Last weekend I joined a number of old friends who share my hobby of make-pretend and roleplaying games. This particular game was called The King’s Musketeers, set during the reign of King Louis XIII of France, with characters both from real history as well as literature (e.g. Alexandre Dumas’ novels). As often during these weekend events, costuming was at a very high level, many self-made and a number of players even were wearing several different costumes over the weekend. If you’d like to know more about freeform games, the UK Freeforms website is a good place to start. Here’s a selection of photos, with many more being on flickr.
Yesterday @Cambridgelass (who is one of the organisers of Eat Cambridge) and I had a look around a few of the farm shops in Cambs, starting at Gog Magog Hills Farm Shop (where I bought the steak, potatoes, smoked garlic and chard used below as well as some eggs and cheese). Even for the time of year, their selection of vegetables was nicely varied and the butcher’s offers were great, too. It’s times like this I regret not having a kitchen big enough for a freezer because I would have loved to sample more of their wares. As it was I only came away with a ribeye steak. Our next stop was the Shelford Deli in Great Shelford. Luckily for us and without us knowing in advance, the farmers’ market was on at the Memorial Hall across the road so we had a look around there first. A market at a village hall might sound a bit odd but it worked. There was local veg, meat (including from Cam Cattle) and lots of small stalls selling other produce and things like bread, cakes and pastry. I came away with a chunk of osso buco, an Indian savoury chicken pastry thing, a chocolate/lime slice from Gourmandises and some cheese.
At the deli, I bought some bread to go with the cheese and some proper Italian pasta. The deli was very busy indeed as their lunch service had just started.
Our final stop was Burwash Manor in Barton where I bought some more veg and two curry sauces from the larder and a bottle of Montepulciano from Cozzi & Boffa where we had a good chat with the owner. He specialises in wine from small producers and if the quality of the wine I had is anything to go by, the rest of his selection will be excellent, too.
So, what did I cook? On Saturday I cooked the steak:
As I wanted the heavy fat marbling to render properly, I cooked this steak to medium and it came out beautifully tender and juicy, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Probably the best steak I’ve ever cooked. I had roasted the head of smoked garlic and added about half of it to the mashed potato. The piece of marrow bone, also roasted, was from the piece of Cam Cattle osso buco. The rendered fat from the marrow and the resting juices made a great little sauce. The chard leaves were simply wilted in the hot pan in which I had cooked and basted the steak with butter.
On Sunday, I simmered the osso buco in a jar of medium curry base from Panjaban, adding leeks, the chopped chard stalks and sliced mushrooms:
Leo Riethoff aka @steakandhonour gave up his antique Citroën van for the restaurant at Fitzbillies this evening to bring his burgers to a more civilsed setting. On offer were the classic, a cheese and a mushroom burger, sides in the shape of “Mack ‘n’ Cheese”, “Lettuce Wedges” and “Slaw” as well as “Shoestring Fries” and two desserts options by Jack of Jack’s Gelato, “Peanut Butter Sundae” and “Baked Alaska”.
The custom placemat with attached menu. Click here for a closer look at the menu.
The main act: Cheeseburger and “lettuce wedges” with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits. Nice brioche bun, good pickles, medium cooked local beef patty (no horse here!), no fancy sauce, just American mustard and ketchup. Brilliant. The lettuce was crunchy and worked well with dressing and bacon.
The second side I opted for was a portion of Mack ‘n’ Cheese. Perfectly cooked pasta with a nice cheese crust, not gooey at all.
There was also a really nice American beer called Brooklyn Lager which was quite rich for a lager.
Despite feeling quite full, I felt the need for dessert especially as those were provided by Jack, who you might have seen with his gelato bike around Cambridge last summer. For some reason I always missed him so this was my chance to try one of his creations. I opted for the “Peanut Butter Sundae”:
This was just as decadent as it looked, with peanut butter ice cream, chocolate sorbet, whipped cream and salted caramel sauce. Nicely balanced and not too sweet.
