Bore off Bourdain.

Bore off Bourdain.

I have wanted to put something together about this since I read it last week but I haven’t had the time. So now I have a spare few minutes I would like to draw your attention to the following article:


 Clickety click…

Right, now I am assuming you have read the article in full and have assertained that Anthony Bourdain is talking utter bollocks. 

I understand that if something in society doesn’t click with you that naturally you won’t be a fan. However when it’s clear you don’t understand that paricular thing at all I would advise keeping your opinion to yourself until such a time when you know enough about it to comment. I am a strong believer in ‘You aren’t entitled to an opinion. You are entitled to an informed opinion’.

With this in mind it’s worth noting that craft beer is not going away and whether you like it or not it is making huge waves globally. As a broader concept craft beer is a complex sensory experience based on your individual perception of a beer that has been designed to deliver certain things. This means some people will take different things away from the same beer and there is no right or wrong answer, naturally that then leads to conversations between people about these particular experiences. Beers using unique blends of hops, malt, barley etc (sometimes with the addition of more adventurous ingredients) are catering for people who want more than a pint of mild or a pint of gassy keg lager. Why is this a negative thing?

Food is a mainstream sensory experience that almost everyone partakes in, craft beer is more niche than food by its very nature but I am failing to see the problem with this in comparison. Bourdain spends his life telling us his opinion on food so whats different? He must have an issue with one of two things:

1) Brewers getting excited about being able to innovate and offer us something new.

Or

2) People enjoying it…

I find it frustrating as he is pretty decent at what he does and he knows his stuff. Beer links so well into food it seems very short sighted to write off craft beer in general just because it’s too interesting to people! This has made me realise something though. I am going to do more writing about craft beer as it is something I am very passionate about occupationally and personally, but for now I will just say this to Mr. Bourdain: 

For somebody who was part of a show that took single spoonfuls of a chefs dish and critiqued them to call people who love and review craft beer ‘Zombies’ is total hypocrisy. Jump off your high horse buddy boy. Your famous for talking about an equally valid sensory experience… but I will raise a glass of wonderfully crafted amber nectar to your health nonetheless. I might even take notes and show my friends.

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Wayland goes the whole 9 Yards

Wayland goes the whole 9 Yards

Some of you may recall a few weeks ago we ran a bit of a support campaign for a very special project coming out of the city of Worcester: Wayland’s Yard. The brain child of former professional rugby player Sam Smith, the team at Wayland’s Yard are aiming to raise the bar for food lovers in and around the city. It is all too easy to accept generic coffee chains as the best option due to them being thrust in our faces at every turn, this however is clearly not the case. Luckily for people who are searching for more than soulless syrup laden latte’s and a £12 austerity portion panini, some among us are prepared to rebel. Sam and his team are those very rebels. I was very kindly asked to attend the soft launch of Wayland’s Yard on 15th October 2016 so I could answer the question… Will Wayland’s Yard make waves in Worcester? Keep reading to find out…

Upon arriving at the shop, myself and two friends waited while a few final adjustments were made before they started serving. It was really interesting and encouraging to see everybody getting involved to get things moving. There was a real vibe of everybody pulling together and knuckling down to ensure things went smoothly, even a few current Warriors players who didn’t make the trip to Russia for the weekends game were mucking in! Credit to them. Very much a compliment to the collective team spirit on show all round. Admittedly it was also quite good for the rugby fan boy within me.

Once the prep had finished we were signaled over to order and I went for three cappuccinos to get us started.They came over fairly promptly considering they were still dealing with deliveries and trying to find their feet, one thing I loved about this was the fact that regardless of the organised chaos of opening the shop while they were still in the throws of developing it to its full potential, there was still no rushing the latte art in our coffee cups. It showcased the care taken in the presentation of their produce and it really makes a difference when your handed something so personal from a smiling, enthusiastic member of staff. All of this became an after thought when I actually tried the coffee… In a good way! I have clearly been accepting freeze dried Carte Noir at work for far too long because I can honestly say that I am struggling to think of a better coffee than this one. The full bodied, rich flavour of the beans really came through and the texture of the silky, frothy head paired beautifully to create a genuinely luxurious experience. I would put this coffee up against anything you find elsewhere on the high street and be confident of winning every time. Credit to Wayland’s Yard and Method roastery for opening my eyes on on that front. Brilliant.

