Bringing home the bacon

The Smoking Pig caterer Rugby

The Smoking Pig charcuterie and catering trailer started with a sausage making machine, just a simple meat mincer and about five kilos of pork shoulder.

The Smoking Pig Bombay bangers

Gregg Windsor then began to produce sausage recipes, experimenting with different ideas, that he would share with his friends and family. Including these Bombay bangers of The Smoking Pig currywurst sausage teamed with Bombay potato and spinach, topped with homemade raita and fresh coriander.
The Smoking Pig

But fresh sausages were only the first step, the forerunner into charcuterie. Soon Gregg was experimenting with bacons and hams, looking for the best flavours and unusual  combinations delivered in a traditional way. He began seeking out more information, reading books on charcuterie, exploring shops and delis, tasting and testing, searching for the best.

Gregg was pulled toward the finer arts of charcuterie and the enigmatic and some might say mystical powers of fermentation. Chorizo, salami, soppresata, sauccison sec, nduja, all these possibilities in a realm bound by time, care, consideration and passion.  And so The Smoking Pig began.

With a catering trailer in Rugby, Gregg  serves his passion for pork at local events and festivals.

The Smoking Pig trailer Rugby

If you missed him at Fargo Village last weekend then put Down on the close at Rugby School  in your diary –  where he will be bringing home to the bacon to his hometown on Saturday 26 August.

Henry Harris branches out

The Bower House dining room

In just its first week of opening, The Bower House is causing a stir in Shipston on Stour.

Just 10 miles form Stratford upon Avon, Shipston on Stour was recently named by the Sunday Times as the best place to live in the Midlands!

The Bower House Shipston on Stour

Now home to The Bower House, the restaurant occupies the ground floor of a former Georgian town house, with five boutique bedrooms above. Dishes on the sample menu range from Evesham asparagus with pink grapefruit to Herefordshire bavette with watercress salad.

The Bower House brings together a line-up of industry experts – Henry Harris (Racine and The Groucho Club) with Darren Brown as Head Chef (The Lucky Onion and 131 in Cheltenham) alongside General Manager Edward Cambridge from Soho Farmhouse.

Ladies who lunch

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa Warwickshire

If visiting a fine dining restaurant is a little daunting, or you want to make sure that you will enjoy the experience before splashing out, then I’d recommend trying the lunch menu first.

Nearly all restaurants offer a fixed price lunch menu, with fewer choices than the evening a la carte menu, to get to grips with a chef’s style of cooking.

This was the view of my mum, who hadn’t eaten at Restaurant 23 before, when she joined me for lunch there on Saturday 25 March.

Bread and marmite butter at Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa

While we were reviewing the menu, a platter of freshly made bread with plain and Marmite butter arrived. This is the first indication that Head Chef Curtis likes to play with favours.

With three choices of starters, mains and desserts it was quick and easy to choose what we wanted to eat. From Rabbit (with peanut, gherkin and carrot, Mushroom (with pasta, balsamic and parmesan) and Salmon (with avocado, dill, buttermilk) I went for the veggie option.

Mushroom starter at Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa

The sweet beads of Balsamic vinegar were almost like berries, cutting through the earthy mushrooms. Then followed an amuse bouche of sweet tomatoes and knobs of mozerrella, which Maitre D Eduardo Nesto poured water into our bowls to make a refreshing, clear broth and imaginative change from sorbet as a palette cleanser.

For mains our options were Chicken (with swede, maple, and kiev) Pollock (with baby gem loveage seaweed) and Egg Yolk (with celeriac, burnt onion and watercress).
Restaurant 23 Leamingon Spa chicken swede maple kiev

Traditional roasted chicken melted in the mouth, the Kiev ball was deep fried to crisp perfection and the sweet maple syrup and swede alongside creamy mash were a winning combination as far as my mum was concerned.

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa pollock loveage and seaweed

Eduardo was back to pour jus over mum’s chicken and a (I think) a lemon sauce over my pollock which made the loveage and seaweed crackle into life.

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa raspberry dessert

Always leaving room for dessert, Mum was straight onto the Raspberry meringue, sorbet and panna  cotta without giving the Egg custard (with nutmeg and Yuzu) or Chocolate (with biscuit, clementine and fennel) a second look.

