Taste Part Three (and a little hazy)

Following the tasting of several yummy vodkas, gins, a cider and the estimable rose coloured Lychee Martini served to me by tehbus at Bea’s of Bloomsbury I was a little tipsy.

I had eaten many mini-meals (professionally known as tasters/ings) but somehow this wasn’t enough to combat the haziness, so I trotted off to soak it all up with some Bentley’s Fish and Chips before joining the lovely Ms Shed from the Shed and Foreman and Field at the Nyetimber stand for a chat about their English Sparkling Wine.

The first mention for Nyetimber must be for the stand – it was absolutely stunning, decorated with pots of flowers and fresh herbs, representing the bouquet of the wine. I was lucky enough to arrive at the same time as Cherie Spriggs who is the Head Winemaker for Nyetimber, so we sat down to a glass of their 2005 Cuvee and I was educated!

Cherie, very kindly explained to myself, Nicola and Catherine and Gavin Hanly of Hot Dinners, the process of making Nyetimber. She took us through the stages; from tasting the grapes and setting the date for harvest to the adding and removal of the yeast. Known as disgorgement, this is very clever, done by turning the bottles upside down and freezing the sediment so that it pops out when you right the bottle. Interestingly Cherie also described the freedom you have in England to break some of the slightly archaic rules of the Champagne region, such as the quota of yield from the pressed grapes. All of this is very new to me, I am by no means a wine buff – despite my enjoyment of it regularly.

We drank the Nyetimber Cuvee 2005 and it was delightful. I would proudly present this as an English Sparkling, as an excellent wine which should be served independently, rather than as a lesser alternative to Champagne. Prosecco has long been marketed as a ‘cheaper’ version of Champagne but I must insist that this label not be applied to Nyetimber as it is in its own right a lovely fizz.

So, having greatly enjoyed the company of Nicola, Cherie and the Hot Dinners team I took myself home, rather unsteadily to say the least!

Thanks again to @Mathilde Cuisine, @LibbyEAndrews  and @GloriousFoods for my really interesting and enjoyable day at Taste.

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Taste Part Two

My next stop was the stunningly decked out Bea’s of Bloomsbury stall.

I absolutely love the way  these cakes are presented in an old haberdashery cabinet.

Here I was greeted by a cheerful tehbus who was making luscious Lychee cocktails, and generally demonstrating some excellent front-of-house skills. The cocktail was lovely, very summery and sweet.

My favourite dish at taste, apart from the pig, and Bentley’s fish and chips (part three) was the Carpaccio of daurade, orange segments, sesame seeds, caper and lemon dressing. This was fromt he York & Albany. And I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t on my list, but I just fancied this fresh little dish and it really was spot on!

The only other thing I have to say for part two of my Taste expedition is that, Paul A. Young is without doubt the nicest man in food, and his Stem Ginger and Fennel Chocolate Pave (which he is eating in the photo) is well yummy!

Part one

Part Three

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Taste Part One

I’ve been trying to get this post up for days now but I keep leaving my camera at work. So finally, I’m writing up my lovely day at Taste of London courtesy of the yummy Glorious Foods.

I went to the Clothes Show in Birmingham once, for a textiles GCSE project. This was in the early noughties so not a clue what it is like now, but the Clothes Show was a bit rubbish. It really put me off those big events – one colossal room full of people that love the same thing, all competing to love it a bit more than the next person. My point is, I don’t/didn’t think I liked big things like that, the ones that happen at the N.E.C., Earl’s Court etc. As a result I had never been to Taste of London or any of the other foodie fests which happen here in London every year.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get away from it – mouth-watering posts from food bloggers such as eat like a girl and James Ramsden left me wanting more, I’m a sucker for a good photo but I wanted this stuff in my mouth! Glorious Foods came to my rescue and supplied me with a ticket at the very last minute.

So, just before lunchtime on the Friday off I trotted to Taste at Regent’s Park. Now, for me, a big A* goes to whoever came up with the idea of holding this event outdoors. Despite the sun playing hide and seek it was a temperate day to enjoy an array of lovely food and, I’m glad to add, booze.

Having entered the park, my first stop was probably not my brightest ever move, Sipsmith Vodka and Gin are made  in London in their very own Copper microdistillery. This is the first copper still to be used here for nearly 200 years. God knows why there aren’t more, because this was bloody good Gin. I can’t comment on the vodka as I’m not a mega fan generally and have little to compare it to, but the Gin – perfect.

I wandered around a little, took myself to try a variety of bits a pieces from some smaller stands, including a curd competitor which from an entirely impartial point of view I didn’t rate but her jams were yummy and I’m pretty sure that was her main area of concentration.

