Just to keep things ticking over here, I thought I’d mention a couple of – very different – wines I’ve tried recently.

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Froggy assesses Rothley Wine’s King Richard

As this is a Leicestershire blog, I was very keen to try a bottle of King Richard – a dry white wine made here in Leicestershire by Rothley Wine. The grapes are new ones to me – allegedly 77 per cent Solaris and 33 per cent Siegerrede (I know, someone’s maths or proofreading needs improving). English wines are improving at breakneck pace – the wines made by Chapel Down for example, on the chalk downs of Kent and Sussex are superb and their operation in Tenterden is highly professional. Leicestershire is 150 miles further north and notwithstanding global warming this is marginal territory.  But Rothley have done a fine job of building their operation with the support of local people.

So, King Richard 2015. First off – it’s really pretty good. The makers say it’s in the style of a gewurztraminer and suggest flavours of melon, grapefruit and ginger – and I get all of that. But as well as those brighter, zingy flavours there was also a whiff of the farmyard that I found off-putting. Some may like some funk in their wines but while I was more than happy to finish off the bottle, it was enough for me to think at £11.50 a bottle it was an interesting experiment rather than “get a case in”. Unfair maybe to compare to similar wines of established areas such as Alsace or the Loire, and you can certainly be disappointed with wines from those regions, but we’re not there yet.  Definitely worth supporting though because English wines can, and I am sure will, continue to improve in years to come.

My second bottle I’m only recommending because I’ve bought all the bottles I can find already.   Lidl’s Wine Tour selections are available for a couple of months on a “when it’s one, it’s gone” basis and often feature wines from just outside top appelations which come in between around £5 and £9. They are always worth a try, but rarely prove anything other than you get what you pay for. However I do think their Selone Negroamaro from Puglia is truly spectacular value at £5.69.  Coming in at a hefty 14.5 per cent it has gentle but firm tannins and a depth of fruit, spice and vanilla that is rare at this price point. It can be drunk on it’s own but is super with red meat or cheese.

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Froggy assesses Lidl’s Selone Negroamaro

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I paid a visit last week to  a corner shop in Wigston that is taking a brave new approach to retailing.

Many Leicester food lovers will know Pratik Master for the indefatigable enthusiasm he brings to the running of his top-end Indian restaurant Lilu. Now he’s turning his attentions to the family shop on Carlton Drive in the heart of suburban Wigston. On Saturday 2 March Master’s General Store will relaunch as the News and Deli – which will continue with newspapers and other basics for the local community but will also be a platform for the region’s finest artisan food producers.

MastersOut go the bottles of Echo Falls and in comes both excellent Leicestershire wine from Rothley and fine bottles from the list at Lilu. The standard sliced bread will be replaced by loaves from Hambleton Bakery and Bisbroke Artisans, with fine dairy products from the highly regarded Vine House Farm. Leicester producers and retailers such as Gelato Village, Cocoa Amore, Choux’tique and Christopher James deli will also be represented and no-waste retailers Nada will be supplying a wide variety of dry goods.  The kitchens at Lilu will also be producing items such as their popular pineapple relish for sale at the deli to complement fine cheeses and locally-cured charcuterie.

“What was clear was the shop as it had been was not really working,” said Pratik. “My Dad’s heart was no longer really in it and he was ready to retire. The family felt we needed to do something more, and since running the restaurant I’ve got to know many fine local producers .  I phoned around and asked them if they felt they’d like a stage where they could showcase their produce and I think I got to number 15 before I got  a no. ”

So during February Pratik, wife Bee and family and friends have been clearing out the old stock, making arrangements with new suppliers and converting the shop from a run of the mill newsagent to an atmospheric deli. The opening day event on 2 March (10am to 2pm) will see a wide range of producers present on the day to introduce their wares to locals, and others will be there over the following Saturdays. If you want to follow on social media look out for #notjustacornershop. Sadly I’ll be eating fish in a port-side restaurant in the Algarve at the time but looking forward to revisiting in March to see how it’s going.

  • News and Deli, 29 Carlton Drive, Wigston, Leicestershire LE18 1DF

 

 

I suspect quite a few readers will have dreamt of chucking in their day job to set up a little food business. Nathalie Salles has done it. And lovers of authentic French choux pastry should be delighted.

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I met Nathalie selling her glorious little sweet and savoury choux buns at Belgrave Food Fair last month under the name Choux’tique. She came to England from France to study product design at De Montfort but eventually tired of the corporate world. It turns out she’s an old friend of a friend and is baking out of her home just around the corner from me near Victoria Park, Leicester.

IMG_4191She’s now on a mission to broaden our awareness of just what can be done with choux pastry – and not least to correct our notion of the éclair. “Here you see eclairs filled with whipped cream – but in France that’s not an eclair! We use different flavours of crème patisserie.”

