Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Exploring on our own doorstep

We love finding new places to eat and drink, and every so often we come to the realisation that there are some fantastic places in Sheffield that we have never been before.

After a quick post-work pint in the Bath Hotel, we decided to head to the brand new BrewDog bar. Overall, it's what we have come to expect from a BrewDog - crisp and industrial interior, quirky, knowledgeable staff, and expensive but very tasty craft beer. There were around 20 keg beers on offer - half BrewDog, and half guest - alongside a large selection of bottled beers. They also do a small menu of nibbly foods, which looked very tempting. It's not an everyday bar, but somewhere that for us would definitely be suitable for a special occasion.

For dinner, we descended upon The Great Gatsby, located on Division Street - somewhere that has previously been recommended to us but that we had not yet had the chance to visit. The menu is provided courtesy of Shy Boy Cantina - resident at Gatsby's since last October and taking Mexican street food to a tasty new level.

We selected tacos to share (2 per portion) - pulled pork, kimchi and sriracha, and beef with a horseradish cream. Both were exceptionally good, but I think the pork just edged it... Spicy, zingy and fresh flavours combined with the meat to produce a popular dish with a unique twist. I'm still not quite sure exactly what kimchi is, but I know I like it. The beef and horseradish tacos were also very good - a familiar combination, albeit one which isn't usually found in Mexican cuisine. This is quite clearly fusion food at its best.
As a side we chose chilli cheese fries, which were hearty, naughty and delicious.

The only dessert option on the menu is churros with chocolate sauce - but who needs anything else?! Already a favourite pudding, these were a joy - served piping hot, crispy on the outside and delightfully soft in the centre. Dusted with cinnamon, they worked perfectly with the rich chocolate sauce... which we somehow managed to improve with a slight dash of cholula chilli!
We'll definitely be back to sample some of the more options on offer - the avocado fries ordered by the table next to us looked amazing! With a menu which changes with the season, Shy Boy Cantina are onto a winner. 

Laura xx

Friday, 14 March 2014

Japanese Whisky Tasting at the Broadfield

So, we return once again to the lovely upstairs room of the Broadfield for another whisky tasting: this time, the focus is on the east and the produce of the Japanese.

As you may have seen previously, these events, run by Ed Daly (@whiskycurator), consist of five fine whiskies. Tonight's proceedings open with the Hibiki 12. This is a Suntory whisky of great character, and with an attention to detail unsurpassed by most of the blends on the market. It is constructed by at least 35 different whiskies, all of which are exclusive to the Hibiki 12 year. It is this commitment to great balance that is reflected in the overall sweet vanilla flavour, which gives way to a peppery spiced finish.
This dram is followed closely by the Hakushu Bourbon Barrel; a whisky that comes to the UK in relatively small batches. It has a honey nose with a slight raisiny edge. As the whisky flows across the palate, a new flavour, more homely yet sophisticated like banoffee pie emerges. The warmth of the 48.2% spirit lingers pleasantly towards a fruity end.
Nikka 'from the Barrel' is next, with easily the cutest bottle of the night, reminiscent of a traditional yet oversized pill bottle. This is a delicious whisky that sings of spiced oak, and not in the least bit medicinal. As tonight's whiskies go it is one that I have drunk before and would do so again (and again) - it's spiced nature is held strong with sweeter, creamier flavours, which work along to a lovely oak spice across the palate and into the finish.
Between the third and fourth whiskies we were given opportunity to get another pint and go for a cigarette, with the reassurance from our host that the whiskies will power through any dulling that 10 minutes smoking can do to the taste buds. So down to the bar for a pint of Summer Wine Barista - an espresso stout of monumental coffee-osity - before returning to the upstairs parlour.
As promised these two were bold, punchy and above all delicious. The Karuizawa, a whisky with 'no age statement' (a dirty phrase between the more traditional whisky drinkers), is a demerara sweet sherried whisky. The whisky is compiled from 77 different sherry casks to create this dark in colour and vibrant in flavour dram of light ginger spice, while at the same time possessing the body of a good red wine that stays on the tongue sweetly and luxuriously.
As with most tastings the night ends on lofty heights with the multi award winning Yamazaki 18 year, a Pedro Ximinez aged gorgeously balanced fruity number. The nose tingles with apples and hints of pear. Its depth and complexity build as you hold it in the mouth and let it wash over the tongue and down the throat, as in the last movement of Beethoven's glorious Symphony No. 9, where the entire spectacle comes to an end with a chorus of a thousand. The long yet dainty fruit-filled finish stays in the mouth long after sending the delightful spirit to the stomach. Divine.
Accompanying each of the whiskies was a simply stunning handmade piece of sushi (one of Ed's hidden talents) - it tasted as good as it looked. See for yourself just how good!
We may have "accidentally" booked ourselves onto another two future tastings, and we can't wait to see what the next one will bring.

