Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Summer Cream Teas at Badger's Holt

Badger’s Holt, Dartmeet, Princetown, Yelverton, Devon, Pl20 6SG
Appearance –  7/10 -  the glutenated scones were tall and majestic as they loomed out at me from the plate,  lightly dusted with icing sugar like snow on mountain peaks. Whilst my gluten free ones (ones on the right) looked like a giant had been using said mountain peaks for seats for a number of years and therefore they had a somewhat flattened appearance. Nonetheless, I still drooled a little bit when I saw them. The crockery also had good intentions - matching plates in the typical quaint English tearooms style but then spoiled by prison canteen-esque style teapot and jam holder.

Quantity - 6/10 – firstly, massive amounts of cream. I was delighted with this offering. But then the generous portion of cream only served to make the tiny jam portion look even more meagre. Does this establishment place more importance on cream? Are they taking cream tea literally? The GF scones were a reasonable size, obviously they could have been bigger. They can ALWAYS be bigger – when is it going to become the norm that a cream tea comes with 3 or 4 scones? Inflation rises, why doesn’t the acceptable portion size of a cream tea do the same the size? That quibble has got its own post I reckon. Anyway, I still felt peckish after eating them but a lot of this can be attributed to my greed and not necessarily scone inadequacies. On the other hand, my partner in crime finished all of his and I have seen him struggle to complete a cream tea a few times, so maybe the portion size was a tad stingy.

Done the Devon way - of course!

Taste -  8/10 – Hard to tell that the scones were gluten free. They were a bit dry but the glutenated ones were apparently dry too so looks like I wasn’t missing out too much. Couldn’t fault the taste of the jam – really fruity and rich but not too sweet. The cream had that lovely yellowy crust on top and was perfect in every way. I would have preferred a fruited scone or at least the choice of one but you have to give them massive points just for doing a gluten free cream tea in the first place. Other complaint is that the scones came out cold – they could have at least warmed them through to give the illusion of being freshly baked!

Price – 5/10 -  £11.20 for two cream teas with a pot of tea to share. Not the cheapest I’ve had.  I think it would have been much more reasonable at £10.

Ambience - 7/10 - The service was very quick, within 5 minutes they were over with a tray brimming with goods. The inside of the tearooms was very dingy and if it hadn’t been a sunny day we would have had to sit inside. I feel this would have put a dampener on the experience. The outdoor seating was basic picnic benches but was scenic and relaxing.
The tearooms

How it made me feel  - 8/10 – it was a lovely sunny day and the area surrounding the tearooms is picturesque. We even got to see a peacock casually sunning itself on the roof whilst we ate – don’t believe any of the other tearooms have given me such an offering! I felt uber excited beforehand and pretty satisfied after so all in all a good experience.

Overall score 41/60

Monday, 23 July 2012

Devon Life likes the Cream Tea Diaries :)

Disappointment at Duttons

This weekend, we had the first rays of sunshine in what feels like a decade. I watched people emerge from dank holes in the ground, shell-shocked, squinting against the sun as their eyes adjusted to the light and then slowly peeling off their winter coats, swapping uggs for sandals, and venturing tentatively outdoors. Throughout the day I actually saw several people with their hands held up mid-air, so accustomed they had become to holding an umbrella*. I had to gently push their hands down, shake them and explain to them the raining had stopped and there was fun in the sun to be had.
So, after doing all these good deeds I decided I would indeed have my fun in the sun. And what better way than some outdoor dining with great company. Alfresco cream tea eating is a rarity in the South West unless you want icicles hanging from your nose or to look like you've just emerged from the bottom of the sea.  So this was quite the novelty. We (being me, my friend Chlo, her little boy Jasper and our friend Lizzy) were all very excited about this cream tea. Thanks to the whole holiday diet boot camp thing I inflicted upon myself, I haven't had a decent cream tea in a while, so this was a big deal.

We headed to Duttons cafe - http://www.duttonsplymouth.co.uk/. I'm afraid to say it was a disappointment.

