Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cley Not Really Next The Sea

Cley, or to give its proper name, Cley Next The Sea is not next to the sea at all. It used to be before a greedy landowner decided to attempt a bit of land-grabbing whilst the rest of the busy trading port were distracted by the Plague. This caused the river to silt up and the sea retreated and a nature reserve was born. I suppose they considered renaming their village but decided that "Cley Quite Close to the Sea" didn't the the same ring to it! So the only sea I've seen is a thin sliver on the horizon beyond the fields from half way up Cley Windmill. Entering the balcony I carefully hook open the door to ensure I'm not stuck out there should a particularly blustery gust of wind slam the door shut behind me. Well I guess they picked the perfect location for a windmill, when its job was to grind corn not necessarily to house passing visitors to Norfolk. Retreating back inside after taking a few photographs espy the ladder leading up to the Wheel Chamber. This is the most sought after room in the mill, it can only be reached by this ladder and once up there a second ladder will take up again to the bathroom. There's a handy winch to help pull your luggage up into the room and the views I believe are even more spectacular.

For breakfast for a change there was smoked haddock and poached egg. If you pre-booked this or the kippers this night before you could start the day a littledifferently otherwise it was a full English. I intend to enjoy the blue skies again and avail myself of some goodies from Picnic Fayre and find a grassy knoll to fling my new picnic blanket upon. I generally seem to explicably acquire picnic hampers despite the so very rare opportunities I have for picnicking (I've alluded to my addiction for hampers before when I mentioned the 'hamper porn' both Fortnum & Mason Harvey Nichols send me every year). This time in Holt I was able to hold myself back on the hamper front and succumb to another lovely picnic blanket instead. Though today I'm most grateful for this transgression as it would not be pleasant sitting on the sodden grass otherwise and now I can perch on a soft spotty waterproof backed blanket to enjoy my impromptu picnic.
Picnic Fayre is a wonderful deli we discovered last year and I'd set my heart on one of their famous venison pies. And whilst I was there I picked up some Snowdonian cheese with garlic and herbs, roasted, salted broad bean snacks and a bottle of proper local apple juice. If I didn't fear that I'd ruin my appetite at the special Wine and Dine event at the mill tonight I would have availed myself of more of their fine fare as it was very tempting. (on returning home the first page this month's Delicious fell open was to a familiar shop front - Picnic Fayre has been short-listed for 'Deli if the Year' - it seems I have good taste!)
Across the road from the deli is Made in Cley, which as well as some jewellery and local photographs sell their own pottery. Much of it is too colourful for me but I love the minimalist white flan dish and being without a picnic hamper I am devoid of plates so I could make use of it for my small feast and gain an attractive dish into the bargain.

I found a idyllic spot to soak up a few rays of sun and see if the venison pie is as delicious as I remembered and delighted to find that it was as moist and meaty as last year and definitely worth the acclaim. The apple juice washes it down rather nicely. The whole situation seems redolent of "piles of ham sandwiches and lashings of Ginger beer" that used to fuel the intrepid adventures of Enid Blyton's Famous Five and marked my first forays into solo reading. I harboured dreams of being George, Ann was too insipid for me and George had no siblings as myself.
Sadly my quintessential English picnic got rained off I shouldn't have really been surprised I was possibly tempting fate the moment I threw my picnic blanket on the ground. A little bit like when you light the barbecue and you think "was that wise, have I really angered the sun god now?" Actually the shower didn't last very long and perhaps I could have lingered over my venison pie but as the first few drops spotted my improvised picnic plate I packed everything up and walk back to the windmill. My plan was to drop off my tripod and find a spot nearer to the mill to reconvene my picnic however it was very fortunate that I went back to my room when I did as suddenly the heavens opened and the brief shower returned bringing back all its friends to form a torrential downpour and it would have been a very sodden picnic if I'd stayed on my grassy knoll.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

I spy Cley!

Cley is the last destination on my little North Norfolk coastal tour and as I drag my suitcase and sundry photographic paraphernalia plus a few local purchases from the Coasthopper bus stop towards my B&B, I ponder the challenge of negotiating these village roads thus laden as a packhorse. There are no pavements and normally the act of nipping behind a parked car or stepping precariously on the cobbles marking someones front door when a particularly wide four wheel drive tank rumbles by is fairly easy when unencumbered but today it is proving quite perilous. But when I yank my case finally over the little bridge (gravel and 'spinner' cases don't mix) and see my first view of Cley Mill in the recently restored late sunshine it has definitely been worth it. At the very first glance at the majestic windmill whilst driving through Cley last year to partake of the fine goodies from Picnic Fayre and seeing the sign for 'B&B' made me determined that I would make use of their hospitality one day and experience mill life. I quickly grab some photos in case the fickle weather turns again and am then escorted to my Barley Bin room.

The room is lovelier than I expected, I'd only decided that I wanted stay in in the actual mill not the other out buildings and as this was the only remaining room I hadn't weighed up the merits of one room over another. And as I hadn't done the normal research I hadn't realized that that my room would be so enormous, with a bed the size of a small village, a slouchy settee, antique tables and chest of drawers, a wonderful French looking tall mirror and the best surprise (because I hadn't read the website) a giant claw footed bath.

Clearly a mill would need a large space to store their barley hence my rooms generous proportions. The bathroom is the only place I can see the round wall as the Barley bin is in the lower part of the mill and thus seems attached to the cylindrical tower.
After freshening up and unpacking I descend to join the other guests for pre-dinner drinks and then into the transformed dining room. The evening meal is billed as Dinner by Candlelight on the front gate outside and there's no false advertising. The romantic in me thinks how cosy and elegant and the blogger in me thinks 'I wish I owned a miner's helmet!'. My waiter is charmingly accommodating (Victoria take note!) and fills the rest of my table with additional candles which brightens my outlook.

Shortly afterwards the Pan Fried Fillet of Red Mullet on a Watercress & Walnut Salad with Orange and Vanilla Sauce is served to us all (they have a set menu at Cley Mill). Very soon the soft murmurings in the dining room are replaced by mmmmm's as all the diners comments on the moist flakes of fish and the delectable citrusy sweet sauce, with the peppery bite of the watercress and crunch of walnuts. I made sure I mopped up every gorgeous drop with my remaining bread, that was a seriously good sauce.

