Posts Tagged ‘deliciousness’

A Taste of Manchester

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

I realised I haven’t written about food in so long and you may have all started to worry about my health. FEAR NOT! I am continuing to consume large amounts of delicious food and drink within a slightly smaller budget than previous years.

While France brought me pastries and cheese, England has delivered real ale and is clearly attempting to turn me into red nosed alcoholic. The red nose is a given, but don’t worry Mum, my lightweight alcohol tolerance means I give up and go home hours before the rest of my friends.

The arrival of craft beer makers in Manchester means that most weekends there is either a brew tap or a food festival (with beer) to attend, usually located in a railway arch on the outskirts of the city centre. These have become one of my favourite things to do in Manchester – spending an afternoon with my foodie-friends eating local food, sampling local beer and having a good old time.

Yesterday the weekend’s festival was held in the People’s History Museum. It was all of my favourite things in one place – beer, cheese, friends and interpretation panels! It was held by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale organisation) and I am now trying even harder to grow a beard so that I can become a member. You don’t technically need a beard to join – it just seems more appropriate.

It is great to be able to try different types, strengths, and flavours of beers to learn what you do and do not like to drink. It reminds me of going to the Salon du Vin in France and being able to sample wine at over 150 wine stalls, only this isn’t quite as free and you don’t have to pretend to understand what the word ‘tannins’ means.

Beer + cheese!

Beer + cheese!

Goodbye, Lemon Curd

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

An empty jar marked with a sticker clearly stating that it must be returned to its true owner, S.L.Wrightson, is all that is left of my lemon curd. It has been living in my fridge for the past two and a half months, slowly decreasing in volume. Every time I open the fridge door, it winks at me, reminding me of its presence. And, like all temptations in life, how can you say no? The contents of this small jar dissolved not from being spread on toast or used to add a tarty sweetness to a dessert, but simply from being enjoyed in small tastes from the end of my little finger. Occasionally a teaspoon was involved but nothing tastes better than when licked from your finger, feeling youthfully naughty and hoping no one has spotted you in the act.

Midsummer House

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Almost a year ago, Sir Pubert’s mum, Katy, told me about a restaurant that she and and her partner Ken had eaten at. These two occasionally spoil themselves and eat out at fancy restaurants and they highly recommended the two Michelin-starred Midsummer House situated on the riverside in Cambridge.

Not only did they recommend it, in December Katy decided to book a table and the earliest Saturday night they had available was the 19 September. Luckily I had decided to pop over to Australia for eight months so the wait wasn’t an issue.

Last Saturday night, Katy, Ken and I glammed up and forced Sir Pubert into wearing a shirt (which he refused to tuck in). I’ve never been a very girly-girl and I don’t understand makeup in the slightest but I do enjoy having an opportunity to wear slightly dressier dresses. It means they weren’t a complete waste of money, plus it’s nice to look pretty every now and then.

Midsummer House isn’t the location of many murders, extramarital affairs or religious sacrifice, but instead is an understated house that has been transformed into a fancy-pants restaurant on the banks of the river in Cambridge. We were greeted about approximately seven chirpy wait staff who were all exceptionally happy to see us. The overly cheery welcome unnerved me slightly but thankfully it soon calmed down and the staff turned out to be sarcastic, witty and easy-going people. They were extremely good at their jobs and the service throughout the evening was exceptional.

Midsummer House

Midsummer House

And then there was the food. We had the seven course degustation menu with the matching wines. This started with some canapés which continued to arrive from the kitchen and you were never quite sure when it was all going to stop. And then came the main dishes, each plate delivered with a synchronised placement on the table so that everyone was served at exactly the same time. I loved this.

Overall, the food was beautiful. It looked good, tasted good and brought smiles to our faces. Of the savoury dishes, the highlights were a crab, avocado, champagne and pink grapefruit thing (my grandmother would describe it as ‘fluffy’ and I would concur), the roasted beetroot with frozen goat’s cheese and quinoa (all of my favourite things on one plate), and this quail mousse on sourdough. The roasted quail was an extreme disappointment and so was the duck. If I’ve learnt anything from watching hours of Master Chef it is that duck fat needs to be rendered and the skin should be crispy. This was neither of those.