Appearance - 3/10 - As you can see, my scones are either imitating the Sahara desert (they were certainly dry enough to contain sand) or they are Warburton’s buns from the 1950s that have been reheated and passed off as a scone. I have never in all my cream tea days, come across a SQUARE scone. Just...what the hell! I know they are gluten free but seriously...don't add salt to the wound Duttons!
The crockery is very plain. I half hoped when I lifted my scone for 'HAHA ONLY JOKING' to be scrawled in jam on the plate and I would be told this was all one big prank and my actual proper cream tea would come out of the kitchen ... but no such luck.
Quantity - 4/10 - we had issues here. On the menu, the only option was a cream tea with one scone. I don't know if this is motivated by a desire by the owners to reduce the waistlines of Plymouth. I doubt it, I think it is a cost cutting measure on their part and it seems the Plymouth public are ready to accept a cream tea with half the goods. However, me and Lizzy decided to buck the trend and ask specifically for a cream tea with two scones. This confused the staff no end. Tills were frantically tapped, we were asked with a look of incredulity if we really wanted TWO scones, and then when it came out Lizzy's only had one! Serious points taken off here. My scones were a decent size but they were so crumbly that I lost most of my collateral to crumbs so I probably only ended up eating one scone.
Duttons 1 - 0 Sarah.
Also check out my tiny jam portion. I run out after two spreads. Luckily Lizzy doesn't like cream (I know I know,  I should banish her to the ends of the earth) so I lucked out on extra cream. This staved off an inevitable tantrum.
Taste - 3/10 - It wasn't offensive. But it was dry. Now being a coeliac isn't fun. You spend a lot of your time checking the back of foods, worrying about cross contamination in restaurants and watching others tuck into a warm cinnamon swirl from the bakery whilst you try and smile your way through yet another Eat Natural bar. So when a coeliac goes for a cream tea, they need spoiling. They need to forget for a little while that their stomach is an absolute demon. Duttons just reinforced my coeliac status by asking me to eat a box shaped hulk of sand. When covered in cream and jam it admittedly tasted a lot better but I still got that bitty aftertaste that was equivalent to when road sweepers go by and you unfortunately decide to yawn at just that moment and tiny bits of crap go in your mouth. Difference being I had to pay £5.50 for this experience instead of quietly grumbling and shuffling across to the other side of the street.
Price – 2/10 – Poor value in terms of quantity, service and quality of the food.
Ambience – 5/10 – It was outside seating which was very pleasant. We could people watch from where we sat and the sun was shining. The seating was basic – a picnic bench affair but this suited our needs. The poor service and useless staff brings the score down.
How it made me feel – 2/10 – Refer back to the taste section. It made me feel more annoyed at being a coeliac than I have in a while because I felt like Duttons just thought they’d knock together a crap cream tea and because I can’t taste the normal one and compare the two then it didn’t really matter if it was low quality – because who’s going to listen right? Luckily it was sunny and I had two lovely ladies to converse with so I just chalk this one down to a lesson learnt.
Overall Score - 19/60  (this is the first time I haven't gotten out a calculator to tot up the scores....bad bad sign!)

* This is an outrageous lie in order to more dramatically make my point.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vanquishing the pre-holiday bulge. Sigh.

I haven’t been abroad since 2009 and that was a city break .. so no bearing all in a bikini. Infact it is extremely rare I get a chance to wear a bikini unless I go swimming and then my good friend ‘water’ hides all my sins. But in less than 5 days I will be gallivanting around the coast of Croatia, all faults bared, in an unforgiving bikini ensemble. Obviously I bought bikinis that are heavily padded, underwired and have a flattering cut. But no amount of sorcery is going to hide the after effects of my teenage sugar binges.
You see I used to be overweight, not obese, but I certainly wasn’t healthy. I was a sugar addict and thought nothing of polishing off two pieces of toast slathered in jam and butter each morning washed down with a pint of full fat coke. Stretch marks criss cross my upper thighs like war wounds, constant reminders that eating two chocolate bars a day for 3 years has its consequences. I decided to go head to head with sugar addiction …  and seemingly I won (sort of, least that’s what the scales say). However, I still get the insane cravings. Last week I could be spotted going round Sainsburys picking up chocolate bars and trying to sniff through the packaging and fool myself  that smelling it would be as good as eating it. I filled a large pick and mix cup with all my favourites and I was actually salivating until I decided to put it back down again. (By the way sorry Sainsburys staff, I guess you either had to throw that out or painstakingly put each sweet back in its correct box, oops). The cravings have only worsened over the past month because I am acutely aware I should be behaving myself in the lead up to my holiday. Therefore June has been a cream tea-less month *sob* and I’ve literally forgotten what fat tastes like. I’ve come up with the mantra “sweets taste good for 5 seconds, holiday photos last a lifetime”. I realise this is no better than Kate Moss and her mantra “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and I do apologise to all those out there doing their best to encourage girls not to focus so much on weight (I certainly wish I wasn’t so obsessed with it) but I can’t help worrying…….and craving.
In particular I have been craving cream teas. When I return from Croatia I am heading to the nearest gluten friendly establishment and I am going to order TWO cream teas just for me and I am going to eat until I am crying with joy and pain. I might even wear my bikini as I eat them and just watch it split down the seams as clotted cream sweeps down my gullet in waves. Remember Primose Tearooms which I reviewed in December? Well they got in touch and they make a gluten free chocolate almond cake which I am very excited to try. So for the next two weeks I need to show restraint. Then when I return I will be back on the cake wagon my friends, it’s going to be messy.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