The next course was the Fillet Steak with Garlic Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Sautéed New Potatoes & a Wild Mushroom & Wholegrain Mustard Sauce. As I watched these being delivered to the other tables I made my usual mental calculations as to discretely extricate the scary tomatoes away from the meat and other good things. But as mine is delivered I realised it looked different than the other plates, instead of the roasted (evil) tomatoes ring around the meat my beef was adorned with the wild mushrooms with a stack of sauté potatoes to the side and ne'er a tomato in sight. I was seriously impressed! I couldn't even recall mentioning my tomato-phobic nature when I made my reservation but I must have and they'd cleverly remembered. The fillet steak melted in the mouth and a question regarding provenance netted information that it was bred and sold by their butcher in Melton Constable. So two for two so far, how would our meal end? The night's menu was pinned up on the board outside the mill but I hadn't seen it so it had all been a surprise.

The finale was a bowl of Slow Roasted Rosemary Plums, Rose Wine Syrup & a Minted Chocolate Garnish. The minted chocolate garnish was a reminder of my favourite from the Marks & Spencer chocolate mint selection we used to enjoy as a Christmas treat and started to melt subtly in the warmth of the aromatic plums and merge into the rose wine syrup. It was indeed three for three, this was a delicious and inspired pudding and Adam, the creator of all this bounty, is a seriously talented chef. Tomorrow night we've got the special gala wine and dine event, what heady new heights will we reach tomorrow? The couple of diners not already on the list for the extravaganza are very eager to sign up, and we retire to the lounge to drink coffee and tea and to mull over our collective joy of the windmill.

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Hit the Huts!

On my list of must photograph scenes were the popular, photogenic and ever so expensive beach huts in Wells. I'm not exaggerating about the price of these huts as one has just sold for nearly £70,000, and this is a small wooden shed that you're not allowed to sleep in! That's a serious amount to pay to ensure privacy when changing out of your sea-soaked bikini or applying sun cream away from stray sand particles (and I bet the sand gets in there anyway!) But all that aside they do make a lovely photo!
I had walked down to the beach and hoped the scraps of blue sky would remain long enough to fire off a few shots. There are a few brave souls who are frolicking in the sand but I'm on a one-track mission and after setting up the tripod and checking out my favourite huts I find an abandoned sand castle that clearly has suffered from an abortive siege and makes an evocative foreground.

The sky looks more promising out towards the sea and I didn't have to fear swimmers would interrupt my shot.

As I climb the steps off the beach I remembered that oft used photographers' maxim "look behind you!" as the back of the huts made an interesting composition. It's a shame about the shy, big, blue sky today, I just had to make do with the big, blue huts!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Victoria - I am not amused!

I arrived early at The Victoria at Holkham (due to there being a hour between Coasthoppers at night) so found a comfy settee in the Moroccan lounge surrounded by fat creamy candles and a size-of-a-bath bowl of citrus fruit and chilled a little before checking out the menu on offer tonight. There were a couple of interesting options but I wanted something fairly undemanding tonight and instead of the local rump steak and one of my favourites potato treatments - Gratin Dauphinois I opted for the simpler sounding Wild mushroom, truffle & mascarpone risotto for my main course. But for starter I thought I'd stay local and chose the Marinated breast of Holkham pigeon, carpaccio of fig & pancetta. Not being a fan of those winged rats in Trafalgar Square I always think that one less pigeon in the world is a fine thing (and yes I do know that the plump birds that fly happily around the estate are mere second cousins to those nasty, deformed clawed pests of public buildings). I ordered my choices in the lounge and taking a delicious glass of Malbec with me before being led to my table.
I'm seated in the conservatory and in the warm light I'm not entirely sure if the newly painted woodwork is a soft pistachio (is that even possible?) or a dusky blue. On second thoughts I'm going to split the difference and say it's a muted teal and it is echoed in the abstract meandering stems (a more green-fingered diner than me could probably pinpoint the flora) on the heavy cotton cinnamon blinds that adorn each window. Which as tonight we are experiencing the extreme opposite of lovely summer evening (though there's been no snow yet!) the less I see of the gloomy rain lashed goings on outside is a good thing.
But to paraphrase the introduction from Cabaret, "outside it is windy... in here life is beautiful!" and in these attractive surroundings I'm looking forward to my meal tonight here. I'd tried to bag a table at Morston Hall on the nights i hadn't already committed myself to some fine dining but that seems to be the hottest ticket in town and I always leave it too late. One day I'll stay there for the weekend and then they'll have to feed me!
Being prepared as a lone diner you're used to arming yourself with a prop or two. Unless you plan to stare into space between courses and interaction with your waiter/waitress you need a book, newspaper or in my case an iPad. I can write or work on my latest photographs when I'm in between courses and if inclined switch to reading whilst eating. Sometimes you end up chatting to the other diners around you and sharing a few travelers' tales but on other occasions you are grateful for the Boy Scout preparedness.

My amuse bouche is delivered, a little espresso cup of Mushroom tarragon soup which had a earthy, thick, creamy taste and is rather good so it bodes well for the rest of the evening. I always feel like Alice after devouring the "eat me" cake when drinking from an espresso cup, I don't get the practice not ever being able to develop a taste for the flavour of coffee, so the novelty has never worn off.
Next my just-off-the-estate pigeon turned up astride a big saucy cross of jus. The pigeon's flesh was moist but just a tiny bit unyielding to my knife. I admired the juxtaposition of the pigeon, the soft rosy slices of fig and crunchy shards of pancetta. And of course the ubiquitous sprinkling of those wispy touches of verdant pea shoots do add a pretty touch.

I'd swallowed a couple of forkfuls of the Wild mushroom, truffle & mascarpone risotto before I pondered the flavour. I couldn't recall what was on the menu that had made it sound so appealing and then remembered the 'truffle'. The mushrooms were very apparent but I really couldn't discern the thing that attracted me to the dish in the first place. It was a pleasant mushroom risotto but not risen to any heady heights with that ever so distinctive perfume of those nuggets of black (or if very lucky white) gold nor an extra creamy unctuousness that I would have expected from the mascarpone. To be honest it was a tad dull! I was thinking that I'd rather reach for some bread and then realized I hadn't been offered any. I scoped the other richly grained, chunky wooden tables and they all seemed to have been either be furnished with a roll or have a few vestiges of torn apart hunk of bread. I shrugged and wondered why I hadn't also been served with any.
After a wait my negligent waiter took my dessert order of Chocolate fondant, peanut butter parfait, praline ice cream. The menu explained that I needed to be patient for ten minutes for the fondant but that is pretty standard so I turned back to my book on my iPad and let the minutes tick by. When I lifted my head to see what was happening I realized the entire restaurant had emptied. It was just me, and still no dessert. I reckoned at least thirty minutes had passed, maybe more, I hadn't exactly set a stopwatch. Suddenly my waiter re-appeared seemingly vaguely shocked to see me still sat there and asked in a fairly accusatory tone whether I'd had my dessert. I would have thought the entirely empty table would be a big clue here unless he thought I'd eaten the plate also. It also occurred around then that the other unusual thing was that I'd never been offered any water. The lack of bread was irritating enough but why was there also no water offered. Do lone diners not eat bread, drink water or really deserve any form of service? All the other diners, either back in their rooms or on the way home now seemed to have had the requisite amount of attention, I could only assume that they just thought "I wanted to be alone" and taken it just too literally!

