kaveyeats

 

Tombo, Japanese for dragonfly, is a small deli and cafe in South Kensington, just a minute’s walk from the tube station. It offers a small menu of modern Japanese food and quality tea. I’m a particular fan of it’s Japanese desserts, which often feature ingredients such as azuki (red bean paste), matcha and sesame.

On my latest visit, I tried the Tombo Afternoon Tea; served from 3 to 5pm, this is a lovely variation on traditional sandwiches, scones and cakes.

The standard afternoon tea (£12.90 per person) includes your choice from Tombo’s selection of teas, or for £19.90 you can upgrade to sparkling sake instead. I went for genmaicha which Tombo unusually combine with matcha. My friend chose peppermint tea, as she was looking for a non-caffeinated option. The teas were excellent and hot water is provided for top ups, automatically – a nice touch.

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For the savoury course, we enjoyed temari sushi (salmon and prawn) and maki sushi rolls (salmon and french beans). Having checked it was possibly before our visit, my friend requested that all seafood items were switched for vegetarian/ chicken ones, she is currently on a restricted diet. I would ask Tombo to take more care with requests such as this – one of the sushi rolls served on the non-seafood plate contained salmon. That aside, in terms of quality and flavour, the sushi was very enjoyable.

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On the lower layer of the slate food stands came a selection of desserts. On my visit these included azuki doriyaki (filled pancake), matcha cream doriyaki, matcha gateau, azuki gateau, a pink macaron and a chocolate. My friend wasn’t as keen on the azuki doriyaki or matcha gateau – she preferred the other desserts in the selection. My favourites were the matcha gateau and the macaron.

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Both of us really enjoyed Tombo’s afternoon tea – the sushi alternative to sandwiches is a really novel and welcome approach and the price very reasonable for the quality of food and drink.

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Press images courtesy of Tombo Deli & Cafe

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Tombo Deli & Cafe. Thanks also for the two additional images of cafe exterior and afternoon tea stand.

 

Inspired by my lovely friend Celia’s images of beautiful sourdough loaves, Pete and I tried recently to resurrect our last frozen pot of Levi the Levain, the 50+ year old sourdough starter we’d been given by Tom Herbert at a cooking class some years ago. Sadly, although Levi was a spritely old thing when alive and made us many fine loaves of bread, we were forced to accept that he is well and truly dead.

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Into the breach stepped Celia, sending us a little bag of flakes that made everything better.

That little bag hailed all the way from Sydney, Australia and was a dehydrated portion of Celia’s own sourdough starter, Priscilla. It came with instructions on how to rehydrate and feed, and soon we had our own jar of bubbling sourdough starter ready to use.

Celia has been creating a family tree for Priscilla, who now has offspring all around the world. As per Celia’s request, I chose a suitably Drag Queen-esque name for Priscilla’s London daughter, creating a shortlist and asking for votes. Though I had a soft spot for several of the names including Kiki La Boule, Pussy Focaccia, and Honey Fougasse, there was a runaway winner – and so our new baby starter is proudly named Pussy Galoaf!

Already, Pussy has produced loaves of beautiful flavour, with a bubbly, aerated texture I love. Of course, Pussy can only take some of the credit, the rest belongs to Baker Pete.

The first dough was a little too wet. Pete let it rise and bake in the Lékué silicon bread maker, allowing me the honour of slashing the top, though it stuck as I sliced and then oozed back in on itself. The second dough was less sloppy and he used a regular shaped loaf mould and the same sharp knife to slash; it worked much better. But I still fancy the much deeper gash that Celia has shown us on some of her loaves.

The speckled crust (which I thought was a bit strange) is apparently not uncommon and Celia tells me that some bakers even covet it – who am I to argue?

The crust on both loaves was fabulously crisp, making a satisfying noise as Pete sawed through with a breadknife. I love sourdough toast, and these loaves make great toast. The sourdough was also perfect for my fried cheese and gherkin sandwich!

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Thank you so much to Celia for sending us some of your precious Priscilla! Please accept this post as my entry to this month’s In My Kitchen!

 

I’ve told before the story of how my husband Pete’s beer, whisky and coffee blog came to be – for a year he wrote a series of guest posts here on Kavey Eats before I finally kicked him off in October 2011 to launch PeteDrinks.com. Not long after that, we both went along to the 2012 European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds, a weekend long conference focusing on the beer industry.

There we met many many other beer bloggers, writers and industry professionals including blogger Steve Lamond, who writes Beers I’ve Known. Since we met, we’ve kept in touch online and both Pete and I read Steve’s blog regularly. We hope to meet up at another beery event soon.

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Hello and welcome, plea­se introduce yourself and tell us a little about the kind of content you share.

I’m Steve and I’ve been writing Beers I’ve known since May 2011 with 300 posts since then. I mostly write about beer and pubs but also feature other drinks when it takes my fancy. I try to provide a focus on beer in Northern Ireland as there wasn’t much to document this when I started. Since then there has been an explosion of breweries and bloggers; so my original goal is now somewhat moot but I still enjoy writing about and trying new beers! I’m also a cheese fiend; so that often sneak’s into the odd post too.

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Is there a story behind your blog’s name?

I used to help organise a zine fest in Brighton; one of the interesting ones was an anonymous booklet called “Nuns I’ve Known” cataloguing the various nuns who taught the author at a Catholic school. A fellow organiser suggested I begin a zine called Beers I’ve Known (such was my verbosity on the subject even then!) but due to (mostly) laziness and the ability to reach a wider audience that became a blog.

Why did you choose to blog about beer?

