If I could make my perfect menu….2

If I could make my perfect menu….2
you may have seen this post under the title of my 21st menu – so my 21st came and and for some unknown reason I didn’t manage to find anyone who wanted to foot the bill for me to create this menu. I decided the next feasible opportunity for this menu is my wedding – so for my future husband (if you are reading this whoever you may be) we are blowing are entire budget on the food, I’ll wear jeans.

I’ve tweaked the menu a bit – and of course added some canapé ideas and dietary alternatives for my weird gluten free, nut allergy, veggie friends.

Canapés
Beetroot Macaroons, Creamy goats cheese filling (gf) (v) (n)
Crispy Salmon skin, Seaweed cone, seaweed salad, soy dressing, sesame seeds (gf) (n)
Crab, Pink Grapefruit and dill mayonnaise, blinis, caviar (n)
Ras el Hanout seared lamb, pistachio crust, mint and cilantro, harissa sauce, lemon yogurt

Oyster Ceviche

Oysters with tequila, lime, chilli, salt 
Bollinger R.D 1996 Extra Brut
OR
Palm heart and avocado ceviche with soy, ginger and lime (v)(gf)(n)

Blackamole
Twice fried Black Bean, Guacamole, baked corn tortilla strips, crispy fried coriander
Passion Fruit Margarita –
Passion fruit, lime juice, Triple Sec, 1921 Tequila Blanco
Phish Eggs
Smoked Trout, Poached quails eggs, asparagus, hollandaise foam, toasted almonds, crispy toast disc, Lemon Zest
Casa Coste Piane Prosecco Valdobbiadene
OR
Wild Garlic scrambled eggs, toasted sunflower seeds, crispy toast discs, Bloody mary coulis (v)(n)
– Gluten free toast alternative option

Ravioli
Chicken Ravioli, Spinach Foam, Honey barbecue toasted Hazelnuts, Ricotta quenelle, Chicken and sage consommé, sage crisps 
Villa Masetti Pinot Grigio 2009
OR
Wild truffle and mushroom ravioli, spinach foam, creamed white wine and tarragon sauce, tarragon crisps, butter toasted walnut pieces (v)
– Gluten free pasta alternative
– nut allergy, replace nuts with sunflower seeds

Venison
Seared Chard wrapped Venison loin, Venison Confit Shepherds pie topped with black garlic creamed potatoes, Chanterelle mushrooms, spicy chocolate sauce, Carrot and Parsnip crisps (gf) (n)
The Black Shiraz 2010 Berton Vineyards
OR
Butternut, spinach and ricotta Wellingtons, three cheese potato gratin, caramelised onions, maple pecans (v)

Scoup
Iced Melon Soup, Cayenne Pepper, Mint syrup
Campari Sorbetta, Balsamic drizzle (v) (gf) (n)
Cherry Ripe
Custard Cream Quenelle, Warm Cognac soaked Black Cherries, Warm Vanilla sponge, Cherry Blossom Sugar shards (v) (n)
Limoncello Di Capri
– Gluten free sponge alternative

Reese’s Piece
60% Bittersweet Chocolate cylinder, Peanut Butter Core, Frozen yoghurt parfait filling, Salted Peanut brittle, Raspberry Jelly crystals (v) (gf)
OR
Jaffa Cake
Milk chocolate bubbly Mousse, bubble wrap dark chocolate, marmalade, salted popcorn (n)

Holy Choly
Black Pepper and Chedder Shortbread (gf)
All Butter Cranberry studded sugar cookies 
Vin Santo Sante Bucciarelli

Coffee
Affogato truffle
Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel
Tomato and Basil Praline
Advertisements

Foundation Feast

Another day, another 5 course free feast, with matching wines. Oh no wait this is the only one, so I was goddamn going to enjoy it. We started with a drinks champagne with pink fizz, not Champagne unfortunately but it was nice and dry, not overly sweet as rose can often be. People always say going to Cambridge is a bit like Hogwarts and while I can attest it is nowhere near as fun, or perilous, there are moments when you walk into a gothic hall complete with giant christmas tree, portraits and old silver, it makes you wonder why the candles aren’t floating.

 

Sitting down at the table, there are two things you notice first. We were given about 12 glasses and there was a beautifully printed menu, with the all the food and wine on one side, and the order of ceremonies on the other side. We started with grace, sung by the choir from the balcony (which on this occasion I happened to be singing in…) Then the food started coming thick and fast. We were first bought Venison, pickled walnuts, beetroot and celeriac Espuma served with Vignier, primavera, P-J Villa, 2011 (a white wine). The venison was smoked and beautifully succulent, the walnuts added a crunch, but it was hard to tell they were pickled, the textures of beetroot worked nicely too, adding sweetness (a favourite of kings) but the Espuma was under-whleming. Having said this, the whole dish was rather good, and this was one time that the tiny Kings portions really worked.

