Archive | May, 2012

Round up post – Baekdu and Felicini

28 May

Here’s some short round-ups from my recent wanderings…

First up is Baekdu. Perched on the edge of the Northern Quarter just near Shudehill bus station is an unassuming Korean restaurant. Head through the doorway and it gets even more unassuming; very little decor, plain black furniture and big windows on one side. Having said that, if you’re coming to a restaurant for the decor, you’ve missed the point.

So if you’re not here for the look you’ll need to know what the foods like. The news is it’s good stuff.

The potato pancake is awesome on many levels. ‘How many levels?’ Good question. I’d say three. Firstly, it’s visually appealing. The orange hue from this pancake is great to look and the colour comes from the addition of carrots but also indicative of the great flavour. The outside is crispy but with a starchy centre which makes this almost comfort food-esque in texture and taste. The third and final part which brings it up from comfort food to moreish dish is the addition of soy. When dipped, this becomes quite an addictive salty dish, despite how filling it can be.

Potato Pancake – Crisp coating and a starcy, salt-flavoured centre

The bibimbap is also worth noting. Anything that turns up sizzling in a dish and covered in chilli sauce clearly has my attention. Warm rice, vegetables, mushrooms, chili sauce and egg all combined to give a fresh tasting but filling dish.

I’d say we struggled to find anything on the menu that wasn’t vibrante, well seasoned and full of flavour. And remember, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Next up was Felicini in Didsbury (not on the same night as Baekdu). Now I’m aware that Felicini isn’t new and ‘hip’, but it does one thing right. It makes good quality Italian food. So many places can get Italian dishes wrong, so you need a good staple for Italian food. This post however is about one dish. The Chocolate Brownie and Pistachio Sundae

This is the Sundae. By the way, that’s the Double Deep New York Cheesecake in the background. Also awesome.

It is every bit as deliciously decadent as it looks. Chewy, chunky fondant brownies with crushed pistachio over pistachio ice cream. Every bit was sweet, slippery goodness and perfectly balanced with the sugar content too.

Incase you were worried that you may have to get to the end of this dessert and look down at your plate with longing then fear not. This thing is massive. For the first time in my life I had to give up on it. Dessert 1 Me 0.

Sometimes a restaurant has one dish that is worth going back for, almost regardless of the rest of the menu. This is one of those dishes.

Check out the menu www.felicini.co.uk

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Pitt Cue Co. (Soho, London)

21 May

Smoked ox cheeks. Soft as butter and drool inducing flavour.

A luscious aroma of beef and pork wafts on the air of this tiny restaurant bar whose footprint is similar in size and layout to a child’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom. The small space with its thirty covers is as would be expected, massively over-subscribed with queues forming outside half an hour before the opening. The continuing trend of food trucks turned restaurants continues to be the new torment of the lazy and impatient or the golden age of the patient diner, depending upon your perspective and views on queueing. For those persistent enough to make it to the front of the queue, you will be offered the chance to wait in the bar for some time before a table becomes available.

Here you have the chance to get some drinks in you before the main event. Of special note on the menu is the ‘Pickleback’. You will be offered two shot glasses; one containing bourbon and the second containing pickling vinegar. My first thought was ‘What the hell, why not’ but maybe it should have been ‘What the hell? That’s weird’. Regardless, it was quite the experience with the bourbon taking away some of the bitter notes of the vinegar and leaving you with a strong but partially sweet taste from the vinegar. The only question that lingers in my mind is did I do those the right way round.

Pickleback – Shot of whiskey chased down with a shot of pickle brine

At the appointed time we were led to our table in the dining room / basement area via a small staircase. The room was incredibly small without actually feeling cramped. At this point I may normally have taken the time to describe the décor in the room, however what I failed to mention earlier was that while queuing up outside, we happened to be queuing next to a pub called The White Horse which allowed you to take drinks out on the street, therefore by the time we made it to the into the dining room via the bar I was fairly well sozzled.

