Foody Friday: Church Farm Ardeley and the Jolly Waggoner

A few months ago, on a drive into the countryside to visit friends, we passed Church Farm in Ardeley and our attention was grabbed….. a mixed, ecological farm, producing the widest range of meat, fruit and vegetables, Church Farm also serve fresh food from the farm at the Farm Butchery & Store, Farm Cafe and Jolly Waggoner Pub. We made a quick stop on our way back to explore the lovely little farm shop, buying up some amazing fresh eggs and other bits, and made a mental note to find out more about the place once back at home.

And we were so delighted we did! We soon discovered we could get a weekly delivery of vegetables from the farm and quickly placed our order….we now look forward to each delivery of amazingly fresh and carefully grown veg, not to mention cooking it and eating it! The produce tastes like things used to in my opinion….carrots have that wonderfully sweet and earthy fragrance, and cauliflowers have that great peppery taste. We used to have an Able and Cole box whilst we lived in London, but are finding the Church Farm box much more home-grown and honest, and it’s wonderful to know our food has barely travelled!

And it doesn’t end with the veggie stuff…. The free range livestock (and subsequent produce!) ticks all the boxes for us….They keep their animals in small extensive herds & flocks, using older slower growing traditional breeds to produce the best meat from healthy, happy animals. You can visit the animals to see for yourself, and the farm was set up with the advice and help of some of the UK’s foremost farm animal welfare experts.

“All the animals are kept extensively and allowed to mature before slaughter. All animals can and are seen everyday by our farmers, co-farmers, and visitors. Our mortality rates are very low and our animals live on average twice as long as those in more intensive farm systems. We have a fully qualified on-site vet and call upon the RVC/Westpoint vet partnership for support where needed. The only way we differ from the Soil Association husbandry guides for all species (the highest welfare standards in the UK) is that we buy local straw and silage feed from local farms which are not organic.”

Well how could we resist?! As a treat to ourselves then earlier this week, we visited the charming pub opposite the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, to sample some of the farm’s other produce. The menu totally spoiled us, with stacks of us-friendly meat choices, as well as several very tempting veggie options. Adam and I both opted for the lamb though, his Dad the fish and chips, and his Mum the pork belly. ALL the dishes were amazing! Our lamb was perfectly cooked and accompanied by delicious pommes Anna and a scrummy jus….the pork belly was laden with amazing crackling and the huge battered hake was just perfect.

Prone to temptation as we are, we all went on to relish a pudding of walnut cake with butterscotch sauce….this too was just to die for and left us all very jolly and contented indeed! They serve real ales too, with a selection of guest ales from local breweries, and the wine list is pretty impressive too. We are sure to be back in search of a Sunday Roast!

Church Farm also boasts a woodland play area, walking trails, tea rooms and a campsite! All in all, seriosuly worth a visit!

Ems x

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Foodie Friday: The Copper Beech Tea Room

I do love a quaint little tea room, and when we recently found this charming place I knew it would become a firm favourite. In fact, we took my Mummy there last weekend for her birthday, and she just adored it too!

The Copper Beech Tea Room is actually part of the Copper Beech Art Gallery, which is just a short drive away from Hitchin, Letchworth or Stevenage in Little Wymondley. The gallery sits within an oak-beamed barn on a working farm, and hosts both resident and guest local artists, as well as workshops….. you can learn cake decorating, painting in many styles, mosaicking, lino printing, hand applique, gilding and lots more! The owner actually spotted the self-made dinosaur necklace I was wearing, and once we got chatting about what I do invited me to bring some of my work along for her to see and perhaps sell!

We love having a wander around the gallery as we wait for our drinks to arrive, but then it’s time to settle down in the darling little tea room!

Nothing matches in the cosy little cafe….there are charmingly mis-matched chairs, tea cups on totally different patterned saucers and art work of all styles on the walls. One wall is dominated by a gorgeous large dresser, upon which stand various home made cakes for you to gape at! The menu is great for us…nearly all veggie, but plenty varied to boot. There’s a quorn spag bol, toasted ciabattas with your choice of fillings, pasta dishes and soup. For just £7.50 you can get any drink of your choice with any main meal, and for £10 you can also choose a cake!