When my dessert arrived it seemed interesting enough though the trendy use of slate would probably mean some teeth-on-edge knife scraping in the empty restaurant, well at least no one would be disturbed. And ice cream on slate didn't seem such a wise decision if it melted too quickly. I made some tentative tip of spoon forays into the peanut butter parfait. I'd always be perplexed why I like peanuts but have always detested peanut butter. I've tried it a few times, I remember as a child occasionally a peanut butter sandwich would be thrust in my chubby hand in the belief that is what a child would relish - and I didn't. But I could happily scoop as many peanuts as would fit in those hands when the 'nibbles' bowls would appear around the lounge that would preclude my parents' dinner parties. Coming back to the present I decided this parfait was a little too sweet for my taste and focused on the safer chocolate fondant and ice cream. The chocolate fondant was rich and chocolaty, maybe could have been oozier but then on the other hand it might have oozed right off the slate which would have been a dreadful waste of chocolate. The final piece in the triptych was the ice cream, it tasted smooth and faintly resonant of something, but couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. So I spooned another morsel of ice cream whilst referring back to the menu searching for that elusive taste and as I read the word "praline" my tongue discovered a shard of said praline. And to my surprise as the praline melted my mouth exploded with mini firecrackers as that childhood favourite space dust or popping candy had been secreted in the praline. This was a lovely surprise and really lifted the dessert.
I then asked my taciturn waiter for a taxi and to continue with his charming and effusive manner all evening (!) he announces that I'm unlikely to get one! Well, there's a lovely thought, I could just stay in the empty restaurant all night. Fortunately for me someone, possibly the restaurant manager has more wherewithal and rustled up a taxi from Fakenham to take me back from Wells. It transpired that not only did my dessert struggle to make my table it was a no-show on the bill also. And after pointing out the omission he kindly considered the lassitude of its arrival good enough reason for me not to pay for it.
I felted a little cheated by my experience tonight at The Victoria, we'd enjoyed a lovely seasonal lunch there last year of lobster salad and buttery new potatoes and I'd decided then to put them on my list of places to revisit. And even though I thought my risotto was lacking it wasn't the food that left a bit of a sour taste, it was feeling so abandoned verging on ostracized. Was it because I was a solo diner or did I just get terrible luck with my waiter? Well sadly for whatever reason I won't be going back and I personally wouldn't recommend The Victoria at Holkham. I have no doubt that others will have had a different experience (well I hope so) and if my delinquent waiter ever gets to read this I hope he feels suitably chastised and treats the next diners or diner with more consideration.

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Raining buckets in Wells

The rain didn't bother to tease today, it started with a torrential downpour, eased off slightly to fool the locals and visitors alike and then caught us all out again with another drenching. I had my eye on pictures of the pretty Wells beach huts and armed myself accordingly with tripod et al but neither myself nor my camera particularly like being rain-lashed so opted for the dryer mooching around the shops option instead.
When the hunger pangs started to strike just before 2.30pm I tried a couple of the local hostelries (namely The Crown and The Globe Inn) but was thwarted by the time and neither could (or would) offer me the merest repast so seeing the sky bruising again I opted to hop on the Coasthopper, check out the goodies at Big Blue Sky and then onto the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market. I know for a fact that it's warm and comfortable and at the very least I could get some afternoon tea. It doesn't strike me as the perfect day for afternoon tea, I'm traditional I feel the need for a balmy afternoon before really craving a scone slathered with strawberry jam and a some dainty crustless cucumber sandwiches. Today feels more like hot soup or something toasted and cheesy.
Due to entirely misreading the now very soggy bus timetable and cleverly choosing a stretch of road where there's no bus stop (otherwise I may have realised the error as clearly I wasn't where I thought I was) I had a very wet extended wait in the rain for the next bus and finally arrived at the Hoste Arms impersonating a drowned rat. At least I established that my camera bag was waterproof, the rest of me didn't fare so well. But I found an inviting fat leather squashy armchair and collapsed into it determined to have now a very late lunch. At least they could rustle up some warm cheese scones which really hit the spot. A perfect rainy afternoon tea!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A very special place to stay in Wells

The neat cream building with dusky blue door and windows is the luxury B&B Merchant's House in Wells. D and MC stayed here last summer after we packed up the cottage in Holme and I went to stay at Titchwell Manor. I'm sure they had a lovely visit but we haven't spoken about really that much since then so we haven't compared notes yet.
The discovery was due to the kind ministrations of Alastair Sawday. What makes his guides so indispensable is in the title - Special Places to Stay. He uncovers and carefully details those places that are especially welcoming, especially beautiful, especially quirky or historic, especially good at cooking or especially unique. And Liz and Dennis (and their adorable dogs - friendly Poppy and more nonchalant Rosie) tick all the boxes with their lovely and wonderfully historic home. They have two rooms, one with a imposing oak four poster bed and the blue room. I'm staying in the blue room. I have a light airy room, lit by a chandelier with attractive wood topped distressed cream chest of drawers, matching bedside table, wicker chair, piles of covetable natural, sandy, blue cushions on the bed and chair - for me the colours of this coast and all those beach-y knick-knacks that I'd fill my dream beach hut with. The four poster room has a bathroom a short step across the hallway whereas I have a immaculate ensuite blue and white tiled bathroom.
In the morning Liz whips up the tasty breakfast whilst Dennis is in charge of the freshly made bread. You eat breakfast in a charming room that was once a butchers. The wonderful old wooden half door where the customer would lean over and ask for their cut of meat, the extra low floor stripped of wood for easy mopping and the grooves in the window where the rods of meat would hang bely the former occupation. Dennis also told us that alongside the building next-door the merchants would bring their boats to the door and when the necessary water was reclaimed and redirected the owner switched to horses and built stables to accommodate them instead. Parts of the Merchant House are the oldest buildings in Wells so there is lots of history to hear about over breakfast.
The situation so close to the quay means you can stroll on past all the boats to the beach, you may even see Dennis on duty keeping an eye on the sea in the look-out tower. I can understand why these rooms get snapped up so quickly because it feels like home and you won't want to leave.