The ultimate highlights, however, were the two desserts. Yes, two. The first was called the ‘pre-dessert’ which is a plate that I am introducing to my daily life from now on.

This pre-dessert was an aerated lychee and mango dome with crunchy meringue and mango shards. I don’t particularly like mango, or lychee, but WOWZERS! This was light, tangy and refreshing, plus it just looked beautiful.

Pre-dessert

Pre-dessert

However then came my overall favourite dish of the evening – described as “Pickled blackberry, pastis and pear, blackberry ‘Marquise'” the final dish wasn’t at all what I expected because they failed to mention ‘chocolate’. Yes, the holiest of ingredients. The pear sorbet fizzed in your mouth, and the blackberry marquise had a fantastic berry flavour. The little crisp sitting on top had a subtle pastis flavour (highly appropriate as I had played petanque earlier that day) and then there was a small ball of dark chocolate and blackberry ganache that just added a depth and richness to the whole dish. It so good. I ate it as slowly as possible with a big grin on my face. I could have eaten 5 of those.

Dessert #2

Dessert #2

After all of this food we were brought chocolates and doughnuts which none of us really wanted but we all tried anyway. The homemade chocolates were quite interesting – particularly one which was flavoured with bay leaf. I have recently had rosemary and chocolate and bay leaf and chocolate. All winners.

The meal was lovely and the quality of the food, the presentation and the staff was outstanding. It wasn’t the greatest meal that I have ever eaten in my entire life and I’m not necessarily going to rush back, but it was definitely one for the food memory bank. Thanks Katy and Ken for a lovely evening and my first ever Michelin star experience!

We are Italiano

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

For Christmas, I bought Sir Pubert Gladstone a pasta maker. He eats an unusually large amount of the stuff and had mentioned his desire to own a machine so he could make his own. It was an obvious choice for a christmas present but his constant mentioning of this being on his ‘christmas wish list’ to every family member/friend/bearded man who asked was a little annoying considering I had already purchased one and no one needs multiple pasta machines.

Anyway, the purchase has resulted in our four attempts at ‘filled pasta’ – whether that be ravioli, tortellini or pastaloni as our non-traditional shapes would suggest. And clearly we have italian blood seeping through our bodies as we have managed to create some mighty fine pasta-pockets.

pasta machine

Ready to roll.

Our first attempt was on New Year’s Eve where we went for roast pumpkin, stilton and walnut ravioli with a sage button sauce, accompanied by parmesan roasted fennel. Holy guacamole, it was good eating.

pasta

There’s pumpkin in there. And cheese as well.

Sir Pubert then challenged me to create two different fillings as a ‘surprise’ for him (although I suspect it was just his way of tricking me into cooking for him) and I delivered a seriously good spinach and ricotta filling and one with mushrooms with thyme.

pasta

Dough pillows.

While the idea of making your own pasta seems somewhat time consuming at first, it is remarkably quick and easy to do. I think the Italians would agree that simplicity is key so there aren’t many ingredients to worry about. Plus it is much lighter and far more satisfying than buying the dried stuff from the supermarket – knowing you have kneaded the dough means you’ve already worked off most of the calories. More pasta for you!

Surprise Birthday Wrap

Friday, August 29th, 2014

My birthday Two-Or-So-Weeks have begun in the form of delicious food. My friend and fellow Classroomer, Alam, surprised me with a halloumi and falafel wrap and a piece of carrot cake from the Veggie Kitchen at the Manchester Markets. Alam is always teasing me with his delicious cheesy wraps and so, to celebrate my birth, he went and bought me one. It may not be his Audi R8, but in my world a cheesy, chickpea filled wrap with a slab of cake is WAY better. Thanks, Alam!

Mmmm… birthday wrap...

Mmmm… birthday wrap…

Mmm… birthday carrot cake...

Mmm… birthday carrot cake…

 

Happy Birthday, You Delicious Nutty-Chocolate Delight

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

A very big congratulations and happy birthday to my good friend, Nutella who turned 50 years old this week. We have spent a lot of time getting to know one another and I feel our friendship has grown from strength to strength. I have consumed this wondrous, gooey hazelnut and chocolate spread in Australia, France, England, Germany and various other European countries, with each country offering a slightly different flavour sensation. No two countries deliver the same product – the ratio of chocolate to nut and the consistency can vary significantly. It is smoother in France than it is in the UK, and a lot more chocolatey in Australia. Despite it being an Italian invention, I give the award for “Best Use of Nutella” to the French who spread copious amounts in hot crêpes creating chocolate volcanoes that ooze down your chin. Simple culinary brilliance. I will, however, give the Italians the “Invention Prize” for the Nutella flavoured gelato that I had in Bologna. WOW. Just wow.

