Table Talk – Friday 5th January

The Ciderologist

The Talton Mill farm shop has launched a new Supper Club. The owners say it is all about bringing people together to enjoy good, honest food in quirky, rustic surroundings. Each event will feature a different culinary theme, using their home-reared or locally sourced meat and vegetables. The first event is on Friday 19th January (see the events page for more details).

Birmingham Whisky Club

The Birmingham Whisky Club has begun work on their first bar. Housed in the converted café of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, there will be a selection of more than 300 whiskies to try when it opens next month.

Field to Fork festival carrots

Shropshire will welcome a new food festival this year. In a partnership between Shropshire Festivals and Harper Adams University, the Field to Fork Festival will launch at the university on 28th April with more than 100 food, drink and craft exhibitors.

 tamworth Brewing Company

Tamworth Brewing Company has launched a brewery tap and shop, which is the first new brewer in the town for more than 70 years. The micro-brewery in Market Street offers ale brewed on-site from the tap alongside other premium drinks and bottled beer to take away.

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Table Talk – Friday 1st December

Amore wine importers

While I keep my fingers crossed for Coventry’s bid for City of Culture to be successful, it is heartening to see the growing number of independent food and drink businesses in Coventry. Another to add to the growing list, is a new Italian wine importer Amore . Set up by two cousins who buy Italian fine wines direct from vineyards to bring customers great wines at reasonable prices.

Kitchenorium dish

If you haven’t been to a supper club in someone’s home before, check out Cat Dutton in Leamington. Her Kitchenorium nights in January include  – Sunday Smorgasbord, Midweek Meat-Free, Comfort Food Feast, Turkish Tuesday or Veganuary Adventure. Evenings are priced from £24 BYOB.

San Carlo Gran Cafe

On Monday (4th) Italian restaurant group San Carlo will open their new Gran Café, with all manner of sweet treats from luxury gelato and sorbets to cakes, desserts and afternoon teas. Located on the ground floor of Selfridges in the Bullring, the café will also serve gourmet sandwiches, freshly-baked croissants, pastries and muffins.

Bistro 1847 new supper club

On Thursday I was the guest of Alex Claridge, head chef of Bistro 1847, for the launch of their new Supper Club. My photos cannot do justice to the thoughtful and delicious five course menu, which blew me away.

Bistro 1847 edible bouquet

A pretty starter of edible bouquet edible flowers, garden herbs, goats curd and candied beetroot held a little surprise. The star ingredient of this dish was the ‘soil’ which consisted of specks of black olives that had been dehydrated for 36 hours. Alex is nothing if not a patient man when it comes to creating a dish.

Bistro 1847 loveage & herb soup

He could not reveal his sources, but the rich, earthy, lovage and herb soup was a special treat, as Alex had acquired the plants a week before they come into season. Also known as sea parsley, the leaves and stem of the lovage plant add an intense celery-like flavour to soups.

Bistro 1847 textures of fennel

Taking one ingredient and exploring the ways to cook and present it is one of Alex’s specialities. After cracking the caramelised onion topping of the savoury crème caramel, the melted blue cheese oozed out and was handy to dip the tempura fennel strip into. We also had hay and honey-roasted potato with fennel encased in naan bread to enjoy. The whisky infused yoghurt dressing also gave us a hint to what was next on the menu.

Bistro 1847 cigar box

Smoke and whisky was the point where Alex went all Willy Wonka on us.

Bistro 1847 smoke & whisky

Each table was given a cigar box, which when opened smoke billowed out to reveal individually wrapped pieces of fudge! Even the wrappers were edible as awed guests savoured the smooth sweets with a mellow glass of Laphraig single malt whisky. This was inspired by Alex’s visit to the Isle of Arran and penchant for a good whisky, so you can expect more whisky flavoured dishes in the future.

Bistro 1847 rhubarb and ginger bakewell

Our final course was a rhubarb and ginger bakewell tart, where the zest of forced rhubarb was offset by the brown bread ice cream that topped this dessert off beautifully.

There will be more supper club events to follow. Alex is already thinking about cheese and gluten- free menus so keep checking the website for updates. At £35 per head they will be an experience that you do not want to miss.

Bistro 1847

26 Great Western Arcade Birmingham

0121 236 2313

 

 

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.