After giving up trying to lift weights in the garden, going on two runs and doing a couple of online body weight movement sessions, I finally remembered I had my bike in the shed. So thought I would dust the cobwebs off, literally.
I haven’t used it since my last sprint distance triathlon back in 2013. I used to love cycling. For me, it was the best bit of Triathlon training. So I searched for my cycling gear and found that it was all far too small for me! Lockdown had well and truly got a hold of me by this point and instead of the 80kg I was back in 2013, I was sitting around 98kg, which I can attribute mainly to beer. Nevertheless I sucked my belly in and prayed that the zips did not break as I squeezed into the stretched-to-the-limit lycra. My movement was pretty restricted but luckily you don’t need to move your upper body too much on the bike.
I went out and hit a 14k loop that I used to do on my rest days. Unsurprisingly it was hard work, but the landscape was beautiful and this is one of the things I have always loved about getting out on the bike. We are so lucky here in Tonbridge. In 5 minutes you can be in the beautiful Kent countryside. So I got home knackered but happy! I waited to see how the legs felt after a couple of days and they were ok so I did the route again only this time a little faster. I was a little less knackered and happy again.
Exercise makes you happy BUT you have to enjoy the exercise for it to be sustainable. I was not happy doing the weights, in fact it was probably having the reverse effect and just pissing me off. Before lockdown I was, and have for a long time, been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which for me is perfect as the ‘getting fit’ part is a byproduct of having fun with friends, wrestling and learning some cool stuff.
Cycling is the same in lots of ways. Like Jiu Jitsu, cycling enables you to train together in a team but you are on your own on race days or those big weekend rides. No one can physically help you on that big hill; it’s down to you to dig deep in the same way when you are under someone’s side control in a Jiu Jitsu competition. The guy on the side shouting, “get out from under him” doesn’t help! It’s all on you and you need to utilize everything you have learnt while training with your team to get out. I love this!
So anyway, after my second ride out I bought a new jersey online, in a Large. When it arrived, it didn’t fit much better than the old ones. It was at this point that my mindset shifted. Not being able to fit into a large top (even though cycling jerseys come up small) was the trigger I needed to break some pretty unhealthy habits and train more. We all know its calories in vs calories out and I’ve always trained really hard, which has allowed me a little flexibility on my diet and drinking. However, stop training and keep eating and drinking means I blow up like a balloon pretty quick. Being someone who likes to eat and drink, I decided to increase my training so some rides I was burning 1800 calories. So far the most I’ve burnt on one ride was our 145k ride to Rye that burnt 3785 calories. The more I trained the less I drank, the better I started to eat. If we were heading out on Sunday morning ride, I wouldn’t drink too much the night before and would try and get an early night.
Now 3 months since my first ride of 2020 I have stopped drinking completely, made a few tweaks to my diet, I am doing yoga every morning and I am feeling great. I am also now ranked 10th on one of the Strava segments that covers part of the loop I first went out on and have now reduced my time for that loop from the initial 33:35 to 27:13. Perhaps most importantly, the new jersey that was too tight now fits perfectly!
We have managed to bring a few likeminded cyclists from Tonbridge and surrounding areas together and created PeloTON, a fun little club that anyone can join. We ride varying distances on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays as a group. We have had some awesome Sunday rides around Kent, Sussex and Surrey. We have climbed two of the top 100 hills in the UK including The Wall and York Hill. We’ve seen some stunning views on the marshland around Romney and up on Ashdown Forest. Most importantly we’ve found some great coffee shops. We are heading out to Whitstable next Sunday to try and hit the 100-mile trip goal.
If you are interested in joining contact us on Instagram or join our club on Strava (PeloTON).
I am a wine geek. I am totally fascinated by the fermented, fortified and distilled. I’ve been studying wine in various guises through travel, gastronomy, tastings, vineyard visits, books and courses for over ten years now and the bug has not abated.
Apart from the fact that I really enjoy drinking and talking about wine, I got completely hooked the subject when I realised how broad a topic it really is. To have a rounded knowledge of viniculture and vinification (the processes of growing grapes and making wine) you find yourself studying history, culture, geography, agriculture, politics, business, marketing, anthropology…the list goes on.