Next up were Glorious Foods’ soups, I tried 4 out of the 6(ish) they had on offer and all of them were really, very good. They have an A-Z of flavours with a few spots left open on the board, which they happily invite you to contribute to online. I had a go at tasting Toulouse Sausage, Spanish Chorizo, Asian Tomato and  Butternut Squash. The second two are their ‘Skinny’ range and the Asian Tomato was my fave out of all four. Definitely an in for the diet list! A lady with a large handbag kept getting in the way of my photo taking but see below, then you’ll have more chance of spotting them on a shelf near you!

Next up is the porcine creature everyone’s been talking about…Roll up Roll up for Launceston Place and their Suckling Pig Roll!

So I’m without doubt, too greedy to be a food blogger, couldn’t keep my mouth off this in time to take a photo. I can’t say much about this..I’m salivating at the thought. It was as divine as they say, laced with truffle shavings, it was just proper good food. I have one more fuzzy picture of the rather dishing bloke carving the crispy crispy delight.

See here for part 2.

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Medcalf, Clerkenwell

When my fresh face, at the naïve age of eighteen years, made its debut in London Town I had only visited the city maybe four or five times. These few visits included the one (Golden ticket) university interview which gave me the excuse to gallop my way down here from the North-West in the first place. In the early days of my residence my Mum worked down here a reasonable amount, and I saw her quite a bit – which was always a pleasure (read: free lunch and shoes). Unfortunately due to lots of unforeseen circumstances her opportunities to visit are becoming less and less. As a result I was delighted when she wanted to come down on Friday to catch up (not just for free food and shoes!).

Despite my Mother’s lack of cooking ability, of which I can assure you she freely admits, she is, thankfully, interested in eating. So, considering the comment made in jest above I charged myself with the task of finding a great restaurant for dinner. Also, once again I am blighted with poor quality iPhone photos, but I have now ordered a digital camera, hooray!

I have walked past Medcalf many times, as a former Clerkenwell resident and [current] lover of Exmouth Market I would wander past there on a pretty regular basis, but I had never got round to eating there, until Friday.

As a renovated/transformed early twentieth century Butcher’s shop the exterior of Medcalf reminds me of several Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan bars. It has that shabby, mismatched furniture, inside chairs outside thing going on which, although often overdone, I actually really quite like. Inside, the bric-a-brac furniture theme continues and the overarching material used is wood, I suspect to stay reasonably true to its Butcher’s block past. Incidentally, I don’t usually notice artwork in restaurants but Medcalf had some absolutely stunning textile pieces by Charlotte Jonerheim on their walls.

And so, on to the important part…The menu gives the impression that it changes daily, as the date on the website changes, but today’s menu is pretty much word for word what we were offered on Friday. I’m not convinced this is a bad thing, it is a seasonal menu with some really strong components and if it ain’t broke…

To start we shared a dozen Irish rock Oysters and Duck hearts with Lardons on toast with parsley and red onion. The Oysters were lovely, with a solid Red Wine vinegar and shallot dressing. The star of the show however, was the Duck hearts. Just pink in the middle with salty lumps of pig and the well matched garnish of parsley and red onion on a good sourdough toast. Absolute meaty heaven. I was also slightly surprised at the size of the hearts, they were quite small, and maybe somebody can tell me why? I remember wild Duck from my childhood always being smaller and almost wiry as opposed to the fat packaged version you see in supermarkets, but I’m intrigued as to whether this is why the hearts seemed proportionally off to me?!

I continued along the meaty theme and had Guinea Fowl with char-grilled Treviso and broad beans, whilst J ate Hand picked Dorset crab with peas, asparagus and herb mayonnaise and my Mum ordered the Beer battered hake with tartare sauce, mushy peas and chips. Apologetic at this point I think she felt her foodie credentials were failing me, which is ridiculous – the only reason I never order Fish and Chips in London is because I often feel, as a Northerner with pretty high Fish ‘n’ Chip standards, slightly disappointed  (as the Yorkshire born and bred Green Onions also explains on her blog). Well, I stand officially and happily corrected. Medcalf’s hake was melt in the mouth perfect. Crisp batter, beautiful fish – I cannot rave enough about this plate of food – it was divine. The Dorset crab was also lovely, proffered with small Gem lettuce leaves to scoop some crab and herby mayonnaise onto, it was a tasty main course. J had also ordered a portion of chips which were good chips – not the best chunky ones I’ve had in London – but pretty good all the same, and bonus points go to Medcalf for homemade mayo! My main course was reasonably good, the Guinea Fowl was slightly over cooked and therefore a bit overpowered by the char flavour from the Treviso Radicchio. I suspect if the meat had been cooked a little less then the ingredients would have come together more cleanly.