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Egg-ceedingly good!

After waxing lyrical about the Byfords eggs Benedict yesterday I felt I should go crazy and try the eggs Arlington this morning. Instead of their own tasty ham I'd get fat ribbons of Cley smoked salmon. From the famous smokery in the very village I'll be heading for later in the week.
If I had to choose between the two I'd struggle, they are both equally exemplary. My only conclusion is that Byfords do an exceedingly good Eggs Benedict and Eggs Arlington, my two favourite meals here so far.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bagging a bird!

Byfords have a reputation for their chicken, they only roast twelve a day and "when they're gone, they're gone!" and because I've been unable to bag one I'm even more determined to see what's the fuss about. So to prevent an unseemly struggle I reserve a portion for my evening meal. The menu details their local free range chicken, roasted in lemon and tarragon twice a day, every day, and you get a Half roast chicken, fat chips, garlic mayo, salad. All sounds pretty appetising!
But before the eagerly waited bird I have a little terra-cotta dish of an earthy Paprika spiced pork belly, green lentils. The paprika is rather subtle but I enjoy the succulent pork.
And then with a brief drumroll and the chicken appears. Well first impressions - there's no skimping on portions here and the chips and I'm glad there's some greenery. Sadly after all that I have to admit that I don't really get it. I want to love it, one of my favourite things is to roast a whole chicken until blistering and golden and the legs just want to tear themselves away from the 'crown'. The best bit is extracting all those glistening sticky morsels of succulent meat especially around the undercarriage. I'm definitely in the dark meat camp where the cook's treat is the oyster or even oysters! I don't normally carve the bird per se I'd rather just pull off hunks of the caramelized flesh and heap it still steaming and aromatic in the plates. So with my worship of my chicken I thought a local happy chicken of such providence and treated with due reverence would be a very fine thing indeed. But it wasn't, it was just okay. The chicken wasn't as moist as I would have liked (my fault for having one put aside for a later consumption perhaps?), I failed to discern the tarragon or lemon, the chips could do with a bit more juzzing up - maybe a tastier oil or a spot of triple cooking or something. The mayonnaise tasted synthetic and not very garlicky and I was frankly disappointed.
Maybe this was my fault, I shouldn't have set so much store on the infamous chicken, I'd bigged it up in my mind and it didn't meet my expectations. I hasten to add that it wasn't bad, far from it, it just could do better. Perhaps I'd just believed the hype too much or the chef was having a off day but whatever, it was all a bit 'meh!'

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Byford's Benedict

I fell for Byfords charms due the magic words "Eggs Benedict", which is one of my desert island dishes. Last August D, MC and I had been exploring the little shops in the courtyards of Holt and had found a handy table outside a buzzing Byfords and plonked down to partake in a cup of tea and possibly something more substantial. I think MC was especially delighted that D and I wouldn't be shopping for a while though we hadn't remotely relived our shopping orgy from our first visit to Holt but there's always a chance!
Whilst D and MC share a meat platter I realize that Byfords make a damn fine Eggs Benedict, the best I'd had for a really long time so mental note to self, must come back and maybe next time check out their bedrooms and see if they're as good as the Benedict!
A year later I'm back and the room is very nice indeed so how are the eggs? I'm feeling more like a brunch today but as this is a popular spot for taking a tasty respite (and it's rather rainy) so the place is chocked full. I didn't realize initially that there is a designated area for the residents but one of the friendly waitresses shows me to a table next to the groaning buffet table in a light room with more if the Steven Brooks photographs of the North Norfolk coast that I'd so admired in my room when my mistake is noticed. And as the queues of hungry potential diners grow I'm glad of my corner and could notice tad proliferation of families and especially pushchairs. At one point I was flanked with pushchairs (or strollers if you prefer) on every side - clearly 'the' accessory in Holt or today - Nappy Valley. And for much the time one of the babies were grizzling and occasionally screaming. Not quite the peaceful brunch I'd envisaged. But all that aside the Byfords Eggs Benedict were still as delicious as I'd recalled. There was an initial mix-up with tickets and my first portion was left standing on the pass which made it a tad cold and the hollandaise didn't look so glossy and unctuous. But that was whisked away immediately and hot on its heels came a second much hotter portion which looked much more appetizing and was indeed worth the wait.

So why am I waxing lyrical about a simple typical brunch dish. Well first it's the quality, their own glazed ham was thickly cut and flavorsome, the freshly laid happy eggs were poached well and just had enough oozy yolk when you forked it, the muffin topped which some green crunch was a great vehicle for the egg and ham and everything was draped in a perfect, velvety herby hollandaise. Which I adore and rarely can be bothered to whip up myself. Top brunch with or without the babies!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

A room with a meal

After lunch I headed for Blakeney en route to Holt, I was keen to photograph the quay with the fishing boats looking so weathered and picturesque but sadly the torrential rain quickly put paid to that little avenue of pleasure. The crabbers with their little buckets were sent scuttling and probably the crabs were thankful of the rain and they could have a day's respite.
When I arrived in Holt I thought I should have a little peruse of the higgledy piggledy streets with the hidden courtyards and the lovely little unique, independent and friendly shops but alas the rain defeated me again but I had my lovely new room to explore at Byfords.

I checked out their website of course but I'm not sure it doesn't really do them justice as my room is a stunner. I have the local flint walls, with a lovely local coastal image (which I've since discovered is one of one of the ever so evocative images of Wells taken by a local photographer Steven Brooks and available for sale in their gallery in Holt - which I'd love to give houseroom to but sadly my décor doesn't lend itself to the cobalt blues and sandy tones of this coast) in the recess of the old window.

There are wonderful old antique leather chairs, battered leather suitcases, books and a pair of brass binoculars to add to the atmosphere. The ceiling is beamed, the huge bed with an imposing walnut headboard is swathed in velvet throws and piled high with textured cushions.

