Team Trip to a Local Pub, The Crown

Last week we decided to treat ourselves, again. This time we thought we would visit a small country pub deep in the heart of rural England. The Crown is situated in Old Basing, near Basingstoke. Okay, so it’s not exactly deep in the heart of rural England, but it was still out in the sticks when compared to the buzzing city life we are used to here in London.

It was lovely to go somewhere warm and with a hearty atmosphere. After all, to the people living in Old Basing, The Crown is, predominantly, their local. Despite posing as a local pub, The Crown has a reputation for outstanding pub grub, along with some exquisite cuisine you would expect to find in a top London restaurant.

The staff were very efficient, and upon arrival we were greeted by a friendly and attentive member of staff who showed us to our table. Again proving that this is no ordinary pub!

Upon being seated we were presented with the menu. The food all sounded fantastic and we collectively decided it was time to splash out in order to really get a taste of what The Crown had to offer. So, we ordered some marinated Greek olives for the table, whilst I ordered the hand dived Scallops as a starter, and the dry aged sirloin of English beef, which roughly translates as steak and chips, but posh steak and chips nonetheless.

Meanwhile, my colleague ordered Mussels as a starter and the fillet of Sea Bream as a main. The wine list was also exemplary, and again something you would not necessarily expect from a local pub, and so we couldn’t resist ordering a glass of wine each.

Once our order was taken, we were presented with some complimentary bread for the table, which was fittingly fantastic as it was served soft and warm so that the butter could melt over the top of it.

Our starters then arrived without much delay and we set about savouring the flavours. Might I add at this point that the Scallops were beautifully presented, and exceptionally tasty to boot, whilst the portion of Mussels was quite colossal for a starter. You really do get your money’s worth at The Crown! We were happy customers thus far.

With the starters loving devoured we moved on to our mains. The Sea Bream, I am reliably informed by my colleague, was just what she was hoping for; flavoursome and filling. In the meantime, my steak was cooked to perfection. It was just bloody enough, but not too bloody, whilst the flavours were something to relish. The chips were most certainly not your normal pub chips either. They were huge! And definitely home-made. They were slightly crispy on the outside but beautifully fluffy on the inside. The wine, also, did not disappoint!

With hard financial times still upon us it’s wonderful to visit a warm, hearty English pub that is able to cook and serve such fantastic food. Let’s hope the local community continues to support The Crown, whilst they continue to receive outside business from people such as ourselves, in order for them to maintain their overheads, and continue paying their commercial restaurant insurance.

The Crown was a true treat for the delicate palates of us here at QuoteSearcher, and we recommend that you also check it out if you are ever in the area. We personally, will not be able to keep away for too long!

Calorie counting can lead to healthy eating

In one of our previous blog post on QuoteSearcher we blogged about calorie counting and how a few chains have signed up to displaying nutritional information in outlets.

This week, fast food chains such as McDonalds have started to show calorie content on their meals.

Displaying calories is encouraged by the Government as part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, to make people more informed about the food they eat, which is also approved by many obesity experts.

The Department of Health says that showing how many calories are in the food that people eat “makes people more aware of the energy content of their foods and does influence people’s choices”.

The scheme has been running in New York and studies have shown how consumers regularly underestimate the number of calories they eat. McDonalds have also done their own research regarding fast food and calorie intake and found that 8 out of 10 customers believe all companies should display calorie information, less than 1 in 5 said it would influence what they in.

This is a good start if around 15% of consumers change their eating habits and a good result achieved compared to other healthy eating promotions.

It could be a concern about how food manufacturers will react to calorie displays. Because only the calorie count needs to be displayed, not the actual content, some people believe that food outlets will cut their costs and restaurant insurance UK by adding poor quality filler ingredients to bulk out the food which reduces the calorie content, e.g. using starch.

It’s also a worry that more salt will be added to make up for the taste, which will lead to a meal of poor nutritional value.

It would be more useful for consumers if restaurants and fast food outlets would display the full nutritional breakdown of their meals including their fibre, sugar, fat, protein, salt and sugar levels.

Healthier food choices could be made if the full nutritional value was shown and poor quality establishments would have to improve their food and ingredients. It’s not just fast food restaurants that would suffer, posh, high quality restaurants would also struggle as their indulgent high fat, calorie and salt content foods would make a Big Mac look healthy.