J abstained from dessert but because my Mum and I are evidently greedy (and by this point a tad tipsy – hence the lack of photos until after we had dug in!) we decided to order 3 puddings on the basis that he would eat some once it was in front of him! Again it was 2 hits and 1 miss with the puds, the Bakewell tart was executed faultlessly with a dollop of clotted cream and the Rhubarb and Strawberry crumble with pecans and runny cream a sharp delight. The third was the Chocolate Pana cotta with Orange caramel which although it was nice, tasted like chocolate mousse with tinned mandarin oranges, which wasn’t quite what we expected.

Medcalf was mostly excellent, and when it wasn’t excellent it was still really good. The service was spot on, as were the drinks. A local Greenwich beer (Meantime Helles) had a complex taste that after a couple of sips I really enjoyed and the bottle of Rioja Navajas Blanco, 2006, was well priced and I would gladly have drunk another one.

Go to Medcalf, it is definitely worth it, and whilst you’re there take a look around Exmouth market – there is so much to be seen in this corner of London, foodie and otherwise.

We paid approximately £35 per head for 3 courses, including drinks.

Medcalf
40 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE
020 7833 3533
020 7833 1321
mail@medcalfbar.co.uk

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Would you trust us…

to cook you dinner??

We are now putting together the mailing list for our first date. Please email us at hatchamsupperclub@gmail.com to receive our first ‘update’!

(sorry condom not included)

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Belated, but as promised


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Spring Mackerel Salad

I have opinions on fish.

Once upon a time, pretty much as long ago as I can remember, my dad owned a fishing tackle shop in South Manchester. He has always and still does like to fly fish ALOT. We would go on holiday to places so that my mother could paint and my father could fish – as a general rule this would equate to places where it rained, 24/7. However, my family holidays were filled with many a joyful moment attempting to make both painting and fishing (not at the same time..) a skill of my own. I failed on both counts!

What I also gleaned from these trips was that fish farming seemed to be, amongst my father and his fishermen friends, a particularly unpopular development in the world of aquatic vertebrae.

We would stay in fishing and hunting lodges and I remember posters with visual examples of how to spot a farmed fish in your spoils. The images of farmed fish didn’t look too happy. Dead grey eyes, flaking scales and ravaged fins were on offer whilst above sat a plump healthy salmon with sparkling pupils and a full coat of scaly armour. As sure as I am that this poster was to an extent an exaggeration it put me right off any fish that might have seen a farm.

All of that is all well and good. However as someone who loves food and spends a lot of time eating in restaurants that probably use farmed fish and so on I have definitely gone against my childhood morals since that first depiction of fish farming. But I have been thinking on fish farming of late, and considering this article in the Guardian, it seems to me that packing fish in like battery hens is potentially becoming more acceptable…thoughts most welcome. It strikes me that as a nation who are consistently made aware of battery farming land animals we should probably take note of the marine equivalent.

As a result of these considerations I left work the other night craving fish, and managed to find some smoked sustainably sourced Mackerel to add to a warm spring salad for two.

2 smoked Mackerel fillets (preferably line-caught)

5/6 spring onions dependent on size, chopped (to create little green&white pinstripe cylinders)

4 cloves of garlic,crushed

Lots of little tomatoes (we used red and yellow), halfed

New potatoes

Creme Fraiche

Mustard

a couple of chillis, chopped (remove seeds if you don’t want it too hot)

Parsley (only a sprinkling of torn up flat leaf)

Any other springy bits and pieces you have kicking about the fridge (We had some red onion salsa left over from dinner the previous night)

Herby leaves on the side (Dandelion would work well)

*Put the potatoes on to cook with lots of water and some salt

*In a big pan with a little olive oil fry spring onions, garlic and chilli until soft but only the palest shades of golden

*Add the fish and flake up, stirring to coat everything in the garlic and chilli flavours

*Drain the potatoes and chop up into chunks (I have a pretty big gob so for me this is big – I’m sure all you civilised folks out there have perfect petite mouths – in which case – chop smaller)

*Chuck the potatoes into the big pan

*Stir everything around to get it all coated and amalgamated, check the seasoning – probably add pepper, salt will depend on your fish

*Add the tomatoes and the rest of the fridge foraging finds *Once the tomatoes have started to melt down into the mixture add Creme Fraiche to taste, and check the seasoning

*Scatter over the parsely and serve with salad leaves and a fair drizzle of balsamic.

I have no further photos – I was starving!

But I do have fish related links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/24/farmed.fish.climate.change

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/tags/fish-farming

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/oceans/north_sea

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/oceans/what-we-are-doing/sustainable-seafood/sustainable-seafood-frequently-asked-questions

http://www.msc.org/

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