Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

The Fried Potato and Other Ramblings   Leave a comment

Flat chips. WHY? You know, the ones they call ‘steak’ chips? When and where were these ever served with steak? These are my biggest chip fear. You can tell a lot about a place by it’s toilets and chips. It just reminds me of bad restaurants that have wet peas soaking the chips. Urrggghhh. They are just lazy, unimaginative and tasteless.

I accept that chips, like eggs, are a very personal thing. However there really are some no nos in my book.

Of course the new(ish) thing is twice or thrice cooked chips. The Taverners in Godshill do these in an excellent manner! Pretty filling though and never really necessary to order as a side, but so hard to turn down when the opportunity arises. They have a place on pretty much any dish except, probably, fish in my view. I remember when they first ‘came out’ and they would be presented on a plate usually 3 down and 3 crossed on top. The first time I had these was in The Swan in West Malling, now a Michelin Star. If you were really lucky you might get a third layer. It was nice to see the humble potato get a revamp. A very important staple for us Westerners.

Chip shop chips are a tricky one. Obviously only for fish and chips, but they are pretty standard and any diversion from said recipe of slightly wilted, fire hot potatoes is a no no and please a little bit of batter accidently dropped in the bag. Served in paper with salt and vinegar. There can be no alterations, but would you accept them on a plate in a restaurant? Probably not.

It does pain me that restaurants are unable to name potatoes cooked in oil correctly or truthfully. Chips are chips and fries are fries. I enquired recently about the size of a restaurant’s fries to be told by the waiter “well, they’re chips really“. So why not call them chips? I would have been utterly disappointed if I had ordered them without asking. Fries are French fries. Frites. Thin, crispy, salty and naughty. Don’t mess.

On a recent trip to Cheltenham to a very nice brasserie, which was mainly French with a bit of pasta thrown in, the club sandwich came with matchstick chips and the steak came with frites. I had the club and, yes, the matchstick chips were frites (imagine my delight). They were the only chips on the menu and you couldn’t even order a side dish, so my betting is their matchstick chips and fries were exactly the same thing??!!

Americans are good at fries – Freedom Fries, of course. I wonder why they don’t call them Freedom Frites – it has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? In and Out burger, a fast food ‘restaurant’ in L.A cut their own spuds! Unpeeled too. And they’re ‘ansome. There are some good places for good fries on the Island – Phileas Foggs and Barefoot on the Beach. Proper fries.

Funnily enough and I have never questioned her on it, my mum when I was a kid used to have a deep fat fryer, which pretty much, every night cooked chips, until I was probably about 10 years old. Except, these chips were cubed. I don’t know why. Obviously more labour goes into cubes than sticks? Note to self – ask mum about chips. They were very nice though. How I stayed a slim girl I’ll never know.

Now for the Sautée. They need skins. Sliced, halved, I don’t care, but they need skins to capture my heart. Sautée potatoes with duck breast. Or is it duck breast with sautée potatoes? With sautée you then move onto potato hash. That’s one big kettle of lovely fish. My goodness, the hash variations you can make. Some to be seen on our breakfast menus. Black pudding hash, ranch potato hash. I’m working on some more, but Mr OSGH takes quite some convincing for new specials!! But let’s face it sautée potatoes are chips for healthy people who can’t face the guilt.

And the wedge? Come on everyone likes a wedgey! Sour cream dip? I like mine with IOW Garlic Farm garlic mayo. With a pizza? We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure now and again. Now I know it’s a chain pub, but the Crab Inn in Shanklin do excellent wedges – deep fried baking potato, a whole one I would guess. Scrummy. And because they’re probably an American creation it doesn’t matter what you do with them or what you have them with Americans don’t care if you bastardize their food.

The food anomaly within my siblings is my brother. Now my brother is not a lover of food. What does this have to do with chips? Christmas day – 55 year old man (yes, he is substantially older than I) – has chips with his turkey! I conceded to cater for this one year, but I refuse to do it again! Maybe the chip shop will be open next time? He is also an eater of those flat horrible ones. Are we really related?