Jamie Oliver Campaigns to Tackle Obesity

TV chef, Jamie Oliver joins the coalition of nutritionists and health experts who are urging the UN to debate and address the issue of obesity at summit on disease.

According to medical experts, levels of obesity across the globe are reaching epidemic proportions. A major debate at a UN medical conference in New York will now be focusing on the subject of obesity.

Jamie Oliver and also Sir David King, former government chief scientist, are alongside the coalition of health experts and nutritionists who are encouraging western nations to help stop the increasing numbers of obese people across the planet.

Oliver told the One Young World conference in Switzerland, “There seems to be a trend with developing countries wanting to follow in the footsteps of the western world, and copy their patterns of fast food and consumerism.” He said that there was a particular problem in the Middle East, South America and India.

Oliver explained that “Pre-packed convenience food is seen as a symbol of being ‘modern’ in developing countries, but the problems it causes are long-term, and costly”. Many restaurants are finding it cheaper to serve fast, fatty food because of the increased cost of commercial restaurant insurance, supplies and other costly overheads.

Oliver has called for a “global movement to make obesity a human rights issue” and set up a petition and urged people to sign it. His aim is to encourage the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon and other heads of state to “sit up and take notice”.

Oliver is also a firm believer of national dishes and urged countries to hold on to them and for recipes to pass from generation to generation. “I believe that together we can make some real noise ahead of this meeting of experts,” he said.

King wrote in the Lancet, “We need changes in many aspects of our environment to avoid the morbid consequences of overweight and obesity. This change will require global political leadership across public policy, considerably broader than that of health policy, and far better monitoring.”

He wrote that “By 2050, 60% of men and 50% of women could be clinically obese.

“Without action, obesity-related diseases will cost the UK £45bn a year. Research and action should therefore be undertaken to avoid what could develop into a massive problem, not just for the UK, but also globally.”

There are many factors that are blamed on the rise of obesity including jobs away from manual labour, the increase of car use, the availability of cheap, high calorie foods and also the rise in urban living.

However, King insisted that it is not people being lazy or overeating that is causing the current obesity epidemic, but how people that much less choice in the matter of their weight than they would imagine.

Cricket casserole anyone?

Good news, nutrition experts have introduced a cost effective way to help solve the food shortage crisis and save the environment.

The experts have found a plentiful supply of food that’s low in fat as well as rich in protein and calcium.

However, it’s bad news for people who are squeamish, as the food resource is creepy crawlies.
After the Sundays Times reported that nutrition experts in Brussels recommended that bugs could be a vital source of nutrition, the European Union (EU) thinks insects should start appearing on menus.

The European Commission has now offered £2.5million into a project to encourage people to eat insects, so you could start seeing cricket casserole or scorpion soup as choices in restaurants near you.

The eating of insects is also known as entomophagy and the EU has asked the UK Food Standards Agency to investigate and potentially look at ways to make it more of a popular choice of food.

According to one study, grasshoppers only have 6% fat and offer 20% protein, compared to ground lean beef which has 18% fat and can offer 24% protein.

The research organisation that has the best proposal for investigating ‘insects as novel sources of proteins’ will be awarded money by the European Commission.

The European Commission has advised that the organisation will have to research safety, quality, what sort of proteins the insects offer and any potential allergies.

A team at Wageningen University, in Holland, who will be lead by Professor Marcel Dicke, is applying for the grant.

Dicke suggested to the Sunday Times that “By 2020 you will be buying insects in supermarkets.
“We have already seen the introduction of eggplants, sushi, things people never ate here. I think it will start with ground-up insects in sauces and burgers.”

Because of the soaring costs of running restaurants, finding cheap restaurant insurance, hiring staff and the rising cost of supplying red meat, eating the alternative of silkworm moth larvae could be a solution to the problem.

As the population grows rapidly, the more traditional sources of protein such as beef are soaring in price as they can be costly to feed.

Compared to beef, the alternative of eating insects are viewed as more environmentally friendly as they emit fewer greenhouse gasses than cattle and require less feed.

If you are interested in tasting insects, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason have started stocking insects in their stores.

We have to admit that at QuoteSearcher, the thought of eating insects make our mouth water, but not in a good way.