 
Apparently at a feast even the bread is a step up. We were given cute little loaves, not warm but soft with a crunchy crust, and the butter deserves its own mention. It was creamy and salty and better than normal butter, you wouldn’t thing you can taste the difference, but this time you really could (see what I did there) I would happily have eaten that butter on its own.

The next course was fish; monkfish cheeks, cauliflower, parsley root, chanterelles and snails served with a Chardonnay, Hen and Chicken, Ad Hoc, Pemberton, 2011. Whilst I preferred the light red midsummer house served with it’s monkfish, this was still quite a full white so sort of worked. The monkfish was possibly my favourite dish, I was especially pleasantly surprised by the snail and how well it worked in the dish. The onion rings meant that the dish had a crispy finish, the parsley root added body and the single snail added a really interesting additional layer of texture and flavour, my only gripe would be that the monkfish wasn’t absolutely perfect but considering they were serving around 200 people it was quite impressive.


 
The next dish was a Lamb cutlet, sweetbread ravioli, braised chicory, shallot puree, baby turnips and morels served with a Chambolle Musigny, G.Barthod, 2004. I was impressed that they had done things properly and served proper meaty cutlets with very little fat, yet still maintained a juicy, rare finish for everyone. The chicory was a slightly unnecessary addition, as was the random baby turnip on the side of the plate which most on my table seemed to leave. But the ravioli had a melt in the mouth centre, the shallot puree worked really well and the jus was lovely.

 I was a little confused by the next course. Blackberry and rose sorbet, vanilla yoghurt sponge, marzipan, blackberry paper and creme fraiche, saved with Moscato d’Asti, Albino Rocca, 2012. It was called sorbet, fair enough. but I still didn’t understand why the ration of sorbet to everything else on the plate had to be so overwhelmingly large, especially given this was the sole dessert and the sorbet was overly sweet. I liked the cake, and the combination of a little sorbet, cake and creme fraiche which cut through the sweetness, they just got the proportions wrong. I’m afraid I don’t like marzipan so left that bit but the ‘paper’ was lovely and crisp, if a little thick to call paper…. The wine was delicious, a sparkling tasting almost like a sweet champagne.

Finally the whole meal ended with Petits Langres pressed and marinated in Champagne and juniper, fennel jelly, rustic bread served with port and claret ( I tried a little of both and the claret was some of the best I have ever tasted). I was dreading this course as I am not a cheese fan at all, especially soft cheese like camembert. I tried a little and it was strong. The bread was delicious, little rustic slices and so I’m afraid I may have just had that with some more of the amazing butter. In my defence I think even the keenest cheese lover would have found a whole baked cheese hard to eat after such a feast… 
This was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and this was a great chance for Kings to shine at what it does best (even if it’s not necessarily what students like…) We all came back down to student life with a bump when the post dinner reception thrown for us was beers in the grand surrounding of our opening reception, leaving the Hogwarts experience firmly behind. 

Midsummer heaven (21st birthday present)

Midsummer Heaven
( photos all at the bottom of the page due to technical-I-broke-my-computer difficulties)

So the moment I had been waiting for for about 3months finally arrived last Saturday. Unlike most things which you get yourself hyped up for but then end up finding bitterly anti-climatic and occasionally lying in bed in a drunken mess wondering exactly why you decided to do what you did last night, lunch at midsummer house lived up to the hype. As a foodie you would probably expect my lasting memory of the day to be solely the food, but while the food was phenomenal ( more on that later) the best thing about midsummer house was how well we were treated by the front of house staff, flawlessly neither stuck up and pretentious or overly chummy, but friendly, informative and made you feel right at home. In fact the whole feel of midsummer house was that of a home, the layout if the restaurant reminding me strongly of some of my friends houses growing up, it really wasn’t very big and while the decor was classy and stylish , the way that the bathroom and lounge were upstairs and the kitchen at the back with the front room with a bay window where we were eating, it would perfectly suit a standard 2.5 children middle class family in size.
As you approach the house it looks rather quirky, a random what should be semi detached house on the edge of a field with the back drop of a river and university boat clubs, but I think this just adds to the charm of the place, plus in the summer i’m sure the views are stunning.

Having waited outside and photographed every angle for about 20mins for the family to finally rock up I was eagerly anticipating the inside. I was not disappointed , not only were we immediately welcomed into our table with a lovely view of the common but we were immediately relieved of our coats, given very handy bag hooks on our luxurious chairs and  offered a glass of champagne. The staff didn’t hurry us but let us take copious photos to celebrate the occasion (I’m not sure we needed the same photo on every iPhone of the family but….) and the sommelier even cheekily slipped into a few putting us all at ease. Canapés were swiftly brought over as we were left to peruse our menu with the waiter happy to put up with my bad French pronunciation of the wines on the menu (turns out he was French…) and to answer my questions of how exactly they made each canapé and why he thought the lime jelly worked with Creme fraiche so well.

