Monday, 29 September 2014

Crossmodal sensory perception

In a recent post I wrote about a beer tasting session with Pete Brown at the Green Man Festival, in which he talked about how the music we hear may influence our perception of flavour. In the UK, much of the influential research in this area comes from the Crossmodal Research Laboratory in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.

The Laboratory was founded in 1997 and the team there study the integration of information across the different sensory modalities (hearing, vision, touch, taste, and smell). This is an area of research that is changing the way we view our senses. Traditionally, vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste have been studied in isolation. However, recent research has shown sensory processing within a single sense is modulated by information from the other senses.

One area of interest to the Oxford laboratory is how our understanding of multisensory perception can be used by the food industry to improve the perception of foods and drinks. Professor Charles Spence, who heads the Crossmodal Research Laboratory, was interviewed for a recent Guardian article by Amy Fleming (link below). She notes that much of the lab’s work is funded by Unilever, while Prof Spence sits on the scientific advisory board of PepsiCo.

Therefore, this is an area of research that people should be aware of, in order to make informed purchasing decisions. For example, it has been found that ‘crunchy’ correlates with fresh, so food manufactures are making crisps and so forth that sound crunchy even though they are not so fresh. The information also informs product design and marketing. More beneficially (for us), food manufacturers are using crossmodal perception research findings to gradually reduce the salt and sugar content of foods (to meet Government guidelines). One of the early results of crossmodal perception, for instance, was that product colour affects perceptions of flavour and sweetness.

Charles Spence has written a book with his colleague Betina Piqueras-Fiszman called ‘The Perfect Meal’ (published next week in the UK), which presents the laboratory's recent findings on crossmodal perception for general readers. It is structured around the dining experience in a restaurant. It looks at the factors that influence flavour perception, including visual, tactile, cognitive and aural stimuli. For example, the subtle effects of the colour of the plates, the shape of the glass, the names of dishes, and the background music. So, for instance, whisky tastes better in a “woody” room, while food plated to resemble a work of art tastes better than when it is indifferently put on a plate.

A signature dish for crossmodal perception is the ‘Sound of the Sea’ served at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant. This seafood and fish dish plays on taste, aroma, sound and the overall nostalgic experience of the seaside. It is served with an iPod (inside a conch shell from which headphones emerge) playing seaside sounds, specifically waves crashing on a beach. The flat glass plate on which the food is served is placed on top of a rectangular box containing a bed of sand, while edible sand (made from tapioca), pieces of edible seaweed, and a wave of salty sea foam (vegetable and seaweed broth) surround the fish and seafood. Charles Spence collaborated with Heston Blumenthal on the creation of this dish, which is based on work concerning sound and flavour done in the Oxford laboratory.

So, if your waiter comes across all Derren Brown, there may be crossmodal perception at play. When it comes to food advertising, packaging and the perception of processed food products, however, you (the consumer) are not supposed to be aware of the psychology being applied. So, now is a good time to read up on what’s being cooked up in the lab (links below).

For instance, a recent paper from the laboratory found that the perception of green, yellow, and orange drinks was influenced by the shape of the glass in which the drink was presented, and the authors advised that for advertising and product packaging the appropriateness of the glassware be carefully considered. Another paper confirmed that fruit juices were considered 'sweet and low in sourness' were consistently matched with rounder shapes and speech sounds, and lower-pitched sounds, and were generally liked more; meanwhile, those juices that were rated as tasting 'sour' were consistently matched with angular shapes, sharper speech sounds, and sounds with a higher pitch, and were liked less.

The Oxford team have also found that the sounds of a food product’s name are generally associated with both sensory and conceptual attributes. This forms part of a wider area of study, looking at how retail spaces can provide non-verbal cues to improve sales.

Further reading:

Pete Brown on beer and music
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/green-man-2014-welsh-beer.html

Crossmodal Research Laboratory, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford
http://www.psy.ox.ac.uk/research/crossmodal-research-laboratory

‘Charles Spence: The food scientist changing the way we eat’, by Amy Fleming
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/24/charles-spence-food-scientist-changing-eat-flavour

Make your own 'Sound of the Sea'
http://www.umamiinfo.com/2011/03/expert-recipe---the-sound-of-the-sea.php

‘Beverage perception and consumption: The influence of the container on the perception of the contents.’ Wan and Spence, 2015 (in press). Food Quality and Preference 39: 131-140.

‘Do you say it like you eat it? The sound symbolism of food names and its role in the multisensory product experience.’ Favalli et al., 2013. Food Research International 54: 760-791.