Two weeks ago I graduated from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in London with a WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. It was a long and nerve wracking wait for results, having passed my final exam in January 2019. The Diploma is a globally recognised qualification, infamous for the amount of self-study needed to pass…only the brave need apply!
My partner Rob and I moved to Tonbridge from London just over three years ago. We decided to move after a trip to see Ben and Kirsty Sulston whom Rob has known for over 20 years, having cooked with Ben as young chefs starting out in Cambridge.
At the time we moved I had just started studying for the diploma as a night school student. I have a demanding day job in the city and lots of personal commitments, so it is with gruelling first-hand experience that I admit to my naivete in starting this journey part time. The learning scope for this course was beyond anything I had ever encountered with a recommended minimum of 600 hours of study outside of class and excluding your written assignment. The course touches on every aspect of the wine and spirits world and you will sit 11 hours of examination by the time you’re done…that’s if you pass everything first time (I did not and had to subject my friends and family to copious amounts of sparkling wine to prepare for a resit. They suffered graciously). This is not for the faint hearted and I admire and respect anyone who embarks on this journey.
I am incredibly fortunate to share my life with an equally obsessed and dedicated Chef who has encouraged me to push myself that bit further further at every step, in the same way he has approached his career and learning in the culinary world.
Rob and I have worked on many collaborations over the years and towards the end of 2019, after hosting a number of events together, we decided to start a supper club in Tonbridge as an outlet for our creativity andthat focused as much on the drinks parings as it did on the development of the food.
We held our first Super Natural Supper Club event in TOFS development kitchen last November. Inspired by the fantastic produce and Game available in Kent, we developed a menu to showcase the best of the season. Reaching out to local producers we were able to source some beautiful duck, pigeon and venison from Chart Farm in Sevenoaks and work with local fresh fruit and vegetable wholesaler Seasons by Nature. Having such a innovative and varied menu to work with gave me the opportunity to get creative with the drinks pairing, finding wines that would not necessarily be an obvious choice but would would compliment the menu at each stage.
We kicked off the evening with a venison tartar dish served with a Kentish sparkling cider made by Charringtons, a fantastic cider producer based 10 minutes away in Matfield. Being able to visit the orchards and get in depth information on the growing and production of their cider and apple juice has definitely been a highlight of starting a local supper club.
We paired a feinherb Riesling from Germany, which had just the faintest amount of residual sugar, with a Duck and Beetroot dish. A dry Madiera wine was served with Pigeon and turnip and an elegant, full bodied Cabernet Savignon, Malbec and Cabernet franc blend from Medoza, Argentina, paired with venison and celeriac. The herbal notes in this wine worked amazingly well with pickled blackberries on the dish. We finished the menu serving a Reserve Tawny Port with both the cheese course and the following dessert of chocolate and pears and ended the evening with coffee and brown butter madeleines.
We had such lovely feedback from our guests and so much fun preparing and hosting the Game event that we held our second supper club in December. This was a great success, serving a menu and drinks pairing inspired by our extensive travels in Spain.
Our Supper Clubs are a labour of love and we aim to give the absolute best value for money and service possible while delivering innovative food and wine that is unique and exciting. Our next supper club will be held on February the 7th and 8th at TOFS development kitchen and is inspired by the forefathers of gastronomy, french cuisine.
When Ben invited me to write a post for this website I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself and the Super Natural Supper club that Rob and I have started but also to share a little wine info. I had so many geeky wine ideas to write about that I didn’t know where to begin.
So I reached out to friends and asked … what would you want to read about in wine blog? They responded enthusiastically and here are a few of their questions…
Is there a wine that goes with anything?
For me, the wine that can be pared with practically anything would be a good quality sparkling white wine. Whether this is champagne, Cava (my personal favourite for taste and value for money) or English sparkling wine you will find this doesn’t offend the vast majority of dishes. It can be drunk alone or with sweet dishes. It can be paired with bar snacks, cheese, fish or meat. It stands up to spicy food and strong flavours and works beautifully with vegetarian dishes. If in doubt, choose a sparkling white wine.
Can you really get a decent bottle of wine at a super market for less than £10?