Canapés
Bloody Mary foam with celery pieces and celery sorbet 
Two thin slices of potato deep grief to create a puffed up pouch, filled with creme fraiche and topped with chives and lime jelly
A pinwheel of bacon and cheese (in afraid I can’t remember this one so well, but U8 assured me it tasted a little like a cheese twist)


The best thing about this dish was the fact the parents agreed to buy me both a syringe and siphon to make foam after tasting these dishes and declaring them amazing. The texture of the foam was silky and light with a real spicy kick with was cut through by the almost sweet and vibrant celery sorbet which even the great celery hater himself enjoyed! The potato disc was my favourite though, mostly because the crunchy outside gave way to the most surprising almost liquid sour cream hit with the chives and lime as a subtle background flavour – my sister out it well, a sort of posh Pringle, cleverly evoking childhood tastes.

Course 1
Pumpkin velouté, a la greque mushrooms, Parmesan gnocchi 

Kurt angerer, gurner veltliner, Austria 2012

We ordered the market menu , mid-price with flight of wines but you could very easily have a reasonable lunch here 3 courses for the same price as a fairly average meal at Browns if not cheaper!
This course was another triumph for the siphon (mum – if we buy you one will you make this for Christmas dinner?) The only slight disappointment was the lack of crunch, perhaps a Parmesan crisp would have added to the texture as the mushroom pieces and gnocchi, while not filling and bursting with flavour were a little monotonous and blending into one where a salty snap might have lifted the dish. With this we were given a lovely wine, not overly sweet but definitely sweeter than the very dry wine we got next, it balanced the soup nicely. ( I apologise if this is wrong but I’m still learning about wine, but I do know it was a big improvement on sainsburys basics or college Chardonnay )

Course 2
Confit salmon, crayfish, garden apple, sauce vouvray


I will love any well cooked piece of salmon you put in front if me and am a firm believer of curing, slow baking and pan frying but confit is definitely my favourite. For those of you that don’t know, confit is where the meat or fish is slow cooked in medium hot oil for a longer time than you would cook it most ways for a really rich, melting in the mouth taste (although admittedly it’s not the healthiest way…). With this salmon was little individually shelled pieces of langoustine (how you get the inside out so delicately I have no idea) as well as pools of sharp apple purée and a gorgeous salty ,what must have been, sauce vouvray which I shamelessly admit to licking off the plate it was so good! To finish the dish were texturally interesting crispy salmon skin (definitely one up on yo sushi) and salmon pieces wrapped in the thinnest piece of apple I’ve ever seen, a sort of apple spring roll. With this we were offered some lovely homemade bread, not particularly special but just what you need, if it had been too complex it would have detracted from the menu, plus my mum was really impressed with the butter in the shape of bee hives….. No one can say they were stingy with the bread either, when you finished they would immediately offer you a second, warm slice. ( I had to stop after the second fearing I wouldn’t have space for the remaining courses)

Course 3
Beetroot cooked on open coals sheep curd and horseradish 

Chateau Rives-Blanques, Chardonnay-Chenin, France 2012


Midsummer house isn’t famed for its theatricality, it’s more about great tasting seasonal produce (think more Manoir than fat duck ) but it still managed to keep it tongue on cheek with this next course, almost as soon as our wine (the slightly drier white I talked about earlier) had been poured, a what looked like a portable barbecue complete with a large green done was wheeled in. Aptly named the big green egg we were swiftly informed by the chef ( a real kitchen chef and all – what a relief) how the Beetroot she was expertly carving had been cooked for 2days (I think ) over open coals for a smoky flavour to off set the sweetness of the Beetroot. Funnily enough, while impressive, it wasn’t the yellow Beetroot, candied Beetroot, barbecues beetroot, lush Beetroot purée or the fact that my dad was actually eating all this Beetroot having almost declared himself allergic to it at the start of the meal, it was the soft coats curd. It was like a more flavoursome ricotta and offset the acidity and sweetness of Beetroot – I might have eaten my sisters sheep curd too…

Course 4
Slow roasted monkfish, bay leaf, mushroom and onion infusion

Luigi Bosca, Pinot Noir, Argentina, 2011

I had been enlightened earlier of how amazing this dish was before I came by U8 who declared this her favourite dish and it did not disappoint. I think the dishes got better through the lunch. This fish was introduced by way of an apparent coffee service ( I hope your not going to do this with our
cafetiere was the die hard coffee addict my mother’a comment). The waiter explained that he was using the cafetieres to create a mushroom broth infusion to pour over the monkfish. It came with crunchy onion slivers, so thin you could hardly compare them to the hulking batter laden rings you get from the kebab van (although that is my post-club guilty treat on occasion). Every time I have monkfish I’m surprised by how wonderfully meaty it is for a fish, like eating a pork fillet, lighter than a steak but not half hearted and thin like a plaice. This was accompanied by the most lovely red wine, rather like the monkfish it wasn’t as full bodied as the next red, more delicate but was red nonetheless and carried more weight than the white.
 
