Unsure about Latte Art but sure about Soup

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My fight with Latte Art

I am having a dilemma when it comes to Latte Art.  There!  I’ve said it!  God it feels good to confess.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Latte Art is a wee bit silly but I am also worried that it may be a defence mechanism I have unconsciously put in place because I am just not that good at it.  The above image isn’t mine.  It is from the wonderfully humble Aaron Prittyfrom Stewarts of Trent Bridge, our lovely coffee supplier.

As part of a team building exercise we spent 2 hours at Stewarts learning more about the coffee we sell as well as trying to come to grips with the art of Latte Art because I have signed myself, and husband, up to Nottingham’s first every Latte Art Throwdown.

44590312_1962420457147613_2301707230585552896_nUnder Aaron’s tutalage a few weeks ago all seemed to be going well.  I corrected some mistakes I’d been making in terms of heating the milk, the way I held the cup in my hand and the distance I held the jug from the cup.  Great!  My ability to mentally process what I needed to do and my body’s ability to perform the task were in alignment.  The following week continued along these lines of progression, my brain communicating in symmetry with my hands and all looking ok. Not greatmind you, not; I’m going to smash this competitionbut a more gentle self-confident; I’m not going to utterly embarrass myself and soil the name of my business I have worked so hard to create these past 3 years in one disastrous evening among Nottingham’s coffee elite, kind-of-feeling.

But things have now taken a turn for the worse.  With the competition now days away my Latte Art has deteriorate.  My hands are no longer playing ball and doing what I have mentally set them as a target.  I am putting this down to nerves.  To a natural reaction to not having competed personally in much in 20 years but there is a nagging feeling that I may be getting too old for learning these kinds of new skills.  It’s bloody annoying as I care much less about what others think of me now so will do crazy things, like sign myself up to Latte Art Throwdowns, but my ability to acquire new skills seems to have slowed.

So if you find yourself in Nottingham on Friday and feel sympathetic to my cause do support an ageing hippy (ster), it would be fab but please do come in the spirit of solidarity and humour.

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Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Warming soup with a hint of ginger and hit of chilli to keep you toasty on cold markets.  We serve ours with crusty sourdough bread from our local bakery Tough Mary’s Bakehouse  during the Autumn months with a splash of cream but topping with pumpkin seeds, a good grind of pepper and rosemary makes a lovely vegan alternative.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 onionfinely chopped
salt and pepper
3 cloves of finely chopped (or grated) garlic
5 cm (2in) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
chilli flakes(to your spice-level-liking)
1 cinnamon stick
900g (2lbs) of butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
900ml of vegetable stock

Method:
1. Preheat slow cooker on low setting. Heat oilin a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Once hot add onionswith a good grind of salt and cook till soft, approximately 4-5 mins.  Add garlic, ginger, chilli flakesand cinnamon stickand stir for 1 min before adding the butternut squashand giving it all a good stir to coat evenly.
2. Add hot stock to the squash pan and give everything a good stir.  Bring to the boil and then add carefully to the preheated slow cooker.  Cover with a lid and head out for the day while your butternut squash softens to autumn loveliness.
3. After 8 hours (or thereabouts) remove the cinnamon stickand blend until smooth using a hand held blender or liquidiser.
4. Top with a spot of cream, a good grind of pepper, roasted seeds or more chilli flakes and enjoy.  The soup freezes very well and a great one to make for a lazy Sunday lunch and bring to work later in the week.

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Summer Events

As we approached our one year anniversary, we have had quite the successes at recent events.

The summer was a messy start with Split Screen at Mudstock which was a muddy family excursion with a lot of ruined socks and a lot of fun!
Then later, in August, Jen was catering for the wedding of a lovely coffee-loving couple at Tudor Barn. The day after, we were at Trent Basin catering for prospective buyers of the luxury flats and houses in the new development on the outskirts of Nottingham’s city centre.

The weekend after saw us at Gloworm, the first year of a family festival set in Clumber Park.
With arts and crafts, a wide selection of bars and food outlets, rides, a mini beach, a small big top circus, and live entertainment, the first year of the festival was a resounding success for all involved.

The weather held well throughout most of the weekend, except from about 5 on the Saturday, before the great Dick and Dom took to the stage. People fled to their cars and under canopies to escape the rain. For their set though, everyone scurried back out for entertainment for all ages and which got everyone involved.
Mr Bloom and Toploader took the headline for the Sunday, and they were equally as popular.

Bring on the next week and it was our anniversary – the year had brought us back to the venue of our first event; Newstead Abbey.

A gorgeous weekend (with the odd shower) saw a flurry of people flock to see the likes of Michael Caines, Simon Rimmer, and The Great British Bake Off’s Nancy Birtwhistle as well as the array of food stuffs, locally distilled gin (yum!), and entertainment.

