredeints, including the fetta AND the oregano that adorns it, from the farm. The sparking mineral water is from a small supplier in Athens.

local octopodi, pickled in their olive oil, with bread from a bakery in Mykonos town, and beer from Athen's first (and currently, only) microbrewery.

And as I sat there, yesterday, soaking up the sun that is as heavy and thick as honey, I saw at least half-a-dozen tourist walk in and order cheeseburgers and fries.

Or eschew the food, in favour of a sushi platter and Stella Artois at N'assos.

This isn't a post designed to tug at the heart-strings. NONE of the family would want that.

But next time you holiday. Whether it be on Mykonos, or Crete, or Ibiza or Bali or Maldives, or Portsea, just take a moment to think about where your tourist dollars (or euros) are actually going. WHO they're helping, who they're harming and what kharma you're wracking up along with those holiday calories. Sometimes a child's access to affordable and appropriate health care depends on your choice of lunch.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The Royal Military Tattoo meets Ravi Shankar.

Look, I know I've got good turn of phrase.. can string together a few cogent sentences and get a laugh, but sometimes I DO think that people just don't believe some of the random shit that happens to me.

Like walking into a bar and being given an $11,000 pizza oven.

Or my dog wearing fairy wings and being munted on Valium

But I SWEAR you cannot make this shit up.

So, this weekend I'm in Bristol, staying with a friend, Lena. She's awesome, and we're getting along like an house on fire... and it's all good and we're talking politics and religion and sexuality and booty calls and 50's burlesque lingerie... it's so so SO fun.

So.. there's a lull in the conversation and we hear, in the distance, the haunting sound of bagpipes.

So, ok.. I'm in the UK (Bristol), albeit not Scotland, but the UK, so bagpipes are not so far out of the ball park.

And they're getting louder.


behind the bagpipes, we can hear something else... something un-identifable... something quite incongruous.

So, we both look at each other and say 'This warrants more investigation!!!.

So, both of us shoe-less, run out of her door, to find the Bristol City Marching Band ...well.... marching and bag-piping down her street!

There were Pipe Majors and they were ROCKING 'Scotland the Brave'.

So, now you're humming the tune, right? and wondering (because this IS a pg post), what's the hook?

The Bristol City Bag Pipe Brigade et al, are just the forerunners of:

The Bristol Sikh Community Holy Day Parade!!

It was like The Royal Military Tattoo meets Ravi Shankar!

It was so freaking awesome, I got a bit teary.

Oh, and these awesome women, in the most SENSATIONAL coloured saris and bindis kept blessing us and handing us lollies and cans of warm soft drink.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Gurt Lush!

Sometimes I think that people think SOLE is all about organic fair-trade lentils. Or macrobiotic tempeh burgers, served on biodegradable, sustainable carbon-neutral plates, made by micro-bank funded land-mine widows from Burkina Faso.

And it can be.

But it can also be about the ordinary. The humble.

The meat pie.

I'm here in Bristol, and of course, on the top of my list, even higher up than seeing Mild Mild West was to check out Pieminster.

One of my gorgeous online sistahs, Princess Laura the Brave, has been extolling their virtues for ages, and so they featured high on my list of things to eat here in the UK.

First to Bristol. Pieminster's HQ is situated in Stokes Croft, scene of last month's Tesco Riots. It's dingy, it's funky, it's in yer face ballsy-British.

I love it. It's Melbourne's St Kilda of the 80's.

Tricky Wiki says:

The name Stokes Croft has come to refer to an area around the road as an informal district encompassing Jamaica Street, the junction of Picton Street and Ashley Road, and the southern part of Cheltenham Road. The area is a centre of art, music and independent shops in Bristol, with clubs such as the Croft, Lakota and Blue Mountain; the nearby music college BIMM Bristol on King Square; and numerous pieces of graffiti art. The area’s character has given rise to a group of activists and artists calling themselves The Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC), who are seeking to revitalise the area through community action and public art.

 And Pieminster embodies all of the above, in a pastry case!!! What's not to love.