Monday, 10 March 2014

French dip salt beef sandwich

As you may have noticed through many a previous post, I am a little bit of a fan of salt beef and pastrami, so when LoveSaltBeef asked me if I thought a variation on the classic French dip sandwich would work, there was only one thing for it: to the butchers!

Essentially a French dip sandwich comprises roast beef, with the bread dipped into a thin but delicious stock or gravy. The difference I took at this point is that instead of a plain stock I felt that the salted meat needed a bit of contrast in the form of mustard heat and a little hint of vinegar sourness.

While I won't go into the creation of salt beef this time (my recipes for which can be found here and here) I will instead show you my take on the gravy and construction of the sandwich.

This recipe makes two hearty sandwiches.

The gravy

1 medium onion
1/2 stick celery
Olive oil for frying
2 large teaspoons mustard (to taste - I used a wholegrain variety with chilli)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Half a pint of good quality beef stock

Fry off the onion and celery until they become limp on a low heat, then turn the heat up and add the mustard. Fry for about 30 seconds, or until the mustard burns the top of your nose, at which point add the vinegar and cook off some of the intensity, again for around another 30 seconds.

To this pungent blend add the stock and bring to a simmer for around 10 minutes. This will allow the vegetables to finish softening and will reduce the mixture slightly. During this time, slice the meat into thick juicy slices and add to the gravy for the last minute or so, with the heat turned low.

As the meat is slowly warming in the gravy, prep the bread. For this I used soft white breadcakes. This is where personal choice comes in, with the amount of liquid you want on your sandwich. Starting with a little dip of just the lid of the sandwich (my wife's choice) to the whole ensemble being served in a Turkish bath of steaming hot meat gravy. Or simply grab the full meaty arrangement in some tongs and plunge it into the pan of meat juices and serve.

As a Yorkshireman this combination of bread and gravy is perfection, normally reserved for the last wonderful moments on a Sunday roast, but which can now be appreciated in full blown sandwich form.



Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sheffield Beer Scene

Despite a short, degree-length gap, Sheffield has always been my home. It is a land of hills, streams and more green space than any other city in Europe.  Arguably more importantly it also has an absolute abundance of real ale houses, with an ever-growing number of establishments serving and selling excellent beer. This is a tradition that sewed its roots (arguably national) in the form of The Fat Cat, which is now in its 32nd year - the original owner of which, Dave Wickett, started the Kelham Island brewery and helped fund the now pervasive and great quality Thornbridge Brewery.

The love of real ale in our fair city is insatiable, with new pubs, bars and shops springing up serving up the godly nectar. In this, Sheffield seems to buck the national trend of closures of pubs, due to an obsession (always healthy) with beer.

Along with the opening and refurbishment of a number of pubs in the past few years, more recently we have seen two new beer shops open. As part of the new market, just before Christmas came Beer Central - a shop selling a range of local brews from city breweries such as Kelham Island and Bradfield as well as those just across the Derbyshire border including Chatsworth and Raw. Alongside these, you can find numerous releases from further afield – some of my favourites include London (Weird Beard, Camden) and Belgium (Westmalle). We’ve now got a loyalty card which is serving us well!

The other shop that coincidentally opened at around the same time is the somewhat more experimental vendor of liquid intoxicants located just out of the centre, conveniently next to another of Sheffield’s great new ale houses (The Broadfield).  Hidden in the back of a vintage shop, Hop Hideout has given a new lease of life to the old office of a long-gone bank. Now with its far more beneficial role as beer shop, the walls are lined with shelves containing a fantastic array of bottled beers. We found some absolutely superb treats for Christmas, including Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve, and Mad Hatter – Panettone Tripel, and the selection is ever changing meaning that there’s always something new to be found.

Both of these new shops show a willingness to engage with their customers, share their knowledge of all things beer, and generally demonstrate fantastic service all-round.
Our current beer selection, running a little low 
The addition of these two shops on the liquid landscape has also encouraged established, almost complacent, beer shops around the city to increase the range and provide more for us as consumers. TheDram Shop in Walkley now stocks more previously unseen breweries, and even the Bargain Booze’s of the city have a tendency to sell one or two more than previously.

As this trend of new places opening and old places adapting continues it can only be a good thing for us beer drinkers.



Thursday, 13 February 2014

A weekend in Whitby

We haven't been on a big holiday in five years, but weekends away are something we always really enjoy. We were treated to a gift voucher to stay in La Rosa Hotel in Whitby for Christmas, and booked our stay for early February to bring a bit of cheer to these gloomy days!

Whitby has always been one of our favourite places - the Gothic eccentricity of the whole town is like no other seaside resort, and although it's only 2 hours drive from home it's just that bit too far for a day trip, so a visit there is always a special occasion. Having the opportunity to stay at the absolutely marvellous (and really quite bonkers) La Rosa just accentuated this.