There are some things that shouldn’t be served with fried potatoes and although it seems popular to some Brits, it’s as frowned upon in Italy as using a spoon for your pasta. Lasagne and chips. Why? Lasagne, chips and peas. Why?

Unfortunately it seems to be a mainstay on Shanklin sea front that everything comes with chips in the majority of establishments. One of our guests recently almost ate in one, but someone queuing in front of them to order asked if they could have peas instead of salad with their lasagne, this was bad enough, but the server then said “I’ll ask, but you’ll probably get the salad as well”‘!! I just have images of plates and plates lined up in the kitchen already prepared with salad on the side. Our guests went back to the village for food. And in fairness to said eating place if someone’s going to order Italian food in an English restaurant they’ve only got themselves to blame!

My new bugbear is kids meals. Yes, we love potatoes, but why do kids meals all come with chips all the time? Come on, use your imagination.

It’s amazing how we take the lowly potato for granted. They are a wonderful thing and should be raised shoulder high. I’m a big fan whether it’s mashed, boiled, fried, baked or roasted. It has to be said though, that there are other alternatives. I have more alternatives in my cupboards than I do potatoes. One day Shanklin will be ready for them… one day.

It should be noted that these are just my opinions and if you take them too seriously you need a certain amount of help.

So it’s Raining? Here’s What to do on the Isle of Wight   1 comment

Yes, it’s summer 2012 and it’s raining. Why? Some say it’s the Gulf Stream a little off course, some say it’s global warming. But no, don’t be ridiculous, it’s because this year we have the British Olympics and of course June/July is a time of festivals, Wimbledon, Silverstone and when people want to go on holiday to miss the school kids.

Let’s face it June is usually pretty good, July’s ok and it’s supposed to be August (which by the way is the month of the heaviest rainfall in the UK, just ask Lonely Planet) that is a wash out.

But it’s different every year. I recall summer holidays in the Isle of Wight some of rain, some of blazing sunshine. The worst sunburn I ever had was here. I’ve had holidays around Europe (yes, when my sister and I were old enough to appreciate it, we ditched the Isle of Wight and they took us abroad) at exactly the same time 1 year apart in exactly the same places (you’re seeing my parents were creatures of habit) and Venice has been summer sun one year and lightening storms the next. June in Bracciano with the in laws not bad, warm, but cloudy, then on to Milan with friends and yes, lightening storms. And before you ask, no I haven’t been hit yet. So it’s not just England that gets wet summers.
(Footnote – once my sister and I left home my parents went abroad every year – My obsession could have been Portofino instead of Shanklin!).

So it’s Raining? What are we going to do about it? Absolutely nothing. It’s impossible to stop the rain. And as Billy Connelly once said “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just being badly dressed for it”. There are so many things to do on the Isle of Wight in the rain. Let’s face it the restaurants and bars are still open. And here at OSGH there is no pressure for our guests to shove off out if they don’t want to. We wouldn’t have a guest lounge if we didn’t want people to use it. London Underground puzzle? Destination Isle of Wight (good game), IOW Monopoly, cards, books, DVDs. Hell, holidays are about relaxing, not tiring yourself out.

