A New Adventure for Corpulent Capers

Mark and Carol of Corpulent Capers are embarking on a new adventure, a Food Adventure!

As you know we are so passionate about locally produced, seasonal, fresh food that we have been blogging about it for several years and now we want to share our experiences with you.

Local, seasonal, organic vegetables

Local, seasonal, organic vegetables

So what is Food Adventure? Food Adventure is all about food, fun, and adventure. Discover places, faces, plates and spaces as you go behind the scenes to meet some of Wales’ most talented food & drink producers, farmers and chefs.

Picture of an Oxford Sandy & Black Pig

An Oxford Sandy & Black Pig

Our unique tours may include a visit to a farm to meet a farmer passionate about his livestock and who is producing top quality meat, or a visit to one of Wales’ award winning vineyards. Maybe a day out foraging and then a sumptuous lunch, featuring foraged foods, tickles your fancy? We are working with some of Wales’ finest chefs and food producers who will give cooking demonstrations or hands on classes. A Food Adventure day out will showcase some of the best restaurants, farmers, and food & drink producers in South and Mid Wales.

Picture of cows being milked

Milking Time At The Farm

We are really excited about Food Adventure and will share more about our tours and the producers we work with over the next few weeks.

Picture of pan roasted red mullet

Pan Roasted Red Mullet, with Creamed Leeks, Lobster Bonbon and Lobster Sauce

You can sign up for our newsletter at www.foodadventure.co.uk, follow us on twitter @FoodAdventureUK or like us on Facebook.

Fun Fact:

Mark was a judge for the True Taste of Wales awards and will be a Great Taste Awards judge this year. Carol was a Director of the International Wine and Food Society of the Bahamas and led culinary tours from the Bahamas to New Orleans.

 

Zest at the Cardiff Marriot with River Cottage

We broke the news here that Marriott Hotels were piloting a partnership with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage and that the Cardiff Hotel was to be part of that pilot.

Marriott have realised that a growing number of diners have an interest in the provenance of their food and so, in response, they are trying to improve their sourcing so as to offer a local, seasonal menu.

The Marriot kitchen team have been trained at River Cottage, who have also helped identify quality, local producers that they can source from.

Producers such as Graig Farm, Slade Farm Organics, Abergavenny Fine Foods, Gower Coast Seafood and the Welsh Box Scheme to name but a few.

Zest has set themselves some challenging goals including:-

  • Ensure that 80-percent of the ingredients at Zest to be obtained within a 60-mile radius.
  • To reduce our food waste to no more than 5-percent.
  • To use only organic meat
  • To use only free range organic chicken
  • To ensure that all fish and shellfish are procured from sustainable sources.

It’s great to see a large chain such as Marriott leading the way on this and it is to be hoped that their example is soon followed by other hospitality organisations.

So how is Zest and its food?

Picture of inside of Zest Restaurant

Inside Zest

Well the restaurant suffers from its location, it is unmistakably a hotel restaurant and one that doubles as the breakfast buffet as well.  High ceilings, white tiled floors, and hotel décor do not really impart a cosy ambience.

Fortunately the staff are excellent, very friendly and accommodating which is a big help. If only you couldn’t hear them coming as they clip clop across that tiled floor.

First up was the Chef’s homemade Focaccia bread. This didn’t really get us off to a good start as frankly it was atrocious. I think Chef missed the River Cottage baking course.

Mrs A started with a Goats Cheese Salad of squash, beetroot, goat’s cheese and caper. A delightfully pretty dish it was, unfortunately, served so chilled that its flavour was masked.

Picture of Goat's Cheese Salad with Squash, Beetroot and Capers.

Goat’s Cheese Salad with Squash, Beetroot and Capers.

My starter was smoked venison with pickled mushrooms and leaves. The venison was moist and tasty and a decent dressing pulled it all together.

Picture of Smoked Venison

Smoked Venison

Mrs A’s main was Slow Roasted Lamb with Celeriac Mash. The lamb was sourced from Slade Farm Organics. It was beautifully cooked, moist and tender with a rich sauce that frankly there could have been more of.  The celeriac mash was a little overpowered by the large strips of chili running through it. If they had been finely chopped and less, then the dish would have benefited.

