Pig Shop at Pint Shop, an Eat Cambridge event

As part of the 2015 Eat Cambridge food festival, Pint Shop ran an event called Pig Shop, an evening of pork and beer, introduced by author and journalist Andrew Webb.

Pint Shop No. 1 Andrew Webb

After a aperitiv in the shape of a “Pint Shop No. 1” and an introduction by Andrew, Stuart and David of Barker Brothers Butchers demonstrated how to make sausages and how to butcher a pig’s head.

Pig's Head Butchery Pig's Head Butchery

Afterwards, we all had a go at making sausages and butchering half a pig’s head. I didn’t join in the sausagemaking but did butcher a pig’s head with varied results as it’s definitely not easy. I did get enough meat out of it for a decent meal, though.

Sausage Making Sausage Making
Sausage Making

Pig's Head Butchery Pig's Head Butchery
Sausage Making Sausage Making

Then Stuart Barker showed us how they break down a whole side. This was most impressive, even for a task they do several times a week, and he slowed down for us so we could see where and how he was cutting.

Whole side of pig butchery Whole side of pig butchery
Whole side of pig butchery Whole side of pig butchery
Whole side of pig butchery Whole side of pig butchery Whole side of pig butchery
Whole side of pig butchery Whole side of pig butchery

Watching and helping with this butchery had made us hungry so we were very keen to sit down and await the meal the chefs in the Pint Shop kitchens had prepared for us:

Crispy Pig's Ears
Crispy Pig’s Head, apple&rhubarb sauce (beer: Moor Revival): Some of the ear pieces were better than others, the best ones were like really good crackling. The rhubarb in the apple sauce added a good edge.
Bath Chaps, pickles, whipped lardo on toast

Bath Chaps, pickles, whipped lardo on toast
Cured and hot smoked bath chaps, whipped lardo on toast, pickles (beer: Beavertown Applelation): Great combination of soft, crunchy, sweet and tart.

Clams, Cheek, stinging nettles
Clams & Cheeks, actually stinging nettles, cider brandy and broad bean sauce (beer: Camden Gentleman’s Wit
Pork Shoulder & Ogleshield nuggets
The first highlight: Pork shoulder & Ogleshield nuggets (beer: Siren&Elusive Dinner for Four). So soft and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with the Tewkesbury Mustard creme fraiche a perfect foil.
Suckling pig

Suckling pig
Then, the centre piece, a whole suckling pig, slow roasted, pulled and served in steamed buns with green slaw and rhubarb and chilli sauce (beer: Magic Rock Cannonball). Brilliant, just brilliant. I think everyone overstuffed themselves on that course.

Jack's Gelato: Bacon Brittle Ice Cream
The dessert was special, too: Vanilla ice cream with bacon brittle by Jack’s Gelato with an Imperial Stout called “Heaven & Hell” from De Molen. Outstanding! Bacon in ice cream might sound weird but it worked just as well as salted caramel does.

This evening was pretty much perfect. We watched and learned butchery, had a fantastic meal of pork and beer and received a goodie bag with meat (our own butchery plus a roasting joint, a rolled piece of belly in my case) and beer to take home. I hope they will do something similar soon or at least for next year’s event.

There are more photos on flickr.

The First Rule supper club

It was not long ago that Cambridge was a barren wasteland for foodies. Very few pubs and restaurants served decent food and there was hardly anything going on outside of commercial enterprises. Now there’s quite a good selection of pubs and small restaurants serving excellent food and the home based foodie scene is growing, too. The supper clubs Plate Lickers and The Clandestine Gourmet sell out within hours of being announced and now there’s a new one in town: The First Rule. I first heard about them when they started following me on twitter. I was intrigued and their offer of a menu including wines for £35 sounded very reasonable indeed so I signed up.

Yesterday evening, I made my way to the wilds of Trumpington again (they are if you rely on public transport, with the Citi 7 only going every half hour, even before 7 so it took me over an hour from Chesterton), found their house quickly and was greeted by the hosts Adam and Pascale as well as a few friends and familiar faces.

Table

Table

Our hosts
Our Hosts

Charles Hardcastle
Charles Hardcastle from Joseph Barnes Wines who had provided the matching wines for our meal. The first one you see in the photo above was Domaine Breton, Touraine Petillant Naturel Rosé ‘Ritournelle’ 2011 (Loire), a natural wine that was more like cider than wine but light and refreshing, working well as aperitif and with the hors d’oeuvres.

Table

Hors d'oeuvres
Hors d’oeuvres, lovely morsels of food, chicory, cheese, liver, fruit etc. nicely woke up my palate.

Velouté of parsnips with apple and horseradish Chantilly
The starter was a velouté of parsnips with apple and horseradish chantilly. The parsnip was well balanced with the sharp apple pieces and the horseradish. The Domaine Albert Mann, Riesling Tradition 2011 (Alsace) went well with it.

Wine

I had such a great time chatting to the other guests and eating that I actually forgot to take a photo of the main course of roast lamb with garlic flageolet beans and roasting juices. The lamb was a touch on the dry side but still tasty but it was the beans that made this dish for me. Cooked just right and very well flavoured. They didn’t even give me wind!

Wine
Another remarkable wine was the Clos Fantine, Faugeres Tradition 2010 (Languedoc) with the lamb, full bodied and right up my street. As I thought it would work well with a lot of my cooking, I had to order a few bottles.

Riz au lait with caramel and cinnamon apple
Riz au lait with caramel and cinnamon apple, a rather dense rice pudding but with great flavours and most importantly, not as sweet as it sounds.

Wine
The dessert wine was a Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure, Monbazillac ‘Jour de Fruit’ 2010 (Monbazillac), again a good match and great for drinking afterwards.

The evening finished with really good coffee I could actually drink without ill effects (I’ve been having stomach problems drinking non-espresso coffee for a number of years) and home made petit fours. Again, I missed a photo of the white chocolate bits but you can see half of a tuile on my saucer.

Coffee

A nice touch was that our hosts not only joined us at the table during dinner but they also had invited two friends and their guitars for some musical accompaniment (and helping during service). After dinner, Adam joined them and a great time was had by all.

Entertainment

Entertainment

Entertainment

Again, I had a great time meeting and eating with lovely people I hadn’t met before which was a great way of spending a Friday evening after a tedious week at work.

Their next supper club is on the 17th of May and you can sign up on their website.

Steak & Honour popup at Fitzbillies, 13/02/13

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”.

Menu/Placemat
The custom placemat with attached menu. Click here for a closer look at the menu.
Shoestring fries
First thing to arrive was a bowl of shoestring fries, nice and crunchy.
Cheeseburger and "lettuce wedge" with blue cheese and bacon
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.
Mack 'n' Cheese
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”:

Jack's 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.
Leo serving burgers
Here’s the man himself serving burgers.

Eat Cambridge is going to be an exciting food festival

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
resist!).
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! 

First visit to Cambridge Brew House, King Street

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.

#Sweeteasy at Hot Numbers, 01/02/2013

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.

Menu
Click on the menu for a larger version
Marmalade Martini
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.
Amaretto Sour Macaron
The first bite was an Amaretto Sour Macaron, which was crunchy and light with good almond flavour.
Sweeteasy
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.
Polish donuts Polish donuts
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.
Sweeteasy
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.
Espresso Martini
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.

Sweeteasy Sweeteasy

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:

The tables are set Sweeteasy
Sweeteasy Sweeteasy
Sweeteasy Sweeteasy

Still more photos on flickr.