Hot Plate

It's not true, as some have suggested, that I grew up eating steak and kidney pie. What I did grow up eating was another pub-grub mainstay, the so-called ploughman's lunch. I can't say which I enjoyed more: the lunch or the attendant danger. But I'll tell you this: Eating Stilton cheese while, all around you, darts are whizzing, is an experience you won't forget. For excitement, it's a bit like eating a sandwich on the main runway at Kennedy Airport. The ploughman's lunch ($6.95) at the Ale House (2425 West Alabama, 521-2333) is, frankly, not the best I've tasted, but I recommend it because, in addition to the Stilton, it comes with two other cheeses -- Cheddar and Caerphilly -- a bread basket and some utterly sublime Branston Pickle, a relish containing carrots, gherkins, onions, marrow squash, dates, apples, lemon juice, garlic extract and what the manufacturer calls "secret spices." Try it. It will change your life.

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