Sunday, 23 August 2015

Veggie BBQ at The Highfield


Having enjoyed their main menu earlier in the spring, I was invited to sample The Highfield's BBQ menu this month in their relaxing patio & garden area coupled with the opportunity of trying out their marquee facility.


The Marquee

Sadly our visit was plagued by rain showers however, this meant that we test out the marquee to full effect.  The marquee provides an elegant shelter against inclement weather with room for about 25 people plus chairs and tables, it makes for a great ‘plan B’ if the weather isn’t BBQ friendly but you still want to be outdoors.  Incidentally, it is also available for hire – as long as your party spends a minimum of £250 in total on food and/or drink, the marquee is yours!
Wood Burner in the Garden
 

For meat-eaters, there are a variety of meats and kebabs to choose from and for us veggies, we get a bespoke menu just for us.
Veggie BBQ Platter

Including: Halloumi & Vegetable Kebabs, Jacket Potato, Corn on the Cob, a filled pitta bread pocket with roast vegetables plus accompanying coleslaw and salads. 
Salad Bar

Nice, wholesome, standard bbq fare, presented on a wooden board with cute galvanized pots of sauces, makes for it to be all the more contemporary.  Only thing I would say is, I would have welcomed some kind of veg packed/herb infused homemade veggie burger to complete the platter just so there would be a comparable item against the meat menu.
Dessert Bar

Modestly priced at £9.75 per person for the veggie option, this is a lovely way to enjoy the ambience of The Highfield, alfresco style and it’s a different way of dining out (literally)!
Dip Your Own Strawberries

So whilst the light nights and the warm(ish) weather are still here, enjoy these last few weeks of summer at The Highfield over a bbq platter and just think – all the fun of a BBQ meal without any of the washing up or tidying away – bliss!! J
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Note:  To read my review of The Highfield's main menu offering, click here.

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Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from The Highfield to sample their BBQ menu.    This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 



 
 

 

Monday, 17 August 2015

My Top 15 Veggie Foods at Birmingham Independent Food Fair 2015


I can’t believe it’s been almost 12 months since the last Birmingham Independent Food Fair!  Where has the time gone?!

And whilst those that attended have been enjoying the memories of last year’s event, organiser Ahmed Ahmed has been busy planning 2015’s Fair.

Birmingham Independent Food Fair 2014
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The main change is that the event is now spread over 2 days across the weekend of 12 & 13 September.  With currently 40+ traders signed up to participate and more in the pipeline, it promises something for everyone with food and drink representing all corners of the globe yet having a geographical common bond that they are all from the Birmingham area.

I find food festivals a great opportunity to explore what’s new and to see maybe what I’ve been missing out on.  As a vegetarian especially, I always feel quite gratified if I come across a new find at a festival it gives me that “I’m glad I came” kind of a feel.

Another change this year is that the ticket prices are lower, and are just for entry.  This means it's up to you to go around and discover which treats you want to spend your cash on once you're in there.
 

Reviewing the list of traders due to participate, they are all worth checking out with many (such as Henley Chocolates and Platinum Pancakes) that I am acquainted with already and with whom I look forward to catching up with, as well as new foodie peps that I am keen to find out more about and sample their wares!

So here’s my selection of 15 traders that I have got veggie treats planned for their stalls and who are flying the flag for Birmingham whilst uniquely expressing their diversity through the medium of food:

Photo:  c/o Nibbles Corner
Nibbles Corner
Who doesn’t like Mac n Cheese?  It’s the go-to in comfort food for rainy teatimes and cold wintery days.  Whilst this is also a predictable veggie option, if pimped up to your spec it will make you want to re-visit this old classic with fresh inspiration!  Using a variety of new toppings such as spinach & sundried tomatoes and having locally sourced cheese on hand, it’s been given a make-over well worth a try.   


The Southern Oven

Recreating  a New Orleans street food vibe in a Mardi Gras themed marquee no less is what the team at Southern Oven are offering.  Sweet Iced Teas and (hopefully) veggie Louisiana Po’Boy sandwiches will be on offer guaranteeing a taste of the Deep South.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Chung Ying

Mmm, I love Chung Ying food – their Cantonese dim sum are gorgeous and always something for veggies – so go grab one or three to try!

 
Photos:  Word In Veg Ways
Le Truc

The team at Le Truc are very pro-veggies and will always be able to rustle something up for any of their veggie patrons and their adorable creations are definitely worth checking out.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Photo:  All Greek Deli


All Greek Deli

I could spend ages perusing the shelves at their Stephenson Street shop but what I love is their baklava and the fact that they sell halva by weight!  Never tried halva?  Now’s your chance!!