Course 5
Slow roasted loin of venison, braised neck, Brussels sprouts, pancetta and quince

Lammershoek, South Africa, 2010

After returning from the incredibly decadent bathrooms ( fancy hand towels) and having my seat pushed in behind me as I sat down, and my napkin laid over my lap, I felt incredibly pampered (although admittedly the first time the waiter tried to push in my chair I got a little confused ending in an awkward tussle but we sorted it in the end). The next course felt like Christmas, except what you would have for Christmas dinner if you didn’t feel the need to push your stomach to the limits on Christmas Day . I am a big fan of two things on this dish, the recent re-occurance of venison on dishes, and Brussels sprouts. I know most people are not fans of this seasonal vegetable but I assure you when each leaf is individually peeled for you and served with melt in the mouth venison, a thick red wine jus and a shaving of chocolate it can make even the most anti-sprout protestor enjoy it (exhibit A – my father who appears to be really fussy from this post, he’s not that bad). Having said that the highlight of this dish were the pools of sweet and sharp quince purée and the most succulent braised neck, sharp and salty and soft mmmmmm in fact the only disappointment was that the dark chocolate was masked by these flavours, perhaps a little more would have rendered it not entirely superfluous to the  dish, but baring in mind this was the first day of serving this dish for them it was otherwise exquisite. Even the red meat phobe to my left (my sister had a bad experience with a steak in France) really enjoyed this dish.

Course 6
 Lemon posset, blueberries, lemon Espuma

The keen eyed among you will start to notice a theme, Daniel Clifford seems to be making good use of his siphon. Not that I’m complaining – not only does it gives dishes the most interesting dimension, but I’m also now going to be able to recreate dishes thanks to the persuasiveness of midsummer house foams (note to kings college GOOD use of foams in dishes ). This was almost my favourite dish excepting the second pudding (is it that obvious I have a sweet tooth). Having newly discovered lemon meringue pie (I know 30 years too late) the sweet lemon curd like base was off set by a sharp layer of crushed frozen blueberries and blueberry coulis (who would have thought that the blueberries rather than the lemon was the sour part). Finally the whole dish is finished with a silky lemon foam and tiny pieces of blueberry meringue. Nothing was overly sweet and this proved the perfect palate cleanser before a return to Christmassy flavours for dessert.

Course 7
Roasted chestnuts, caramel, chestnut frangipane

Tenute Marchese Antinori, Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico, 2008

I don’t know why but it has never occurred to me to mix chocolate and chestnut. Chestnut and sprouts, chestnut and cheese even chestnut and caramel but never with chocolate. Oh how wrong I was. This was the best dish. A crumbly salty base, topped with a silky cold chocolate mousse (so much more than an ice cream) with soft chestnuts, frangipane and drizzled with caramel, scattered with hazelnuts. The lost amazing mixture if flavours and textures, each strong enough to hold their own against the other. You’re probably wondering how on earth we managed to fit all this in but trust me when the food is this good – it’s worth it. Wash this down nicely with vin santo (if you have never tried cantuccini biscotti dipped in vin santo stop reading and go try it now) and it was the perfect dessert

Not that we were finished at this point, there was still soft doughnuts with lemon dipping sauce, so good we ate them before I could get a picture. Then ended the meal with complimentary champagne which the sommelier helpfully put in front of us despite the fact my mum and sister had left saying – aah well just two glasses each for you then.


Even that wasn’t the end of it. We were then taken on a tour if the kitchens by our lovely waiter who first took us to the wine cellar and prep kitchen. I kid you not, I held a Dom Perignon 1985. The more I see of life the more I realise I’m going to have to marry for money ! Then round to the main kitchen where I meet the head chef Dan. After that glass of champagne I brazenly recall my experience at Le Manoir, he says we if you don’t ask you don’t get and offers me a work experience slot at midsummer ( turns out he worked at Le Manoir too – watch this space) Finally we end with the pastry kitchen (obviously my faveourite place) where I get to try the new fig and chocolate dessert as well. And on that sugar and career high, I had to come all the way back down to earth, with an opera.