Tuesday, 31 January 2017

NES Eats: Germanic Inspired Food At The Rutland And Derby

It is incredibly rare that I get to eat out these days so when I do, I want food that's a bit different, tastes great and isn't going to cause my bank account to send me multiple alerts that someone has raided it. Leicester isn't exactly short on places to eat out now but there's a lot of chain restaurants which is fine but not always inspiring.

And so on a very cold night last week, along with Laura from Extreme Housewifery, I was invited by The Rutland and Derby to try their winter menu. If your notion of pub grub is a plate of cheesy chips and a sad looking pie then clearly you have not been here. Taken on in 2008 by The Beautiful Pubs Collective, The Rutland and Derby has built a strong and steady reputation for delivering quality food and drink. So what's so special about their winter menu?

Well, it's the first menu I've seen in Leicestershire that has a distinctly Germanic/Alpine influence. I've heard of German food becoming a bit of a trend but only in the far flung bright lights of London Town and Manchester so it's nice to see something happening here while it's still a current trend and not a bandwagon cash-in...

The main thing though is that this is a menu that's been created by people who genuinely care about it. It all started when Sam (owner of Beautiful Pubs) set his chefs the task of creating a sharing menu for the party they were hosting to celebrate the anniversary of The Forge (another of their pubs). According to Sam, the food was one of the most talked about aspects of the party and so he asked the team to see if they could turn it into a proper pub menu. What delighted me the most is that his team went away and researched and researched in order to come up with dishes that drew on these tasty Germanic flavours but that could be created using seasonal, local produce and tailored to meet the flexibility of a pub menu.

From the sharing plates part of the menu (always tricky for me because like Joey, I don't share food if I can help it...) we tried the bratwurst, fresh baked pretzel and ham and cheese croquettes.

Pretzel goodness

Oh. My. God.

Croquettes may not sound German - of course they don't - but these are fluffy, delicious balls of ham and smoked cheese goodness. Served with homemade chilli jam (that I need to have delivered to me on a weekly basis because it is that good), they were surprisingly light but full of flavour with the balance between the smokiness of the cheese and the ham absolutely spot on.

The slices of bratwurst were pretty addictive and full of flavour. The pickled red cabbage that came with it was a welcome punch of acidity to slice through the meat and I could've eaten a lot more of it.

Then the pretzel. There can't be many things finer than warm fresh baked bread. Especially when it is soft and served with generous cubes of smoked cheese (the same sort as used in the croquettes) and some tasty mustard and did I mention it was soft and warm? So. Good. We also got to try the pretzel buns used for the burgers and again, soft and warm and honestly, I could eat this all day every day.

We also tried the flammkuchen from the pizza menu. It was light and tasty with the onions a particular revelation. Normally I hate onions but these were sweet and smoky and the perfect topping with the bacon and creme fraiche. This would be perfect to share for that one drink (ok, two drinks) after work with friends.

One of the key things for The Rutland and Derby is that the taste and the look of the food should be equal. They've cleverly recognised that word of mouth is one of the greatest advertising tricks out there and have pushed their kitchen teams to the test to produce 'Instagrammable' food. And, hey, it works! I was in a meeting a few weeks ago when I saw a picture of the chicken schnitzel on Instagram (I was scrolling to find something for the meeting honest!) and immediately wanted to cry because I was so hungry.

Reader, it did not disappoint.

Raindrops on roses, schnitzels, favourite things. Yes.
Served with a salsa verde, lemon aioli and triple cooked wedges, it tasted as good as it looked. The flattened chicken breast was moist and covered in a perfect schnitzel crumb that was just the right amount of crunchy. It was so refreshing to eat something that had looked so good in a picture and have it meet expectations. You don't realise how rare that is until you taste it.

Add to this an impressive beer list that will complement everything we ate, reasonable prices and you have yourself a really good meal out. Although it is a little off the beaten track, make the effort to come here and you will be rewarded.

