I feel like I’ve held out on you. I’ve eaten out at the Queen’s Head, Brandeston and not posted anything. Mostly because I’ve been in great company, enjoying the conversations so much and because the food was so good I’ve been eating it not photographing much of it. Just as well I’m not a professional food blogger.
Now, I have a big secret to share. Brandeston Queen’s Head is about to host a ‘pop-up’ restaurant, for two days only at the end of January. David Williams @stillcooking has been working as a consultant for Alan Randal @queensheadbrand at Brandeston Queen’s Head. Knowing that David and his wife Susanne @susannewilliams are looking for their own restaurant eventually the idea of the ‘pop-up’ was born. This will be run to their ideas, food and service ethos. The team have worked hard over the last few months developing ideas for the Brandeston Queen’s head and if this new venture follows on the high standards they have set so far things should be very good indeed. For more information see their website here.
Orford is rapidly becoming a mini food capital of the East of Suffolk. It has provenance with Pinney’s smokehouse and Oysterage and a wide choice of pubs that have done good business for years. The Saturday market does a roaring trade and there is an award wining butchers. The village shop has had new life breathed into it too. The latest addition is Pump Street Bakery, which has just officially opened. I whizzed in at 10.15 this morning and they were already practically sold out of pastries – the pain au raisin, with my coffee was spectacular though. The café element is one long table where you sit together with the other customers, a log fire blazing and enjoy the company. Say hello to Jo (aka @pumpstbakery on Twitter and @PatOrford), if you read the journal on their website you will realise just how hard they have worked to turn a building that had been unoccupied for years into a business.
As I wandered around Orford I was struck by the architecture and the impact of competition in what is an intriguing little village. The bakery is one of the few Suffolk Pink plastered buildings, the predominant material here is brick. Houses range from the commanding to petite cottages, hunkering down to avoid the weather. This is a place of contracts, spitting distance from the sea, yet miles from it; protected by the Ness. This means a long river trip for anyone wishing to get out to open water by boat or in the season a ferry over to the Ness and a walk across the spit to find the sea. The Ness itself has been a site of mysterious goings on for years. The many eating places have their chalk boards outside ranging from the slightly intimidating “Smart lunches, more formal lunches on Sundays” (perhaps not the place for me to go after a long muddy bike ride or dog walk then) to the children horses and parrots welcome, humans by appointment. I like the bakery having no external signage at the moment, like a ‘best kept secret’; you feel as if you are wandering into someone’s house.
Part of the beauty of Orford is that there is something for everyone. I hope the many people who stay in holiday houses there enjoy and make the most of the special treats on offer as much as the locals.
Today I have had fun shopping for food in Framlingham, Yoxford and the Sandlings. Yesterday, I had a mystery shopping assignment to a top four supermarket. What a soulless place it was; the assignment itself was interesting but above anything it restored my understanding of why I don’t shop in the big four often. Today was a wholly different experience. First I picked up from the Framlingham Market Facebook page that the lovely Darren, below, was doing a Facebook deal on sea bass. So I went along and ask for two Facebook, great success – apparently I wasn’t the first, someone bought their’s with the papers at 7.00am.
Then I popped over to see Roger Etheridge on his veg stall, I bought watercress which will go nicely with the bass and a few purple sprouting plants. There was a time when I bought boxes of fruit and veg from Roger, but now I grow more and buy less.
Next stop was to meet Twitter friend Carl, or as I know him @solebaycheese, another one of those introductions where I have to remember that most people only know me as a green blob and a dodgy twitter name. Carl has just taken over the Yoxford Post Office and is in the ‘soft opening’ phase. This allows for the Post Office training to be carried out by the previous Sub-Post Master; I dutifully posted a parcel to ensure the training was maximised. Carl served me the most gorgeously gooey piece of Vacherin cheese, whilst dispensing tips on how to prepare and cook; that’s service. Good luck to you Carl, I really hope the new business takes off and look forward to the coffee and free wifi once it’s up and running.