On our most recent visit I opted for the mushroom bake, which is a seriously yummy sort of pattie with loads of cheese inside and all crispy and breadcrumby on the outside. All the main meals come with delicious home made coleslaw, pasta salad and a nice leafy salad (which I am happy to say is not dominated by rocket or raw onion which often spoils a side salad for me!). Adam and Mummy had toasted ciabattas, both of which were devoured! We can also really recommend the (pictured) stuffed mushrooms (with with parmesan risotto or with goats cheese and onion marmalade) as well as the goats cheese puff which we’ve had on previous visits.

Tea for one comes in a pretty little tea pot, whilst my hot chocolate was served in a huge mug topped with stacks of cream and hundreds and thousands! The meals are way too big to be able to tackle a cake straight afterwards (especially as the cake portions are massive too!) so our waitress kindly wrapped up our two slices of pineapple cake and slice of apple cake to take home! We made the right choice too….the huge portions made a nice pudding about an hour after we got home, and then stretched to pudding after our supper too! Both cakes were amazing to boot….seriously tasty and moist, just like a home made cake should be.

We’ll definitely be going again soon and couldn’t recommend the place enough….it may be small but it’s certainly perfectly formed, and beats the in-town chain lunch haunts hands down!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….a picture-worthy few days

I’m always snapping away on my phone, truth be told, but this weekend seemed to give me more in the way of picture opportunities than usual. It was indeed a lovely weekend, filled with fun but relaxation too. Anyway, I thought I’d share my instagram feed by way of summing it up…..

Friday night started the weekend with cocktails, as it always should…..

…..we played Guess Who…..

……and then Adam beat me at Triv!

Saturday began with a lovely long dog walk……

…..we headed to Barton Springs for a nice change…..

…..and the sun shone for us rather splendidly!

We found a darling little tea room and gallery for lunch…..

….where they serve an epic Hot Chocolate…..

….and yummy tea on quaint mis-matched china…..

…..as well as lush lunches like the stuffed mushroom on toast that I went for!

Once home we set about hanging our new treasure, the huge antique map of London that looks rather marvellous on our lounge wall…..

….and after that it was an afternoon of snoozing as it all got too much for my boys!

Another lovely walk on Sunday morning, this time at the stunning Chick Sands woods….

….I love all the little dens people have built there!

After a yummy breakfast of Staffordshire Oatcakes (the last left in the freezer after my Mum’s visit!) we pootled around the market and car boot sale, where I picked up some little treasures….

…..and where my favourite stallholder gave me this incredible menu from the 60’s!

We finally took the tour of the museum opposite where we live in the afternoon….

….and took part in a Victorian lesson where we had to practise reading parrot-fashion…..

…..did maths in old money on slate….

….and worked on our handwriting with a dip pen!

The rest of the day was more relaxing, eating and watching of Buffy. Bliss!

What did you get up to?

Ems x

Catching up: June

June was a pretty hectic month I guess…. what with birthdays, holidays and a wedding to plan for, I was kept plenty busy! That also means there’s a lot to share though….

June starts rather wonderfully with Adam’s Birthday, and to mark the occasion I attempted to make him a special breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup. Only thing is of course, is that I’m utterly rubbish at making pancakes. I won’t share the picture of my ‘attempt’ with you as it’ll only put you offer your dinner, but here is how they looked when Adam came to the rescue and made his own special birthday breakfast!

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I guess I made up for that slightly with some cool gifts for Adam and a celebratory dinner at one of our favourite pubs. We were total gluts and chose the huge Rodeo burgers which come with bacon, cheese, onion rings and barbecue sauce all in the bun. There were massive chips and coleslaw on the side too of course.

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Not long after Adam’s special day, we set off for a week’s holiday in St Ives, Cornwall. It was our first ever holiday with the hounds, and their first time at the seaside! We ate fish and chips on the harbour, watched the dogs race around the beach like crazies, visited the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and ate an awful lot of cake, scones and saffron buns. It was so nice to have a break though and do some adventuring, especially with the hounds!