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While I was thoroughly enjoying my coffee I was mulling over the menu, which at first glance strikes me as a set of creative dishes that all have an element that removes it from the norm. For instance the eggs benedict is accompanied by pink hollandaise and the toast section of the menu is home to the Marmite, shiitake mushrooms and Worcester gold cheddar, which was my instant first choice. I can honestly say I have never thought to put Marmite anywhere near cheese on toast but I was keen to give it a go. I also thought the addition of two poached eggs for an additional £1.50 was really quite reasonable for a much more substantial meal, at a total of £7.20 your getting a pretty balanced and healthy brunch.

***One thing I feel I must mention is the bread, as what really annoys me in cafes and pretty much anywhere that deals with bread is the question ‘white or brown?’ there are so many alternatives to white or brown Hovis! Alas, not an issue with these guys. Upon ordering I was asked ‘Sourdough or Rye?’… which represented a moment of realisation for me. Sam and the team are seriously building something that I can subscribe to. This place is all me! It’s the little details that make the biggest difference sometimes.***

In terms of execution I will again have to give credit where it is due, as I was handed a really well presented meal with two perfectly poached eggs and a generous scattering of mushrooms quilted in rich, golden melted cheese carefully placed on toasted, crispy sour dough bread and dressed with flecks of green lentil sprouts. I have had mushrooms and cheese on toast before but I felt the Marmite genuinely lifted it to a different level, cutting through the velvety indulgence of the cheddar and complimenting the delicate woody flavour of the mushrooms below. When you take a second to add the oozing cascade of golden yolk from the eggs were looking at a genuinely perfect Saturday brunch. Again, very well put together and a great addition to the menu.

***Special mention goes to the fry up that my colleagues ordered as that was probably the best looking fry up I have seen in Worcester.***


Overall Wayland’s Yard made a big impression on me during their first outing. Sometimes these kind of things can ride the hype train and underwhelm when they are actually realised, however every single detail on show from the coffee to the light fittings has been an extension of Sam and his passion for making this a unique experience. The food is tasty and wholesome, the prices are reasonable, the staff are enthusiastic and accommodating, the coffee is bloody superb and the owner is passionate about quality. I’m not being funny but what more could you want? The other worry can be whether people will ‘get it?’ but Wayland’s Yard presents an accessible, good value experience that leaves any worry of pretentiousness at the door. There’s no bullsh*t. It is exactly what it set out to be…

‘Proper coffee. Proper food’ 

I encourage everybody to get on board and support Sam and the team in making this the success that it deserves to be. They care about the food and drink you are being offered and they care about supporting Worcester. You can experience it for yourself from Saturday 22nd October when Wayland’s Yard becomes your new favourite place to be.

www.waylandsyard.com/

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Local heroes: Feast Foods

Local heroes: Feast Foods

Something that has always really bothered me in Wolverhampton is the lack of choice when it comes to food and I am mainly referring to the city center, as there are a few small independent businesses that have fashioned a place for themselves within the boundaries of WV, but the city centre has always been a bit of a joke. If your satisfied with KFC, McDonald’s and Subway then you’re going to love it here but the majority of us (millennial’s especially) want and need a lot more. We are all increasingly enthusiastic to experience new things and try food and drink we maybe haven’t had access to before.

This is why I am trying to do a series of write ups centered around the few local newcomers that are trying to make a difference and offer us an element of choice, innovation and food with some heart. If you are local and you care about food enough to take a leap of faith on that idea that you have had bubbling away under the surface for as long as you can remember, then we want to speak to you. Whether your making waves in Wolverhampton or within your own town or city, you deserve as much spotlight as we can give you.

First off the bat is the wonderful Feast Foods. Feast Foods are a vegan and vegetarian food delivery service based in Wolverhampton that offer clean, natural lunches available Monday to Friday and right to your place of work. After trawling through the city streets desperate not to settle for a Sainsbury’s meal deal many times it is music to my ears knowing that someone is putting their energy into giving people a healthy alternative to the usual suspects. I caught up with the mind behind Feast foods, Nadiah to find out more.

