Food

No Woes at Woburn for Women’s Golf

As readers will know I love a good day out on the golf course with my friends.  Usually I try to pick venues which combine great hospitality and catering with a beautiful course.  Last week, as I have done almost every year since 1992 I went to watch the Ricoh Women’s British Open Golf, and I have to say the hospitality at Woburn Golf Club was exceptional.

Woburn Looking Back down the 12th Fairway

The 12th at Woburn looks so easy from this angle

I first went to watch the top women players play in the Weetabix, as it was then known, in 1992 at Woburn.  Patty Sheehan emerged victorious on the Dukes course.  The excitement and the atmosphere reeled me in and I’ve been going back almost every year since.  Is there any other sport where 30,000 people can be spectating and yet you can hear a pin drop as a putt rattles into to hole.

Those first few years at Woburn have many highlights for me.  Watching Karrie Webb burst onto the scene with her first victory;  I’d also never seen a golfer who had the McEnroe like intensity with which Dottie Mochrie approached every shot – this was before she reverted to the much more appropriate name of Pepper! And then the very much unsung Sherri Steinhauer winning by 1 shot over Annika Sorenstam to defend her Weetabix title in 1999. I was standing right behind her as she was interviewed afterwards – probably the only time I’ve been on TV for more than 2 seconds!

Once the organisers decided that it was time for a change, I was completely hooked and not only followed the tournament to the Lancashire coast, but also discovered the joy of practice days.  At Lytham St Annes the bunkers were taller than the players. On my first practice day I quickly realised that a practice round involved hitting a multitude of shots on each hole from different positions, to practice for every eventuality. Once I’d wised up to this, I stationed myself by the highest bunker I could find and watched everyone practicing hitting bunker shots which went almost straight up in the air.  Emulating Beth Daniel was (and still is!) something to aspire to!

Annika practicing bunker shots 2003

Annika Sorenstam practicing bunker shots on the way to her victory in 2003 at Lytham St Annes

 

Practice days also have the benefit that taking photos is encouraged not frowned upon, the kids can get their hats autographed and the atmosphere is much more relaxed.

As I like to know who I’m watching on the practice ground, I’d re-introduce name boards behind the players on the practice range – or easier still require the caddies to turn the bags round so the names are facing the audience. They used to do this at Sunningdale many years ago and it was very helpful in identifying players you may never have seen in person before.  For the same reason, I’d also make the caddies wear their name bibs on practice day.

Lorana Ochoa 2007 champion

Lorena Ochoa – Winner at St Andrews 2007

From the North West to Scotland and St Andrews, the home of golf.  Well all I can say about St Andrews is that as a spectator once was enough. There were some good points but not enough to tempt me to ever go back.  We stayed in the University halls of residence just a short walk away from the course.  The rooms were en-suite and much nicer than when I was at Uni – and I have to say the breakfasts were absolutely fantastic.  As you know, I like my food, so the all you could eat buffet plus a selection of the Full Scottish; bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding etc not to mention pancakes with maple syrup, fruit and pastries went down very well!  Some of the players were also staying in the our hall and we were amused every day when one of them who shall remain nameless (as she’s still on tour) had breakfast then went back up for seconds with which she made her packed lunch! After the first 3 days of watching this, quite a few of us were doing the exact same thing 🙂

Not that the food on the course is bad. Far from it. We’ve often enjoyed a nice bacon or sausage roll for lunch.  A particular favourite is Yum Yum’s run by 2 ladies who’ve been providing fine rolls and coffee to the professional golf tours for the best part of the last 30 years.  They’re usually stationed by the practice range so if you see them do take the opportunity to say hello and have a coffee and a bacon roll.

The problem with St Andrews is that it’s not a course for spectators.  it’s an out and back course built on a ridge. The holes are set close together on the top of the ridge so only one side of each hole is accessible. And as a spectator you have to stand below the fairways and greens. That makes it difficult to see what’s happening and if you’re not in the front row, even harder to see if it’s a good shot.

This leads me to one of the other two problem with ladies golf tournaments.  Grandstands.  At St Andrews, for the Open championship they erect a massive grandstand at the end of the course, where multiple greens and tees meet.  A positive joy for spectating.  However for the ladies, no such facility.  So again very difficult to see.

