Author Archives: manchesterwelsh

Jetboil Zip: Supreme stove?

The Jetboil. A stove I’ve seen many a military person whip from their webbing, make a brew in record time and then pop it all back nice and neatly in the pouch. It’s fair to say that I’ve been pretty envious of this, I mean – it all seemed so ‘neat’. A mug, burner and gas canister all stored in one super easy to carry package? Whats not to love?!

I’ve finally managed to acquire one to have a play with. I got a Jetboil Zip (retails at approximately £69.99) free with a subscription to Trail Magazine (£49), which I figured was a pretty good deal. It’s smaller than other Jetboils holding 0.8ltrs of water and you need an external source of ignition: I choose to use my Firesteel because it makes me feel rugged and outdoorsy, but you could just use a lighter or matches.

Jetboil Zip

 

Inside the Jetboil mug is the burner, a pot/pan support and a tripod. A 100g gas canister will also fit inside, if you fit all the pieces together correctly.

The pot/pan support means that you can use the Jetboil as a normal stove and put pots and pans on the burner. My main misgiving about the whole Jetboil system was that it could only really be used for one thing: to boil water quickly. The addition of a pot/pan support makes it a much more versatile stove – I used it to cook bacon when I went camping last week and was pretty impressed. The tripod massively increases the stability of the cooking system and can fit several different sized gas canisters – there is nothing worse than watching your freshly boiled water tip over in the wind!

When the Jetboil Zip is used to simply boil water, it is the fastest stove I’ve ever used and I had my brew in record time. It didn’t fare so well when I tried to cook boil in the bag meals in the mug, I found the 0.8ltr capacity a tad small to fit my food pouch in let the water boil without overflowing. I’ve mostly used the stove to boil water to make a brew, I’ve found it a nice alternative to taking a flask of coffee out with me. 20130822-134659.jpgPerhaps a larger Jetboil would be better for heating up boil in the bag food as I see plenty of people who use them to do just that. Another selling point of the Jetboil is that you can simply boil the water in the mug and then make the brew straight into it. I did just this a while back and it worked well, saved me packing another cup! The downside to that is that you have to wash the mug before putting your stove back together. Perhaps I’m lazy but I’d prefer to just stick to clean water in my Jetboil mug.

All in all, I’m quite taken with the Jetboil Zip. It does exactly what I need it to do with minimal fuss and doesn’t take up too much room. I’m not sure it’d replace my flask on a walk but it’s a great addition to my kit and means I don’t have to take my trangia with me if I do want to make a fresh brew.

Festival highs and lows

After years of refusing to go to a festival, I finally went and did it. A very good friend of mine went to Boardmasters in Newquay, Cornwall last year and he was adamant that it was the event to pop my festival cherry. Now he knows me pretty well, and he knows that I don’t like crowds and feeling penned in, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

It seemed to have everything that floats my boat: sea; surfing; beer; camping; food; comedy; music; pasties; horrible shorts and crazy sunglasses. And it did indeed tick all these boxes but (and there’s alway

s a but), it also ticked all my ‘things that annoy me’ boxes. For instance, drunk and drugged up people are mightily annoying when you’re sober. For anyone planning to attend a festival, you’re pretty safe from those types til about 2100 – I had an amazing time in the festival arena until around that time. Perhaps I’m a party pooper and I’m ok with that but I took myself away by 2200 each night, chilled in my tent and went to sleep until the entire campsite started to shriek “Alan!!!” over and over again. If I go next year, I will make a Tshirt that says ‘No need to shout! I’m Alan’. 4am the masses decided to sleep – before you ask, yes I was wearing earplugs…

The festival site was well set up and was very impressive, spending the days there at the various stages relaxing listening to comedy, unknown bands and music was a real treat and I would definitely do it again. However the whole experience was blighted by what I’d always presumed a festival would be: thousands of drunk, dirty people crammed into a small space with no consideration for others.

Call me grumpy but waking up and discovering that someone’s taken a dump outside your mates tent and there are sweet and sour noodles on yours, isn’t my idea of a nice time.

Overall verdict? Day tickets for me next time (or perhaps staying nearby and escaping at night).

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Breakfast at the Chorlton Green Brasserie

I’ve been a fan of the Chorlton Green Brasserie since it first opened and I’ve written a piece about them before. I love the opening hours (0800-2300 everyday), the atmosphere and the rustic feel of the place. Today I popped in with a friend for brunch after walking my dog in Chorlton Meadows and was treated to some awesome sausages courtesy of the best butcher in Chorlton, W.H.Frost – well worth ordering anything they’ve supplied. Pop in and see them if you’re passing Chorlton, great place to buy your meat.