I write about beer because it interests me and generally people seem interested in what I have to say. I don’t think knowledge is something to be hoarded. I also like the social side of discussing with other bloggers/ readers some of the topics that arise. As touched on above I want to show the locals here in Ireland and further afield that we do produce some fantastic beers and ciders here and its not just about the macrolagers and ubiquitous black stuff produced in Dublin. But overall I just enjoy trying new beers, expanding my palate experiences, travelling and searching for that elusive “perfect beer”.

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Does blogging about drink present any particular challenges?

Its important to keep notes because it can be difficult to remember the following day, especially if a few beverages have been consumed! In Northern Ireland the difficulty is finding beers to write about because most pubs/bars do not stock anything of note. Thankfully I rely on a selection of decent mail order firms and the occasional trip away to keep me armed with plenty to write about. The challenge now is finding the time (and motivation!) to write the posts!

Is there a particular style of beer you seek out most often?

I’m polyamorous when it comes to beer, there isn’t one particular style I stick to above all others but of course I have my preferences. A decent session strength porter goes down well at any time of year, I love Belgian farmhouse styles (saisons and flemmish red/ oud browns) hop-forward beers like IPAs and wild/sour ales.

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Which single beer could you not live without?

A tricky question; I could probably live without any given beer as there are plenty that do a similar job to my favourite examples. I’ll pick Butcombe bitter here as it was my first cask beer which led me on this journey in the first place and I still enjoy after having sampled 4000 others.

Are there beer styles you don’t like or think are overrated?

I’m not particularly keen on doppelbocks and dunkels, nor anything OTT on the booze front. Something to do with the sugars used to hit the higher ABVs perhaps. Nothing is over-rated other than perhaps macro lager! Of course there are trends in productions of different styles but that helps to keep things fresh and interesting.

What are the current trends in the beer scene? How do you feel about them?

The current trend is canning beer; I think this a fantastic development and have an upcoming blog post to discuss why. There is always a “flavour of the year”, some of which I enjoy, others not so much. In recent years they have included, goses, black IPAs, fruited berlinner weisses and session IPAs

Tell us about your pet controversy in the beer world.
I’m a defender of Wetherspoon for bringing variety in beer choice and increased recognition of cask beer to the UK and now to Ireland at affordable prices. Many people do not agree with this…hilarity ensues.

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How did you get into whisky?

Whisky was the first booze to pass my lips at a mere 46 days old; though it would be a good 16 years before I’d try it again! I enjoy the breadth of flavours possible from a single ingredient and exploring what different ageing regimens can bring to the table. Whisky is of course just unhopped distilled beer; so its not that unusual to be interested in both drinks.

What is your favourite style of whisky?

I love Scotish Single Malts and whilst I’m now a big fan of the peat-forward smokey Islay drams, there will always be a place in my heart for the spicey and warming highland malts.

What are your top three criteria for a great pub? Do you have a favourite pub? Why?

A great pub first and foremost needs to be comfortable to drink in, both in terms of furnishings and facilities but also the atmosphere of the place. A real fire or historic features help but not as important. Second most important is a good selection of beer at reasonable prices. But what will turn a good pub into a great pub is the level of service and welcome received. That’s what is likely to turn a one-off visit into a repeat occurrence. I have favoured watering holes up and down the country but I think the York Tap has to be my most favoured, because it satisfies the above three criteria in abundance plus is easy to get to, sells tasty snacks and a great atmosphere.

What are the biggest turn offs for you, in the pubs you don’t like?

If a pub doesn’t have anything interesting to drink I’ll turn around and walk back out again. Cleanliness is important though unkemptness is forgivable.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in a pub?

The generosity and hospitality of fellow drinkers is the best thing about pubs. When I was a poor student I’d often be bought drinks in my local, an oil rig worker I struck up a conversation with in a Scottish pub picked up my bar bill and a chap we met when celebrating our engagement bought us a round. I try to share the love now I can afford to!

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Since you started blogging, has your style and content changed over time, and if so, in what ways?

I’m not sure that it has changed all that much, though I have made a conscious effort to make sure my posts have a point behind them, rather than just being a collection of reviews.

What is the hardest aspect of blogging for you?

Finding the time and motivation to write the posts. I have a number of posts in draft that just need polishing and pushing into the light.

What inspires you to keep blogging?

The amazing variety and enjoyment of beer and other drinks and the community of people involved in producing and writing about them.

Blogging killed the newspaper star. What do you think bloggers bring to the arena that differentiates them from traditional journalists?

Bloggers can often react more quickly to breaking news, especially as blogging isn’t a 9-5 job. There’s also the aforementioned social interactions but also the lack of financial motivation means topics covered interest the author and often that leads to a more interesting story.

What are you absolutely loving drinking right now?

I am enjoying well made British lagers, hop-forward session beers and playing with my new Aeropress for my coffee fix.

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What’s the single most popular post on your blog?

Somehow it’s the roundup post after hosting #TheSession (a beer blogging monthly chosen communal topic) for the second time. Topic – beery yarns.

Can we give a little extra love and attention to a post you love but didn’t catch the attention of your readers in the way you hoped?

Its always surprising which posts do get the views but I’d have thought more people would be interested in where to get good beer in Vienna.

Anything else?

After long-suffering my blogging affliction my wife Daisy is going to join me in writing a blog Drinks We’ve Known to cover all our travels, cocktail experimentations and other non-beery libations. Coming to a computer screen near you soon!

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Spread the love

Blog URL www.beersiveknown.com
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/officialbeersiveknown
Twitter handle @beersiveknown

Enjoyed this interview? Read the rest of my Meet The Blogger series, here.

 

February came and went without me posting a theme for BSFIC so I’m diving straight into March with a call for Dairy Free recipes.

