Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Abergavenny Food Festival Launch

The Abergavenny Food Festival will once again bring the best in food and drink to the beautiful Monmouthshire market town over the weekend of 18th, 19th and 20th September 2015.
Renowned for its brimming schedule of celebrity chef demo's, top-notch exhibitors and a melting-pot of diverse food cultures, this year’s line-up will be just as tantalising.
Top of the bill is one of TV’s favourite Michelin starred chefs, Tom Kerridge, who will headline the festival on Friday night (18th), talking exclusively about his new cookbook, Tom’s Table: My Favourite Everyday Recipes, with food journalist Xanthe Clay.

Tom said: “This will be my second visit to the food festival in Abergavenny and the first opportunity for people to get my book before its release on the 24th September, which is very exciting. I am looking forward to sharing some of my new recipes with the audience and hope it gets the same warm reception I have always received at the festival.”
Joining Tom and serving up some of their gorgeous and nutritious recipes are the Hemsley sisters, Jasmine and Melissa. The food loving siblings take centre stage for two events on Sunday the 20th, demonstrating recipes from their international best seller, The Art of Eating Well, as well as cooking up recipes for the audience to try with organic vegbox company, Riverford.

If that wasn’t enough to digest, Observer Rising Star of 2015, Olia Hercules, a food stylist and recipe writer will join the line-up to demonstrate some cherished Eastern European recipes from her debut cookbook, Mamushka.

Heather Myers, Chief Executive of the festival said: “Every year we get some of the best names in food and this year will not disappoint. There is a lot more to announce but we hope this teaser will wet people’s appetites for what is set to be another amazing weekend of food, drink and entertainment.”

Alongside the impressive guest list, the festival introduces the Meat Market, new for 2015. Dedicated to the very best meat producers from across the UK, with butchers, demonstrations, speciality knives and accompaniments, it will be a must see destination for meat lovers.

Festival favourites will return with the Night Market transforming the Lower Brewery Yard into a magical place to eat, drink and hangout as a brilliant collection of speciality street food vendors stay open until 10:00pm on Saturday night (19th).

Get personal attention from an expert in artisan food and drinks production and make a product to take away with you at the Artisan Kitchen School. Children can also get stuck in at the Food Academy with a weekend of exciting hands on workshops and activities to tempt the most budding mini-master chef.

Wash all that down with some of the best of Wales’ craft brews and stay for an evening of music, dancing and food under the enchanted atmosphere of Abergavenny’s ancient castle for the Party at the Castle.

Over the next six weeks the Festival will be announcing the full line up, exciting new collaborations for 2015 and exclusive news looking ahead to the 2015 festival.

Wristbands will get you entry into over 200 food and drink exhibitors across five venue, live cookery demonstrations, children’s activities, entertainment, live music and much more still to be announced.

For more information and to get your tickets visit www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com

Abergavenny Food Festival is giving one lucky festival foodie the chance to win a VIP food festival experience.
Buy a weekend wristband online before the end of June and you could be front row at the festival headline event, enjoy a deluxe stay at the beautiful Angel Hotel and get access all areas at Wales’ biggest food festival. 

The winner will also receive a festival foodie bag including an exclusive signed copy of Tom Kerridge’s new cook book.

Tickets must be purchased online before Tuesday 30 June. For full terms and conditions, visit abergavennyfoodfestival.com

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Giggling Squid Bristol - Review

Ok so the name is lame but after reading a little bit about it I was intrigued, that and I was lost for new places to have lunch in Clifton. So a couple of weekends ago my dad, my brother and myself went out for a bit of a 'lads who lunch' catch up. Having frequented it in it's previous incarnation (Strada) several times the initial impression made by the austere matte black exterior is not one of welcome. However enter the restaurant and it is a different story, the familiar layout of its predecessor can still be visualised but what it has been replaced with is textured walls of wood cladding and exposed brick, muted earthy colours and wall hangings including a corner decked out in baskets hung decoratively on the wall! 

As mentioned we visited for lunch and decided to try one of their 'tapas sets' on offer. My brother went for the Hungry Squid, I went for the Two Giggling Squids (lame) and my dad who decided he was still too full from a fry up he had for breakfast ordered a papaya salad from the individual tapas section of the lunch menu.

The sets come out on large square plates divided into four parts each with a component of your chosen set and its fair to say the portions are generous and presentation inviting. My brother's set came with chicken Thai green curry, satay chicken, mix veg stir fry and jasmine rice. My brother graciously let me try some of his. It's difficult to be nice about this at all really, no wait the rice was good. My brother's plate of food ranged from bland to searing hot heat with not much in between. The satay was bizarrely quite tasteless, ditto for the veg and the green curry was thin and ridiculously chilli. We're talking top lip perspiration hot. Unlucky him. My fathers papaya salad (no photos sorry) according to him could do with some papaya. 

All was not lost however, my set with the ridiculous name was not bad at all. It came with a beef salad, that was lime fresh with a good kick of chilli. It's a shame the beef was tough. It's not all doom and gloom people, the salt and pepper squid was very good, super crispy coating giving way to tender squid and a sweet and fiery dipping sauce proved to be very moreish. The chicken massaman curry was a delight, well spiced and indulgent. 
Service was typical of most Thai restaurants I have been to, polite and attentive. The entire meal came to £39.66 for all the food including some prawn crackers and 3 soft drinks. I'm glad that my curiosity and need to eat lunch somewhere new took me too Giggling Squid. The verdict is this, I would go back and try the evening menu as the entire lunch experience was not bad, however I think consistency needs to be addressed hence a return visit.