‘Retail atmospherics and in-store non-verbal cues: an introduction.’ Grewel et al., 2014. Psychology and Marketing 31: 469-471.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Queen Street, Cardiff

On this walking tour of Cardiff, I previously left you outside the Old Library building at the top of The Hayes. Walk north up St John’s Street, and with the corner of Cardiff castle opposite, turn right into pedestrianized Queen Street / Heol y Frenhines. This is one of Cardiff’s busiest shopping streets.


If you tell people about the interesting buildings along Queen Street you might get a funny look. That’s because at street level it looks like any other pedestrianised high street in the UK, with the generic shop fronts of familiar UK-wide chains. Therefore, I have pointed the camera toward the street art and the upper parts of buildings to capture the more Cardiff-specific parts of Queen Street.

On the near corner:

Spar
2 Queen Street CF10 2BU
Cornershop convenience store (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. April 2012).


At the entrance to Queen Street is the statue of Aneurin "Nye" Bevan, founder of the National Health Service (link to an account of his life below).  The statue was made by Robert Thomas in 1987, who was subsequently commissioned to do a series of sculptures along Queen Street.

Across the road, and one the other corner:

Pizza Hut
3a Queen Street CF10 2AF
Basement dining (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. June 2013).

Back on the other (south) side of the street:

There used to be a plaque commemorating Robert Drane (who once owned a Chemist shop here) on the wall where Thomas Cook is now. This was bronze plaque originally, but was replaced by a slate plaque put up by Cardiff Naturalists’ Society in July 2000. It is no longer there. I would welcome any information regarding the whereabouts of this plaque.

Opposite:

There is a slate plaque on the north side of Queen Street (no 11) commemorating Eric L Dutton MBE, and the community work he did in the city, which was unveiled in July 2002.


Poundland
13 Queen Street CF10 2AQ
Founded in the early 1990s, this is the original chain of £1 discount stores. Poundland has around 520 shops in the UK, and in the wake of Woolworths demise, it and its many £1 shop competitors have expanded rapidly to colonise every high street. Food producers make special sizes so Poundland can sell them for £1. For example, Walkers crisps sell in multiples of 6 or 12 in mainstream supermarkets, but Poundland sells five-packs. Rather than keep quoting from the recent excellent article in New Statesman, I have given a link to it below (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2014).

Opposite:

McDonalds
12-14 Queen Street CF10 2BU
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. May 2014).

NoodleStop
20-22 Queen Street CF10 2BU
This used to be called Chopstix Noodle Bar. Like Chopstix, it serves stir-fry oriental food in waxed boxes. You can eat in on two dining levels (“over 100 seats”) or take-away (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. May 2013).


Opposite the Queens Street Arcade entrance:

Little Waitrose
15 Queen Street CF10 2AQ
Convenience store and one of several examples in central Cardiff illustrating how the major supermarkets are moving back onto city centre high streets (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2012).


Pillars
29 Queen Street CF10 2PB (2039 5074)
Pillars Restaurant and Coffee Shop is a Cardiff institution. The kids taken by their mothers here during shopping breaks are now here with their own children. British food, from buffet-style serving counters. Breakfasts, cold selection, hot selection, vegetarian and children’s menu. Hot selection includes roast chicken, casserole, curry, and fish and chips Good-value food in large portions (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Feb 2013).


At the entrance to the Dominions Arcade, look inside. Of the several food businesses operating in the arcade in recent years, only one remains:

Sandwiched in the City
2 Dominions Arcade CF10 2AR
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. June 2013).

Opposite on the south side of Queen Street:

Starbucks
46-48 Queen Street CF10 2GQ
Just down the pedestrian cul-de-sac of Frederick Street / Heol Frederic:

Greggs
3 Frederick Street CF10 2DB
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Dec 2011).

Continue along Queen Street:

British Home Stores
50-54 Queen Street CF10 2AF
(Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Feb 2012).


On your right is the entrance to St David’s shopping centre (a previous location on the walking tour. Opposite the entrance to St David’s is Ann Summers (51 Queen Street).

Boots
36-38 Queen Street CF10 2RG
Boots the Chemist has increased the space it gives over to ‘meal deals, and other lunchtime food and drink options in recent years (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Oct 2010).


Marks and Spencer
72-76 Queen Street CF10 2XG
Café and Coffee Shop at front on first floor, visible within the modern glass extension (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Nov 2011) and Food to Go on the ground floor (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. March 2013).

