Archive for the ‘Taste testing’ Category

Goldbrick House hosted their inaugural Fabulous Food Night on Thursday. The theme, pig: nose to tail. There are a further five events planned, to be held once a month, covering a variety of produce such as lamb, game, seafood and steak.

They’ve been designed by head chef, Matthew Peryer, for those who love food, want to learn more and share his passion. The idea is to eat lots, and I mean lots, whilst Matthew talks about the food, how its sourced as well as the cooking methods and techniques used, some of which are traditional but oft forgotten.

The setting for the evening was the Loft Restaurant, a private dining area, where we were greeted by the chef and our waitress. Matthew briefly explained how the evening would progress, with a selection of dishes served across three ‘courses’. We would be served an ‘appetiser’ from the first two courses and were then to help ourselves from sharing platters. If we found ourselves wanting more, there was plenty more in the kitchen. 

A quick glance at the menu showed that we were in for a meaty treat and a rollercoaster ride through the animal. They weren’t kidding about it being nose to tail, the menu pretty much covered everything but the squeak. Some of it made me nervous and other dishes were firm favourites I couldn’t wait to dig into!

Our pig

Our pig was a Gloucester Old Spot which had been reared in the Cotswolds. It was actually half a pig which had been purchased by the restaurant. With only 14 of us dining, a half pig was more than enough! The Old Spot is a British pedigree breed and one of the best pigs for eating mainly due to the good layer of back fat and marbling which keeps the meat succulent and flavoursome. Pork is one of the most versatile of meats, lending itself to rapid cooking, slow braising and curing, as would be demonstrated in the menu.

Just for starters

We went straight in at the deep end with our appetiser of sauteed brains and truffled egg. This was a crostini topped with soft scrambled egg, the finely chopped brains running through it, drizzled with truffle oil and finished with delicate pea shoots. Brains have a similar consistency to egg yolk so this was the perfect way to serve them for the uninitiated! The hardest part over and it wasn’t all that bad!

To complete the course, we had a classic liver parfait, a selection of cold cuts and pork tonnato. The liver parfait was rich, buttery and incredibly smooth. A much stronger flavour than chicken liver and perhaps an acquired taste but one I’d definitely try again. 

The cold cuts consisted of prosciutto, fennel and peppercorn salami, chorizo and honey roast ham. The honey roast ham was prepared at the restaurant but the prosciutto was from Italy whilst the salami and chorizo were actually locally produced. They do make their own cured meats in the restaurant but owing to the process taking months, there was none of the home-cured produce available that night.

The head

The pork tonnato was a beautifully tender pork fillet, coated in spices including crushed peppercorns and fennel seeds, seared and served very slightly pink. Outstanding. Does it spoil it to say now that it was my favourite part of the whole meal?!

Our appetiser for the second course was crispy ear. The ear had been braised for three hours, then coated in Panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Crispy on the outside, almost sweet and rubbery on the inside. I’d liken it to over-cooked squid! Nothing to write home about but another one to tick off the list of strange things eaten.

This course was all about the head. We had rolled and braised head stuffed with hazelnuts, orange and rosemary, slow roasted pig head and braised cheek stew with apples and sage.

Part of the head had been boned, removed from the skin, stuffed, rolled and braised in pork stock for around five hours before being sliced and pan-fried. The head is quite gelatinous and fatty and benefits from very long, slow cooking. The pan-frying at the end helps to render and crisp up any remaining fat.

The slow roasted pig head was the remainder of the head, snout and eyeball included. The meat was tasty and tender but hard to find. The eyeball, we were told, was ‘ok’!

Braised cheeks are extremely tender and full of flavour. I’d consider them to be one of the best parts of the animal, yet extremely difficult to get hold of. One of the things which struck me most about the evening was that we take just a few prime cuts for granted and yet so much of the animal can be eaten. It’s incredible to think that not so many years ago we would have been eating the whole animal but now most of it is going to waste because so few people are prepared to put the time into the cooking.

The body

By now, we’d already consumed an astonishing amount of protein, with a little greenery and carbs on the side, but there was more. Our final course came from the body. Paprikash of hearts, liver and tongue, seared loin ballotine with black pudding, sage and spinach and slow roast belly with crackling.

I wasn’t too taken by the paprikash which had the kidney and some braised leg meat thrown in for good measure! The Hungarian style sauce was lovely but by this point, despite my best efforts, I was beaten by the offal.

The loin is the succulent eye of the pork chop. It had been butterflied and stuffed with the black pudding, sage and spinach before being poached then seared. It was definitely a dish I’d recommend with some creamy mash, gravy and apple sauce.