I ordered a Frosty sausage sandwich with a fried egg whilst my friend had the full English with poached eggs. The food was perfectly cooked, arrived within 10/15 minutes of ordering and was very well presented. We both tucked in and honestly, I can’t think of a better place to have brunch. As we went to pay we had a friendly chat with the owner who kept a smile on his face even when a pot of milk was spilt on his nether regions – an ultimate professional. It was reasonably priced at £4.50 for the sausage sandwich and £8.50 for the full English. Yes, you can get cheaper breakfasts but where else can you get the welcome and a free dog biscuit?

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Esbit Titanium Spoon

Being a bit of a gear fondler, I am always looking at other people’s equipment and checking out what’s available on the market. Whilst in the woods with some Army Cadets I noticed that one of the regular soldiers with us had a foldable titanium spoon and he was pretty obsessed with it. I have always used a Spork but sometimes the length of it meant that it would dig into me, a foldable spoon sounded awesome. The fact that it was titanium meant that it should be pretty light, which is always a bonus when looking at new kit.

I searched online and found the Esbit Titanium Spoon, I got mine from eBay but obviously other online retailers are available.

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The spoon was light, smooth to the touch and the actual eating bit is polished to enhance your eating experience. Sounds a bit fancy but it does actually make a difference. The spoon weighs in at a minuscule 18g/6oz is 17cm long when in use and folds down to 9.3cm when packed away. Compare this to the fixed 17cm Light my Fire Spork – no wonder I kept stabbing myself with my spoon when it was in my pocket! The handle folds neatly into the back of the product, when open there is a sliding locking mechanism which is extremely effective and leaved no possibility that the spoon will fold when in use. I have found that you need to really make sure that the slider is fully pushed down to the base of the spoon to make sure it doesn’t fold when you’re trying to dig out your scoff. It sits nicely in my hand and I don’t notice it in my pocket, I take my spoon everywhere with me and have used it almost daily since buying it.

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I eat porridge for breakfast and sometimes top it with banana – the edge of spoon is more than capable of chopping up the banana, no need to get a knife out! This spoon has been an invaluable addition to my kit and means that I am never short of an implement to eat with or make a brew with. I’ve not used my plastic spork since I got this spoon, it stays in my bag as an emergency eating device but that’s where it’s stayed.20130324-121535.jpg

I am a convert to the whole titanium ‘thing’ and am now looking for a titanium kettle and/or pot. As to whether I get the rest of Esbit’s cutlery (they also do knife, fork and a spork – all foldable) remains to be seen as for me, the only must have when outdoors is a spoon. I can do all my chopping and food prep with my Gerber knife and a fork isn’t really necessary. The Esbit Titanium spoon retails at around £10 and is, in my opinion, money well spent.

Damson MediaCityUK

Damson MediaCityUK is a new restaurant situated right at the heart of the new BBC Headquarters at MediaCity: Set on a first floor above another eatery, Damson has magnificent views of the MediaCity area, The Imperial War Museum North and The Lowry. It’s a really well laid out space that oozes style and sophistication, right from the plush carpet to the reassuringly expensive menus. The wall cabinets are stocked to the brim with a huge array of different wines, ranging in price from reasonable to wow. I’d been waiting for Damson to open for quite a while as a friend of mine works as a chef there and I’d been hearing for months all about this wonderful new restaurant that was due to open in Jan 2013. Now that I’ve visited and had a three course meal there, I can hand on heart say that it was well worth the wait.

The decor was stylish yet warm and welcoming, the staff were attentive yet not in your face and the food was simply superb.

Damson MediaCity

My friend and I opted for the set menu of three courses for £18.95, which seemed an absolute steal (a two course option is also available for £15.95). The set menu is available 1200 – 1430 Tuesday to Thursday, 17:30 – 18:30 Friday & 12:00-17:00 Saturday (limited period) and 1200 – 1700 on Sundays. The A la Carte menu is mouth-wateringly extensive with mains costing about £19.95 – the review for that one will happen at some point (I hope).

Before our food came out, we were presented with some bread to start – who doesn’t like bread?? Great little opener carefully plated on a slate ‘plate’. For my starter I had seared home cured salmon, Mr Ashcrofts beetroots, spiced cauliflower fritters & creamed horseradish. Now, I don’t know who Mr Ashcroft is but I would very much like to shake his hand as they were lovely. Perhaps I should explain, I have never liked beetroot in fact I’d go as far as to say I hate them, but these? These beets were great and they weren’t even the best part of the starter. The salmon was well cooked and wonderfully complimented by the spiced cauliflower and rocket.

The food!