So here’s some ideas for a holiday on the Isle of Wight in the Rain.
1. Quarr Abbey & Café – a hidden beauty of architecture and history.
2. Dimbola Lodge – The permanent IOW festival exhibition, Margaret Cameron’s Photo collection & always a new exhibition of works, then round to Colwell Bay for a lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at Barefoot on the Beach, but don’t forget to invite us
3. Cowes Maritime Museum depicting the yachting and shipbuilding in Cowes
4. Waltzing Waters, a fountain display with lights and music (stretching it?), then maybe lunch at Rosemary Vineyard
5. The Garlic Farm is mostly inside for tasting, the exhibition and food. There’s also a pottery next door.
6. The Steam Railway. Good for all weathers. Watch the rain lashing down from the comfort of your carriage. Toot toot!
7. Arreton Barns Craft Village – now hear me out. Admittedly my trips to Arreton are purely for food, but I have it on very good authority from my guests that there is, amongst other things, a leather maker (Tanner to some) who makes really good leather belts while you wait at a very good price. No hard sell, but one of our guests bought 6!!! You could then nip up to Briddlesford Farm, check out Bobby our Briddlesford Butcher and have a quick something in Bluebells Café. Don’t forget to say hi to the calves and give them a pat.
8. Oohh, now this is a favourite idea of mine – Afternoon Tea at the Royal. Mmmmmmm. Oh go on. After one of our breakfasts you may not want lunch, but ooh those lovely little sandwiches and delicate cakes and maybe a glass of Champagne. You’re on holiday after all.
9. Carisbrooke Castle has quite a lot inside. The donkeys of course turning the wheel when they feel like it (no animal cruelty here, but I’m sure it was done differently in Charles I’s time.) Be careful if you go up on the whatsit upstairs – the thingame – battlements? you know where they fired the arrows from? Someone help me out here. Anyway it might be a bit slippery. There’s also Carisbrooke Priory nearby, which is so often overlooked.
10. Another English Heritage Gem is Osborne House. Not bad for s summer house. I’d be quite happy with the kids’ Swiss Cottage (there’s a free bus shuttle to it nowadays too). The Terrace Restaurant is apparently very good. It was too late to try when we got there.
11. Brading Roman Villa. What’s the difference? – it’s cold in there all year round. Take a cardi, it’s climate controlled. Made much more interesting if you can grab a volunteer for a tour. Amazing views and, yes, you guessed it, a café.
12. Events around the Island go on all year weather not permitting. The Newport Jazz Festival, which is held in Minsters, Churches and all sorts of bizarre, but warm places with fabulous music, The Annual Sweetcorn Fayre at Arreton Barns and usually a sausage competition. There’s also a jigsaw puzzle festival, now, come on, that has to be indoors. The Isle of Arts Open Studios in July is a chance to see artists of all kinds at work (inside their homes and other dry places).
13. Godshill is a great place rain or shine. And no, not just because of the Taverners, but if you do happen to be passing please bring me back a piece of their lovely suet pastry pies. There’s also the Old Smithy, the beautiful church, a teddy museum, a chocolate makers. Just loads going on and of course afternoon tea.
14. If you have a lazy day at OSGH you could spread your legs in Shanklin, wander round the craft centre round the corner, get your rock shop gifts to take home (and a little something for yourself of course), have a drink down at the Esplanade and watch the stormy sea (there’s a new Irish pub, which could keep one amused all day), then have an evening at the Theatre. There’s so much going on there. Tuesday play, Thursday West End and all the touring fellas in between.
15. Now please be careful with this one, but you can always go ice skating. When was the last time you did that? When do you ever have the time? When are you ever 20 mins on the underground train from it? Then afterwards you can nurse your bruises with a magnificent Italian at Michelangelo’s or a damn good steak at The Alamo. Or maybe cocktails would be more appropriate in The Kasbah, or the Black Sheep or the Mexican or many other bars in Ryde. OK so Bowling might be less risky, but the rest applies.
16. St Catherine’s Lighthouse is a must see for any weather. During the summer they are open most afternoons. And of course a visit to the Buddle Inn is essential on any trip. A log fire in the rain warms anyone’s cockles.
17. The Newport Duo – wait for it – The Roman Villa and the Bus Museum! Why not? Come on everyone likes an old bus.
18. Yarmouth is a lovely wee town and it’s got a castle! You’ll be a history buff by the end of your holiday! You could then go on to Chessel Pottery and paint your own pottery. Don’t worry elbow the children out of the way. You’ve been on the planet longer.
19. Appuldurcombe House – a little bit ‘pooky, but well worth losing the hairs on the back of your neck.
20. And last but not least you can visit the animals at Amazon World or the, well, butterflies I guess, at Butterfly World.