By the end of the very windy week I’d firmly decided that that whilst I’d love to play St Andrews one day, as a spectator, it was going to be my last visit.   I did however enjoy a visit to the historic fishing village of Crail with some lovely American ladies who had come over especially for the golf.

Practice day at Sunningdale - an altogether more casual atmosphere

Practice day at Sunningdale – An altogether more casual atmosphere!

Sunningdale in Surrey is one of my favourite courses to watch at – and not just because it’s local and I can stay at home!  I know it’s not a links course – even though it’s sometimes described as an “inland links” – whatever that means.  It’s joy is that it has plenty of good vantage points from which to see the action, and also the organisers are generous with the toilets – always important at a ladies golf tournament as the majority of spectators tend to be ladies who require adequate facilities. No prizes to Birkdale on this score for marking toilets on the course map and then forgetting to put them in, or Royal Liverpool who had just one bank of toilets on the entire course!  Thanks goodness there were fewer spectators that year because of the weather.

It was at Sunningdale I saw my first hole in one. I was standing next to  Catriona Matthew’s mother, Mrs Lambert, on the 8th hole when she scored a fantastic ace. It was the same year that (2004) Karen Stupples became the first British player since Alison Nicholas to win a Major (and still no MBE to further mark the achievement). As the home player, she had a huge gallery following her from the start and the incredible roar from the crowd as she holed out the second shot on the 2nd for an albatross in the final round was quite something.

Paula Creamer driving off the 2nd tee

Paula Creamer driving off the 2nd tee

So now back to another tree lined course in Woburn. This must have been one of the best tournaments for spectators.  The Marquess course was beautiful and in stunning condition – a small miracle considering that June was one of the wettest on record.  Everything from the car parking onwards ran smoothly. Their members were marshalling the final two holes and could not have been more friendly and welcoming.  Toilets were plentiful, queues for food were short (the roast chicken with sweet potato fries were particularly good) and everyone I spoke to was having a great day out.

So what were my highlights of the week at #RWBO16?

The one which stands out was on Friday, Laura Davies took out her driver on the picturesque 300 yard 12th hole and tried to drive the green!  As far as I’m aware she was the only person who had a crack at it all week. She had the length but sadly not quite perfect direction, as we all ducked her ball landed pin high in the front row of spectators.

Having spent several hours sitting by the 11th hole where almost everyone who tried to hit the green in 2 ended up in the greenside bunker, I was blown away by the accuracy and distance judgement of the bunker shots. Almost all of those shots ended up within 2 feet of the hole for tap in birdies.  Unlike the 50 yard pitches in which had a much more random result and, in comparison, could almost be called mediocre.

Charely Hull lining up a putt on the 14th

Charley Hull lining up a put on the 14th

The biggest gallery all week belonged to Woburn member and local hero Charley Hull.  She was exciting and frustrating to watch in equal measure.  Brilliance with some score killing double bogies from her adventures with trees and bushes.

I thought the scoring all week was particularly good so I was amused to hear Charley Hull say that she’s never played the course when it was so short as she usually played with the boys from the back tees!

Whoever put Suzann Pettersen, Laura Davies and Alison Lee in the same group really did the spectators a disservice.  After last year’s Solheim Cup debacle this was by far the frostiest group on the course. Well done to Alison Lee for playing so well, but as European spectators we want to see our Solheim Cup heros at the weekend and this atmosphere was not condusive to good scoring. The TV groupings are clearly not random, so whoever thought this was a good idea should have known better.

Slow play was a perpetual problem, the length of time it took some players to decide what to do in and around the green was painful.  The sooner the LGU has the guts to bring in penalty shots for slow play the better. Anyone can have a disaster hole, but all the spectators can see who the consistently slow players are. In the words of Helen Alfredson “Hit the ball today, please”.

Womens British Open Winner 2016

Ariya Jutanugarn – Ricoh Womens British Open Winner 2016 – with lovely railings as the organisers didn’t let the spectators get good photos.

