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.

 

 

I had a fascinating chat yesterday with Sangita Tryner, the woman behind the extraordinary Delilah’s deli in Nottingham, which is set to open its second branch in Leicester.

And we can start to get very excited. The new deli will be located with the old Irish Bank in St Martin’s, within an impressive banking hall which will enable the shop to replicate the formula which has made Nottingham so successful. So with the high ceilings there will be space for a mezzanine dining area which sit people close to some of the beautiful original features. The hall itself will stock an immense selection of cheeses, wines, charcuterie and other deli goods displayed in order to let customers get close to the produce.

I can’t say a lot more at this stage  but it was inspiring to hear Sangita talk about her confidence in Leicester and where it is going right now. Work on the building could start as early as next week, when the result of grant applications to protect some of the heritage features  of the building should be known. Then we are looking at an opening in April or May.

Leicester Market on form

November 22, 2015

WP_20151121_17_37_07_ProThere was some gorgeous stuff on Leicester Market today. With the rutting season pretty much over there’s some wonderful venison coming down from Bradgate Park – including this handsome  chop which looks good enough to celebrate something special such as  – ooh – going top of the Premier League maybe?

There were also some beautiful blue swimming crabs and fat scallops that will make a few more great meals somewhere in Leicester tonight.

It certainly set my culinary senses racing in advance of the Winter Food Festival which takes place at the market tomorrow (Sunday) from 11-6pm.

It’s good to see that Cocoa Amore has successfully relocated to the St Martin’s area, further fuelling the sense that there’s a high quality independent food and drink cluster emerging there.

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The company has relocated from Silver Arcade to larger, two-story premises on Silver Street. I was fortunate to get a Wonkaesque Golden Ticket for their launch last week and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening checking out not only their great chocolates – single estate nibs through to really superior truffles – but some savoury dishes too. Canapes included smoked duck breast and mackerel on chocolate bread – which all worked surprisingly well.

The new shop is licensed and while not promoting itself as a bar, matching chocolate with wines and spirits is going to be of the attractions.

Upstairs is the production area and space for workshops where couples and small groups can learn about chocolate production around the world and make their own chocolates.

Self-taught chocolatier Pete Gardener (right) with Alan Pomfrett at the Cocoa Amore relaunch

Owner and self-taught chocolatier Pete Gardener (right) with Alan Pomfrett at the Cocoa Amore relaunch

The business was only formed three years ago and has won numerous awards, including being one of  only ten businesses to be invited to take part in the Chancellor’s Downing Street Christmas Market. I won’t hold that against them though and look forward to see them thrive in their location, just a few yards from great businesses such as St Martin’s Tea and Coffee and Crafty, Gelato Village, the Case and its Champagne Bar and the soon-to-be-opened Burleigh’s Gin Parlour.

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It’s asparagus time!

May 15, 2015

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I’ve just spent a great morning out at Cattows Farm near Heather in North West Leicestershire with farmer James Ludlam as he brings in the asparagus.  This quintessential early summer crop has become increasingly popular as people discover the joys of seasonal eating and Cattows Farm is one of the very few places in Leicestershire where you can buy it at the farm door thanks to their splendid farm shop.

 

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This 300 acre mixed farm now has four acres given over to asparagus and for six or seven week from the beginning of May it is a useful, labour intensive but high value crop for them. It also helps bring in the public in advance of the soft fruit PYO season in June. The majority of is either sold direct at the farm or used at their popular café – indeed  tomorrow (Saturday 16th) they are even doing an eight course  tasting menu featuring the likes of asparagus pate, pork and asparagus wellington, asparagus risotto and even coffee with candied asparagus. One or two local greengrocers and restaurants also take it but, said James, they have steered clear of the wholesale market and unrealistic demands of supermarkets.

It was great to see such great quality English food being grown, harvested and sold on site and marketed with flair and integrity. Even the trimmings are used as feed for their herd of Herford/South Devon crosses.

If you want to get you hands on a few bunches, you can find Cattow’s Farm on the Swepstone Road, a mile or so out of Heather, which itself is just to the West of Ibstock. The season traditionally lasts to Midsummer Day but is at its height over the next three weeks. It’s a lovely place for a visit with a great café and well-stocked shop. If you’re after a few recipes  – try visiting the  British Asparagus website.  Me? I’m off to knock up some hollandaise…

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