The No Problem Problem

Restaurant1

I’ve no idea how many restaurants Mandy and I eat in each year, but with reviewing, inspecting, judging and Squidbeaking it’s a lot.

We often find ourselves discussing our irritations, irks and annoyances about restaurants and so to kick off 2015 we each decided to make a list of our top ten hates about eating out.

As it turned out, surprisingly few are about the food and the number one on both our lists turns out to be the same thing. Restauraters, read and digest.

Jill
1. Asking if everything is OK. Stop it, we’ll tell you if it’s not OK.

2. Not taking your coat or offering menu, water or a drink on arrival.

3. Tasting menus in pubs and mid-priced restaurants and chefs not equipped to provide. Please, just give us a nice plate of food.

4. Websites with no phone number or opening times. You’d be surprised how many restaurants don’t have this basic information on their home page.

5. Sous vide, foams, pre-desserts and amuse gueules in casual dining restaurants when the chef is not up to it. Stop watching Masterchef and know your limits.

6. Menus that list every ingredient and waiters who describe them. It’s just embarrassing, especially being told how much I’ll love it.

7. The ‘No problem’ problem. Adding it to every sentence is getting epidemic. My favourite was when they brought the wrong dish. ‘No problem’, actually it was a problem!

8. ‘Optional’ service charge added to bill. I never quite believe this goes to the staff. The staff invariably say it does, but sometimes, I suspect, through gritted teeth.

9. Topping up your wine unasked.

10. The wrong music. Sticking any old tape on repeat will not do, especially when you are seated beneath the speakers.

Mandy
1. Too much service: absolutely number one. Don’t ask me how my food is. If there’s something wrong, I’ll tell you.

2. Indifferent service.

3. Sniffy service.

4. Being sat by the bogs.

5. Poor lighting and tiny print on menus.

6. Slates.

7. Boards.

8. Skidmarks, particularly chocolate ones.

9. Chefs who think they know better than you about whether or not your meat’s cooked.

10. Outrageous mark up on wine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherds_purse

Walking through Whitby yesterday I was saddened to see a big notice in the window of Shepherd’s Purse saying Closing Down – Last Day. Shepherd’s Purse on Church Street – part ethnic clothes store, part wholefood shop – was established in 1975 by a bohemian couple Rosie McHugh and Pete Budd and developed down the years into a Whitby institution.

In the early days the shop stocked hand knitted sweaters, patchwork frocks and shoes and shawls inspired by Rosie and Pete’s time on the hippy trail around India and Afghanistan. But I remember it best for its wholefoods: rice, nuts, beans, lentils, wholemeal bread and spices sold loose. The shadowy interior with its rough wooden floorboards and intoxicating smells was an invitation to fill your basket with all manner of good things.

At Christmas, wooden barrels were heaped with dried fruit and if you didn’t want to make your own, there was Captain Cook fruit cake, singing with ginger and made at Great Ayton – they were supporters of local produce long before provenance became so fashionable. I remember them taking all she could make of Elizabeth Newton’s lovely fresh Grosmont Goat’s cheeses. They stocked Cheddar and Danbydale from Botton Village’s creamery and more recently the sadly extinct goat’s cheese made by Mrs Blyth of Boulby Banks Farm.

Gifts and clothes were at the back of the shop and beyond that the veggie café for delicious soups, pasta bakes and great cakes.

When Rosie died in 2004 her three daughters Michelle, Sophie and Kim took over and ran it with the same verve and spirit as their parents. I’m sorry to see such a precious independent shop go; now when I’m up on the coast where will I source asafoetida, harrissa, cumin, coriander and especially that throwback to my childhood liquorice root and coltsfoot rock? RIP Shepherd’s Purse.

 

Books of the Year

If you want to buy a food book for someone this Christmas, you will have no difficulty choosing from the celebrity chefs and TV tie ins: Tom Kerridge, Yottam Ottolenghi, James Martin, Gordon Ramsay, Carluccio, Delia, Jamie, Hugh and Mary.