An island based experiment in gluten free Cream Teas

Well, the diagnosis is not official. The doctors continue to ignore and frustrate so I have gone with self diagnosis and that is 100% I cannot have wheat and therefore can never have a “normal” cream tea again. This is definitely some sort of punishment for what I have done in another life. I was probably Pontius Pilate or something – that seems about fair.
So with my little coeliac head held high I have decided to continue upping my chlosterol even for compromised taste and eat gluten free Cream Teas from now. My boyfriend, in his usual quest to find me food so I won’t get hungry/moody, discovered a place on the Isle of Wight that does coeliac friendly cream teas and it was actually really good.
Just look at that picture. Obviously it wasn’t all for me – that would be obscene. But evidently the portions were amazing.

Appearance – 9/10 The crockery was very sweet and all matched in a strawberry pattern. The use of a fruit and one that is red (red increases the appetite) was a clever ploy to build up my hunger as we waited to be served. The scones came out in little lined baskets which were a nice touch, the only thing letting it down was the pre packaged butter.
Quantity – 10/10 Absolutely no complains on the quantity. I have become a bit of a lightweight recently and I’m not used to carb loading as much as I used to so this rating may not be scientifically correct but everyone around me seemed to struggle to finish theirs so it must have been a lot. The scones were as big as my face, delightful.
Taste – 7/10 Now this is obviously going to be unfair as mine was the wheat free alternative and therefore a blasphemous alternative to the god-like original scone recipe. It still actually tasted quite good and once smothered with lots of cream and jam then was even better. The thing that niggled me was the little parcels of butter put on my plate. I almost quietly took the waitress aside to explain her embarrassing faux pas. *my sweet dear, butter with a cream tea? We are not peasants* But I noticed everyone around me lashing butter all over the scones. I thought obviously they were doing this out of novelty and on that particular half of scone would forgoe on the clotted cream also but no! they lashed that on too. I reprimanded them but they carried on regardless…. Island Folk, least they didn’t burn me on a remote hill.
Price – 8/10 About right. For the quantity – great value.
Ambience – 7/10 The cafĂ© wasn’t the most snuggly of places - although freezing outside so probably better if sun was streaming through the windows. But service was prompt and they said we could keep asking for more cream and jam so that bumps them up in the ratings for me.

How it made me feel - 6/10 Unfortunately afterwards I felt full but not neccessarily "good full". I think the gluten free texture of the scone made it quite powdery and this meant my mouth felt slightly gritty and I had to swill with tea. I also felt ridiculously full - but this was down to pure greed on my part so let's not make the cafe's rating suffer because of my vice. I didn't feel quite as content as I always do after taking on a mammoth scone and therefore it only gets a 6...
Overall score – 47/60

Monday, 16 April 2012

Death Row Munchies - not intended to offend.