As you walk down Queen Street, you will encounter other sculptures by Robert Thomas (1926-1999), including Mother and Son, The Miner and (just around the corner in Churchill Place) The Family. There are information boards near these, if you wish to find out more.


At the corner with Charles Street:

Burger King
78 Queen Street CF10 2GR
"Seats 120 upstairs" (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Feb 2013).

Across Queen Street is the start of Park Place, which we will explore later. Then:

Thorntons Chocolates
91 Queen Street CF10 2BG

Churchill Way is off to the right here.

The short-lived New York Milkshakes was here on the north side (105-107 Queen Street CF10 2BG) late summer 2012 for about a year.

Chef’s Choice
109 Queen Street CF10 2BH
A stall selling fresh fruit in the entrance to the alley (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Feb 2014).


Starbucks
125 Queen Street CF10 2BJ (2037 3622)
The largest of the Starbucks on Queen Street, with outdoor seating (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Feb 2014).


KFC
127 Queen Street CF10 2BJ
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. May 2012).

Sainsbury’s
129 Queen Street CF10 2BJ
One of the older supermarket located in the city centre - it never left (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013).


Opposite:

The Capitol Centre (CF10 2HQ) on the final south block of Queen Street opened in 1990. It’s owned by the Moorfield Group. Fashion stores have been the mainstay, with H&M anchoring. A Virgin Megastore used to be prominent in the building’s prow, and this is now an Easygym.

Food-related businesses in The Capitol Centre:

Tesco Metro

Caffe Nero
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2012)

The Gourmet Spaniard
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. July 2013).

Soho Coffee Co

Pret a Manger
(Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2013).

Boots

Café Caribe
This café on the first floor is currently promoting ‘superfood’ smoothies and juices, with ingredients including spirula algae, almond milk, goji berries, beetroot and South American maca root, to entice health-conscious people coming out of the Easygym (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013).

The Capitol Centre went through a period of decline, with competition from the extended St Davids Centre, but has been revitalised over the past couple of years with the opening of a Tesco Metro, the arrival of more coffeehouses and the announcement just this week of the reopening of the original cinema that closed in 2001 (see link below).

I’ll see you outside the front door next time.

See also:

Aneurin Bevan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneurin_Bevan

‘In for a pound’ by Sophie McBain. New Statesman 23-29 May 2014
http://www.newstatesman.com/business/2014/05/quids-how-poundland-conquered-british-high-street

Cinema to reopen in Capitol Centre
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/lights-camera-action-1m-refit-7784833

Previously, on the Walking Tour of Cardiff:

The Hayes
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-hayes-cardiff.html

St David’s 3
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/st-davids-3-cardiff.html

St David’s 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/st-davids-2-cardiff.html

St David’s 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/st-davids-1-cardiff.html

Queen Street Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/queens-arcade-cardiff.html

Duke Street Arcade and Duke Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/duke-street-arcade-duke-street-cardiff.html

High Street Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/high-street-arcade-cardiff.html

Church Street and St John’s Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/church-street-and-st-johns-street.html

Cardiff Market
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/cardiff-market.html

Wharton Street and Trinity Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/wharton-street-and-trinity-street.html

Morgan Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/morgan-arcade-cardiff.html

Royal Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/royal-arcade-cardiff.html

The Hayes
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-hayes-cardiff.html

The Old Brewery Quarter
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-old-brewery-quarter-cardiff.html

Caroline Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/caroline-street-cardiff.html

Mill Lane and Wyndham Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/mill-lane-and-wyndham-arcade-cardiff.html

St Mary Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/st-mary-street-cardiff.html

High Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/high-street-cardiff.html

Castle Arcade and Castle Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/castle-arcade-and-castle-street-cardiff.html

Womanby Street and Quay Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/womanby-street-and-quay-street-cardiff.html

Westgate Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/westgate-street-cardiff.html

Riverside
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/riverside-cardiff.html

Cathedral Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/cathedral-road-cardiff.html

Pontcanna 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/pontcanna-2.html

Pontcanna 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/pontcanna-1-we-are-leaving-canton.html

North Canton
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/north-canton.html

Cowbridge Road East 3
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-3-llandaff-road-to.html

Cowbridge Road East 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-2-wyndham-crescent.html

Cowbridge Road East 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-1-cathedral-road-to.html

Bute Park
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bute-park-cardiff.html

Cathays Park
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/cathays-park-cardiff.html

Cathays Terrace
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/cathays-terrace-cardiff.html

