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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A Day in London

After a trip to the House of Commons on Monday night (the FSB’s "Summer Reception" wherein we met with politicians from both sides of the house for informal conversation on issues close to small businesses" and meetings first thing Tuesday I found myself with a few hours to spare before today’s director’s meeting. A bunch of us are staying at the Hilton Double-Trees in Victoria right now, formerly known as the Hesperia, formerly known as the Holiday Inn – just behind Victoria station (the constant changes confuse the hell out of taxi drivers).

Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseRather than contemplate the bad weather from the hotel room, one of my colleagues and I decided to make a day of it in London. He had a visit to the National Theatre planned so we headed off to the Thames area.

First stop the science museum which I have to say was something of a damp squib – we probably missed something but all I could see for kids were a bunch of theatrical sets with embedded touch screens and for adults a mock-up of the first lunar lander, some old cars and planes and not a lot else. If I’d paid to come specifically to London for that I’d be mightily disappointed. Next stop Fleet Street – wherein we visited Ye Olde "Cheshire Cheese" pub which did a cracking fish and chips, well worth a visit.

The Prop ShopAfter taking in the Thames view including the new Shard building, we made a fleeting visit to the Tate Gallery (no comment) and then ended up at the "Prop Shop" – a makeshift bar outside the National Theatre (created out of theatre props) where very helpful staff entertained us as I made a 3d video of the place on my new Fujifilm 3D camera.

Peter Scargill at the Prop ShopFinal stop the theatre itself, we had a personal tour of the place as we checked it out as a possible venue for events before returning to our hotel briefly to recover, next stop Brick Lane for a curry with Nigel Duncan and David Miles. I have to say, great fun, the moment you arrive, there is intense competition for your business and it didn’t take Nigel long to negotiate 20% discount, free poppadums and drinks all around (and when the bill came, sure enough we got the discount etc. – extremely reasonable pricing). If you’re in London and you love Indian, definitely give Brick Lane a go and be prepared to haggle (I should point out that on a previous trip as the owners were haggling prices we took a female colleague with us and as soon as she interjected she was told impolitely that the owner was "talking to the men" – needless to say he didn’t get any business out of us and if I could remember the name of the restaurant I’d help ensure he never got ANY business full stop – but that was some time ago).

All in all a great way to fill a few hours – today I’ve a long meeting and a short presentation to do before heading back home to Northumberland for a couple of days hard graft, catching up on the many jobs that need a decent office Internet connection for. Between holiday and meetings I’ve build up an impressive backlog so I’ll be hiding away for many hours tomorrow to catch up.

Froot Loops

Some years ago, Maureen and I stayed at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago. This was at the height of my business travel using the Hiltons (which I rarely do now as I don’t think the general ones are up to much) – and accordingly I had a Hilton Gold “HHonors” card.. which doesn’t mean a whole lot in the UK.

LifeSaversFruity LoopsArriving at the Conrad Hilton on holiday on the basic room rate, I presented the hhonors card and we were immediately upgraded to a large room with his and hers separate bathrooms etc. – very nice. Instead of eating with the rest, the Conrad has (or had a few years ago) a separate room for hhonors guests with a great view of the waterfront. Breakfast was great – I’d never come across Kellogg’s Froot Loops before and really liked them. I never thought twice other than to make a mental note to get some when I got back to the UK.

Typically – no Froot Loops in the UK  – just boring chocolate -  that was the end of that….

Yesterday we happened to be at the THREE (3) store at the Gateshead Metro Centre where we got into conversation with a very pleasant female assistant who started talking about how much she liked American sweets  – Maureen offered  her some American gum she just happened to have and she was over the moon. In an almost empty 3 store she told us we were the first sale of the day and how quiet the Metro Centre had been.  In conversation she mentioned the new American sweet store just opened – and just around the corner. We figured we’d investigate.

Fruity LoopsAbsolutely amazing – there was a QUEUE formed outside the store  and they were only letting people in two at a time – we met Americans who were desperate for a taste of back home – and others who were British but clearly knew their American sweets. We joined the queue.

BOY is the stuff expensive – but worth it. They have a ton of American sweets, drinks and cereals – including the one I was after – Froot Loops – just had them for breakfast – brings back memories! Not something you’d want to eat every day mind you -  but just for a change – kits would LOVE the colours – sadly, by the time they get here, there might just be none left!

Apparently there are those who’ve thought of opening such a store and figured there would be no demand. WRONG. Might be something to think about in other parts of the UK and if you do open a store – would you grab a variety of Crystal Light and let me know as that’s the one thing they didn’t have (Interesting spelling for an American product don’t you think).

I did, in searching the web happen to find this if anyone’s taste buds are working….

There’s Tuna – then there’s Tuna?

Asda Tuna ChunksI was doing the maths this morning… 56 years old, at least one tin of tuna fish a week… I must’ve started eating Tuna sandwiches around, lets say to make life easy, 6 years old. That’s 50*52 as a minimum – 2,600 tins of tuna… Goodness!

Anyway, that’s the background. I’ve never been one for Sunday lunches and so for as far back as I can remember, I’ve settled for tuna fish sandwiches on a Sunday. Over the last few years Maureen’s been buying “Chicken of the Sea” from Costco – a light coloured and rather pleasant tuna in spring water. They’ve been out of stock for a few weeks and so I’ve been experimenting. Over in Spain I discovered I like the tuna in jars in Sunflower oil and sure enough when we came back to the UK I tried it here – not as nice as the stuff over there but then the weather might be having an impact on that. Somehow sitting eating a sandwich in cold, rainy Britain isn’t the same as sitting up in the mountains with the sun blasting on you.