Hunkering out of the rain at Gloworm

As much a success as last year, we reflected on the past year. All the hiccups, teething problems, and successes any new business has. Personally, this year has been somewhat of a great juggling act and emotional roller coaster. With keeping down 5 jobs, family bereavements it’s safe to say I’ve been a bit of a mess, but Jen has been the most supportive and caring employer and friend to me during this time. I can’t thank her enough for that.

Another new employee joined us over this anniversary weekend, so you can see, the business is expanding and we’re only going to get better.
Our time gets booked up more and more quickly, and we’re always thrilled to be a part of anything, be it a party, wedding, or event.

Following another week on, Calke Abbey was another resounding success, with a line up of talks from the two Master Chef judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode, and previous contestant Dean Edwards. While Saturday’s weather was miserable, people still weathered the rain to see what the abbey had to offer.
As ever, you really have to come and see these events to see just how much is on, and how much enthusiasm each vendor puts into their business.

As September has begun, I see this as a mark of the end of our hectic summer, and the beginning of the equally busy autumn and winter season, so stay tuned for those events!

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May sunning it up at Newstead Abbey for the second year

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Bus Stop Over – 17th, 18th, & 19th June

Firstly, some VW Van porn…

Set in Newark’s Showground, the Bus Stop Over was a bringing together of all VW buses and an ensemble of traders selling anything from vintage wares and personalised VW memorabilia to home cooked grub all along with a couple of nights camping. Family friendly, pet friendly, and fun having – this was a great opportunity for like-minded VW petrol heads to get together and jam.

Credit to our Tiffany for these shots!

This was the first time we did a show as a trio and it worked out wonderfully; we all got proper breaks and got to have a really good look around and a chance to mingle in between the coffee serving. It was a fantastic event where we weren’t rushed beyond belief, and the people were all friendly and in high spirits.

There was a lot on for entertainment over the three days including live music and little events like The Bark in the Park Dog Show! – I met the winner, she was a lovely pup. They also had this Blue Brothers-esque cop car that anyone could write on – but believe me, it did get somewhat tiring when one child discovered the horn.

Image taken from Facebook, credit to Lee Perry

All in all, a very chilled atmosphere with very chilled people, and very cool motors. Not a bad little weekend.


And remember, if you can’t afford a VW camper van, but want in on the fun next year, you can always get yourself one of these…

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Why buy a bus when you can get this?

Prestwold Hall – 30th April, 1st May & 2nd May

We’ve worked with Great Food & Drink Festivals before, in our first gig last year at Newstead Abbey, then again later in the year at The Great Notts Show in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. Both had been a success for us, and this event at Prestwold Hall follows suit.

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May had some friends in the form of two other VW camper vans. One was dispensing gorgeous cocktails, and the other children’s entertainment – just a few possibilities the VW camper unleashes!

The event was the first of Great Food & Drink’s held at Prestwold Hall, and we were all situated in its extensive grounds. The Great Food & Drink Festival’s website boasted holding host to 100 exhibitors at the show over the three days, and given the success and number of tickets sold for the event, let’s hope it returns next year! If you missed out this time, and can’t wait that long, there is another Great Food & Drink event at Nottingham Castle on the last weekend of May.

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Cupcakes decorated by Mike’s award winning* fair hand, along with Jen’s brownies, millionaire’s shortbread, and banana bread

Almost needless to say, the Great British weather disappointed us with yet another wet bank holiday; but still people came out in their droves and many lined up for a coffee or two. Having said this, we did have some wonderful sunny intervals (hence the glorious looking weather in the snaps!).
Back to the British weather, and we had a few hiccups with our gazebo folding in on itself under the high winds, but we managed to stay  dry until the last day when we were packing up and Jen and I were doused with freezing rain water held by said broken gazebo. Mike was laughing hysterically inside the van. Of course.

 

Despite this we had a great time, being able to have some mini-respite and go around the event was fantastic. Producers of fine foods, drinks, and makers of artisan goods came from far and wide. The folks who came from furthest afield were perhaps the Cocktail Car Company, (picture above in the striking red VW) based in London. A cracking van with some top notch drinks if you ever see them!

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Aldo Zilli enjoying a double espresso after a talk he gave

Along with the edible goodies, the event also featured culinary talks with the likes of Jean-Christophe Novelli, Aldo Zilli (pictured below), and Marcus Bean.Everyone who went to see them really seemed to enjoy them, as well as our beverages upon their exit from the tent. Along with Zilli we met the usual characters we do working in this business. It’s often such a nice break when people tell you a brief of their life stories, all while waiting for a coffee.

I do apologise for the lateness of this post, but holding down four jobs does leave little time to write – even so, I said I’d try to keep up with it so I shall!

I have to say, that despite the troublesome weather, overall it was a fantastic event for us!

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Jen, May, and happy customers in the rare bank holiday sunshine

 

*Mike recently won a competition for “Best Decorated Cakes by a Parent”