Through the fabulous old wooden door of the substantial bedroom comes the heady scent of the most beautiful stargazer lilies which some may disagree but I think is a lovely touch. There are little candles to light and yummy treatments for the bath and an impressive separate rainfall shower. There's also a lots of light if you want it (which some hotels stint on) I think I'm going to be very at home here (not that my bathroom at home is a patch on this one!)
I'd booked a table for dinner and was led through the higgledy piggeldy warren of a restaurant (just like Holt itself) and was seated in a cosy alcove. I had set my heart on the chicken but. "when it's gone, it's gone!" and it was indeed all eaten. My second choice of steak salad also proved too popular so I continued with the local seafood theme and opted for the Baked Cromer crab pots with cognac, Colman's & Smoked Dabble Cheese for starter and the Cley smoked salmon, Cromer crab & brown shrimp spaghetti (starter portion) for main.
The pot was very unctuous, cheesy and less crabby than I thought. I was worried I might have crab overload but I needn't have worried. It was nice mobbed up with a bit of bread that you go and help yourself to (not ideal for a lone diner perhaps, especially if you're armed with an iPad that everyone seems incredibly intrigued by!)

I'm so pleased I'd ordered a starter portion of the spaghetti, my neighbours had also plumped for something lighter and as our dishes all turned up simultaneously we all remarked in unison "if this is a starter portion, just imagine the size of the main!". My spaghetti was light but to be completely honest I didn't really discern the smoked salmon, crab or brown shrimp. It tasted generally seafood-y and perfectly tasty but I really wanted to taste that Cley smoked salmon and it didn't leap at me. I hope my palate hasn't been deadened by all this excessive extravagant dining!
I wasn't able to finish my 'starter' portion of spaghetti and my neighbours similarly struggled with theirs. Clearly we're just all lightweights, but after a lengthy and lively discussion of local and further afield places to visit and dine we were able to do some justice to a dessert.

I opted for a little stem ginger and chocolate ice cream.
I enjoyed my first meal at Byford's. It's certainly a popular place, there are queues and you have to wait to be served and sadly the favourite dishes are snapped up quickly but that's the sign of the hottest seats in town. The menu is informative, they are passionate about local food and providence and as well as the restaurant have an acclaimed deli which if I was going home directly from here I'd love to fill my bags with goodies from. I'm going to give them two forks, and if the chicken is so talked about I think I need to secure a bit of bird for myself tomorrow so I can tell you if it lives up to the hype!

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Just before I go...

Whilst having my final breakfast at Titchwell Manor of scrambled egg and smoked salmon I harked back to the fabulous Scrambled Egg Truffle Brioche Mushroom I had on arrival on Friday night. The breakfast scrambled egg was okay but I like mine a little softer and creamier so I decided I would enjoy one more lunch of the proper stuff before I head for Holt. The decision was helped by the August English summer weather which had been drenching the walled garden all morning. So I found a cosy spot in the Eating Rooms, nestled amongst the fat, orange cushions on the long sofa I wrote and enhanced yesterday's photographs. Fortunately I had been able to bask under the infamous big, blue sky and take some evocative panoramas so I had something to work with, today unless I plan to feature the big, grey skies of Norfolk I am not going to be so fortunate.

When lunchtime arrived I was planning just the Scrambled Egg Truffle Brioche Mushroom again but the lovely waitress Michelle (who's is hanging up her apron here for Mickey Mouse ears on the Disney Dreams cruises, though apparently working in the grownup restaurant means that ears won't be necessary!) suggested I tried the Rare Breed Pig Terrine, Gribiche, Croutons as a precursor to the truffle-y delight. And I probably wouldn't have tried it but I'm glad I did - definitely packed full of porky goodness and a lovely mild piquancy from the gribiche.

The scrambled egg was as truly delicious as last time and the scrambled egg was a stranger to the breakfast version.

And the accompanying Samphire Lemon Butter was both as succulent and as messy (is that just me?) as last time.

To finish, I'd spotted the Norfolk Strawberries with Lavender Cream on the blackboard but not being a fan of cream unless cooked I made some adjustments and had mine with a soupçon of Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream and Lemon Sorbet. A fruity, refreshing end to my meal.
Now I really must drag my suitcase across their gravel for one last time and head to my next destination. I've had a wonderful few days here, the stresses of the last few manic weeks melted either as soon as I entered my elegant room or tasted that first sublime mouthful of Eric Snaith's tasty and properly seasonal food. All the staff are charming and attentive and make you feel special. I must give special thanks to Margaret Snaith for welcoming me into her charming hotel, her son Eric, not just for the fabulous food but for taking time out after a busy service to talk about his philosophy and suppliers when I'm sure he just wanted to get his whites off and head home and Mark Dobby the manager of all this, whose passion seems to be shared by all. I am already planning my next visit, maybe I'll see what Christmas is like around these parts.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not my five-a-day maybe my ten-a-day

It's my last night in Titchwell Manor and on Sunday they don't serve the tasting menu in favour of a couple of roasts and all the trimmings as well as the usual a la carte. With my usual malady of "eyes bigger than stomach" I started with the Seared Foie Gras - Honey Glazed Chicory, Raspberry. The combination of the oh so sweet and rich foie gras, with the luscious slightly tart raspberries and the bitter tinged chicory is truly a wonderful thing! The resultant juices were so alluring that I begged another slice of bread to mop every delicious drop up.
For main I toyed with the lobster pot, salmon or gurnard (when in Norfolk and all that) but instead opted to be totally traditional and have the Roast 28 Day Matured Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Potatoes, Sticky Red Cabbage, Red Wine Gravy. Do you think the duck fat potatoes swung it for me?

