Michelin Drops the famous Box Tree

The surprise news when the 2019 Michelin stars were announced a couple of weeks ago was that the Box Tree in Ilkley had lost its star. We’ve written before about Michelin’s curious star system and how we are often baffled by those honoured and those serving comparable food that miss out year after year.  I’m thinking Skosh and Cochon Aveugle in York, Home in Leeds and the Hare at Scawton.

Simon and Rena Gueller with friend Marco Pierre White

It’s been a while since I visited the Box Tree so can’t comment whether the demotion by Michelin was justified but I would only say that in the new 2019 Good Food Guide, (IMHO a much more accurate and readable judge of British restaurant food), the Box Tree scored an estimable 6  which translates as ‘exemplary cooking skills, innovative ideas, impeccable ingredients and an element of excitement’.

We have long been supporters of Simon and Rena Gueller from their early days in a little bistro in Harrogate then Leeds and later bringing much needed order out of the chaos that was the Box Tree in the late 90’s. I’m also ever grateful that they came to our house just days after Christmas when everyone else was closed, to cook a fabulous spread for our wedding.

If you care about these things and, of course, for chefs it is the ultimate accolade, and want to tick off the Michelin stars in Yorkshire and nearby here is the list of M. starred restaurants:

The Star Inn at Harome; The Man Behind the Curtain, Leeds; The Pipe and Glass, South Dalton;  The Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; The Black Swan at Oldstead.

Among our near neighbours a star was awarded to Winteringham Fields, a second star for Moor Hall at Ormskirk and for the Raby Hunt near Darlington, a star for Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume outpost Rogan & Co in Cartmel and a new star for the White Swan at Fence.

There you have it. No more nail biting till next October.

Ampleforth’s Unique Orchard

For a brief few weeks in spring it’s quite a sight, 2,500 apple trees all in bloom. The Ampleforth Orchard is unique. Planted some 120 years ago by the monks of the Benedictine Order who worship and teach at the famous Ampleforth Abbey and College the orchard has been a precious part of the estate for some 120 years.

It’s not only the size of the orchard but its diversity that makes it special. There are 80 different apple varieties, a heritage collection with evocative names like St Edmund’s Pippin, Belle de Boskoop, Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath, Blenheim Orange, and Yorkshire’s own Ribston Pippin, first grown at Ribston Hall near Knaresborough

At first the apples were grown for the table but 40 tons worth of apples every year far exceeds the school’s needs for apple crumble and the fruit bowl. Tim Saxby the Orchard Manager and self-confessed ‘apple nut’ reckoned the only way was to begin juicing and today they press apples for excellent and distinctive single variety apple juices and artisan cider.

Harvesting begins in August and with successive ripening runs through until mid-November. It’s quite a sight in autumn with the trees heavy with fruit, not organic but unsprayed because fruit for pressing doesn’t have to look perfect explains Tim. ‘We grow for flavour.’

At a time when thousands of acres of English orchards have been grubbed up, and our supermarket apple varieties are limited to a handful of varieties and too often foreign imports we should treasure Ampleforth’s very special orchard and enjoy its produce.

Apple juice and cider is for sale at the Ampleforth  gift shop, the Cider Mill  or online www.abbeyshop.ampleforth.org.uk.

There are tours of the orchard that can be combined with lunch or afternoon tea at the Ampleforth tea room.

https://www.ampleforth.org.uk/visitors/explore/orchard-and-cider-mill

T: 01439 766000

And if you want to plant your own tree, the excellent R.V. Roger, just outside Pickering on the Malton road, is a specialist tree nursery with 240 apple varieties who are well placed to advise on what to grow where.

www.rvroger.co.uk

 

 

Ampleforth Apple Cake

Joan made this delicious cake following a trip to the Ampleforth apple orchard in October, but it can be made at any time with some tart English apples.

 

 

Apple_cake

Makes ten generous slices.

Ingredients:
4 eggs
150g caster sugar
2tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp grated lemon zest
250ml sunflower oil
250g plain flour, sifted
2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (optional)
1tsp vanilla essence
100g sultanas
500g tart apples, peeled cored, sliced

For the topping:
50g hazelnuts or cobnuts, roughly crushed
50g Demerara sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 170°C/Gas mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm baking tin with baking parchment.