Picture of Slow Roasted Lamb with Celeriac Mash

Slow Roasted Lamb with Celeriac Mash

I had the Slow Cooked Organic Brisket with kale, and Anchovy and Rosemary Potatoes. Delightfully rich it really hit the spot.

Picture of the Slow Cooked Organic Brisket

Slow Cooked Organic Brisket

The side of kale was also a little heavy on the chili, but very nicely cooked and the addition of fennel seed was a nice touch.  We had some excellent honey glazed rainbow carrots as well.

Rainbow Carrots

Rainbow Carrots

 

Kale with Chili & Fennel

Kale with Chili & Fennel

Mrs A chose a Sticky Date Pudding for dessert, served with a vanilla ice cream. Whilst I chose an Apple and Cherry Crumble.  Both delivered in terms of flavour and sweetness.

Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky Date Pudding

Apple & Cherry Crumble

Apple & Cherry Crumble

Whilst not faultless the cooking at Zest is definitely a step up from your average hotel restaurant and therein lies the rub, as the space screams hotel at you.  There is a much more comfortable upper tier to the restaurant although that was not is use the night we went as it had been laid up in readiness for breakfast the next day.

Whilst I’m not sure if Zest will succeed in pulling local non-residents into the hotel, I think if I was staying at the Marriott then Zest would certainly stop me from exiting the building to try find a local eatery.

I hope the hotel’s marketing team can carve out a reputation for Zest independently of the hotel as that’s what it needs to help it stand out from the chains that surround it.  It has all the right ingredients after all.

Zest
Cardiff Marriott Hotel
Mill Lane
Cardiff
CF10 1EZ

Tel: 02920 399 944
Web: Zest

We were invited to try Zest as guests of Nylon Communications and as such all food and drink was complimentary.

 
Zest on Urbanspoon

Learn Patisserie with former Claridges Patissier, Beverly Reed

Picture of Beverly Reed

Beverly Reed

I’ve always been of the opinion if you want to do something well you should learn from an expert.

So when I decided that I’d like to learn a bit more about making patisserie there was no better class to attend than one run by Beverly Reed.

Beverly began her love affair with food after leaving catering college and making a false start as a waitress in a Harrogate Forte Hotel. She returned to the kitchen and spent several years building up a dizzying CV, which included spells as a pâtissier at Claridges in London and Michelin starred restaurants at Château de Montreuil in France, Stuckis and Der Walserhof in Switzerland and L’Ortolan near Reading.

On my first course with Bev we learned how to make macaroons, scones and Gâteau Basque. This is the classic Basque dessert. It has a crunchy tart-like exterior and a soft filling. Typically Gâteau Basque is constructed from layers of an almond flour based cake with a filling of pastry cream (crème pâtissière).

Picture of a Gateau Basque

Gateau Basque

Everything we made that day tasted fabulous and we found Bev to a great teacher, making the complicated seem simple and with bags of patience (which she really needed).

So much did we enjoy our day of baking that we enrolled again for Bev’s next class. This time we made a Tarte Belle-Hélène, basically a chocolate and pear tart. It was absolutely stunning!

Picture of Tarte Belle-Hélène

Tarte Belle-Hélène

Beverly has recently expanded her cooking classes and is now running additional classes at Haberdashers School for Girls in Monmouth. So if you want to learn to patisserie from a real expert sign up for one of her classes now, but be quick places are selling fast.

Upcoming Patisserie Classes with spaces.

11th March, 6-9pm
Baked White Chocolate & Hazelnut Cheesecake

18th March, 6-9pm
Seasonal Panna cotta with Biscotti

6th May, 6-9pm
Strawberry Shortcake

Courses cost only £30 each. What a bargain!

For more info or to book on any of the above courses please contact Beverly on 01633 897550
email: bev@creativefood.co.uk
or visit: creativefood.co.uk

The Otley Brewing Company Win A Mini Keg Giveaway

What makes Otley Beer so delicious and unique?

