Squidbeak Dinner

So. Who would be mad enough to organize a pop up restaurant in a room above an art gallery in a tiny fishing village on the Yorkshire coast? And on two consecutive nights? We were. And did it work? Not half.

Our first Squidbeak dinners were held last weekend at the Staithes Gallery. Fulsome praise goes first to the amazing Lisa Chapman who somehow produced fabulous food* for 55 people from a domestic oven without throwing a single cheffy tantrum. Well almost. Her two unflappable co-workers Susie and Alison who made the room look lovely with white linen, tea lights and gleaming glasses are next in line for a round of applause followed closely by Al Milnes who owns the gallery and who somehow pulled the whole thing together with her customary charm and good humour.

You might well ask what Jill and I had to do with anything. Well we plied the unsuspecting diners with La Dolci Colline Prosecco and dusted down our waitressing skills under Susie and Alison’s expert tutelage and managed not to spill much at all. Not down a customer anyway. People came from far and wide; all sorts of folk, many of whom had never clapped eyes on us or one another before. The crowd included teachers, a photographer, a judge, a couple of café and B&B owners and Gus the musician from Baildon who just happened to be walking down the street in search of fish & chips and booked in on the spur of the moment. Nice one Gus, good to meet you.

Wines from Flourish and Prosper in Howden were from Chile: Montevista Reserve Viognier and a bio-dynamic Emeliana Reserva Pinot Noir. Even the coffee was served in mugs designed by resident Staithes artist, Rob Shaw, and the lovely people from Priorat Produce brought us a mighty bottle of their fab olive oil to raffle and generously distributed free samples to all. Thanks Tina and Neil.

There are few things more rewarding than witnessing a room full of happy eaters chatting away, glasses clinking, laughter rising. It was a blast and we can’t wait to do it all again 22/23 June and 28/29 September. Be there or be square.

*Yorkshire asparagus with hollandaise sauce went down a storm as did the shredded duck with honey and hoisin dressing. Lemon sole with herby butter was a winner and the slow cooked pork belly was just as good. There wasn’t a single portion of Lisa’s famous crème brulee with berry coulis left (grrr) so we had to content ourselves with a shared plate of chocolate roulade. It’s a tough job ..


Flourish & Prosper

Helen wrote about Flourish & Prosper earlier this year when owner Sean Welsh selected half a dozen autumn wines for us.  We were so taken with his selection, his wonderful shop in Howden and his wife Julie’s delicatessen, that they were our first port of call when we wanted some decent wine for our Squidbeak Dinner.

Sean will make a selection of wines to match the food at our dinners to be held over two weekends 11th & 12th May and 22nd and 23rd June. For more information and to book your place at the table, click here.

We’ll be writing more about Sean’s wine in the coming weeks. In the meantime have a look at Sean’s selection at Flourish & Prosper available by mail order.

What I’m Drinking Now

If, like me, you’ve been trying to wean yourself from carb. heavy winter comfort food onto a fresher salad and fish regime, you’ll need a wine to match and something which lifts the spirits, and suits the lengthening evenings. (well I’m ever the optimist!).

Enter The Rude Mechanicals’ Ephemera 2010, a floral white made in Australia from viognier and pinot gris. I was introduced to this wine by a friend who had discovered it in a tasting at Byrne’s in Clitheroe.

It’s unusual – combining musky orange blossom with very light tropical fruit flavours, with a whiff of lemon grass on the nose. Perfect for an Asian inspired warm salad and ticks the spirit lifting box completely. This should retail at about £9 a bottle but I also found it as part of an interesting mixed case being offered by Betton Wines in Scarborough. This outfit is primarily wholesale, serving the restaurant trade but they’ve recently started a wine club and the mixed case is their first offering. Billed as offering wines you’ll never find in a supermarket, it’s not a budget offering but the selection looks knowledgeable and intriguing.

In the supermarkets, I’ve been enjoying another tropical fruit driven wine in The Ned, Pinot Grigio 2010, NZ, which is often on offer at £6.99, down from £9.99, at Waitrose and Majestic  (like its equally good Sauvignon Blanc). This is not as subtle and multi layered as the Ephemera, but is about as far from the usual flabby, characterless PG on offer in many outlets as you can get. Think pear drops and pineapple chunks from your childhood sweetie bags. Big mouthwatering, fresh, yummy vino. Matched salmon in parcels with ginger, lemon and spring onion perfectly.

For a treat, we opened a Ch Musar 2004, Lebanon, to go with a pot roasted guinea fowl with quince. I love this wine and have enjoyed it for a couple of decades – but for a while I felt it had lost its way. This is bang on form, managing to combine the sweetness of oak, with savoury notes, supple tannins and warm stone fruit notes. Definitely spirit lifting (and wallet emptying at £18.99 but worth every drop).

Harrogate Fine Wines has this and a good selection of other vintages. Waitrose also stocks it. We also recently enjoyed it’s baby brother, Musar Jeune Rouge, which surprising HFW doesn’t list, but is available from Flourish and Prosper in Howden at around £8. Spicy, warm red conjuring up the mystery of the Middle East and promising that summer can still be found in a glass.

Be My Valentine

Normally I head a mile from marketing hype encouraging us to big it up for certain occasions and Valentine’s Day where you can’t miss the marketing telling us to invest in chocolates and fizz for loved ones, preferably something pink, should be no different.

But I have a confession to make. It’s my anniversary, and some years ago my romantic fate was sealed by a shoe box containing a bunch of white freesias and a bottle of Pol Roger champagne, left anonymously on my desk.

I was then a TV researcher, and in a production meeting had opined that proper champagne and an armful of white flowers was the way to a girl’s heart. They were.

Fast forward down the years, we’re still together and Pol Roger still does it for me (find it at Majestic £42.00 or £37.00 when you buy two). On the dry side, with a very fine mousse of bubbles, it’s a delicious mouthful. If you have to go pink, then my choice would be Billecart Salmon Rose – and with this why wouldn’t you. It’s pale pink, raspberry scented, elegant and beautifully made by a family firm. Harvey Nichols in Leeds has it in a gift pack or search the internet for the best deal, but expect to pay upwards of £45 a bottle.

But for the best deal in terms of choice and quality from small and medium producers,  I’d now head to the Champagne Warehouse, a family company run out of Boston Spa which has a fabulous choice of sparkling wines and champagnes, all personally sourced. Plenty of choice around the £25 mark, and if you call them, they’ll make suggestions when you tell them the style of wine you like.

Their good value crowd pleaser, Triolet Brut, which is light fruity and easy drinking, was served at their stall at York Food Festival.  At £18.99 a bottle it’s great value – and the producers also sell grapes to Billecart Salmon.

Want an off  piste gift? Flourish and Prosper’s Sean Welsh has put together a fun box of six wines for £50. Amongst the bottles are Passion Has Red Lips, a Cab Shiraz from Some Young Punks in Oz, St. Amour, Cru Beaujolais from France and Pasion de Bobal, from Utiel Requena in Spain, described as having a passionate and intense heart. You get the picture. Knowing Sean the wines will be delightful and interesting – and probably preferable to just one bottle of champagne. Wouldn’t fit in a shoe box though.




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