Anyway we just happened to pop into ASDA looking for a cheap video player and I headed off to the food section in search of Tuna. I’ve NO idea of pricing on this stuff but what caught my eye this weekend were the price DIFFERENCES.  Asda Tuna Chunks in Sunflower oil – 49p  and at the other extreme, John West Tuna Steak in Sunflower oil, a whopping £1.69

I decided to put them to a side-by-side test:

The John West tin was in fact SMALLER by some way than the Asda version – but on opening there was very little spare oil in the former… so I squeezed out what little was there – and put the tuna in a bowl. The Asda tin on the other hand had lots of oil in it and by the time it was squeezed out there was no more tuna in the tin than in the John West variety despite the bigger can size.

With two bowls in front of me the differences were subtle – the two had exactly the same look once bashed slightly with a fork but the John West product was ever so slightly darker.  On tasting I felt the two were similar but the John West product had a SLIGHTLY stronger flavour – I could have been influenced by the colour.

So I passed the two bowls to my only other resident expert…. her response was immediate – she knew which one she preferred… to be honest I thought the difference was so slight as to be irrelevant but then I’ve been eating the stuff for so long now my tuna taste buds are probably shot.

So which one did Maureen pick as the better product? The £1.69 John West product? No – the Asda 49p Tuna!

SKY and TESCOs – What a Shower

in December 2009 I bought a TV from Tescos, right at the end of a special offer that said something like "Get Sky HD and a TV from us and you get free installation and a £50 Tescos voucher".

At the time I wrote a blog about the issues I had getting this going, wrong telephone numbers on the offer, Sky employees who knew nothing about a Tesco deal etc. Well, eventually after many phone calls I got the installation – and all’s well… except, no Tesco voucher.

Now you may say that a Tesco voucher is no big deal, but put it this way, how would you feel if someone stole £50 cash from you.. it’s the same thing, it’s now MAY and I still don’t have the Tesco voucher. As we get our groceries there it’s half the week’s groceries!

I tried again at the Hexham store last week and the assistant eventually got very embarrassed about the fact she had to wait for ages on the phone to SKY only to get through to someone – who passed her onto another department – who in turn put her on hold got ages… EXACTLY what I had to go through with Sky…(I think it’s fair to say that by and large, call centres just DON’T work for customers). Eventually I had to leave, empty-handed. She was very helpful and took my number – but the end result was no result. Several days later I’ve had no call from her despite the promise!

I’ve now written off AGAIN to SKY to ask them where my voucher is…4 months and a week down the line. I received an email from SKY to say they had no TESCO £50 vouchers but they had a Marks and Spencer £50 voucher. Not the same thing I’m afraid so I wrote back to remind them that the Tesco’s voucher was part of the deal.

Apparently they’ve been on the phone to say they have TWO £25 Tescos vouchers on the way. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Don’t you get REALLY, REALLY sick of having to chase up large companies who promise perfection and can’t organise a brewery visit?

Update 22/5/2010 – the two vouchers did eventually turn up  – thanks to Sky, not Tescos – 5 months – not bad.

Happy New Year 2010

Willow Cottage Snow Scene

Happy New Year from Maureen and I to everyone.  I wonder how your NYE went?

By teatime on 31st Dec in our part of the Northeast, the roads were freezing over and as usual the council were failing to keep with the programme.  The plan was to set off to our friend’s place and park the car there. They would then take us to our destination “Derwent Manor” – to celebrate the end of, for many, one of the worst years in living memory.

With roads reduced to blankets we set off, rarely getting over 10mph for fear of heading straight on into the nearest hedge. With the help of a little grit, we parked the car up for the night and headed off in Bob and Margaret’s Lexus which, I have to say handles icy roads superbly. As you’ll see in the pictures below, everyone had a marvellous time, dinner at 8pm (we sneaked in our own champagne) and after a superb show by a “Take That” tribune band, the party went on until the early hours of the morning.

On the assumption that a picture is worth a thousand words….

AlisonMargaretMargaret, Maureen and BobChampagne

Everyone having a good timeThe band

The bandThe band

The bandThe band

The band The band

So, we had a great night and now it’s 2010, the start of a new decade – and hopefully a much nicer one. I’m busy reading a book by the founders of Ecademy, a leading social network..who quoted a speech by David Cameron, leader of the conservatives and for better or worse the guy who will head up the next government… and I quote:

“Today, in a speech to the Open University, I set out our plans for a radical redistribution of power back to the people: from the state to the citizens; from Whitehall to communities; from bureaucracy to democracy. This is a massive, radical change. But I believe that through decentralization, accountability and transparency we can take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman in the street”.

Let’s hope that 2010 is the start of a new and exciting decade! Happy New Year everyone!

Good Food

I hate to make an association between Aldi (who I’ve always thought of as somewhere to buy cheap biscuits) and good food… but next time you’re in – they have these little packs of “Del Continental” Sliced pork Choricitos and Pork Pinchitos  -  a grandiose name for chorizo on a stick.  1 minute in the sealed pack – in the Microwave… that’s it.. that and a glass of decent white wine… lovely.

p.s. I KNOW, I should say RED wine but I gave up on that stuff ages ago… I prefer white wine, full stop.