Otley Brewing Company is a family run business started by Paul, Nick, Robert, Charlie and Matthew Otley in 2005. The idea brewed as a conversation over a few pints of beer…the start of many an idea! As the family owned pubs, they knew what people liked to drink but more importantly what was missing from the market. Driven by the love of great beer and a desire to craft unique ales, they decided to make their own beers.

Where the Beer is Brewed

Where the Beer is Brewed

As a small family run microbrewery they are not afraid of being innovative and are committed to using the finest ingredients to make their ales. The water for their beer comes from the Brecon Beacons; the Malt comes from Tucker Maltings, which is one of the few Malthouses that produces malt in the traditional way, and their hops are sourced from all over the world.

Malt and Hops

Malt and Hops

It’s not just the ingredients that make this an excellent quaff but the unique combinations of hops, often decided over a pint of beer, which gives them a fresh and modern award winning range of beers.

A unique range of ingredients

A unique range of ingredients

Otley is one of the first breweries to add unique but subtle flavourings to their beer. All of their beers drink well on their own but they also shine when drunk with a meal. Their Thai Bo has a subtle hint of lime leaf, lemongrass and galangal and is perfect with Chinese or Indian food. 09 Blond is a clear wheat beer with roasted orange peel, coriander and cloves and is scrumptious with salad and fish. The Oh Ho Ho has a background note of blueberries and goes well with steak and the Porter is sublime with dessert.

The Current Otley Range

The Current Otley Range

Otley is located in Ponytpridd, just up the road from their friendly and welcoming pub and restaurant The Bunch of Grapes.

COMPETITION
Thanks to the generosity of Otley, we are running a contest to give you a chance to win a Minikeg of their beer. You must be over 18 to enter and, due to delivery issues, live in the mainland UK, excluding Northern Scotland.

HOW TO ENTER
Note you need a Facebook account to be able to enter this competition, sorry. Use the Widget below to confirm your email address, name, city and date of birth (you must be 18 or over to enter). Then click the like button to become a fan of the Otley Brewing Co on Facebook.  If you have a Twitter account you can get a second entry and better your chances of winning if you use the bonus screen to follow the Otley Twitter Account.

Full rules are at the end of this post.

Click here to view this promotion.

 

  • The deadline for entries is 23:59 GMT Friday 6th December 2013.
  • The competition is open to U.K. mainland residents only (excluding Northern Scotland), sorry.
  • You must be 18 or over to enter.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries.
  • The editors decison is final and no correspondence will be entered into
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • The prize is one mini keg of Otley Beer of unspecified type, as shown above, and includes free delivery anywhere in mainland UK excluding Northern Scotland.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by the Otley Brewing Company.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Corpulent Capers accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • One entry per person only.
  • Entrants must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • By entering you agree to join our mailing list. You may unsubscribe at any time and we will never pass your details to any other party. Your privacy is very important to us.
  • The winners will be notified by email. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Llansantffraed Court Hotel – Back On The Culinary Map

Turning off the B4589 onto Llansantffraed Court Hotel’s private drive, I am immediately reminded that this four-star country house hotel and restaurant sits in a stunning location. The William and Mary style, grade II listed building is surrounded by 20 acres of lawns, and is complete with its own lake and walled kitchen garden, whose content is to feature heavily on our menu this evening.

Also in the gardens is a small church, parts of which may date back to the 16th century. The church is named after St Bridget who is often portrayed as having the power to multiply such things as butter, bacon and milk. I take this as a good sign for the night ahead.

View of St Bridget's Church across the lake

View of St Bridget’s Church across the lake

As we reach the head of the drive the authentic sound of gravel under the tyre heralds the arrival at the main entrance to the Llansantffraed Court Country House Hotel and Restaurant. Let the evening begin.