Her core range then includes little choux buns filled with divine praline or chocolate crème pat, and chouxquettes, favourites back in France but relatively unknown here, which are simply sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Then there are savoury versions – gougères topped with cheese or filled with bacon or, in the case of “le petit toad”, sausage. She’s also now producing non-choux savoury loaves, speckled with ham and olives or sundried tomato and olives. Wherever possible she’s sourcing from local traders – “It’s really good to develop a relationship with your suppliers,” she explains. “And the quality tends to be so much better than supermarkets.”

These treats are beautifully light and very versatile. Whether sweet or savoury they are perfect for a mid-morning break and as snacks or finger food at meetings, parties and events. Nathalie would love to help establish the French tradition of turning up to friends with a little gift of patisserie. Bigger, showstopper items such as Gateau St Honoré a spectacular Piece Montée can also be ordered.

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She’s currently building up awareness at fairs and foodie events and direct sales are taking off too – they can be picked up from Victoria Park Road or orders over £20 can be delivered free within two miles. If you want to give them a try call on 0116 210 8168 or 07974 140515, or check out more information www.facebook.com/tryit.itsfrench or on instagram it’s choux.tique .choux banner

 

 

 

Gelato in the Square

October 16, 2017

Details out today of the Gelato in the Square festival put together by Gelato Village.  Daniele and Antonio have been regularly going back to Italy and building a name for themselves in the gelato fraternity – with such effect that the flow is being reversed and some of Italy’s top makers are coming over to Leicester to celebrate all things gelato and  the Slow Food approach in general.

Over the weekend of 27-29 October there will be a huge range of talks, demonstrations and events in the St Martin’s Square café. Every hour or so from 11am on Friday there will be presentations from both local partners such as Belvoir Ridge Creamery who supply their milk and from also Italian artisans such Paolo Brunelli, a man celebrated as the “visionary poet” of gelato.

Others will talk about wine, biscuit and cone making, while local bars and restaurants will also be represented with Charlotte Wood from Manhattan 34 leading a session on cocktails and gelato and Antoni Scarpatti of Anstey’s marvellous  Sapori will address food matching.

There will also of course be chances to sample and purchase exciting flavours of gelato made in Leicester by the visiting makers. It all looks an lot of fun. All events are take place in the shop and are free on a first come first served basis. The full programme is attached below, and should be readable once you click on the images.

Gelato Village wins big

August 2, 2017

 

gelatovillage_1Many congratulations to Gelato Village  in St Martin’s for gaining two star awards for three of its flavours in the Great Taste Awards.  This is one of the most highly-respected of such schemes and only about 15 per cent of the awards are at two star level. The winning flavours were pistachio, hazelnut and almond and orange. Great to have such fine produce available our city centre.

Peppercorn Catering

April 25, 2017

A quick plug for family-run Leicestershire caterers Peppercorn, who’s double decker bus known as Ella Louise can now be found parked up at Abbey park over the summer. Peppercorn, who already run two cafes in Barrow and Anstey, have taken on the PavilWP_20170421_006ion café in Abbey Park which will open later this summer once a complete refurbishment is done.

They have also launched a new, next-day-delivery, postal service for their traybakes and they were kind enough to send me a selection.  I’ll have a good hefty slab over a mimsy cup cake any time and their bakes have all the virtues of the style – white chocolate tiffin (right) had a solid layer of chocolate with a rich, sweet, coconutty biscuit underneath, leavened with glace cherries.  Peanut butter brownies were also substantial but didn’t have the cloying texture of others I’ve had. Rocky Road  was full of badness in all the right ways.

A dairy and egg free apple cake seemed underspiced, underfruited and a bit dull though. I’m sure it must be hard to make much of interest without butter or eggs, so full marks for trying – I’m sure it will be appreciated as will others such as the gluten free chocolate slice and strawberry and honey cake.

For more information, visit Peppercorns by Post

I spent an interesting hour last night  in St Martin’s Square at one of Gelato Village’s Gelato Bites events, which are giving food enthusiasts a chance to hear from some of the brilliant food producers and retailers in our county.

The event saw a presentation from Alan Hewson, whose herd of Red Poll cows at Eastwell , north of Melton, not only supply the milk and cream for Gelato Village but also for their Jamie Oliver-endorsed Colwick Cheese, traditional local  brie-a-like Slipcote cheese and the summertime hard cheese Ironstone.

The Hewsons, like the Gelato Village lads, support Slow Food principles and reject the high yield at all costs approach, farming with rare breed cattle that produce maybe only a third of the intensively pushed dairy breeds. These smaller, hardier breeds can spend almost all of the year outdoors and over the coldest months can get by on hay, silage and a salt-lick. The Hewson’s don’t homogenise or standardise the milk, producing milk which not only has a cleaner, lighter taste but which is a genuinely seasonal product  – one that changes as the composition of the meadow  grasses change over the year.

The quality of the milk  – which won best in show at last year’s prestigious Nantwich Cheese Show – contributes directly to the quality of the gelato. That much was perfectly clear on the night from our tastings of the milk and GV’s Fior de Latte (“Blossom of the Milk”), the simple basic gelato which is the touchstone of quality for any producer. The read-across in flavour was clear.

 

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Fior  de latte

 

 

Gelato Village is the only producer in the UK that makes all is product with the milk of a single herd. And an exceptional herd from the same county too. We should treasure both of them.