Salisbury Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/salisbury-road-cardiff.html

Woodville Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/woodville-road-cardiff.html

Crwys Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/crwys-road-cardiff.html

Wellfield Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/wellfield-road-cardiff.html

Albany Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/albany-road-cardiff.html

City Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/city-road-cardiff.html

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Green Man 2014: The Welsh Beer

The Green Man Festival does not invite commercial sponsorship. From this decision, much that is good follows. There is little in-your-face commercial branding, for instance, and the bars are not obliged to sell just sponsor’s beers  – as happens at festivals sometimes (wrongly) considered to be equivalent to Green Man. Instead, Green Man organises a Beer and Cider Festival, in The Courtyard Bar, with 99 real ales, ciders and perries from independent Welsh producers (and a few from just across the border).


Here you will find beers from a dozen innovative breweries, with distinctive brews like Artisan Brewing Co’s Baltic Porter Espresso and Smoked Lager, Great Orme Brewery’s Welsh Black and Heavy Industry’s Pigeon Toed Orange Peel, alongside traditional ales of all types.

The house beer at Green Man is Growler, available in nearly all the bars for several years now; brewed by the Wye Valley Brewery, whose Butty Bach is also popular in these parts.


The Babbling Tongues programme got underway on Friday lunchtime with Pete Brown, who has been voted Beer Writer of the Year on more than one occasion by the British Guild of Beer Writers. In his talk, he light-heartedly matched some of the 99 beers and ciders with bands playing at the festival, while introducing some scientific thinking about how music might alter our perception of flavour. He did a version of this talk at last year’s festival, but on Sunday afternoon when most of the beers he wanted to mention had run out. This early slot ensured most of the audience got to sample the six drinks, while listening to selected tracks from festival bands.

Pete started by noting the long relationship between beer and music, with pubs from the 1840s incorporating stages. Some of these venues became so popular that the stages were expanded and music hall was born. Through to the present day, countless singer-songwriters and bands have started out playing pubs.

Artisan Brewery Co’s Bavarian Wheat beer was matched with (Fisherman’s Blues era) The Waterboys (folky); Great Orme Brewery’s Celtica was teamed with First Aid Kit (summery); Williams Brother’s Splanky cider was tasted while we listed to some early Mercury Rev (acidic sharpness); and Waen Brewery’s Chilli Plum Porter (“dark fruit, rich toasty flavours with green chilli tingle”) was matched with Anna Calvi.

A key point was the difference between taste and flavour. Taste is fairly basic, with the interplay of sweet, salty, bitter and sour, to which umami can be added. However, flavour is far more complex and subjective, with aroma playing a major part. In fact, the smell before ingesting and retronasal olfaction (odour molecules using a back entrance from the mouth to the nose) are crucial for the perception of flavour. It is flavour that can be influenced by environmental factors, including music.

Cognitive priming is a non-conscious form of human memory concerned with perception. Particular sounds, for example, can prime us to perceive flavour slightly differently. Pete Brown quoted research that demonstrated people giving a higher rating to wine if classical music was playing. The differences in perception can be surprisingly large in these experiments. Furthermore, the same vocabulary can be used to describe flavour and music (e.g. sharp, rough, smooth, jazzy etc). The type of music we are listening to therefore may alter our perception of the beer we are drinking.

Other scientific findings may also have a bearing on our perception of beer in different environments. Cross-modal perception involves interactions between two or more different sensory modalities. The shape and colour we see matter, for instance; people find food sweeter on round plates and fizzy soft drinks sweeter if more red colouring is added. In terms of beer, this has relevance to the straight glass vs tankard debate, for example, and to beers with distinctive hues.

Ambitiously, Pete tried to "blind test" us with two beers and two styles of music. Two tracks by Toy, one angular electronica and the other much more melodious, were tasted with what we later learned were Heavy Industry’s Nos Smoked Porter and a contrasting brew from Great Orme Brewery. The test was inconclusive, but thought-provoking.

Pete Brown even suggested the prospect of ‘beer and music terroire’, comparing the brews (e.g. Old Tom) and music (e.g. Joy Division) of Barnsley, for example, as indicative of the character of the town at a particular time.

How do you attempt to sample 99 real ales and cider over a weekend? My approach is to focus on one brewery at a time. This year, apart from the Growler, it was Brecon Brewing offerings, with Jazzy Beacons (“unofficial beer of the Brecon Jazz Festival”), Welsh Beacons (golden-hued Welsh Pale Ale), Three Beacons (CAMRA’s Champion Bitter of Wales 2014), Red Beacons  (red-hued IPA) and, in particular, Orange Beacons (a wheat-style beer brewed with fresh oranges that was awarded People’s Choice at Green Man 2013). Next year, another brewery!