When the rosy slices of beef sat atop the red cabbage and potatoes with one of their famously large Yorkshire puddings crowning all that arrived, this was just the start. Hot on it heels were dishes of crunchy topped cauliflower cheese, medley of greens with French beans, broccoli, cabbage and courgette, a little heap of more Mediterranean vegetables with soft onions, aubergine and carrots and a pot of horseradish. That's why the plating isn't up to Eric Snaith's standards, it's constructed by me and rather enthusiastically and less artfully piled around the plate. And I certain couldn't eat all this bounty despite a valiant attempt.
I was certainly impressed by the red cabbage. I've had a longstanding fear of red cabbage from my years my years as a Girl Guide. On camp we'd dine sat on groundsheets on top of the invariably damp grass laid out in a giant horseshoe shape. Our plates would be on our laps with our Wellington clad feet thrust out in front of us. An enormous catering size jar of lip-pursing vinegared red cabbage would be placed at one end of the horseshoe. If one of your fellow Guides had a crazy hankering for said red cabbage you'd have to place your plate awkwardly behind you and heave this purple monstrosity to the person to your left. Naturally this scene would play out several times at each meal and I learnt to go from a mild avoidance to genuine hatred for these jars of red cabbage which despite these ministrations always seemed to be nearly as full at the end of camp than in the beginning.
But tonight's red cabbage was and entirely different animal, more akin to a compote or marmalade or whatever foodie term is 'de jour'! And it was delicious but I could barely make an indent.
Despite the defeat at the hands of 'all the trimmings' after a break I was able to consider a small dessert. And the quirkily retro Arctic Roll was just the job! I recall as a child that Arctic Roll was considered a special treat though even then I was just about discerning enough to realize that M and my favourite triple chocolate ice cream was superior (that's chocolate ice cream with chocolate bits and smothered greedily in chocolate sauce. Or even better if we went to Chalk Farm we'd head to an Italian café and have the wonderful exotic and frighteningly green pistachio ice cream. The ice cream 'creations' available in the supermarket were very synthetic, chocolate was often chocolate flavoured which means that chocolate needn't have made an appearance in the construction at all. The chocolate sauce was clearly a very distant cousin of chocolate but it took me years for my palate to develop fully (because until then I also thought Findus Crispy Pancakes were a good thing!) and realise that the seemingly 'special' extravagance of Arctic Roll for dessert was actually some substandard plain ice cream wrapped in a bland slightly cardboard-y sponge and didn't taste good at all. But it was new, it came in a box and seemed to be of the future!

But despite eating too much today I still want to finish on a touch of something sweet, I know Eric Snaith is famous for his exotic ice creams, but I'm feeling nostalgic and am assured that it's not very substantial. And it was a homage but totally re-invented. The superior vanilla ice cream was painted with thin coating of raspberry sauce and then wrapped in the necessary plain sponge. Cake obviously loses many of its cake qualities when frozen around ice cream but I enjoyed its undemanding blast from the past. The dish was elevated by the reappearance of my favourite raspberries again, adding their ruby jeweled allure to the whole dish.
I really enjoyed my last meal at Titchwell Manor before moving on, I wish I'd selected a less substantial main so I could have done it more justice, I think it was the duck fat potatoes that ensnared me. My only criticism has to be the lighting in the conservatory, I miss the fairy lights entwined round the conservatory's supporting beams, and hope they replace them soon. Eric's food is much too attractive to serve in semi-gloom. Obviously I'm biased because I want to take photographs but my waitress kindly moved me to a corner table where I could sneakily place one of the side lamps on my table, okay then I became a Mecca for all the light-seeking insects that turn up on a summer evening but at least I could see what I was enjoying. Last night at the tasting menu I didn't fare so well with light and the resultant photographs illustrate my frustration. I'm going to attempt to weave some Photoshop magic but suspect they really won't tantalize the senses as much as the taste did.
So I've ate very well again, been blown over by the foie gras, learnt to love red cabbage and been transported back to a 'sweet' memory of my childhood. Oh and of course, I've satisfied and positively exceeded my five-a-day if not ten-a-day recommendation.

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A steamy lunch in and around Sheringham

I've got a steamy Sunday lunch on the menu today. I'm dining on the Sheringham to Holt steam railway (also known as the Poppy Line). I had worked it all out I would breakfast and then grab a Coasthopper to Sheringham to start my steaming adventure. When I checked the timetable however I realized that the combination of the distance of Sheringham (a mere stone throw up the coast) and the Sunday really meant that I had to leave immediately. Luckily they provided me with a delicious foil wrapped sausage sandwich and I leapt on the little green and gold bus in time. Winding along the North Norfolk coast through all the little villages in a bus albeit a small bus can be a challenge. When we had to make tight corner in Cley we were hampered by a caravan and some terribly inconsiderate four wheel drive tanks. Our bus driver fearing that we were going to be wedged in all day, took charge, told all the other drivers what to do and directed all the traffic until we had a route through. She then regaled us with poetry about the places on our route and a little ditty about the Coasthopper itself. You so don't get that on a London bus, neither do you get greeted by your driver or get given a treat for your dog!
But fortunately about an hour and half later I was able to disembark at Sheringham and explore the station. The Poppy Line is a success due to the tireless efforts of so many local steam enthusiasts. They add great atmosphere by piling wonderful old well-travelled leather cases on the platform, traditional signage over the walls and an old carriage and signal box to explore. Any reader of my blog will know I have an infinity to dining on trains and steam trains doubly so, therefore a chance to experience the Poppy Line's version.

They'd sent today's lunch menu choices ahead for selection so it wasn't a surprise but I had to inform them that I wasn't a fan of either of the starters of King Prawn Cocktail or Greek Salad with Feta Cheese but to make it easier I suggested a few alternatives and out of these they chosen a healthy quenelle of a tasty Chicken Liver Parfait. So all worked out well there. My table was at the front of the first of two dining cars attached ahead of all the passenger carriages. I could see all the comings and goings and being behind the engine could see the steam billowing forth. Occasionally a merest amount of smut would enter the window and fall into my rosé but that just seemed to be entirely part of the experience.

For mains I had to chose from Roast Loin of Pork, Sage & Onion Stuffing, Apple Sauce or Broccoli & Blue Stilton Crumble. Well the Blue Stilton made the choice easy but normally I wouldn't go for pork as I find it a tad bland. There was nothing wrong with it, the meat and vegetables were cooked perfectly but most of my 'eating on trains' experiences have been courtesy of the Orient Express companies or the Grand Luxe in the US (which sadly ceased trading after our trip) so I have been rather spoilt. But it is terribly unfair to compare their Sunday lunch with those sort of lavish fine dining extravaganza so I'll say it was lovely, the portions were generous, the staff were so thoughtful and charming and it would recommend it highly. And to be fair it's incredible good value especially if you did compare it to a lunch on the VSOE British Pullman steam train, (one of the many blog posts I need to catch up on!)

For dessert there was the choice of Peach Melba Trifle, Belgian Chocolate Tart or Cheese & Biscuits. That was tricky! I saw the word 'chocolate' and it was all over and I really enjoyed it, the strawberries were lovely also.
I loved the trip on the North Norfolkman, it was fun trying to rush to the end of the train to capture the engine 'money shot' before it decoupled and chuffed off to join the other end of the train. I had many fellow train spotters (for this occasion only I'll designate myself as thus) also trying to capture the optimal shot. Probably a few of them could tell you something about (if not the entire history of) the engine, I could not, apart from - it was big and black!