Mmm… nutella gelato...

Mmm… nutella gelato…

I have consumed Nutella on bread, in crêpes, as ice cream, in cakes, in little plastic tubs that are designed for kids but loved by adults, in a calzone and, I am willing to admit, licked off the end of a knife. The excitement levels that I am experiencing while writing this post almost scare me and I am currently envisioning swimming in a vat of Nutella. Clearly my love for this product and dedication to the consumption of it, despite its affect on my health and waist line, means that Mr Ferrero should definitely make it happen. Or at least give me a free jar.

The most Nutella-ful crêpe that I have ever consumed. It was freaking awesome.

The most Nutella-ful crêpe that I have ever consumed. It was freaking awesome.

Hello Sushi.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

I am trying hard to be accepted into a group of elite. This group isn’t about money or social status. No, something far more valuable and important. FOOD. I recently met the dude in charge of Yelp (an online review website for restaurants, bars, shops and services) in Manchester and he has encouraged me to write reviews of places I eat/visit in exchange for potential free food eating opportunities. Basically if I write enough reviews of places in Manchester, I will be invited into the Yelp Elite and be invited to attend amazing food events.  It wasn’t a hard sell.

On Monday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the February Elite event as a taster of good things that could come my way. A small Japanese restaurant, Umezushi, was booked for just the Elite and we were served an amazing meal of small dishes accompanied by a range of sakes. I spent most of Monday thinking about my evening ahead and arrived full of anticipation – I was not disappointed.

The head chef, Terry, talked to us about each dish and each of the sakes we were served, moving from the lowest grade sake to the highest. Each sake had a distinctively different flavour – some far more floral than others. I think most of us voted for the first drink as the most enjoyable – a plum flavoured sake served as a kir-like cocktail with sparkling rosé wine. We all wanted more.

Cheers!

Cheers!

The food was astonishingly good. Tempura vegetables and white bait were followed by tempura seaweed with wasabi fish roe. We had fish wrapped around rice, octopus with seaweed salad, and sushi rolls. I was a little concerned about the sushi factor as a sushi eating experience that I had at primary school in 1994 has completely destroyed my ability to eat and enjoy seaweed wrapped rice. I went to Umezushi with the intention of eating and trying everything and when the sushi was presented I went in with guns blazing and a desire to enjoy what I was eating. IT WAS AMAZING! Such fantastic fresh ingredients and beautifully presented – my taste buds were overwhelmed by the wonderful flavours. I have been officially converted into a sushi eater and I am so happy about this fact. Exciting sushi eating times ahead for me!

 

Who knew that seaweed, fish roe and wasabi could taste SO GOOD?

Who knew that seaweed, fish roe and wasabi could taste SO GOOD?

Mmm.. raw fish...

Mmm.. raw fish…

The octopus was a little chewy for my liking but that seaweed salad was amazing.

The octopus was a little chewy for my liking but that seaweed salad was amazing.

I love sushi.

I love sushi.

The final sake was a rich, plummy flavour and it was served with a wonderfully dark and rich chocolate fondant. You may have learnt by now that I am a chocolate fondant snob – I know what I like and what makes for a chocolate fondant failure. I didn’t have high expectations as we were eating japanese and not in a fine dining French restaurant. So imagine my pure delight when the fondant was crunchy on the outside, soft and gooey in the middle and the perfect balance of richness and sweet. Perhaps it was the large amount of sake that I had consumed but I was a very happy girl.

Chocolate-fondanty-goodness

Chocolate-fondanty-goodness

Our evening ended with a local artist, Naomi, talking us through making origami frogs and rabbits. We all sat with our tongues poking out the sides of our mouths as we tried to work out what folds we were supposed to make next. The end result were some very cute mini-paper-animals that we all proudly took home to show our mums.

It's a rabbit!

It’s a rabbit!