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Next up, it was time for MY birthday! We actually celebrated the day before, as we were heading to a wedding on the Saturday, but that just meant I had to wait one less day which was great! My special birthday breakfast was somewhat more of a success, and we yummed up one of my favourites of summer fruits and vanilla yoghurt. My choice of birthday dinner was just a take away curry as we’d not had one in ages!

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I received LOTS of wonderful gifts, feeling rather spoiled actually….I received some great gardening books, a pretty wind chime, boozes, DVDs and Blu-Rays, some pampering things and my very own Bamboo, which I hope will help me with some of my artwork! I was spoiled with yet more gifts on the Saturday when we made our way into London for our dear friends Dan and Brigitte’s wedding….they said their vows with a stunning backdrop of the Thames and The Tower of London, and then we partied the night away at a lovely little pub in Farringdon. It was so great to see them finally tie the knot, and to catch up with lots of other friends too.

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Our next adventure took us back to London for the evening…..

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We used the trip as an excuse to get a bubble tea, as we’ve really missed those since we moved out to the Provinces where we don’t get such things….

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….and then after that we saw the amazing new show from Derren Brown, which was just as brilliant as we’d hoped! No more details than that though, as we’re sworn to secrecy, but do go and see it if you can!

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The garden really began to come to life in June too, which was a real pleasure to watch. Our Victorian Tulip Tree blossomed and we were delighted to see its rather tropical looking flowers, and the flower beds around the patio began to bloom too with lots of pretty clashing colours!

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More on the garden when I catch you up on July though…..

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: What’s in your fridge?

“Describe and/or photograph what is in your fridge right now. Be honest!”

So my fridge contains all the usual things, organic butter, yoghurt and milk; free range eggs; leeks; charlotte carrots; half a butternut squash and some mixers….but rather than share a complete list of all those types of things, I thought I’d write about some of the more ‘special’ things that are in there.

We regularly buy fancy and posh jars of stuff from food festivals, markets and whatnot, and they inevitably hang around in the fridge for ages before we finally get around to finishing them. At the moment we have lots of really yummy jars in the fridge, including but not limited to….

Humbers Homemade Rosemary Jelly….this is made locally to us and you can buy it from local markets as well as delis. It’s lovely to cook sausages in or to serve with lamb!

We found the wonderful Pink’s range of chilli products at the Maltby Street Market whilst we still lived in London, and we just love their Green Chilli Jelly and Smoked Tomato Tapenade. They make great dips or sauces to cook fish with.

There are currently four full jars of Jules & Sharpie jams and jellies in the fridge….we discovered them at the local chilli festival last year and love the Hot Marmalade, Hot Apple & Sage Jelly, Hot Rhubarb & Ginger Jam, and Hot Lime & Green Pepper Jelly. These are lovely along with a cheese board.

Other regulars are Alfez Harissa (which I chuck into tagines and hot sauces) and Thai Taste Green Curry Paste which is a great base for a yummy curry. We also tend to keep in a few nice jams and marmalades, and currently still have a delicious Fig & Walnut Ball homemade by our friend Hannah.

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Food Glorious Food!

“Share your favourite recipe. Talk about the best cocktail you’ve ever tasted. Or maybe share you fave restaurant experience. Lets talking about food!”

Whilst I was tempted to use this opportunity to share a recipe or restaurant recommendation, as I’ve been meaning to write about the way I eat for, like, ever, I thought I really ought to do just that! I touched on this yesterday in my Go Green post, but today I’m going to tell you all about my being (a rather ponsey sounding) Ethicurean.

I’ve always loved my food. I like to eat lots, eat well and then eat more. I used to be fussy as a child but my Mum did spoil me with really good home cooking (her roast dinners and pies are to die for!) but once I moved away from home I got to being more adventurous and now there’s hardly any type of food I won’t eat. If any. And Marmite isn’t a food by the way.

And whilst I toyed with the idea of vegetarianism as a teen, I’ve always happily enjoyed eating meat and animal products. Until about five years ago.