It seemed sensible to walk off my Sunday lunch by exploring Sheringham before heading back on the Coasthopper and I really wanted to see the sea, not just on the horizon but crashing on the shore below me and I know just the spot. Sheringham is full of holiday-makers today, the air is ringing with the tling tling from the amusement arcades, happy children and some others being admonished by harassed parents. The aromas of fish and chips and fudge fills the air and in the blue sky bunting can be seen stretched across the little winding streets, a proper English seaside experience. If I wasn't too full from lunch I would have loved to partake of a crab sandwich from Joyful West's little hut which was doing a fine trade as I passed. I don't recall many childhood visits to the seaside with my parents (instead we had magnificent museum visits and luxury of luxuries the occasional holiday to Greek islands, Perth Australia, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and Orlando - I was far from deprived) but my grandparents made sure that I made complex turreted sandcastles, rode recalcitrant donkeys, suffered sand in my sandwiches (normally jam), lost stacks if pennies in the penny arcades and generally experienced all that's good and tawdry about a typical English seaside resort. Never in this part of the world though, their stomping grounds were Blackpool, Southport and environs - an entirely different coast.

As a child I'm sure I found Blackpool terribly exciting definitely during the illuminations but now I certainly wouldn't swap these ever so calming coasts, with the soothing colours and again those skies!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Catch of the day

The traditional first breakfast of a holiday is a full English, or maybe I have always hung around with people that think "I'm on holiday, so I can indulge". So apart from the inevitable fried tomato I indulged in the full works. Not that I'm surprised but the sausage and bacon were exceptional quality and much to much to my delight they also serve the very local Drove Orchard apple juice we rather fell for last year. Come lunchtime I was hungry but mindful if got a seven course tasting menu tonight I thought I should choose a light option and opted for the Plaice - Cockle Butter, Cucumber, New Potato.
It was a fine choice, the plump golden tinged plaice with those little nuggets of the sea cockles tumbled over the succulent fish. There are refreshing strips of cucumber and a dinky rubber sealed glass pot full of herby butter doused new potatoes. It seems unconsciously that the moment I arrive in these parts I'm always immediately eschew my regular menu choices and enjoy marsh samphire, cockles, crab and much more fish. But that makes perfect sense local, bang in season food always sings more than food that has been forced, held back or travelled much further than me this year. After speaking to Eric Snaith, the head chef here at Titchwell Manor I know how passionate he is about provenance, partnering with and promoting the local food providers and carving out that crucial symbiotic relationship. And then simply cooking it perfectly and plating it oh so beautifully.

Comfortably ensconced in the Eating Rooms admiring the sepia seaside shots with the french doors flung open to the airy terrace it seemed a shame to move. So I watched the Celebrity Masterchef final (Lisa was a worthy winner, I hope she believes she's a good cook now!) whilst enjoying an artful and scrummy tartly palate cleansing Lemon Meringue, Lemon Sorbet, Popcorn.
I could have happily stayed here all afternoon but the fiftieth birthday party revelers from last night seemed determined that I shouldn't remain perfectly peaceful in my solitude but should join them in their exuberance. There seemed to be a bit of 'special birthday' oneupmanship and I was regaled with tales of £150 tins of caviar served in a provocative and inducive manner by the cunning Russian women on the train journey between Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was a very decadent trip it seemed! And here a little closer to home the good stuff was flowing abundantly and the hotel is ringing with stories of some of their party returning this morning at six and not being able to open the door so stumbling through a window instead. A small group seem determined that I blow off my tasting menu in favour of joining them for a barbecue. This is so not going to happen and I'm grateful when an opportunity arises to slink off back to my herby room and away from beery clutches. I hope for their own sake that whoever is in charge of the barbecue hasn't been drinking quite so enthusiastically as the rest as I predict either charcoaled or overdone steaks and what a waste of a good cow that would be!

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Feels like home!

I promised I was going to be more diligent with my blogging, more immediate and of the moment. So this my first attempt to commit my thoughts and pictures to my blog whilst the taste of the meal still lingers on my tongue. I often write notes whilst still at the table (how on earth could I remember it all) but to include edited pictures also, I'm pushing the envelope of my blogging!

So I've arrived in North Norfolk after a rather circuitous route as my first day of my holiday is marred by the sad event of the funeral of a wonderful, beautiful colleague who was cruelly robbed of her life and the chance to watch her lovely six year son grow up by skin cancer. But delaying the start of my holiday seemed such a small gesture, others had flown from New York, Ireland, Germany and France to pay their respects. I'm back beneath the big, blue skies again as I find this such a calming place, being such a city girl all these wide vista are curiously restorative. I fear our willful English weather won't be kind to me but then I'll just have to find a little nook where I can read, write, paint and just chill. I have all my camera gear and tripod with me so I really hope I'll be able to put them to creative use capturing the picturesque beach huts, the artfully weathered fishing boats, the sunset over the sea and those never-ending skies (so let's hope they're blue occasionally!) I'm booked into Cley Windmill at the end of the week so some local themed picture opportunities there.
But before all that I head for Titchwell Manor close to Kings Lynn, this is a special place (to coin Alistair Sawday) where I know I'll be lavished with stunning food, welcome hospitality and an elegant, beautifully decked out room nestled in their herb garden. Ah bliss! I was counting the railway stops on the way here and dying to deposit my bags in Sage and hit the dining room.
My first surprise was the really crowded dining room (it transpired that a huge group were celebrating a fiftieth birthday in style) and feared they'd be no corner for me to enjoy my late dinner. But I was led into what I thought was the bar, which is now the hotel's new Eating Rooms and in honour of its new role is now bedecked in green and yellow stripes with blue wood. But before you grimace it actually considerably less alarming as it might sound. The green is a muted soft sage and the yellow is a pale creme anglais. The blue is a dusty cornflower and there are even a few punchy accents of colour with orange in the seat cushions and blinds. I admit their conservatory is more to my tastes with the white tented ceilings, the quirky lampshades, stunning white lacework lamp and the white wicker chairs and linen. I don't tend to surround myself with much colour so I seem to be drawn to the more neutral settings. But the Shaun Clarkson designed (taking inspiration from the seaside) Eating Room provide a vibrant contrast.