It's a frog!

It’s a frog!

I hope I will be accepted into the Elite club – not just because of the free food but eating and writing about my food experiences is something that I just love doing. Food is something to celebrate and it is so wonderful to find a group of people who feel the same way as I do about experiencing new restaurants and discovering new flavours. Time to get reviewing!

Disappointing Dessert

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

I had high hopes for Rosylee Tea Rooms in the Northern Quarter. They opened their doors towards the end of summer last year and I had been wanting to try their food since. On Thursday night, after being ‘arty and stuff’ and attending an exhibition opening, Pooja and I had dinner at Soup Kitchen before heading across the road to Rosylee for dessert. We were excited. We had heard good things and the photographs on their website suggested we were going to be very happy.

It wasn’t a great start – the staff ignored us as we walked in and looked obviously annoyed that we had entered their restaurant at 8.30pm when they had seem some potential for closing early. We were eventually invited to take a seat of our choosing and we then were presented with dessert menus. Rosylee has a fancy-vibe going for it. Lots of shiny things, black and white furnishings and the waitstaff look like they want to take your coat. It could be elegant but the restaurant was half-empty so it just felt a bit uncomfortable.

I went down a classic route and chose the plum and apple crumble served with cinnamon clotted cream. It was the clotted cream that got me and I promised to share some of it with Pooja. The chocolate item on the menu was a chocolate marquis with cherry which I knew I wouldn’t like because chocolate should never, ever, ever be put together with cherry or orange. Plus I was feeling like something cozy and comforting so crumble it was.

Apple and plum crumble

Apple and plum crumble

It was disappointing. I could have made a better crumble – the apple and the plum were both undercooked and the crumble topping had nothing interesting to it. Plus the custard was lumpy. The clotted cream was good (of course) but that’s because it is clotted cream and it is impossible for that not to taste amazing.

Pooja chose a Baileys crème brûlée which tasted nothing like Baileys. And it was overcooked and slightly curdled.

Baileys crème brûlée

Baileys crème brûlée

Both dishes looked very pretty and there was a moment of joy when they were placed in front of us. But sadly the joy ended as we dipped our over-sized spoons into delicate pots. Such a shame.

We had both independently decided against ordering tea when we had seen the price – £3.60. That’s a lot of money for some hot water and tea leaves. We were sad that our Rosylee Tea Room experience hadn’t been more successful, and while we agreed they weren’t the worst desserts we have ever eaten, they were overpriced and just not great. The final interesting moment was when our bill was plonked down on our table, signalling it was time for us to leave. And most likely never go back.

63 Degrees of Deliciousness

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, am a very lucky girl. For many reasons really, but on Saturday night my good fortune was highlighted, underlined, set off in fireworks, and served on a plate by a singing penguin in a suit. I was taken out for dinner at one of Manchester’s top restaurants, 63 Degrees, for delicious French food and wine. I felt like I had been transported back to Paris as I read the menu and saw all of my favourite words – foie gras, vin blanc, et chocolat. Trop bon.

Matt had tried to go to 63 Degrees when he had been in Manchester a few weeks ago, however he hadn’t been able to get a table. So some forward planning and gentle prodding from a nagging Virgo meant we scored a table at the ridiculously early time of 5.45pm. Thankfully it is dark in Manchester by 4 o’clock so stomaches start grumbling much earlier. Plus we were running late so by the time we were seated it was an acceptable dining hour.

The restaurant is run by the Moreau family with Eric, a very handsome and very French-looking chef, out the back working his magic in the kitchen. We were served by a young waiter who was… well… a frenchman. Confident and ready to tell his clientele who was in charge, he kept our wine glasses filled and he briefly allowed me the pleasure of speaking French to him. Briefly.

I talked Matt into sharing the foie gras entrée – two rounds of rich foie gras served with a crunchy brioche and fruity fig compote. It took me straight back to Christmas last year eating excessive amounts of foie gras and drinking cheap wine with friends in Paris – only this was the fancy-afied version and definitely not cheap. It was just delicious. I want more.