Pete Brown’s lively beer and cider blog (from where you can also purchase his books):
http://petebrown.blogspot.co.uk/

My review of the music at Green Man 2014 for newsoundswales:
http://www.newsoundwales.com/live-review/green-man-festival-2014/

Green Man 2014: The Food
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/green-man-2014-food.html

See also:
Green Man 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/green-man-festival-2013_20.html

Green Man 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/festival-food-green-man-2012.html

Green Man 2011
http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/uncategorized/green-man-2011-festival-review/

http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/green-man-good-food.html

Friday, 22 August 2014

Green Man 2014: The Food

Most reviews of festivals like Glastonbury, Latitude or WOMAD focus exclusively on the music. However, the best British festivals offer far more than just music. The Green Man Festival this year, for instance, offered cult cinema, comedy, literature talks, theatre, circus and more. Moreover, the choice of food and drink at festivals is turning them into something approaching local food festivals. It’s all a long way from the limited burger-based diet at festivals a couple of decades ago. This post looks at what food was available to visitors to Green Man 2014.


Approaching the main site near the main (Mountain) stage, you will encounter the volunteer-run Green Man Trust Café selling hot drinks, bacon and sausage rolls with profits benefitting local organizations and projects. The meat is made from animals that roam the Glanusk Estate – the site of the Green Man Festival. Also in this area, the Ethical Chef (the Carmarthenshire vegetarian chef Deri Reed) was making his first Green Man appearance, fresh from winning the People’s Choice and a Sustainable Green Traders Awards at this year’s Glastonbury Festival; his award-winning chilli was served here. Also, in this area, you can visit the fresh fruit and smoothies stall, maple-smoked pulled pork stall (also ribs, frankfurters etc.) and a Vegan and Vegetarian food outlet by the steps over the wall into the main arena.

On entering the site near the Mountain Stage the first food stands you encounter are Soup-a-Juice (say it out loud), Hall’s Dorset Smokery (see link below) and Pasta Pizza; all fairly self-explanatory. Next to these is The Mountain Bar. Up the steps, through the terraces looking down on the main stage, you will some of Green Man’s most popular regular food outlets.

At La Grande Bouffe (or The Big Nosh) this year I had the excellent tartiflette (cheese/cream potatoes) topped by a French sausage with white wine gravy, all cooked in their large pans. We also purchased some tasty food next door at Pura Vida Mexican Vegetarian Restaurant: enchilada and burrito, in its second year at Green Man. Also returning for a second year was Mac’n’Cheese, bringing southern US-style street food to the Mountain’s Foot area.


Shepherd’s offered its usual wide range of Welsh ice cream flavours, though the queues were not as long as during last year’s hotter and drier Green Man weather. Moving along the top terrace, the Chai Shop Organic tent, with its carpets and low tables, again had one of the best ambiences for sitting down and eating; not for the first time, I had some of their handmade falafels. Newcomer Harefield’s Bakery and Roast, with its London street-front façade, offered British carvery baguettes and roast dinners; it’s owned by Davey Chambers, a previous Great British Bake-off contestant. Next door, Joho Soho, operated by the Cinnamon Kitchen, was specialising in slow-roasted lamb and other Indian dishes. The ever-popular Jamon Jamon again offered Valencian and Seafood paellas, and like many stands also did a good line in breakfasts (my best meal of last year’s festival was bought here – see link below).


Across the way, at the top of the hill by the house, is The Table Top, a pop-up Welsh Coffee Co outlet, making its first appearance at Green Man. Walking towards The Courtyard, there are some notable regulars on your left. Poco is a café operated by Bristol-based eco-chef Tom Hunt; with fish grilled outside the tent. Here you have a choice from a distinctive menu that includes mackerel wraps, halloumi, kebabs and salads, with an emphasis on Moroccan cuisine. Next door is the Pieminister van. My Pieminister pie this year was The Free Ranger. Meat was to the fore at the Taste of Wales van, with burgers and breakfasts among the offerings.

Turning into The courtyard, first up is Superstew, with simmering pans of good-looking spicy stews. There also a Coffee and Donut van, before the bar selling 99 Welsh beers and ciders (later).