Beat the eggs and 50g caster sugar with an electric beater for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and foamy. Mix the lemon juice, lemon zest with the remaining 100g of caster sugar and gradually beat this into the egg and sugar mixture. Dribble the sunflower oil into the foam and continue to beat. Fold the baking powder, spices and sultanas into mix which now resembles a thick batter

Place half the batter into the baking tin and arrange with half the sliced apples. Cover with remaining batter. Arrange the remaining apples over the top and scatter with a mixture of crushed hazelnuts and Demerara sugar. Bake for 1 hour, turn off heat, partly open the door, and leave the cake to cool in the oven. Dust with vanilla sugar if you have some.

 

Food and Drink on the North York Moors

Mandy and I have been busy over the summer working on an exciting food and drink project with the North York Moors National Park. We will tell you more about it in the coming weeks, in the meantime take a look at this short film about places to eat and drink in the National Park.

 

 

 

 

You can find out more on the National Park website.  https://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/visiting/see-and-do/film

Friends of Ham, Chopping Block and Roots

It’s sad that we’re too often writing about restaurant closures, the latest and most surprising being Friends of Ham in Leeds and Ilkley.

According to this report in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, the two satellites – Ham and Friends in Queen’s Arcade and the Friends of Ham branch in Ilkley found it hard to get established and the original branch in Leeds’ New Station Street has suffered from a short term cash flow during this hot summer weather with no outdoor seating.

A local property and investment company Glentrool have stepped in to purchase Friends of Ham and plan to work with the creators of the business Anthony and Claire Kitching, so with any luck we will still be able to enjoy their craft beers, good ham and cheeses in the New Station Street location.

It’s good to be able to report two new openings in York which is fast becoming a hub for independents.

Michael Hjort, chef/patron of Melton’s of York’s and director of York Food Festival is to open The Chopping Block above Walmgate Ale House.  The space above the bar has been run as a bistro for a few years but Michael says “now is the time to up our game here and run a quality led informal restaurant.”

‘The Chopping Block he says will serve diverse modern food like aubergine stuffed with lamb and pomegranate, game burgers with roast venison and sea bream with Yorkshire cider, samphire and summer vegetables’.

Close on the heels of the Chopping Block but in Marygate on the other side of town is Roots, a second restaurant for the famed and Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead. Promising a changing seasonal menu of sharing plates that open with such modish dishes as cured trout, fennel kimchi and Meridian apple and ox cheek, cauliflower and kale. Skosh watch out.

The booking site opened a week ago and lines were jammed. Roots opens on 14 September. If you can’t get a table we will post our report. It’s what we’re here for!

Goodbye El Piano, Hello Los Moros

It’s goodbye at the end of August to the long standing El Piano on Grape Lane after 21 years of upholding the values of vegan and vegetarianism and hello Los Moros, the Moroccan and Middle Eastern street food stall that has been trading from York’s Shambles Market for the last three years and who will be moving into the Grape Lane premises in the autumn.

Tarik Abdeladim at his Los Moros stall at Shambles Market, York

El Piano was founded in 1997 by Magdalena Chavez ‘We are moving on’ she says ‘Our job is done. Twenty one years of blazing the vegan and gluten-free trail has led us all to the happy point where almost all eateries in York are now offering vegan and gluten-free options’.

And to her customers Magda says: ‘It has been our absolute pleasure to serve you all these years and we thank you for your loyalty and support. You will still be able to find us and our products, recipes, videos and books at www.elpiano.com.”

Los Moros owner Tarik Abdeladim is a worthy successor and while Los Moros will not be wholly vegetarian, Tarik plans to uphold the principles of El Piano with ‘tasty vegan and vegetarian dishes. One of our most popular dishes on the stall is our vegan falafel’.

‘We’re describing the restaurant as a modern North African kitchen’ says Tarik. ‘We’ll be serving some favourites from the kiosk, like our handmade merguez sausages, but using the restaurant as a space to develop the food in new directions, and play with different techniques and ingredients’.

Los Moros will be open for lunch and dinner from the autumn at 15-17 Grape Lane.

Roots Opening in York

Over the last few months I’ve watched teams of builders and decorators turn the unloved Bay Horse pub on Marygate, York into Roots, the much anticipated second restaurant for the Banks family, where Tommy Banks began and helped turn it into the top rated, Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead.

 

Don’t expect a clone of the Black Swan, Roots they say is going to be ‘a sharing plate restaurant’ on the theme of Tommy’s recently published book of the same name in which the menus are based on three (not four) seasons: the Hunger Gap running from winter into spring; Abundance summer into autumn and Preserving from autumn to winter.