Brears

Peter Brears (in black hat) at Harewood House Jelly Festival

But we think there are many interesting, talented food writers out there who you may not have heard of, that also deserve to be read and we’d  like to tell you about some of them. Here are the books that  have sparked our interest this year and we hope you will like them too.

 

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking – A Memoir of Food and Longing By Anya von Bremzen

Not a recipe book, though it does have a handful of recipes, but the story of Anya von Bremzen’s life growing up in the Soviet Union. She describes with both humour and nostalgia her experiences of communal kitchens, empty shelves, food queues and making friends with foreign embassy kids in order to score Juicy Fruit chewing gum. As well as her own story of love and longing, she charts seven decades of Soviet life through food: Lenin’s bloody grain requisitioning, WWII starvations and the deprivations and excesses of the Stalin, Krushchev and Gorbachov eras. It won The Guild of Food Writer’s Book of the Year Award, (I confess to being a jury member). It’s my book of the year and I love it.

 

 

Honey & Co Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packit

This book by Israeli husband and wife team Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packit  is based on the food they serve at their London restaurant Honey & Co, a very on-trend place having received a cracking review from Jay Rayner and subsequently won the Observer Food Monthly, Best Small Restaurant Award. The book is a delicious collection of the food they serve in what is no more than a café in London’s Warren Street, but it’s our kind of food: relaxed, uncheffy, with flavours of the Levant and a touch of Ottolenghi (Sarit worked there for a time). I’ve only had it a couple of months and the pages are already splattered.

 

 

 

Spoonful of Honey by Hattie Ellis

We’ve much enjoyed this book by Hattie Ellis reviewed in full here. Packed with detail about the huge range of honeys available, the life and times of the honey bee and a lovely collection of recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Food in Yorkshire by Peter Brears

A work of true scholarship by historian Peter Brears, who if you haven’t come across him is the former curator of York’s Castle Museum and Leeds City Museum, consultant to the National Trust and English Heritage, has written the standard work on medieval dining and is the world authority on jelly. This book is an updated and much expanded (double the size) version of the book  he wrote in 1987, in it Peter Brears looks at the staple foods of Yorkshire’s past: porridge, oatcakes, bread, meat fish, puddings and cakes. He explains how, when and where they were eaten with chapters on weddings and funerals, feasts, fairs and customs. Peter Brears was our neighbour when we lived in Leeds, so I went back to interview him for the Yorkshire Post. You can read about his life and times here, but if you have any interest in Yorkshire and its history through food, then this book should be on your book shelf.

 

Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop

Another favourite of mine is this wonderful memoir by Fuchsia Dunlop. It was published in 2011, but I only came across it a month ago and devoured it in a couple of days. Fuchsia travelled to Sichuan Province vowing to eat everything, however bizarre, that was put in front of her. She took a professional’s chefs course – the first westerner ever to do so, and in the following years travelled around the country immersing herself in Chinese culture through its food. It’s a fascinating insight into real Chinese food, funny and entertaining as well.  A great read.

 

 


Green Kitchen & Green Kitchen Travels By David Frenkiel & Luise Vindahl

We were put onto the Green Kitchen blog by Joan,  and so snapped up the book when it came out in spring.   It’s written by an impossibly beautiful young Swedish/Danish couple, David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl. David is a magazine art director so the photography and styling is fabulous.  Luise is a Nutritional Therapist so packs it with health-giving recipes like herb and pistachio falafel and stone fruit salad with goat’s cheese. Many of the recipes are gluten free and vegan and while they sometimes ask for recherché ingredients like kamut flour and kelp noodles most dishes use easily found ingredients. We haven’t yet seen a copy of their latest book Green Kitchen Travels, but it was pick of the year on BBC Radio 4 Food Programme and that’s good enough for us.

 

The Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman

Another blog we love is Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen.  A New Yorker who writes like you’re her best friend gives us recipes that are homely,  accessible and unfussy, which is just how we like ‘em. She covers breakfast dishes, mains, tarts, pizza and sweet things. Perelman was a vegetarian for a decade so understands what makes a tasty and interesting non-meat dish and there are plenty in this book like her linguine with cauliflower pesto or leek fritters with garlic and lemon. Every recipe too has a story to tell, so if you are the kind of person who likes to take a cookery book to bed there is plenty of bedtime reading here.