I opted for the roasted breast of guinea fowl, fondant potato, seasonal greens, ginger and lime sauce for my main course and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve since learnt that my friend actually cooked this and if she’s reading this article, then I’d like to make it publicly known that she can cook for me any time she likes. I’ve never had guinea fowl or fondant potato before and both of those things were really, really good- the flavours complimented each other perfectly. The ginger and lime sauce was a real treat and worked well with the wine. I went for the mocha brulee with a hazelnut and chocolate biscotti for desert, breaking the brulee with my spoon made a very satisfying crack and the desert itself was velvety and rich. The only thing that wasn’t quite right was that the biscotti was a tad bread-like, don’t get me wrong – it was lovely, it just wasn’t brittle enough for biscotti. If you’re looking for an up and coming restaurant in a cutting-edge part of Greater Manchester, then you should definitely book yourself a table at Damson MediaCity. It’s just opposite the tram stop so is very easily accessible from the city centre and is well worth a visit.

I don’t work for Damson and I wasn’t paid or asked to write this article but I would like to say thanks to one of the owners, Steve Pilling, who offered me a ‘two for one’ deal. I had a meal of excellent quality at a paupers price – thanks so much, I hope to be back to try the A la Carter menu one day. Damson MediaCity is open for lunch Monday to Saturday 1200 – 1430, Dinner Monday to Thursday 1700-2130, Dinner Friday – Saturday 1700-2200 and Sundays 1200-1700. To keep in touch with Damson, why not follow them on twitter: @DamsonMediaCity

 

Geocaching: Hunting for tiny things in odd places

After re-advertising my last geocaching blog post last night I thought I would update you on my baby steps into the world of Geocaching. It’s been a while since I’ve looked for caches but whilst out on a recce with work yesterday morning, my colleague suggested that I find a few. He’s a local lad and had previously found the caches on our route and I welcomed the timely reminder that I actually really like this activity! I found three caches yesterday: a small film camera type; a micro magnetic one and an entirely new type of cache, an earth cache.

It seems an earth cache is a natural feature and to log it as ‘found’ you need a take a photo of yourself there, upload it and answer a few questions about the cache. I found ‘Runcorn Erratic’ which is a piece of granite that was dumped in Runcorn as a result of glacial flow 10,000 years ago. An erratic is a piece of rock that deviates from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests; the name “erratic” is based on the errant location of these boulder. Everyday is a school day! So I duly obliged, added my find to the and was re-inspired to find more caches. Today I went out with the aim of picking up a trackable situated a 10 minute drive from my house that my colleague had visited recently. He told me that he’d left a trackable that he’d picked up in Australia and that no-one had moved it on yet. Mission accepted!! After a quick scout around in the area, I found the cache but there was no sign of the trackable – very disappointing indeed. A quick look at the log of the cache indicates that there should have been three trackable items in the cache but all were absent. I hope that some locals haven’t been picking them out and keeping them. This cache was a plastic storage container hidden inside a green waterproof bag and placed just inside a hedge line, it contained a log book, pencil, pen and some items to swap.

Having found this cache I decided to find a few more in the area, the second cache took me a while to find it – in fact, I almost gave up. I eventually found it concealed above head hight behind a bent fence post, phew! Geocaches really do range in sizes and some are really hard to find as demonstrated by the next one that I sought to find. I was looking for a micro, a small magnetic cache, but I really couldn’t find it and have to give up. I know my colleague was the last person to find it so I may have a chat with him to get some pointers. Last cache of the day was located above the M60 on a farm access road and was tucked nicely into the crash barrier.

Geocaching

I must have looked like a real wierdo today – wandering around, alone and looking suspiciously into hedges, fences and posts…. It’s definitely a way to see a different side to the local area!

Geocaching strikes again

As suspected, I have taken geocaching to my heart and it is now my new hobby – in fact, it’s now a reason to go out for a walk. Hunting for a geocache is now something to just drop in to everyday activities, a sneaky ulterior motive for just walking down that random path…

So Friday evening I rushed home from work, attached a lead to Luke and headed out to the woods that I’ve visited hundreds of times before: but this time I was seeing it with new eyes. This time I was on the hunt for ‘Maddie and Jamie’s Stash’. After 10 minutes of searching for it, I found it tucked away nice and safely – can you spot it under the tree trunk? Inside this cache was a logbook and some swappable items – I don’t carry things to swap but I might start because it seems like fun. I quite like this geocaching thing: such a simple idea, rewarding and very addictive. It’s not all rosy:  I searched for a cache for ages on Sunday but couldn’t find it – such a disappointment.

