Family fun in Alcester

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Just in time for Fathers Day, Ragley Hall has a weekend of family fun lined up for Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June, in the lovely Alcester countryside.

There will be a full programme of free talks and demonstrations with opportunities to taste, learn, meet and talk with top chefs and producers.

Ragley Hall Food Festival chefs

At the Talks and Tastings Hub, Jane Devonshire, Masterchef Champion 2016, will be presenting family recipes as well as sharing tips and advice. Chef Rich Harris, author of BBQ Fire & Smoke will be demonstrating barbecue cuisine and alfresco dining. They will be joined by Brad Carter, of Michelin starred restaurant Carters of Moseley in Birmingham and Rob Kennedy, executive chef from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in cookery demonstrations. Marlow Renton from Wild Food UK, will also be leading foraging walks.

Food and drink lovers will find over 40 food and drink stalls including cheese and charcuterie raclette, wood fired pizza, handmade speciality sausages, Belgian fries, Indian street food, fresh juices and smoothies, strawberries and cream, artisan pies and sausage rolls, savoury African snacks, artisan fudge, ice cream desserts and French crepes  plus craft beer and cider on offer throughout the food festival.

Tickets to the food festival are included with entry to Ragley Hall, starting from children at £6.50 and adults at £10.50.

Oh and if you do pop along you will see me on stage on Sunday, as I will have the honour of compering the day’s events!

For more information, visit www.fantasticbritishfoodfestivals.com

 

Purnell’s golden ticket draw

Glynn Purnell Birmingham Mail.jpg

How would you celebrate your tenth anniversary? Michelin star chef Glynn Purnell is throwing a party for 30 very special guests to celebrate a decade of his restaurant opening in Birmingham city centre and you could be one of them!

Glynn is holding a golden ticket prize draw to select 30 lucky diners, who will enjoy a 10 course-dinner and champagne reception at Purnell’s on Friday 7 July as their prize.

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Glynn says: “When I first opened Purnell’s back in 2007, I had no idea where we would be today thanks to our customers and suppliers who are all a fantastic support to us. The team I have built is amazing and we have been working hard to create a 10-course menu for our lucky anniversary night guests, that will celebrate some Purnell favourites and rework some of our original dishes.”

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Glynn has received more than 1,000 entries already! To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets for the champagne reception and 10-course meal, all you have to do is send a SAE to :

Mr Purnell’s Golden Ticket Prize Draw
Purnell’s Restaurant
55 Cornwall Street
Birmingham B3 2DH.

The closing date is Thursday 15 June at 5pm good luck!

Jump into June’s events

June 2017 events

This is a good month to see your favourite chefs in action, with cookery demos at festivals all across the West Midlands in June.

Catch Jean-Christophe Novelli in Coventry,  Simpson’s Nathan Eades  at Foodies Festival in Birmingham, Brad Carter at Ragley Hall’s Fabulous Food Festival and Chris Burt at Shrewsbury Food & Drink Festival.

Specialist dinners this month include a forage walk and inspired menu in Hereford at Madam & Adam, celebrating asparagus at The Cross in Kenilworth and three of Colmore Row’s best eateries in an evening tour.

Look out for National Beer Day themed events in Staffordshire too, with a supper club and beer tasting.

The Perfect Serve

On Saturday my partner and I went along to Coventry Cathedral for the Gin Festival. I am a massive gin fan, him not so much, so to be faced with more than 100 gins was going to be a challenge.

Gin Festival 20 May 2017

On arrival we were handed our Spanish style balloon tasting glasses, a Gin Explorers Guide and a handy across the body bag. Then we were directed to the tills to purchase tokens – this is the important bit –  the bars do not accept cash and just like a coffee shop loyalty card each time you purchase a drink and mixer your card is stamped. A fiver gets you a shot of gin, mixer and garnish.

Then free to wander to the four bar stations A – D each containing different optics it was decision time. Classic London Dry? A sweeter Plymouth blend? A malty genever or fruit infusions?

Based on a very scientific method of attractive bottle shape, funky names and ingredients we would not associate with gin we chose –

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Nelson’s Gin

Created by a chef, vanilla and cinnamon are the standout flavours in this gin distilled in Staffordshire.

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Poetic License Old Tom

Aged in oak casks with a rose gold colour this is a sweet and peppery gin from Sunderland.

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Da Mhile Seaweed Gin

Infused for three weeks, the lemon, thyme and fennel make a striking combination in this Welsh gin.

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G’Vine Floraison

Special ingredients here are flowers that only bloom for a week to give this graceful French gin its honeyed taste.

As with beer and wine pairing with food, there are also recommendations on which mixer to accompany your gin.

According to the sponsor Fever Tree, juniper and robust gins go with an aromatic tonic; citrus and herbaceous gins benefit from rosemary, lemon and thyme; sloe and damson varieties need a lemon based tonic while fresh and floral gins match well with elderflower tonic.

The Gintleman gin cocktails

A team of mixologists were also on hand creating a menu of gin-based cocktails (at £10 or two tokens each).

Tinker gin at Gin Festival Coventry Cathedral

As well  as sampling gins, you can also learn more about the different brands, so we sat in on the Tinker Gin talk – a Spanish style gin which is distilled in Yorkshire.

Jym and Marie Harris Gin Festival

If not the first, then one of the earliest UK touring events Gin Festival  was set up in 2013 by husband and wife team Jym and Marie Harris. Across the country you can find new gins, learn more about the spirit and buy directly from distilleries.

