Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Fleece - Addingham

Joe has decided he wants snails.  Not just ordinary, run of the mill, eating all my parsley snails, but ones you buy from a nice lady down south on  She sells live snails for you to cook or, for around £300, a whole snail farm mini metropolis, so you can breed your own slow food army.  Now, I'm sure I bear some of the blame for this - every now and again I go on a wild goose chase to find someone who will sell me snails like you get in France - ready cleaned, back in their shells and smothered in garlic butter.  Yum.  But really, I've seen the snails in my garden.  I even live in the suburbs with only fractional traffic and people.  My snails shouldn't be too bad.  But I won't.  Sorry Joe - will have to wait for the next holiday.

On other news, this week we visited The Fleece in Addingham.  My parents dropped in to Yorkshire for a flying visit and we were looking for somewhere near Bolton Abbey for dinner - a quick twitter survey pointed us in the direction of the Fleece.

We arrived early evening on Sunday, expecting a quiet country pub serving good food.  What we got was a traditional coaching house, super busy, with great food.

I was always going to like the place because within minutes the chap behind the bar recognised a few Edinburgh accents.  The Fleece is the second outpost of a pub called the Sun Inn, near Dalkeith on the outskirts of Edinburgh.  The Sun Inn has been winning awards for a few years now and the team at the Fleece are hoping to emulate that success. I felt instantly at home.

We were shown down to our table in the cosy (and later a little too cosy!) dining room.  They offered an a la carte menu as well as the two course set menu for £14.95.

A little round of rolls with butter and a tomato salsa was first up.  To my mother's chagrin the rolls were not hot (!) but tasty all the same.  Not to worry, she had ordered the calves liver starter which made up for it with real flavour punch.  I could not have eaten more - calves liver is ridiculously rich - but for a starter on a rainy day it was good.  My dad went for the trusty prawn and crayfish cocktail, served in a slightly silly aluminium martini glass but stuffed full of crustaceans.  Joe went for the local Fettle salad of Yorkshire feta, both deep fried and plain with heirloom tomatoes, while I had the ham hock croquettes with a poached hen's egg.  Over all, everything was great - simple ingredients treated with respect.
Prawn and crayfish cocktail
Ham hock croquettes (the oeuf appears to be hiding but the piccalilli was amazing)
Pan fried calves liver
Yorkshire Fettle salad with heirlooom tomatoes

The main course menu was also very good but we were a little predictable and picked the fishy dishes - fish pie for dad and I and mackerel on a Catalan stew (I think) for Joe and mum.  The fish pie was delicious - creamy, fishy, with a warming potato topping and peas on the side, while the mackerel was an unexpected Spanish surf and turf of Mediterranean vegetables with chorizo.  Both were well received, full of flavour and well cooked.  I could have done without the peas in the pie, given I also had them on the side, and my fish was perhaps sailing a little close to the firm side, but it was a truly enjoyable meal.
Mackerel on Catalan stew
Fish pie
We were far too full to give the dessert menu any serious thought, although there was a little more deliberation over their range of liqueur coffees.  A latte with amaretto, glayva and topped with whipped cream anyone?  We settled for espressos and were delighted to be treated to some petit fours - what appeared to be a super gooey chocolate brownie and a nut crammed flap jack.

Overall, I loved it.  For a Sunday evening, the place was packed, and I don't think there was a single table free when we left.  I'd like to give a few more of their dishes a try, and they have some interesting pre-order group dishes including a crustacean plate. 

We were also told that they are hoping to set up a cookery school in the future, which sounds fantastic.

If looking for somewhere to eat in the West Yorkshire moors, I'd thoroughly recommend The Fleece.  Simple produce, treated sympathetically but with a little spin of imagination, I will be back.  It's just a shame they don't have rooms or I'd probably still be there now.
The petit fours.  Mmmm

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Mario's Supper Club

As dedicated social media users it might come as a surprise that there are things I don't like about Twitter, Facebook etc.  While I like interesting social commentary and big news in peoples' lives, I'm not bothered about the minutae and could really do without the updates for updates' sake:  "just had a cold shower...", "cant decide what to have for dinner..." Hmmm.

One of the great things about Twitter, however, is it provides a new way for the more underground producers, sellers and businesses to have a voice.  For example, last night we went to a supper club hosted by Mario of @gustoitaliano.  Mario is Sardinian born, moved to the UK to work for six months, met a lovely lady (Sonia) and never left.  He was brought up making traditional Sardinian food: anything that could be made at home was. From gnocchi to Mirta to cheese, Mario can, and does, make it all.
Mario, our chef and host

The supper club is a show case of Mario's skills, and is a wonderful experience.  The food was delicious and varied, and we were not left wanting in the slightest.  I also love a supper club for throwing together a group of different people for dinner and we had charming company last night.

Supper started with a plentiful selection of antipasti, including Mario's home made sheep's cheeses, cured meats, marinaded peppers, aubergines and courgettes, olives, pickled baby onions, marinaded mushrooms and artichokes and breads.  He also made the best bruscetta I have ever eaten, with sweet, pungent tomatoes, red onions and herbs with lots of olive oil.  The antipasti was beautiful, everything full of flavour.  I could, quite easily, have just eaten that all night and been more than satisfied.
The cheeses

The meats
Bruscetta, artichokes, mushrooms, olives and bread
But who goes to a supper club simply to be satisfied?  After a small rest break, the next course was a simple but delicious plate of gnocchettini with tomato, basil and pecorino cheese.  The beauty of Italian food is that so much flavour can be achieved with a small selection of ingredients.  I am not usually a big fan of gnocchi but these were light little morsels, the perfect vehicle for the sauce.
Gnocchettini with tomato, basil and pecorino

Don't think that the food stopped there though.  The main event, and (being honest) the major selling point for us was the roast suckling pig, served with crisp potatoes and a salad of fennel, carrot and lettuce.  The suckling pig was simply delicious: rich, moist, tasty fat and crisp crackling.  I don't think I've tasted better pork in my life and will now spend an eternity being asked by Joe to make a whole suckling pig at home.  I won't though, because I don't think I could better Mario's effort.  Again, the main ingredient was able to shine, with uncomplicated accompaniments. 
Whole roast suckling pig?  Don't mind if I do.


Dessert was semifreddo with nuts and chocolate and a lovely strawberry and raspberry sauce, followed up by espresso courtesy of @casaespresso and traditional Italian pastries.  The semifreddo was creamy but light, the espresso fantastic and the pastries and indulgent end to the meal.  We also had a digestif of Mirto, a traditional Sardinian liqueur made from the myrtle plant.

We had a wonderful night with some truly delicious food.  Mario is a fantastic chef who works hard to bring traditional Sardinian food to the people of Yorkshire.  He sells his produce at the farmers markets (including the marinaded vegetables, home made cheeses, as well as dishes like lasagna and tiramisu) and does the supper club on a monthly basis.  Yes, it might look like a lot of food, but for a gastronomic treat, I don't think you could find an Italian restaurant doing better. 

Mario, Sonia and their sous chef
Our lovely company (apologies for those missed from the photo!)
And for those who want a taste of Mario's food a bit sooner, he is doing a cookery demonstration at Macy's in Headingley at the end of the month.  The link for tickets can be found here.  Enjoy!