The festival kicked off in style with a dinner at Corpus Christi College. Mark Poynton, chef patron of Michelin starred Restaurant Alimentum in Hills Road created a three-course menu inspired by Mrs. Parker’s 16th century cookbook Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye (link to the history and an online version of the book).
The evening started with a drinks reception during which I met a few of the guests and easily found a conversation topic, food and restaurants, as pretty much everyone there had a keen interest in good food, which was to be expected.
We were then led into the dining room, laid out with a large horseshoe shaped table, an apple with a name tag marking each place setting.
After a short opening speech by the Lady Mayor of Cambridge, Councillor Sheila Stuart, food historia Dr. Annie Gray from Ely (you might remember her from Kitchen Cabinet) gave a presentation on Mrs. Parker’s book and a short history on cookery in the mediaeval and Tudor periods.
Then it was time to eat and Mark Poynton presented his starter, a salad of smoked eel (a very common ingredient at the time, especially in Cambridgeshire where the Fens were full of them) with apple, turnip and horseradish:
This was a familiar dish to the Alimentum regulars (of which there were quite a few) as a similar version was on the menu last year and it was just as good. The horseradish and fresh ingredients cut through the fattiness of the fish without masking its flavour. Wine: Albarino, Rias Baixas, 2009
The main was slow roast venison, liver parfait, charcoal baked celeriac, savoy cabbage, confit lemon and port sauce. The deeply flavoured meat was perfectly cooked and the other elements harmonised with it just as you would expect. Wine: Apaltagua Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011
And finally, dessert: Rosewater parfait, coated in pistachio crumbs, with orange granita. This was really fresh and surprisingly light. Wine: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, 2008
A few more impressions:
Still more photos on flickr.
Jean-Luc Benazet has a number of photos from behind the scenes.