Yes. It is definitely possible although I always encourage people to think about what can actually make a wine a little more expensive (outside of Burgundy which has set the price level astronomically high). Fair labour costs, hand harvesting, natural and ethical farming methods and distribution will all add to the cost of your wine. In much the same way that it effects other consumable products that we buy. However, there are some gems out there. I am particularly fond of Toro Loco organic tempranillo from Aldi at £4.99 a bottle (we came across this wine for the first time in Spain) and Waitrose Classic Cotes du Rhône at £6.99 is a decent bottle from a spectacular wine producing region that is home to some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Is Aldi wine really as good as the media makes out?
Some of it is really pretty good. Particularly wines from smaller producers. I mentioned Toro Loco earlier at a very reasonable price, there is also a nice range of organic sparking Italian wines from Castellone Organico. At a little higher price range you can find Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG £12.99 and Jean-Paul Seguin Sancerre £15.99 that are both very nice wines. Its a good place to start trying different styles of wine to see what you like without spending a fortune.
What grapes should I look for if I want light red wines?
We are big fans of light red wine at home and although the wine making accounts for a lot in the style of wine there are some general guides – Pinot Noir is the queen of light red wines – the cooler the climate the grapes are grown in will usually give a lighter wine but I would also recommend looking for the Gamay grape if you like light and fruity wines. Beaujolais are the most famous Gamay wine and readily available. Saniovese which is the grape used for Chiante also fits the category and try to seek out natural wine producers making young wines for something interesting. There are some great suppliers on line. Check out pullthecork.co.uk
Does an older wine mean it’s a better wine?
This is a huge topic to cover and depends very much on the specific wine as ageing wine will definitely change it but not necessarily for the better. Some varieties are generally considered more age worthy that others – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Nebbiolo to name a few. This has a lot to do with the tannic structure of the wines that breaks down slowly over time and make the wines more approachable. That said many wines are not meant to be laid down for decades and will be most enjoyable drunk young.
Wines labels grand reserva will most likely be subject to minimum ageing requirements, for a red Rioja wine this is two years in barrel and 3 years in bottle minimum. These will be more complex and refined than younger wines from the same region but not necessarily better depending on your taste.
If you intend to spend a large amount of money on a very old bottle or case of wine this should come with certification of how it has been stored – even the most age worthy wine can be ruined by light, temperature and humidity
What’s the best way to store wine at home?
The key things to remember when storing wine at home is light and temperature. Wine hates fluctuations in both! A cool constant temperature and protection from sun light will keep wines happier for longer.
What makes a wine vegan?
Traditionally, some fining agents used to remove particles in wine that are too small to be removed by filtration can make a wine unsuitable for vegans as they can contain egg and certain proteins derived from animals, however, contemporary vegetable based products are becoming far more popular. It is more likely that a wine is vegan friendly than not and while producers are starting to add this information to wine labels, especially as vegans diets become more popular, there is currently very little legislation globally that requires this information to be noted on the bottle.
The answers above are my opinion and are brief, there is always more to say and I will be discussing these subjects along with a bunch of other food and wine related topics on the Super.Natural.Supper.Club website when we launch later this year.
We had a brilliantly busy January here at TOFS with private events and a host of new supper clubs with some incredible chefs including Stuart Deeley winner of Master Chef. We have also added new dishes to the café menu including the very popular spiced aubergine and tomatoes on toast.
Down the road at TOFS Development Kitchen we hosted our first private event of 2020. Our 8 guests were treated to a tasting menu with some astounding matching wines chosen by the guests. I also hosted my first Supper Club of 2020 there, which made me feel very nostalgic as it was three years ago to the month that I held my very first Supper Club in January 2017.
Julie Friend held her Cook Book Supper Club at TOFS Development Kitchen showcasing the wonderful food of Ottolenghi, which as always received huge praise from the guests. For her February Cookbook Supper club, Julie takes us on a pescatarian food adventure with one of her heroes, Rick Stein. To book click here.
We have got a busy month ahead in February. My Supper Club is at TOFS for two nights on 14/15th and we have 3 pop ups at theTOFS Development Kitchen including on 7/8th the talented Rob and Natalia of Super Natural Supper Club hosting their latest pop up. To book click here.
Check out our events page for more info on our pop ups in February!
If you would like to book TOFS Development Kitchen for a private event please get in contact through the enquiry form on here or email me firstname.lastname@example.org