Whether you use a dairy-free substitute – such as almond, soy or coconut milk – or opt for a sorbet instead, it’s completely up to you.

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Images from Shutterstock stock library

How To Take Part In BSFIC

  • Create and blog a suitable recipe in March 2015, published by 28th March.
  • In your post, mention and link to this Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post.
  • Include the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream badge (below).
  • Email me (by the 28th of the March) with your first name or nickname (as you prefer) and the link to your post.
  • Please include in your email an image for my roundup, sized to no larger than 600 pixels on the longest side.

You are welcome to submit your post to as many blogger challenge events as you like.

If the recipe is not your own, please be aware of copyright issues. Email me if you would like to discuss this.

I’ll post a round up showcasing and linking to all the entries and I’ll also share your posts via Pinterest, Stumble and Twitter. If you tweet about your post using the hashtag #BSFIC, I’ll retweet any I see. You are also welcome to share the links to your posts on my Kavey Eats Facebook page.

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For more ideas, check out my my Pinterest ice cream board and past BSFIC Entries board.

 

I was a lucky child. Neither my sister nor I experienced any major accidents, illnesses or health issues. Our occasional visits to hospital were brief and easily dealt with by our local hospital or local health services.

But some families are not so lucky. Some families have to deal with serious childhood sicknesses that are desperately worrying, may require specialist treatment and can result in short or long stays in hospitals far from home. How hard it must be for parents to handle the extra stress of journeys to and from home and hospital, trying to simultaneously provide love and support to the child in hospital and as normal an environment for their other children, let alone trying to keep on top of work commitments and everyday chores.

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The Sick Children’s Trust provides free, high quality ‘Home from Home’ accommodation as well as emotional and practical support to families who have seriously ill children in hospital. Founded in 1982 by two paediatric specialists Dr Jon Pritchard and Professor James Malpas, the charity has ten houses based at major paediatric hospitals across the UK and it costs them just £28 per night to provide their much-needed service. They currently support around 3,500 families a year and demand is growing, as children must increasingly travel long distances for the specialist treatment they need.

At a recent launch event for the trust’s Big Chocolate Tea Party, I listened first hand to the stories of parents who had stayed in one of the homes, and unsurprisingly, it made a huge difference to each and every one of them. The accommodation allows the parents and any siblings of the sick child to stay together in a location close to the hospital, providing not only a base to sleep but also a place to rest, to unwind and to emotionally recharge during a very tough time.

The Sick Children’s Trust is once again asking supporters to host their own Big Chocolate Tea Party between now and May to help raise funds to support the charity’s work.

They aim to raise £100,000 which will go a huge way in helping them support sick children and their families. Remember, just £28 provides a room in a Home from Home for a night.

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Edd Kimber’s S’more Choux Buns and John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

Paul A Young, master chocolatier and Vice President of the Sick Children’s Trust has been inspired and touched by the charity’s work. The Big Chocolate Tea Party gives him “the perfect opportunity to use [his] love of chocolate to fundraise in a fun and indulgent way while supporting many families who are facing the most difficult of circumstances miles from their home.”

Paul,  Raymond Blanc, Edd Kimber and John Whaite have provided recipes to inspire anyone keen to get involved, you can find ideas and download some of these recipes and fundraising materials here.

Alternatively, email email chocolate@sickchildrenstrust.org for a free party pack, which includes more recipes.

As a thank you for taking part and helping to raise funds to support the charity’s homes, all those who host a party or bake-off during the May 2015 Big Chocolate Tea Party campaign will be entered into a draw for a chocolate tea weekend for two in Paris, including Premium Leisure Eurostar tickets, two nights bed and breakfast accommodation in a five star Paris hotel and a pair of tickets to Salon du Chocolate, the prestigious annual chocolate show.

John Whaite’s Chocolate Teaser soufflé

This recipe is blissfully easy, but more importantly, it’s decadently perfect for a lazy, indulgent brunch. The mayonnaise isn’t a typing error – I use mayonnaise a lot when working with chocolate cakes I need to be gooey. The mayonnaise adds an egg-like texture, which helps create an unctuous inside because it doesn’t coagulate like an egg.

Makes four

Ingredients
2 tsp golden caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (60% is fine, don’t go overly bitter)
70g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp golden syrup
5 eggs, separated
1 tbsp mayonnaise
200g Maltesers, roughly bashed
For the sauce
100g milk chocolate
100ml double cream
100g Maltesers, bashed to fine pieces
Essential equipment
4 x 200ml ramekins, very well greased with butter
Baking sheet

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.
  • Sprinkle the sugar into the greased ramekins and shake about so the sides and base are covered.
  • Place the chocolates and golden syrup into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Allow the chocolate to slowly melt together with the syrup, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, but not set.
  • Meanwhile, put the egg whites into a mixing bowl and whisk until they are fluffy and stiff.
  • Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate along with the mayonnaise. Gently fold in the roughly bashed Maltesers, before very gently folding in the whisked whites – you want the mixture to be a smooth, even- toned batter, though of course with humps of Malteser.
  • Divide the mixture between the ramekins, cleaning the rim of each with your thumb. Set on to the baking sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until beautifully risen. They may crack on top, but who cares – you’re going to be diving in soon anyway.
  • To make the sauce, simply place the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, allow the chocolate to melt into the cream until you have a smooth, glossy sauce.
  • To serve, tell the eater to take a spoonful out of the centre, then pour in some of glorious, warm sauce.

Thank you to The Sick Children’s Trust for inviting me along to your launch event, and sharing with me the amazing work you do to help sick children and their families. Recipe and images courtesy of The Sick Children’s Trust.

