The winners of the food awards

Just back from the gala dinner at Manchester’s town hall which marks the end of the 10th food and drink festival. Here’s the winners from the awards – treat it as a to do list of places to visit in the coming months and you won’t go far wrong.
I’ll bring you more reports and pictures later this morning.
Restaurant of the Year – Gaucho Grill, city centre
Bar of the Year – Trof, Northern Quarter
Newcomer of the Year – Chaophraya, city centre
Pub of the Year – The Tandle Hill Tavern, Middleton
Chef of the Year – Alison Seagrave, Harvey Nichols
Healthy and Sustainable Eating – Barburrito, city centre
Coffee Bar and Casual Dining – Slattery, Whitefield
Best Food and Drink Retail Outlet – Out of the Blue Fishmongers, Chorlton
Family Friendly – Giraffe, Trafford Centre
Best Provision for Vegetarians – Dilli, Altrincham
Best Wine List – Harvey Nichols, city centre
Outstanding Contribution of the Decade – Chris and Ros Johnson, Ramsons in Ramsbottom

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Early bird menu @ TNQ

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Once upon a time when the north of the city was Piccadilly, when the Left Bank was in Paris and public gardens had trees, it was difficult to find sophisticated eateries round here. Now you pretty much trip over them.
Sandwiched between the prawn cracker of Sweet Mandarin and the wholemeal loaf of The Market, TNQ (The Northern Quarter) is a bright and airy place for a bite.
I went there on the recommendation of FFF (fussy female friend) and it came up to her exacting standards.
The early bird menu at £9.95 for two courses offered a good selection but still FFF went for the greek salad – as usual. What can you say about Greek salad? It had feta, it had toms, it had olives and was, apparently “nicely seasoned”. Great.
I found a far more interesting experience in the garlic and almond soup.

This had the texture of super runny porridge but a sweet and sensual taste which neither ingredient ever hints at in its raw state but, when cooked, makes a divine partnership. Every drop was savoured.

Sadly the accompanying strong blue cheese toast wasn’t too my taste being too overpowering.
FFF finally got some pluck and plumped for the adventurous sounding kaffir lime, chilli and ginger kohlrabi which proved to be a delicious combination of flavours faintly similar to Thai green curry but more delicate and a fine way to treat a turnip. (The lighting was a little subtle as you can tell from the picture).
My sea bass fillet was succulently pan-fried, if a little on the small side, while the lemon and chive mash with the accompanying tangy lemon moat of what I can only describe as relish (perhaps its marmalade – what’s the difference?) was a joyous dance of zestfulness.
Verdict: While the menu offers good value food in pleasant surroundings, the final bill revealed quite a heavy price for drinks at £10 for two glasses of wine. Even so TNQ is worth a visit and the early bird menu is a good introduction to what it has to offer.
TNQ is at 108, High Street, Manchester M4 1HQ

Enjoying your out of the home eating opportunity?

The manufacturer of Cornish pasties used this wonderful expression to describe what his product offered customers on BBC Radio 4 this morning.
Another way of saying take-away- but with so much more clout, don’t you think?
There must be a whole range of new phrases like this just waiting to be unleashed from the pink-lined vocal projection insttruments of marketeers and management bods.
Can’t wait. B ut for now I’m off to enjoy some out of the home eating opportunity in a seated environemnt with some people of a well-acquainted like-minded disposition over a few alcoholic glass wrapped beverages.

and the winners were………

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OK it’s a bit off piste (or should that be ‘off the menu’) for a food blog but I thought the city’s blog awards worthy of note anyway.
The winners at last night’s well attended celebration of blogging at Matt and Phreds were;
Best Personal Blog: Single Mother on the Verge
Best New Blog: Rent Girl
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Mancubist
Best Political Blog: Politaholic
Best Writing on a Blog: Day of Moustaches