From their web site:

We make great pies using fresh, local ingredients from farmers we trust. But that's not the whole story. As a growing business we have a responsibility to be....

good to our suppliers

Tristan has spent a long time working with local farmers and other suppliers to make sure we source the best meat and veg possible for our pies. We deal with farmers who care for their livestock and are as local to our Bristol base as possible. This has not only helped us win awards for the quality of our pies but also caught the attention of the good people at Compassion in World Farming.

good to our workers

Happy people tend to be more productive than sad ones. pieminister strive to make the workplace as enjoyable as possible by taking the time to listen to what people want. This is how a massive cow came to be painted on the main office wall and an allotment was built in the garden last year for everyone to enjoy. Jon and Tristan also have a open door policy, where anyone can come and speak to them without having to make an appointment first.

Tristan Hogg makes it his business to know where all food that ends up in our kitchens comes from. He takes provenance very seriously so that you can be sure that when you eat a pieminister pie, you can do it guilt-free.

Here's just a little bit about the ingredients we use:

Fruit & Veg

We use the freshest fruit, vegetables (apart from our British frozen peas) and herbs we can get our hands on. This means that we shop locally for them. The quicker they get from the farm to the plate the better.


We breed great lambs here in the UK so we can’t see the point of using lambs from the other side of the planet. That is why you will only find British lamb in our pies. This not only helps British farmers it also helps save the planet.


All our chickens are free range and British. They taste better because they are allowed to move around outside as chickens are supposed to. We also only use free range eggs (in case you were wondering). That’s why our pastry tastes so good.

The leading world organisation campaigning for better standards of welfare for farmed animals has recognised our commitment to using happy chickens and happy eggs in our cooking. Take a look at the work they doawards we’ve won here.


All our beef is farm assured and British. The same applies to our milk and butter. We use West Country Cheddar and Stilton from a licensed Blue Stilton Dairy. Our award winning Goats' cheese is from Lubborn Creamery in Somerset.


Apart from our authentic Spanish chorizo all the pork and bacon we use is from Sandridge Farm in Wiltshire where the pigs have access to the outdoors.


All our pies are made by hand by chefs who really know what they’re doing. The mixing and baking has taken years to perfect and has been recognised by The Incorporation of Bakers of Glasgow. In bakery terms, that’s about as good as you can get!

 We bought a Chicken of Arragon for dinner ( free range british chicken, smoky bacon, roast garlic, vermouth and fresh tarragon) and had it with roast tatties and mushy peas. 

It was quite simply the best pie I've ever eaten. And I'm Australian. I know my pies! I suspect the base was a short water pastry, blind baked before filling, and the crown was a luscious buttery puff that held up well when cut. Filling was generous and chunky. And the tarragon really was fresh.

And their motto?:

Thursday 5 May 2011

SOLE is a bit like dust bunnies

it's everywhere, even when you think it's not. You just have to look, let it catch your consciousness out of the corner of your eye, just like a dust bunny.

So here I am in Weston, Bath. West Country, where everything sounds like it ends with a R.. as an an ARRRRRRRR,

Cider (pronounced Soida, by most people), here, is saiderrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So, like dust bunnies, you just have to glance sideways, and you'll catch a glimpse of something sustainable, organic, local and/or ethical.

like the GL cafe:
Green lunches fuels Bath’s workforce with fresh, healthy and delicious food – delivered straight to the workplace.

Since Green Lunches was established in 2007, we’ve gone from strength to strength. Our customers appreciate the care that goes into our daily lunch preparation – it’s all done in our local premises, which have been approved by the local Environmental Health experts.

If you already enjoy Green Lunches at work, we want to thank you for your custom – and encourage you to spread the word to your working friends. And if you haven’t already signed-up, please do – we really will brighten-up your lunchtimes!

As a local success story, we’re proud of our products and how our business has grown so far. We aim to source our ingredients locally, to establish fair, ethical relationships with our suppliers, to minimise our carbon footprint and to re-use and recycle wherever possible.

At Green Lunches we even have a fledgling ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ policy, and the beginnings of a strategic business plan. So if you’re interested in partnering with or joining our company, just ask and we’ll show you ours if you show us yours…

Then there's the Weston Fruit Emporium, which doesn't appear to have a web address, but not only tells you where its fruit is from (Somerset pears, Winchester pumpkins), but will also tell you the farm from which some of its produce is sourced!

The bakery sourced a lot of its goodies locally, the pub stocked local cider.. I could be in foodie SOLE-varna!

Even in 'town' (Bath), there are street-side vendors spruiking local and seasonal wares.

Having been living in PNG for the past wee while, I just can't get enough of the cool climate fruits like apples and pears.

