Have Americano and Pen…Will Travel: Creativity at East Town Cafe, Crediton

east-town-cafe-1It never ceases to amaze me- how lucky I am. Not only do I get to sit down (with coffee) and make things up for a living; I also have a weekly opportunity to explore new areas of Devon and Somerset- and more importantly- new coffee stops!

This week, rather than just turn up unannounced and plonk myself in a corner, I was invited to visit the East Town Cafe, in Crediton, Devon.

A delightful coffee shop on the edge of the town, the East Town Cafe is situated in a corner of what used to be a wool shop- and before then, the town’s cinema. With pictures of the brilliant Audrey Hepburn paying tribute to those long gone film days, I’m surrounded by signs of creativity. There are beautiful locally made hangings upon the walls, exquisite handmade cards, locally written books to buy, and- rather cutely- some knitted Christmas pudding sweetie cosies to hang on a tree!!

The coffee here is excellent- as is the friendly rating!

As I sit editing a short story (my very first horror!), I find my eyes are drawn to other, more interesting, things. The bookshelf next to me in particular. I always feel heartened when I see a bookshelf in a coffee shop.


The idea of being able to pick up a book and read whilst having a well earned break from real life, is eternally appealing to me- not just because I write, but because I am an ardent reader of as many different genres as I can. To be able to flick through a book I wouldn’t normally try at my leisure is always good! (OK, so I could go to a library -but there’s no coffee on tap!!)


I’d like to thank the proprietor, Lucy, for welcoming me into her comfortable and friendly cafe- not to mention her regular customers for being so kind to me!

Happy coffee sipping,

Jenny x




The FULL story of the new Oatley barrel

For our immediate post-harvest escape after one of our best, if not biggest, grape harvests of recent years we visited friends in Brittany. Weather amazing, ate a lot of oysters, discovered how well our newest wine, “Elizabeth’s 2015” went with same and enjoyed lovely St Cado, near Carnac.

Then we set off south, on a mission to find a replacement barrel. We mature one barrel’s-worth of our wine each year in oak, to give about 250 hand-numbered bottles of a special, single-barrel, oaked wine. Um, no, no research or planning on buying barrels actually. Well, always liked an adventure…

Our lovely hand coopered barrel made by Master Cooper Alastair Sims, then of Wadworth’s in Devizes, had done five vintages and Steve the winemaker had said, time to move it on. Display? Garden tubs? Ice buckets for big, wild parties…? The blogpost of when we brought it home  from Wadworths cooperage back in 2010 is here>>.

We headed first for the Tonnellerie Baron at Saintes in the Charente, because that’s the cooperage of Lionel Kreff who gave the Wineskills course on using oak that I went on a couple of years back. They pride themselves on combining the latest in laser cutting of staves with otherwise traditional methods.

After driving most of the day, lunching at one of the those nice French motorway “aires” on oysters and rillettes thoughtfully bought by Iain as we left St Cado, we drew in overnight on a whim to La Rochelle, the beautiful location of my first ever trip abroad from home in Taunton at the age of 17, for a nostalgia moment. It hasn’t changed all that much. Still ravishing.The Ibis wasn’t all that special but had rooms and was very handy for the Vieux Port. After a rather memorable dinner at l’Aunis and a wander around the dimly-but-fondly remembered colonaded streets of gold-and-grey stone, we slept and set off south west on a crisp, sunny morning for the short drive to Saintes.

At the Tonnellerie Baron it turned out that actually you didn’t just turn up in your jeans, look at some barrels in a yard, pick one out and shove it the back of the truck. They received us very hospitably though, in their posh reception area, and explained gently, to these naive foreigners, that they made barriques to order, as required to match the wines, and even if they sometimes had a few in stock, now at the end of harvest it would be very few. They kindly checked their computer, but, no, sorry, nothing that would suit a light, cool climate white, and they wouldn’t dream of selling us something that wouldn’t be right. Asked for possible other sources they helpfully mentioned Taransaud and Seguin Moreau in Cognac, not far away. This is after all the centre of the barrique-making world, they said.

Taransaud, at Merpins just outside Cognac, again, kindly received us in glossy surroundings with a pretty display of  coopers’ hand tools hanging from the ceiling ( our last barrel was actually made with these) but no, nothing suitable unless we would consider a larger barrel. We needed to be able to get it in the truck and Steve needs to manage it with no special equipment so no, not really.