The Walled Garden, where you can find the Green Man Pub and Walled Garden stage, hosted a good mix of food outlets. First up was the Grilled Cheese Sandwich stall operated by London’s Morty and Bob. Next door was the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company, specialising in lobster, crab and freshly-made flatbreads. I had a cockle and bacon flatbread with laverbread, a pleasingly different and substantial beach food. The Roaming Patisserie has roamed between different sites at Green Man over the years, but has found its perfect location here; breaking up a whole roast chicken between friends is what it’s all about. The Welsh Venison Centre, based nearby at Beacons Farm (about a mile down the road), does a great job of selling venison as the burger of choice to festival-going foodies. Beyond the Green Man Pub: The Hippy Chippy van, selling chunky chips. Also in the Walled Garden, were vans selling Shepherd’s ice cream and homemade chilled drinks.


Walking towards Babbling Tongues, you pass two of Green Man’s most popular perennial food stalls. The Goan Seafood Company ("Goan recipes, Cornish fish") I have written about previously (see below).  Moorish: North African & Arabic Souk Food supplied the best food I ate at Green Man 2012, namely spicy lamb in a deep-fried filo-pastry parcel. You expect to see queues at both of these, festival regulars know what they want.

In the Babbling Tongues area (book-related talks and comedy), The Tea Stop is a converted red double-decker bus selling breakfasts, teas and cake. The Speak-Easy Bar in this area specialises in cocktails and gin.


Walking up the hill to the Far Out zone you enter the final grouping of food outlets. French & Grace do flatbreads and salad boxes; we were impressed by vegetarian flatbreads here last year. New to us was the wonderfully-named Spanish Stew and the Wild Dogs from Monmouthshire. Chorizo stew with made from local Trealy Farm produce, but on this occasion I had a wild boar hot dog with the hot festival pickle. The silver trailer of The Flaming Cactus was parked next door, serving Mexican dishes. Next up was a vegetarian café. Barnaby Sykes Piemaker had plenty of pies for sale, from traditional steak and ale, more unusual steak and stilton, and the vegetarian spicy butter bean and mature cheddar. Manna was selling Asian street food, with Cambodian chilli pork, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken and beef Osaka tofu among the tempting dishes. The Casa Portuguesa was offering Portuguese-style BBQ, including piri piri chicken, and all-day breakfasts. Turning around the block at The End Up Bar, you will see another Pasta and Pizza outlet in the Chai Wallahs tent. Down the other side of this block, you’ll find hot grilled wraps at Wrappers' Delight, with the accompanying Smoothie Delight next door. The Grazing Shed offered “super tidy burgers”. The Seacow traded in good old-fashioned fish and chips.

I have probably missed a few stalls (apologies), but you get the picture. You can eat your way around the world, but there is a focus on local food suppliers. Early risers will have seen the vans coming in from St Mary Bakery, the dairy, butchers and other local businesses. This is a festival out to support the local economy. See you there next year – I already have an idea of what I want to eat!

My review of the music at Green Man 2014 for newsoundwales:
http://www.newsoundwales.com/live-review/green-man-festival-2014/

See also:

Green Man 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/green-man-festival-2013_20.html

Green Man 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/festival-food-green-man-2012.html

Green Man 2011
http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/uncategorized/green-man-2011-festival-review/
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/green-man-good-food.html

Hall’s Dorset Smokery
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/festival-food-halls-dorset-smokery.html

Goan Seafood Company
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/festival-food-goan-seafood-company.html

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nightingale Community Garden links with local foodbank

At an open meeting on the morning of Saturday 5 July 2014, Nightingale Community Garden officially linked up with Bethesda Foodbank in Dinas Powys. Part of the Vale Foodbank, and under the Trussell Trust umbrella, the Bethesda Foodbank opened in Sept 2012 (see link below).


Mike Groves of the Vale Foodbank talked at the meeting about the excellent work that the Vale Foodbank does in helping to feed people who suddenly find themselves without sufficient resources (e.g. due to benefit cuts) to feed themselves or their families.

This summer, gardeners are donating surplus produce from their Community Garden plots to the Foodbank. For the past couple of weeks, donated veg placed in a basket in the wooden shed at the back of the garden has been taken over to the Bethesda Chapel around midday on Wednesday.

Rob McGhee of Creative Rural Communities, who played a key role in getting the garden established, talked about the success of the Community Foodie scheme in the Vale of Glamorgan. A network of gardens in the Vale has got people growing more of their own food, while helping to bring communities together. Also in the photo above are Cllr. Keith Hatton and Elizabeth Millard, the co-founders of Nightingale Community Garden (for the full story follow the links below).