 

If you have never been to a calçotada, it’s about time you did. This seasonal celebration of the calçot hails from Spain’s Catalan region, where locals celebrate the humble allium with much merriment and greed every year. I first learned of it from Rachel McCormack, who brought the tradition to London when she organised a calçotada at The Draper’s Arms a few years ago.

The calçot is a variety of spring onion much like those we have here, but the difference is in the growing – the calçot is earthed up as it grows, resulting in an extended white bulb with a shorter green top.

For calçotada the onions are cooked on a hot charcoal grill, briefly wrapped in paper to steam (which softens the outer layer) and then served to the table with romesco sauce – made with red peppers, almonds and hazelnuts, garlic, oil and nyora (a small, round red bell pepper that has been sun dried). Diners (usually bibbed) peel away the blackened outer layer of the calçot, dip the end in romesco and then tip up their heads and lower the calçot into their mouths.

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This is not dainty dining!

Calçots are followed with generous plates of grilled meats and sausages, and if you have any space left, a traditional Catalan dessert. I’m not going to admit in public how many calçots, lamb chops, chistorra (spicy sausages) and butifarra (fat pork sausages) I ate but let’s just say I definitely didn’t leave hungry!

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At Rosita & The Sherry Bar near Clapham Junction, the calçots are in season right now and you have two opportunities to join the calçotada, on Thursday 26th February & Wednesday 11th March.

For £35 per person, you can enjoy a set menu of olives, almonds, crispy aubergine to start, before calçots and romesco sauce followed by a selection from the grill – chistorra, lamb chops, Iberian pork presa and pork ribs (in place of the butifarra I had). On the side, chunky chips and little gem salad with pickled tuna. To finish, crema Catalana with cinnamon ice cream. Wash that all down with ½ bottle of cava Vilarnau rose per person – we tried drinking it from traditional porrón (pitchers).

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Event details: Thursday 26th February & Wednesday 11th March 2015. Menu price £35pp. Payment will be required at the time of booking. Book via the Rosita website or ring 020 7998 9093. Full calçotada menu can be viewed on website.

Kavey Eats attended the calçotada as a guest of Rosita & The Sherry Bar.

 

It’s been a gradual (and on-going) learning process over the years to work out which cuts of beef are best suited to which dishes or cooking methods. Although I’m pretty confident about the cuts to buy for my favourite meals, I am still getting to grips with others and constantly on the look out for new ways to get the best out of them.

When I asked a few friends for their thoughts recently, it quickly became clear that choosing which cut of meat to buy isn’t an easy task for everyone. And of course, buying the wrong cut for your dish often leads to disappointment, which makes people even more nervous the next time. Says my friend Matt Gibson, “I’ve never really got the hang of the cuts, especially for beef. Basically I just buy whatever looks nice in the shop without thinking too hard about it”.

That comment spurred me on to create my guide to choosing the right cut of beef. The suggestions below are based not only on my own favourites but also incorporate recommendations from fellow bloggers, food writers and chefs.

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Beef cuts diagram via shutterstock.com

 

First, Lessons from a Master Butcher

Having been a butcher since he was 14, Martin Eccles – Master Butcher at Quality Standard Beef & Lamb – reckons that memories of bad experiences in the past also linger; during a private butchery class he explains that “plate waste” was once common when buying a chop or steak to cook at home – that’s the pieces of tendon or gristle left uneaten on the plate – but today’s butchers are moving to reduce that by cutting meat differently.

A big part of Martin’s job for Quality Standard Beef & Lamb is working with butchers to train them on adapting the way they breakdown carcasses to better suit today’s consumer. He advises them on how to to optimise “carcass utilisation” and how best to create modern cuts and smaller roasting joints to suit singles, couples and smaller families. The organisation also works with farmers and supervises the Quality Standard Beef and Lamb marks.

What does Martin mean by modern cuts? He shows me a large rump of beef and explains that it consists of three distinct muscles. Because a steak is best when cut across the grain of the muscle, he separates the three rump muscles, completely removes the silver gristle and then cuts the muscles into individual steaks. Where traditional rump steaks consist of all three muscle types held together with connective tissue, the three new cuts – picanha (aka rump cap) steaks, prime rump steaks and bistro rump steaks – are each comprised of just one muscle. They are easy to cook, tender and with no plate waste.

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Martin breaking a rump into different muscles and cuts of steak

Incidentally, here’s a quick Kavey lesson for you: Raw meat is made up of muscle, fat and connective tissue – the muscle is what we think of as meat; the fat melts or crisps during cooking, adding flavour and moisture; collagen-heavy connective tissues (such as tendons and ligaments) also break down if cooked for long enough; but other connective tissues (such as cartilage and membranes) don’t break down and are what we subsequently label as gristle. Note that while we have a preference to avoid gristle in Western cooking, the stretchy and chewy texture is prized and enjoyed in some cuisines.

Back to Martin’s lessons on newer ways of cutting beef. Whipping out a long lump of meat from the shoulder blade, he tells me that this was (and still is) commonly cut and sold as feather steak. But the feather has gristle running right down the centre, meaning that every steak has a piece of gristle at its heart. Another option is to cut the long blade into two thin pieces, remove the gristle completely and then divide the two long flat irons, as they are known, into individual portions.

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Martin cutting feather blade into two, removing membrane and creating flat iron steaks

Martin also tells me how butchery changed in the years following World War II; beef was far less readily available and animals were older and tougher too so butchers broke the meat down into smaller cuts, separating the tender ones from the tougher ones, to allow for different cooking. Now that we have access to top quality beef again, there are still cuts that benefit from long, slow cooking, but it is also be very straightforward to choose quick-to-cook, tender cuts.