After our excellent summer, there is a noticeable drop in temperature as we move through autumn and so we opt to peruse the menus in the bar, where Mrs A can seek warmth from the fireplace. Llansantffraed’s Court Restaurant offers a number of menu choices including a set dinner menu at around £27.50 and an individually priced à la carte menu. We have come for the six course Chef’s Tasting Menu at £50 which may be paired with a wine flight, if desired, for an additional £35. Llansantffraed has a very extensive and eclectic wine list (the .pdf on their web site is 22 pages long!) and a very expensive preservation system allows them to offer the vast majority by the glass, which is very good news indeed.

I particularly like the fact that even the Tasting Menu can change on a daily basis to reflect whatever is freshest in both the walled kitchen garden and at their suppliers. It is worth pointing out that Llansantffraed proudly displays a list of its main suppliers alongside their menu and on their website. We all want to support and enjoy local produce, but as well as being local it has to be good. Fortunately in this area local and good is readily available, allowing the restaurant to source 75% of its ingredients within a 20 mile radius. Produce from the walled garden is of course measured in food yards not miles!

Picture of the Walled Garden at LLansantffraed

The Walled Garden

Back inside we have the option of choosing to have the Tasting Menu served to us “blind”, an option which appeals to me or, more traditionally, with prior knowledge an option that appeals to Mrs A, not normally one for surprises. So, of course, we opt to see the menu in advance and I am delighted to find that it is suitably vague with each course simply listed as its main ingredient e.g. scallop, bass, lamb. I like this form of menu presentation as it still tells you what you are going to be eating but doesn’t mean that you get the chance to prejudge the dish in terms of content or presentation.

Even though we were now aware of the main ingredient of each course, the excellent and friendly staff took time to ensure that we had no allergies, intolerances or dislikes that could have affected our enjoyment of what was ahead.

Whilst all this was unfolding we received some canapés from the kitchen. There were some delightfully light and savoury cheese gourgères, a small raft of cockle ‘popcorn’, savoury anchovy palmiers and a turkey mousse.

Picture of Canapes at Llansantffraed Court Hotel

Canapes

The restaurant, some parts of which date back to 1670, is tastefully done; the walls are lined with images from a local photographer (and are available for sale). Comfortable chairs, an increasing rarity in the rush to style over substance, are accompanied by white linen tables giving an intimate ambience that still manages to feel relaxed and not stuffy.

Inside the Court Restaurant

The Court Restaurant

‘Amuse Bouche’

First to arrive is the Amuse Bouche, a Kataifi wrapped Quails Egg served with Mushroom, Pea Three Ways and slices of Truffle alongside a Truffle Custard. I love truffle so I was in heaven already, but you know that the make or break for this dish is going to come when you slice into that quails egg. Will the yolk be runny or not? These things are so small that only a few seconds separates delightful, runny, unctuousness from the disaster that is hard boiled. Oh well done Chef, right on the money!

Kataifi wrapped Quails Egg

Amuse Bouche – Kataifi wrapped Quails Egg

Delightful, Runny, Unctuousness

Delightful, Runny, Unctuousness

After the Amuse Bouche we get to try some of the home baked breads which are so good Mrs A, knowing my penchant for all things doughy has to stop me from asking for more on the basis that we have a few more courses to come yet.

‘Scallop’

Our first course, labelled simply as “Scallop”, turns out to be just a little bit more than that. Beautifully cooked scallops, served with sea spinach and sea aster alongside different types of cauliflower – purple, quenelle , puree and even a cauliflower panna cotta – accompanied by apple cured belly pork and apple purée. A great combination of well-tried flavours is in evidence here, with the innovative cauliflower variations introducing some nice texture changes.

Picture of Scallop Dish

Scallop

‘Bass’

Next up is “Bass”. Here we have line caught Bass served with Artichoke, Artichoke Crisp and Octopus. Expertly cooked fish, from a Chef who prides himself on his fish preparation and who even spent time at Ashton’s fish market in Cardiff to master the skills. He cooks it as well as he prepares it, trust me on that. The Octopus was cooked in a Greek style and added a rich texture and taste to the dish.

Picture of Bass Dish

Bass

‘Lamb’

Following the fish courses it was time to move onto “Lamb” in the form of Lamb Loin, Lamb Breast and Sweetbread. Served with vegetables from the walled garden such as leeks, potatoes, butternut squash, wild garlic, Gower samphire and a flavourful lamb jus this was rich and hearty.

