Rude veg to welcome us

5:00pm Thursday 24th October 2013

I have been on holiday. This is a rarity for your usual allotment dweller. Spent quite a lot of money, but had a good time… thanks for asking. I went on a road trip around Arizona, which wound up in a mucky mess in Las Vegas. Awful place. It was brilliant.

Hardiest crops best for plots

12:00am Thursday 3rd October 2013

I’ve been busying my spare time with this malarkey for six years now.

Job means I will lose plot

12:00am Thursday 22nd August 2013

I always seem to make life… how can I put this… ‘quirky’ for myself. Scratch that – let’s stick with darn right awkward.

While others want it cooler

The Oxford Times: While others want it cooler

2:40pm Thursday 25th July 2013

Don’t get me wrong: I like it hot. But it’s too hot, isn’t it?

Try lollies with a kick

The Oxford Times: Try lollies with a kick

9:00am Thursday 25th July 2013

The first official heatwave since 2006 and everyone is looking for ways to cool down.

Superstore summer Champers that's definitely worth a pop!

The Oxford Times: Cava

1:21pm Thursday 18th July 2013

Superstore Champers Recently Aldi sent out a press briefing announcing the success of their Veuve Monsigny Brut No.3 Champagne.

Who or what chomped my strawberries?

12:00am Thursday 27th June 2013

I had two strawberries on Sunday evening. Two peachy red ‘uns inflating like hairy little balloons from the stalk. By the time Monday’s saunter to the plot arrived, they had been chomped recklessly by ‘a thing’.

No to Apples and Blackberry

3:20pm Wednesday 5th June 2013

This week I thought I’d dabble with technology and the allotment and, specifically, device etiquette on the plot.

Worm turns for shot of Mezcal

The Oxford Times: Eduardo Gomez sips from his Mezcal.

12:00pm Friday 31st May 2013

Agave is the new miracle food.  The nectar is a natural way to sweeten anything from cakes to tea. Health food stores sell it. Trendy juice bars add it to their smoothies. You can hardly read a recipe without Agave being the “unique” ingredient.

Wine inspires fresh thinking

The Oxford Times: (Left) Gavin McWilliam and (right) Andrew Wilson have created the Cloudy Bay Discovery Garden.

10:01pm Thursday 30th May 2013

 The year 1855 is a date recognised to any oenophile as the year Bordeaux was classified. This was not the vineyards' own doing for self-promotion or plan to get higher prices from the patrons who enjoy the wine. 

"It's all a bit mad . . . but I like it!"

The Oxford Times: The Mad Hatter on Iffley Road.

2:12pm Tuesday 21st May 2013

“Curiouser and curiouser!” I think as I walk around what used to be the blacked out door to the Cricketers Arms on Iffley Road. I am looking for a way into the new gin joint that has taken its place.

Micro flights: a little bit of what you fancy

The Oxford Times: Anthony Lloyd from Fallowfields Country House Hotel.

4:32pm Wednesday 15th May 2013

Have you ever been sitting at dinner, craving a juicy steak, when your partner orders the fish of the day? What wine do you get then?  Do you order wine by the glass accepting the limited choice? Or do you get a bottle knowing that it won’t quite match one of the meals?

Wine tips from a man of impeccable taste

The Oxford Times: Neil Phillips, the Wine Tipster

10:04am Tuesday 7th May 2013

THE Theatre in Chipping Norton is renowned for its Christmas pantomimes, award-winning shows and famous patrons.

Hunger means plot thickens

12:00am Thursday 2nd May 2013

Mr Rotavator was down the plot this week.

The secret gardens for sun worshippers

The Oxford Times: Manhattan Cocktail

9:32am Tuesday 30th April 2013

Last weekend gave us a hint of summer.  Temperatures barely touched 20 degrees and Oxonians responded by leaving their houses and movie theatres to join the al fresco crowds outside.  Girls in shorts rode up the High Street on their bicycles. Young mothers in skirts pushed prams down George Street. Men munching magnums wandered along the Cowley Road.

Always a reason to celebrate with Malbec

The Oxford Times: Benmarco Malbec 2011 Dominio del Plata from Mendoza for £12.99 from Majestic Wine Warehouse.

9:07am Tuesday 23rd April 2013

There appears to be a day to celebrate all kinds of weird and wonderful things. January 13th was rubber ducky day.  Thousands of the little yellow bath friends floated down international waters brightening up a dull January.  International Pillow fight day invaded Trafalgar Square at the start of the month.  Feathers flew making Nelson look like he was standing watch in the midst of a snowstorm. Yesterday was “World Malbec Day.”

