NEWS, RAMBLINGS AND AWARDS                                 OCTOBER 2009
                                 FREE SOUP RECIPE
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I had a small rant in Moffat's Other Stuff page. It's not really the sort of place to have a small rant, the Other Stuff page, that is. But it is a topic that gets my blood a-boiling. We have some excellent hotels in this country. They serve great food, have well-earned stars for quality from the tourist board, and can in many cases be found in any number of guides detailing where to find the very best of food. And yet their hotel bars are grossly inadequate as far as good quality Scottish ale is concerned. It is utterly astonishing. We brew some of the best ale in the world, right here on our doorstep. And yet if you wander into many a hotel bar you will find pretty tasteless Scottish keg lager or equally bland foreign lager, all of which are served so cold that what little flavour they possess is impossible to detect. I picked up a beer mat in a pub in Dumfries. It promotes a well-known Scottish lager, one that is the best-selling lager in the universe, or some such promotional tosh. On the reverse of this mat it had this to say: 'OUR LAGER TASTERS CAN IDENTIFY 10 FLAVOURS IN A PINT OF ********. WE CALL THEM THE PERFECT 10'. When I read this I came perilously close to choking on my pint. These lagers are served so cold it's nigh impossible to taste anything. I mean, what planet are these companies on? I do not hate all cold lagers. Indeed, there may be occasions when something cool and silky is just the job. But in most occasions I want my ale to taste and smell of something good. In fact I just want it to taste and smell of something, of anything, otherwise there seems little point and I'd be financially better off sitting in pubs sucking alcoholic ice-cubes.
At the end of the day, travelling and being a tourist is, for most people, all about experiencing things that are different to what you can get back home. You travel to a different area or country to taste that country's food, drink that country's ale, and sample that country's scenery and way of life. If this were not possible then it would be pointless travelling; every pub in the world would stock the same range of ale, every restaurant would have the same menu made from ingredients sourced in one part of the world, and each town would be a clone made (in the minds of those in power) all the more palatable by a small scenic mountain that would be plopped in the exact same position in relation to the town in each and every part of the world.
Local produce is the key. Why spend money transporting food and drink around the globe when, with a few exceptions, each area in every country is more than capable of producing its own food and drink.
If our big hotel chains are to have any hope of maintaining the level of custom they desire, then they need to take a long hard look at what's on offer in their bars. Because if they don't, the traveller will just go elsewhere.
BEST SOUP IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to the Darnley Coffee House in Stirling.

BEST ALE BREWED IN SCOTLAND AWARD goes to 'Blackfriar', a delicious bottled ale brewed by the Inveralmond Brewery up in Perth. It was made for the American market, but if you know where to look you can find the odd bottle here.

BEST PUB AWARD goes to the Ben Nevis in Glasgow, because it's just a great pub.

BEST THING TO SEE AWARD goes to the walled garden in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

BEST LITTLE WALK AWARD goes to the Pendreich walk above Bridge of Allan.

Things are beginning to  hot up here. It used to be the case that in order to see how many visitors you were getting to your website you had to add a little counter. Goodness, but haven't things progressed a heck of a lot in the last few years? Now, not only can I see how many visitors, but I can also see what days they are visiting, what times they are visiting, and what country they are visiting from. We're probably only a small step away from some great Googly arrow in the sky that will, at the click of a button, drop down from outer space and point at the very house in which your visitor resides.
This website has only been up and running for two months, and already I'm getting visitors from Great Britain, United States, Germany, Japan, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Russia. What about Hobbiton, that's what I want to know. I want a visitor from there, someone with map-making skills, the ability to brew fine honey mead, to darn socks that are not their own without question, and who has the gold and treasure of the elves put aside for a rainy day.
That's what I want. Better check my web statistics just in case.
                    RATING SYSTEM
HERE at The Good Soup Guide our technicians have come up with a rating system. It involves stars (original, huh?). Basically, one star [*] means the place has been visited by us and deemed to be of a good standard (and that applies equally to pubs or cafes or views). Two stars [**] means we reckon it's very good, and three stars [***] means it was so magnificent that we nearly wet our pants with excitement.
Do You Have a Nectar Card?
Life is so frustratingly complex these days. When I go to my favourite Beanscene I cannot simply ask for a coffee. I have to make a small speech that goes something like, 'A little wicked decaffeinated Americano with milk to sit in.'  I am seriously thinking of having a T-shirt made with all the speech printed on the front so I can just point at what I want.
It's the same in supermarkets. At checkouts we are blasted with words and questions, most of which are quite unnecessary...'Do you need a hand to pack?', 'Do you collect vouchers for schools?', 'Have you got a loyalty card?', 'Do you have a Nectar card?' It's a social form of interrogation that wears a person down so much that small eruptions occasionally occur, as in, 'Why on earth would I need a hand to pack two bottles of ale? Do I look like I'm missing bits of my body, like arms?' It's so annoying. Nectar cards are the worst. I've been getting asked for the past decade if I've got one. Are people who possess a Nectar card incapable of saying the phrase, 'I have a Nectar card'? I don't even know what it is. I've only ever heard about them when asked if I have one. Perhaps I'll get that put on my T-shirt as well...'I don't have an effin Nectar card - okay?'
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The Secret
I have found a hidden doorway,
I know not where it goes, It's been blocked up for quite a while,
A secret no one knows, There are sure to be big spiders,
And bugs with beady eyes,
So if I take these bricks away how big will be the surprise?
Perhaps I'll find some treasure,
Or even gloopy gore, And now that I think on it,
I'm not interested any more.