Friday, June 22, 2007

Tasting London

It’s a good job I booked my tickets for the Taste of London festival a while back because I’m so tired after a madly busy week and the weather looks iffy, but I have my ticket and my crowns burning a hole in my pocket so off to Regent’s park I jolly well go. And obviously I am glad that I did because it was a great opportunity to eat some delicious food, catch up with a couple of old friends and make some new ones.

I thought I’d start by doing a reccy around the whole event and then decide what dishes to try first but half way round the aroma of the fat scallops searing on the big black grill wafted over in my direction and I was suddenly very hungry. I found myself in front of One-O-One I handed over a fistful of crowns and bore my Confit of Norwegian salmon and scallop mi-cuit truffle potato mousseline, foie gras jus roti to the nearest fake grass covered box to enjoy. In previous years you've had to try and grab one of the rare seats and a table so this year the scarce tables are abandoned in favour of lurking round one of the tall grassy boxes. The salmon and scallop and the sublime mash were a real treat and a fabulous start. I think tonight's going to be a good one!

Barely a few steps away I espy a Braised veal, mushroom and potato pie at Kensington Place and think that would make a fine chaser, and I guess the second helping of mash wouldn't go amiss either. And a lovely little pie it was as well.

I wandered around to check out some of the produce stalls including the extremely interesting Stark Naked Foods who make yummy fresh pesto, which I think is going to be available at some Sainsbury's but sadly not Waitrose as yet. There's plenty of competitions to fill in and fun things to try. Ocado had a human fruit machine and I managed to win a bottle of Champagne and a rather fruity cocktail.

It's time for more food so I check out what's on offer at Marcus Wareing at the Savoy, I am intrigued by their Beef and ale stew, mainly as it seems to be wearing a pastry hat, I guess one could call it a pie crust. They explain that the original plan was for a stew but as the day drew nearer they elaborated on the theme and turned it into a pie. It was too late to let the Taste of London organisers know though. They persuaded me to tuck into my second pie-ette of the evening. And it is delicious!

I was going to miss out Le Gavroche as it's so busy but I did want to meet Steven Wallis of Masterchef goes large fame and congratulate him on his win. He was very bashful about it all! I am looking forward to seeing more posts on his blog, as he doesn't seem to update it very often. And whilst I'm here I thought I'd partake of. some their fine food, well it would be rude not to. I would normally go for the Daube de boeuf a l'ancienne et gratin dauphinois -braised beef in red wine and creamed potatoes but I have had it before so instead I go for the Terrine de volaille fumee et foie gras aux lentilles, vinaigrette aux truffles - smoked chicken and foie gras terrine with lentils and truffle vinaigrette which was delicate and very flavoursome. .
Rather bizarrely Jeremy Lee of Blueprint Café and the other formerly Conran (now D&D) is not mentioned anywhere on the Taste of London website or in the guide, it seems they are under the name Gastrodome and have been put down as a supplier of something. Jeremy is holding forth over his chicken, asparagus, watercress and toasted nut salad, served more attractively than most in a miniature wooden boat.

... apologies for the break in transmission due to excessive seasonal workload

Jeremy is exercising his usual mad generosity and offering anybody two for the price of one, I refuse to demean his food by excepting his kind offer. Of course it's worth the ten crowns he's asking for! The freshness of the salad dressing and the crunchy asparagus is just perfect after the typical mini meat-fest I've been enjoying. I am really looking forward to experiencing Jeremy's Scottish heat winning menu from the Great British Menu next week, it should be a memorable evening.
After enjoying my chicken salad I decide to meander and see if I can get into Mark Sargeant's demonstration and on the way stop at the Scott's oyster emporium to see if there's anyone I know. And fortunately there is Mark Hix greeting his guests with his girlfriend, the lovely C who I met at the last Blueprint Café cookbook event. She very kindly offers me Champagne and not out of an awful plastic cup like every one has but a proper Scott's restaurant glass 'just like the one they served Babycham in'. I was vaguely disappointed not to spot a cartoon Bambi cavorting over my glass, though after a few glasses of the wonderful Champagne I could possible see anything! We caught up on the Great British Menu final in Paris and the gossip about the Taste show and then realised we'd both been distracted by Champagne and talking and missed Mark Sargeant entirely, whoops! The rains started and armed with an umbrella I went off to spend a few more crowns, on the way I finally found where Mark would have been performing and attended an extremely surreal hosted by Ollie Smith F Word's "Find me a Fanny" show. Hmmm, words fail me, but I got another glass of wine and a sit down!
Then still rain sodden I went off exploring again. My first stop was the lovely Welsh Serious Food Company which I've been seriously impressed (see want I did there?) with ever since I stumbled across their chocolate gorgeousness at Waitrose. They asked me if I'd ever heard of their dishes and somehow I got chatting about blogging with the wonderful Charlotte who'd designed their hot chocolate fondant dish I'd admired so much. She said that they'd found a enthusiastic blog piece about one of their chocolate desserts pictured perched on a heart shaped plate and has put the photograph in their staffroom for inspiration. And shock horror, this is my little old photo from back in February when I first fell under their serious spell. Wow isn't the internet a surprising and curious beast?
In honour of my appreciative comments they ply with with more Champagne and I get to try not just some yummy chocolate mousse (well I'm never going to say no am I?) but also the rather wonderful strawberry and rhubarb compote with creamy vanilla risotto. Now generally if there's chocolate on offer; I am going to find it hard to resist in favour of another non-chocolate dessert but I guess that is what's so good about the Taste of London festival, you have tiny portions so you can try it all! And no, I didn't eat all of these pictures, just one little taste of each. Charlotte told me they loved the heart shaped saucer (strictly a side plate) and have commissioned a lovely white ceramic artist palette style saucer for a limited time to sit under their cups. And I'm definitely interested! I'll be keeping an eye out for those.
I sway away from the Serious Food Company and their scrumminess and wander towards the Tom Aikens tent. I recall being pretty blown away by his offerings last year so scanned the menu menu for this year's stunner. And here it is the Braised beef shin in Guinness with pommes puree and roasted parsnips, and it is truly fabulous. I had the last one, phew that was lucky and even though it doesn't look the best I think it had to be the star of the show again! Well done Tom! And I dropped my business card off to win a meal for two; remember me Tom, I was ever so complimentary!The show is nearly over and I have set my heart on a little final flourish of the Gary Rhodes' lemon tart but I'm thwarted by the ravenous hoards who have beaten me to it. So I have the Pont de la Tour summer fruits in a jelly instead. It is supposed to come with an attractive swirl of fresh cream but I'd rather it didn't so my doesn't.
My feet are excessively weary and I seem to be the furthest from the tube station as I could possibly be, oh for some knight/chef on a white charger. Well in lieu of that a taxi would do but they're nowhere to be seen either! It's over for another year and it's been great. And this year I managed not to buy any heavy pans, but of course I have mentally planned a small extra palette shaped crockery acquisition. Well I have to, don't I?

1 comment:

Linda said...

wow what a line up. how informative. i can't wait to see what's to come.