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?

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Friday wrap-up

November 14, 2014

A couple of quick things the. Don’t forget it’s Leicester ‘s Winter Food and Craft Festival at the Market on Sunday. Always a good opportunity to pick up something nice for Christmas and see what’s new – full details including stallholders here.

Secondly, congratulation to Phil and Charlotte at the White Peacock who are celebrating one year at their smart New Walk restaurant this week. I had a drink with them last night and it was great to see and hear their continuing enthusiasm and desire to constantly improve.

And commiserations to Sam Owen of 34 Windsor St, who was selected for this season of Masterchef The Professionals, but exited at the first stage this week. I can’t say I know his food inside out but I guessed he would either go a long way or crash and burn.  Word on the street is that he and Marcus Waring had a frank exchange of views, but sadly none of that made it to screen.

Finally a link to a  Mercury review of a restaurant where another Masterchef professional cooks – great to see ambition but this was an up and down experience. Sorry about the Mercury website – it’s an irritating mix of pop ups another invasive stuff, I understand if you prefer to buy the paper: Lilu

Smokehouse here to stay

April 29, 2014

Sorry about the radio silence all – hope to get my blogging mojo back soon. One quick piece of good news today  – the Smokehouse at the O Bar (which  I’ve written about enthusiastically a couple of times now) is to become a permanent fixture. “Customers have really voted with their feet, so we’ve opted to keep the Smokehouse open,” said Orange Tree Group director Ben Hings.

Congratulations then to chef Liam Watson who has developed the American barbecue concept over two periods as a pop-up. He and his new sous will also be taking their smoker out to a number of events this summer, starting with the Westival street music festival around Braunstone gate this coming weekend and the Summer Food and Drink Festival at the Leicester market on  25 may.

I ran into Aatin Anadkat of Maiyango at last week’s Winter Food Festival at Leicester Market. He was buzzing over the prospects for his business – “these last few weeks it’s like I’ve had a shot of adrenaline” he told me.

Sweet potato and chipotle veloute, mango salsa

Sweet potato and chipotle veloute, mango salsa

Aatin launched the restaurant when not long out of University. It was stylish, cosmopolitan and offered something new for Leicester. Over the last decade Aatin and his colleagues showed considerable savvy and skill to not just secure the restaurant and bar, but to develop the City’s smartest boutique hotel, a banqueting operation running out of the St Martin’s House by the Cathedral and a Kitchen Deli on Highcross St.

So when his long-term head chef and friend Phil Sharpe left last month to set up on his own at The White Peacock, it was naturally one of the occasions when you drag out that old (apparently erroneous) notion that the Chinese word for crisis equates to “danger and opportunity”.  So, hence the adrenaline.

The opportunity to refresh the operation has seen the appointment of Nick Wilson as head chef. He is a hugely experienced chef but appears to be a great fit for Maiyango.  At a tasting session last week he provided a mightily impressive debut for a group of experienced and hard-to-please diners.

Things started off with Maiyango’s typically inventive cocktails (chilli and lemongrass mojito, star anise-flavoured oriental julep) and canapés including an exceptionally gorgeous cod and chorizo samosa.  The starter of a smooth sweet potato and chipotle veloute gave a real tingle to the tongue but was brilliantly paired with a cooling mango salsa and crunchy kohlrabi bhaji.

“We’re not doing fusion food.’ said our maître d’.  “We say this is modern European food with influences from the East”.  Fusion cooking doesn’t have a great name, but with food this good I don’t really mind what you call it.

roast cod, celeriac puree, curried mussels

Roast cod, celeriac puree, curried mussels

Next up came distinctly Eastern tandoori paneer and vegetable skewers with carrot pickle, sag aloo salad and a belting cherry tomato jam. Well cooked, with nicely balanced flavours, this was another winner.  Then came what I think most people thought was the star dish of the night – perfectly roasted cod with a seared edge, rich and smooth celeriac puree, crunchy aubergine crisps, wilted spinach and fantastic mussels with a lightly curried creamy broth. Great cooking and a very well-conceived dish.  To serve at least 30 people more or less at once and get things so right suggests Chef Wilson has very quickly got things right in the kitchen.

Glazed duck, leg hash

Glazed duck, leg hash

The main course of duck was a showstopper but for me had one or two elements too much.  The duck breast was great, the hash of duck leg in a sweetish/sourish sauce was really great. Cayenne potatoes could have been a bit spicier and  a bit crunchier, and while the bok choi and date puree both worked, another puree (squash?), orange and vanilla syrup and a smear of tapenade seemed to take the focus away from the main event of the dish. Some of the combinations worked in the mouth, others didn’t.