Yes, it's cold outside but it's no rum deal

The Oxford Times: Plantation rum lined up for tasting.

5:50pm Tuesday 2nd April 2013

Oxford Alcademic tastings feature rum at the start of the year.

Friday pick-me-up stops me from seeing red

The Oxford Times: Lee Isaacs and Soledad Martin discuss Argentinean wine.

11:03am Thursday 28th March 2013

I dread Fridays. It is always the last day of a long weeks work. This past one ended disappointingly by a dinner cancellation. My mood did not improve with a wet cycle down the Botley Road. I tried entering the Oxford Wine Company’s shop quietly so I wouldn’t disturb the Argentinean tasting in session. The loud pinging as the door opened made that impossible.

Quitting while you're behind

12:00am Thursday 28th March 2013

There’s nothing like a chat with a fellow allotmenteer to make you feel pathetic.

House wine was from wrong place

The Oxford Times: 2009 Makutu Bay from Marlborough NZ

12:00pm Thursday 21st March 2013

What I am about to say next will probably result in my wine ‘re-education.’  I can already hear the tut-tutting from colleagues, and twitter followers dropping me like a tarnished penny. However, some of my best deals come from supermarkets.

A whisky master class

The Oxford Times: Christ Church House Malt.

12:02pm Saturday 16th March 2013

"Isn't anythin' Ah got whiskey won't cure." – William Faulkner

Savouring a wines's best description

The Oxford Times: Lee Isaacs at the Oxford Wine Company on Botley Road.

9:54am Wednesday 13th March 2013

When you hear the word savoury, you think of cheese, meat pies, or olives and nuts. You rarely think of wine.

Skinny wines take weight off mind

The Oxford Times: Essenze Vine Dancer

11:40am Tuesday 12th March 2013

January is over and thankfully, so are those detox diets. It is time to look ahead to spring, but don’t ruin that beach body you sweated over all month. There are alternatives to big red wines that are lower in alcohol and in calories.  Wine makers are answering a demand and wines up to13.5% abv are more popular than ever.

Mixing the traditional and modern

The Oxford Times: Seven of M. Chapoutier's Marsannes from 1998 to 2011.

10:12am Thursday 7th March 2013

“Wine is not made to be watched- it is made to be drunk!”

Really wild after winter

The Oxford Times: Really wild after winter

3:14pm Wednesday 27th February 2013

The first trip of the year to the plot is always laden with trepidation.

Best wines when it pays to go big

The Oxford Times: Chateau Jaumard 2009, £17.99 from Stevens Garnier.

11:49am Friday 22nd February 2013

The Rickety Press at 67 Cranham Street, in Jericho, is adding a few new dinners delectable.  Last Wednesday they launched their Champagne & Oyster night. It was so successful they carried the oysters through Valentine’s Day and into the weekend. It continues Wednesday night as long as the month has the letter 'r' in it. Customers also get £10 off any bottle of fizz they order.

Lovely Champagne is worth a pop

The Oxford Times: Pol Roger Cuvee.

11:05am Thursday 7th March 2013

Valentine’s Day is dangerous.  Plan too much and you can be accused of falling for the corporate advertising ploy.  If you ignore the holiday altogether, you obviously don’t care.

The Big Society is a "youth club for adults."

The Oxford Times: Managers Jack Pinnington and Alex Harmon drink beer out of a frosty glass.

11:02am Thursday 7th February 2013

Walking into the Big Society on Cowley Road feels more like walking into a quirky Californian watering hole. Historic wooden locker doors front the bar.  Glazed tiles and funky artwork hang on the walls. A bottle cap stamp emblazoned with Big Society and reminiscent of 1960s Cuba, is scattered on the old school furniture.

Worms' fate in frozen waste

The Oxford Times: Worms' fate in frozen waste

4:14pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013

Last night I marched (slid) about 100 tiger worms to their inevitable death.

Lighting up Burns Night

The Oxford Times: Oddbins on Little Clarendon Street, Oxford.

7:02pm Friday 18th January 2013

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race! - Robert Burns.

Band celebrates the brighter cider

The Oxford Times: Rabbit Foot Spasm Band cider.

5:01pm Friday 11th January 2013

Sammy Hagar has Cabo Wabo tequila.  Marilyn Manson won gold in 2008 for his Mansinthe Absinthe.  Now Oxford’s The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band has Rabbit Foot Spasm Band cider. It all started last summer at the very wet Faringdon Festival where The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm band was headlining. Rory Souter, of the Cotswold Cider Company met Stuart Macbeth, the bandleader and an idea evolved to launch the band’s own cider.