Disclaimer time! We were guests of The Rutland and Derby and as such were treated to our meal. I wouldn't recommend it if I thought it wasn't worth the money though. Also, The Rutland and Derby is technically part of the pub portfolio owned by the brewery I work for but is run as an independent business. I don't get paid to review pubs.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Parenting Tribes And The Hard Work Of Trying Not To Judge

One thing you never seem to be told in amongst the millions of messages and opinions thrust upon you when you become a parent is the existence of parenting tribes. Sure, they're alluded to - The Earth Mother, The Helicopter Mother (noticing a theme yet?) but the examples given seem so ludicrous and outlandish that you dismiss them as yet another stick being used to beat you and your decisions.

Then, slowly but surely, you do start meeting them. And it's weird because here they are doing the same thing as you but in a way that is wholly unrecognisable. But mostly you can avoid them because like follows like and you find your people. But the differences that you manage to avoid on a daily basis become very apparent should your child take up a hobby. Parents of kids with hobbies generally fall into two camps - the ones who think it's great they have an interest but sometimes resent the amount of time they can take up and the ones who devote their entire being to making sure that they are supporting their child to reach world glory.

I'm in in the former tribe. I love that my child has a hobby - in this case, a 2012 legacy of swimming - that she loves and she wants to do well at but goodness, does it take up a lot of time. I cheer her on at races and I sort of know what her PB times are (that's personal bests. Hobbies open up a whole new language as well) but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. I'm happy as long as she's happy but you can bet your life that if she ever got to the Olympics, I would be as happily weepy as Bert Le Clos.

But a lot of the swimming parents - and here, I cannot restrict this generalisation to just mothers which frankly is a delight all on its own - are in the latter tribe. These parents show up to galas armed with clipboards and highlighted race sheets where they take note of not only their own child's times but those of other kids in the club or in rival clubs. I find it utterly bizarre because I don't care about other people's children. Not on this level anyway. But they find it bizarre that I don't know these things. And then there we are, judging each other even though we're essentially doing the same thing.

I try incredibly hard not to judge them. Sometimes I envy them that they are so wholly devoted to their children and want them to do well.

But... but... we do judge.

They judge me because I'm busy reading my book because galas last for hours and my kid is in one race for a total of less than two minutes and I have so little free time so why wouldn't I take this time to catch up on something that I enjoy that's just for me?

And I judge them because they're not reading or doing something for themselves. They're obsessing over times and the smallest fractions of seconds and for children that have nothing to do with them. And SO MANY of the mums have Can I Speak To The Manager haircuts and... well, it doesn't matter who you are, I instinctively judge you for that.

I'm sorry.

We know what this haircut means 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Don't Call It A Comeback

So it's been a while since I actually put pen to paper... well, fingers to keyboard to write something that wasn't work or life admin.

Honestly, I felt I had nothing to say.

It took me a while to unpick it but that's because it was tangled in how I felt about my job, my relationships, and how I was comparing myself to everyone else. And everyone else was saying it all but, to my mind, better and there's so much clutter around anyway so why throw my opinion into the ether.

It took quitting my job and getting a new one to realise how unhappy I'd been at work. It may sound like that would be the exact thing that would make me want to write reams and reams of words. Creativity loves misery, right? Not always and certainly not in my case. The problem was I hadn't realised how unhappy I was until I found myself complaining (again) to friends about how I was being paid a reasonable salary but wasn't allowed to choose plates for the staff kitchen even though that was my job. There was more than that but goddamn, those plates! They were the straw that broke me.

Then it got to the point where I hadn't written or created anything for so long that surely I couldn't do it any more. I was scared that the one thing that I knew I was reasonably ok at would have disappeared and then what would I be left with?

So I looked to quit my job and get a new one. Which is easier said than done but after several rejections, and starting to lose heart, I got a phone call from an agency I'd never heard of to say they had a job they thought I'd be perfect for. And a week later, I was able to hand my notice in and it felt like a weight I didn't even know I'd had was lifted.

Then I had a few conversations with people and here we are and I guess I'm back but you'll be reading slightly different things. Don't worry, I'll still be chatting about shoes that I like but the scope of my mind dumping isn't going to be as narrow. Sorry. Actually, not sorry.