Desert featured a cardamom and white chocolate brulee.  Cardamom can be a bit of a beast used in delicate puds, but I thought the balance here was spot on and the result was totally delicious.

Overall then – very good cooking, well-composed dishes, served up by well-trained and charming staff.  I spoke to several people afterwards who said they’d always enjoyed Maiyango but had maybe got a little bored of the menu – and they were now eager to come back and try again.

No doubt that will music to Aatin’s ears. For Leicester diners, it seems the shot in the arm provided by a bit of friendly rivalry could have rich dividends.

Update:30/11/13 – …and congratulations to Maiyango for winning both Hotel of the Year and Taste of England Award in Leicestershire’s 2013 Excellence in Tourism Awards

Well the rain came on the big day, but indominatable British spirit won the day and it appeared to be a big success. I’m talking of course about the Stoneygate Food Festival. So much rain, in fact, that the camera stayed in the bag. No pictures then, but the event is definitely worth a quick write up.

Allandale Rd/Francis St has hosted the odd itinerant French or Italian market but this was something different.  An attempt to get local producers and restaurants to highlight their produce. Fishmongers Nigel and Zoe Brady took the lead in setting it up, keen to reinforce the foodie credentials of these streets and worked hard to bring as a wide range of producers as possible. There were maybe a few holes in the offering but as a first stab this was a really good event that deserved better than pouring rain but as I suggested, it didn’t ruin it.

You could have enjoyed really good street food from local restaurants Marchee Wok (the only Chinese takeaway I ever recommend), and city restaurants such as the Goan Anjuna and Maiyango, who had beautiful breads and patisserie. Head chef Phillip Sharp was also there cooking to order and I had a fantastic dish of scallops with samphire, pickled fennel and micro greens – a glorious combination and sweet, salty and sharp.  The Brady’s sold out quickly of a huge paella dish and appeared to be doing a roaring trade in champagne too.

It wasn’t a day for hanging round too long but there were queues  at a number of stalls, I could see several stalls selling out  and there was a general good feeling of everyone being up for good food. I would have liked to have seen more bread (I know you tried Nigel), maybe some cheeses,  and a few new discoveries would have been good but I definitely had the feeling this was the first draft of a really good idea. Hope it happens again and I hope more businesses support it.

Summer Food Festival

May 28, 2012

A lovely afternoon at Leicester’s summer food festival. Good to catch up with with people such as cider maker Rob Norton (right) of the Bottle Kicking Cider Company.  The company is going so well he’s gone full-time and has  just launched a second brew  – Rambler is a lighter, 4.9 per cent version of his Scrambler, which will shortly be appearing in local Tesco’s as well as Waitrose.

Also enjoyed watching Tom Cockerill of Entropy  doing some live cooking (below). In a profession not short of its egoitistical prima donnas, Tom is an extremely laid back character (I should say I’ve never worked a service with him, so his staff may have a different view, but I doubt it).  His unusally casual manner disguises a  very skilled and precise approach to his food. His dish was a loin of Leicestershire lamb (a gorgeous looking cut from Archers on Queen”s Roaad) that was given a wild garlic crust and a stuffing of locally foraged wild mushrooms. I held back from the unseemly scrum to taste it  but I’m sure it was fantastic.

The wild garlic had been picked that morning from Castle Gardens – where as luck would have it i was haded for a picinic after the festival. There’s plenty still there, so I picked a discreet handful which is going to enliven a risotto tonight.

 

Events

May 10, 2012

News has reached me of another of Lucy Cufflin’s local food pop-ups. After a successful couple of nights at the White Room in Stoneygate, she’s taking over Kibworth Cricket Club on 24 May.  This is a larger venue and there’s (no BYO this time – a local shop is supplying a selection of wines at £12).  The menu sounds very appealing – chicken liver parfait from the wonderful Fosse Meadows chickens, fresh pasta with pesto and British asparagus, pork belly with bourbon glaze, saute potatoes and apples, and crispy fennel with lemon and chilli, plus a trio of local berry deserts – raspberry posset, summer pudding and chambord liquer tart.  Tickets are £30 from Lucy’s Foods in Stoenygatre  or the Deli at Kibworth.

In case you were wondering about the calcotada I was getting excited about last month, it was cancelled at the last minute. Very disappointing.