Eat Cambridge is a food festival this coming March. The main event, an all day fair at the Guildhall will be held on Saturday, the 9th of March from 10:30am to 4:00pm. Throughout the previous and the following week there are many fringe events like popup restaurants, cooking demonstrations and classes, tasting sessions and so on. You can find all the details and information on how to book in the programme.
I will be joining the food debate panel at the McCrum Theatre in the afternoon on Sunday, the 17th of March. From the programme:
Food debate hosted by Tim Hayward
Time: 2pm to 4pm Location: McCrum Theatre, Bene’t
Street, (through the Eagle pub courtyard and on the
right hand side) CB2 3QN Price: £5.50 in advance,
£7.50 on the door
Description: To round Eat Cambridge off nicely we
will be holding a debate between food writers, bloggers
and restaurateurs. Covering issues such as reviews,
freebies and marketing in today’s social media world,
the debate will take on a Question Time format with
a panel of well-respected local food experts taking
comments and questions from the audience. Things
promise to get lively and you’re guaranteed to come
away with some food for thought (sorry, we couldn’t
To book: Visit http://www.wegottickets.com/event/206087
I am really excited about this festival and I hope so are you if you live in or near Cambridge or at least visit regularly. Its main aim is to showcase local and independent producers, businesses and activists. Cambridge has long been slated as a clone town but if you know where to look, you will be able to find hidden gems run by passionate people who are worth supporting.
So, what are you waiting for, get booking!
The Cambridge Brew House opened today in the former premises of the Bun Shop and its various incarnations in King Street. What used to be two rather cramped spaces is now one large open one with diner-style booth seating along the window front to the right of the door with tables and chairs filling the rest of this area with table service. Opposite the door is the bar with quite a wide selection of beers, including currently two house brand ones and a few other locals as well as a few well known beers. In the back to the left of the bar is the onsite brewery bit behind glass. This is not operational yet, their own beer is currently brewed off site until it’s all set up. This is also a bit more casual area with a wild mix of seats (chairs, armchairs, bar stools and even a wooden vaulting horse) with low and high tables. I’m not sure if there is seating upstairs as well as it was quite busy and a grabbed one of the last seats on one of the bar tables before ordering a King’s Parade and a chicken and mushroom pie. There were lots interesting things on the menu including home smoked and cured meats/fish but I thought a pie would be a good dish to get an idea of their cooking.
The King’s Parade is an excellent bitter and one that actually deserves that name, really fully flavoured. I was just about to dig into my pie when Caroline found me and took me to her table. They had already had starters (“British Tapas”) which they had enjoyed so I tucked into my pie while they waited for their mains. My portion was a quarter of a bigger pie, rather thick with excellent, crunchy pastry. The filling consisted of large chunks of well cooked, i.e. still nicely moist meat and mushrooms, not as liquid as you often get which also helped keep the pastry crispy. There was also a pile of fluffy chips and a little copper pan with gravy. I only realised now that there was no veg or salad but I didn’t really miss it. I really liked it.
I’m looking forward to reading what Heidi thought of her excellent looking pork belly.
The second beer I had was the Misty River, a pale ale that wasn’t quite to my taste but I prefer a darker beer, anyway. Heidi didn’t fancy the bitter so it’s definitely a matter of taste.
I also wanted to try a dessert but there wasn’t that much exciting (chocolate/orange torte, “winter berry” Eton mess, and toffee pudding as well as ice creams and a cheese board with three or six cheeses). I’m not a fan of either orange with chocolate nor toffee so I picked the Eton mess which was not bad, not too sweet but with strawberries and blueberries it went a bit against their claim of using local and seasonal ingredients.
We agreed that the desserts needed some work but were rather happy with everything else. Considering it was rather busy indeed and their first day, I couldn’t really find fault with the service, either.
The Cambridge Brew House is going to serve food all day, from 12 noon to 9:30 in the evening which makes it ideal for both early and late-ish dinners, lunch or an afternoon snack. I am definitely looking forward to returning soon.
