This weekend saw the latest Midlands Food Bloggers (MFB) meet up. I was a little nervous about it all as I had arranged the venue and plan for the day, and just hoped everybody would enjoy themselves. So what did we get up to?
First there was the food, well a MFB meet wouldn’t be the same without some fab food of course! As a community of food bloggers who like to support local producers where better a venue than a restaurant that serves modern British food like 99 Station St in Burton-on-Trent and sources as much as possible from local suppliers. When I suggested a meet up at the restaurant, owners Ross & Susan Boardman, were more than happy to allow a “bounty of bloggers” to descend upon them and also offered some extra special treats.
First off, we got to meet Daniel Pilkington, the head chef, who was full of enthusiasm and information about the products he uses to create their seasonal menu. We learnt that local producers include the farm in Bromley Hurst who supply their 28-day aged Mature Beef, and Freedom Brewery from Abbots Bromley as one of their beer suppliers. The menu features a wealth of dishes that are all created from scratch at the restaurant wherever possible, with homemade sausages, ice-cream and pies delivering a fantastic choice.
We sampled their 3 course lunch menu for a bargain price of £10.95. I opted for the Baked Goats Cheese starter which was served on a lightly dressed salad and with a lovely tomato chutney.
For main I chose the meat option of Sautéed Strips of bed with red onions and wild mushrooms. This was so full of flavour, the beef was tender, not an easy thing to achieve for sauteed strips, and the mushrooms added a depth of flavour.
For dessert I was swayed by the Chocolate brownie with chocolate fudge sauce and homemade Vanilla ice-cream. Naughty …. but very nice. Rich gooey brownie with lots of chocolate fudge sauce. My other half opted for the Bailey’s Cheesecake served with some homemade honeycomb.
Afterwards we headed off with Susan to her home to meet Ross and learn all about Staffordshire Fine Foods (SFF). Launched earlier this year to satisfy customers who dined at 99 Station Street and wanted to get their hands on some of the menu favourites, SFF sells sausages, pies and smoked products online here or in specialist retailers like Brown and Green.
On my recent visit to Brown and Green I actually purchased some of the SFF smoked salmon and one of the Chicken, Chorizo and Sweet Pepper pies and I have to say that the Cold Smoked Salmon was possibly the best smoked Salmon I have ever eaten. The only one to come close was some Canadian Sockeye Smoked Salmon in Hy’s Whistler which given the provenance was duty bound to blow your taste buds! Here in the UK the SFF smoked salmon far out ranks any I have tasted either shop bought or in a restaurant with a healthy aroma of a camp fireand a gentle smokey flavour it was devoured in no time at all.
During the afternoon we spent a fabulous couple of hours with Ross, savouring his knowledge and enthusiasm on curing, smoking and foraging. We learnt the difference that brining makes to the smoking process with some samples of salmon.
After a sample of some smoked venison and pigeon breast we had a wonder into the local woods understanding what fabulous ingredients can be found on your doorstep if you know where to look. Here we picked some nettles and wild garlic and then headed back to the house to make a lovely fresh broth with some chicken stock that had been flavoured with some of the new air-dried Chorizo that Ross is trialling. It was amazing that such simple ingredients can create such flavour.
We all left with a new understanding of the curing and smoking processes and an eagerness to forage and I cannot thank Ross or Susan enough for welcoming us into their restaurant and their home. Thank you thank you, thank you!!
I look forward to creating something yummy with the sample of chorizo we came home with so watch this space.