There was another good turnout for a garden meeting. Robin Harrison was again present to answer gardeners’ questions. This time, he bought along some fragrant plants – of which I took home a sage and a lemon verbena. The gathering enjoyed free tea, coffee, lemonade and biscuits.


Nightingale Community Garden, though only opened last spring, has been looking mature and productive during this hot July. I’ll let these recent photos speak for themselves.


 
 
 
See also:

Vale Foodbank opens in Dinas Powys

http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/vale-foodbank-in-dinas-powys.html

Previous posts on Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys

May 2014
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/creating-community-garden-11.html

Sept 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/creating-community-garden-10.html

June 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/creating-community-garden-9.html

April 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/creating-community-garden-8.html

March 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/creating-community-garden-7.html

Feb 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/creating-community-garden-6.html

Jan 2013
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/creating-community-garden-5.html

Oct 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/creating-community-garden-4.html

Aug 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/creating-community-garden-3.html

Feb 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/creating-community-garden-2.html

Jan 2012
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.com/2012/01/creating-community-garden.html
 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Hayes, Cardiff

We are returned to The Hayes from the end of Hills Street, on this walking tour of Cardiff; just in time for a preview night at Miller & Carter. They officially open this Friday, on the corner of Hills Street and The Hayes, in the building previously inhabited by Habitat (who went into administration in 2011). Enter the new steakhouse from Hills Street, where they have seating outside.


Miller & Carter
9-11 The Hayes CF10 1AH (2037 2344)
It’s bustling at the Tuesday preview night at Miller & Carter Steakhouse. Beef sourced in Britain is the thing here (tagline: ‘for the love of steak’) and so steak it is for us. After a slightly disappointing graze option, involving not-so-crisp home-made tortilla chips and a spinach and mozzarella dip, we are quickly won over when the main courses arrive.

I opted for a ribeye (12oz) and my partner a rump (8oz). At Miller & Carter, the steaks are served with a signature cheesy onion loaf (excellent), ‘seasoned fries’ (i.e. lots of salt) default (or jacket potato if you ask), and an iceberg lettuce wedge; we approved of this no-messing side-salad, literally a quarter of a fresh lettuce with your choice of dressing drizzled on top (bacon and honey mustard for me). In addition, there is a choice of steak sauces (me: peppercorn). Very tasty steaks, cooked medium to our taste (medium is rarer than it used to be, for those who remember Berni Inns).


Chefs at the grills serve up the meat on to plates, with wooden boards being reserved for the Chateaubriand (16oz), the most tender cut on offer, which is recommended for sharing. It’s the most expensive steak option (£43.95), but with 50% off the food bill on the night they were in demand. Options 'on-the-bone’ are T-Bone, Porterhouse and barbequed ribs.

Miller & Carter are owned by Mitchells & Butlers. This is the 34th Miller & Carter Steakhouse to open in the UK. There is already one in Cardiff:  a unit attached to the Red Dragon development in Cardiff Bay (across the car park near the Futures Inn). However, this prime city centre location puts Miller & Carter centre stage on the Cardiff dining scene.


We drank a rather nice bottle of Rioja from the ample wine list; though my partner thought they needed to work on their coffees that concluded our meal. We remember the Berni Inns of old, when the cream was expertly layered on top of the liquor coffee. Although Berni Inns (1955-1995, then sold to Whitbread and converted to Beefeaters and Brewers Fayre) were not an Mitchells & Butlers brand (though rival Harvester still is), Miller & Carter is what the British Berni Inn-style steakhouse has evolved into. We heartily approve.

Incidentally, the 1937 grade-II listed Hayes Building, which was originally home of the Electricity Board, has been sensitively redeveloped. There's a bar area, main restaurant and an upstairs mezzanine floor with a good view of the kitchen.

Eating steak is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me these days. Beef production has a major environmental impact, in terms of land use, water resources and greenhouse gases; far more so than chicken and pork production. A report published today in PNAS reinforces this. "The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat", says Prof Tim Benton of the University of Leeds, commenting on the findings in today's The Guardian. It's only occasional steaks for me these days - and those have to be good ones like they serve here!

Hayes Island
Outside, in The Hayes, can we just acknowledge the Hayes Island Snack Bar for taking over the running of the underground Victorian toilets that the Council closed; they are very convenient and of historical interest. You will shortly be able to ask them for a code to visit.