It was a TV show that changed my views on how I ate. Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners on Channel Four, and the associated Chicken Out campaign spearheaded by the marvelous Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, offered an insight into the terrible standards in British chicken farming, and it alarmed me horribly. I very quickly decided that I would only eat free range chicken and free range eggs, as well as avoiding foods with eggs in (later it would become easier to find pasta which uses free range eggs, and when Hellman’s announced all their mayo was going to solely use free range eggs I think I cheered!). I was horrified how chickens were being treated, to get their eggs and to breed for their meat, and I just couldn’t stomach a meal that supported or encouraged that.

The following year there appeared another programme. Jamie was this time going to ‘Save our Bacon’ and in his TV show (also featuring the wonderful Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) he revealed the desperately poor state of pig farming. I was beyond horrified this time. I remember crying and vowing never to eat meat again. I remember the cries and shrieks of pigs being pushed around between vile metal bars, and wondering how any person could do such a thing.

I very quickly went off my food entirely, and gave up meat altogether for a few months. I felt responsible for those poor suffering animals, and ashamed that I had supported an industry that could allow such abhorrent behaviour.

Once I’d had time to absorb all this though, I really did come to the decision that as a human being and born omnivore, I would like to try at eating meat again, and should be able to if I was mindful. Whilst the farming that I’d seen in the programmes disgusted me to the core, I knew that there were farms out there who care about their animals, and I wanted to support them. And at the end of the day, if we were all vegan there would be massive economic ramifications, not to mention a lack of lovely fields filled with sheep and cows and whatnot!

I knew though that if I was going to go back to eating animal products, that I had to be as sure as I possibly could be that I wasn’t eating any of those poorly treated animals. That meant an holistic approach…not just eating whatever free range meat I could find, but also being mindful of all the other animal products hiding in all manner of foods.

I personally don’t see the point in vegetarianism for this reason, unless you’re just veggie because you don’t *like* meat of course! I find pescetarianism even more baffling, not to mention people who call themselves vegetarian and eat fish! I know I won’t make any friends by being this opinionated, but I do feel very strongly about this….if you won’t eat meat because of the impact on animals and their environment, why will you eat animal products (I have known SO many veggies who will eat cheese with rennet, Worcestershire sauce, and sweets containing gelatin!!) that have probably come from just as bad a process of welfare, if not worse?! Loads of things contain animal products, and although it’s a bit of a minefield, I have certainly been able to adapt very well to this mantra.

The biggest impact it’s had is on the amount of meat I eat. Whilst I do believe humans should eat meat, I don’t believe we need it with every meal! A common excuse I hear for not eating more welfare conscious meat is ‘I can’t afford it.’ My simple answer is ‘eat less meat then’. I manage just fine on one or two meat meals a week (although sometimes less) and so having cut my meat bill in half, I can afford to spend twice as much on the meat I do buy. Simple! There are so many healthy, easy, quick and yummy dishes to make without using meat, so I just don’t buy that particular excuse!

Another big thing is eating out. Whilst ten years or so ago it was quite normal to be vegetarian, I rather feel that it’s gone out of fashion of late! I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve gone somewhere to eat out and been offered only one very poor vegetarian ‘choice’ (it’s not a choice if there’s only one!!). And often the veggie dishes are totally bland, not worth the money and incongruous with the rest of the menu…I feel like there ought to be a vegetarian and vegan module at catering college as most chefs clearly lack in imagination for such dishes!

And whilst you’d expect by now that lots of restaurants would have taken on board a free range and/or organic animal product policy, even the likes of Jamie Oliver himself seem reluctant to commit! (NB. I can find no evidence that Jamie’s Italian restaurants for example serve free range meat….I have contacted them though to check and will update when I get a response!)

The result of this is that we don’t often eat out, which is a shame as we’d like to support our local restaurants, but when my choices are limited so pitifully and I’m asked to subsidise meat eaters by paying the same for my curry with no meat in it as someone’s exact same curry but packed with lamb, I’m afraid I’d just rather eat at home!

Another thing that’s been tricky is actually knowing when a product meets my decided standards. I’ve spent hours researching all the criteria that give a product free range or organic status, and whilst I can rest relatively easy if something is marked as such, there are so many other confusing labels that it becomes a real pain! Most of our friends and family  know that we eat this way, but unfortunately they are very often taken in by the sneaky marketing the supermarkets have come up with to make people feel better about buying certain things, whilst still remaining competitively priced.