We began our stay with champagne afternoon tea at the hotel. The tea room itself is full of Alice in Wonderland inspired Victoriana and is truly unique. We feasted on a variety of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and a yummy chocolate brownie (not to mention the unlimited supply of tea and entire bottle of prosecco!), sat by the window on throne-like seats with a stunning view over to the Abbey.

We were then shown to our room and home for the weekend. Each room is themed, and we selected "Little Red". Laura was beyond delighted to discover that the exquisite attention to detail even stretched to a red velvet cape, and there was what we think may have been a wolf skull in a velvet-lined cupboard. Just incredible. The four-poster bed and little treats such as rose-flavoured homemade chocolates ensured that we were totally surrounded by an air of luxury and relaxation.

After exploring the room (whilst small, there was a lot to see in there!) we headed out into Whitby to sample some ales. Whilst we didn't find anything particularly unusual or even locally brewed, the pubs are all cosy and welcoming and the beers (including Timothy Taylor's Landlord and Mr Grundy's Passchendaele) hit the spot on a very cold and windy day.

We ate out at an Italian restaurant, Moutreys, which came highly recommended. We went for the mussels starter - which was delicious - and both ordered a pizza, as the restaurant boasts a proper pizza oven. These were an excellent choice: Jim went for the meat feast, and Laura selected goats cheese and chorizo. Definitely some of the best pizzas we've ever eaten, and we even had enough to take a few slices away!

The rest of the evening consisted of Drinks by the Dram whiskies from china teacups. Enough said.
We awoke the next day to a knock on the door - the delivery of our picnic breakfast in bed. Such a brilliant idea and executed very well. Inside a vintage wicker picnic basket we found cheese scones, warm from the oven, hard boiled eggs, fruit, yoghurt, fresh coffee and a slice of fruit cake - a lovely start to the day.

After a sad farewell to La Rosa, we paid a visit to Fortune's smokehouse, for homesmoked kippers!

It was then time to head home. We chose the coast road, and spent a couple of hours in Scarborough on the way - seaside fish and chips are truly a must! Somehow they taste better when you can hear the seagulls as you eat...

La Rosa is an ideal venue for a quirky, romantic weekend away, and we already can't wait to plan our next trip.

L & J x

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Whisky Tasting at The Greystones with StarmoreBoss

In the back room of the Greystones pub, on a stage normally reserved for blues musicians and comedians, StarmoreBoss hosted the first whisky tasting the pub has held. The event, described as an "Introduction to Whisky", had us initially apprehensive, as we were expecting a dram or two we had already sampled. However, we were impressed to be presented with five whiskies we had never tried before, some from distilleries and blenders which we hadn't even heard of.

To accompany the whiskies came a discussion on the marvellous elixir, its origin, production and styles, from our host Jefferson Boss - a true fountain of whisky knowledge!

The tasting opened with Bain's Cape Mountain grain whisky. This South African dram is the first to be produced in the country. We found it to be a light toffee vanilla whisky with an oaky texture throughout the mouth, with a lightly spiced quite short finish, but still a really well rounded grain whisky. A good easy-drinker and a pleasant, gentle start to the evening.

The second, following a roundup of blending techniques, was Teeling Irish Whiskey: a small batch blend using the pot still distillation method. At 46%, this was a rich fruity dram that filled the head and upper nose with apple crumble and the rest of the palate with custard, that followed through to the mid length floral finish.

This was followed by an example of an American Bourbon. Having had mixed experiences of this type of whiskey in the past, the Elijah Craig 12 Year was a surprising treat. Given much longer to maturate than most Bourbons (which are normally aged for about 4-5 years), the resulting product is a deep intricate whisky that sings with a greater oaky aspect than most. On the nose it is fruity and delicately spiced, with a palate that fills the mouth with a sweet and fully rounded, lightly smoked finish.

The penultimate whisky in the evening's proceedings was a Speyside offering - the Glentauchers 1994, showcasing a cream custard texture that prickled across the tongue with a rich light peat texture. A singing sherry character brings with it a fruity spice across the tongue and into the finish.

The night ended with the Ileach Peaty, a dram from an unnamed Islay distillery: a young, textured, highly peated whisky. The strength of the oaky smoke filled the head with a fireside warmth, accompanied with an iodiney pepper character across the palate. Having sampled whiskies from each of the Islay distilleries, it's definitely fair to say this was a great choice to exemplify their characteristics.

The night as a whole was really interesting, and great for beginners and budding connoisseurs alike. Jeff was knowledgable and passionate throughout. Also the owners of a new boutique-y off-licence in Sheffield, StarmoreBoss have a lot to offer to the city and we're excited to discover what future events and collaborations may bring.