What interesting insects have you tried before?

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Wolfgang Puck brings CUT to 45 Park Lane

Wolfgang Puck has brought his fine dining restaurant, CUT to Europe. His first restaurant, Spago was opened over 30 years ago in Los Angeles and his empire of restaurants, cookbooks and saucepans can be found all over the world. Now, his 26th restaurant has been opened at Park Lane in London.

Puck’s fans include Sir Elton John and the Obamas and will be sure to win over more fans soon.

Although the Austrian-born chef had previously opened 25 other restaurants, this 26th is his first in Europe. Puck, who is 62 years old, has chosen Park Lane for his CUT restaurant.
Three decades ago, Puck’s aspiration was to introduce the American market to French haute cuisine. He was successful, but now the challenge is to bring Americanised European food back to Europe.

CUT’s restaurant director, Loyd Loudy said, “The lunch portions are slightly smaller and there are more greens and more seafood. Wolfgang loves the fish and seafood. It is much better than he can get in Los Angeles.” Crab and lobster “Louis” has featured on loads of the chef’s menus for over 20 years. For the first time, the crab that features on the menus comes from Dorset.

Puck was born in 1949 in Austria, his mother was an occasional pastry chef from which he learnt cooking from her, before starting an apprenticeship in Monaco at Hotel de Paris. Puck moved to the US and eventually to Los Angeles.

Puck’s first cookbook was published in 1981, called Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen, following that he acquired a restaurant insurance quote and opened his first restaurant Spago.

Loudy said that Puck has had wanted to open a restaurant in London for years, but “There has never been the right mix. He specifically wanted to open in a hotel.”

CUT at 45 Park Lane offers a huge tasting menu and 15 cuts of steak. The head chef is David McIntyre, has relocated from Beverly Hills and has known Puck for 13 years.

The restaurant has 70 seats, which already have a waiting list over the next few weeks for people who want to dine in the restaurant.

The steaks at CUT will be grilled over specially imported hardwood and charcoal, then grilled from above at nearly 350C at Puck’s unique specification. However, Loudy believes that it is the service that will be CUT’s unique contribution. Loudy said “It is the philosophy of service. Wolfgang believes passionately in front of house. The way we greet people and the style of service will be more like in the US, and entirely new to London.”

It sounds like a wonderful restaurant which we hope to dine at one day!

Chocolaty Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

It’s only September but it feels like winter is already upon us in Britain. One of the best smells which can warm up the home is freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are great for sharing with friends, families and even colleagues! Chocolaty chocolate chip cookies are even more indulgent and comforting to eat. They are easy to make as well so you don’t need to be a pastry chef with cheap restaurant insurance to bake them.

To make the chocolaty chocolate chip cookies you’ll need the followingingredients-

 

• 1 egg from the fridge
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 150g sieved cocoa
• 75g brown sugar
• 50g white sugar
• 125g soft butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 150g flour
• 125g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
• 2 bags (350g) semi-sweet chocolate morsels or dark chocolate chips

Method to make 12 cookies-

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170C then melt the dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a heatproof dish using the microwave.
2. Put the cocoa, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
3. Cream the sugars and butter in another bowl, then add the melted dark chocolate and mix together.
4. Next, beat in the cold egg and vanilla extract, and then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Finally, add and mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop out 12 equal sized mounds. You can use a palette knife or ice cream scoop – once lined on a baking sheet, making sure they are about 6c, apart and do not flatten them.
6. Cook for 18 minutes and use a cake tester to make sure it comes out semi-clean and not wet with cake batter (try again if you pierce a chocolate chip).
7. Then take it out of the oven and leave to cool for 4-5 minutes on the baking sheet, before transferring them to a cooling rack to harden.

Your chocolaty chocolate chip cookies are now ready to eat. You could even try using white chocolate chips in the recipe – enjoy!

QuoteSearcher tries a new Pizza from Domino’s Gourmet Range

Every Friday, the team at QuoteSearcher usually has a takeaway for a lunchtime treat. Last week we decided to try a pizza from Domino’s Pizza new gourmet range.

When you think about the people who order Domino’s Pizza, students, ‘couch potatos’ and people with a hangover may come to mind. However, as sales slow down and costs like restaurant insurance quotes, supplies and staff increase, Domino’s Pizza launched their gourmet range in hope to broaden their appeal to a wider market.

