Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for October, 2012

The birthday Progress – more food!

The Birthday Progress – more food!

Yes Jane’s big birthday was a real food and people pleasure ride.  Let me take you through the rest of it.

It all started in our hometown, with after work drinks and nibbles with work colleagues.  The nuts and olives just make you drink more.  The rather splendid Tapas at Claytons lounge in Marlow did keep us enticed.  I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favourite ways of eating.  Lots of different taste sensations, some naughtier than others (some feeling almost healthy…), but it just makes sure you don’t get bored.  It feels like the antithesis of pizza.  I do like a bit of pizza, but like small ones that you can share bits of each others.  Otherwise that last slice of a giant one just feels too much like hard work to me!

Hail, hail the gang’s all here!

We had lunch on the way to Devon.  The Cross House Inn at Doynton (Gloucestershire borders with Avon and Somerset – near Bath) had a really splendid lunch delight.  We knew we were in for loads of food over the next week or so, and the menu looked a little on the heavy side.  Then we noticed “ Hot Belly Pork Roll with Apple Sauce and a handful of chips”.  This was £2.50.  What a tasty bargain!

Next day we met up with Jane’s sister, brother-in-law, and their brother and sister in-laws. They are party animals.  We were all booked into The Lazy Toad in Brampford Speke, near Exeter.  I have blogged about the wonder of their food before, and even gone as far as recommending on Trip Advisor.  We had always been there just for lunch, but this time we were going the whole hog (which they have on the menu occasionally…) by having the full evening menu and collapsing to bed after.

After pressies (great excitement) we moved on.  The menu is sort of fine British cooking with a modern twist.  You can see that from the starters:

Ham Hock Terrine

And the mains: (below)

Creedy Craver Organic Roast Chicken – like chicken used to be

And what fine puds!  You’ll have to go to sample them…

We had assumed we would not need breakfast.  But you know how it is – you manage somehow.  No lunch after our walk – because we really didn’t need that.  Mike and Judy, our old neighbours from Cheltenham days, joined us in the evening in Bovey.  I cooked a light dinner of steamed salmon (just stick a lid on the frying pan after adding lemon juice), with crushed potatoes and green beans.

Gidleigh park – last blog – was reserved for the day itself.  Go back if you missed that one!

After one night of food abstinence, we set off for St Enodoc hotel in Rock, North Cornwall.  This place was very modern, lovely views – and has a Michelin starred restaurant.  (Can you feel a theme coming on?)  The restaurant has a full fish tasting menu with the potential to have a flight of wine with it – different wine to enhance each course.  We wanted simpler – and Nathan Outlaw is most famous for sea food.  I had the same starter, which we shared a bit, both nights.  Queenie Scallops.  Six gorgeously tasty little melting moments of succulent delight.  It seemed wrong to eat them.  Bread was absolutely essential to mop up the quite marvellous sauce.  We did fish (bream and plaice) on the bone on night one, then fillet (grilled Brill and Haddock) on the second evening.  Look, the stuff is really kept immensely simple.  Finest possible ingredients not played about with too much at all.  Sometimes simple just is best.  The veggies were simple and fine (would have preferred the leaks to be 2 minutes longer, but minor detail based on wanting less crunch than many prefer).

Light breakfast the next morning, because we were meeting our friends Gus and Wendy from Gweek area of Cornwall at The Lost Gardens of Heligan.  Thank goodness they did a simple light lunch, or we might have gone off “pop”!

We had managed to spread it out a bit – both the friends and the food – but it still meant we were overwhelmed both with smiling happily and with high level food.  The beans on toast was such a down to earth delight for supper that evening.  And I never know if a nice Rioja is the best wine with this, but it certainly finished us off!

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The Birthday Progress – The Day itself

Gidleigh Park

We had a lot of people and things to fit into Jane’s big birthday (no need to ask which – it had a zero, and that’s all you need to know)!  The day itself we shared with our friends and old neighbours from Cheltenham times, Mike and Judy.  We had shared another celebration with them – our 25th wedding anniversary coincided with their 40th.  So Silver and Rubies combined!  We joined them in a foodie holiday in Italy then.  This time we lunched at Gidleigh Park

Gidleigh Park was voted No. 1 in Sunday Times top 100 restaurants.  A birthday lunch not to be missed?  Well, let me share some of it with you (not physically of course…).  Two Michelin stars have been awarded to the place.  Chef is Michael Caines (he is the guy you have seen on TV – the only 1 armed chef that I know of…)

So here’s what we had from the new Autumn Menu – which was launched on that day.  Auspicious or what?

Pigeon Breast was a great start.  But I’m forgetting, we had ‘canapés’  to start, with drinks in the lounge.  I’ve put inverted commas because they weren’t the usual bits of quite enticing stuff on a bit of toast – they were mini starters in disguise.  This is why your lunch takes 4 hours.  They do this at the end too – Coffee and Petit Fours does not do justice to the 3 mini puddings that arrive, sumptuously, back in the lounge with your coffee.  Getting ahead of myself here…

As you can see, there is a lot more going on than the pigeon breasts! It was just gorgeous.  The other starter was of the vegetarian sort – and was as good looking as this one, and just as exciting. It doesn’t sound so when it says ‘medley of roast Mediterranean vegetables’.  But there you go – it was far more than it’s description.

Pigeon Breast starter

And so to the main course.  Dartmoor leg of lamb.  Three of us went for pink, but they don’t get all prissy if you want it cooked through.  Some places seem to.  That’s the way service was here.  So many staff, all smiley and feeling like they were enjoying it as much as you, to be honest.  I don’t know if you just rush out and have beans or a hamburger when you are surrounded by such joyous smells and perfect presentation all day – but they all enjoyed the setting down and your reaction to the revelation.

We had chosen one bottle of red to go with, but one of our party prefers white.  Now, the glass was brought out with the bottle it was coming from, then transferred to a small carafe for you to take what you wanted.  All you guys who are trained in these fine sommelier arts will recognise this, I’m sure, but blimey it just made me smile and think “that’s why we are here”.  It just takes it up to a different level, really.

Look, I probably don’t need to say how good the main course was.  Just look at it.  if I could arrange scratch and sniff panels on this blog, then I would.  I’m going to let the photos do the rest of the talking.  Plate of apple – wow – Tarte Tatin, mousse, ice cream and a cider coulis.  Yes, but just look at it!  And then the petits fours, and the Happy Birthday sign.  Just how nice is that?  Final picture is Jane and myself out for a walk after the event.  The grounds are stunning.  No, you don’t want to eat every day like this, for sure, but if an occasion needs to be made special, then Gidleigh ticks many, many boxes.

Dartmoor Lamb

Apple Plate

The Petit Fours

Birthday girl, and me

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