Workhouse Greg to sit Brewmaster exam

Workhouse Coffee’s Greg Costello is going from strength to strength.

Tomorrow he’s flying to Dublin to sit an exam that will certify him as a SCAE Gold Cup Brewmaster and then, next week, he’s off to Cologne “to look at more coffee rig stuff”.

Finally, Workhouse Coffee will undergo a makeover in July (please don’t lose the map, Greg!).

Reading Tuttle tomorrow at ten

Twitterers, bloggers and other social media-ers will be meeting tomorrow morning at 10 (after they have voted, of course) at Workhouse Coffee for round 3 of the Thames Valley Social Media Cafe (TVSMC), now a permanent fixture thanks to Benjamin Ellis and Neville Hobson.  A perfect opportunity to discuss the intersection of social media and politics/democracy?

Meanwhile, Reading “tweetups”, the smaller sessions organised around Social Media Cafe, are going from strength to strength, driven by people such as @craigyd (he does have a real name, honest). 

For the latest on local meetings, look no further than hashtag #rdgtweetup.

Maple Iced Glazed doughnut gets me going

I think I may have discovered a great hangover remedy: the humble doughnut. 

Thanks to several late-night sakes enjoyed with Sushi 108’s hyperactive talent Chris Allen, I was feeling a little less than bright and breezy on Saturday morning.  I needed an urgent fix, preferably non-alcoholic. 

Krispy Kreme was, for me, an unlikely destination. I normally go to places like Picnic, Workhouse Coffee (bit of a walk, though) and Caffe Nero, where I can order a muffin and read The Guardian.  However, a PR professional from Edelman contacted me the other day with information about KK and so I thought, why not? I’d give them a try.

My first impression was that KK was spotlessly clean and tidy.  I always get the impression that the Big 3 coffee chains offer environments crowded with tables, chairs, newspapers, CDs and lofty CSR statements.  Krispy Kreme felt different.  Focused, even.  It’s about the doughnut, right?

There was no doubt in my mind what the star of the Krispy Kreme show was.  KK’s doughnuts were meticulously arranged, looking like the fast food equivalent of a North Korean sound-and-light spectacular.  This was comforting.  If you are a little worse for wear, order is a very good thing.  Clutter is like a hammer to the brain.

There were many flavours to choose from, some less traditional than others.  I ordered a Maple Iced Glazed doughnut with a small cappuccino.  Sinking my teeth into the sweet plump thing felt like biting into Americana.  A very cheesy description, you might be thinking, but maple syrup is quintessentially North American.  The doughnut had an immediate impact, bringing me out of my zombified state and leaving somewhere closer to reality. 

As for the calories, well, I wasn’t too concerned. I played a round of golf in the afternoon and burnt a number this morning, clapping the Reading Half Marathon runners as they came into view.

New-look Living Reading site launches

Living Reading relaunched earlier this month, and it’s an improvement on the former site.  Funded by the Reading Marketing Group, the site aims to be:

the one place everybody heads when they need information on visiting, doing business or even moving to Reading.

I would suggest to interested parties that they also visit Reading Forum, Reading Chronicle and Evening Post websites (especially the former) for different perspectives, in addition to Living Reading.

What are your thoughts on the new Living Reading site (I’ve got nothing to do with this, by the way)?

The Lamb springs back into action

Spring is definitely on its way, as confirmed by this weekend’s bumblebees, butterflies and brilliant sunshine.

Appropriately for the season of rebirth, The Lamb at Satwell, near Henley, slaughtered in the recession, will be reopening this Friday (20 March), just in time for Mother’s Day.  The fantastic country gastropub was closed by previous owner, celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson, last month.

The new owners are Chris and Emma Smith, who will be joined by a few faces from the previous team, including head chef Lukasz Ostaszewski.

Most main courses will be priced around a tenner.  There will be a new wine line list and “an increased emphasis on real ale” (yes!), described by Chris as his favoured tipple.

The Lamb joins Reading pub The Kennet Arms in making a comeback in difficult economic times.

Thames Valley Social Media Cafe is a Tuttle success

Sometime mid-morning on Friday 13 March, a number of social media enthusiasts talked Twitter tactics over coffee as bemused Workhouse Coffee punters looked on.  It was the inaugural Thames Valley Social Media Cafe, held in Reading.