 

Kavey’s Guide to Beef Cuts & Dishes

Mince

Although it’s not really a cut so much as (usually unspecified cuts of) beef ground through a mincer, mince is one of the most popular ways we buy and eat beef.

Restaurant chef Mat Follas often cooks mince at home as his kids love dishes such as “burgers, meatballs and lasagnes”. Bloggers Alicia Fourie, Laura Scott, Karen Burns-Booth and Kathryn and are also fans, praising its versatility and adding dishes such as meat loaf, chilli, spagbol, cottage pie and keema to the list. My husband Pete makes a mean ragu, letting it cook longer for a more tender texture.

Alicia’s recently purchased a mincer attachment for her stand mixer so may switch to making her own; I hope she’ll share tips on which cuts are best for which dish.

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Mince

Braising / Stewing – Shin of Beef, Ox Cheek, Brisket, Chuck, Oxtail, Short Rib, Flank

Everyone I spoke to loves braising beef – cooking it long and slow in liquid until even the toughest cuts become tender. Collagen is your friend here, as it breaks down into a gelatinous sauce that adds flavour and richness.

Blogger Sally Prosser (a Brit transplanted to Dubai) loves “slow-cooked casseroles with red wine, bay leaves and carrots or a beef stew with dumplings” at “any time of the year, even the height of a Dubai summer”. Food blogger and journalist Neil Davey buys “the low and slow” stuff (listing several braising cuts) more than anything else as he likes “no fuss hearty cooking”. At this time of the year, he uses the slow cooker a lot. “While these are no longer the bargain cuts they were, you still get a lot of bang for the buck”. He uses these rather than mince for dishes like chilli, cottage pie and pasta sauces.

Food blogger Helen Best-Shaw recommends “shin of beef for long slow cooking, it is so rich and also very affordable”. Laura agrees, telling me beef shin is her favourite “as it makes the most tender yet fully flavoured stew. It does need lots of cooking time” but she reckons its worth it.

Karen and Alicia favour brisket; Karen says it’s her “number one cut for flavour” and recommends “Hunting Beef – an old English recipe where the beef is marinated for 4 days in a spiced salt rub”. This cut is also a popular choice for making corned beef, salt beef and pastrami.

Alicia and Neil are the only ones to mention my personal favourite, ox cheek which is still an underrated (and therefore bargainous) cut. I adore it in dishes like beef cheeks bourguignon and Chinese-style braised ox cheek, but it also works beautifully substituted into recipes such as balsamic and red wine braised lamb or beef carbonnade with mustard toasts. Make sure you (or your butcher) remove(s) any remaining membranes before cooking cheeks whole or cubed. Incidentally, I’m really not sure why beef cheeks (and tails, liver and blood) are often labelled as ox – the term more commonly refers to cattle used as draft animals rather than for food. I guess it’s one of those language hangovers…

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Shin (bone in, boneless, cubed) and rolled brisket

Roasting – Rib, Picanha, Sirloin

When Martin told me that Brits roast far less than they used to, I didn’t believe him and yet only two of the friends I spoke to listed a roasting joint in their top three cuts.

Neil, Karen and I are in complete agreement that the best joint for roasting is a (fore) rib of beef. As Karen points out, it would be her number one beef purchase if the cost weren’t so prohibitive, and likewise Neil does a rib roast a couple of times a year. There’s no question in my mind that beef rib is the tastiest choice – the texture of the meat, the marbling of fat through the meat, contributing to its superb flavour. But yes, this is an expensive joint. Cooking for two, I often buy a boned and rolled rib, but if cooking for more, bone in is gorgeous.

Topside and silverside are two very common roasting joints. Usually significantly less than half the price per kilo of rib joints, this makes them very popular, and a decade ago these were the joints Pete I usually bought; we took supermarkets on their word that these cuts were great for roasting. Eventually we realised we were more often disappointed than happy with their taste and texture, and decided we’d rather have really fabulous roast beef once every few months than mediocre roast beef every couple of weeks.

Another cut that I think makes a fantastic roast is the picanha (aka rump cap). Picanha is the cut’s Brazilian name, by the way, and it’s a highly prized piece of beef. Here, it’s often cut and sold as steaks, but ask your butcher to sell you the rump cap in one piece and try it for your next roast.

My other choice, when there’s no rib available, is a very thick slab of sirloin. The meat counter in our local supermarket cuts sirloin steaks to your preferred thickness; instead of asking for steaks, I have them cut me one piece about 7-8 cm thick, which makes a quick two person roast (with leftovers for a tasty sandwich).

Where I don’t want to stretch budget to one of my three preferred roasting cuts, I’d rather roast a chicken or lamb, or cook a braising joint long and slow, in liquid.

I certainly recommend avoiding beef sold only as a ‘roasting joint’ without any indication of cut, like a recent example from our local supermarket, bought when the meat shelves were unusually bare. Sadly, for all the label’s fancy talk of Hereford Beef and 30 days dry aging, it was enormously disappointing.

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Fore rib of beef (bone in and boneless) and boneless sirloin

Steaks

The two front runners for choice of steak are rib eye followed by sirloin.

Rib eye is my own favourite, and our number one purchase for a perfect dinner of steak and triple cooked chips – Pete’s in charge of those and they’re super!

At home, Mat also chooses rib eye because “it has flavour, unlike most other cuts, from lots of fat”. Neil agrees. A few years ago he attended a comparison session between rib eye, fillet, rump and sirloin. He says, “Fillet is boring as, sirloin and rump are both very good, but a well marbled piece of rib-eye, cooked somewhere around medium-rare / medium so that there’s a char and all that fat is starting to melt? That’s what it’s all about.” Laura too loves a rib eye, “well marbled with a good layer of fat”, adding that it’s “the fat that provides the most flavour when it comes to a good steak”. She’s also a fan of wagyu (high quality, highly marbled Japanese beef) for the same reason.