Let’s face it there is no excuse not to enjoy a holiday in the rain here. It’s not Majorca where there really is nothing else to do but sit on the beach. In the rain you’d be playing pool, getting drunk and arguing with the other half. You can do that in Sidcup!

You don’t need to go round the world – you can do that at Phileas Foggs. Come to the Isle of Wight – anyway, our rain is far superior to any other in Britain!



A Can Opener of a Weekend and Regurgitated Pig Sick   Leave a comment

After being evicted from my lovely house by my husband due to a friend’s stag weekend – and no we do not usually take stags and hens, so don’t even think about it – I found myself in Ryde for the weekend with my sister.

Friday afternoon was an eye opener, Saturday afternoon was a can opener! After cheese board and Charcuterie  at Michaelangelos – epic goats’ cheese, we spent the afternoon walking up the right hand side of Union Street ‘shopping’ which is rather amusing because my sister doesn’t do shopping! I was pleased to find – very much like Shanklin the shops are all very individual and really pretty cool. We went into the very cold Arcade and I found some second hand bottles. I know how this sounds and on informing Gareth he thought I was off me trolley – he hasn’t seen them yet. They also had a £75 IOW travel companion from the 1800s – if you could put that on my birthday list I would be ever so grateful. We also discovered a leaflet about the Ryde museum, which my sister did cartwheels over because she’s a history buff. She’d never been to Framers before, so she spent hours looking at the photos, old mostly Victorian and Steve Gascoigne’s colourful delights. Old photos aren’t really the decor of our guest house, but decided on one showing the old iron cliff lift, which might go up or might not. It took a whole afternoon to do just one side! Smith & Stephenson, Crocus – they usually run a mile when they see me coming – I always need five of everything! – and a little American style shop. All very groovy.  Then we crossed to Olivos for a coffee and discussed the evening’s food, which is incredibly important to us.

We had already booked a table at the new restaurant/bistro at Bembridge, Lockslane.  We decided to take advantage of the ‘Night Rider’ ticket £5 from 7 pm – 7 am. Before that we had a quickie in the Kasbar, which was very quiet, but I was very pleased to hear some ‘young’ music! Mumford and Sons and Lady Antibellum – OK I do have musical guilty pleasures.

So dinner at Lockslane – what a lovely place – it had a real Antipodean feel. Relaxed, small, friendly and really good food. I had black pudding with apples, croutons and wholegrain mustard and sis had a Vietnamese chicken salad – we hearted both, then she (the cat’s mother) had Pheasant Confit with leek, chestnut, and celeriac mash (I said she’s be farting all night, but she insists she never ever farts!!) I had chicken tagine, which was scrummy. I have a lot of experience with couscous though and know that as soon as you feel your insides expanding it’s time to stop, because it only gets worse! There was – as you will come to discover – no chance of dessert. It’s a very rare occasion for me to have dessert. It spoils the taste of the savoury.

On our home coming (the bus was only 2 minutes late and it was about -3 degrees) we drunkenly asked the bus driver how much it costs to get to Bembridge – £2.50. So the Night Rider was a waste of time, but if we call it Knight Rider it was well worth every penny!