Facing competition from numerous branded chains as well as independent venues, Restaurant 23 is offering an exceptionally good value two course lunch for £19.95 or three courses for £24.95. On Sundays the prices are higher for lunch, at £37 for two courses and £45 for three courses.

I must make a special mention for Eduardo, who deserves a medal for the tact, diplomacy and charm in dealing with a non-eating toddler and a couple who wanted to order from the (unavailable) evening tasting menu for lunch. What a star!

I’d sum Restaurant 23 up as elegant without being intimidating and creative but not scary cooking making it a must visit eaterie.

Curtis Stewart chef

Find out more about Head Chef Curtis Stewart  here in the latest Meet the Chef article.

Spring into new events for April

April 2017 events

Tomorrow I will be sampling ALL the gin at a festival in Leamington and kicking off a month of events in April. Also on:

Guy Day

Weston Park is wishing a fond farewell to their head chef Guy Day with two special demos and tastings.

The Alchemist Birmingham

Whiskey fans will be torn between sinking a few drams at The Plough or The Alchemist who both have tastings on.

Seasons restaurant Leamington Spa

You can’t go wrong pairing craft beer with Aubrey Allen steaks, so head over to The Star & Garter in Leamington to meet the brewer too. Still in the spa town, enjoy tapas and raise funds for autism at the Season’s restaurant tapas and quiz night.

Yumlaut sausage

At Warwick Kitchen, Price’s Spices are hosting their first restaurant pop-up and  in the Custard Factory you’ll find street food fans tucking into everything from German sausages to curries, these are both brand new events.

Eastnor-Chilli-Festival

You’ll have to wait until the end of April to show off your chilli-eating skills at Eastnor Castle’s Chilli Festival.

My top tips for what to do are always popular, so as usual please check with the venues on ticket availability and enjoy filling your bellies!

Coming soon to Birmingham…

coming soon to Birmingham

A trio of new openings in Birmingham will be offering an appetising menu of truffle-topped pizza, street food and gin.

After India, Argentina and the USA, the Lasan Group are looking to Italy for their new concept which opens in the Selfridges Food Hall later this month. Izza! will serve sourdough pizzas, antipasti, cured meats and salads. The thin-crust pizzas will be baked in a beechwood-fired oven. Expect to pay £8 for a basic Margherita to around £15 for a truffle- topped pizza.

The Mosaic Pub and Dining Group (who own the Button Factory in the Jewellery Quarter) is turning the former Fiddle & Bone into The Distillery. The canal side pub will re-open after Easter with a gin bar upstairs and pub serving real ales downstairs.

During the Easter weekend, on Saturday 15 April, the Custard Factory will be launching Street Food Saturday their first monthly street food event. Expect German sausages from @yumlaut curries and chaats from @TheIndianRasoi homemade soups and deli sandwiches from @little6T3 and a selection of international dishes from @ChefShack627. For the sweet-toothed, @Churros_Susanna  will be on hand with their Spanish churros and chocolate sauce and there’ll be cakes, bakes, and proper tea from @HMS_Cupcake  @TheGinBoxUK will be serving  gin-based cocktails from their lovingly converted horse box.

The Shaker Groups springs into Redditch

Old Rectory House Worcestershire

With only a month until they open, work is well underway on The Orangery Restaurant  and cocktail lounge at Old Rectory House in Redditch.

After investing £500K into the makeover, the Shaker Group is transforming the The Old Rectory Hotel into a restaurant and cocktail bar with outside seating and private dining areas.

The Orangery Restaurant Redditch

The new Orangery Restaurant will create a 90 seater dining room overlooking the impressive terrace and gardens. To eat you can expect a great value lunchtime set menu, afternoon tea, sharing plates, bottomless brunch and a Sunday family roast lunch, featuring locally sourced selected cuts of prime rare breed 28 day dry aged steaks.

On the drinks side, the team behind The Kenilworth Hotel and Gas Street Social are creating signature cocktails for the 30 seater cocktail lounge.  A rotating selection of craft beers will also be available on tap and in bottles, as well an extensive international wine menu.

