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Pop-up and Event reviews

    Pop-up and Event reviews

    Lunch at The Skills Show

    When I was invited to attend a lunch cooked by students as part of The Skills Show, the first thing that crept into my head was a Whitney Houston song. Once that was over, I remembered a course that was hosted at University College Birmingham, which gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the bakery and purchase delightful bread and cakes made by students. So of course I said yes.

    The lunch was part of the Skills Show, the UK’s largest careers event for young people, jam-packed with exhibitors from further education, apprenticeships and industry. Organisers Find a Future, are keen on experiential learning, so there were plenty of hands-on demos for students to talk part in, simulation centres and the chance to prepare and serve lunch overseen by Aktar Islam, from The Lasan Group.break_starter

    The bread, which I had such fond memories of, was served first and was deliciously warm and as good as I remembered. Then the first course, deep-fried soft-shell crab, crab cakes and tomato chutney. I’ve never eaten deep fried soft-shelled crab, but it was lovely and delicate with flavoursome batter that somehow didn’t overpower the crab, nor was it greasy.

    For main we had Aktar’s take on the Great British Roast: Ox cheek, spiced sirloin of beef, Yorkshire pudding, buttered vegetables and beluga lentils. The ox cheek was beautiful; it fell apart at the slightest touch and had such a wonderful flavour it made me wonder why it’s not on more menus. The spiced beef had been cooked well and the spice worked with the meat rather than overpower it. And call me simple, but I adore a Yorkshire pudding and they’re so rarely done well, but this one was; it was neither dry, burnt nor greasy.main_pudding

    For pudding we were served Spiced Queen of Puddings, which was beautifully presented. It tasted a bit creamy and with my lactose intolerance playing up I only ate a little, though I was the only person at the table to leave any. The raspberry sorbet cut through the creaminess to add extra dimension in flavour and the marshmallow tips were lovely and smooth.

    During the meal the service by the students was excellent, neither too overbearing nor scare. My drink remained topped, plates were cleared efficiently and they were very passionate about their courses. Afterwards Aktar came over and spoke to each table individually, praising the work of the students and the work of UCB, which was lovely to hear.

    Feeling rather full, I attempted to walk off some of the lunch by checking out a few of the exhibitions and saw lots of enthusiastic and engaged students learning to make cocktails, discovering the artistry behind cake decorating and trying out some of the simulations.

    The Skills Show was a great event and a truly fantastic lunch – these students have clearly been taught well and will lead the way to a gastronomic success.

    http://www.theskillsshow.com/

    Disclosure: I was invited to attend lunch at The Skills Show because of my ‘foodie focus’. I wasn’t expected to write a good review and I definitely wasn’t required to link to a Whitney Houston video either, but if I have to have it as an earworm then so do you. All photos are my own.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    A vegan raw food experience

    It’s good to get out of your comfort zone right?  I’ve inadvertently eaten vegan dishes a few times, what with the whole not getting on so well with dairy, but raw food is a new experience.  So when an evening of vegan raw food in conjunction with Jay Halford of J’s Organic was listed on Warehouse Cafe’s facebook, I thought it was worth a try.  And somehow I convinced a group of friends decided to accompany me.

    In one of those ways Alanis Morrisette would sing about, I’d managed to eat a full English breakfast and some pork scratchings earlier in the day (which isn’t exactly the norm for me) – something was telling me my stomach was not as curious about this vegan raw food thing as my brain!  But after a cocktail for courage at Le Truc, we moseyed on to the Warehouse Cafe to try something new.

    On arrival it was nice to see a sort of group dynamic with the tables being in a giant horseshoe formation and a good mix of people.  There’s always that stereotype of vegan raw foodists being a bit “right on”, so it was nice to see this wasn’t the case.

    Once everyone was seated we were presented with a drink – a raspberry lemonade, of sorts, the lemon giving a natural fizz and some sort of superfood that I didn’t quite catch the name of (and probably best, I’m deeply suspicious of things called ‘superfoods’).  Tart but tasty, this was an excellent aperitif.

    The first course was a beetroot gazpacho with a sort of hazelnut cracker– a lovely summery soup with a cracker that had a nice zing to it.  The sort of thing you’d eat somewhere and not really think about it being vegan.

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    Main course was the pun-entitled chia non carne, a chia seed mixture, with parsnip rice.  I’ve heard a lot about chia seeds, but mainly adding them into smoothies rather than the star of a dish, and I found the texture of the chilli to jelly-like, which was a bit off-putting.  The parsnip rice however was delicious – somehow buttery and something that I’d happily eat again, ditto the parsnip crisps as garnish.  But this was the course which divided opinion the most – there were meals barely touched and others mopping up seconds.

    The final course, the dessert, was a show stopper.  A sort of millionaire shortbread/cheesecake with a chocolate mousse this was the kind of thing that could convince any carnivore of the merits of raw-food veganism. I wasn’t a massive fan of the banana chocolate mousse, which was a little too bitter for my liking and felt like it could’t done with some sugar, but the cheesecake was delightful.