Mama Eti’s

Although based in Bournville, Mama Eti’s offers Indonesian food.  A unique chance to try something different which isn’t always readily available.  They will also be selling spices, chutneys etc to try at home too.


Crave de Taste

A community interest company from Hockley, they will be offering vegetarian and vegan fare using organic produce where possible to recreate the flavours of Jamaican cooking.


Penang Café

With Malaysian food increasing in popularity, here’s an opportunity to see why that is so.  Amongst many other dishes, I’m keen to taste their Malaysia Brulee dessert!

Photo:  Shake That Ting
Shake That Ting

For those who are young or young at heart, milkshakes and smoothies form the basis of this fun trader.  So if you’re not counting the calories, there are treats a-plenty!


Photo:  Moorish Bar
Moorish Bar

Fusing  Middle Eastern/North African food traits together, the Moorish Bar has falafel wraps, hummous and salads to name a few for those in search of something a little exotic.  Rounded off with a cup of Arabian coffee, you’ll have a food souk right in front of your eyes!


Amantia

Everyone’ s loving tapas right now with Amantia joining the  city’s food scene recently, I’m already sold on their aubergine fritters with honey!


Pan Piano

Mediterranean with a hint of Asia Minor influence leads to flatbreads with pomegranate, halloumi and other goodies at this Turkish/Greek stall.


Greens Vegan Catering

A magnet for all vegans, Greens offer speciality scones, curries and salsas.

Photo:  Vegan Grindhouse
The Vegan Grindhouse

A favourite at many of the local streetfood events, they have built up quite a following with food enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.


Vinatasty

Vietnamese food has become more prominent in recent years and Thuy Pham will be bringing along her Dragon Fruit Crunchies for sampling.  A delicious opportunity to try this fruit if you haven’t done so already.




For more information about the event, please visit:  http://www.bhamindfoodfair.co.uk/

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Note:  All traders featured have been selected by choice and no incentive has been given to promote them.  All photographs have been credited accordingly.























Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dinner at The Rose & Crown Warwick

 
Photo:  Courtesy of The Rose & Crown

Photo:  Courtesy of The Rose & Crown

The night we visited The Rose & Crown in Warwick, it was the start of the Warwick Folk Festival, so the town and especially this gastropub, were in full swing.
 

Invited to sample the menu and to check out the pub in general, we picked a great night to visit, a little folk with one’s food is no bad thing.
  
 
 
 
 
 

Music to one side, this 17th century inn is now part of the Peach Pubs Group and whilst being very 2015, alongside the en vogue decoration and lighting, the historic beams remain as a nod to the past.
 

The restaurant area was very busy and Giles (the manager) mentioned it is like this normally anyway without the influence of the festival, so that’s a good sign.
 

Giles and his team were very passionate and knowledgeable about the pub’s offerings and were able to discuss all the menu items with us in detail.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this, us vegetarians like to ask questions so having knowledge on tap was ideal!

To accompany our drinks of New Zealand Sauvigon Blanc and Lawson Lager from local brewery Purity (indeed we were flying the Warwickshire flag that night), we decided to go for the following menu options:
 
Choosing our Starters, My Carnivourous Husband (MCH) opted for the vegetarian choice on the Specials Board and I had one from the standard menu and as both starters were veggie, we could try each other’s which I love doing when it happens that way.
 

MCH had the Veggie Haggis Scotch Egg, Marinated Courgette Salad, Gooseberry Ketchup (£6.75).  A grainy mock-haggis mixture was tightly packed around a soft boiled egg to create the ‘scotch egg’ effect.  The haggis had a rich texture and was quite filling and the egg was cooked just right.  The gooseberry ketchup, which isn’t often seen, was very tangy and a very good pairing with the haggis/egg.  The portion size was excellent as well.


I had the Twice Baked Quickes Cheddar Souffle, Apple & Walnut Salad, Aspall’s Glaze (£6.75).   I’ve never quite mustered up enough courage or patience to try making soufflé at home so it is nice to have the chance to try it when dining out.  Taking a forkful, it was very soft and light (as it should be) upon first taste and then, almost out of nowhere, there was a blast of cheese that came through which was sharp and contrasted really well against the fluffy soufflé base.  Served with walnuts, apple slices and Aspall’s Cider Glaze, to a degree, I thought of it as a ‘posh Ploughman’s lunch’!  I really enjoyed it as did MCH who sampled it too.