 


 

 

 

Spoonfuls of Honey

“A teaspoon of honey sweetens and deepens a tisane or stew and adds lustre to a sauce. Sweet tarts, cakes and roasts are burnished by its glow. Syrup-drenched baklava, glazed chicken wings and sticky ribs are made special with a touch on honey”. Spoonfuls of Honey by Hattie Ellis

 

Hattie Ellis’s introduction to her new book  A Spoonful of Honey, is so evocative it will have you digging out that half empty jar of honey from the back of the cupboard and trying some of her recipes.

If you thought a single ingredient book might be a bit one dimensional, this  book confounds that.  Hattie Ellis knows her stuff, ten years ago she wrote a an award winning book, on the social history of the honey bee called  ‘Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee’.

This new book is primarily a recipe book covering both sweet and savoury dishes.I personally love the sweet and savoury combinations like her chorizo with wine and honey and chicken wings with honey and thyme and love the sound of honey roasted roots and blue cheese and honeyed walnuts. There are plenty of puddings, cakes and drinks too.

Well produced and beautifully photographed, it’s more than a recipe book, it’s also a good read with background on producing, buying, storing honey and how to use it in the kitchen. She writes knowledgeably but with a light touch explaining the importance of bees in the natural world which is increasingly under threat and analyses the best honeys from New Zealand’s manuka to Yorkshire heather honey.

With acres of heather moorland on the North York Moors we have some of the best heather honey in the world, for which this book makes a fitting partner.

 

 

Puckett’s Pickles

I missed Sarah Puckett on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas on C4  but loved the pictures she sent over. I don’t think I’ll be making garlands of romanesco any time soon, but I loved her decoration made entirely of vegetables.

Pucketts_Garland

Sarah won a place on the programme out of 6,000 applicants for the ‘decorate a tree’ competition and was invited to Blenheim Palace to take part in the programme.

 

“Although my tree didn’ t win the competition I had a fabulous time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was really pleased that I held my own against the other ladies, who were stylists and designers, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my superb suppliers; Busy Lizzies Flowers, Loves Greengrocers, Wolds Way Lavender and ‘Christmas Minion’ Jennie Palmer from Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil.

 

Sarah began making handmade pickles and chutneys in her kitchen in Heworth in 2012, and this year picked up the Taste of Yorkshire category at the White Rose Awards.

Pucketts Christmas tree

Puckett’s Pickles are available online from online from www.yorkshires-finest-foods.co.uk and from the following shops:

 

North Yorkshire

Hunters of Helmsley; Malton Relish, Malton; Quarmby’s Sherriff Hutton ; Roots Farm Shop, Northallerton, Tea Hee, Easingwold.

Harrogate

Weetons, Fodder, Cheese Board, Crimple Hall, Pannal

 York

The Farmers’ Cart, Haxby Baker, Love Cheese

East Yorkshire

Drewtons, South Cave

 West Yorkshire

Local Pantry, Pool in Wharfedale, Millies, Leeds, Yummy Yorkshire, Denby Dale, Blacker Hall Farm Shop, Wakefield

 South Yorkshire

Mr Pickles, Sheffield

To learn more click on www.puckettspickles.co.uk

Christmas Gifts for the Food Lover

Stuck for Christmas presents? Here are a few suggestions for the food lover from the pages of Squidbeak:

Courtyard_lgeA Gift of Cheese

Put together a bespoke cheese hamper from the Courtyard Dairy’s fabulous cheese selection and have it delivered.  Andy Swinscoe, cheese affineur will prepare a gift box of artisan cheeses made by small traditional producers.  Mention Squidbeak for the complimentary addition of pickles and crackers. T: 01729 892902

Yorkshire Food Finder

Give a gift voucher for one of the fascinating Yorkshire Food Finder events. Either a Kitchen Social in which Sue Nelson demonstrates dishes using fabulous Yorkshire produce: £90 for demos, lunch and wine; or choose one of their food trails visiting farmers, growers and producers, finishing with a three course dinner at a top restaurant. From £125. T: 01904 448439