Sirloin is the steak of choice for Sally, as it offers “the perfect balance of fat to meat ratio for a fat-averse family”. She also buys 3 kilo whole sirloins for the barbecue. I don’t find it as flavoursome as rib eye but if you can find a longer aged piece, that helps.

What about other cuts?

Steaks from the rump are usually very good, though I’d recommend seeking out the newer cuts Martin describes above, where the three rump muscles are separated and then cut into steaks individually.

Kathryn reckons that “ribeye and rump give you quite a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ particularly when it comes to flavour”. She also finds rump “is a bit more forgiving when it comes to timings and you can cook it for a little longer and it doesn’t get ruined”.

Incidentally, when it comes to cooking any of the fattier steaks (such as rib eye) I recommend taking them to medium rare (or even medium if that’s your preference) rather than rare; this allows the fat within the meat to melt and the larger pieces of fat to brown.

Flat iron, another cut that I talked to Martin about, is another tasty and somewhat more affordable choice, though I rarely see it in supermarkets; a butcher is your best bet. It’s cut from feather blade piece but divided into two to remove the central gristle, which leaves two long thin pieces that can be portioned into three or four steaks.

If you’ve ever travelled to France you’ll be familiar with onglet and bavette, two popular cuts served in restaurants across the country. Karen (who spends much of her time in France) loves rump for flavour but in France she’ll usually opt for bavette, which offers flavour at a great price. So what are onglet and bavette in UK terminology? Onglet is known here as hanger, skirt or butcher’s steak, cut from the plate (diaphragm) area and with a really deep flavour. Bavette is flank steak, taken from just behind the onglet and is also dense and well flavoured. Both are best cooked fast on a very hot griddle, medium rare to rare. Overcooking these can result in dry or tough steaks.

Flat iron, onglet/skirt and bavette/flank are also great choices for marinating before cooking.

Fillet is known as the most tender cut, but it has very little fat and lacks the flavour of the other cuts; I would never choose it myself. (For American readers, this cut is what you guys call tenderloin).

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Skirt (onglet) steak

 

Buying British

Perhaps it’s a function of who I asked, but everyone I spoke to makes an effort to seek out British beef and lamb.

Mat, being a kiwi, has an excuse for choosing New Zealand lamb, though he also points out that British lamb is sold in early spring when it’s not had much time running around in fields and is too young to have developed enough flavour. When it comes to beef, he buys British. For his restaurant he buys from a butcher or wholesaler, for home it’s a split between butcher and supermarket. He says he’d “rather spend a little more for quality and have less quantity”, echoing my own thoughts on enjoying a fabulous beef rib roast every now and again rather than an inferior roast every fortnight.

Karen buys British when she’s in the UK and French or New Zealand when in France, preferring organic, locally sourced meat with a known provenance.

Neil explains that although he’s “been known to happily devour USDA steaks at Goodman”, when cooking at home, he buys British, noting that “we produce some of the finest meat in the world; the fall out of the BSE problem and Foot & Mouth has been a massive improvement in farming standards and improved labelling”.

Laura has been to visit two animals farms (something I’ve also done) and believes “our meat is of a high standard”. She buys organic or Freedom foods meat, keeping an eye out for special offers which she stores in the freezer.

Alicia always seeks out British, and if there’s none available, she doesn’t buy. She says that although “Rayner makes a compelling case for New Zealand lamb, for [her] it isn’t about the food miles so much as supporting British farmers and creating food that has a sense of the place we live in”. She doesn’t “understand steak houses that open here making a virtue of the fact that they use American beef – the British beef I have had is the best I have had anywhere”.

While Matt may not yet have much knowledge of cuts, he does “pretty much avoid buying non-British”. As he hates the “overall big supermarket experience” he buys most of his meat from local independent butchers, which he has within walking distance. When “it’s a choice between rubbish ‘local’ supermarkets who aren’t good for meat, or fabulous, friendly independent butchers who really know what they’re doing, it’s no surprise I end up in the butchers”.

 

Contributors

Alicia Fourie foodycat.blogspot.co.uk
Helen Best-Shaw fussfreeflavours.com
Karen Burns-Booth lavenderandlovage.com
Kathryn londonbakes.com
Laura Scott howtocookgoodfood.co.uk
Mat Follas matfollas.com
Matt Gibson gothick.org.uk
Neil Davey nrdavey.co.uk
Sally Prosser mycustardpie.com

With thanks to Quality Standard Beef & Lamb for arranging a private masterclass with Martin Eccles and giving us some delicious British beef and lamb to take home. Further information about British beef (and lamb), including quality assurance, nutrition, cuts and carving advice can be found at the Simply Lamb & Beef website. Additional images courtesy of Quality Standard Mark and Shutterstock.

 

There’s no denying that I love going out to eat. But I’m also very partial indeed to a really good takeaway – whether we dine at the table or slob out in front of the TV, having great food delivered from local restaurants is a wonderful indulgence. For the last couple of years, we’ve happily foregone the frantic search for a takeaway menu, not to mention the irritation of dishes and prices being out of date, by ordering online via JUST EAT. Being able to pay by card is a boon too.

Tried & Tasted 2012-2015 consistency logo

One of JUST EAT’s regular campaigns is their Tried & Tasted award scheme – customers across the country feed back on their favourite local takeaways via the website’s reviews and ratings scheme and JUST EAT give awards based on the ratings. In order to ensure both consistency and quality, JUST EAT stipulate that winning restaurants must have more than 100 online reviews with an average rating of 4.5 or above. This year, on top of awarding Tried & Tasted status to over 1000 restaurants, there is a new Consistency award that recognises the nation’s top 20 from those establishments that have achieved Tried & Tasted for 4 years in a row.