So who else watched the Werner Herzog Death Row documentary on Channel 4? Me, obviously. Not just because I have an unhealthy fascination with serial killers but because I am morbidly interested in what people choose as their final meal. Surprisingly, the programme didn’t really hone in on this crucial topic. It dealt with, y'know, the more pressing matters of what crime had been committed and inmate’s thoughts, feelings and such like. Pffft, just tell me in minute detail what you want to eat!
I feel vindicated in my food obsession when I think of the whole practice of a final supper. Prisoners aren’t asked ‘What song would you like to listen to? What TV programme? What sport would you like to play?’ They go back to basics, to the root of satisfaction, to the ultimate primal urge… food.
Creepily, I have put a lot of thought into what my final meal would be. It has changed over time. In my early teens it was a salt and sugar fest. A loaded burger with every topping you could imagine – enough cheese to finish off a small dog, bacon, bbq sauce, nachos on the side, onion rings, thick greasy fries, helped down by a lard ridden milkshake and some sort of doughnut fest for afters. I was in the stage of being brainwashed by too much American TV (blame Nickelodeon), my favourite being 'Kenan and Kel' and therefore my idea of what was a normal consumption of burgers was drastically modified. As I grew into my late teens and became more health conscious my final supper plans became more sophisticated. I wanted Italian artisan style breads, with antipasti platters and sorbets to cleanse my palette. My empathetic side must have been developing as I realised most people on death row probably felt pretty nervous and therefore smaller portions sizes would be better so they could snack, dwell, snack, vomit with fear, snack.
As I near my mid-twenties, my death row meal has changed again. I want the salt hits again but in the more mature form of a rich sauce to accompany a decadent duck dish, with some heavily garlicked potatoes, I want a cheese course and I want the strongest heaviest cheeses with biscuits that pack about 500 calories a bite as they’re so butter laden. Then for the grand finale – my dream dessert. You’re probably imagining some sort of Guinness World Record size Scone Monster. But no, my ultimate fantasy pudding is a melt in the middle chocolate pudding. It all began with that M&S advert. It was back in 2005, 01:42 on this clip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4jvF9Q2QC0 . That advert, according to Wikipedia – “led to a remarkable 3,000% rise in chocolate pudding sales, something that has not recurred since”. It was one powerful symbol, a fork gently but decidedly ploughing through the centre of a moist, slightly wobbling chocolate pudding to unleash a warm river of chocolate goo whose force pulls in the dollop of cream that is resting on top and they mix together to become the most formidable of combinations. It was an oddly sexual image, a chocolate volcano of epic proportions, and it seemed to grip the nation. Zombie like chocolate lust took over the UK and we just couldn’t consider anywhere but M&S for that filthy chocolate hit. This image has had a profound effect on me and when I succumb wholeheartedly to my food fantasies (often on a Sunday afternoon when I’m losing interest in a book/film/conversation) I just let that image wash over me. I personally don’t think I would have been quite as courageous as that lucky fork holder in the advert. I would probably have tentatively poked a hole in the top to see if it really was the right consistency of gooey inside and then scooped a half forkful up and nibbled slowly to savour the taste … then thrown caution to wind, picked up momentum, finished it in 2 minutes and then spent 20 minutes rolling about on the sofa going ‘I’m soo full.. but it was gooood… but I’m fulll’. Pathetic I know but I am predictable.
Anyway.. that would be my death row pudding.
For those of you who are interested in what actual people on death row have had for their final meals, visit this website - http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-most-elaborate-final-meals-in-death-row-history/john-barryman.  Robert Dale Conklin’s choices are interesting. John Wayne Gacy – a serial killer who has fascinated me for a while because he dressed up as a clown (and I have a fear of clown outfits) so he became SUPER scary serial killer material - decided he wanted a pound of strawberries. Odd. However for the majority of cases; burgers, pizzas, fried chicken and fizzy drinks feature heavily. Hmm does fast food cause murderous tendencies!? Could this be a  blog post!? Probably involves basing what I say in actual science... so maybe not.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Cream Tea Confession

Well. I am ashamed. I am a disappointment. I feel it is time to confess.
I didn’t go through with the cream tea challenge.
The crux of the matter is my body seems to be rejecting mass cream tea consumption. I have this ongoing saga with the doctors. They tested me negative for coealic disease. I celebrated.. for about 5 minutes.. because I know there definitely is something still wrong. I spoke to a coeliac friend who said they also tested negative on the blood tests but the endoscopy came up positive. So I go back to the doctors (I get a different person each time but this one was both sullen and utterly weird) and he says ‘Well keep on with the gluten free diet then if you feel better for it”. I tell him I want to see a specialist; I need some sort of diagnosis or help in understanding why I keep feeling ill. Sorry, can’t refer you until you test positive for coeliac. Grr. So rant aside, I am struggling with cream teas. I crave them, dream about them, lust after them but my body is conspiring against me.
I’ve decided one cream tea a month will be fine, I just can’t overdose on them. (Although the thought of me sprawled out in a tea rooms, frothing jam at the mouth with a needle full of clotted cream is an entertaining image nonetheless). So, basically my sincere apologies for building you all up for the challenge only to reveal that I in fact ate a measly 1 ½ scones leisurely in a sunny garden instead of force feeding my calorie intake for a week in one sitting. It would have been a good experiment and maybe once this whole digestive system palaver is sorted I may be able to schedule it in once again…

Next post… I will be having afternoon tea at http://www.thebathpriory.co.uk/ … very excited and I expect great things…