Enjoy a retro revival with a Babycham and brandy

The Oxford Times: Babycham at the Bookbinders.

11:08am Monday 7th January 2013

After weeks of lavish wines and luxurious Champagnes it is time to relax and have a bit of fun with your beverages. On Christmas Day I popped into my local pub, the Bookbinders, and was surprised to see a scattering of Champagne Coupes filled with a golden sparkling liquid. This was not a wedding; this was a “retro revival.”  It was Babycham.

From Champagne to rum; recommendations for New Year's Eve

The Oxford Times: Tom Ellis talks Champagne at the O3 Gallery.

5:10pm Friday 28th December 2012

New Year’s Eve is all about celebration. I wanted to find out how Oxford’s drink experts in the Champagne, restaurant and spirits industry were planning to ring in the New Year.

Last chance to pick up your plonk on Christmas Eve

The Oxford Times: Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir can be purchased at the Oxford Wine Company on Botley Road.

7:35pm Sunday 23rd December 2012

While most of you picked up your festive fizz at wine fairs months ago, there are still a few who have yet to brave the shops. Maybe, you are hoping things will calm down, and you can pop to the grocery store Christmas Eve and pick up that perfect bargain. More likely you will end up with a bland wine for a truly disappointing dinner.

Be quick to snap up festive fizz

The Oxford Times: Veuve Cliquot “shopping bag” cooler complete with bottle of Ponsardin Rose Brut, for £41.99; display only.

11:49am Thursday 13th December 2012

Christmas is less than two weeks away. Time to hit the shops and buy that wine for dinner or that last minute gift. There are still a few good deals about, but they are going quickly. On Saturday, at the Waitrose in Headington, I discovered the best items had already sold out.

Get a taste for Christmas tipples

The Oxford Times: Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

7:24pm Friday 14th December 2012

The “What Food, What Wine?” awards were held last week with the most topical category being Christmas. The great thing about this competition is the under £10 option, so those on a budget don’t have to suffer.

It's cool down on the plot

2:08pm Thursday 29th November 2012

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect my own clothing brand or a book deal.

Christmas wine gifts in the bag for earlybird buyers

The Oxford Times: Hat Trick wine gift from Tanners Wine Merchants

10:48am Thursday 29th November 2012

I know some of you like to wait until the last minute to do all your Christmas shopping.  There is nothing like the excitement of choosing between day old flowers, magazines and air fresheners at the petrol station Christmas Eve. For those of you a bit less spontaneous and a touch more organized you might want to think about ordering your wine gifts now.

The devil finaly gets his share . . .

The Oxford Times: The new Jim Beam collection, Devil's Cut, Black, Red Stag and Honey.

2:34pm Wednesday 21st November 2012

For years the angels have been getting their share of whiskey as it evaporates into the atmosphere. Because of breathability of oak casks, a barrel loses two to four per cent of its volume during the maturation process at the distillery. This phenomenon is commonly known as the Angel’s Share.

Getting overheated by warm wine

11:00am Thursday 8th November 2012

Nothing irritates me more when entering a pub than to find the wines stored on a top shelf directly under spotlights. I assume they think the lights will draw the customer’s attention. They might as well put the wine under warming lamps. Several weeks ago, I went into a pub hoping for a fun evening with friends. The wine list was non-existent, leaving me to squint up to the top shelf. I probably announced my frustration a bit loud, because the next moment the landlord came around defending his wines.

A perfect spirit that's straight from the Cotswolds

The Oxford Times: Emma Keene talks about gin.

1:52pm Wednesday 31st October 2012

But I really love gin!” The sassy wife of Rick Keene, founder of the Cotswold Brewing Company, enthuses as she speaks on their leap from lager to spirits. Seven years ago Richard and Emma Keene saw a gap in the market. With hundreds of micro-breweries across the country making ales; there were less than a handful making lager. Yet 70 per cent of the beer-drinking population drink lager. Richard decided to buck the Real Ale trend, and start the Cotswold Brewing Company. With years of brewing experience, the latest being the Head Brewer at Archers in Swindon, and plenty of friends to help taste their product, Richard created their signature lagers. Emma’s project management and sales background became instrumental in ensuring it was sold locally in Oxfordshire restaurants and pubs including the Jam Factory, The Lamb & Flag and the Big Bang. As their lagers increased in popularity and won “Best Lager” in several festivals, (generally the only lagers entered), Emma convinced Rick to try his trade on gin.