For our Mains, again from the Specials Board, MCH had the Posh Fish & Chips Beer Battered Haddock and Hake, Crab Croquettes, Triple Cooked Chips, Peas and Tartare Sauce (£17.50).  The fish was fresh and the batter was light and hints of beer could be tasted within.  The chips (being triple cooked) were more crispier than they would be normally which he liked.  MCH wasn’t overly keen on the crab croquettes although he felt they would be more eagerly embraced by dedicated seafood lovers.  The tartare sauce was rich, zesty and tangy.
He accompanied his main course with a side order of Green Bean, Fennel & Tomato Salad, Mayes & Green French Dressing (£3.75) which worked well with the fish although the salad was a touch too vinegary when eaten on its own. 
As a whole fish dish, he liked the idea and presentation, commenting it was again a good portion size.

My choice of Main was the Queen Anne’s Artichoke Tart, Chicory & Frissee Salad, Lemon & Caper Dressing (£11.75).
It was a good opportunity to have artichokes which sadly don’t feature as much as they should do on menus.  A good sized portion but perhaps a little too much pastry (for me) for the tart base.  The salad was very crunchy and a nice divergence against the moussey tart filling.   It definitely needs a side order of vegetables and/or potatoes to make it into a more structured main course I felt.  I had a side of New Potatoes with Sea Salt (£3.75) which were lightly buttered and were perfect for the tart.
Photo:  Courtesy of The Rose & Crown

MCH chose his dessert from the Specials Board (again) and went for the Dip Your Own Strawberries (£6.75).  Similarly to the asparagus theme that ran across the Peach Pubs group in springtime, big, ripe locally grown Staffordshire strawberries were presented in little mock plant pots and a fringe of faux grass dressed the tray.  The pots contained Valrhona melted chocolate and Chantilly Cream, both of which were thick and sat well on each strawberry.  MCH said the dipping element made it a fun dessert to have and ideal if you wanted to end the meal on a sweet note, but not have anything too heavy.

I ordered the Lemon and Polenta Drizzle Cake, Elderflower Sorbet (£5.75).  It was served warm, strong lemon flavours were present and the crumbly crust against the sharpness of the sorbet made for a good combination.  In addition, it was a good palette cleanser and rounded the meal off well.
Wall Decoration is in honour of the
pub name, not my surname (pity)!!

The Rose & Crown is a quaint, yet contemporary place to dine which equally lends itself well for drinks having a spacious bar area and outside courtyard for that.  Vegetarians have some selection, the veggie specials are really good and I hope the pub continues to think up more good specials in this creative vain.  Also, the staff can adapt dishes upon request to make bespoke meals which is music to a vegetarian’s ears.
With frequently changing specials boards and regular events, it is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are teaming it with a visit to Warwick or nearby Stratford Upon Avon.
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Disclosure:  This post was written following a kind invitation to sample the evening menu at The Rose & Crown Warwick.   This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 

 

 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Culinary Captures - July 2015


With Culinary Captures now in full swing, here is my round-up of foodie finds that I have encountered on my travels this month:

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Wimbledon may have ended, but the love for strawberries is still shining through well into July.
 
Photo:  Courtesy of The Highfield
Photo:  Courtesy of The Highfield
 
On the back of their successful Dip Your Own Asparagus dish this spring, The Highfield (Birmingham) has adopted the same stance for summer but this time with strawberries sourced from Lower Ruele Farm in Staffordshire. 
Dip Your Own Strawberries come with dipping pots of Valrhona Chocolate Sauce and Chantilly Cream and form part of the restaurant’s dessert specials priced £5.75.  It is available on the menu until the end of July! 
 
Photo:  Extracted from www.ottolenghi.co.uk

Appreciating that strawberries are seasonal, the Ottolenghi brand have launched Freeze Dried Strawberries which are available all year round for those that want them outside of summer. 
 
They can be served whole, lightly crushed or blitzed into a powder, these are wonderful sprinkled over vanilla ice cream or layered with cream in a simple sponge cake.

 
Alex Claridge
Photo:  Extracted from www.foodbynomad.com
For those in the Midlands area, you may have heard of local chef Alex Claridge whose mission is to break the boundaries of cooking, especially for vegetarian food.  In recent years, having developed the menu for Bistro 1847 in Birmingham, he is now in-situ (until August at least) at Kitchen Garden Café in the city’s Kings Heath area where his supper club NOMAD has taken off with a wonderment of plaudits. 
Creating menus for vegetarians and separately for meat eaters, he challenges the tastebuds with his ‘No Rules Menu’ where diners are asked to arrive with an open mind and he promises combinations and ingredient inclusions to rival no other. 
A sample from one of his recent vegetarian menus includes:  Sea Buckthorn Doughnuts or Burnt Cauliflower, Hay Infused Curds, Ash Dumplings with Sea Herbs. 
For details of future NOMAD events, contact Alex via www.foodbynomad.com
 
 
The Cotswolds is a stunning place to visit, especially this time of year when everything is in full bloom and the weather (all being well) is sunny and clement.
 