My top five tips for getting the best out of a Gin Festival event are:

  1. Buy more tokens than you think you are going to need, as you can purchase a ‘takeaway tipple’ 25ml shot in a mini jar to take home with you.
  2. Ask the bartenders to go easy on the ice, so as not to dilute the delicate spirit too much.
  3. Make a note of your favourites in the Gin Explorers Book (unless you have a photographic memory.)
  4. Don’t expect a great selection of food, only olives and tapas were on offer in Coventry, this event is all about the booze.
  5. Fill in the mail order form and leave it with the onsite off-license so that you don’t have to carry your purchases home.

The next Gin Festival in the Midlands will be held in Stoke on Trent  at the Victoria Hall, from Friday 23 – Saturday 24 June.

Don’t forget to check my blog next week, for my round-up of gin tastings to celebrate World Gin Day on 9 June!

Meet the Chef : William Dimartino, The Ryder Grill, The Belfry Hotel

William Dimartino, Ryder Grill Restaurant, The Belfry Hotel

William Dimartino will celebrate his first anniversary as Head Chef at The Ryder Grill in a few months, so as he launches a new seven-course Spring tasting menu I grilled the chef for his inspiration.

Have you always wanted to be a chef?

When I was at school I wanted to be an accountant, but I always loved food as a child so when I started cooking in a pub on my weekends it naturally progressed from there.

Who taught you to cook?

My nan was probably the first one who introduced me to cooking, all be it a Sunday Roast.

Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?

My old boss and close friend Russell Ford, I worked with him from a commis chef and he was the one who gave me my first head chef job, he is a great chef and took me under his wing and really taught me a lot over the years I worked with him.

Where have you eaten your best ever meal?

The best meal I had was very recent and it was at The Frog by Adam Handling, the whole experience was great.

What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

Game, butter, truffle and nuts

How would you describe your style of cooking?

I would say it’s clean and simple, we use great produce so we try and treat it with great respect and get the best out of it without messing with it too much.

What can diners expect at The Ryder Grill?

Diners can expect great produce cooked beautifully, with a relaxed atmosphere and top quality service.

Ryder Grill spring tasting menu The Belfry Hotel

To showcase the very best seasonal produce, William and his team have launched a new seven course taster menu. Available for £40 per person, with the option of adding paired wines for £25. The menu includes:

Amuse bouche

Asparagus with duck egg mayo, brioche crumb, burnt onion powder and edible flowers

Whipped chicken liver parfait, savoury granola, pineapple and vanilla gel

Sea trout with almond puree, charred spring onion, chorizo and purple sprouting broccoli

Spring lamb, charred baby gem, artichoke hummus, red pepper and broad bean

Vanilla crème brulee and poached strawberries

Passion fruit tart, mango, bitter chocolate and coconut.

 

 

Bellissimo desserts

MiSu

MiSU describe themselves as “the dessert explorer intrepidly travelling the world in search of the most scrumptious fusion flavours” but don’t let this put you off. These are tiramisu desserts with a twist – Matcha tea, salted caramel and rhubarb feature as ingredients in their take on the Italian classic.

Based in Leamington Spa, founder Yannan has always been passionate about desserts. She spent many evenings developing recipes and infusing various flavours and hey presto the MiSU desserts range was created.

A regular at the Wednesday University of Warwick market, you can also catch MiSU desserts from 18 – 31 May in the Bullring at their new pop-up and at the Kenilworth Food Festival on 23 July.

 

May’s marvellous food & drink events

May 2017 events

Welcome to my round-up of May’s marvellous food and drink events.

This month you can brush up on your Thai  cookery skills in a class with Suree Coates or learn more about your favourite tipple as Gabe Cook, aka The Ciderologist, hosts Birmingham Wine School’s first ever cider evening. Over in Coventry, the city’s cathedral is the backdrop to a weekend Gin Festival.

Food festival season kicks off in earnest, with four great events being held in the West Midlands. The inaugural  Independent Birmingham Festival, Ludlow Spring Festival (particularly for real ale fans) Alcester and Warwick Food Festivals will have all the locations buzzing with local producers, cafes and restaurants taking part.

Sate your  cultural appetite by joining  Annabel de Vetten of Conjurer’s Kitchen for an evening of deathly facts and food at the Midlands Arts Centre, or taste English wines while watching Four Weddings and A Funeral at The Electric cinema.

A Spanish festival or burger pop-up in Birmingham at Amantia and The Plough will get you into the party spirit, and special events include a one-off Pudding Club with five desserts from Sweet As in Leamington Spa to indulge in, plus the launch of a new monthly Sip + Supper Club in Stratford upon Avon.

Wherever you go and whatever you consume I hope that you have a marvellous May!

 

The Reggae Caribbean Cookout

Mr Jerk street food montage

In the scheme of things, £2,000 does not seem like an insurmountable sum of money to establish a food project that also benefits the community. So I’m wishing street food trader Mr Jerk the best of luck in his endeavour to find a new home for his Reggae Caribbean Cookout.

The Reggae Caribbean Cookout delighted foodies at The Coffin Works in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter last year. It’s a good old fashioned Caribbean style BBQ with jerk chicken, rum cake, curry goat, rice and peas. Listen to reggae, ska and rock steady music whilst drinking Wray and Nephew rum, Appleton Estate cocktails and cold Red Stripe beer.

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If the full £2,000 is raised via a Crowdfunder campaign, Mr Jerk hopes to provide a social network for people so they do not feel isolated within the Birmingham community. He says: “It is somewhere to meet friends, play dominoes and listen to reggae.  Somewhere for all the family and where local reggae singers and bands can show their talent.”

You can pledge your support from £10 at their crowdfunding page here and check out the food and vibes on Bank Holiday Monday at St Pauls Square Church in the Jewellery Quarter.

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.