The menu was another surprise, it seemed so reduced from previous visits and I wondered if I'd been cheated being excluded from the packed conservatory. Then the friendly Michelle who remembered me from last year explained that there was a seven course tasting menu in conservatory and the a la carte had a new home. My initial frisson of fear when I'd glanced at the menu was totally dispelled when my starter arrived. The Scrambled egg truffle brioche mushroom was just delectable. Frankly they had me at 'truffle' and the delicate mound of rich scrambled egg strewn with micro cress atop a soft croute of brioche packed such a punch of unctuous heady truffle-y flavour I was momentarily stunned. No humble scrambled egg on toast was this!
Next I chose a dish from the blackboard - the Loch Duart salmon, summer beans and peas, lavender velouté. And because it's such a Norfolk delicacy I accompanied it with Samphire lemon butter. And what a beautiful dish! The pea shoot tendrils and additional samphire, peas and broad beans against the rose pink of the salmon was just a seaside summer on a plate. And not that there was any doubt, the taste lived up to its looks. The tangle of lemony butter drenched samphire was just sumptuous, and try as I might I couldn't prevent the lemon butter juices dripping down my chin as I scraped the samphire of its tasty covering. At least I had a finger bowl but nonetheless I suspect I did end up wearing part of my vegetable accompaniment.
So my revisit to Titchwell Manor has been a delicious success, the staff are even more friendly that I recalled from last year if that's possible, Mark Dobby the restaurant manager greeted me as a regular and all the waiters and waitresses (I've only learnt Michelle's name) make me feel so comfortable you don't feel like you're dining alone but with friends (albeit ones that keep wandering off to deal with other tables!)
I can't entirely put my finger on why it is so but I feel so utterly at home here, the incredibly manic last couple of weeks just melted away as soon as I'd heaved my case over slate chippings and gravel, claimed my room 'Sage' and headed back to dine. It's a testament to Margaret and the entire team that the walls of Titchwell Manor are imbued with such bon homie, if it were a little closer I'd love to be a 'real' regular and have my own table (most likely in the conservatory).
Tomorrow night I'm booked in for the nightly changing seven course tasting menu where I know the head chef Eric Snaith will do me proud, I saw what tonight's menu consisted of and was salivating. Let the feasting begin!

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The re-return!

So when I said I was back I'm not entirely sure I was. I certainly had valiant intentions that I would catch up on the ginormous pile of un-posted photos, the recollections of numerous unrecorded tasty escapades, banish the swinging Japanese sploggers that were haunting my comments and get my blog bang up to date. So where do I start on exactly how badly I managed all of this? Firstly an update on my unwanted Japanese visitors who are attempting to arrange their dubious rendezvous via the curious medium of highjacking the comments on selected postings of mine. And I don't like it! I tried asking them to stop nicely and in probably broken maybe even incomprehensible Japanese. And finally I just have to vet all comments going forward to stop them appearing amongst my genuine comments. This has not stopped the messages however nor made the tiniest dent in the flow of them to my inbox and at least once a day I receive some curious missive that if I do bother to feed into one of those instant machine-read translators, I generally raise a quizzical eyebrow and even occasionally a slight blush!
So not entirely curtailing that little avenue of pleasure has been one niggle but I'll just have to accept it and not let it taint my blog.
I've been trying to think why I have been so incredibly lax, what has filled all those moments that I used to blog? And sadly I can't report some wild tales of constant partying and decedent excesses. I think it probably started with me getting a new camera obsensively to facilitate more creative food photographs, which apart from the obligatory scenic shots whilst on holidays seem to be the mainstay of my picture collection. But this camera was clever! It had all sorts of new manual modes that I'd never really had to come to grips with before And clearly if I was going to take my photography to a new level I needed to get me some education. So with such thoughts in mind I hit the Internet armed with a handy guide to photographic workshops and holidays conveniently attached to an arty black and white photography magazine and before long I had a weekend booked in Norfolk. Okay no one seemed to be offering food photography, the choice seemed to be portraits, scenery or Photoshop. Even though I'd never really considered scenic photography I was more interested in this than portraits. I read the list of necessary equipment, saying "okay, why not" to the tripod but balking at the alarming list of waterproof hiking boots, rucksacks, waterproofs and all manner of all weather gear. Now I realized why I'd always loved food photography, unless visiting the birthplace of a particularly photogenic lettuce or checking out the tempting displays at the local farmers' market most of my photography had been indoors. The place where I'd never needed to don waterproof trousers or strap on a pair of clumping hiking boots. Clearly this photography lark was going to demand a whole change of lifestyle. I was able to procure some not too alarming black hiking boots but really felt that a weekend 'holiday' in Norfolk didn't mean I was going to abandon my principles and adopt a kagoule or some other hideous hooded anorak affair. No that was a step too far for this diva!
Well the weekend shooting windmills and cavorting bluebell woods was an eyeopener. The instructor turned out to an internationally renowned landscape photographer and the other students were very far from needing instruction and turned up positively festooned with bursting rucksacks, bags and let's say 'fully tooled'. I had the diddiest little camera bag with barely nothing more than a polarizer and neutral graduated filter (I hadn't entirely ignored the list of necessary equipment when venturing forth into landscape photography!) I also had the tiniest of camera compared with the beasts they were all armed with. When I made the decision to upgrade my beloved Leica, I realized that size really is everything for me and if I tooled myself up with a Canon or Nikon I'd be lusting after a couple of extra lenses, a tit and shift and other geeky camera-holic paraphernalia. So I got a more grown up Leica, not one of those the price of a small car but with the manual mode I need, an abhorrence of interchangeable lenses and frankly rather gorgeous styling! But my new little Leica baby D Lux 4, even with a handy attachment to allow a filter or two looked like a toy amongst all the big boys. But the skinniest of chilies can pack a fine punch and my gorgeous little oh so black camera has hidden talents.
I'm still getting to grips with abandoning the safety net of the set scene modes and walking of the wild side of totally manual but I do know all about apertures, shutter speeds and ISOs now.
All this immersion in all that is photographic has kept me away from blogging, it wasn't my intention when transitioning from a point and shoot plus the work stuff that invariably gets in the way but I can only promise to do better.
I have been so flattered recently by how many times I've been asked about my blogging dry spell and if I will return to it. If you're reading this you'll already know the answer to the second question. I just needed the impetus and a break from the nagging inbox. I'd also rationalised that furnishing myself with a shiny iPad would give me the tools to write more and this theory is being put to the test. I'm writing this on the train at the beginning of my holiday, I have composed this post in a writing app (necessary if you feel the urge to write when the Internet is unreachable), a typography app to add a bit of visual interest and the ministrations of a blogpress app to connect all the dots. I even got a dinky Apple gadget that allows me to upload the pictures I'll take from my lovely new camera into my iPad and a couple of editing apps to help with the inevitable white balancing (the bane of poorly lit restaurant shooting) so really, there's no reason for me not to blog. With that in mind I'm crossing my electronic fingers and seeing if these ramblings will be launched successfully into the ether.

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