There were three different pizzas to choose from in the gourmet range, all served on a thin crust base, including-

Firenze – Toppings included pepperoni, Ventricina salami and Peruvian roquito peppers which make this pizza a fiery choice.

Rustica – SunBlush baby plum tomatos, baby spinach, smoked bacon rashers and chicken breast strips.

Florentine – Sunblush baby plum tomatoes, baby spinach and Greek feta cheese.

We chose a Florentine to share as we liked the sound of the Greek feta cheese. We could have also had the new Gourmet garlic bread which is made using 100% mozzarella cheese, sundried tomatoes and garlic sauce over a fresh thin crust base. However, we decided not to as it would have been a heavy lunch and the afternoon would have probably been unproductive!

When our pizza arrived, the Florentine was quite pungent (in a good way) and it looked delicious as well. The sunblush tomatoes were sweet and tasty and the feta cheese was a good contrast to the tomatoes. We couldn’t really taste the spinach as the cheese was quite overpowering.

It was much lighter than a normal Dominos pizza and we probably could have eaten the extra garlic bread without feeling too full. At £17.99 the pizza is expensive and we felt that if ordering a dominos, we might as well get a ‘traditional’ greasy takeaway pizza, or alternatively go to the pizza restaurant down the road and buy a classic pizza that’s cooked in a wood fired oven.

Sales and marketing director at Domino’s Pizza, Simon Wallis, said “Our new Domino’s Gourmet Range has been specially developed to appeal to a different type of pizza-eater who is looking for a lighter pizza and more distinctive flavours, which are akin to those you might find in a traditional pizzeria. We want to make dining in, the new dining out with Domino’s Gourmet Range.”

If you want a takeaway pizza but a lighter meal at the same time, then a pizza from the gourmet range is for you.

Should there be a Tax on Junk Food?

Academics have insisted that the Coalition should tax fatty and sugary foods, as they caution that by 2030, nearly half of all adults in Britain will be obese.

According to public health experts, much stronger systems are needed to stop the increasing cases of obesity.

In the study that was published in The Lancet, in 2008, 26% of British women and men were obese, but if historical trends continue, the figure could rise to 46% by 2030 which means that, in less than 20 years time, there could be an additional 11 million obese people.

This is a worrying number because people who are overweight tend to suffer much more from heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Not only could people suffer with more problems, but so would the NHS. Obesity could cost the state £32 billion a year by 2050, which is almost a third of today’s NHS budget.

For most food, there is currently no VAT. It would be politically fraught if this was to change, as with the rising cost of other things like restaurant insurance UK, minimum wage increases, tighter rules and regulations, businesses have already been affected. However, the main reason is because it would hit poorer homes the hardest.

Taxing unhealthy drink and food would save governments billions by reducing obesity-related illness, as well as bringing in revenue, says Professor Steven Gortmaker from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gortmaker calculated that a tax about unhealthy food would save California about $1.5 billion (around £1 million) a year with their population of 37 million people.

According to Gortmaker, his analysis showed a ‘fat tax’ was the single most effective measure, in terms of lives saved, followed by traffic light food labelling, and tighter control of advertising junk food to children.

Oxford University Professor, Klim McPherson, who also worked on the obesity forecasts, has condemned the Coalition ministers for believing that they could fix the obesity problems without radical action.

Denmark has put a tax on their unhealthy food, but it doesn’t seem likely that Britain will follow suit.

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said that “rather than nannying people we will nudge them”. He added that “Nudges are very important. Tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove.”

Many would feel a food tax – even on unhealthy products – to be a tax on living. Deciding what or how to tax would also be a minefield.”

QuoteSearcher's Trip to The Glasshouse

Last week we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out at a top London restaurant in Kew, The Glasshouse.

Upon arrival you are greeted by a warm and friendly team who offer to take your coats before seating you. The service is very much first class, and frankly it has to be in order to remain in line with the quality of food on offer.