After a freezing cold night in our undisclosed accommodation and a breakfast fit for the establishment we went to the Ryde museum. Bit of a revelation. Did you know the man who invented those old fashioned tin openers that look a bit like a Y was none other that Henry Knight – you know the fella, Henry Knight (obviously the Knight Rider ticket was also named after him). He bought Ryde arcade in 1856 for £3000. Sounds like a lot of money to me. He then sold the patent to Crosse and Blackwell. ‘Huff’ I said, ‘well what do ya know?’ We met some lovely ladies from Ryde District Historical Society who were incredibly helpful in a local Shanklin issue, which I am not at liberty to discuss. But suffice to say I am seriously considering joining the Society as they were so lovely and helpful. It’s only £15 you know. So my sister (the history buff and secretary of Bexley Historical Ass) exchanged pleasantries on what each of their Societies were projecting at the moment. We discussed the frustration of local volunteer groups and the Jubilee celebrations coming to Appley. By this time we were even more freezing cold than we had been at 4am that morning and decided to get warm in Olivo’s for lunch. Just ciabatta and wraps, but very nice and hit the right spot.

We then ventured by car to Quarr Abbey. I hadn’t been for about a year and since then they have built the cafe, shop and all sorts. What busy monks they are. We had a wander into the Abbey and sis just had to go and see the ruins (broken stones). Again with the history buffiness! The cafe a shop were more interesting to me. The monk’s art gallery wasn’t open. Seasonal apparently. But you can get Free guided walks on the first Tuesday of the month and weekly in the summer. Definitely going on the guest info. I might even put it on the ‘Hidden Gems’ on the Island website. I keep trying to put our guest house on, but whoever is approving it (or not) is either not bothering or smarter than I thought!

We had a bit of time left until I could park the car back in Ryde for free, so we had a drive to the Boathouse in Springvale (apparently not Seaview??) with my Matt and Cat Dining Club card and got a discount off our rather pricey glasses of wine, but I don’t mind paying for the atmosphere. We discussed my blog and argued over whose fault it was that we were staying in our chosen accommodation – even after seeing bad Trip Advisor reports – and not at the Boathouse. We decided to blame Gareth for a number of reason – 1. he wasn’t there to defend himself and 2. he said he might need the car. Oh well we had told the lady we were cold and although didn’t give us the blankets we asked for she did give us a dusty De Longhi electric heater, which we had to turn on and go out of the room to burn the dust off first! Pooey! We then drove over to St Helens Duver to watch the sunset, which was very romantic for 2 sisters!

After going round and round the houses (like a Teddy bear) we decided on Michaelangelos, which was very close and I had to consider that my hair was slightly damp and our radiator in our room hadn’t come on! I had forgotten how nice it was. I know we’d had lunch there yesterday, but the evening restaurant is different. When we had discussed the menu (of which we had in the room because I took some to put in Old Shanklin) I thought it was a little pricey for Italian, but I take it back. Even with 2 bottles of wine it was very reasonable indeed. I think we paid £67 (I say think – this was after 2 bottles of wine). It was Saturday night before Valentines and it was packed to the rafters, but they soon found us a wee table. It seems to be the place where the families of Ryde go for birthdays, weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. Also the young men of Ryde take their new girlfriends! Ah, how sweet! Yes I was young once and my boyfriend did take me to grown up restaurants. And usually Italian – and still Italian after 16 years. We had 2 different Bruschetta and then I had the pumpkin Tortelli and ‘she’ had Duck Pappardelle. Both extremely happy with our choices. I had to leave 2 pieces and sis helped me with 2 as well. Again, you guessed it, no dessert.

And again, you guessed it, no heating. We slept in our fleeces! Breakfast was ming – 1 Lincolnshire sausage – as per yesterday, which was the only decent part of it and 1 what can only be described as regurgitated pig sick in a plastic bag. All I could think was Phileas Fogg family were having breakfast at Bluebells and I was sat here paying for this shit and no heating. And no I didn’t tell her I had a guest house! To top off the morning I had eaten so much over the weekend I couldn’t get my walking trousers to stay done up – bloody poppers!

Excellent shopping in Ryde
Excellent Ryde museum and Abbey
Fab food except breakfast

What did we learn?
Can openers were invented in the IOW
Always believe Trip Advisor
Matt & Cat Dining Club Card is a winner