The London leg of our trip was amazing; we spent 2 full days doing nothing but eating, drinking, and checking out butcher shops (sometimes all three at the same time). But for me, the fun really started when we climbed into our massive diesel rental car/boat and headed out west. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:
England is apparently the land of the sheep. As a butcher who absolutely loves lamb it makes me extremely jealous how popular this meat is over here. We get some of the best lamb I’ve ever tasted in our shop and sometimes I feel like I can’t give it away. In England every open hillside was absolutely crawling with these adorable walking Gyros, and the pub food menus featured lamb prominently (and in some lucky cases, mutton). Brits, share your love of lamb with the rest of us, we could use it.
We hit up a bunch of shops in the Dorset area and they were all awesome. People out in the country were a lot more laid back and ready to chat about what they did. Here again English butcher shops put the US to shame with their commitment to locally raised animals and custom butchery. Lots of lamb (see aforementioned love of the genus Ovis) and sawdust on the floor. I was in heaven.
These things oh my lord. I've had "meat pies" here in the states but they don't even come close to these flaky meat filled pockets of goodness. The sheer amount of different flavors and styles means you could eat a meat pie every day and never get bored. Trust that I'm speaking from experience on that one. Nothing can possibly beat a hearty steak and ale pie alongside a pint in front of a fireplace. The first guy to truly do meat pies right in America will be a millionaire
Someday I’ll write a whole post on our trip to River Cottage. And then someday after that I’ll write a 5 volume dissertation on just how much River Cottage means to my wife and I. Suffice it to say that we were absolutely thrilled to be able to visit the farm which for us represents everything we’re most passionate about. We stayed in a B&B on an organic farm that sits right next door to the River Cottage meaning we could walk right through the fields (of grazing sheep - notice a theme) to get there.
The first night we went up for a dinner on the farm in the main dining room. We pretty much had the run of the place before dinner and we made sure to explore the grounds, all the while drinking copious amounts of apple cider brandy. Just finally being on the property that we’ve seen so much on the show was pretty surreal, and the meal was phenomenal. Everything we ate was grown on the farm or in the surrounding Devon countryside. Everyone there was extremely into the River Cottage mission of sustainability and we spend the night having some great conversations and making some new friends. We also had a passing sighting of John Wright - which if you’re a giant fanboy like certain people is a monumental event.
The next day we got up early for a meat curing and smoking class with the one and only Steve Lamb. I can’t say enough great things about our experience. Plenty of samples, alcohol, and chances to play with high quality west country meat. Not every man gets to see his wife get hands on with lamb bresaola or a side of pork on his honeymoon; I’m just one of the lucky ones.
***Insert my constant and aggressive pleading to bring River Cottage stateside. Don't make me beg.***