The menu is neatly presented and placed in your hand as and when you are comfortably seated. Whilst pondering which of the delicately delicious cuisines to choose from you are offered a selection of delightful, freshly baked, breads to eat while you read your menu. The wine list is also extensive, and being a French restaurant, there are some impeccable wines on the list that cater to a whole range of different budgets. I chose the ‘Lagar de Cervera’ whilst my colleague chose the ‘Pouilly Fumé’. Both were incredible, and I can safely say they were amongst the finest wines I had ever tasted.

Once we had chosen our particular dishes we did not have to wait long to receive our starters. I went for the paupiette of plaice, whilst my colleague chose the smoked eel. Both were absolutely exquisite! With fish you always worry that the smell and taste can become a little over powering, however, with these two starters they were just right and you could really taste the other flavours of the dish coming through.

Once our starters were out the way it was only a short wait until our main course was presented to us. Presentation it seems is a bit of a keyword at The Glasshouse as each dish was brought out beautifully arranged abed an immaculately clean, and shiny, plate. I had chosen the raw spicy beef, while my colleague went for the crisp pollock.

The main courses had big shoes to fill following one of the best starters I had ever eaten, and it must be said, the standard, at this point, just slightly dipped. The main course was still fantastic and well worth the money, however I just found myself wanting more of the starter instead.

With the first two dishes out the way, we found ourselves struggling to pick a dessert as we were so full up. However, with the first two dishes being resounding successes, we just had to sample the dessert menu! My colleague made a fantastic choice and went for the crème brûlée, which I then had to taste as it looked amazing, and it was! The caramelised top was beautifully sweet whilst the actual dessert was wonderfully creamy and actually very light and easy to eat.

I went for the strawberry and custard pie which was delightfully fresh and tasted like it had been made with real strawberries, which I am confident it was. After a slightly disappointing main course following such an impressive, and flavoursome starter, the desserts really did confirm The Glasshouse as one of the finest restaurants I had ever visited.

In a financially difficult time, when people are less inclined to dine out, and businesses are having to cut costs, we should hope The Glasshouse does not feel the need to close its doors to business, and instead continue paying its fine array of staff, along with its restaurant insurance and other overheads, in order for them to continue to produce beautifully exquisite food and top notch service. I couldn’t recommend this place enough, and I am confident you will also love the delicate flavours they have on offer. Little surprise really that it was awarded a Michelin Star.

The Foodie Fanatics have Voted and the Winner is…

The poll for the best foodie blog on the web has closed and the winner that readers have voted for is Amsterdam based foodie, Valerie, whose wonderful food blog is called ‘Love through the Stomach’.

Our poll for best foodie blog on the web received 246 votes from people all around the world and Love through the Stomach received 78 of these votes.

Congratulations to Valerie who will receive a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s new book, ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’, which will hopefully inspire her to write more fabulous foodie posts for everyone to enjoy!

In second place was Juls’ Kitchen, who received 37 votes with its fantastic photos alongside its recipes and following shortly in third place with 35 votes was thebountifulplate, whose blog consists of both indulgent and homely recipes.

Our final top 10 blogs on the web are as follows –

1. lovethroughthestomach.com – @Valerie_LTTS (78 Votes)
2. en.julskitchen.com – @JulsKitchen (37 Votes)
3. thebountifulplate.wordpress.com – @catchychan (35 Votes)
4. fatenglishman.com – @FatEnglishman (32 Votes)
5. latartinegourmande.com – @tartinegourmand (23 Votes)
6. cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com – @CannelleVanille (17 Votes)
7. blog.friendseat.com – @FriendsEAT (15 Votes)
8. renbehan.com – @RenBehan (11 Votes)
9. thelondonfoodie.co.uk – @thelondonfoodie (10 Votes)
10. ieatthereforeiam.blogspot.com – @ieatblog (7 Votes)

Congratulations to everyone who made it in the top 10 of our best foodie blog on the web poll, especially Love Through the Stomach, Juls’ Kitchen and thebountifulplate.

Thanks to everyone that voted and tweeted about the QuoteSearcher poll, we hope that you’ve all enjoyed reading the foodie blogs as much as we did and maybe you’ve discovered a new recipe on the way!

The lucky foodies who made it to the top 10 will all receive a unique badge which you can place on your blog to show that you took part in the best foodie blog on the web, as voted for by other foodie fanatics!

If you didn’t get a chance to enter this competition, don’t worry as we will be running more competitions in the future!