The part where my memory didn’t fail me though was with the food. The special of the day was Braised Ox Cheek (£15) which comes with a selection of pickles for two sides, the baked beans and the chipotle slaw. The slaw was runny but amazingly spiced and the beans superbly cooked in a barbeque flavour which was tangy and savoury-sweet. The braised ox cheek was a magnificently cooked piece of meat. Having an incredible rich smoked beef flavour coming from this tender meat which came apart under the knife with an excellent consistency that was just joyous. I was forced to stop at several points to make small moans of approval before continuing on.

The beef ribs were of equal note having an intensity I previously thought reserved from for a prime cut of fillet steak. Even managing to retain its pink inner texture. And the true stand out champion for the side dishes was the bone marrow mash. A bone marrow jus atop a puree-creamy mash was almost too much flavour to hold in one jar but still subtle enough to play side dish to the brilliantly cooked meats.

Look at the freaking beef ribs. Served with smoked chicory.

Determined to at least find fault with some part of menu, we opted for dessert and shared a chocolate and raspberry brownie, but to no avail. It was indulgent, well complimented with the slightly sweetened raspberries and topped with a vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce to add that final finishing blow of sugar indulgence.

Raspberry brownie and ice cream. I want it now!

When we finally surface from the dining room / basement we were all fuller, happier people and clear in the knowledge that Pitt Cue Co. have a created somewhere which offers flavoursome barbeque with no compromise in intensity or flavour than you would find anywhere else.

As an addendum, we did receive a slight shock at the bill the first time round as some extra noughts and numbers were added to it, as you will see below. The meal actually came in a little cheaper than this.

The meal was good, but not 600 grand good

Everyone’s a critic!

17 May

I hate being called a foodie. I can’t really avoid it but it’s one of those insipid words which seems to attach itself to being a food blogger like a slimy leech. Foodie conjures an image of a certain type of person. A middle-aged, bloated imbecile whose pretension is matched only by his smarminess. He will trap you in a corner at a party and spout drivel at you. He’ll bore you senseless with his diatribe on the foolishness of drinking any Argentinian Malbec other than those from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions. The only thing worse than him telling you about the latest food trends is him telling you about the trends that are ‘so last year’. He wants to know what your favourite delicatessen is, he can’t wait to tell you that he’s visited the birthplace of his favourite cheese and God forbid he find out you’ve bought your weekly shop from a supermarket because he will rain down vengeance upon you! 

If you’ve ever been telling someone something along the lines of ‘Oh, we went to this pub down the road. The Sunday roast was quite nice.’ and this was closely followed by the sound of someone chipping in with counter points and ‘better’ recommendations, that’s the sound of Capt. Muppet from Tosspot Division. He’s on the case and he’ll get to the bottom of your inferior gastronomic knowledge in no time. My advise: run. And I can speak on some authority here as I used to do some of these things. But the thing that stopped me was the realisation that honestly, no-one really wants to hear it.

“…and I’ve just found this new pop-up Gastro supper club that serves Liberian food out of a tramp’s shoe. Have you been yet? Have you? HAVE YOU?!”

*sigh* I’ve been lectured too many times on the need to shop local, buy a slow cooker, try a gluten free diet or avoid deep fried food (as if that’s going to happen). The point is, I can’t understand why ‘foodies’ feel that they are allowed a degree of moral superiority due to that fact that they essentially just eat different stuff than other people. I’ve been lucky enough to try some spectacular foods. I’ve had fresh crab in Ha Long bay,  truffled macaroni cheese in London and amazing Polish bloomers from Barbakan deli in Chorlton. On the flip side though I’m not above the other end of the food spectrum. Cold curry sandwiches from leftover greasy take-away curry are one of life’s great pleasures. I’m not sure I could make it through the week without something full of fat, sugar and inordinate e-numbers. I’m not however stomping around the place demanding people eat more saveloy, try a veg-free diet and telling them they simply must get the new ‘Just Eat’ app.

