Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not my five-a-day maybe my ten-a-day

It's my last night in Titchwell Manor and on Sunday they don't serve the tasting menu in favour of a couple of roasts and all the trimmings as well as the usual a la carte. With my usual malady of "eyes bigger than stomach" I started with the Seared Foie Gras - Honey Glazed Chicory, Raspberry. The combination of the oh so sweet and rich foie gras, with the luscious slightly tart raspberries and the bitter tinged chicory is truly a wonderful thing! The resultant juices were so alluring that I begged another slice of bread to mop every delicious drop up.
For main I toyed with the lobster pot, salmon or gurnard (when in Norfolk and all that) but instead opted to be totally traditional and have the Roast 28 Day Matured Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Potatoes, Sticky Red Cabbage, Red Wine Gravy. Do you think the duck fat potatoes swung it for me?

When the rosy slices of beef sat atop the red cabbage and potatoes with one of their famously large Yorkshire puddings crowning all that arrived, this was just the start. Hot on it heels were dishes of crunchy topped cauliflower cheese, medley of greens with French beans, broccoli, cabbage and courgette, a little heap of more Mediterranean vegetables with soft onions, aubergine and carrots and a pot of horseradish. That's why the plating isn't up to Eric Snaith's standards, it's constructed by me and rather enthusiastically and less artfully piled around the plate. And I certain couldn't eat all this bounty despite a valiant attempt.
I was certainly impressed by the red cabbage. I've had a longstanding fear of red cabbage from my years my years as a Girl Guide. On camp we'd dine sat on groundsheets on top of the invariably damp grass laid out in a giant horseshoe shape. Our plates would be on our laps with our Wellington clad feet thrust out in front of us. An enormous catering size jar of lip-pursing vinegared red cabbage would be placed at one end of the horseshoe. If one of your fellow Guides had a crazy hankering for said red cabbage you'd have to place your plate awkwardly behind you and heave this purple monstrosity to the person to your left. Naturally this scene would play out several times at each meal and I learnt to go from a mild avoidance to genuine hatred for these jars of red cabbage which despite these ministrations always seemed to be nearly as full at the end of camp than in the beginning.
But tonight's red cabbage was and entirely different animal, more akin to a compote or marmalade or whatever foodie term is 'de jour'! And it was delicious but I could barely make an indent.
Despite the defeat at the hands of 'all the trimmings' after a break I was able to consider a small dessert. And the quirkily retro Arctic Roll was just the job! I recall as a child that Arctic Roll was considered a special treat though even then I was just about discerning enough to realize that M and my favourite triple chocolate ice cream was superior (that's chocolate ice cream with chocolate bits and smothered greedily in chocolate sauce. Or even better if we went to Chalk Farm we'd head to an Italian café and have the wonderful exotic and frighteningly green pistachio ice cream. The ice cream 'creations' available in the supermarket were very synthetic, chocolate was often chocolate flavoured which means that chocolate needn't have made an appearance in the construction at all. The chocolate sauce was clearly a very distant cousin of chocolate but it took me years for my palate to develop fully (because until then I also thought Findus Crispy Pancakes were a good thing!) and realise that the seemingly 'special' extravagance of Arctic Roll for dessert was actually some substandard plain ice cream wrapped in a bland slightly cardboard-y sponge and didn't taste good at all. But it was new, it came in a box and seemed to be of the future!

But despite eating too much today I still want to finish on a touch of something sweet, I know Eric Snaith is famous for his exotic ice creams, but I'm feeling nostalgic and am assured that it's not very substantial. And it was a homage but totally re-invented. The superior vanilla ice cream was painted with thin coating of raspberry sauce and then wrapped in the necessary plain sponge. Cake obviously loses many of its cake qualities when frozen around ice cream but I enjoyed its undemanding blast from the past. The dish was elevated by the reappearance of my favourite raspberries again, adding their ruby jeweled allure to the whole dish.
I really enjoyed my last meal at Titchwell Manor before moving on, I wish I'd selected a less substantial main so I could have done it more justice, I think it was the duck fat potatoes that ensnared me. My only criticism has to be the lighting in the conservatory, I miss the fairy lights entwined round the conservatory's supporting beams, and hope they replace them soon. Eric's food is much too attractive to serve in semi-gloom. Obviously I'm biased because I want to take photographs but my waitress kindly moved me to a corner table where I could sneakily place one of the side lamps on my table, okay then I became a Mecca for all the light-seeking insects that turn up on a summer evening but at least I could see what I was enjoying. Last night at the tasting menu I didn't fare so well with light and the resultant photographs illustrate my frustration. I'm going to attempt to weave some Photoshop magic but suspect they really won't tantalize the senses as much as the taste did.
So I've ate very well again, been blown over by the foie gras, learnt to love red cabbage and been transported back to a 'sweet' memory of my childhood. Oh and of course, I've satisfied and positively exceeded my five-a-day if not ten-a-day recommendation.

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