@ Manor Fish and Chips, Glossop

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This particular chippy has been a long time coming. First of all there was a run-down empty shop, then a Chinese take-away and now, finally a fully functioning chip shop and Chinese take-away – right down the end of my street.
Last night I finally got the chance to give it a test drive.
Fish: Apart from the fact that this was ‘unidentified’ fish (nothing on the menu to differentiate and definitely no choice. I hate that.) it was good. I’m guessing it was hake, certain it wasn’t cod, but nicely cooked whatever the species.
Batter: Not good. Hard to put my finger on it, but if top fish is battered with a chiffon wrap, this one was constrained in a straight-jacket. Definitely not melt-in-the mouth – more like stirred in a concrete mixer and greasy too.
Chips: Bingo! A huge portion of freshly fried chips. Perhaps a little pale in colour but well crispy and hot. Thankfully I wanted them with salt and vinegar because we didn’t get a choice.
Peas: Nothing to write home about – so I won’t.
Verdict: I can safely say they’re the best fish and chips in Glossop. Those readers from Glossop will know that isn’t a great commendation but this newcomer passes muster on most counts.

Manor Fish and Chips is at the junction of Manor Park Road and the A57.

Have you tried this chip shop? What did you think? Submit your comments below.

Tuacadence: Manchester’s new top cocktail

As judged at last night’s Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards, created by Jasmine Carr from The Lowry Hotel’s River Bar.
Ingredients: Tuaca, Grand Marnier, Flangelico, Apple Juice, Gomme syrup.
Description of Cocktail:
All ingredients are shaken over ice.
The nutty taste of frangelico compliments the vanilla in the Tuaca and the orange from the Grand Marnier compliments the citruses of the Tuaca, Apple juice brings out the all the ingredients to make this a drink you can not forget!
35ml Tuaca
12.5 Grand mariner
12.5 Frangelico
25ml Apple juice
5ml Gomme syrup.
Served in a Martini glass on a plate with chocolate hazelnut and vanilla flavored chocolate on one side and Kumquats (Baby sized oranges) on the other.
The rim of the martini glass is half covered in fig syrup and dusted with ground Hazelnuts.
Do you have a recipe to share? If so let me know below.

City names top cocktail

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I hear that something called Tuacadence has been named as Manchester’s top cocktail.
Created by city centre bar tender, Jasmine (pictured) from Lowry Hotel’s River Bar the drink was crowned last night at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.
The competition featured seven other finalists from bars in Manchester.
This was the 6th annual competition, a highlight of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. Contestants were asked to celebrate 10 years of MFDF and use a ‘decade of decadence’ as their inspiration and ‘Tuaca Liqueur’as their base spirit.
The competition was held at Cloud 23, where crowds turned out to watch the finalists battle it out for the award, which will be presented at next Monday’s Gala Dinner and Awards at Manchester Town Hall
Amongst other guests, celebrity chef Andrew Nutter (pictured) was there to help decide a winner.
Official judges included MEN’s Ruth Allan and world champion bar tender Jamie Stephenson.

Try it for yourself. Here’s the recipe.

Good weekend for greedy birds

peacock.jpg It turns out to have been a top couple of days for our feathered friends. Most significant is York’s attempt to ban foie gras.
York city council has become the first in the UK to pass a motion condemning the sale of foie gras, in a move welcomed by animal welfare campaigners and likely to intensify pressure for a national ban.
I fully applaud this move – personally I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a product which has involved such obvious cruelty to an animal and surely there’s got to be better ways to produce pate than sticking funnels down poor creature’s necks.
Recently I’ve been enjoying a book about aphrodisiac food where the author makes a point about excluding any recipes which involve suffering of animals.

As she states, ripping the tongues from larks is one sure fire way to reduce any normal person’s ardour – and who could disagree. Well for me – foie gras and veal produce the same state of nausea and repulsion.

Away from such things and closer to home I’ve had a weekend of encounters with the winged ones. First this handsome peacock (pictured), his lady and two chicks became unexpected guests at a remote Peak district pub which didn’t seem to have a location.
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Then the ducks of Derwent Resevoir got a helping of my free (it was slightly burnt but who cares about that?) vegetarian Cornish pasty.
I’m still slightly baffled as to how they could filter crumbs from wood mulch – that’s the wonder of nature I suppose.