I am often told (when I ask politely in a restaurant if the dish is free range and/or organic) ‘yes, it’s British’. ‘Aaaand???’ I’ll say….that’s just where it comes from!!! Unfortunately ‘British’ doesn’t mean the same as free range or organic…and neither does ‘Freedom Foods’, ‘RSPCA Monitored’, ‘Red Tractor’, ‘Outdoor Bred’ or ‘Outdoor Reared’. And whilst Waitrose and Sainsburys are fairly good, just buying any meat from them doesn’t mean it’s free range either! I’m often unsure as to whether I’m more cross with people for being sucked in by these labels (if it was Organic, don’t you just think they’d call it that rather than coming up with a new name for it?!) or with the people who make them up to try and fool us. Either way, I would certainly welcome some legislation to stop this misleading rubbish!

Probably the best impact this has had on me though is my health. Too much meat isn’t good for you, and ensuring you have a well balanced diet (which I’m now more mindful of) is the best anyone can really be expected to do for themselves. Because I have to think about all animal products, I don’t eat a lot of processed food because I can’t be sure where the animal products in them come from, and we now eat organic dairy products to have the best chance of supporting the right kind of farming in that respect (it’s not all about meat!).

I now appreciate where all my food comes from, I’m knowledgeable about it and I care.

Now you’re either thinking ‘what a goody bloody two shoes’ about here, or ‘she can’t possibly stick to that!’ And you’re possibly right on either count….I do feel a bit smug that I put so much thought into my food, especially because I have given up things that I really love to eat (if someone opened an all free range KFC tomorrow I would eat nothing else for a month…don’t judge me!)….and I don’t want to mislead anyone by claiming that I am 100% virtuous. I do slip up from time to time, eating sweets offered to me without checking what’s in them, and allowing myself a little leeway when on holiday for example. I’m no Saint, but I do try bally hard!

I hope I’ve not come across as too aggressive in this…I’m aware this is not my usual happy post about bunting or glittery shoes…but I do feel extremely passionately about animal welfare and I’ve been very glad to have this push to finally get me to talk about it!

Now, at risk of tipping over the aggressive line, I’m going to share a video that I personally think it’s important for anyone who eats non-free range meat to watch, in order to understand where their food can come from. I can appreciate that this is very extreme and that it will more than likely upset people, but I just feel that one shouldn’t eat something they don’t know the possible origins of. Needless to say, this comes with a personal warning and I’d ask anyone particularly sensitive or anyone vegan not to watch it. I’m not sharing this because I want to upset anyone or preach to them. That said, I think it’s jolly important that such reports are made and that people are aware:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TFdHAnpTYI

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..cakes, walks and rummaging

It was a close call, but the rain didn’t dampen my weekend….

On Saturday morning I pootled around the house, cleaning and tidying whilst Adam walked the hound….Friday hadn’t gone as planned so it was good to catch up a little. Then after a nice big brunch (Adam poached some very yummy duck eggs for us!) we made our way into London, leaving the pooch with his Grandma Liz (that’s Adam’s Mum!).

We made our way to friends’ Richard and Tara’s flat in Farringdon, Tara and I leaving the boys to get up to mischief whilst we headed into town for our friend Brigitte’s hen do! First of all we took in a lovely afternoon tea at a hotel on the Strand, then went bowling at the fun All Stars Lanes, before we had a big dinner together. We didn’t go in for the traditional Hen stuff (L-plates and penis straws etc!), but chose instead to honour the occasion by all wearing fascinators in light of the fact that the Bride and Groom have requested no-one wears hats to the wedding!

As the pup had a sleepover at his Grandma’s, Adam and I managed to get a nice lie in before we went to pick him up. Then after a late breakfast, we took a turn around the Sunday car boot sale at the Market, then went along to the second Great Hitchin Rummage Sale at Bar Ab nearby. Lots of local shops had taken up a pitch there, in what is sort of a one-day pop-up shop….and some of our favourites were there to tempt us with the rummagy loot….Jolly Brown and Red Eyed Dove had a stack of goregous vintage treasures, whilst Mamacita’s Cakery (new to us) were selling a table full of dreamy looking sweet treats. We picked up several of the latter’s offerings, then made our way home to yum them up!

