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Pop-up and Event reviews

    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.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen June event

    Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is the brainchild of Nick Astley and his Latvian partner Diana Fjodorova. They describe themselves on Facebook as “A pop-up taking a modernist culinary approach to north eastern European cuisine and making fine dining accessible, away from the table cloths and pricetag”, which is a pretty fair depiction.  Except if it were up to me, and Facebook allowed, I’d underline the price tag, because it was ridiculously good value.  Sure you don’t know the location and it’s not the plush surroundings of a Michelin starred restaurant, but this is less about the dining and more about the food.

    I’d missed Two Cats Roaming’s first outing, but their second took place under the arches of Water St, in indie bakery Peel & Stone’s usual Saturday brunch hangout.  No designer wallpaper or modern British artwork, there was a table set for 11 and decorated with wine and Kvass – simple but convivial.

    twocats_june1

    The first course, a rosti of quail egg, lumpfish roe and chicken liver prompted some discussion on whether to go all in or politely nibble.  Either way it was delicious.  The next course, bread, butter and smoked fat sounded simple, but the bread was made from a traditional recipe and had a sort of molasses taste to it which could’ve easily been eaten with some jam for supper.  The most squeamish might not have been too keen on the smoked fat, but they’d have sorely missed out as the saltiness and sweetness from the bread were a wonderful contrast.

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    After a little rest from the doorstop of bread we were treated to Pelmeni, cep broth and an egg yolk.  Pelmeni is a dumpling, but with wafer thin dough so think tortellini rather than stodgy and these were lovely – you could easily eat a bowl full.  Our fourth course was a sort of venison tartare served on a sort of hemp paste with raspberry sheets and roses.  The paste wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but i thought the texture added an interesting contrast to the venison.

    Competing with the dumpling for my favourite savoury dish of the night was monkfish cheeks, truffle mayonnaise, parsley and kale.  The monkfish was delightfully cooked; giving it meatiness without being too tough, which was delightful by itself, but more so with the accompaniments.  The sixth course was a sort of bridge between sweet and savoury with carrot, curds, honey and lavender.  Having a lactose intolerance, I tested this out of curiosity but I think the testament to the dish went to the fact that it was welcomed by the person sat opposite me, who ate both portions.

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    The main sweet of the night was an utterly delicious elderflower mousse, cucumber and gingerbread.  I probably should’ve checked the ingredients for this one, but playing on the safe side I indulged in a few mouthfuls of this deliciously perfumed and fluffy mousse before donating it to a fellow diner, again gratefully received and grudgingly donated!  Though I feel the best was saved for last as we were presented with a beetroot marshmallow.  I LOVE marshmallow, and this was a fine example of why homemade marshmallow is infinitely better than ones that have been knocking around vacuum-pack for months.  Delightfully fluffy with a fantastic flavour it rounded off what was a fantastic dining experience.

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    The service was simple, understated and though we were introduced to the dishes, there was none of the overly fussy waiting that comes with fine dining.  Described and delivered, 5+ courses meant that unlike some fine dining experiences that require a sandwich in the taxi home, we left sated. And I should mention the pricetag, a steal of an evening at £30, which comparably beats most established fine dining experiences.

    At its core Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is everything good food should be, an experience that offers minimal fuss and lets the food speak for itself.  Well worth going.  Check their Facebook page or Twitter for details on upcoming events.