Continuing along this theme of my morally challenging meat-eating tendencies, over previous weeks I had been thinking about the delicious small birds (quails, pigeons, spatchcock) that I ate in France so when I saw pigeon on the menu I couldn’t go past it. The dainty roasted bird was served with cabbage and mushrooms with a creamy, buttery sauce. I would have liked the skin to be a bit crisper but the flavours were moreish and warming. Matt’s lamb was the winner though – juicy and tender, it melted in your mouth and was perfectly accompanied by a sweet potato mash.

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Pigeon rôti avec petit chou

Of course I was waiting anxiously for the dessert and was extremely concerned by the fact that there were TWO chocolate items on the menu. How was I supposed to choose? But then angels sang and glitter fell from the ceiling as Matt suggested we share the fondant chocolat et caramel and the poire chocolat. It was like winning the lottery twice.

The chocolate and caramel fondant was served with a chestnut cream and ice cream. The fondant oozed as it should and was deliciously dark but quite sweet due to the caramel. I would have preferred a plain chocolate fondant but I wasn’t about to send it back.

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Fondant chocolat et caramel avec glace marron

Then there was the chocolate sphere – served as a hard-cased chocolate ball, our smooth waiter friend poured a hot chocolate sauce over the top, melting the ball and revealing rounds of poached pear inside. What remained was essentially rich, dark chocolate soup with pieces of pear. HOLY MOLY.

Sphère chocolat avec poire

Sphère chocolat avec poire

I starred at it for awhile, unable to accept that I was allowed to eat it. And eat it I did – I think I may have defended the chocolate and pear delight with my spoon and not allowed Matt to have a very fair share… I ended the evening at 63 Degrees a very happy girl on an extreme chocolate high (my preferred state of being.)

I am very pleased to have found another restaurant in Manchester that delivers gastronomic experiences that take me to my happy place. I still have a long list of restaurants that I want to try and my experience at 63 Degrees has kicked my foodie taste-buds back into action. Thanks, Matt.

Settled.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

On Saturday I officially moved in to my new apartment in Manchester. In the words of the great Darryl Kerrigan – location, location, location. While I may not have impressive electricity poles or an airport next door, I am in one of the ‘up and coming’ areas of Manchester and a five minute walk from the city centre. Behind my apartment are the canals of the Castlefield district and across the road is the Science and Industry Museum. I am contemplating going in to the museum every day and learning about a different wheel or plane or vacuum cleaner, just because I can. It’s free entry! But today there were large groups of screaming school children hanging around outside so I am yet to venture in. My brother is coming to visit tomorrow so I might send him in first to clear the way.

My new view

My new view

My new canal.

My new canal

I am enjoying being in the centre of it all again. I thoroughly enjoyed the suburban, green-tree life of Swinton, but I do enjoy being able to go for a walk and being overwhelmed with ‘stuff’. Sunday was St Patrick’s Day and the city was alive with plenty of green; giant novelty blow-up Guinness pints; and drunkenness. The Royal Exchange Theatre building was open-all-areas for the public so I could explore the inner workings of the theatre and escape the drunk locals.

My first night in Manchester was saved by my particularly friendly real estate agent who took pity on the loner and showed me some cool bars in the hip-n-cool Spinningfields area. We went to a cocktail bar called The Neighbourhood where the staff (all male) were wearing yellow braces to hold up their pants. I mean trousers. Trousers. Trousers. I could have been in one of cocktail bars in Paris except I felt extremely underdressed, under-make-up-ed, and generally not tarty enough. Or drunk enough. I have received an instant reminder of the Anglosaxon drinking habits – lots and loud. On my run this morning I found plenty of evidence of the weekend’s activities splashed all over the footpaths. While I’m not missing Paris’s constant waft of urine, Manchester isn’t all that much cleaner.

I have to wait until after Easter for my internet to be connected in my apartment so I am currently sitting in a cafe/bar/events venue called Gorilla using their internet for the price of a cup of tea and a flapjack. I love flapjacks. Not having the internet is a bit like falling down stairs and hitting your head against a wall at the bottom every time you remember that no, you can’t check your email. Or no, you can’t look that up. Or no, you can’t Skype your Mum and Dad and show them your new apartment. I am trying to remind myself that not having the pesky internet to distract me is a great reason to do lots of writing. So I have no excuses for not having my book completed by Easter. Yep. Definitely. Or I’ll just be very fat from lots of flapjacks.

Tea and flapjack

Tea and flapjack