It was a bit more hopeful at Seguin Moreau, just up the road on the same industrial estate. They did have some stock on hand. Oh and how about it this, their new “Fraicheur” range, specially developed for light, white varietals? They showed us the leaflet with a tasting spider diagram done for Chardonnay matured in this barrel, showing increased citric and fruit flavours and decreased oaky tannic flavours. Achieved by using acacia wood for the barrel heads, and a very light toast on the steam-formed French sessile oak staves. At the barrel seminar, Lionel had talked about different oaks and other woods, including chestnut (still used sometimes in Spain) and acacia (sometimes used in a small proportion of barrels to blend into Sauternes, adding brightness to the flavour) so it didn’t sound that outlandish. We had liked the light toast of our old barrel, so this ultra-light toast sounded good.

So, we didn’t think long. Looked at each other and YESS, seemed just the job and it should be an interesting experiment. We’d go for it!  We dug out a credit card. But Uh-oh. Not being set up for retail, no, they couldn’t take credit cards. No machine. Hmm, that’d never occurred to us. Quick calculation. No, it was more than we could get cash out for in time. Invoice? Er, no. A rule about not exporting without prior payment. Stuck!

But in the end they checked out our website, our passports, a scruffy old vineyard Christmas card from the truck’s glovebox, and, Woo-hoo!,  decided they would take a chance on our promise to pay by IBAN, soon as we got back. They set us up an account and sent us away because it was lunchtime, sacrosanct and lengthy in rural France. They’d  phone when they’d packed it. So we headed for sleepy, gentle, historic Cognac for our own lunch, nervously checking the charge on my mobile as time ticked on. Might a suited Sir have had second thoughts? But phew, at 3pm it rang. YESS, IT’s OK!  Our new acacia-headed barrel was waiting for us at the loading bay.

The  loading bay turned out to be all forklifts, but the guys willingly and expertly manhandled our single, new, plastic-wrapped baby into the back of the truck, carefully making chocks by folding cardboard, that held it steady all the way home, as you can see when we opened up, home at Oatley.

A quick motorway dash for home then, stopping overnight at Saumur on the Loire, we were lucky with the amazing view from our unbooked but serendipitious hotel room on the river near the long ancient bridge. Turned out there was plenty of space on the, yes, you’ve guessed, unbooked, Caen ferry. Hey, success! And it WAS an adventure.

So then it was over to winemaker Steve at Bagborough, Shepton Mallet, (above, when we took the barrel up a couple of days later) and now the barrel’s full of our finished-fermenting-but-still-milky Madeleine Angevine 2016. It’ll mature on the lees till bottling time in spring, and we’ll take blending decisions then. It seems a lot of other English vineyards are interested in the results.

Since then we’ve sloped off for a proper holiday in lovely Porto, learned a bit about port, enjoyed the sun and the Douro and missed an Oatley flash flood in Storm Angus. Thanks to the girls at home for all the clearing up and sweeping that entailed!

And now home for the Christmas run up.

Oh and our winter newsletter is out, click here >> 

For Christmas supplies and gift ideas from us at Oatley Vineyard, Cannington:

Our Christmas Cases here>>. You can order your Christmas Oatley dry whites online up until 21st Dec or buy at the vineyard on Sat 10th and Sat 17th Dec.

Oatley Visit vouchers include bottles for your recipient to choose and take home – experiential presents that people seem to enjoy here>>.

Build your own trio of Oatley Wines here>>

Compliments of the festive season!

Jane Awty, winegrower,

Oatley Vineyard, Cannington, Somerset TA5 2NL

Have Americano and Pen…Will Travel: Christmas Special at Taunton Garden Centre

Today I’m sat with a lovely cuppa in the refurbished café at the Taunton Garden Centre, in Norton Fitzwarren, nr Taunton.  I was supposed to be writing some pages of my new novel… however… my eyes have strayed to the Christmas specials menu.

It is so interesting that it has managed to stop me going to look at the tempting array of cakes not far from my reach!

The item which is attracting my attention in particular is the Christmas Bap…which is a true combo of delights as it is…and then it says, Do you dip or pour? This obviously refers to the gravy option given with the bap, but it has my mind racing.

I know- I’m dreadful…but my imagination is unstoppable. All I can think about is the hundreds of interesting items which could be dipped or poured in various manners….I’ve got stuck on honey- if you’ll excuse the pun!

In an attempt to put my naughtier side on hold I have turned my attention to the wonderful Christmas scone option- with includes Harvey’s Bristol Cream- that has to be delicious. The scones certainly smell good. I might just have to have one- in the interests of research naturally.

Scent is so important at Christmas. Cinnamon, nutmeg, mulled wine, pine cones, oranges; roast turkey, mince pies…the way they smell is so evocative of the season. Whenever I write a story about Christmas, I always make sure I involve plenty of festive food and those all important Christmas aromas.  If you like reading about mulled wine and Christmas cake, then maybe you’d like to check out my ‘Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection.’