Not a pop-up but of interest to those with a love of gutsy French regional food is a special cassoulet night at La Table d’Yves in Thorpe Satchville. Yves Ogrodski and his wife Elizabeth came from Provence to the UK and for six years have run this fun, authentic French restaurant in an otherwise unremarkable pub in the heart of East Leicestershire. I’ve not been for a couple of years,  but given it’s looking like we’re not having a summer I’m tempted by the hearty delights of the bean, duck, sausage combo offer on 18 May.

Finally a reminder about some local food events – the Artisan Cheese Fair  takes place at Melton’s Cattle Market this weekend, Leicester’s Summer Food festival will be at Leicester Market on 27 May,  and Stoneygate local food and drink fair is on 4 June (stalls for local producers still available, contact Zoe Brady of Brady’s Fish and Seafood Market)

Vila Brasil

May 25, 2011

For  those of you heading over to the Leicester’s Summer Food Festival this coming Sunday, let me give you a little steer to visit my friend Eliene’s stall Vila Brasil.

She’ll be serving up quality Brazilian street food, including the national dish feijoida – a feisty black bean stew,  a fish stew with rice and delicacies like coxinhas – plump little pastries with chicken or fish fillings. Those of you on the recent Critical Mass bike ride may have enjoyed Eli’s food at the after party at the Crumbling Cookie and you’ll know how tasty it is. For the rest of you, it’s a treat in store.

Sadly I won’t be there as I’m off to Alsace for choucroute and a glass of gewurztraminer – but if you see her, have a chat, buy some food and say hi from Tim.

 

Update

Here’s Elie’s stall at Leicester’s Riverside Festival on 3rd June. Watch out for her at other events over the summer.

More on Market Corner

May 17, 2011

Well the Market Corner launch all seemed to go off with bags of good will.  The presence of the new mayor at his first public function helped and there seemed to be a feel good factor all round.

Look, I know you probably want pictures of creamy cakes or spicy curries but what you've got is Cllr Westley, Mayor Soulsby and Cllr Alfonso and you'll just have to live with it for now.

There was particular satisfaction from Cllr Paul Westley, who’s family has been on the market for over 100 years, and who had had to really battle against some who wanted to resist the change. Chatting with Westley and newly-elected Councillor Dawn Alfonso, a leading figure with the Market Trader’s Federation, there was a clear sense both of their passion for the 2,000 year old market and their relief at reaching this key stage in the regeneration of the area and of a refocussing of the market towards quality. They know, as is obvious, the process doesn’t stop here but must involve other areas of the market along too. There will be different solutions for different aspects  but the market will have to shed any lingering reputation for knocking out cheap poor quality, end of life goods and the meat, game and fish market  must somewhow be revived and reintegrated.

As for Market Corner itself,  there was a buzz on opening day and if the area can be kept clean and tidy I think trade will continue to find its way there. It’s great that businesses like Bobby’s, Pick’s Farm, Woodhouse Farm and Deliflavour now have a regular city centre presence – their coffee is defintely worth a try. There were also  few new people to me  – the cakes at Dessert Island were lovely, and I was even won over by the cupcakes at Viva la Cupcake .  Food stalls will be there Fridays and Saturdays.

The launch comes handily before the latest Summer Food festival  – always an enjoyable event – which takes place on Sunday 29 May and will feature live presentations from people such as Bobby’s, Entropy and the Rutland and Derby deli-pub.

Sadly I’ll be off enjoying choucroute in Alsace, but I do hope to be around for the small  but equally enjoyable  Belgrave Hall Food Fair  which takes place 17 and 18 September  – put in your diaries.

Winter Festival

November 16, 2010

A quick reminder that the Winter Food Festival takes place this coming Sunday, 21 November from 11 -5.00pm at Leicester Market.  Cannily timed to cash-in on the crowds that come in for the Xmas lights switch-on, the event attracted 15,000 last year and all 200 stalls are taken this year. Events include a demonstration of Stilton-making from the people at Long Clawson dairy (12.30pm) but from what I remember of last year I’ll  be looking forward to finding some quality game.  

In other news,  more plaudits for the Olive Branch in Clipsham, rated the nation’s sixth best gastro pub in a list of the top 50 by trade mag the Morning Advertiser.  I reckon I’ve been been to ten of them and if the Olive Branch really merits beating the Sportsman, near Whitstable, by six places then it must be on very good form indeed.

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