Friday, 30 August 2013


Parmos... What is the attraction with this foodstuff on Teesside? For those that don't know - and you are the lucky ones - a parmo is a congealed assembly of chicken fillet and cheese sauce with golden breadcrumbs glowing in an oily coat - in fact so much oil you risk a US military invasion right there on your plate! Sounds disgusting? Tastes worse!
Parmos are the first thing that come to mind when people think of Middlesbrough - that and Middlesbrough FC, the Transporter Bridge, Smoggies and unpaid hospital staff...
From whence does this calorific culinary creation come? Well you might ask, so here is everything you never wanted to know about Teesside’s beloved parmo.
You won’t hear many Teessiders ask the question - where does the parmo come from? - for having grown up with parmos, the flattened meat dish is more ingrained on their psyche. But for the uninitiated, the parmo offers a new(ish) experience.
Like chicken? Like cheese? Then you’ll be a suitable victim for the deep-fried deliciousness of the parmo. Traditionally, the parmo consists of a flattened chicken breast, pork or veal - which has had the crap beaten out of it - and which is then dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It’s next covered in a béchamel sauce and finally topped with cheese, typically cheddar cheese, which is then melted under the grill.
To many outsiders, it seems like a strange delicacy for a northern town to own. But after all, it was most probably an outsider who originally brought it to Middlesbrough. Like many of the best inventions, the exact origins of the parmo have been the subject of many a debate. It is closely linked to the Parmigiana from Italy, which involves covering meat or aubergine in cheese and tomato.
One story goes that it was created by former soldier Nicos Harris in 1958, at The American Grill restaurant he owned on Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough. Other claims go to various restaurateurs around the town. After all, what better publicity in Boro than to have invented Teesside’s most famous dish?
Dishes, of course, always change as people look to put their own stamp on them and the parmo is no exception. These days you’re far more likely to find cheddar on top rather than the traditional Parmesan formaggio.
But you’re far better off getting the real deal from Boro town centre after a night out. It’ll usually come with some chips riding shotgun on a side plate and of course a bit of salad with garlic sauce – which is tossed on the pavement outside the takeaway, called a parmo house, in the traditional manner.
And there is the annual Parmo World Championships, of course. And rather like baseball's world series, it’s not exactly a global affair, with few entries coming from other continents. Or even counties, for that matter. In fact the entrants may be limited to those far-flung areas of the globe such as Billingham...or South Bank. The annual competition took place earlier this week as part of  Stockton-on-Tees' Summer Fair.


Dr Phil's Real Ale House
10 Pilkington Buildings
Roman Road


Friday, 16 August 2013


They're everywhere - and chances are you will hear one before actually catching sight of it. Early in the morning - before the traffic builds up - you are never far away from one of Rome's most quintessential sounds - which is the gentle splash and gurgle of water. Rome certainly has a love affair for its fontane and it's believed that there is a fountain in the capital city for almost every day of the year...  that's not including the many nasoni (literally meaning 'big noses' because of the shape of their spout - and which are the more modest public fountains). Rome’s water system was one of the wonders of the world, and to a certain extent, it still is. 
In fact, you can find over 2000 nasoni (public fountains) in Rome. While many don’t realise it, these fountains contain clean water that is perfectly safe to drink. The exact same water that comes out of the taps of Rome’s houses, so if you’re touring the Eternal City on a hot summer’s day there is no reason to buy bottled water just stop off at a fountain! The first nasone was created in 1874 - and initially only 20 of these fountains could be found in the city.
Fontana delle Api (Fountain of the Bees) -
at Piazza Barberini - built in 1644

All the decorative fountains have been rebuilt over the centuries as have the three aqueducts* that source them, and the Roman water system uses both gravity and mechanical pumps. Water is recycled and water from different aqueducts is sometimes mixed before it reaches the fountains and performs for the spectators. Every piazza has its fontana - and they can be monumental in design and display. Features include nymphs, tritons, dolphins, Roman Gods - the list goes on. No other city has the sight and sound of cascading water as its backdrop.
*Acqua Vergine, Acqua Paola and the Acqua Felice.


Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fà
Via di Benedetta 25 - zona Trastevere
00153 ROME
Tel: +39 06 6456 2046




Saturday, 3 August 2013


"Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity" - Capt. James T Kirk - captain of the starship USS Enterprise (b 2233 - d 2287).

Fracking - what's all that about?

Hydraulic fracturing is the fracturing of rock by a pressurised liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally - certain veins or dykes are examples. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a technique in which typically water is mixed with sand and chemicals, and the mixture is injected at high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures (typically less than 1mm), along which fluids such as gas, petroleum and brine water may migrate to the well. The radial distance of influence of the process from the well bore is typically 150yds. Hydraulic pressure is removed from the well, then small grains of proppant (sand or aluminium oxide) hold these fractures open once the rock achieves equilibrium. The technique is very common in wells for shale gas, tight gas, tight oil, and coal seam gas and hard rock wells. The first experimental use of fracking was in 1947, and the first commercially successful applications were in 1949. As of 2010, it was estimated that 60% of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured. Opponents of fracking point to potential environmental impacts, including contamination of ground water, depletion of fresh water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flow-back, and the health effects of these.
For these reasons fracking has come under international scrutiny, with some countries suspending or banning it altogether. Last week in a Lords' discussion on fracking, Baron Howell of Guildford said "there are large, uninhabited and desolate areas, certainly in parts of the north-east, where there is plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody’s residence, and where it could be conducted without any threat to the rural environment". After much adverse reaction he apologised, and said he was thinking of drilling off the Lancashire coast, not the north-east - (it's a mistake anyone could make!). He went on to say he wanted the derricks in "unloved places that are not environmentally sensitive" - Bolton* comes to mind.
Seemingly what he meant was there was plenty of land for fracking without it impacting on highly populated areas. What he said came out as an insult to the residents and good people of one of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of our country. Two days of uproar and one apology later, Baron Howell of Guilford compounded the blunder by explaining his “stupid error” was saying the North-east when he meant the North-west.
What a Silly Billy! - as Baron Howell's political opponent Denis Healey would say... Stupid fracker in my opinion! 
*Bolton, in Lancashire, was spared the heavy bombing that many similar industrial areas of Britain were subjected to during WWII. However Punch Street and Ardwick Street received bombing hits in an air raid in October 1941 - where almost £30 of damage was caused.

Georgia Browns
22 Dovecot Street
TS18 1LH
Tel: 01740 656264

13/09/2013 - we have updated the blog post to include this infographic - Fracking explained.

by Philipp Dettmer.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.