On the final day I followed the penultimate group of Matthew and Martin, It looked like it was going to be a forgone conclusion, but the Brit in me is ever hopeful for a home winner. Indeed it did get quite exciting over the closing holes as the leader dropped a couple of shots, but Catriona was beginning to look tired and she and Mo couldn’t quite raise their games far enough.  Ariya recovered her composure and a well deserved win was the result.

The winner had played consistently brilliantly all week – without a driver! The first 3 rounds were all under 70 and only Mo Martin matched that feat, So it was a well deserved victory for the very talented and hard working Ariya Jutanugarn.  It was nice to see that the first and second places were taken by the longest and shortest hitters.  Just goes to show that golf is for everyone, not just the youngest and strongest!

The winner being photographed

Never figured out what this photo was in aid of. If you know, please share…

 

 

All photos taken by me and therefore copyright Helen Kennedy.

Fabulous Food At An Unlikely Looking Celebrity Restaurant

What do Joan Collins, Princess Diana, Delia Smith and I have in common? Up until a few days ago the answer was nothing. However, now I also class the Auberge De La Mole as one of my favourite restaurants.

For me, superb dining and excellent restaurants can turn a good holiday into a great one. And that’s one of the reasons that we’ve just had the most wonderful holiday on the South of France staying in the little village of La Mole near St Tropez on the Cote D’Azur.

One of the first things we did after arriving was walk down the main street and check out the local shops and restaurants. La Mole is a very small village with just one boulanger, a Spar shop and three restaurants. Of all the restaurants, the Auberge De La Mole looks the least like it would be the favourite restaurant of the rich and famous.

Auberge De La Mole

The Auberge De La Mole with it’s distinctive tree growing through the canopy

As we didn’t have internet access and hadn’t checked out any restaurant reviews in advance, it was a few days before our neighbours told us about the reputation of the food at the Auberge and how Princess Diana had dined there during her holidays to St Tropez.

So two days later we found ourselves at lunchtime indulging in their incredible 30 euro prix fixe menu. Now if you’re used the French restaurants you may be thinking that 30 euros is expensive for lunch, but I have to tell you, in this case, not so.

Initially we were offered aperitifs, as we’re not big drinkers, we chose to skip a  pre-lunch cocktail and order a bottle of Domaine de Champeax rosé, which had been recommended by our neighbours. They were, of course, right, it was a lovely wine, just right for summer drinking and it matched every course perfectly.

We were seated at a table for two, but running alongside was a small side table. Unusual we thought, until the first course arrived, and then all became clear.

First the freshly baked rolls arrived and were placed on the table in a basket, wrapped in Gingham cloth. And then the starter appeared.

A young waiter brought us 4 huge terrines of pates, which were placed on the side table next to us. There was a smooth pate de canard (duck), rillettes d’oie (potted goose) a paté de campagne and tete de persille. Bread and pate is one of the joys of eating in France, whether it’s supermarket pate or something more artisan from the market, the range and flavours far exceed anything we can ordinarily find in England.

It was a help yourself, eat as much as you please starter and the pates were fantastic, perhaps the texture of the tete wasn’t quite to my taste having not grown up with that type of gelatinous food, but the canard just melted in the mouth. An example of ducky perfection which will be hard to beat.

And I was delighted to find that my opinion of the Auberge’s patés were shared by the Queen of British home cooking, Delia Smith writing for the Times newspaper.

It would have been so easy to fill up on bread and paté. And it was hard to stop eating, but after about 10 minutes, the terrines were moved on to the next set of diners and as we’d been told by our neighbours to pace ourselves, we reluctantly paused.

Chocolate Mouse

The Most Amazing Chocolate Mousse

And then to the main courses, there were a choice of five. Confit duck, rack of lamb, cassoulet, steak or a cep omelette. Despite having had the omelette recommended to me in the strongest terms, We chose rack of lamb, and  confit duck. Both were excellent and served with them were a sautéed potatoes, onions and mushrooms and a large bowl of dressed green salad. We couldn’t work out what the dressing was, there was a touch of pinkness to it, so we wondered if it was perhaps a light raspberry’ vinaigrette,

As we had already come to expect, this was delicious, and this was the only part of the meal which was not part of the all you can eat buffet. As is usual in French restaurants, they anticipate that you will be eating a multi course menu – unlike in Britain where it’s not unusual to simply have a main course – so the portion sizes are sized appropriately so you’re not completely stuffed before desert.