 

The first published menu: The Preserving Season lists what sound like 14 cutting edge dishes with smoked eel doughnut; pork fat carrots and garden pea falafel and hear this: turbot, strawberries and cream. Good to see Courtyard Dairy supplying the cheese and interesting sounding desserts featuring Douglas fir, lemon verbena and woodruff. Choose individual plates or their Feast Menu at £50 a head. There’s sure to be a rush when the online booking opens on 1st August for the official opening mid September.

https://www.rootsyork.com

Roots, 68 Marygate, York YO24 1AZ

Rascills Still Firing Two Years On

We made a return visit to Rascills the other day, the restaurant at Raskelf that Richard and Lindsay Johns opened a couple of years ago. Fans will know them from their years at the lovely Artisan at Hessle.

 

‘Where’s Raskelf ?’ I hear you say. It’s a bit off most people’s radar but worth finding between York and Thirsk, just off the A19 not far from to Easingwold.

 

Richard and Lindsey Johns

Worth finding not least for the £45 set menu of three accomplished and generous courses. A no-choice menu is never a problem for me. I’m happy for chef to bring me what’s good and what he/she wants to cook and if it saves on waste then that makes perfect sense. Don’t worry; they can handle any dietary requirements if you let them know in advance.

 

On a balmy evening we began with drinks in the little garden they’ve created out front, then dinner that began with a smooth little cup of lemon grass, Thai inspired soup and was followed by a generous piece of snowy halibut and pea and mint risotto, beautiful cooked beef rump – is there a better cook of meat than Richard Johns? – with gorgeous crushed new potatoes and finished with a textbook crème brulee. They keep a good wine list and offer a modestly priced wine flight.

 

They are open Wednesday to Saturday and their £25 lunch is terrific value. As Michelin used to say – worth a detour.

Food Book Awards

For the past few years I have been one of the judges for the Guild of Food Writers annual food writing awards. Last year 100 new books landed on my doorstep. Who says you can’t have too many cookery books? The awards are always worth following for discovering really good quality and worthwhile food books, some from small publishers you may not otherwise come across along with blogs, broadcasts, magazines and campaigns you may have missed. Having just returned from an amazing trip to Georgia, I was delighted to see that Carla Capalbo’s book on Georgia had won the Food and Travel award. It was the book that guided us through so many food and wine adventures in that remarkable country.  There are many other worthy winners so take a look.

Food Writing Award: Joanna Blythman for work published by the Sustainable Food Trust and in The Guardian and Sunday Herald

Cookery Writing Award: Meera Sodha for work published in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine

Restaurant Writing Award: Tim Hayward for work pubished in FT Weekend Magazine

Food Blog Award: Grand Dishes (granddishes.com) by Iska Lupton and Anastasia Miari

Food Broadcast Award: Food Programme: Leah Chase: The cook who changed America presented and produced by Dan Saladino (BBC Radio 4)

British Food Award: Sue Quinn for work published in Dorset Magazine

Food & Travel Award: Tasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the CaucasusTasting Georgia: A Food and Wine Journey in the Caucasus (Pallas Athene)

Campaigning Award: Foodism: Issue 21 (sustainability special issue) (Square Up Media)

Food Magazine Award: Market Life magazine, edited by Mark Riddaway

First Book Award: The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis (Phaidon)

Food Book Award: The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World by Lizzie Collingham (Bodley Head)

Cookery Book Award: The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones (4th Estate)

Special Award: Charlie Hicks

Lifetime Achievement Award: Anne Willan

Yorke Arms

A frisson of fear ran through the hearts of the Yorke Arms faithful when Frances Atkins put it on the market in November last year after a 21 year tenure and 15 years of Michelin stardom. The Yorke in anyone else’s hands seemed like the end of an era. She was flirting with the idea of a new venture, before Leeds-based ‘serial entrepreneur’ Jonathan Turner parted with the thick end of £1.5m, and a deal was struck; as a result, he’s taken over the day to day running of the place, and Atkins has remained at the pass with her loyal crew. A ‘major refurbishment’ followed, and the Yorke re-opened at the end of May. But what if it’s had a shocking makeover? We loved it the way it was – all flagged floors, roaring fires, burnished oak antique sideboards and the inimitable, easy charm of the general manager John Tullet, as much a part of the place as the oil paintings on the walls. It was with a keen sense of anticipation that we keeled up on a perfect early summer’s evening to chart the changes and check out the new menu. Has it been Farrow & Balled? Has Turner been to the Country Inn Interior Warehouse and bought mock-leather chairs and yards of mock hops? Review to follow. (Clue; relax.)

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