Gin-tastic tastings

Portobello Road gin logo

Two new gin events added to the Events page, both in Brum featuring Potobello Gin on Thursday 19 March at The Church and Thursday 26 March at The Jekyll and Hyde.

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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.

September food and drink events

Rude Food Fiesta

Open wide!!!

As Autumn approaches there is a bountiful array of food festivals being held, where you can shop and eat local produce. Details of Leamington, Stratford and Shipston food festivals are now on the Events page along with a chocolate making class, Squisito Supper Club, Gastro Card dinner and fashion show  – plus a Rude Food Fiesta!

Also, just to give you a heads up, I am working with Gastro Card to produce a new events calendar for food and drink events in the Midlands, so please get in touch if you would like to add any activities midlandsgourmetgirl@gmail.com

Alfresco eating and drinking

Having taken advantage of some alfresco dining and drinking recently, I thought I’d give you some recommendations for venues offering paella on the patio and cocktails in a courtyard.

tapas

For a taste of the Mediterranean, head to Café Catalan in Warwick, they cook paella in the covered, heated, patio garden on Wednesday’ s. On Thursdays you can select your choice of fish to be barbecued outdoors.

Piccolino Birmingham

The majority of restaurants in Brindleyplace benefit from outside seating and the newest is Piccolino, who recently opened a new terrace. This is an outdoor lounge with stylish seating and a cocktail bar for 40 customers that can be enjoyed all year round, thanks to the heaters and glass partition walls.

The Saxon Mill

Views over the river and Guys Cliffe give The Saxon Mill in Warwick its picturesque setting and a popular place to start or finish a long stroll. There is a good variety of salads, pizza and pasta options. One of my favourites is the Mediterranean Mezze of Baba ghanoush, harissa hummus, tzatziki, chermoula crusted flatbread and hazelnut dukkah crusted aubergines. http://www.saxonmill.co.uk

The Bell Alderminster

The Bell sits in the heart of Alderminster, a picturesque village on the outskirts of the historic market town. This traditional country pub and restaurant with individual boutique bed and breakfast accommodation is part of the Alscot Estate. Here you can eat and drink in the spacious country pub garden. www.thebellald.co.uk

The Jekyll & Hyde cocktails

When its Pimms o’clock, the Alice in Wonderland inspired sheltered rear courtyard at The Jekyll & Hyde gin palace is the place to go.If you reserve a table for the Mad Hatters Tea Party, the sharing cocktails will be served in tea pots, watering cans and bath tubs! www.thejekyllandhyde.co.uk