    This was certainly a more unusual food experience than in usually found in Birmingham. It opened up the possibilities of what vegan raw food can be; a familiar dish you wouldn’t know was such, a no nonsense vegan raw food main and a dessert that showed that the movement can mimic well-loved food surprisingly well.  I’m not sure I’d be in a rush to indulge in vegan raw food all the time, but the night certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of some tasty food minus the meat and heat.

    http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/JsOrganic11

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Brum Yum Yum street food fair – August ’14

    I’m lucky enough to live in South Birmingham which has a wealth of great places to eat…and is also the home of Brum Yum Yum’s monthly street food fair.  Thankfully, this month, the rain held off long enough to peruse the stalls and grab some great food and drinks whilst sitting on the grass listening to the live music.

    August’s fair seemed to have a few new faces amongst the well-loved favourites.  Keen to try something new, I went to Sultan, a Turkish stall which proved so popular the lamb koftes had already sold out before I got there!  However, having heard the mucver was a good I cheekily asked for half beef kofte and half mucver and they kindly obliged.  Both were wrapped up in a burrito style and were fantastic – light, flavoursome and with the lettuce felt almost healthy…unusual, it seems, for street food!

    Having spoken to The Bean Stall on twitter a few times, it would’ve be remiss of me not to visit and I’m so glad I did.  Not only is their coffee delicious, but they do non-dairy milk and the froth on my latte, which can sometimes be a bit limp with soya milk, was sweet and rich – just the way it should be.  I’ll definitely be buying more coffee from them next time I see them.

    brumyumyum_august14For more information on Brum Yum Yum’s monthly street food fair in Kings Heath, and other goings on, check out http://www.brumyumyum.com

     

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Film Food Club: Harold and Maude

    photo 1

    I love films almost as much as I love food, so I’ve been looking for an excuse to go to the Film Food Club at the Electric for as long as I’ve heard about it.  When I realised that, as part of the Shock & Gore festival, they were teaming up with Conjurer’s Kitchen for a showing of Harold and Maude, I bought tickets immediately – afterall, the film has been on my ‘to watch’ pile for ages.

    On arrival at The Electric we were handed edible ticket stubs, not all that dissimilar to the ones the Electric give out.  Then after a quick stop at the concessions counter for drinks we headed up to screen two where we were given a lunchbox of goodies containing; a syrupy concoction in a test tube, a scented mask, a wafer pot filled with edible soil & sugar daisy, and a foil bag with popping candy in it.  Curiouser and curiouser.

    photo 2Once sat Annabel, of Conjurors Kitchen, explained that each piece related to a certain part of the film and she would wave a placard to let us know when to unwrap the item, all carefully explained on a menu in case we forgot.

    And so it was on with the film.  IMBD sums it up rather well “Self-destructive and needy but wealthy teenager Harold is obsessed with death and spends his leisure time attending funerals, watching the demolition of buildings, visiting junkyards, simulating suicides trying to get the attention of his indifferent, snobbish and egocentric mother, and having sessions with his psychologist. When Harold meets the anarchic seventy-nine-year-old Maude at a funeral, they become friends and the old lady discloses other perspectives of the cycle of life for him. ”

    photo 5aAnd without giving too much away, the courses throughout the film were fantastically playful.  The red wine, Chambord, cranberry and chocolate reduction when Harold’s mother walks in on a particularly bloody set up, snow masks when Maude brings out a machine which recreates the scent of snow, an edible pot plant, plus cherry popping candy for when…well Harold pops his cherry.  All wonderfully done and made what was an interesting film even more so.  Oh and we got to go home with a gingerbread hearse cookie for afters!

    Fantastic work by Annabel / Conjurer’s Kitchen and the teams at The Electric and Shock & Gore for a quirky and unusual event.  More please!

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen July event

    I think I’ve just about recovered from the food extravaganza that was Two Cats Roaming Kitchen last month.

    If you read my June review you’ll know I was pretty blown away by the experience…but this was on another level entirely.  In a brilliant case of quality AND quantity, we were treated to eleven different courses, ranging from vodka & gooseberry, sea urchin, and lumpfish roe to build your own dessert and candles made from butter.  Chef Nick Astley and his partner Diana took a modernist culinary approach that leaped away from the ordinary and created a fantastic experience as well as great food.

    At this point it would feel a little ridiculous to try and go through each dish and comment, but suffice to say that hopefully my terrible smartphone photos give you some indication as to what a fantastic array of food was on offer.  Even items seen on the menu the month before were given new life and once again the monkfish was a particular favourite.  I was also grateful that my lactose intolerance was taken into account and some dairy-heavy dishes were swapped, but at no point did I ever feel like I was missing out.

    Two Cats Roaming are taking a break in August, but will be back in the autumn.  Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for details of any upcoming events and book some tickets.  You won’t be disappointed.

     

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    Pop-up and Event reviews

    Colmore Business District Food Festival 2014

    This time last week I was heading back to the office full of all the delights from the Colmore Business District’s Food Festival…and what a great event it was!  The CBD food festival has been running for a few years, but this year really felt like it’s best one yet – the sun was shining, there were plenty of people for a great atmosphere but the queues were minimal and moved quickly.