Happy coffee sipping (and Christmas scone nibbling)

Jenny xx


Owen Barry’s favourite Chef & her wonderful Christmas Pudding recipe- Lesley Waters Cookery School

Lesley Waters Cookery School


We had the most lovely #StirupSunday event this weekend and our guests made their Christmas puddings all ready for the big day. If you haven’t done yours then it’s not too late…here is Lesley’s recipe that we used and a few shots of the wonderful dried fruits supplied by Grape Tree on the day.

The Christmas pudding is traditionally made on ‘stir up Sunday’ which is the Sunday before Advent. It’s a wonderful tradition where everyone gathers round the bowl to stir the mixture and make a wish, before the pudding is left to stand overnight, or longer, and then cooked. The completed dish is then left to mature for the flavours to develop over the following weeks.
Makes 1 x 2 1/2 pint pudding

325g Grapetree dried figs
325g Grapetree dried prunes
Zest and juice of 1 medium orange
110ml Somerset brandy
175g butter + little extra for greasing pudding bowl
175g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
85g self-raising flour
85g fresh breadcrumbs
60g Grapetree chopped hazelnuts
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1tsp ground cinnamon
175g dark chocolate, chopped

1. Cut up dried fruits and place in a large bowl. Pour over orange juice, zest and brandy, mix well, cover and leave in a cool place overnight.
2. Lightly butter pudding bowl and place a disc of parchment on the base of each.
3. In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Slowly beat in the eggs, then add the soaked fruit with all the juices and stir well.
5. Add the flour, crumbs, nuts, spices and chocolate and mix gently.
6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared bowl and cover with a double piece of parchment paper and single piece of foil. Tie with string and steam for 3 ½ hours.
7. For storage- allow to cool remove foil and parchment. Replace with a clean piece of parchment and lid.

To reheat the pudding – steam for approximately 2 hours. Carefully turn the pudding out onto a serving plate and remove paper disc. Serve hot with custard or cream.



NOV 24 Late Night Christmas Shopping-The Emporium -Yeovil

Tomorrow at 9:00–19:30

The Emporium

39 Princes Street, BA20 1EG Yeovil, Somerset
The first of our Late Night Christmas Shopping Evenings. Come along to our unique store in Yeovil to see our magical display of beautiful Christmas gifts, all locally handmade or hand-sourced by our team of 80 different independent business owners. See the best of our local producers and find the perfect gifts for him, her, little ones and even your pets. Antique, vintage, artisan, handmade, our collection of gifts cannot be found anywhere else, that’s what makes us different! Our cafe will be staying open late, serving a fine selection of dishes from their menu, so why not make a night of it and bring your friends?

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Have Americano and Pen…Will Travel: Winterfesting at Velvet, Tiverton

I’m staying local this week as a touch of labyrinthitis means I haven’t been able to drive. Luckily, Tiverton has a great many lovely coffee shops.

velvetIt is fitting today that I’m stopping off in Velvet coffee shop and American diner, as this coming weekend the proprietors, and many others, are working on all the finishing touches to ensure the town’s Winterfest (26th Nov), is a big success.

I have an ulterior motive for having my Americano (delicious) here , as many many months ago I booked my stall to sell my books at the Winterfest, and it’s high time I sorted myself out, and made sure I know what I need to do- where I need to go on the day etc etc…

Velvet is a riot of red, white and blue, with a distinct American theme. As I said, the coffee is good, and I can certainly recommend the breakfasts!

If you fancy a trip into Tiverton on Saturday 26th Nov, do pop by my stall in the market- I’ll have all my current paperbacks- for children and adults- available at a discount price!

There will also be loads of food, entertainment, crafts, and even fireworks! Things kick off at 10am, and go on until late.

Happy coffee sipping,

Jenny x




DEC 3 OUT West Festival special The Boot Hill All Stars vs The Inbredz-The Griffin Frome

3 December at 20:00–2:00

The Griffin, Frome

Once Upon a Time in The West Festival offers up a free one for your stocking…festival luvvies The Boot Hill All Stars are going head to head with Midsomer Norton heavyweights The Inbredz, in an evening of banjos, corsets, leaping around, hip-hop and songs tackling socially awkward issues. The talents of Mrs P will be adjudicating on the decks, spinning your dancy fav’s til late. Free to get in!!



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NOV 25 The Jemima Layzell Trust Gig- Charity Gig

25 November at 19:30

Square And Compass Ilminster

Windmill Hill, TA199NX Ilminster
A gig in aid of the Jemima Layzell trust at the Square and Compass from 7:30 till late. Acts include Stevie Nicole Brown, Matt Bond, Fawner and more to be confirmed! Tickets are £6.50 in advance and can be purchased by calling 07765 253 294 or going to www.jemimalayzell.com/events. Tickets can also be bought on the door for £7.50.

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