Hi Nadiah, so How did Feast foods come about?

I have always enjoyed making a lovely lunch to look forward to – it’s all I think about and I count down the hours until I get to sit and eat something delicious. Everyone would comment on my lunch that I had rustled up and would always ask for a little taste. There was defiantly a lot of food envy going on! It wasn’t until a friend of mine approached me to make what I was going to have for lunch for him as well, that I started making extra lunches for friends and family. Before I knew it, friends of friends and colleagues were asking if they could also order a lunch from me, and so FEAST was born. It’s as simple as that.

Who are the Feast foods team?

Me, myself and I. The FEAST team simply consists of just me (Nadiah). I am the brains behind FEAST and I cook every order myself. I do everything.

Are you looking to challenge the common attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian diets? Some people might think it can be quite limiting.

 I am not necessarily trying to convert people to become a vegan or vegetarian. However, I do think it is very important for people to understand where their food has come from and what they are eating. People are not aware of the health and environmental issues eating meat and dairy have, and there’s a misconception that a meal has to contain meat or dairy to be tasty.

For me FEAST is not only about creating healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes but also a way to educate people on what they can eat with it being not only tasty but healthy too. For instance, did you know…

‘Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.’

 ‘A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution.’

My father, who is Jordanian used to make me the most amazing home cooked Middle Eastern dishes when I was younger. I never appreciated it until I went to university in Brighton and didn’t want to eat these unhealthy, tasteless ready meals. So, I put my apron on and started to experiment in the kitchen. Everything was cooked fresh and I developed an understanding and appreciation towards food, and some very happy, well-fed flat mates! My mind and body benefited from eating well.

Given we are currently experiencing a national obesity crisis, I think it’s more important than ever to reassess what we are eating. We should be eating all these beautiful natural fruits and vegetables instead of constantly grazing on foods that have effects on our bodies and the environment.

With your concept being so unique in the area, do you think Wolverhampton has more potential when it comes to food? 

 Definitely – Wolverhampton has huge potential when it comes to food. Compared to other cities, it’s very difficult to find somewhere to eat in Wolverhampton, especially for vegetarians or vegans or those looking for a healthier option. I really struggle to eat locally and find this frustrating.

I believe we need to give people more options than always eating at fast food chains. If we only provide these unhealthy choices it is impossible to make a healthy choice. People are now interested in keeping fit and changing their food diets so we should be offering the people of Wolverhampton a chance to use their palates instead of eating processed food.

I believe FEAST is the first step towards this, and offers people in the city an affordable way to eat at least one meal a day that is meat free, fresh, healthy and delicious. I hope others start to see the potential in Wolverhampton and continue to invest in the city’s food industry.

If you could suggest one of your dishes to convert somebody who wasn’t sure about veganism, what would you pick?

I would suggest the Black Bean Chilli with Nachos. It is so tasty! It is packed with aromatic spices, rich in flavour and completely addictive. Made with crisp peppers, black beans, mixed beans and served with mini garlic nachos, it is so simple but always a satisfying lunch.

 Whats everyones personal favourite dish from your menu’s so far?

 With an exception to the Black Bean Chilli dish I get asked frequently for the Falafel Salad Box to be put on the menu. I make authentic Middle Eastern falafel, which is served with homemade houmous, soy tzatziki, flat bread and a mixed salad. I also sell this dish in my new food trailer

Where would you love to see Feast Foods in 2 years time?

 I would love to have café or coffee shop serving delicious healthy veggie and vegan food and craft coffee. I used to work for a coffee roastery in Brighton and miss having a beautiful coffee now that I have moved back home. If I could bring this to Wolverhampton too, I would be really happy for completely selfish reasons. I would also like FEAST to be doing frequent events and food festivals with our new trailer.

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Finally, anything you would like to say to the readers?

 I really believe that Wolverhampton needs and deserves new, fresh and healthy food options. At FEAST, my mission to fill this gap by designing exciting dishes with fresh and nutritious ingredients at an affordable price.