Oh, and they are still offering 50% off on food today (Thursday) so you really can’t go wrong.
Kavey Eats has a monthly ice cream challenge called “Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream” in which I have taken part twice so far. This month’s challenge is any theme from the last year so I thought I’d try my hand at a sorbet.
My Riverford box contained blood oranges which were ideal. I zested the oranges then instead of juicing them I peeled them and blitzed them with my stick blender. In a saucepan I combined the juice, zest, half an inch of grated ginger, half a vanilla pod, two short cinnamon sticks, one star anise, five or so bruised cardamom pods and quite a bit of demerara sugar (don’t ask me how much, I did this by eye but enough to make the mix taste really sweet), heated the mix until the sugar was dissolved, pulled the pan off the heat, put a lid on and let it cool off and infuse with the spices. After the mix was cool, I strained it into a tupperware container to remove the spices and put it in the freezer.
I don’t have an ice cream machine so I took the container from the freezer every hour or so and stirred it through with a fork to break up any ice chunks that were forming. In my low rated freezer compartment it took almost 24 hours until it resembled sorbet or, to be honest, more like a slushie as it melts quite quickly. It tastes nice, though, fruity, tangy and spicy so I’m really happy with it.
On Friday evening Jo Kruczynska aka The Afternoon Tease, cake baker extraordinaire and regular club host held a special night of boozy baked goods and cake inspired cocktails at Hot Numbers in Gwydir Street. Despite her only initial advertising being her blog and twitter, the tickets were already sold by the time it was advertised in Cambridge Edition.
We started with a “marmalade martini” which was a lot less sweet than it sounded and was a great way to ease us into the evening.
The next drink was a “Hot Gingerbread Punch” which tasted rather like a hot toddy and made sure the last of the cold was driven out of our bones.
These Mojto Doughnuts were the highlight for me as they while flavoured were exactly like the Faschingskrapfen my grandmother used to make. They were fantastically fluffy and a little crunchy from the sugar glaze. I’ve already ordered a box of them for my birthday party. The punch was great with this.
The last baked round had two bite sized offerings: Dark chocolate Margarita Truffles which had been sprinkled with salt, creating the perfect balance of sweet and savoury; and a brownie with a Kirsch soaked cherry and cream. Needless to say, the brownie was rich and moist.
The last drink was an espresso martini which was quite strong both in coffee and alcohol but thankfully it was still relatively early in the evening (just after 9) or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep.
The evening was also accompanied by live music, James Brotherston on the piano and Phil who occasionally sang as well.
The atmosphere was jovial and fun. I think pretty much everyone asked when the next one is going to be. Here are a few more photos:
Still more photos on flickr.
On Friday I needed a quick dinner before my next engagement and as The Sea Tree on The Broadway section of Mill Road had been recommended to me by various people I decided to try it. The Sea Tree is part traditional fish&chip shop, part fishmonger (one of the very few independent places selling wet fish in Cambridge) and part eaterie with a handful of small to medium sized tables where you can order both from the fish&chip shop menu and their “alternatives” menu with pan-fried or grilled fillets of or whole sea bass, gilthead bream with a choice of sauces and sides as well as a specials board.
I picked the “whole baked Whitby crab thermidor” which was served with a mixed salad (leaves, peppers, red onions) and chips. The picked and mixed crab meat was served in the shell of the body and was carefully seasoned so the flavour of the crab still came through and it was cooked on the dot, lovely and moist. There was a nice crust on top, too. The chips were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and not soggy at all.
If they can cook something as tricky as crab so well, I’m convinced their other offerings will be just as good. It’s a bit out of the way for me but I will definitely be back, most likely for one of their lobster nights. It’s not a place to linger because the shop is unsurprisingly rather busy but if you want a quick quality bite before a night out, this is definitely the place to go. They even have an alcohol license and serve beer and wine but I only had orange juice and water because I had a night of cake and cocktails ahead of me.
The bill came to around 13 pounds without service.