 Taste the Wild

Wild food foraging, fungi foraging, vegetarian wild food, bread baking, butchery and a two day coastal forage and fish day are some of the courses in Chris Bax’s Taste the Wild adventures. Prices vary from £85 for a day of foraging to £285 for  a residential coastal foraging weekend. T: 07914 290083

 Real Staithes

Sean & TriciaSean Baxter is the Staithes fisherman who works with Chris Bax on the coastal fish weekend, but he also runs his own highly recommended Real Staithes days.Coastal Craft days involve a walk across the foreshore to discover fossils and jet, and learn about nature, wildlife and the region’s industrial past. The highlight is the crab and lobster picnic at Sean’s fisherman’s hut at Port Mulgrave. A treat at £75p.p. T: 01947 840278

 York Cocoa House

York likes to call itself the home of chocolate, Terry and Rowntrees were born there. The York Cocoa House serves a wonderful chocolate menu in their café, both savoury and sweet and they run courses at all levels from a drop-in make your own lolly (£4) to truffle making  or chocolate model making (£17.50). A gift voucher for a course and a box of Cocoa House truffles and you’re sorted. T: 01904 675787

 BBQ Boot Camp

BBQ_bootcamp

Andy Annat the barbecue expert, will be running Barbecue Boot Camps during 2015 where you will learn how versatile the barbecue can be. Students learn butchery then watch Andy’s demos and do plenty of hands-on barbecuing. Importantly there’s plenty to eat and drink. £110 per person for a full day’s course. Gift vouchers available. T: 07586 262753 E: andyannat@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

Northcote’s Obsession

For the gourmet, there is still time to book your loved one on one of the Obsession dinners prepared by one the world’s leading chefs. The Galvin Brothers, Vivek Singh from Cinnamon Club, a team from Great British Menu and more. Tickets are £115 for 5 course dinner, canapés and a glass of champagne. T: 01254 244503

 Cooks at Carlton

CarltonTeaA visit below stairs comes as standard at Cooks at Carlton, which is Yorkshire’s newest cookery school based in the beautifully restored kitchens of Carlton Towers. In January you can attend a masterclass with Adam Smith, head chef of the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey or learn to make bread, game, macaroons and chocolate. Prices £70-£140. T: 01405 861662

 

And of course any of the restaurants in Squidbeak will be happy to supply gift vouchers.

 

Top chefs invade the Devonshire Arms

If you want to sample dishes prepared by the best Yorkshire chefs then you need to book a place at the Devonshire Arms (Bolton Abbey) Food and Wine Week which begins on Monday.

Mandy and I were invited last year for a cook-off lunch between the Dev’s chef Adam Smith and the Box Tree’s Lawrence Yates and it was terrific.

Adam_Smith

Adam Smith, head chef of the Devonshire Arms

This year it kicks off with a dinner cooked by what is arguably Yorkshire’s top five chefs: Adam Smith (Devonshire Arms), Andrew Pern (Star at Harome), James Mackenzie (Pipe & Glass), Tim Bilton (Spiced Pear) and Stephanie Moon (Rudding Park).

On Tuesday it will be a War of the Roses lunch pitching Nigel Haworth from Northcote Manor in Lancashire, (who has his own food festival coming up) against Adam Smith.

If you’ve never been to the famous L’Enclume in Cartmel, Thursday is a chance to sample some of head chef Mark Birchall’s remarkable food.

The food and wine week closes on Sunday 7th December with an evening of wines from Joe Fattorini of Bibendum Wines and a tasting menu prepared by Adam Smith. Prices range from £30 to £95.

For more information go to www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk

To book: events@devonshirehotels.co.uk or T: 01756 718155

 

Are You a Food Obsessive?

03680f32-92ce-483b-81a1-861ccbe66b0cIf you love ‘fine dining’, if you know every Michelin starred chef in the UK, if you study the ‘World’s 50 Best’, if you own a copy of ‘Historic Heston’ and you follow www.elizabethonfood.com or www.andyhayler.com then listen up.