Lindsey Turner, General Manager said: “Old Rectory House has stood on the Ipsley site for several hundreds of years and is one the most significant historical buildings within the region, having played host to lords and ladies in years gone by.  Most of the people we speak to in Redditch don’t even know this hidden gem exists, you really will feel like you are being transported into the middle of the Warwickshire countryside or the Cotswolds for that matter.”

 

A taste of La Dolce Vita

cheeses-at-sapori-di-sole-deli-mosely

If Italian cuisine is one of your favourites, then head over to the Birmingham suburbs Moseley and Kings Heath for a taste of la dolce vita. The Southern regions of Gargano and Puglia are being celebrated in a new deli and limited edition dinner pop-up by chefs from those regions.

sapori-di-sole-italian-deli-moseley

In Moseley a new deli Sapori di Sole Italian for ‘flavours of the sun’ brings delicious produce from the Gargano region of Southern Italy, where owner Antonello Turco (of Byzantium restaurant in Kings Heath) is from.

Fill up your larder with artisan cheese, raw honey, extra virgin oils, hams, handmade chocolates, almond biscuits and olives as well as savouring the homemade Italian dishes, including the paposcia to take away.

cooks-in-case-pics

At the end of the month is a three night Puglian feast is taking place at the Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath. This pop-up is produced and presented by Cooks in case and promises a sensory experience of traditional Italian home cooking.

There are two menus to tempt the taste buds: Terra featuring vegetarian and meat options (Thursday 30th March and Saturday 1st April) and Terra e Mare featuring seafood, meat and vegetarian options (Friday 31st March).

Dishes include tender slow-cooked octopus served with the queen of Italian cheeses burrata; meatballs in a slow-cooked tomato sauce with rosemary potatoes, as well as homemade desserts such as tiramisù and an orange, almond and walnut cake.

The new venture is a collaboration between Birmingham arts producer Judy Owen and her partners Monica Contini and Valentina Comunale based in Italy. Monica said: “We love to cook for people and we can’t wait to bring our Puglian cuisine to the Kitchen Garden Café in Birmingham, including our famous burrata cheese! It will be very informal and relaxed and will allow people to discover some of the special dishes that have made our region famous for its gastronomy.”

March-ing on our stomachs

March Events page is packed with food and drink festivals, wine tastings and themed dinners.

march-2017-events

This means that from Staffordshire to Shropshire, Worcestershire to Warwickshire you have my top picks of the tastiest things to do this month.

Enjoy discovering the glut of culinary talent in the West Midlands!

Meet the Chef

salt-dining-keys

As Paul Foster teases us on Twitter with the keys to his new restaurant Salt, I revisited an interview with him that I wrote for Great Food Club back in 2015.

Fresh from securing second place in the National Chef of the Year awards, I spoke to Paul when he was Head Chef at Mallory Court in Leamington about his career which had taken him from Coventry to California and back.

Hop over to the page to read more.

This is the first in a new blog feature.  ‘Meet the Chef’ which will give you an insight to the creative and passionate chefs in the West Midlands. Next up will be Curtis Stewart, finding out how it feels to take over the brigade after Peter Knibb’s decade at the helm at Restaurant 23 in Leamington Spa.

Back to school

jayne-bradley-birmingham-post

After the closure of Kitchen Food School in Edgbaston you would be wrong to think that owner Jayne Bradley would be putting her feet up. Instead she is refurbishing a brand new space for cookery classes, which will open in April.

Jayne says; ““We have used the room that will become our kitchen before as a pop up, so we know it can work as a cookery school. It has big Georgian windows on three sides and a wood burner. It is going to be such a nice space to cook in! It also has a huge dining room, which we will hire and programme as a party space.”

The new school will be based at 122 Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham.

Can’t wait till April to brush up on your culinary skills? Then get your apron on and get down to Bar Opus at Snowhill Birmingham for their Happy Monday sessions.

kitchen-food-school-classes-at-bar-opus

Breadmaking – 27 February
A taste of South Africa – 27 March
Easter treats – 24 April
Spring chicken – 22 May
Superfood for Summer – 26 June

Classes run from 6.30pm – 9pm and cost £40 each or £160 for all five.Email
jayne@kitchenschool.co.uk to find out more.