Because there are so many cupcakes and such being sold on similar stalls at the moment, it takes a lot to impress us….we’ve really only tried one stall’s cakes and been truly wowed (how we miss Flavour Town at Old Spitalfields now that we’ve moved!). However, the amazing yums by Mamacita’s Cakery really did impress us, and we scoffed a Dulce de Leche cupcake, a Mexican wedding biscuit and a ‘bronze’ biscuit (each) in close succession! Definitely will be trying more of their treats!

To walk off the gluttony, we took the hound to the common for a nice jaunt, then went back to Adam’s Mum’s for a dinner of fajitas, followed by some of her amazing freshly baked scones (with clotted cream obviously!).

Back at home we had a relaxed evening on the sofa. I finished off a little drawing project for a competition (Oasis’ new butterfly collection cover photo) and then had the customary early night!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

Something from the weekend…. A stunning wedding weekend in Austria

I bally love a good wedding. And so an entire weddingy weekend was just bliss. I was honoured to be be invited to our friends Katie and Peter’s wedding, and even more delighted that it was all taking in place in Austria! If you’ve read my last few posts you’ll know that I was lucky enough to take a holiday to Vienna in November for the Christmas markets, and I was only too happy to get back there in the sunnier weather…..

Friday started out a little stressful, as in taking a little holiday, we had to leave the pup for the first time! It was worse still because Adam’s mum, who would usually look after him for us, is away at the moment so he had to go to her friend…..she’s a long time dog owner and lover though and we got him used to her and her house over the last few weeks by going for walks together and visiting her cute little cottage. Still, I was a bit of a wreck and properly welled up as we left him, despite the fact that he was clearly very happy to be having a bit of a holiday of his own!

After dropping Cooper off, we made our way to the airport and had a nice leisurely journey to Vienna. We had a couple of hours to spare at the airport at that end, before the coach arrived to take us to the wedding venue, so we indulged in a nice big dinner….I love the food in Austria, and very happily yummed up a large helping of Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes, as well as some excellent coffee…..there’s no pretence with Viennese food, but it’s all such great quality and so very tasty!

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After a few more guests had arrived on a later flight, our little coach took us south towards Graz, to the little village of Bad Waltersdorf where the wedding venue is. We made the journey fun by taking along some very sweet fizzy wine and lots of sweets, and so it didn’t seem too long a journey at all. We were taken directly to the Schloß Obermayerhofen and walked through the castle grounds up to the idyllic little chalet at the top of the hill. The Gaisrieglhof is a 250 year old farmhouse from nearby Pöllau, rebuilt here and used for the traditional pre-wedding gathering. Some guests had dressed in the traditional national dress, including the beautiful bride, and there were traditional musicians playing and wearing wonderful lederhosen! It was lovely to have a little pre-wedding catch up with everyone and drink a couple of glasses of the delicious local wine after our journey!

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After our long day prior, we enjoyed a bit of a lie in on the Saturday morning and spent most of the day getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon. It was great fun getting ready with some of Adam’s lovely old school friends, and at 2pm we all took a taxi up to the Schloß from our hotel to start the celebrations. We were greeted by lovely cold drinks and yummy nibbles as part of the Agape feast, and before long watched the stunning Katie walk down from her room. We moved through to the pretty meadow behind the castle, where a cute gazebo surrounded by chairs was set up for the civil part of the wedding….it was beautiful to be out in the open air and the weather was certainly kind! There was a Catholic ceremony after that, in the gorgeous Baroque chapel, then music and fizz out on the castle’s terrace as the couple had lots of photos taken.

The wedding breakfast took place in another of the castle’s incredible rooms, and we were treated to an exceptionally good dinner (asparagus soup with herb dumplings, wild garlic ravioli, crusted lamb and a trio of chocolate desserts!) alongside some wonderful local wines. The speeches were all very funny and touching, and after dinner the happy couple took to the floor for a very impressive tango for their first dance.