Again contrary to Britain, but common in France, the next course was cheese. I sometimes wonder if this is so you can finish your bottle of wine with the savoury courses and then order a pudding wine to accompany the puddings.

There were the usual range of cheeses, a mix of cow’s milk, sheep and goat, hard and soft and the obligatory blue cheese – Roquefort in this case. The waiter described each cheese to us and as with the pates, the cheeseboard was left on the side table for us for about 15 minutes while we indulged and tasted everything at least twice. The cheese were in huge chunks and as they moved from table to table any cheese which had been mainly devoured was quickly replaced by the kitchen, so the appearance of abundance and generosity was maintained throughout.

By this time, as you can imagine, I was pretty full. However, I was determined to try the puddings. After a small rest between courses, the puddings arrived on the side table. Again huge bowls, there was a terrine of creme caramel, l large bowl of prunes soaked in something and a bowl of marbled chocolate mouse.

It was by far the best chocolate mouse I’ve ever eaten – and I am a connoisseur of chocolate mousse. It was just incredible. It looked like it was marbled with whipped cream and I erred by not tasting the “cream” on it’s own. I have no idea how they managed to make something so light, yet so intensely chocolaty which looked like it had been diluted by mixing with whipped cream.

Although I was by his time full, and I knew that I was going to have to spend the rest of the afternoon quietly sitting very still, I served myself new fewer than three helpings of this magnificent mouse. The creme caramel was nice too, but not in the same league.

I declined coffee, even a small expresso would have been too much at this point. I simply hadn’t any room left.

Dame Joan Collins, who has had a house in St Tropez for many years recommends the Auberge for dinner, the 55 euro menu (also available at lunchtimes) gives an extra course and a more elaborate choice of main courses. Their famed Tournedous Rossini for example, fillet steak topped with seared foie gras. My advice if you go for dinner – pace yourself and you may not need to eat lunch first!

As you know, I love my food and this had been one of the best holiday experiences this year. We waddled very slowly and gently back to our digs and reflected on what had been a most marvelous, traditional style French bistro lunch. It looks like the menu has hardly changed for decades, but why tamper with perfection!

 

Great Food and Hospitality For A Fun Day Out

The Food and beverage staff can really make our day

One of the things that I love to do is to play golf and one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a day is going with friends to play in events around Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire and to enjoy the hospitality of other clubs.

The Food and beverage staff can really make our day

Fun with friends!

One of the key factors in any great day out is the quality of the catering and the excellence of the food.  Some of the events that we always return to are the ones where the golf clubs have chefs who have serious reputations for fine dining.  Even in a buffet style lunch, the quality and creativity of the food are exceptional.  In these cases, we wait anxiously for the entry forms to come out and so we can get our meal booked before the event fills up! Certain places like Foxhills near Guildford in Surrey, we enter because the course suits us, however, in almost every other case, it’s the restaurant which is the deciding factor.

Another less competitive way to spend a days golfing is to take a party on a society outing. When there are more than 10 of us, it’s great fun to get group rates and have our own informal competition either preceded by bacon sandwiches or followed up with afternoon tea!  We’ve eaten some wonderful afternoon teas. Some of the smaller clubs, in particular, specialise in gorgeous WI style cakes – just the thing for recharging the batteries while we wait for the rush hour traffic to subside.

I have to admit to being quite scathing about some aspects of golf club life; there is a certain amount of snobbery which I find from time to time really winds me up! However, the hospitality and catering staff are certainly one aspect of club life which is universally appreciated by everyone who experiences it. And as we say in our thank you speeches (well not me personally you understand,  just the winners:-) everyone is important, from the waitresses and bar staff we meet to the chefs and porters tucked away in the kitchens.

As golf is a minimum of four hours in the company of the same three people, one of the other really nice things about dining after an open event is taking the opportunity not only to meet new people, but also to catch up with old friends.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to a county dinner recently and found myself seated in the restaurant next to someone I used to play golf with 15 years ago, and hadn’t seen in almost as long.  We had a good catch-up and agreed not to leave it as long next time!

