Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Jubilee Food Bonanza

This weekend was all about celebrating the great British Isles.  We do live in a great country, whether England (my residence), Wales, Ireland or Scotland (my home land and by far better off in the UK - but lets not go there, Salmond).The nice old lady Queen marked 60 years on the throne with a whole weekend of festivities, and gave us a day off in the process, so it was only right that we made the most of it with a food and drink feast.  

Although my food tastes usually veer onto the Continent and Asia, Joe persuaded me to try some more localised dishes.  My guinea pigs were Robin and Gemma, joining in a right royal supper party at ours.  Always keen to join in the fun, they came adorned with homemade (and spectacular) crowns and drank and ate merrily, embracing the banquet spirit.

First up, Joe strode off to the farmers' market to find some cheese and treats.  Mario @gustoitaliano was on hand to provide some traditional Sardinian cheeses made with local ingredients (still within the British theme then!), a doughnut to keep Joe's energy up, whilst Pudsey Pickles supplied some very tasty award winning jams.

I was at home sending myself a little bonkers with dinner preparations - I've been told the key is to make lots of things you can prepare ahead, to remain swanlike in the evening - but I was a little manic in the day!  First up was some beetroot cured salmon and seabass and prawn ceviches (the latter not very British but I'm trying!  There was cucumber in it!) 

In an homage to the great Elizabethan era of banquetting, main courses were a poussin each with local asparagus and beetroot.  Who doesn't want their own whole little bird to chomp down on?!  This was then followed up with those amazing cheeses and chocolate truffles (hmm...French).  Well, I tried, and it was a lot of fun.  It also turns out that I am truly terrible at Jenga. 
Queen Gemma
Prince Robin
Princess Jo
The Judderman
Cured salmon on blinis with horseradish and dill creme fraiche
Seabass and prawn ceviche
Whole poussin, roasted beets and shallots and charred asparagus
With some slightly poorly heads the next day, Joe persuaded me to go on a day trip to Harrogate, with promises of Jubilee festivities galore.  I'll be honest, the Jubilee spirit was a little damp, but there was a great street food fair where we caught up with Andrew of Fish& (vote for him here in the Observer's nominations for best cheap eats!)  They were doing a great trade and provided me with my first hangover weapon - fresh scampi! Yum.

We went for a little wander around Harrogate (bought some overpriced stuff, yas) and then returned to the food fair for some lunch.  While I entered phase two of spicy treats with a El Kantina's pulled pork slider and coleslaw, Joe returned to Fish& for the full monty - fish and chips with garlic mayo.  Overall, everything was great and we felt stuffed, although not too stuffed to not eat Joe's home made pork burgers with grilled courgettes for dinner.  Awesome.  I am now on a necessary diet.

Me and Andrew
Pulled pork slider
Fish and chips
And dinner - pork burgers with chargrilled courgettes

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Thai Aroy Dee 8.5/10

Joe went to Thai Aroy Dee without me a few months ago, and I was very jealous when he came home with tales of amazing Thai food at reasonable prices and, best of all, a bring your own policy.  Well, it was only a matter of time before he caved to my insistences that he took me there too.

Thai Aroy Dee is on Vicar Lane, sandwiched between the Tong Palace and an "adult superstore" (mmm...classy).  It is a nice little cafe, small, but when we went was packed with a great range of patrons including a lot of Thai which is always a great sign when looking for authentic, tasty food.

Having picked up a couple of beers from Gerrys on Briggate (one of the best wine and spirit purveyors in the city by the way), we settled in for a starter of prawn and vegetable tempura.  The batter was super light and crispy, the vegetables hot and full of flavour and served with a sweet piquant chilli sauce.  A very good start.

The main event was chicken pad medmamuang himmapran, served spicy on request (chicken with cashew nuts, pineapple and chilli oil), yum phed yang (hot and sour roast duck with chilli and lemon), pad broccoli in an oyster sauce and fried rice.

The chicken was absolutely brilliant - sweet, salty and lovely and spicy and was definitely my favourite.  I wasn't a huge fan of the duck, but I'm not normally as I don't like the fat.  It tasted nice but was a bit overwhelmed by the chicken.  The broccoli was a total revelation: crunchy broccoli with a salty, fishy sauce, ginger and chilli. Fantastic.

I'd definitely recommend trying Thai Aroy Dee - it might not look like much from the outside but the food is wonderful.  Next time we are going to be a bit more adventurous and ask for some recommendations of more off-piste dishes.
Pad broccoli
Yum phed yang (hot and sour roast duck with chilli and lemon)
pad medmamuang himmapran (chicken with pineapple, cashews and an extra dose of chilli for me
Me and my broccoli
Joe enjoying his rice
Oh, and when I said next time, Joe went back for Thai Aroy Dee for lunch two days later!  They do a deal of £6.50 for two courses, every day between 12.00 and 5.00pm.  This time he tried the pad thai and spring rolls, both of which were also great.  So so far, not a dud in sight.  Good job.
Joe's lunch - pad thai and spring rolls

Black House - cocktails!!

Last Thursday we were invited to Blackhouse to try out their new cocktail master classes.  They are aiming at the corporate/upmarket hen party market, using their experienced bar tenders to teach a group one or two cocktails from their menu, before giving you the opportunity to make one yourself.

On arrival we were given a glass of prosecco and some canapes whilst things were being set up.  The  cocktails de jour were the pornstar martini and the smokey old fashioned.

Starting with the pornstar martini (I cringe every time I write that), believe me the cocktail itself is better than the name suggests!  They did not invent it so don't blame the Blackhouse bartenders: it is actually a relatively recent concoction, developed by Douglas Ankra at the London Lab Academy in the 1990s.

Made with Grey Goose vodka, Passoa (french passion fruit liqueur), pineapple juice, vanilla and lime (see, I did pay attention!), it is shaken over ice and and served with a half a caramelised passion fruit floated on the top of the drink and a prosecco chaser.  It's fairly sweet and very easy to drink but I thought my effort was pretty special!

The other drink was the smokey old fashioned, adapted from the prohibition era traditional old fashioned.  It is a Blackhouse invention, mixing Woodford Reserve bourbon with maple syrup, bitters and a splash of water.  The whole drink is then smoked with applewood oak chips and left to steep in the smoke - a minute for those who prefer the sugar and a bit longer for those who prefer the smoke!  It's a proper show boat cocktail (Joe and I very much want the smoker now!), served with the conical flask and crystal glass, and the cocktail was pretty tasty too.

Overall the event was great and thoroughly recommended to anyone looking for a fun start to an evening.  The barmen did say that the group can choose the cocktails they make - if they've got the ingredients it can be done.  Thanks to Emma and everyone else at Blackhouse, we had a great time.  We will be back to try the food so watch this space for a full review.

The smoking process
How your smokey old fashioned will be served
Emma, choosing the winner of the cocktail competition - neither Joe nor I were successful.  It was a fix.
Me and Emma, our fantastic host