From 23 January to 7th February, Nigel Haworth’s Michelin starred Northcote Manor, in Lancashire have announced their line-up for Obsession, their annual festival in which top chefs (and I mean top, top chefs) cook their ‘signature menu’ (it’s not just ‘dinner’ at this level), each night throughout the festival.

Tickets are £115 for Champagne and canapés on arrival and a five course dinner with matching wines (wines are extra by the way).

This being Northcote’s 30th anniversary year, they have really pushed the boat out and the line up has to be seen to be believed, if you know your chefs and restaurants.

They kick off on 23 January with the Galvin Brothers, 27 January it’s Phil Howard from The Square and Brett Graham from The Ledbury with 4 M stars between them. Vivek Singh follows them from the Cinnamon Club, 3 February is entitled ‘Girls’ Night Out’ and is the turn of Margot Janse of Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, South Africa, Angela Hartnett who you will know from the telly and cooks at Murano and Limewood and Northcote’s own head chef Lisa Allen. The 6th February has the Great British Menu with Shaun Rankin, Glyn Purnell, Kenny Atkinson and Nigel Haworth. As for the rest, well the line up is truly international with Ken Hom, Gaggan Anand, Klaus Efort and chefs from Portugal, Holland, Italy and Austria.

The booking lines opened this morning and tables will be snapped up, so for the cuisine of a lifetime get on the phone to book your table 01254 244503

 

Bad Meals on Squidbeak

RestaurantWe’ve had an email from a Squidbeak reader, asking: ‘There would appear to be no bad reviews. Have they been excluded, or have you been lucky?

Well, no not lucky. We have eaten through far too many poor meals than are good for us – indeed I recently ate quite the worst sandwich I think I have ever had at Thwaites Brewery’s  much vaunted, multi-million pound refurb of the Judges Lodging in York. It was supposedly a coronation chicken sandwich which amounted to a split bagette with some insipid grilled chicken, badly fried onions and a few sultanas.  It was laughably bad. Where, I wondered was the sauce that turns chicken into coronation chicken? How, I wondered, could so much money be spent without getting kitchen basics right?

I could have given them a poor review, but a) I suspected it wasn’t the regular chef in the kitchen  and b) Squidbeak reviews the best places to stay and eat at not the worst. If we don’t rate a place, it doesn’t get in. We want to tell you about the good guys.

As for the Judges Lodgings, we’ll be back sometime to visit anonymously and give them another go. But in no great hurry. Don’t watch this space.

The Endeavour Sails Again

It was fireworks at the Endeavour Kitchen with B & B at Staithes last night and not just because it was November 5, but the rockets went up from the beach in honour of the re-opening of the Endeavour as the Endeavour Kitchen.

The Endeavour has had a turbulent history. For twelve years it ran gloriously under Lisa Chapman who is still behind a stove but working freelance as To Dine For doing pop up dinners and events. Since her day it’s had a number of incarnations both good and not so good.

Vicky Endeavour

Vicky Dixon outside the new Endeavour Kitchen with the giant pumpkin she carved raising £257 for the RNLI

Based on last night’s opening ‘do’ it promises to be back on track again under Vicky Dixon, who with her partner Matthew Asquith, run the award-winning Whitby Seafish and Smokehouse where they fillet the fish that comes into Staithes and Whitby, dress the crabs, smoke fish and generally  sell lots of good things, so there’s a guarantee of some prime seafood on the Endeavour menu again.

Vicky has refurbished the three bedrooms which look crisp, clean and delightful and last night sent sublime snacks out of the kitchen: pulled pork, mini burgers, fish chowder. If they serve any of these in the coming weeks, we’ll be there.

It’s open 8 til 8 serving breakfast, an all-day menu and into the evening. Good luck to Vicky and her lovely team and watch this space.

Endeavour Kitchen with B & B, 1 High Street, Staithes Tel: 01947 841029

 

 

Squidbeak Blog

© Copyright SquidBeak 2012 Contact usDisclaimerPrivacy PolicyMaraid Design