Taking a trip to Cotswold Lavender earlier this month, Mum and I enjoyed taking in the fresh air and a walk round their lavender farm.   The vivid purple rows of lavender bushes were a spectacular sight against the horizon of rolling countryside and sandy coloured Cotswold stone houses.


Although most people think lavender is only suitable as a pot pourri component or to fragrance toiletries, it has recently been become en vogue to use it for culinary purposes. 
Over at Cotswold Lavender, they sell culinary lavender (which are sold as lavender kernels) and they can be sprinkled on salads or used in cake mixture.  There is also lavender sugar which again, can be used for baking or to be used as you would use sugar ordinarily.  
As a little trial, you could always buy a slice of lavender shortbread from the farm’s tea room to see if you like it!  To see the lavender at its peak, the flowering season ends early August so there is still time to go and visit – check out www.cotswoldlavender.co.uk for details.

Photo:  Extracted from www.liberty.co.uk
 
If you love the coveted Emma Bridgewater kitchenware collection, then you will love her new range which is exclusively sold at amazing department store Liberty’s of London. 

The design focuses on the gorgeously colourful pomegranate fruit bearing its crimson seeds and pretty stalk.  It is a delight for all Emma fans and those who are lovers of kitchen crockery!   Is it too early to start a Christmas list and put this on it I wonder??!!   

Mugs, teapots and bowls etc all feature with prices starting from £19.95 .  See www.liberty.co.uk  for more details.


 

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Note:  All items/services featured have been personally selected and I have not received any incentive or compensation to feature them. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Lunch at Cherry Red's


There is a lot of love on the Birmingham food scene for Cherry Reds, for both their original Kings Heath site and their café on John Bright Street in the city centre.
 

Needing a pitstop on a recent visit to Birmingham, I decided to sample Cherry Reds for myself.
 

Walking in, was like walking into a kitsch emporium (but in a good way).  1960’s drinks cabinets played the function of a centralised ‘condiments table’ where you collect your cutlery and sauces from and the sugar bowls on each table featured 1970’s-esque orange floral patterns (and reminded me of my parents’ friends’ houses when I used to visit them back in the day)!  But they are the genuine articles and not the mock-vintage goods that you get these days.   Board games from yesteryear are available if you fancy a quick round of Kerplunk or Operation whilst you’re waiting for your order to come through.   I found it all very comforting, but then again, I am extremely nostalgic.
 

Real ales form part of the bar selection, something which in My Carnivourous Husband’s  (MCH) viewpoint is a big plus.
 
 
Jenny the owner happened to be onsite that day and it was good to meet her and hear about how Cherry Reds began and her visions for the café.
 

We ordered from the menu, both going for a sandwich option.  I had the Grilled Halloumi Cheese & Chunky Roast Vegetables and I paid an extra 50p to have a roll instead of bread (total:  £4.50).  MCH decided to re-ignite the spirit of his youth and have a Fish Finger & Tartare Sauce sandwich (£4.00).  Both came with a little salad garnish.  


My roll was a nice balance of salty halloumi and the vegetables were soft and tasty - an excellent filling combo, although the roll itself was a little smaller than I thought it would be.  MCH said his sandwich was pleasant and he enjoyed it but he would have liked to have something else on the sandwich to go alongside the fish fingers just to give it a little variation.  As a suggestion, a side order of fries or crisps would have been welcomed to pad out the offering and I would’ve been willing to pay a little extra for it to make it a fuller lunch.  But focusing on the sandwiches themselves, they were enjoyable, freshly made and were ideal for our scenario of needing a quick bite to eat.
 

However, I have to say that the veggie burgers I saw being brought out looked fabulous and note-to-self to try one of one of those another time.

 
Cherry Reds is definitely one of those place that has you feeling sentimental about the past (certainly for those that can remember the 70’s/80’s) and with lots of veggie options dotted throughout the menu it is a great place to meet, have some food and perhaps a game of Yahtzee to while away the afternoon…..

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Note:  We paid in full for all our food and drinks.