Hand-made pizzas and wild toppings

The Oxford Times: Hand-made pizzas and wild toppings

1:42pm Wednesday 31st October 2012

There can’t be many people who don’t enjoy sinking their teeth into a freshly cooked pizza covered with lashings of cheese, tomato sauce and all their favourite flavourings. Pizzas now rate as one of the top fast foods, universally enjoyed throughout the world.

Back to Earth: We're reaping the benefits

1:36pm Wednesday 31st October 2012

You have to be built of stern stuff and, frankly, be slightly unhinged. But winter growing can be worthwhile.

Make like Bond and stir things up with a classy tipple

The Oxford Times: Berenice Marlohe and Daniel Craig star in Skyfall, in the scene in the casino in Macau.

1:01pm Wednesday 24th October 2012

Three measures of Gordon’s; one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice, and add a thin slice of lemon peel.” Got it?

Local vineyards continue while others cancel harvest

The Oxford Times: Bob Nielsen, owner of Brightwell Vineyard.

12:16pm Thursday 18th October 2012

Last week, Nyetimber announced it was not going to be picking any grapes this year. The Vineyard generally produces up to 400,000 bottles of sparkling wine, all made from grapes grown on its 430 acres in West Sussex. Cancelling the harvest has shocked the English wine world.

Reds warm as the sun goes down

The Oxford Times: Trapezio Vino Tinto from Ralph's Wines £12.50

7:30am Monday 15th October 2012

There are telltale signs that winter is coming. Birds fly south, creepy-crawlies move inside, and your puppy dog’s coat becomes a lot thicker.  For me, I switch to red wine. I know the rule is to drink red wine when you are eating red meat and drink white wine when you are eating white meat, but I’m not very good at following rules. They are really just guidelines anyway. It depends on individual tastes and I’m more of a white wine in warm weather, red wine in cool weather type of girl. So when the sun gets lowers in the sky, I reach for the reds. This weekend I had an excellent red wine called Trapezio Vino Tinto. It is a 2007 blend of Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, from Mendoza, Argentina. The wine is smooth and rich without overpowering fruit flavours. Named for the trapezoid shape of the winery, it is a deep purple in colour. It has spent 6 months in the barrel and a further 16 months in the bottle resulting in a well-rounded wine with a long finish. I got my Trapezio from Ralph’s Wines which is based in Appleford, Abingdon. It cost £12.50, and goes perfect with a grilled steak.

The classical week ahead

2:25pm Wednesday 10th October 2012

Soloists of Oxford Philomusica CHAMBER SERIES Simpkins Lee Theatre, Lady Margaret Hall Friday, 7pm 01865 980980 Oxford Philomusica principal players return, beginning tomorrow night with a pair of string quartets — Mozart’s No.19 in C Major, Dissonance, and Dvorak’s No.12 in F major, the American.

Oxford Philomusica: Sheldonian Theatre

The Oxford Times: Savitri Grier

2:21pm Wednesday 10th October 2012

It’s wonderful to see the Oxford Philomusica champion young artists, including 19-year-old violinist Savitri Grier, pictured, winner of the orchestra’s inaugural Youth Concerto Competition. She tackled Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor with poise and maturity displaying natural technique and musicality. With her virtuosic handling of the cadenzas and the expressive movement of her body, she was mesmerising. The orchestra impressed too, with conductor Marios Papadopoulos ensuring sensitive support and meticulous attention to detail and there was a seemingly tangible rapport between soloist and orchestra. This was a compelling performance of one of the great early 20th-century masterpieces, and it was a privilege to witness a star in the making. Savitri Grier is undoubtedly a name to watch. There were memorable moments in Andante Moderato. The third movement was joyful while the final movement, with its unusual passacaglia and variations, brought the symphony to a powerful and exhilarating finish.

Scores of talent in new jazz orchestra

The Oxford Times: Scores of talent in new jazz orchestra

2:19pm Wednesday 10th October 2012

‘Ellington’s Caravan sparked showers of sax fireworks; the band sailed through star UK saxist Tim Garland’s giddily capricious Agro Alegria.”

Whately women in fine voice

The Oxford Times: Kitty Whately

2:04pm Wednesday 10th October 2012

If you’re thinking that surname looks familiar, there’s a good reason — Kitty Whately is the daughter of Morse/Lewis star Kevin Whately. Fans of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet will probably remember her as Whately’s on-screen daughter, Debbie Hope, in the second series — something she has no recollection of herself.


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