The 2015 Tried & Tasted results are now out and I can’t wait to see which of my local favourites have been recognised by fellow customers.

 JE logo

COMPETITION

JUST EAT UK are offering one reader of Kavey Eats a £50 credit voucher to spend on their website.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me the name of your favourite Just Eat local takeaway and why you love it.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey and @JustEatUK on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I love a top notch takeaway so I’m entering Kavey Eats’ @JustEatUK Tried & Tasted comp to win £50 voucher http://bit.ly/KEjusteat #KEJustEat
(Do not add the @Kavey twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Saturday 14 March 2015.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries (across blog and twitter) using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a £50 voucher to be used on JUST EAT UK.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by JUST EAT UK.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @JustEatUK at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a credit voucher from JUST EAT UK.

Feb 212015
 

I love udon noodles! There’s something utterly compelling to me about these thick, white and slightly chewy Japanese noodles that other noodles just don’t match, though I’m a fan of pasta in pretty much all its forms. Recently launched restaurant Den describe themselves as udon evangelists’’ and their menu is suitably udon-heavy.

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In King’s Cross, but quite a walk from the station, I suspect the location will most appeal to those who live or work in the area. For me, it’s actually quicker to travel a few extra stops into Central London, where most places are nearer to the nearest tube station – particularly appealing with it’s dark and cold or wet. The restaurant sits in a former pub, and the conversion is stark and modern, attractive though a little bare, perhaps.

The sleek communal tables will no doubt enable more diners to share the space when busy, but bench seating isn’t particularly comfortable. Then again, Den seems a short visit pit stop rather than a settle-in-for-the-evening kind of restaurant.

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I visited on a really, really, really cold day so immediately asked which teas are available to warm myself up.

I enjoy a range of Japanese teas so I was a little disappointed that only a single option is available – Japanese green tea (£2). I’d have liked to choose from genmaicha, sencha/ gyokuro, houjicha and so on. Although the glass is very pretty, serving a very hot drink in such a thin glass makes it difficult to pick up until it’s cooled down a fair bit (unless you have asbesthos hands, which I sadly do not possess); I’d rather drink it when it’s hotter. And the glass doesn’t insulate its contents well so the tea is quickly too cool to enjoy. A ceramic cup would be better.

We (and other) guests were served a complimentary snack of deep-fried udon noodles, labelled as udon pretzels on the menu. These, as anyone who’s deep fried spaghetti can attest – what? it’s good! – were delicious.

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Red wine stewed pork belly (£6) was my friend’s favourite tsumami (small plate). It’s long-braised and full of flavour. I liked it a lot, though oddly the meat wasn’t as tender as I expected, given that the fat had certainly become melt-in-the-mouth soft.

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My favourite tsumami was seasonal vegetables in sesame sauce (£4.50) which, on the day of our visit, included beetroot, mange tout and green beans. These were an excellent combination of flavours and textures and the dressing, though not visually attractive, was delicious.

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Crispy mackerel (£6) was sadly not crispy at all, not even a little bit. Soggy and slightly mushy, this dish was left uneaten on the table.

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At this point, we had sufficiently warmed up that we were ready for a drink. Director, Cristoforo Santini (formerly at Matsuri St James) suggested the Nigori crème de sake (£5). Oh, this was marvellous, we both loved it! Unlike the more common clear sakes I’m used to, this one is unfiltered and thicker in texture. It’s also a touch sweeter, still with that wonderful distinctive sake flavour.

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When it comes to the main affair, the focus is – of course – on udon. The menu divides into hot noodles in hot soup, hot noodles without soup and cold noodles with dipping sauce. For many of the hot soups, diners have a choice between black and white broth (with vegetarian versions also available). The non-vegetarian broths are both dashi – an infusion of katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and konbu (seaweed) with either a little soy (white broth) or a bigger dose of dark soy added. The vegetarian versions replace katsuobushi with mushrooms for the infusion. For some of the dishes, only a white broth is recommended, to better balance with the chosen toppings.

We shared salmon miso and chinese cabbage (£9), which was full of beautifully made udon noodles, soft salmon, cabbage still with a little crunch and lots of mizuna leaves (aka Japanese mustard).

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Our other choice was a bowl of den Carbonara (£8), hot udon noodles topped with egg, katuobushi and nori. I couldn’t really detect the egg (I assumed it would be beaten and tossed through the noodles) but the simple flavours of katuobushi and nori worked well, with an added sprinkle of shichimi powder. And of course, this dish is a great way to really showcase the udon noodles, made in house.

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Diners can also order from a short selection of donburi (rice bowls topped with various items) and there are also extra condiments, or toppings, available including crispy tempura batter (£0.5), natto (£1.5) and ume (£2). I didn’t spot the natto, but would definitely order it next time – the pungent sticky fermented soy beans pack such a punch of flavour.

There are no sweet options, not even a cleansing yuzu sorbet or matcha ice cream – the stalwart endgame of so many UK Japanese restaurants, and that’s a little disappointing. We are offered a fresh fruit plate (not listed on the menu) but decline. Perhaps a future iteration of the menu will introduce some dishes for the sweet toothed?

If you’re a fan of udon noodles, Den is a great place to enjoy them, though the location may prove off-putting to some – certainly it makes me less likely to drop by regularly, during the winter months.

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Den Udon.

Den on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Have you heard of supertasters? To my eternal regret, I have, because I’m one of them.

