Tag Archives: cocktails

Why I Fell in Love with Goat’s cheese

20 Feb

My god, I bloody love cheese. For Christmas my lovely girlfriend bought me a box of Pong cheeses. The fact that I’ve eaten a third of a wheel of Stinking Bishop despite the fact that I don’t really like the smell, is firm testament to my unwavering affection for what is essentially gone-off milk.

And it goes with so many things as well. In Hong Kong recently, I had a cuttlefish ball filled with American cheese and by Jove the flavour worked! My favourite cheese based fusion however is the Goat’s cheese salad at Croma. Now before I fall into the cliché of verbally drooling over the object of my affections, I want to set the scene.

Place yourself in a restaurant. It’s warm and the night outside is bitingly cold. The place is busy and the air is filled with conversation and laughter from other tables, but the most prominenty thing in your mind is your hungry. And what a hunger it is. Starving, famished, ravenous. You scan the menu looking for something to fill this hole and it needs to be rich and satisfying. Then as your eyes flit down the page, they fall upon this:

The main event - Goat's cheese salad

Goat’s cheese baked on olive bread, served with mixed salad leaves, olives, roasted pine kernels and sun-blushed tomatoes, with a tomato and balsamic vinaigrette

It’s a genious dish. Creamy and partially crumbly goat’s cheese is excellently set off by the tomato and balsamic vinegarette. For the texture to match that soft cheese the olive bread is lightly toated and the crisp salad keeps it fresh. Its a dish that sticks in your mind not just because it tastes great, but because you don’t expect it to taste as great as it does.

But of course, man cannot live on goat’s cheese salad alone, so while we were here we thought we’d give the drinks menu a go. First upwas the Espresso Martini. Coffee infused martini with a vanilla vodka. In terms of the impact on your faculties, two or three of these may have the same impact as a Vodka Red Bull with its caffine-alcohol mismatched attack on the brain. The taste however is worlds apart and is a much more sophisticated, as you would expect.

Espresso martini for those who need a little caffine in their alcohol

The classic Margherita is well delivered here to. Sweetened lime and tequila with that salt encrusted glass. The only mistake I saw here was serving it in a martini glass.

Croma is a personal favourite of mine for all its menu fare, so I’ve held myself back from going on about everything on the menu. It does what places like Pizza Express fail to do; give that Italian pizzeria experience with great food and a simplified menu. Give it a go, and definately try the goat’s cheese.

Croma Chorlton on Urbanspoon

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Fire, Salt and Grits

31 Oct

Can't even remember what this cocktail was called but look at it. It comes with cheese for God's sake!!

Searing summer heat radiates down as we walk across the bleached white stone-covered car park. The wooden shack we’re heading to is cobbled together from a blend on mesh, stone and timber covered in flaking paint. This fragile-lookingstructure holds something much more wondrous than you would imagine; the finest smoked brisket, sausage and ribs in Texas.

I don’t normally start a review of one restaurant by talking about another; however the taste of good home-style ‘Deep South’ barbeque takes me back to that smoke shed in Texas. Southern 11 fits nicely into Spinningfields by pulling off the slick interior and ambient lighting which almost seems to be a pre-requisite for restaurant ownership in the area, however much like that shack in Texas, the appearance is misleading (I’m not sure if I’ve over-used my trip to Texas enough in this post yet… I went to Texas you know). Inside you’ll find a restaurant that is putting out plates of authentic barbeque food and at very reasonable prices.

A few of the states that make up 'The Southern Eleven'

I took a few friends along with me so that we could eat party style: a few mains and all the sides we could stomach. Fried chicken, smoked beef brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork.  The smoke cooked meat is always tender due to the low heat and long cooking process allowing the meat to retain all its moisture while absorbing the smoky flavour. The pulled pork was a great example of this, being salty, moist and beautifully flavoured by the hickory smoke.  As I said in my previous blog from the Manchester Food and Drink festival, the only slight disappointment (and I do say slight) is the brisket. A slow smoked brisket (8 hours or more) will have what’s called a smoke ring running through the meat demonstrating how much flavour it’s holding. This is where the ribs swing into play to save the day. Tender, meaty and embalmed in a sticky BBQ glaze, they hit you with the sweet bbq sauce before delivering the finishing blow with the great rib flavour.

Ribs and fries served on a slab of wood

All of that’s great but you need a break from all of that meat, so I started to work through the sides. The parmesan truffle fries were just exceptional. Never before have I been so wowed by chips, but a cheesy, intense flavour from a light, crispy chip is too good not to rave about. The barbeque beans were a favourite on the table and avoided the trap of just being beans in a gloopy BBQ sauce. The spices in the sauce cut through the sauce creating a warming sensation inside that is as much emotional as physical. My personal favourite side though had to be the sweet corn pudding. Now this I had never come across. I think Nigella Lawson summed this dish up better than I could as ‘particularly gratifying’. A sweet, sticky side that goes excellently on pulled pork over some jalapeno cornbread.

Ok, you've got yer bbq beans, yer cornbread and yer sweetcorn pudd'n

My main was the Southern Chicken dinner. The name alone sparks the image of a home-cooked fried chicken dinner that the dish itself more than delivers. The chicken is tasty with a beautifully crisp skin that has great flavour. Add to this a slather of sausage gravy and that cripsy skin is excellently complemented. The Pulled pork however is a personal favourite of mine. Slow cooked, traditionally over an open barbeque pit, this pork is so soft it can literally just be pulled from the bone in strips. Great with the sides or just on its own I took more than my fair share from my girlfriend’s plate.

Winner, Winner, Chicken dinner.

What more can I say, the atmosphere was lively, the food was great, the service was friendly if occasionally duplicated with our drinks arriving several times and to cap it all of the cocktail menu was great. I got so many great shots from the meal that I’m putting even more on the facebook page. The best type of cooking is the kind that evokes emotions and pulls you straight back to another time or place. Southern 11 has this quality in spades and I didn’t even make it to the dessert menu. Still, there’s always next time.

Southern 11 on Urbanspoon