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We whiled away the night chatting, drinking and dancing, and having a lovely time in great company. There was a midnight feast of gulaschsuppe (possibly my favourite thing we ate on the whole trip and absolutely divine!) and so we were very contented indeed when we finally got to our beds.

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After breakfast and checkout on Sunday morning, another coach took us back to Vienna airport where we dropped off our bags and then made our way into the Vienna Mitte to spend a few hours before our flight home. We’d not managed to visit the popular Zanoni Eis gelateria when we were there last, so that was an obvious choice….. we were a little overwhelmed by the masses of flavours though, but did finally manage to choose six different scoops to fill a nice large tub with (nutella, melon, pistachio, strawberry, coffee and chocolate!). They were all super-yum, but the melon was a definite favourite, and the treat was very welcome in the city heat!

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We had a little mooch around the city after that, going back to the fun clock in the town and also heading back to the wonderful Cafe Pruckel next to the Stadtpark…..we yummed up very naughty iced coffees that were drowning in cream and chocolate! We walked off the treats round the sunny park, and then slowly made our way back to the airport for the flight home.

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We were lucky enough to catch a lift home with some other friends who’d taken the same flight, so our journey wasn’t too arduous. Still, we were pretty exhausted when we got back and flaked out almost immediately. The house didn’t feel like home though until our precious pup was delivered back to us on Monday morning….I’d missed him so terribly and despite having had a wonderful little holiday of his own and loving all the attention from his new friends, he seemed delighted to see us too!

Hope you had a lovely sunny weekend too!

Ems x

Vienna: Eats

Whilst I’ve never actually *chosen* a holiday destination based on the food I’d expect to get there, food is often the first thing that makes me fall in love with a place. And Vienna will certainly be remembered as one of my favourite cities for that very reason!

We were so impressed by the meals we had on our little city break there last October, whether it was in a traditional restaurant, a quirky canteen or from an outdoor vendor. The biggest benefit for us was that so much of the meat there is Organic…..Adam and I only eat free range meat, so eating out is often a bit tricky for us, although we do allow ourselves a little more freedom whilst on holidays. It wasn’t just the meat that impressed us though….everything we ate was of such high quality, served with a smile (not to mention a great deal of patience with my poor German-speaking-ordering!) and I’d definitely say the food was a highlight of our trip!

To that end, I thought I’d share with you some of the places we most enjoyed eating whilst in Vienna….I hope you’ll want to try them if you’re ever there!

One of our most memorable meals was the incredible lunch buffet at Brandauer’s Schlossbrau. A grand ‘beer hall’ (and huge beer garden in the warmer months!) set inside one of Vienna’s last Biedermeier dance halls, this place feels both fancy and informal, with dozens of tables all over the former dance floor and even on the old velvet-draped stage. There is a wonderful beer selection (I’m afraid I can’t remember which one I had, but it was the waitress’ recommendation and very yummy!) as well as an incredibly good value all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Never one to turn down such a challenge, I relished the chance to try all the different traditional Austrian dishes, and I would heartily recommend doing so yourself, especially for the bargainous price of €7.50 (Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 3pm). I devoured three plates full, including an amazing potato soup, sauerkraut, schnitzel and goulash. I can imagine it pays to get there early during the summer months, especially if you’d like a pretty table outside under a chestnut tree, but it’s certainly an excellent place to visit if you’re going to see the nearby Schloss Shonbrunn…..Get the U4 to Shonbrunn (just about half a dozen stops from Karlsplatz going towards Hutteldorf) and visit the Schloss in the morning, and then walk off your big lunch around the Schloss grounds, zoo and very good copy of Kew!

I love a foody market, so Vienna’s Naschmarkt was a must for our trip. The Borough Market sized treasure is a few minutes’ walk from the centre (about ten minutes from the opera house and just over the road from the stunning Secession gallery) and is crammed with cute wooden stalls bursting with fresh produce. There are a good few sit-in restaurants and cafes there, but you’ll possibly be even more tempted to buy up lots of treats from the various stalls.

