The Italian Job

Last night my partner and I were guests of Alex and Sara Chambers, the Italophile couple in Warwickshire behind Squisito deli. After a cocktail in The Jekyll and Hyde bar we moved upstairs to the Gin Palace, where the Italian Job was silently playing.

The Jekyll and Hyde Gin Parlour

A friendly crowd were looking forward to the Squisito pop-up. 34 people in the room made it sociable but a bit of a squash – especially for my 6ft 4 boyfriend, whose arms and legs looked giant sized in the dinky Victoriana chairs. Our fellow diners included some Jekyll & Hyde regulars, foodies who had enjoyed Alex’s sausages at local farmers markets and one lady who had heard Squisito mentioned on Radio 4’s Food programme!

As we were seated, two long thin wooden boards were placed at the centre of the table and slices of salumi and prosciuttio were placed. On hand were Lucky 13 Bakehouse dinner rolls, with Calabrian olive oil and Puglian green olives. Nobody could name them, but the moreish peppery biscuit-like snacks also rapidly disappeared.

Squisito salumi

Our antipasti selection was a burst of vibrant colour and flavours – courgette carpacccio, rocket and pecorino cheese, tomato and basil on pane carasau (that looked like a poppadom) chicken liver crostini, ricotta drizzled with chestnut honey and Alex’s salsiccia.

Squisito pop-up

Even with a menu, there was still a sense of excitement as to what was coming next and the convivial sharing and passing plates of food around the table made it feel like a family feast, rather than a group of strangers in a restaurant.

Half an hour between the antipasti and the primi courses perturbed some people, but it was worth the wait for the pappardelle pasta with black truffle butter, chives and Grana Padano cheese. As a recent convert to truffle oil, I wasn’t surprised when my boyfriend accepted seconds from Fee’s giant saucepan that was ladled out at the table.

Squisito Fosse Meadow chicken

The basil and lemon salmoriglio gave a playful zing to the chunk of rolled Fosse Meadow chicken. With marrow, chard and rosemary roast potatoes I liked being able to taste all of the summery ingredients without the meat being drowned in sauce.

My favourite course formaggi was coming up and the boards were back out for us to try slivers of gorgonzola, taleggio and Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Worcestershire honey. One of the cheeses had an almost black rind with a smokey flavour that I forgot to ask what it was called.

Squisito formaggi and dolci

Due to the train timetable we unfortunately missed the Plymouth gin and tonic sorbet, raspberry gin and Autumn bliss, raspberry semifreddo and dark chocolate studded with toasted almonds. I hope that photo gives you an idea of how light and refreshing the closing course was.

During the night Alex served and chatted to guests while Sarah was upstairs in the kitchen, so we didn’t get a chance to see (and thank) her for a lovely meal until the end of the evening.

Alex and Sara Chambers

On the back of Alex’s t-shirt is the phrase ‘Provenance is knowing the person who made your dinner by first name’. By the end of the evening my boyfriend had paraphrased it as ‘Provenance is knowing who made your tummy happy’ ©Ross Martin 2013.

You can catch Squisito at the next Brumyumyum in Kings Heath on Saturday 14 September and details of their supper clubs are on their website.

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Supper Clubs

When I told friends that I’ve been researching Supper Clubs, their responses ranged from intrigue at trying something new, to trepidation of dining at a secret location with strangers.

Historically born out of out of paladares of Cuba, cities including London, New York and Amsterdam were quick to popularise the idea of Supper Clubs. As a pop-up dining experience that caters for individual tastes, Supper Clubs have evolved as an alternative to ordinary restaurants or stuffy dinner parties. With a recent survey by YouGov revealing that 40% of us now think that dinner parties are too expensive, time-consuming and stressful to bother with, Supper Clubs are most definitely here to stay.

 I am lucky enough to have a great Supper Club close by in Warwickshire. Inspired by the idea of sharing good food, every month Alex and Sara Chambers throw open the doors of their home for the Squisito Supper Club. As owners of Squisito Deli, the couple extend their love of Italian cuisine to foodies who join them for a five course meal.

Squisito Supper Club menus make the most of fresh seasonal produce that is also prepared with the Slow Food ethos. Frolesworth free range chicken with green olives and Squisito preserved lemon, Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Warwickshire honey have all featured on their menus.

 Squisito is the only Supper Club that I am aware of in Warwickshire, but there are a few more running in Birmingham.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tan Rosie Caribbean Supper Club is a chance to sample Caribbean dishes from Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Cuba in the hosts’ living room in Erdington. Chef Monica says that their Supper Club is “a great way to eat fantastic home-cooked food, meet new people and broaden your knowledge of Caribbean food in a fun, friendly and safe environment.” You can also try their recipes at home from their new book, Tan Rosie Caribbean Supper Club Recipe Book for £8.99 on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over in Bearwood, baked scallops and prawns in saffron cream and duck in balsamic syrup with dauphinoise potatoes were main courses for the first R & R Supper Club held at the end of May. Cake maker Rachel (one of the Crafty Muthas) and professional chef Richard have teamed up to run a new monthly Supper Club for up to 20 people. Rachel says that guests can expect “a five to six course meal served over a good three to four hours with background music, atmospheric surroundings and plenty of chat!”

So what makes a successful Supper Club? Genial hosts who genuinely food and cooking, a popular cuisine and chance to try something new seem to be the winning combinations. With a bring your own drinks policy, you can expect to pay around £25 for a truly memorable Supper Club evening.

Enjoy the experience and check http://www.supperclubfangroup.ning.com to find your nearest Supper Club or follow foodies on Twitter.