I also stumbled across something even more exciting (hard, I know) – a Travel Bug. This little dog tag was in a cache I found in Cheshire, it was attached to a woggle and a plastic tag labelled ‘Swindon Sea Scouts’. The idea of this bug is that it has a unique trackable number that has it’s own webpage, as each person finds it in a cache they log it and move it on to another location. Each movement is mapped on its page and you can go see where it has been – it’s actually really cool. I shall be moving this Travel Bug on soon, I am aiming to get it out of the country…. I will let you know if I succeed. 20130125-195329.jpg

My first Geocache

Yesterday I ventured into a strange new world known as Geocaching. I’m not entirely sure that I am ever going to see life the same way again for now I have a new game to play. This game is basically an elaborate, grown up treasure hunt where the aim is to find a container know as a geocache. All of these caches are logged on a website and you can use this website (or phone app) to search for caches to go hunt.

There are many different types of geocache and each one is unique to the person who placed it. I have been shown this world by one of my new colleagues, he was being gently mocked for his love of geocaching but I made a note to speak to him about it. As fate would have it, we spent most of yesterday offsite together in Crewe and I asked him to show me how it all worked, he duly obliged and before I knew it we were off to find my first geocache. The cache we were looking for was placed by a couple who’ve put a series of caches around Crewe to mark their romance. This particular one was put in Jubilee Park to mark the place where the couple got engaged. The app was brilliant: it helped us to navigate to the geocache; provided a description of the cache and offered a handy hint to locating it.

The geocache we were after was a small magnetic type know as a ‘nano’, the hint we were given was ‘Never Behind’. Once we got to the park we began looking for the nano, it was pretty easy to find as the gates were metal and had the words ‘Never Behind’ written on the crest. Opening the nano revealed a tiny piece of paper inside – each time you visit a cache you should date and sign your username. In this instance the log was too wet to write on so we carefully replaced the paper and put it back where we found it.

It seems that there are geocaches everywhere in the world and thousands of people are playing this international treasure hunt. I quite like it. 20130125-193017.jpg

Chorlton Green Brasserie

I’ve always liked Chorlton right from the independent eateries to the cute little boutiques. I love how bohemian it is and how ‘anything goes’, I’ve been spending more time there recently and have started to follow a few of the bars and restaurants on twitter. It was from twitter that I learned of the Chorlton Green Brasserie: It opened in October 2012 and has quickly become a firm favourite in the area.20130115-170106.jpg I was tempted in by the offer of free coffee, or as they like to call it on twitter, #FreeCoffeeTuesday. The Brasserie is just off Chorlton Green and it open from 0800 – 2300 everyday including Sunday. The staff were warm and welcoming, the wine list extensive and the menu reassuringly brief.The décor in the Brasserie is deliciously quirky, every chair cover is different and each table is adorned with a pot of growing herbs There is an old style kitchen dresser on the back wall that has tins of Spam, pilchards and Baxters soup laid out, just to add to that home kitchen style.

Home kitchen-style decor

I ordered a mocha whilst my partner went for a hot chocolate, they were both delicious and at £2.75 and £2.50 respectively, were good value for money. Not that it mattered on this trip as the were both FREE!! We were enjoying the atmosphere so much that we ordered some soft drinks and some ‘Twice cooked hand cut chips’. It was a real treat to learn that fizzy vimto was on the drinks menu, something that I am sure would delight families (the Brasserie also does a baby cino – frothy milk topped with some chocolate dust – for 30p). I was intrigued by the ‘Victorian Lemonade’ so gave it a whirl and was pleasantly surprised, definitely not what I was expecting but would recommend it. 20130115-163713.jpg

The chips were really something else, crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy on the inside – not to mention that the presentation was excellent. They came in a little bowl, on some paper covered in text about fish and chips. Very cute.  20130115-164322.jpg

I will definitely be going back to the Brasserie and next time I will sample the menu properly, but for now I can’t recommend it highly enough as somewhere to go and while away a few hours chatting to a friend over a decent coffee (there is also a huge array of teas if that’s more your thing). If you want to keep up to date with news and offers, then follow them on twitter @ChorltonGB. Before you ask, no I don’t work for them nor was I paid or coerced into writing this post. I am looking forward to my Pork Two Ways with a few glasses of wine, if anyone cares to join me they have a table for 6…

 

Water bottles in School

Today’s 365 photo is of some of the pupil’s water bottles at school. I really like the fact that the primary school I work in realises the importance of stating hydrated. It improves concentration and health among many other things. What I like less is how the school uses plastic bottles for the pupils. Each class gets a set of disposable bottles, keeping them for a term and refilling daily. Refilling them is admirable but surely a more environmentally friendly thing to do would be to use plastic cups?

Ideally a water bottle that lasted for years would be perfect but sadly that’s not cost effective for a school (Sigg do a great range for kids).

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