Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.
I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me. Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.
This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman. Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.
Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.
Drinkwater books are like my old friends. I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.
I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.
Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.
Fifteen miles from nowhere, we saw a faded sign for ‘Fish Shack’. We followed a road to the middle of the beach desert until we reached a decaying old boat that was almost as big as a whale. Yes, and the B52’s track was playing in my head…
Parking the car on the uneven tarmac, we hobbled over the pebbles to the shack. Luckily, I found a table overlooking abandoned boats and Dungeness Power Station. Optimistic that my husband had reserved a love shack to celebrate two decades of marriage, I congratulated him on this romantic setting. Alas, always thinking of his stomach, the Fish Shack was the destination.
Expecting greasy fish and chips, I was handed plaice and salad with a large cup of builder’s tea. The food was absolutely delicious! The plaice, caught only hours earlier, was cooked in olive oil on a hot plate. The fresh salad had an olive oil and lemon dressing. It was served in a small cardboard box, but they will probably steal this idea on the Great British Menu. And builder’s tea could be the new Pinot Noir. I must confess that I declined the bread roll, but understood that it was a nod to the fishermen who eat this food.
Seizing the moment, we decided to go for a walk on the beach. We were told it was fine to walk on the beach if we didn’t touch the ‘fishing tackle’!! Forget visiting a maritime museum, there were artefacts on the beach such as rusty anchors and abandoned nets. These savvy people are obviously protecting the objects d’art to prevent art galleries and Michelin starred restaurants from displaying them in their gaffs. The food and the setting were perfect: The Fish Shack is indeed a funky little shack. Get yourselves off to the food getaway!
Who knows? Maybe this place will become either the Dungeness Modern Art Gallery or even the Derek Jarman Modern. An art gallery and restaurant without walls could be the new concept of the 21st century. Visit now as in the future you may need a credit card without a limit.
Derek Jarman, the artist and filmmaker, lived in Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.
Au revoir France and goodbye ferry. Hello, White Cliffs of Dover. Where are the bluebirds?
Have you guessed? We stayed in Blighty for our holidays. But I feared that we would miss the sunshine and the dégustation. A ‘Blightycation’ ahead of us, we visited: castles, gardens, castles, seaside towns, pubs and yet more castles.
Travelling the roads, in search of another castle, I spotted a brown sign for a vineyard. Barnsole Vineyard was perfectly situated in a picturesque Kentish village. The entrance to the bijou vineyard took us straight to the vines. Alors! We were en France. We were invited to sit on a terrace surrounded by flowers. My mind wondered back to those many, many heady days of wine tasting en France. I wanted to say, ‘Bonjour. Dégustation s’il vous plait?’ But my schoolgirl French wasn’t required. The only headache that threatened was from the wine, rather than trying to dredge up my language skills.
The proprietor gave us a warm welcome. She was passionate about the vineyard and keen to point out that ‘nature throws its challenges’ at the winemaking process. This vineyard oversees the whole process from the grape to your glass. Despite the hard work, the proprietors were relaxed. They had learned the art from the previous Polish owners. On the day that we visited, their friends were bottling the sparkling wine. I felt like I had walked into a scene of the many romance novels that I have read. However, I was concerned that the lovely proprietor was spitting out the wine onto the grass. I didn’t like to comment at the time!
We were welcomed with a tray full of bottles to taste. No complaints were heard from me as I wasn’t driving. The only hint of Blighty was the cool breeze that threatened to bring a few drops of rain.
The wine was delicious! We enjoyed the fresh citrus flavours of the white and another had a slightly floral taste. The red wine tasted of berries. My tasting senses were working! According to the experts the Red Reserve 2013 had ‘redcurrants and sense of delicious spice’ while the Recheinsteiner was ‘complex with a great body’: I don’t remember him but I was right about the berries. We also bought some sparkling English wine for Christmas. I did feel a warm glow from the effects of the wine tasting. However, I could walk in a straight line to the car. Feel free to congratulate me on this because I concentrated with all my might! Apparently, I am lined up for an award.
Nodding off on the journey home, I did see the bluebirds. This Francophile may have been converted. We will all be delighting in ‘Blightycations’ very soon – just you wait and see. Meanwhile, I am thinking of organising a pre-Christmas wine tasting celebration. Would you care to join me?
Broadway village, in the Cotswolds, is constructed of honey coloured stone.
Dripping with charm, this village always makes my heart glow and coaxes me to find souvenirs for the senses – and not the bric-a-brac variety.
Broadway Delicatessen and Broadway Wine Company are always essential destinations on our culinary compass. Broadway Wine Company is a boutique wine shop. The wines are displayed like precious books and each bottle has a blurb. Every label tells a story, and the wine merchant invites you into the narrative. Then like a conductor, he throws his arms around until he finds the right melody of flavour for you.
Drunk with enthusiasm, his mind travels to the various wine regions. His words ramble down the dusty tracks to the vineyards, until you reach some possible destinations for your wine choice. Oozing knowledge, he tells you where and how the wine is produced. Listening to your preferences, he starts ‘winestorming’ as he searches for the correct notes of flavour. Speaking, without pretention and without pausing, he finds the perfect match for your taste.
On our last pilgrimage, the wine evangelist helped us to select a trio of wines from the Old World and New World. We paired the Sidewood Reserve from the Adelaide Hills with some Gloucester Old Spot Sausages, served with Worcester apple sauce. Low and behold, it was a perfect match!
On arrival at Restaurant James Sommerin, we ordered a good Pinot Noir. We noted that the ambiance was calm, staff attentive and the other guests were very well attired.
Feeling relaxed, in our jeans and T shirts, we discussed the merits of the food; each dish looked elegant like a work of art. Much to my husband’s dismay, I started to make notes about the food. The guests on the neighbouring table were intrigued by the notebook. Clearly, I wasn’t a restaurant critic as I was wearing jeans. We sipped more of the wine that was so beautifully flavoured with summer fruits that it could have been a soft drink.
The delicious food improved with each course. Buoyed by this tasting experience, I was determined to write an analysis of each dish. I scribbled furiously between each morsel and took photographs of the dishes. More delicious wine was poured into a glass that could happily home several goldfish.
Alas, I cannot read the scribbles in my notebook. Throughout the notebook, I had repeated the words ‘great textures’ and ‘explosion of flavour’ albeit in various styles of handwriting. ‘Desert’ was underlined enthusiastically. Did I go to the Sahara to eat pudding? Other words were incomplete and I hope that they didn’t run off onto the beautifully laundered table cloth. I circled ‘black pudding’ purée several times because I didn’t have my highlighter pen. I do remember that I was offended by the puréed texture but I am a northerner.
Undeterred by the black pudding, I did note down Picasso’s poetry on a plate. Obviously, Pinot Noir should come with a cliché warning on the label. Mysteriously, the notebook has splashes of wine and food inside of it but I will keep it as a tribute to the Picasso chef.
James Sommerin is a chef and an artist. The restaurant was like a theatre of food and next time I will dress up for the occasion. The food was so good that I can forgive the corruption of the black pudding texture. I will wish on a star for the restaurant!