The belly pork had been roasting in a low oven for 24 hours. Juicy meat and satisfyingly crunchy crackling. What more is there to say?!

The tail-end?

Thankfully there was no sign of a pork-based dessert, I was stuffed, but sticking with the pig theme there was a refreshing cider sorbet to cleanse the palate.

An incredible and thoroughly enjoyable evening. Informative and plenty of food for thought. I’m looking forward to trying another fabulous feast with Goldbrick House. The question is, which one?!


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Like a child at Christmas I was up with the larks this morning ready to make my way across town to Whiteladies Road. Destination: RockFish Grill & Seafood Market. Reason for visit: smoked salmon tasting.

I was honoured to have been invited to RockFish to take part in a smoked salmon tasting session with a number of other Bristol foodies and bloggers. The aim of the session was to help RockFish decide on which smoked salmon to offer customers this Christmas.

Our session started with a straw poll of how many of us has ever tasted several smoked salmon in one sitting. Answer: no one. It’s not surprising, how many of us actually taste several varieties of anything at the same time, let alone a luxury ingredient such as smoked salmon? We were in for a treat.

Mitch Tonks went on to explain how best to serve smoked salmon – with a tartare of creme fraiche, dill, chopped egg and capers and not, as many of us probably regularly do, with lemon and a slice of brown bread. Something with a little sourness really compliments the fish. We were to have ours plain today since we really needed to taste the fish and mark it on its merits.

Mitch also described the curing and smoking process and told us that his own entry into our blind tasting today had been left out due to a disaster in his attempt to smoke the fish whilst frozen, a method which is apparently well used. We’ll have to look forward to Mitch’s own entry sometime soon.

We had five different smoked salmon to taste, each quite unique in its texture, colour, flavour and smell. The variety was astonishing and the vast differences between them unexpected. Once we had tasted and commented on each, Mitch and the fishmonger, Neil, told us the origin of the fish, its price per kilo, as well as how it had been cured, smoked and sliced.

After working our way through all five, cleansing out palettes with water, bread and a glass of crisp Macon-Vinzelles as we went, we were asked to rank the fish in order of preference. Here’s how I ranked them:

  1. Bloydits. This smoked salmon is from the Shetlands and priced at £31/kilo. It has a lovely, subtle cure, good texture, isn’t too oily and has a sweet smokiness to it. What stood out for me was that the taste of the smoke and the salmon melded together. With so many you often get the flavour of the fish followed by the smoke or vice versa whereas Bloydits salmon has a rounded smoke and fish flavour. Following our session, RockFish announced that this salmon will be available to its customers for Christmas. Save your pennies and treat yourself!
  2. Frank Hederman. Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon from the Clare Isle was the only Irish contender.  The smokiness of this salmon was quite sweet, almost fruity, it had a dense texture and was bright in colour owing to the fish being farmed in the wild. It was difficult to choose between this and Bloydits salmon. This was the overall favourite of the taste testers but what clinched it for me was the value for money that Bloydits offered over Frank Hederman’s. At £49/kilo, you would really need to splash out for this one.
  3. Brown and Forest. Served at the Ivy Caprice and coming in at £35/kilo, this salmon is very strongly but unevenly smoked. The smoke really penetrates the outer edges of the slices of salmon but this flavour is not carried right through the fish. A lovely texture and a strong contender nonetheless.
  4. The Valley Smokehouse. A local smokehouse supplied this very pale and lightly smoked sample. This was smoked salmon as many of us know it. It was the cheapest of the fish at £21/kilo and certainly good value for money if you are looking for decent salmon without pushing the boat out too far.
  5. Tim Croft. Tim Croft is a friend of Mitch’s and an experimenter. Tim used an unusual cure for his salmon which incorporated lemon, dill, garlic salt, onion salt and rum. This wasn’t for me, I’m afraid! The fish was very smokey and had an overpowering flavour from the cure which lingered in the mouth. It’s always good to experiment but I’m not convinced this one was successful.

Our final treat of the morning was a fish masterclass with Neil. He first showed off the array of fresh fish, much of which had been brought in from Brixham and  explained what to look for when picking fresh fish. He went on to deftly demonstrate how to dress a crab after which we tasted the sweet fruits of his labour.

Neil holds 20 minute fishmonger masterclasses every Wednesday morning and it is well worth popping along.

This was the first time RockFish have held such an event, a great opportunity for local food fanatics to get involved in the restaurant community and for restaurants to get good, honest feedback as well as test new ideas and products before they reach paying customers. I’m hoping that RockFish hold more of these sessions and that other local restaurants follow suit.

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