90% of my customers are meat eaters and all of them keep coming back to order FEAST lunches because they feel happy and healthy for eating natural, meat free, delicious food. FEAST gives the people of Wolverhampton the chance to have a choice to eat delicious, nutritious and healthy lunches!

I am very passionate about contributing to where I live and hope this can make a real difference. Equally, I look forward to one day being able to provide jobs to people in Wolverhampton who share the same work ethic and passion for food that I have.

 

Thanks to Nadiah for giving up her time to tell us more about Feast foods and helping to diversify options available to the local community. It’s a brave move starting any business but starting up something that goes against the grain is even more bold. I wish her the best of luck in the future and hope you all support her if you can. You can find FF on Instagram for some beautiful examples of their dishes and visit The Feast Foods website  to get involved!

 

 

 

Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Wayland’s Yard needs you!

Plenty of us get up in a morning and wish we could follow our hearts and take that leap of faith that will finally make our dreams a reality. We all have things that we would do anything to be able to accomplish in life but sometimes can’t quite push ourselves to do it. These pipe dreams could be travelling the world, writing a book, moving abroad or to someone like Sam Smith, running your own business.

Some readers may know Sam from his time as a rugby union player for Harlequins and Worcester Warriors, what you may not know however is that he has an incredible passion for coffee. A passion that clearly wasn’t satisfied by keeping it to himself, so naturally this developed into an idea. This idea then slowly evolved into Worcester’s newest answer to the UK’s growing love of modern, progressive food and drink, Wayland’s Yard.

 Sam now calls Worcester his home and to give back to the city he wants to provide everyone with the incredible coffee and great food they deserve, enjoying the fruits of local produce in a grade II listed building with a private walled garden and every effort being taken to help you relax and enjoy. Who can argue with that? It sounds special right? That’s because it will be…although to get this going he really needs your help.

How can you help?.. Wayland’s Yard is now crowd funding.

 

Being a part of the birth of Wayland’s Yard doesn’t just come with a huge amount of gratitude but also with some awesome benefits. You can start with as little as £10 and go as far as £250 but every little helps, see below for a list of what bang you get for your buck.

  • £10 – Draw yourself into our epic wall mural, becoming part of the shop.
  • £20- 5 free coffees and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £35 – 5 yoga classes in our community room with the amazing Yaur Yoga (www.yauryoga.com)
  • £45 – 2.5 hour home brew class at the shop with Sam and a free bag of coffee. Learn to make coffee the Wayland’s way for whenever you can’t make it to the shop!
  • £50 – 15 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £100 – 10% off hot drinks, 30 free coffees, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life and draw yourself into our epic wall mural.
  • £250 – 10% off food and hot drinks, 60 free coffees, invite to a home brew class at the shop for you and 1 friend, Wayland’s Yard t-shirt, a free slice of cake on your birthday for life, draw yourself into our epic wall mural.

 

I will be working with Sam and Wayland’s Yard in the coming months when they are open for business to show the world what they are missing in Worcester. In the meantime lets make it happen. Lets support Sam in his journey and repay his faith in setting up shop in Worcester. For more information on the project and to see where your money will go hit the ‘Make it happen’ link below. Read. Pledge. Get ready for Wayland’s Yard.

 Make it happen!!

www.waylandsyard.com

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Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Rainy day ribs-Smoke without fire

Bank holidays in the UK tend to fall foul of a particularly unfortunate pattern. The weeks leading up to it will be scorching hot with an unrelenting heat and cloudless sky, then like a flash as soon as the bank holiday is within touching distance the rain starts like a switch has been flicked. Dampening picnic and BBQ plans alike and trapping us in our houses with ITV2 and it’s one thousandth play of Jurassic park 2 or Uncle Buck.

That being said it’s not all bad. Theres nothing wrong with rolling with the tide as it were, making lemonade from the lemons we should quite frankly expect by now! Get to the butcher and get something you have fancied cooking for a while, grab a Blu-ray you fancy watching and settle in for some extreme pre-winter comfort food. It’s a win-win situation.

