This was the last leftover Eat Cambridge fringe event. The Clandestine Gourmet (or on facebook) had scheduled one for the 15th but had such a large number of people interested that they set up a second one with the same menu. I only managed to get in because I was on the waiting list and someone cancelled just before the weekend.
The evening turned out to be spectacular, not only in terms of the food served but also from a social point of view. As I didn’t trust the bus service to be on time during the snow, I took an earlier one and arrived a bit too early but that meant I could pick a spot at the big round table which turned out to be an excellent choice as I shared it with a baker, a painter, a patissiere, a doctor of physics and a writer. As diverse as our backgrounds were the topics of conversation. It was really good fun and also interesting. We could easily have carried on for another few hours but we sadly had to part company just before midnight. I rarely immediately click with a whole table but this evening was something special. Contact details were exchanged at the end and I’m positive we’ll run into each other again soon.
Conversation only ceased when another course was served but not for long as the ooohs and aaahs made way to comments about the food we were eating.
Ah yes, the food. Photos and short descriptions of the courses follow. I’m not really happy with the quality of the photos (mixed light sources falsified the colours) but they will give you rough idea of what we had.
It started with a Blue Lagoon, a not too sweet cocktail, served with a bowl of mixed, freshly roasted nuts.
The “main course”: Red mullet, black beans, tarragon, confit tomatoes. The fish was moist and flaky, the beans earthy with some acidity from the tomato, the tarragon working really well. My only criticism, not enough tomato.
“Dessert” was hazelnut cake, toasted almond cream, raspberry sorbet. This looked huge but both the cake and the sorbet were really light. I even liked the cream despite not being really a fan of cream.
There were also fantastic truffles at the end but I didn’t get a photo as my lift home was about to leave.
The Clandestine Gourmet provides not just your usual supper club fare, this was superb, sophisticated and consistent cooking. They describe themselves as a “popup restaurant” and that description fits but with BYOB. Highly recommended.
In the wake of Eat Cambridge, a number of Cambridge based twitter food obsessives have come up with a new challenge: Shop only at independent local shops instead of supermarkets for one week, starting on the 2nd of April, right after Easter. Depending on where you live or work, this will be easier for some than for others. The main hurdle for those of us with regular work hours will be opening times as those of indies often coincide with typical office hours. On weekends, the choice for me is quite good but during the week it will be interesting. I work in Chesterton where there is nothing but a post office inside a tiny convenience store that doesn’t carry any fresh produce. Veg will be covered by my Riverford delivery and if I want meat, I can take a detour early in the morning. Milk and juice I get from my milkman delivery every other day so that is covered, too. Domestic essentials (as Carri put it) like toilet paper, soap/shower gel, cleaning products and so forth I will have in the house and could in an emergency get from the Daily Bread.
A few months ago, I collected the following list of shops in North Cambridge (mostly Arbury and King’s Hedges):
The Art of Meat (Arbury Court)
This is my local butcher with a good selection of various cuts and joints of high quality beef, pork (from Dingley Dell, no less), lamb, chicken and sometimes game. Their own sausages (three main varieties and a number of changing specials) are superb as is the bacon that is cured on site. Service is friendly and superb, always happy and willing to accommodate special requests and recommending substitutes should something not be available. The little extra cost is easily outmatched by the superior quality. Highly recommended.
Les Ward (Arbury Court)
A family run greengrocer offering very reasonably priced veg and fruit, some dry goods and preserves and, er, fresh flowers. So much better and even cheaper than Budgens opposite.
There’s also a baker’s in Arbury Court but for me it’s not very good, I still have rather continental tastes when it comes to bread.
The Daily Bread Co-op
This place in an industrial estate between King’s Hedges Road and the green behind Nun’s Way (accessed either via KHR or a footpath from the green off Campkin Road) offers only organic or at least fairtrade goods. Mostly dry goods like muesli (a selection of varieties mixed on site as well as the basic ingredients to mix your own), flour, pasta/rice/couscous/grains, tinned goods, soy products, gluten free and vegetarian alternatives. A little bit of veg, too, but they do not get regular deliveries so it’s always quickly gone or looks a bit sorry. There are also artisan breads (also not always fresh, depending on when they get their delivery) and non-food supplies like eco-friendly cleaners/detergents, reusable nappies etc. I get most of my dry and tinned goods there.
Cambridge Quality Meats (Arbury Road)
This butcher is a bit further from me so I don’t go there often but they have a similar selection to the Art of Meat, own sausages (incl. biltong) and they tend to have more non-chicken poultry and game. If you’re on Milton Road/bottom end of Arbury Road/Chesterton, this is the butcher for you.
This Asian grocer has a good selection of fresh (and sometimes unusual) vegetables and fruit, dry goods, spices and tinned goods as well as a halal butcher. They are inexpensive and also open until 8 which is great as I can drop in on the way home from work. All the others are available (to me) on Saturdays only.
Radmore Farm Shop (Chesterton Road)
I haven’t been there but various people have recommended it.
Nasreen Dar (Histon Road)
Asian supermarket that also offers takeaway curries.
A Waller & Son
A butcher’s on Victoria Avenue, just before the bridge. A prime address for game and more “exotic” choices like hare.
Maskell’s (Akeman St.)
Another independent but basic baker’s shop
If you happen to know any others in the area, feel free to comment/recommend. If you would like to provide a short description of the shop (a couple of lines, as above), you’d be more than welcome.
Last week I had half an hour to kill for the next bus and as I didn’t fancy waiting in the damp cold, I popped into Alimentum on Hills Road for a drink. I wasn’t quite sure what I fancied so I asked for something refreshing and Joe the bartender did his thing and I got exactly that:
Last week I shot the Palma Violets on assignment from Slate the Disco. Not a band I usually would have gone to see but they were fun and very dynamic so not easy to keep up with with the camera. The lights during the Violets were also rather challenging as it was all indirect with washes from the back and below. Without white light from the front it was tricky to get definition on the faces but I managed.
Noise Bastard was a one-off (currently) Industrial, EBM and Digital Hardcore night at the Q Club. I took my camera along and at first struggled to get good pictures. The room was mostly dark with only a few points of light. Because of the darkness and the lack of ambient light, slow flash wasn’t really an option (and would have annoyed most of the punters) so I opted for long exposures, resting my elbows on a bar or leaning against a pillar and letting the light and people make shapes.
Last Sunday saw the official end of Eat Cambridge, a party at the Cambridge Brew House for exhibitors, contributors, fringe event hosts and invited guests. Free drinks and food samples from the Brew House as well as some of the exhibitors (like Afternoon Tease, Carri Pavitt and Gourmandises) kept everyone watered and fed while they were reminiscing about the previous two weeks of the festival and networked. A perfect conclusion. A few photos follow, more on flickr.