Picture of Lamb Course

Lamb Course

Second picture of the lamb course

More Lamb

 

‘Lemon’

The first of our sweet courses is entitled “Lemon” and presents as sharp lemon custard with blackberries, blackberry sorbet, blackberry coulis, pistachio and meringue. This is a beautiful light harmonious dessert celebrating the bounty of blackberries in the hedgerow this year!

Picture of Lemon Course

Lemon

Another picture of Lemon

More Lemon

‘Chocolate’

Our second sweet bills itself simply as “Chocolate”. Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream, Molten Chocolate Cake Cup and jug of warm booze! As Mrs A put it “This is chocolate milk and cookies for adults.”

Picture of the Chocolate Dessert Course

Chocolate

To summarise, Mrs A and I truly loved the meal. It’s a great reflection of what dining in a country house hotel should be. High quality, local ingredients cooked superbly by a chef that understands both flavour and texture. There is a high level of skill on display here, in both process and cooking. Credit to Chef Hendry for being able to demonstrate both, whilst not being distracted from what, for us, is the primary objective, flavour.

At the end of our fabulous dinner, our waiter arrives looking slightly perplexed. “I’ve never done this before” he says, leaving me wondering what ‘this’ is. Fortunately he goes on, “Chef was planning to pop out and say hello at some point, but we’ve got another party due any minute and so he’s a bit busy. So he’s asked me to come and ask you if you’d like to visit him in the kitchen instead.” From the look on his face I can see that he really never has done this before and I am reminded of a certain 1970’s sit-com in which a Mr Rumbold was prone to mutter “This is most irregular.” Irregular or not we jumped at the chance.

‘The Kitchen’

The one thing that most country house hotel kitchens seem to have in common is that they have, by necessity, been shoe-horned into totally unsuitable amounts of space. With a restaurant and a strong wedding trade you really expect the kitchens at Llansantffraed to be much bigger than they actually are. That food of this quality is coming out of them is a testament not only to the skills of the Chef, but also to how he runs his team. It is the teamwork (or lack of it) that can make or break a place and so credit must also go to owner Mike Morgan for investing both money and time in building his team and integrating front and back of house so well.

Picture of owner Mike Morgan and chef Mike Hendry

Llansantffraed Court Hotel Owner Mike Morgan and Head Chef Mike Hendry.

So who is this Chef that is revitalising the hotel’s restaurant and adding yet another destination to the local Monmouthshire food scene? Well he goes by the name of Mike Hendry and is originally from Ayrshire. Mike began his career as a Chef aged 21 and came to Wales in 2003 after being offered a position at the Michelin starred Crown at Whitebrook where he remained until it closed early in 2013. Mike rose through the ranks to become Sous Chef; his six years of working in a Michelin starred kitchen has given him great experience for his first role as Head Chef of a fine dining restaurant seeking to establish itself on the Monmouthshire culinary map. He has also been able to bring some other members of the old Crown team to the Llansantffraed kitchen with him to help create a formidable and experienced brigade.

This area of Monmouthshire has quite a few restaurants of note. Names such as The Hardwick, The Foxhunter, The Walnut Tree and The Bell have long been shouted out as reasons why people should make the foodie pilgrimage to the area. With food as competent as this coming out of the kitchen I suggest that they’ll soon be adding another restaurant to the list.

As for us! Well, so happy were we to be back eating great food in such a great location, that we decided shortly after our visit to book ourselves in for the most important meal of the year, Christmas Lunch. Do you really need a better recommendation than that?

LLANSANTFFRAED COURT COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL & RESTAURANT
Clytha, Llanvihangel Gobion
Nr. Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Wales NP7 9BA

Tel: +44(0) 1873 840678
Fax: +44(0) 1873 840674
Email: reception@llch.co.uk
Web: www.llch.co.uk

The Court Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We were invited to dine at Llansantffraed Court by their PR company and as such our food items were complementary.