The label makes being a supertaster sound exciting, suggestive of a superior palate. The truth of the matter is that a supertaster is simply someone who “experiences the sense of taste with far greater intensity than average”. Yes, that does mean a supertaster can detect hints of flavours that others may miss. A key identifier is an increased sensitivity to bitter flavours in particular; it’s usual for supertasters to dislike bitter foods and drinks.

A Guardian article about supertasters last year shares a wonderful quote from John Hayes, professor of food science at Penn State University, who says of supertasterdom, “It’s not a superpower, you don’t get a cape and it doesn’t make you better than other people.”

I first came across the term several years ago, and immediately wondered if I might be a supertaster; I’ve always had a very strong aversion to virtually every food and drink commonly listed as items that a supertaster dislikes – grapefruit, carbonated water, several of the brassica family, many alcoholic beverages such as hoppy beer and dry wine. When we were little, my younger sister occasionally amused herself by merrily sucking on wedges of lemon; it made me wince just to watch!

The increased sensitivity to other tastes and textures (sweet, salty, umami, fatty) is less problematic. While I am known to have a sweet tooth, for me it’s very much about flavour – too much sugar blows out the other tastes, so I prefer fruity dark chocolate to cheap sugary milk chocolate, for example. I generally love creamy, fatty textures and the flavours that come with them. I like salty things but it’s all about balance; although salt is known to boost flavour it helps counter bitterness as well so I like it well enough but too much of it overwhelms the rest of the dish. Some chefs add so much salt to their food I wonder if they can taste it at all.

Embarrassingly for an Indian, I cannot tolerate heavy-handed use of hot chilli – it makes my tongue burn so much I can’t taste anything else at all. And the pain isn’t pleasant either. Chilli sensitivity is a pain in the arse, but I manage to cope with a low to medium level so I’m not totally limited to baby food!

Incidentally, children are usually supertasters and share an aversion to bitterness that most grow out of, so when they tell you they don’t like Brussels sprouts, they may not be lying!

Coffee is commonly cited as an ingredient that we supertasters tend to avoid and yet I drink gallons of it. But I always choose the least bitter instant coffee available; very, very light roasts with fruity rather than bitter notes, and always  drink coffee with plenty of milk or cream and a frankly ridiculous amount of sugar (or dulce de leche in place of both). Coffee ice cream is one of my favourite things. Strong, dark, bitter coffee – as enjoyed by coffee aficionados – is a complete no-no for me; it’s far, far, far too bitter.

You might be wondering what causes this supertaster condition?

Current theory holds that the presence of a gene called TAS238 is involved, which seems to govern the ability to detect bitterness (usually tested via reactions to propylthiouracil) plus a higher than usual density of fungiform papillae taste buds on the tongue. Being a supertaster to some extent is not that uncommon – I’ve seen articles suggesting it’s as high as one in four. But the level of sensitivity varies and many supertasters are only mildly so.

It’s thought that this gene could be an evolutionary remnant; since many toxins are bitter, a natural aversion to bitterness would have steered our ancestors away from potentially unsafe foods.

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Back in early December, Pete and I were invited to a food and beer matching event by Leffe. I don’t usually enjoy beer (the bitterness from the hops being the problem) but I have found the occasional lightly-hopped fruit beer palatable. Pete, of course, loves his beers.

To make the evening more of an experience, Leffe invited along The Robin Collective, a company that runs lively events for brands interested in exploring taste in a fun and light-hearted way.

As we sat down around the table, they handed out some tiny plastic bags of mysterious white powder, a pink pill and a tiny square of white paper. There were a few raised eyebrows!

With no idea what it was, we were asked to place the little square of white paper onto our tongues. Immediately, I grimaced with disgust at the intensely bitter taste flooding my mouth and asked if I could please spit it out. To my surprise, nearly everyone else looked at me in surprised disbelief, stating that the square tasted of absolutely nothing, or for a couple of them, very mildy bitter at most.

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At this point, The Robin Collective revealed that the paper was a supertaster test (soaked in phenylthiocarbamide, which functions similarly to propylthiouracil). I was clearly towards the stronger end of the scale. The blue dye they asked us put onto our tongues next (commonly used to aid the visual identification and counting of taste buds) was a bust – the room was simply too dark to see, let alone count taste buds. It just looked as though we’d all eaten blue slushies! The white powder  was sodium benzoate, another molecule which supertasters are more sensitive to, and can detect more flavours from.

After this, we moved on to our meal, matching courses with different Leffe beers, including Leffe’s new-to-UK Ruby, a pretty rosé beer featuring red fruits of the forest along with their blonde, brown and nectar (honey) beers.

At the end of the meal, The Robin Collective also had us experiment with miracle berry, a fruit which naturally interferes with taste receptors such that your perception of sour ingredients is that they are sweet. We chewed on the pink pills before proving the effect by sucking on a plate of lemon wedges, which tasted wonderfully sweet.

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The beers were introduced by the very knowledgeable, charmingly enthusiastic and excitable Luke Morris, who has worked with many beer brands including Leffe. He told us about each beer, discussed the best food matches and guided us through our tasting.

As expected, different beers worked better or worse with different dishes.

Sometimes it’s a case of echoing the dominant flavour profiles in the dish with flavours also in the beer. Sometimes it’s better to contrast the beer and food. Either way, a great match can really make the food on the plate sing and likewise certain foods do a super job of bringing out different aspects of the beer.

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Of the four beers we tried during the evening, my favourite was the fruity ruby – drinking it with the food helped to lessen the light bitterness and bring out the fruity flavours. Pete was keener on the brown beer, with the blonde in second place. For him the sweetness of the nectar and ruby beers was less appealing.

Kavey Eats attended this beer and food matching event as guests of Leffe.

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