Future Gelato Bites events will be on Tuesday 14 and 21  March  and will look at matching gelato with pudding wines, and in what’s said to  be a world first, a beer and gelato matching event. Cost is £10, more details and booking information here, or avoid a booking fee and enquire in-store.

 

Forest Food Fest

August 11, 2016

It’s maybe partly that they’ve been casting envious glances across the border at Melton  to see how food can be a boost to the local economy. It could simply be that they’ve woken up to what’s on their doorstep. Whatever the case, it’s good to see Charnwood – with the support of the National Forest, Everards and  Leicester Shire Promotions  – has taken the step of launching a little local food festival. Dl FCover illo-AW-print

The Edible Forest is a weekend of events from 16 to 18 September that highlights some of the best local food and drink producers, and at some of the fabulous locations in the borough – from iconic Old John in Bradgate Park to the depths of the Outwoods. The events include:

Friday 16 September
– Afternoon tea with local produce in Old John Tower .
– Cocktails and canapes at a secret garden in the heart of the ancient woods of Charnwood.

Saturday 17 September
– The Enchanted Forest – a family event  in the heart of the forest combining tasting from the region’s finest producers with entertainment.

Sunday 18 September
– Build your own Perfect Picnic –  a hands-on opportunity to create your perfect picnic to be enjoyed in the beautiful gardens of Swithland’s Griffin Inn.

– The Secret Gourmet – much-missed local chef  Paul Leary, currently working in the corporate sphere, will create a fine dining forest-inspired gourmet menu to be served at Nanpantan Hall, a rarely-used and  extraordinary venue hidden in the heart of Charnwood Forest.

For more details on the Edible Forest and to book tickets for the various events, visit www.edibleforest.co.uk. Bookings open on Monday 15th August.

PS. I hear the organisers have struggled to find cheesemakers within Charnwood. If  that sounds like you, maybe get in touch with them?

Backing the Blues

April 25, 2016

The last couple of months I’ve been working on a book that is going to celebrate the food culture of Leicestershire and Rutland. I’m not going to say more just now, but one of the great things about doing it was a chance to speak to some of the fine businesses that are developing our food culture.

Now much as food is very important to me what really gets me motivated is Leicester City, where I’ve had a season ticket for getting for 25 years.  Maybe you’ve heard but we’re doing quite well at the moment – and thus I’m delighted to see food businesses, including several I got to know through writing the book, have responded to the Backing the Blues campaign and are doing something special for the campaign’s key day of 29 April.

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Walker’s Backing the Blues pies are designed by Master Pie Maker and City fan Ian Heircock. Here he is teaching me how to make a pie back in the days when we were rubbish. City, that is. Not me and Ian.

Walker’s are producing three limited edition, City-linked pork pies with distinctive designs that be available on the day fromtheir famous Cheapside store. One is  for Steve Walsh (the ex-captain rather than the current genius talent scout) and Wes Morgan, then there’s  also the “Fluted Fox” and the Riyad Mahrez Melton Mowbray Pork Pie in honour of the  PFA player of the year (I assume they know he’s a Muslim? Oh well…).  There will just 50 each of the £3 pies available on the 29th and each purchaser will have the chance to win pork pies for a year. You might even get to meet Walshy.

 

Crafty Burger, the Rutland and Derby, 33 Cank St and Maiyango are among others doing something special. All right, it’s a PR bandwagon, but this is a very special time  – let’s all make the most of it.

My fellow blogger Laura over has done us all a favour by compiling a directory of all the businesses pitching in, so why not pop over to Extreme Housewifery and see how you can join in the fun?

 

 

 

 

 

Fine wines on Granby St

April 14, 2016

I’ve written before about how the St Martin’s area in Leicester is booming with high quality independent food and drink outlets.  I’ve never been tempted to say the same about Granby Street. Maybe, just maybe though, there’s something stirring.

Kayal is of course a fairly long-standing star, and there’s one or two other little food outlets of interest now.  What I didn’t expect to see there is a fine wine shop.WP_20160411_13_10_33_Pro

But here it is.  Handily placed opposite The Last Plantagenet.

Wine and Whiskey is not smartest outlet but nonetheless has a pretty good selection of fine wines – especially Burgundies and Clarets, and a very good selection of  beers from Leicestershire’s growing number of small breweries. The spirit selection is impressive too.  I’m not sure what explains the location  – maybe it’s as simple as rents dropping – but its an unexpected pleasure.  I didn’t have time to do much in the way of price comparisons but if you’re in the market for good stuff, it’s worth a look.

One more wine tip while I’m here – Lidl on Loughborough Road currently has Vidal Canadian Ice Wine by Pillitteri on offer.  This was described by the Guardian last Christmas as “intensely luscious” and as cheap at £14.99, and is now on sale at that store at just £7.99 (half-bottle).  Don’t know if the deal is also on at other stores or whether the manager is just having a clear out  – but desert wine lovers will want to make a trip there. No guarantee how long the offer will last though.

 

 

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