Giggling Squid
Address: 34 Princess Victoria Street, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4BZ
Tel: 0117 9732543
Web: www.gigglingsquid.com
Twitter: @GigglingSquid

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Number Twenty One Bistro

A few weekends ago over the first May bank holiday the Clonc family made their way up to Machynlleth (bless you) to attend the brilliant Machynlleth Comedy Festival. This has become a bit of a tradition for the Clonc family and we look forward to it every year. It is one of the highlights of our year visiting this lovely and historic town while watching some very fine comedy indeed. The air of informality and friendliness that surround the festival is quite unique and urge you to visit one year (www.machcomedyfest.co.uk). We have been to the festival three times but on our last visit the above mentioned bistro took my fancy. Sadly they were fully booked for pretty much the whole weekend, which I was disappointed about but also knew there had to be a reason for their popularity other than the sparse offerings in the town. Roll on to this year and I booked way in advance.
This intimate restaurant on the high street of Machynlleth is run by  Laura who heads up the front of house and Sam who takes charge of the kitchen. The place is decked out in crisp whites and subtle greens creating an uncluttered and serene dining space. We were warmly greeted by Laura who showed us to our table. Now first impressions mean a lot to me and the sight of Baby Clonc's place setting i.e colour coordinated high chair and cutlery told me we were onto a winner here. 

Drinks orders were taken after a few minutes in which time a jug of water was delivered and Baby Clonc's order was put in so he could eat as soon as possible. While we perused the menu and considered the specials we chomped on delicious bread and olives. Our orders were then expertly taken and Baby Clonc's food promptly arrived.

The home made fish fingers, fries and peas were so far away from your usual 'kids menu' meal its was unreal, everything from the presentation of the fries in a mini fryer basket to the deliciously crisp fish finger and soft fish within it. I can vouch that the fries were very good (all in the name of research you see). Baby Clonc seemed pleased and quite taken with the fish fingers, that and scattering the peas on the floor then pointing at them.
On to the 'grown up' food. Mrs Clonc's sister who joined us had the trout from the main menu. The trout was poached in butter and served with wild garlic mash and green beans. To quote her ' this is so delicious I don't want it to end'. Praise indeed!  

Mrs Clonc went for her favourite, duck. The duck breast in question was cooked perfectly pink with crispy skin, a good slice of dauphinoise, shredded cabbage dotted with peas and mint and a port sauce. Well Mrs Clonc was in heaven. From what I was allowed to try of hers the duck was excellent, as mentioned well cooked and seasoned, the dauphinoise was delicious and rich and the veg were expertly handled. The sauce a little thin was delicious all the same. 

I decided to plump for the beef short rib from the specials board. What arrived was a substantial plate of 'man food'. A large portion of short rib with bone protruding sat on top of kale, mash and sauce. The meat fell away from the bone with minimal effort, the meat deep and rich with beefy flavour. The kale was well seasoned and cooked perfectly and the mash was spot on. The sauce was complex in flavour but the pea purée which looked pretty swiped on the plate was a little bland. 

At this point Baby Clonc was getting restless in his perch but one look at the dessert menu and I was willing to take the risk of a baby melt down. Baby Clonc did however partake in dessert and had his first taste of ice cream. Beautifully served up in an espresso cup the cold sensation was initially too much for the young fellow but then Boom! He could not get enough of it. 

In the mean time while Baby Clonc was distracted Mrs Clonc, her sister and myself inhaled our desserts. Mrs Clonc's sister ordered her favourite creme brulee. What arrived was a generous portion of one of the most unctuous and creamy crème brulees I have tried. Heavily flavoured with vanilla and the obligatory sugar crust made a very fine and indulgent end to her meal. 

Mrs Clonc went for the chocolate brownie dessert, served with home made marshmallow and peanut butter ice cream. The dessert was beautifully presented, the chocolate brownie unfortunately was quite dry but this was made up for by the astonishingly good peanut butter ice cream and gooey and velvety marshmallow. Some honeycomb present provided texture. 

My dessert was the polar opposite from my warm and comforting main. A lemon tart served with a raspberry sorbet and clotted cream. The lemon tart pastry was thin and crisp, the filling well balanced and not so sharp your salivary glands go into spasm. The raspberry sorbet was nothing short of excellent. A fantastic end to a fantastic meal.

The attention to detail, the quality of food and level of service was brilliant. The service was especially professional and friendly and a fine example of people who actually enjoy what they do. The entire meal with drinks (a bottle of sauvignon blanc, very good home made ginger ale and an americano) came to £89.59 without tip. It is fair to say we were all very happy diners and I was very impressed by this place having known very little about it. So if you find yourself this way or going to Machynlleth Comedy Festival next year then I can highly recommend this place. I personally have already booked us in for dinner next year.

Number Twenty One Bistro
Address: 21 Heol Maengwyn, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 8EB
Tel: 01654 703 382
Web: www.numbertwentyone.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/numbertwentyonemachynlleth