For me it was a rib recipe I have wanted to try for such a long time it seems crazy that I haven’t got around to making it yet. I make no secret of being a passionate advocate of year round BBQ and rain or shine I don’t think you can beat biting through the bark of a rich, crispy piece of beef or chicken that is fresh off the coals. Sometimes however it is just not possible for everybody to get out there and fire up the grill, so this is my way of bringing that kind of experience indoors without setting your moms curtains on fire.

BBQ Ribs – serves one as a meal or 2 to share.Double amounts if needed.

What you will need: 

  • 6 individual meaty pork ribs. (You can use a rack you just need to cut them into sections of four)
  • 2 stock cubes
  • salt
  • A bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce. I usually make my own but for this I had a bottle of Jim Beam Cherry bourbon BBQ sauce that I wanted to try out.
  • Saucepan
  • A slow cooker

Method:

  1. Get a large saucepan full of salted water to a rolling boil and add the stock cubes. Stir until fully dissolved. Pre-heat the slow cooker on ‘low’.
  2. Add the ribs to the boiling water and leave for 3 minutes.
  3. The water should have a white to grey froth on top of it, this process stops that fatty residue tainting your sauce.
  4. Quickly pat dry with some kitchen roll and press the meaty side of the ribs into the ‘rub’.
  5. Lay them into the slow cooker and pour in the sauce. Making sure they are well covered.
  6. Leave for 4 hours and then half remove the lid for the final 5th hour.
  7. By now the sauce will have reduced a little, exposing the end pieces of the ribs and creating a bit of a bark while leaving the meat smokey,loose and almost desperate to slide straight off the bone.
  8. Serve with corn on the cob rolled in cayenne, sweet potato fries and plenty of french’s mustard.

 

 

 

Roast gammon

Roast gammon

Nothing says quintisential English fare better than a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, cream tea’s and a good roast dinner. My meat of choice will always be either a shoulder of pork or a gammon joint for one reason and one reason only… the crackling. Nothing makes a roast dinner or a pork sandwich better than a glistening, salty, piece of pork fat capping it off. So below is the supremely easy, most effective way to get the best our of your pork.

 

What you will need:

  • 1 joint of smoked gammon (fat on) usually around 1.5kg on average
  • Sea salt 
  • large roasting tin
  1. Heat the oven to 170°C/fan 150°C. Put the gammon in the tin, sprinkle the skin with salt, then pop into the preheated oven to roast for 2½-3 hours until the internal temperature reads 65°C when measured with a digital thermometer (see tips). Be sure to take a reading from the centre of the joint.
  2. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C/fan 210°C. Wrap foil around the baking tray. Return the ham to the oven to cook for a further 20-25 minutes, until the the skin has crackled. You may have to turn the ham to crisp up the parts of the skin not open to the hot air.
  3. When the fat starts to look like real crackling, remove the ham, take off the foil and rest uncovered on a trivet for 30 minutes. Carve the ham in decent slices and serve with whatever you like!
The revolution reaches Codsall

The revolution reaches Codsall

In recent times the West midlands has started to go through something of a renaissance when it comes to food and you have to look no further than Birmingham to get a feel for what is really going on. The restaurants are starting to change and there are new and interesting places popping up on the high street like Rub smokehouse, Buffalo and Rye (review incoming) and grand centrals food court, but it’s on the side streets of the city that the real noise is being made. Just a 15 minute walk from New street station is the district of Digbeth, the birth place of the ever popular and ever growing Digbeth Dining Club which is a perfect representation of how peoples attitude towards food is evolving in the area.

No longer are people satisfied by the monthly chippy tea or rashly palming Justeat to get the nearest greasy pile of whatever thrown at you through your door, people want more. We as a country are starting to realise the power of street food and what it can do to elevate your meal times to a whole new level. We are no longer happy with what we would expect to see and that drives us to want to try new things like craft beers, foreign twists on traditional favourites and every possible level of edible ingenuity we can get our hands on. Digbeth Dining Club delivers all of these things and still leaves room to push on even further. Good job then that this food revolution has reached my doorstep in sleepy Staffordshire.