Now the above stall, with its rich tapestry of local and seasonal fruits, is RIGHT across the way from something called a 'Sainsbury'. For those not in the know, it's not like anything you get in OZ, or even, in my experience, in the States. It's like a 7/11 with booze.

It was selling, this day, pre-cut pineapple, pre-cut watermelon, pre-fab sambos, pre-mixed drinks and a mightly selection of crisps.

Erm, colour me arrogant, but pineapple? pre-cut pineapple? In Bath?

Dude, I am SO not going there after living in Lae. I mean, with this stall across the way, selling local and seasonal pears for a fraction of the price of Sainsbury's pre-fab crap, WHY WOULD YOU BOTHER?

However, I did, I must confess, make a purchase at Sainsbury's, and that was of my most beloved chockie bars.

Those who have known me since I last lived in the UK have heard me bang on ad nauseum as to how chocolate bars in the UK are the best in the world ('cepting the Aussie Chokito).

Detractors, may I present to you:

Now, all I have to do is find a Lion Bar, and I am set like jelly!!

Wednesday 4 May 2011


Win a trip to Tanzania and be our Hunger Busting Blogger!

Are you a woman with a connection to the land? Do you want to be part of the solution to the world’s food crisis? Then ActionAid needs you!


Are you a woman with a connection to the land? Do you want to be part of the solution to the world’s food crisis? Then ActionAid needs you!

ActionAid is looking for a passionate women who is connected as a producer, consumer or activist with sustainable agriculture and rural communites here in Australia to send to Tanzania as part of our blogger training programme.

You might be a rural farmer, agricultural student, garden farmer in the city – or someone passionate about organic farm fresh food.

If this sounds like you, then we want you as our Hunger Busting Blogger.

The successful applicant will be one of a select group of 15 ActionAid activists from around the world who will be trained in the use of blogs to help them communicate effectively, connect with their fellow bloggers, while learning about the issues that face rural women in the developing world.

We don’t need a blogging expert, you just need to have an open mind and be passionate about fighting the root causes of poverty, and empowering rural women to fight for their rights (see selection criteria below).

As ActionAid’s Hunger Busting Blogger, you will give poverty a voice by:

- travelling to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Africa

- meeting other global activists and learning together how blogging can help contribute to the fight against poverty and injustice.

- acting as ActionAid Australia’s Hunger Busting Blogger for 12 months.

To nominate yourself, simply follow the above link and post a comment addressing our selection criteria and explaining why you think you’ll make the perfect Hunger Busting Blogger?

You can also support the nomination of someone else by posting a comment below explaining why you think they would be the ideal choice for ActionAid.

This isn’t a popularity contest – there is no “voting”. ActionAid will judge all nominations on the quality of their comments and support they get from others. We’re after the best woman for the job.

Nominations close on 30 May 2011. ActionAid will then choose a shortlist based on the quality of your nominations and provide an easy video challenge for each of the shortlisted nominees to complete. Based on the results of this challenges we’ll be choosing our Hunger Busting Blogger and flying them off to Tanzania in July.

Selection criteria

To be chosen as our Hunger Busting Blogger, you must be:

■A woman who’s passionate about sustainable agriculture (whether as a producer, consumer or vocal advocate).

■A confident speaker with strong written communication skills.

■Willing to blog for 12 months back in Australia about the link between sustainable agriculture and food security.

Monday 2 May 2011

West Fest

When I was young, we used to visit my great-uncle, who had a dairy farm. My mum grew up on a dairy farm, and used to tell us tales of scones and clotted cream. So this Saturday past, I took myself off to Weston's annual village fair, West Fest. For a SOLE foodie, it was possibly the ultimate 'mess in my rompers' experience.

There was bread.... REAL bread.... crusty and yeasty and fresh, a far cry from the sweet, white crap I get in PNG. I gorged on olive bread, baguette, cob. It was wonderful!!

Due to the ridiculous OH&S laws in OZ, We're unable to get raw milk cheese. No such ridiculous nanny-law here in the UK, so I stocked up on roquefort, stilton and Jersey blue.

Weston is the home of proper cider.... Somerset cider... apple and pear. Scrumpy, pale or dark.

I may never drink wine again!

And then there are the strawberries.. only just coming into season, in time for the Henley regatta.

I saw a proper May Pole, missed the Morris dancers, sat under an ancient celtic cross eating blackberry icecream, and then met friends for a pint at my new local.

Off to Bath today, to pick up some pressies for the kids, and to 'take the waters'