    With stalls spanning the breath of Colmore’s fine food and drink offerings, there was everything from fine dining to coffee shops, gin parlours, real ale, dim sum, hot dogs and more.  Most of the stalls were selling items for the £3 mark, which was a great move and seemed to add to the quick turn over in people waiting.  There was also a demonstration stage and a live music stage with a great band playing when I attended – though sadly I didn’t catch their name.

    Feeling a bit spoilt for choice I opted to start with sweet chilli chicken from Jojolapa, a place I’ve heard really good things about.  The chicken was well cooked but I found the sauce too sweet without enough kick to it for my taste, which was a little disappointing but not enough to put me off visiting.

    I stopped off at Urban Coffee for a taste of a Yipsy Macaron which was light, chewy and lovely.  Then after a short wait whilst men with clipboards inspected the stall, it was The Bureau’s Deli Dog for main…a lovely meaty sausage with fresh bread bun.  I wasn’t overly keen on the onions, but then I rarely am on hot dogs, but overall a very nice and easy to eat dish – perfect for a food festival!

    After some time watching the band on stage I headed to Opus Restaurant, based on Cornwall St in the Colmore Business District.  I fancied something sweet and their Strawberry Bombe did not disappoint.  Desserts always seem to get a bit forgotten about in restaurants, but this sphere of meringue with a strawberry and mascarpone filling and strawberry sauce was just stunning.  Fresh, light and a perfect summer pud, it made you want to scoff it down and savour it all at once.  The meringue was crisp and chewy and just perfect.  I enjoyed my trip to Opus last year, but this made me want to return sharpish.

    The Colmore Business District is a fine showcase of the delicious food on offer in the heart of Birmingham city centre.  It runs for two days once a year, and already, I can’t wait until next year.  http://colmorebusinessdistrict.com/

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    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    BrumYumYum – 63 Island & Cake Doctor

    I hate a love/hate relationship with lunchtime.  My office is based just meters away from countless places to grab take out and eat, which can be both a bless and a curse.  Some days overflow with possibilities and sometimes I’ve overwhelmed by choices and end up with a soggy sandwich from a supermarket.

    So when my friend Ruth suggested lunch on a day when the sun was blazing in the sky and Brum Yum Yum’s Lunch Market was in session, it seemed like an easy choice.  Located in The Square, an area of the city poised for redevelopment (or so we keep being told), the Lunch Market sits around an area of Astroturf and picnic benches, which is really quite delightful – and unusual to find in the city.

    On our visit there were four vans (and the Beer Market) of which we ended up visiting to two of them; 63 Island and the Cake Doctor.

    63 Islands

    63islandsDescribed as ‘streetfood from Caribbean Islands’, 63 Island offered a choice of three different island dishes served in a tortilla with coconut infused rice & peas and Caribbean ‘slaw.  With three options on sale, including the Cuban Frijoles Negros for vegetarians and Keshi Yena – Curacao-inspired and amazing according to a mutual friend, I went for third option, Trinidad-inspired Chicken Pelau.  It’s described on the postcard menu as “chicken caramelised in ‘burnt sugar’ alongside pigeon peas, carrots, peppers and rice.  All simmered in coconut milk and stock with scotch bonnet pepper undertones”.

    I was asked what kind of sauce I wanted with it and let the stallholder decide (I was feeling brave), who added a delicious mango chutney and hot sauce.  Usually I’m not a big fan of burritos as I’ve had such mediocre ones, but this was delightful.  Each of the flavours was able to come through individually, from the moist chicken to the delicately creamy, yet fluffy coconut rice, the sweetness of the mango and the spice of the hot sauce which danced on the tip of the tongue rather than overpowering.  The burrito was moist yet not swimming in sauce and a delight to eat.  Definitely something I’d be more than happy to try again.

    https://www.facebook.com/SixtyThreeIslands

    Cake Doctor

    cake

    Intending to finish lunch with an almond-milk cafe latte, I was a little disappointed to find out that the Cake Doctor was not allowed to administer coffee due to nearby shops selling similar.  Though I was very impressed to see almond milk being offered at the same price as regular milk – good work, Doctor.  However the cakes on sale looked so good I threw caution to the wind and went for a slice of the Victoria Sandwich cake, with lashings of cream, strawberries and jam holding the sponge together.

    I’m a firm believer that sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to get right and the Victoria Sponge is a prime example.  Too often the sponge can be too dense or soggy.  Thankfully this was neither; light enough yet with a buttery firmness, the cream and strawberries neither weighed down the sponge nor were lost in it.  And for £2.50 it was a very good, decent slice of cake.

    http://www.cakedoctoruk.co.uk/

    On our way back to work we stopped in at the Beer Market.  I’m not a beer drinker and though they had cider, wine and Aperol Spritz’s I prefer soft drinks if I’m heading back to the office.  But if you fancy a lunchtime tipple the beer selection is decent with offerings from Purity and Flying Dog.

    Both 63 Island and the Cake Doctor were fantastic choices for lunch, vastly superior to a soggy supermarket sandwich and I’d be happy to visit both again.  Brum Yum Yum’s Lunch Market is in The Square every Friday until the 1st August.  Visit http://www.brumyumyum.com/ for more details.