Next stop was Orford country market to test out @PumpStreetBakery’s bread. The market is run in the hall and is a delight. I also bought some sausages with caramelised onion and some potatoes. The Pump Street Bakery stall was being run by @patorford and there was a roaring trade. Some fabulous looking pastries, croissants and meringues too. I now have a huge loaf of crusty bread to enjoy with the cheese. Pat mentioned that the village shop in Orford is taking off. It is fantastic, full of local produce and with a small coffee area, I bought a beautiful Romanesco and some Marybelle milk.
From there a quick jaunt to Snape farmers market for High House discovery apple juice, perfect pale lemon pink in colour and Suffolk Blue cheese, piri-piri Sutton Hoo chicken and then off Friday Street market for some Paddy and Scott’s coffee and smoked garlic. All in all, far more miles than I would normally do, but such fun and I have a tidy haul of food to serve over the next few days, topped up with some more veg and fruit from the garden, all will be well.
So what do you think – are we about to see a renaissance for the village shop or market? It may never be able to compete on price but how about quality and friendliness combined with convenience, is it a price worth paying? Vote below and add comments, for example should local shopping use social media more?
The weed eating season is officially here. I love this time of year as it is possible to rustle up a tasty little something from things found in the garden. Jack-by-the-hedge is a weed that will grow taller in the next few weeks. In these early days though, the leaves taste of garlic and are soft; making easy eating. You can add them to salads but I like to use them as I would wild garlic.
So take one jacket potato, that failed to be eaten last night, scoop out its innards and smush a little. Shred some Jack by the hedge. Whisk up an egg white to form a light wind, plop in the yolk, lightly beaten; season. Stir the whole lot together; yes it looks like something the cat threw up.
Drop the mix back into the potato skins and cook at 200c until baked (15ish minutes) and consume.
It helps to have some of these in your garden, then its a zero miles dish. #Suffolkdiet
On Saturday I was with a friend in a party enjoying a Food Safari to Pinney’s of Orford and the Butley Oysterage. The Food Safari concept is to experience food from production to consumption within a day. This was a great day out, so if you have the time to, read on; if you have Spotify here is a playlist to go with this post.
We started with Paddy and Scott’s coffee, accompanied by some of Polly Robinson’s (the founder of Food Safari) flapjacks at Pinney’s shop near the quay in Orford. This was an opportunity to meet the others who would be taking part in the day. We then set out by car and taxi to Butley Creek. Harvey from Pinney’s has enthusiasm and knowledge that can only be gained by working hands on with a product for several years. His insight into the highs and lows of the Pinney’s history as the founder’s entrepreneurship blossomed, failed and blossomed again with the changing economic climate in the second half of the 20th century was absorbing. From dispatching the rabbits that were once abundant near the creek to the current oyster growing and harvesting old Pinney tried his hands at many things.
A day like this really comes into its own in the opportunity to actually be in the place where the food is grown, experience the freshness of the air, the emptiness of the landscape, the sight of the boats in the water and the scattering of empty shells on the side of the creek.
We then went into the shed where the dredged oysters are cleaned and made ready for sale. The oysters are huge and surprisingly heavy; learning about the relative merits of the oysters here at Butley over their native cousins harvested over the border in Essex was fascinating.
For me the next stage was the most intriguing of all; the smoking. The time taken to cold smoke the brined sides of Wester Ross salmon varies according the wind direction, moisture in the air, the amount the doors are opened or closed. All judged by experience and adjustments made by regular visits. This is not a highly industrialised process. Before long we were passing around a cold yet smoking piece of green oak to smell the vapours rising.
Back at the oysterage restaurant we had a delicious plate of oysters, trout, mackerel, prawns, sprats and salmon with their lovely sweet mustard sauce all served with local Staverton wine, followed by warm cake deserts.
The between course entertainment was a demonstration and then a chance to carve smoked salmon and to shuck oysters. If you have the chance do take part, there is nothing like giving it a go for yourself.
Huge thanks to Harvey and his team for their enthusiasm and knowledge and to Polly for putting the day together.
And if you need a little poem to finish the post….. go here