From that point of view, it always surprises me the convention at matches is that you eat with the people you’ve just played with. What a missed opportunity to break bread with someone new and enjoy some different conversations with your (4 pm) lunch!

So this year’s applications are well under way.  There will be some old clubs revisited, some dropped off the list due to a change in chef or catering staff and some new ones to try on the recommendation of other similarly foodie golfers.  All in all, it’s a good job we have the 7 mile walk to pique the appetite for lunch and help burn off some of the calories from the “coffee and danish on arrival”!

After All This Lovely Food, Some Weight Loss May Be Required

Loving the Food but Feeling Fatter By The Day

Corned Beef hash, a fattening but tasty breakfast

Corned beef hash and pancakes for breakfast

Having been here a few days now, one of the main things I’ve noticed about America is that the food is terrific. I’ve been completely amazed by the boldness of the flavours and I’ve absolutely loved pretty much everything I’ve tried so far. My jeans are tighter, I’ve had to let my belt out a notch and I know that by the time I get home I’ll have gained at least 10 pounds. I don’t really want to even think about losing weight before we get home, but an unexpected turn of events gave me time to have a look at the options.

We’d been up in the mountains in Colorado Springs for about 24 hours when Sam started to feel unwell.  We didn’t know whether it was altitude sickness – the town here is at an altitude three times the height of Ben Nevis, or some kind of bug.  However while we were confined to the hotel room I had to entertain myself for a while.

As I was lolling on the sofa in our suite (I love America, I’ve never been able to afford had a hotel suite before!) feeling the roll of belly fat draping itself over the top of my waistband. I thought I’d take a few moments to look at some of the weight loss programs available on the internet.

It’s not just my jeans feeling tighter…

It would appear that we’re all getting fatter without even knowing it.  And eating the fabulous food I’ve discovered here I can easily imagine how that’s happened.  According to the CDC the average American is 23lb overweight.

What I really want to know is how to lose weight fast.  I don’t enjoy dieting (who does!) so if I can just lose the weight and then maintain a new slimmer shape then I’ll be happy.  I’d also like to look a bit better than I did in our photos from the first few days of the holiday. I look like I have a tiny head on a rather chubby body. If I’m honest, it’s one of the reasons why there are now so many photos of the scenery and not so many of Sam or me.

Losing weight without public humiliation

So what to do? I’ve never fancied standing in a room having my vital statistics read out in front of a pose of strangers. it seems far too much like public humiliation because I’ve put on a couple of pounds.  So I instantly rule out the Weight Watchers approach which some of my friends swear by,  I prefer the more subtle approach.  The ‘don’t mention it to anyone, let them tell me how good I look’ version of losing weight. It also gets round the well meaning but irritating people who say “should you really be eating that cake?”

I’m happy with bit of exercise, but don’t want to go overboard, and I certainly can’t fit going to the gym into my existing daily routine. – Not to mention the extra expense joining a gym brings with it. For this reason any weight loss program which involves exercise has to be able to be done at home.

So I’ve found a website which allows me to compare weight loss programs so I can take a look at the ones which might ‘fit’ the bill. As I’m a bit obsessive about things, Sam hates it when I try calorie counting, so I’m looking for something which doesn’t involve consulting the calorie books before every meal.

Sharpen the mind as well as the body…

I know how much better I feel mentally when I manage to lever myself off the sofa and do some (regular) exercise. So weight loss plans which include an exercise program and can be done in the privacy and comfort of my own living room might be an option.  The Venus Factor seems to be designed for women, so I’d like to think that it’ll have exercises which focus on the specific female areas of concern – droopy bums, flabby stomachs and also do something for my growing bat wings.

I was also fascinated to learn about the effect that leptin has on the body.  Having read Gary Taubes book, “Why we get fat and what to do about it” I had thought that one of the the key factors in gaining weight was insulin resistance.

Here is Gary Taubes talking about weight loss and how the scientific evidence doesn’t support the “Calories In, Calories Out” model of weight maintenance which we’ve been fed for the last 40 years. The key factor is, in fact, hormone balance.

It would appear from what I’ve read (and watched) that the key hormone in weight gain appears now to be Leptin, a fairly recently discovered hormone which works in a very similar way to insulin. In many ways if you read Gary’s book and substitute the word Leptin for Insulin, it still all makes perfect sense.