Why? Because food is such a personal experience. The foods that I love and hate may be based on taste or they could be based on the preparation, where they come from and the history of the dish. Childhood dishes, family dishes, pick-me-up dishes and everything in between. We love food for a hundred different reasons. People should also be smart about food of course, it’s the main thing that keeps us all alive, but there’s a fine line between sharing your knowledge and preaching bullshit.

Knowledge is power and as Uncle Ben says ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. The responsibility of every ‘Foodie’ is to not turn in to a condescending pillock.

Project PIG (Manchester)

8 May

The Pig Picking: Them’s rich pickin’s

You may notice at the top of this blog is a tab called Project PIG. If you haven’t been there first, Id suggest you do. This will give you all of the background and shortly will contain much more about the day and the build-up. This post is to give you some highlights from one of the tastiest days of the year.

Project PIG had one aim: Could a man with zero pit barbecue experience, take a 30kg pig, a pile of building materials and a sack of ingredients and turn them into succulent, salty, juice-ladened pork. The answer was unreservedly: Yes! The feedback was insane. Everyone loved it and I mean loved it.

I am going to post a ‘How To’ guide from the event. In total it took use three days to construct, test and cook with the pit that we built and I managed a full three hours sleep on the day that we cooked the thing. But this post is about the food not the build. So let’s see the stats on how this little piggy was made into a prize-winning hog.

Firstly the pig. We got ourselves a half pig because I couldn’t physically fit enough people into my house to eat a full size boar. The pig was dressed and provided by W.H. Frost in Chorlton, a top-quality butchers if ever there was one. The also scored the meat before it was dropped off at my car. Once the pig was home, that’s when me and the boys (and girl) went to work on it. Step one was an all-over olive oil rub to crisp up the skin. The low cook temperature of the pit meant we couldn’t just rely on the heat of the flame like you would with a hog roast. Once that was done, next came the injections.

The meat injections – very important

The meat was injected with a sweet marinade made up of apple, white grape, lost of sugar and salt. This was to keep the meat sweet to go with the smoky flavour from the barbeque. This took a while and by the end we were injecting marinade through one hole just to have it pop out of the other (weird). The final step to this process was the dry rub for the inside. A mix of cayenne, garlic powder, paprika and several other sugars and spices went into the inside cavity for extra flavour onve the fat started to melt.

The last thing to do was fire up the pit (which took about 40 minutes), wrap the pig in foil to keep in the heat and then wait. The cooking process took 15 hours and as we were using an indirect heat method, the coals needed to be added to regularly, so we sat down, opened up a bottle of Jack Daniels and babysat that pig right through till morning…

Shhh! We’re putting the pig to bed

The next day, we had to strip the foil off the top of the pig. It had turned a glorious red and there were clear signs aroung the exposed meat of where a smoke ring had started to form (a ring of colour showing the depth of penetration of smoke into the meat).

Half an hour before serving the pig needed to be flipped. Being either brave or sleep deprived, I climbed up onto the grill to flip the pig. As we flipped, we realised how soft and juicy the meat had gone as it almost felt apart on the flip. Just about holding it intact, we gave it a glaze with a secret barbeque sauce using ketchup, garlic, spices and sugar to give it some extra zing. It then got covered for 30 minutes to finish.

“Spiderman, Spiderman.
Flipping a pig, it’s Spiderman”

When it finally came out, it was epic. The glistening glaze on top of that thick, succulent pork was captivating. So being a good host, I encouraged the guests to engage in the time-honoured tradition of ‘pig picking’: Pulling the pork of the pig with your fingers. There was trepidation at first but soon there was jostling at the grill as more and more hands dived in to tear tender meat from this awesome grill.

The carnage was immense, the flavours were epic but most importantly the diners were happy. Very happy in fact, and while the day is over, my house still smells like a Texan barbeque hut and my fridge is full of crackling and pulled pork. Despite this, the best part of the whole thing was the event it made. The meal had a certain pageantry to it, with the exposing of the pig, the flipping of the meat, the glazing of the skin and the devouring of a masterpiece nearly three full days in the making. My only regret is that I’m not cooking another one right now….

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