And still on markets, I couldn’t resist raving about the famous Viennese Christmas markets, which provided me with some of my favourite meals during our trip! There are a number of wonderful traditional dishes available at the various Chistkindlmarkts, and all of the ones I tried were AMAZING! I adored the savoury Pretzels and Langos (huge deep fried bread smothered in garlic sauce), but most of all the incredible Kartoffelpuffer (a sort of giant hash brown brushed with a yummy garlic sauce). We also enjoyed some amazing sweet things, like Lebkuchen (gingerbread biscuits), Maroni (roasted chestnuts),  and the yummy marshmallow-filled pastry rolls (can’t remember the name, but it was like the Hungarian Chimney Cakes, only filled like a Tunnocks Tea Cake!) as well as several mugs of the glorious Gluhwein (mulled wine). The biggest market is the one in front of the Rathaus, but you’ll find Christkindlmarkts all over the city from November onwards.

Still outdoors, I just have to share in the joy of the amazing Bitzinger Wurstelstand. You can find this gem right behind the iconic Staatsoper opera house, just around the corner from the famous Cafe Sacher. Famous in its own right, this sausage stand is often frequented by smart businessmen on their way home, as well as glamourously dressed opera-goers, all yumming up the no-frills offerings. There’s a good range of different sausages, sauces, breads and sides, and I just loved standing at the tall table integrated into the stand, underneath their heat lamp. This is how fast food should be!

Lastly, and probably our best meal whilst in Vienna, I can’t recommend enough the delicious offerings at Shone Perle. It’s a bit of a jaunt out of the main hub (nearest U-bahn station is Taborstrasse on U2), but this all-orgainc canteen style Neo-Beisl serves the most amazing food and is well worth the trip. I chose the Wiener Schnitzel (massive favourite of mine) which came with yummy potato salad, whilst Adam had the incredible Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) which came along with a sort of giant potato rosti. Both dishes were accompanied with lovely sauces and sides, and we were delighted with the Austrian wines we chose too. I’d happily take the trip back here at the first chance….whilst the place isn’t fancy or terribly convenient to the main tourist attractions, I’d say you can’t beat it for quality and value.

Mahlzeit!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….guests, burgers and even a bit of sun

Well it was short lived, but I’m glad the sun hung around at least for the weekend. We had a lovely couple of days….

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On Saturday, and after a walk with the hound, we set off to nearby Letchworth for the little craft fair there and to snoop around the antiques shops. I managed to pick up another bell cloche for my collection, as well as a few more pairs of pretty pastel metal knitting pins and some gorgeous retro glasses, then we made our way home for lunch.

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After that we had a quick trip into town then had our friend Hannah over for a cuppa and chat, before our overnight guests arrived…..great friends of ours Claire and Matthew came up from London in the afternoon, and got to meet Cooper for the first time as he came to pick them up from the station. He loves having guests and immediately fell in love with them….especially when he was presented with lovely gifts from them! Adam and I also got some gorgeous gifts too….yummy fruit cake and fudge from their trip to Cornwall (the latter of which we have scoffed already!).

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After a pot of tea and yumming up a victoria sponge, we drove to the nearby Plume of Feathers where we had a delicious meal and lovely ales (rare burgers with bacon and cheese for Adam and I, and rump steaks for the others!). We made  a pledge to go there more often as the food is amazing, and Cooper is welcome there too!

Back at home, Adam mixed us up some great cocktails and we just chatted the evening away….Cooper very much enjoyed cuddling up with our guests for his evening sofa time and it was nice to relax and catch up for a few hours.

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We were rather naughty again for breakfast on Sunday, scoffing Belgian waffles, pancakes, strawberries, bananas and maple syrup! We walked it off though by snooping around the Sunday car boot sale and having a brief walk through town. Then after a last pot of tea our guests headed back to London….much to Cooper’s disappointment!

The rest of the afternoon was spent loafing about and on a nice walk out with all the dogs….Coops certainly loves being out with his Auntie Piper and Uncle Newton! It was even nice enough to need our sunglasses and for me to leave my gloves off!

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Did you get out and about? I hope you had a great weekend too!

Ems x