Leptin controls the laying down of fat within the body and it also has a partner hormone, Ghrelin, which controls appetite.  What I’ve found really fascinating is that following gastric band surgery in an obese person, the amounts of Leptin and Ghrelin in their bodies changed and the person became less hungry – despite having had no drugs which could have caused this effect.  It would be fascinating to see if hypnotic gastric band treatment would have the same effect.

The problem with Leptin and Insulin is that resistance to these two hormones takes a while to build up, so I don’t expect instant results from changing my diet. Which is a shame as I’d have preferred a quick weight loss solution to getting thinner and looking a little less like a blob in the photos, however at least I know that there is an answer which means that with a little application, on my next holiday I can get out the swimsuit, if not the bikini!

The joy of a hotel suite

One of the wonderful things about our suite here at the Homewood Suites in Colorado Springs (which I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area, the staff are wonderful) is that we have a kitchenette. complete with Microwave, stovetop and a garbage disposal (another thing I’ve only ever seen on TV) So while Sam is recovering I can go to our local supermarket (and buy something to heat up for dinner.  Soup seems like a nice, healthy and slimming meal.

 

 

The Mile High City

Breakfast In America

Our first breakfast in America was amazing.  I had absolutely no idea what pigs in biscuits were, and I’d never heard of pico de gallo sauce before I ordered it (on the side), but it was all really delicious.  The biscuits are a bit like what in England we’d call cheese scones.  They came with a slice of bacon, a slice of ham and a great sausage patty. Yum.  And to follow, French cinnamon toast with maple syrup.  Also delicious – but could have used just a little more butter to make it even more decadent!

In addition to explaining most if the items on the menu 🙂  our waitress (or server as I believe the US term is) also recommended the 16th Street Mall as the place to go in Denver,  It’s the main tourist shopping area.  So after picking up our hire car we set off towards the big city.   I don’t know if it’s because Denver is so high up, or just that America is bigger but the sky really does appear to go on forever side.  I could almost imagine that I could see the curve of the earth.

Scraping the Sky Downtown

Downtown Denver

Mile high skyscrapers!

Not being used to the roads we were hooted at a number of times until we realised that we were stopping at red lights when turning right. The locals just checked to see if there was nothing coming and then turned regardless of the red light. We passed the State capitol building with it’s golden dome and the stunning skyscrapers of downtown.

Twice round Denver and we found a car park right at the top of the 16th Street Mall. We walked all the way down, past dozens of restaurants. We enjoyed a browse round the tourist shops via a comfort break in Barnes and Noble and a refill at Starbucks.

Standing on the Mile High Step

State Capitol Building

Standing on the mile high step

Just past the bottom of the mall is the State Capitol building, we crossed the road and then of course I just had to stand on the mile high step. We’d already walked quite a long way and it was a hot day, so while I ambled gently to the top of the stairs so Sam sat at the bottom and prepared the zoom lens to record my mile high moment for posterity.  Of course you’d need to know it was me, as I’m rather overwhelmed by the size of the building. It reminds me a little of St Paul’s Cathedral. Different dome, but similar entrance.

After the long walk in the heat down the mall we decided to catch one of the prolific shuttle buses back. As expected we didn’t have to wait more than a minute,  There must be at least 1 bus per block and they just go round in a circle, with a stop just before the corner of each clock.

Hot Tamales

And onto our next meal stop, “The Cheesecake Factory”. It was recommended by a colleague and we were not disappointed.  We had a selection of starters, the Sweetcorn Tamales were just gorgeous,  as were the deep fried avocado slices which were another thing I’ve never seen before.  We were actually too full for cheesecake. We missed a trick though, we should have taken it back to the hotel to eat later.

Union Station

Union Station

And then it was time to waddle back to our hire car and try to find our way back to the hotel.

We managed it with only a couple of wrong turns thanks to having downloaded the map of Denver onto our Android tablet. The GPS works and tracks our location despite not having an active internet connection. It’s been a huge boon every time we’ve been abroad as data roaming can be hugely expensive.

Arriving back at the hotel, my body felt like it was midnight and exhaustion had set in. Time for bed.