Classic platter @ Livebait

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I’ve often seen others with them. Eyecatching and fascinating – but also slightly repulsive in their ostentatiousness. The platters at Livebait are certainly something to behold.
And I’ve now had my first. After many years of weighing up the menu in Manchester’s best known fish restaurant and plumping for something else, we finally devoured the classic platter for two. Well it is national seafood week.
But the platter is not just about the food – there’s a whole ceremony to the experience.
* First the cutlery arrives. Forget knives and forks (or chopsticks of you’re one of my international blog readers) this is serious eating equipment which wouldn’t be out of place in a surgeon’s drawer. There’s implements to crash, crack, poke, prod and puncture all lined up in an order which seems important – but probably isn’t
* Next there’s display – a stand arrives at the table together with bowls and finger bowls.
* Then there’s the arrival. Que gasps from fellow diners and the feeling of guilty pleasure that this mountain of seafood, positioned high so that everyone else can see it as well, is all for you. How decadent!
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So into the food. It’s all piled high on ice and contains a vast assortment which, depending on your taste for seafood, is a heaven or hell of creatures from the ocean floor.
There’s prawn a plenty – big ones, small ones, brown ones – there’s green-lipped mussels, whelks, clams and then there’s oysters.
My first oysters. It seemed the right venue, the right companion (Himself of course!), the right setting and the right occassion to lose my oyster virginity.
I was nervous, the tabasco was waiting (the other diners semed to me to be taking far too much interest by this point) so there was no going back. And it was excellent.

A new naughty habit to be indulged at suitable eateries from now on. The taste of the sea was sweet and its transportation of the lemon and tabasco in a gluggable journey was divine. Why has it taken me this long to discover them?

Probably something to do with experiences like this and that displayed by Brian on the Hell’s Kitchen last series.
Back to the platter, a fresh set of bowls and finger bowls has to be delieverd in an attempt for us to finish it all – which we didn’t.
Verdict: The classic platter is an experience to be enjoyed. If you like seafood then presumably, like the old joke about see food and eat it, you’ll enjoy lots of seafood.
My only criticism was that the ice mountain means that some of the fruits de la mer became too cold over the course of the course and that the impressive looking crab crown is just that – for looks. Disappointingly, there’s no dressed crab inside those shells.
But it’s not just about the food – the platter is an event, an experience and a celebration of simple pleasures.
Livebait is at 18-22 Lloyd St, Manchester, M2 5WA. 0161 817 4110

Manchester Food and Drink festival launched

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With liquid stuffed pumpkins in hand and disco lights a plenty, the 10th annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival has been launched.
In what must figure as one of the more surreal festival launches, organisers chose a small area inside the cavernous Manchester 235 building inside the even more cavernous Great Northern Warehouse and invited lots of people – to form a queue.

It seems it was a night for queuing in Manchester. Having arrived fresh from the launch of the excellent Art Treasures exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery (where the queue was “entertained” by a man who was for some reason dressed up as a navvy and pretending that he wanted to be able to get back to his building work) we joined the queue of champagne weilding foodies desperate for a nibble.

Due to current gaming laws, all the guests have to become casino members or be signed in by a member, so looking like a well-dressed evening of gambler’s annonymous members who’ve simultanesouly fallen off the wagon, we formed a ever-increasing queue to be allowed through to mark the occassion.
Rewarded after our navigation through the giant Russian doll which goes from Manchester – square – warehouse -casino we made it throught to the smallest, darkest, furthest chamber ( reminds me of the Eygption temples experience!) to celebrate – with a stuffed pumpkin or pepper.
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These unusual non-acoholic cocktails served in a variety of fruit and veg were the tipple of the day. Served over ice, the grapefruit and lemon concoction served in a green pepper became a fast firm favourite.
But what of the food? A few plates of the tiniest, weeniest nibbles seemed to be served whereever we weren’t, but no real food was to be found at this event for gourmets.
So wishing the festival well, we headed off for something more substantial.
But what of the festival? Well there’s certainly a lot listed to get the appetite running.
Full details are available at the festival’s official website and my colleagues on the M.E.N have picked out these highlights.
So eat, drink and be merry!