Bailey Carvery
9 -11 The Hayes CF10 1AH (2023 7755)
Part of the same recent redevelopment that has created Miller & Carter, this is the basement restaurant - entered by doors just before St David’s Hall - that was for many years La Fosse restaurant. Bailey Carvery offers breakfast buffet and an all-day carvery. Billed as ‘The Great British Carvery’, you can get traditional Sunday carvery here, every day of the week: slow-roasted beef, pork, turkey and gammon, with steamed fresh veg.

St David’s Hall
Working Street CF10 1SH (2087 8444)
Concert hall and conference centre. The main bar is on Level 3, where you can also catch some excellent Roots concerts. Food is sometimes served here, for example, at the lunchtime series of chamber music concerts. A Pimms bar is currently here for the Welsh Proms. The Art Cafe Celf on Level 4 is usually open during the day for sandwiches, coffee and cake. My next trip to St David's Hall is for some desert blues with Tinariwen from Mali – most appropriate given the current hot weather (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2012).

Opposite, in the Old Library building:

Bar 1867
Old Library, 18-19 Trinity Street CF10 1BH
When we passed on the other side of the Old Library in my recent Trinity Street post, this was called the ‘Big Blue Sports Bar’. Then, I wrote that it would most probably have changed its name again by the time we got to it.

There has been a series of food venues in this northern part of the Old Library building, since the actual library moved out. It was once ‘Que Pasa’, and more recently ‘The Exhibition’. The restaurant called ‘The Old Library’ did some notable redecoration, but was also notable for being one of the first businesses in Cardiff to be awarded a zero Food Hygiene Rating, after they were first introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2011.

Bar 1867 goes in for pub classics (meals for £6 and specials for £7.50): steak and ale pie, fish and chips, chicken curry, faggots and peas, burgers, jacket potatoes.

The Old Library building dates from 1881. The main Cardiff Library was located here between 1882 and 1988 (it is now located at the other end of The Hayes). Today, the building also houses the Tourist Information Centre and The Cardiff Story, a museum about the history of the city that is well worth a visit. The Cardiff Story has some interesting information about local food businesses (see link below).

I will meet you outside The Cardiff Story next time, for the next leg of our walk around Cardiff.

See also:
The Cardiff Story opens
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/cardiff-story.html

Previously, on the Walking Tour of Cardiff:
St David’s 3
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/st-davids-3-cardiff.html
St David’s 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/st-davids-2-cardiff.html
St David’s 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/st-davids-1-cardiff.html
Queen Street Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/queens-arcade-cardiff.html
Duke Street Arcade and Duke Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/duke-street-arcade-duke-street-cardiff.html
High Street Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/high-street-arcade-cardiff.html
Church Street and St John’s Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/church-street-and-st-johns-street.html
Cardiff Market
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/cardiff-market.html
Wharton Street and Trinity Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/wharton-street-and-trinity-street.html
Morgan Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/morgan-arcade-cardiff.html
Royal Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/royal-arcade-cardiff.html
The Hayes
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/the-hayes-cardiff.html
The Old Brewery Quarter
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-old-brewery-quarter-cardiff.html
Caroline Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/caroline-street-cardiff.html
Mill Lane and Wyndham Arcade
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/mill-lane-and-wyndham-arcade-cardiff.html
St Mary Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/st-mary-street-cardiff.html
High Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/high-street-cardiff.html
Castle Arcade and Castle Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/castle-arcade-and-castle-street-cardiff.html
Womanby Street and Quay Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/womanby-street-and-quay-street-cardiff.html
Westgate Street
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/westgate-street-cardiff.html
Riverside
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/riverside-cardiff.html
Cathedral Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/cathedral-road-cardiff.html
Pontcanna 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/pontcanna-2.html
Pontcanna 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/pontcanna-1-we-are-leaving-canton.html
North Canton
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/north-canton.html
Cowbridge Road East 3
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-3-llandaff-road-to.html
Cowbridge Road East 2
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-2-wyndham-crescent.html
Cowbridge Road East 1
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/cowbridge-road-east-1-cathedral-road-to.html
Bute Park
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bute-park-cardiff.html
Cathays Park
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/cathays-park-cardiff.html
Cathays Terrace
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/cathays-terrace-cardiff.html
Salisbury Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/salisbury-road-cardiff.html
Woodville Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/woodville-road-cardiff.html
Crwys Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/crwys-road-cardiff.html
Wellfield Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/wellfield-road-cardiff.html
Albany Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/albany-road-cardiff.html
City Road
http://sfnottingham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/city-road-cardiff.html