Codsall is very close to my heart as I had a family connection in the village during my childhood, going there is always an incredibly nostalgic event for me but today was not just a trip down memory lane. It was my first time at the dining club here as it has popped up several times this year already but upon walking over to the stalls, the atmosphere was as good as I imagine the first day was. There was a real buzz of anticipation around the place and I think it stands to reason it has done so well and been able to return so many times because people really do love this kind of thing now. We quickly scanned the stalls which included some mouth watering, internationally diverse food styles such as Philippine, Greek, American and Mexican.

As you can imagine making a decision and committing to something is always an issue at these kind of events but being recently initiated into the world of smoking meat I was drawn to the bright red stall of big daddies diner. Hot dogs that offer something for everybody whether that is a straight forward dog in the Slim Jim or something a little more ambitious such as the Edna. Naturally I ordered the Edna, two Slim Jim dogs on a soft white roll topped with Brewdog Hardcore IPA chili and topped with cheese and crispy onions. First off I will say the sausages themselves were really quite good, with a prominent smoked flavour and a sturdy skin that has just enough bite to make it last a little bit longer, as it’s very tempting to not savour any of it and just savage the whole thing. The chili that is smothered across the top of the sausages in all its velvety glory, is a smooth and subtly spiced beef chili that is mild enough to appeal to all but can be perked up with a touch of hot sauce. The chili would almost be a star if it was available on its own but paired with the smoke of the Slim Jim sausages it just creates such a cavalcade of complex flavours it would be sad to split them up. I don’t really feel the addition of the IPA stands out in any apparent way but it is a quirky selling point and I like it, it is a good chili and would stand up against the best of them. Big thumbs up from me and good value at £6.00.

 

Next up was The Flying Cows and their decadent selection of burgers. Anybody who even half knows me instantly makes the connection between me and a good burger, which is fine by me as the battle of the burgers was genuinely a huge achievement at the time and even helped me get the a job! It did spark a passion within me for burgers as a medium of culinary creativity, the opportunities are endless between the halves of a bun, but a good burger relies on the quality of its content and not the volume. Too many places think that a gourmet burger just means piling too many excessive,expensive or odd ingredients between a half arsed burger bun is acceptable, when really all you need is to think about the sum of its parts a little more carefully and keep it simple. It feels like The Flying Cows gets me when I ate their ‘Barry knows best’ option from their menu. I will walk you through levels here… A brioche bun, a scattering of red onions and crispy greens, a steak burger topped with melted blue cheese, a few thin slices of chorizo lashed with mayo and finished with the other half of the brioche. What an absolute champion of a burger this was. Everything just worked and you could tell these guys cared about the food that was being passed to the customers through the sheer quality of the burger itself. It was a firm and juicy patty that bordered on creamy in its texture and bonded so well with the toppings. The richness of the blue cheese paired up with the warm paprika hug of the chorizo make this a definitive burger experience. Possibly even the best one I have had this year to be fair and at £6 I can say it is great value for money. This would probably be north of £15 with sides and fries in a restaurant. Just awesome.

 

These were my two major highlights but it goes without saying that you can only eat and drink so much in a single visit and it is clear that every single vendor that had turned up was bringing their ‘A’ game and that they really cared about their produce. Honourable mentions have the go to ‘Shake that ting’ for a decent banana milkshake and ‘Street Souvlaki’ for making the place smell incredible with their Greek BBQ, although the Greek platter looked great with it’s mixture of pork, chicken and halloumi, I would say it maybe didnt look the best value of the day at £8 but there were a lot of moving parts to the dish and I was told it was super tasty and my friend did enjoy it. Broughs brewery from Wolverhampton had two cask ales available on their bar but we only tried the golden ale. It was quite a generic ale in terms of its flavour profile but it would have been easy to drink in the warm weather had I been in it for the long haul. I just hope next time I can get round a little bit more and try some of the other delights that are delivered to the village in such exciting fashion.

To close out I have to give a huge nod to the organisers of this and Digbeth Dining Club for bringing something different to our local area, making amazing street food something we can get almost at will rather than it only being something we experience at borough market. Up until recently street food in the West Midlands started and finished at a jacket potato covered in tinned beans or a boiled hot dog in a 30p white roll. Thanks to these wonderful people I can honestly say the axis of gastronomic monotony has officially been broken. Settle for Greggs no more my friends. Go to Codsall Dining Club and join the revolution!