I’m not a great counter, preferring words, but I estimated there to be a dozen or so of us, including heavyweights (not literally) Neville Hobson and Drew Benvie, who both co-founded the event, skateboarding Steven Lamb from Microsoft, copywriter and friend John McGarvey, podcaster Andy Piper from IBM, and local PR business owners Nicky Davis and Catherine Warrilow.  It was quite a crowd.

Even Workhouse Coffee’s Greg Costello (who literally is a heavyweight) joined in the fun, showing interest in my BlackBerry and asking for my thoughts on the iPhone/iPod Touch.  According to Drew, Greg also had a Twitter account set up for him on the spot that morning.  Marvellous and marvellously simple.  You can follow Greg’s tweets here: www.twitter.com/itsridiculous

I chatted at length with Nicky Davis, who is at the helm of online news release distributor NeonDrum and consultancy EvokedSet.  Topics covered included Reading, refuse collections and Readipop CDs, as well as online PR.  As I finished my Brazilian (coffee) and downgraded to a cortado, I began another enjoyable conversation, with Catherine Warrilow, who runs Oxford-based company Warrilow PR.

I’d also spoken briefly with Steven Lamb (who led my kayaking lessons when I was at Microsoft), Andy Piper (who can teach me a thing or two about podcasting) and Adrian Moss (ditto).

For other (better) perspectives on the event, read the following posts:

Greg’s perspective, like his fantastic cortado, was short and sweet:

it was a wonderful morning in coffee house today. Thanks to the group of twitterers who held a gathering there. more news soon

Join Save Reading’s Local Newspapers group on Facebook

The big story of the week has to be the Guardian Media Group’s alarming announcement that the Reading Evening Post is to become a twice weekly newspaper.

Furthermore, up to 95 redundancies are planned across the Guardian Media Group’s Surrey and Berkshire Media division, with closures of two weekly titles (the Esher News & Mail and the Aldershot Mail).

The National Union of Journalists’s head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said of the decision

It is deeply worrying that in Reading the commitment to local news is being cut from a full week of papers to two days a week

Councillor Tony Jones agrees, saying on his blog:

I say that even in this fast moving age of websites and blogs, there must be room for strong daily and weekly local newspapers. Reading will be all the poorer if these cuts go ahead.

Encouragingly, a Facebook group has been created by Tony to help save newspaper journalism in Reading.   To date, 75 members have joined Save Reading’s Local Newspapers, including Cllr Richard Willis and Cllr Daisy Benson, who posted:

Well done for setting this up Tony – this came as a shock to me and will be a real blow to regular reporting of local issues that matter to people in Reading.

You can add yourself here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=69050419902  

Oranjepan’s succinct analysis on his blog Reading List is worth a read also.

Reading Tuttle is born

Friday 13th might be unlucky for some, but some also say that you create your own luck.  As first announced by Neville Hobson, the first Thames Valley Social Media Cafe will be held at 10am on 13 March 2009 at the smashing Workhouse Coffee in Reading.

The idea emerged from conversations between Neville, Drew Benvie, Benjamin Ellis and myself, and was inspired by Lloyd Davis and his Social Media Cafe/”Tuttle” (now spread from London to cities such as Birmingham and Oxford).

The Tuttle concept is simple.  As Lloyd puts it, the club is

a loose group of people who come together to talk and work around social media. 

This is so right for Reading.  The town and its environs is chock-full of digital talent.  Workhouse Coffee, suggested by Drew (who originally alerted me to its existence and indeed to Twitter) feels right for the Social Media Cafe (offering first-class coffee, scrabble tiles for entertainment, a giant world map for inspiration and local newspapers).  

For more information, and to register your interest, visit the Thames Valley Social Media Cafe wiki, set up by Benjamin.

The following other announcements have been posted recently:

Follow drinksinreading on Twitter

Twitter me this, Twitter me that.  Newspapers’ love affair continues.  My non-geek friends now have a Twitter presence, and so has drinksinreading.com.

Drinksinreading.com, a website/social network offering user comments on Reading bars, is now automatically alerting Twitter followers to newly posted reviews (behaving much like RSS).    Add drinksinreading here.

I’m told also that work has commenced on a new special offers section of the site, viewable by members only.

Meanwhile, I’ve asked for new venues to be added – Reading pub of the moment The Retreat, and The Hop Leaf.  They’re two of my favourites.