Manchester Food and Drink Festival: Your votes needed

The annual awards scheme for Manchester’s top restaurants, bars and food retailers is well underway following the official launch and they’re looking for your votes.

The full set of categories with the voting buttons are avilable here.

There’s some of the usual suspects but it’s also interesting to hear that so many newcomers have appeared in the nominations that organisers say it was difficult to whittle down to the six eventually shortlisted.

And I see the shortlist has already caused some controversy over at Manchester Confidential’s website with a few posters there suggesting it’s the “same old, same old”.  I’d love to hear what you think!

The results will be announced at the prestigious finale event of the Festival, the MFDF Gala Dinner and Awards taking place this October 12th at The Palace Hotel hosted by the Hairy Bikers.

The organisers are also promising a new feature in this 12th year of  the festival – a sustainability summit intended to bring together experts from the food industry in a forum focussing on the themes of “sustain and survive”.

The date is still to be confirmed for the event, being held at the Palace Hotel – I shall post news about that just as soon as it’s in.

In the meantime, find out more about the festival and the events for this year at the official website

See a book? Pick it up and cook

Monica: 1st to cookIt seems there’s something about social media and baking that goes together like, well, cup and cake.

First some of us Social Media Cafe Manchester devotees were musing about donating everything from twiscuits and ning doughnuts to geekcups, to put some extra sweetness into future meetings, and then Leeds tweeters were urged to run off with a cookbook to get baking.

Emma from the Culture Vulture got this particular bookcrossing style episode underway by leaving the lovely hardbook edition of Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache lying in a deckchair, unattended.

And there it stayed – yes the good people of Leeds far too shy or honest to dive in and claim it for themselves!

It was soon given a helping hand to set off thanks to Tweet up organiser Monica Tailor who is expecting to bake up the carrot cake recipe before leaving the book to inspire somewhere else.

So if you see a copy of this lovely book just kicking about – pick it up and cook!

There are instructions inside for anyone who may encounter it – fascinating to see where all this might end!

Ampleforth Abbey opens for tea

Fancy a slice of Father Rainer’s Apple Cake? Perhaps Father Hugh’s cheesecake with crumbled fudge and fresh vanilla pods is more to your taste?

In a move which risks sounding like a sketch from Father Ted, the brotherhood of St Benedict has opened up a tearoom at North Yorkshire’s Ampleforth Abbey.

The Yorkshire Post has more with this puntastic story headlined; Like father like bun

* The tea room is open Tuesday until Saturday 10am until 12.30pm and 2.30pm until 5.30pm. Sunday 2.30pm until 5.30pm. Closed Monday.

Chips adored at Manchester International Festival

Float in praise of bacon rolls
Float in praise of bacon rolls

Food earned its rightful place at the heart of the community when the procession by artist Jeremy Deller took to the streets today.

A mobile version of Bury’s Valerie’s Cafe honoured the bacon roll but the star of the show was the amazing “Adoration of the Chip” float complete with giant cone of fries at the front and a full choir belting out their praise for the nation’s favourite deep fried delight.

See it for youself with this Qik clip, they come in  just after the Stalybridge brass band play to mark their 200th anniversary with a commemoration of the Peterloo Massacre.

(It also got everyone in the mood for chips – Liverpool Road’s fish hut seen doing a brisk trade as procession followers grabbed a tray before heading into Deansgate!)

Away from foodie concerns, the procession made for a fantastic afternoon. A clever but completely accessible artwork which celebrated such a wide variety of Manchester communities.

The goths and moshers were there, as were the kids who drive their cars at the back of the Toys R Us car park proudly taking part alongside more traditional forms such as Rose Queens and the former mill workers.

The city was a buzz, the atmosphere reflecting the sunshine – congratulations certainly due to all who made it happen.

More pictures from the parade on Flickr.

Blackhouse Grill, Leeds

Platter to share
Platter to share

Faced with customers’ tightening their financial belts, it would seem there’s two ways a restaurant can go. Some come up with a gimmick – two for ones, all you eat, happy hours, even pay what you like while others get back to basics and serve up the sort of food people actually can be bothered to go out to eat.

Blackhouse Grill is definitely in the latter camp.

It essentially does steak and it does seafood. And it does them in a straightforward, but quality way. The seafood is sourced from sustainable stocks and the steak is “grass fed hormone free beasts sourced from farms who use traditional husbandry methods allowing the animals to mature naturally under stress free conditions.”

Calling in on an unexceptional weekday night we found this stylish city centre venue had a bustling atmosphere with its live pianist and plenty of diners seemingly prepared to splash some cash.

We started with the house platter (£13.95) – a substantial shared plate of chicken which had been skewered on lemongrass so was fragrantly quite strongly infused, fishcakes which were fired up with a chili sauce and lamb kofta’s which had been cooked slightly rare to bring out the flavour.

In the spirit of keeping it simple, I headed into a generous helping of sweet queenie scallops (£11.95) just tossed in garlic butter and parsley with linguine. Pasta as is should be – just a few ingredients to bring up the flavours.

Steak, chips and red wine sauce
Steak, chips and red wine sauce

His steak (£13.50) was also what was wanted  – well cooked, succulent it even inspiring the description of “melting” to be uttered.

Praise indeed!

Taken together with some rustic, crispy on the outside chips (which can only serve to remind a person what a chip, as opposed to a fry, really is) this was a the sort of steak and chips that must be in the minds of so many condemned men when they order their last meals.

After such a blow out, dessert wasn’t really at the forefront of our minds so we shared a white and dark chocolate torte which, while it looks very pretty, didn’t completely match up to the simple but well seasoned other courses,  there not being much contrast between the two chocolate entities.

But that’s a minor point. What the Blackhouse Grill provided was good food at a reasonable price in an airy and stylish environment.

Blackhouse Grill is at 31-33 East Parade, Leeds, LS1 5PS.

Disclosure: We were invited to sample the menu as guests of the Leeds Loves Food festival, so this review was, unusually for this blog,  carried out with the restaurateurs knowledge.

Bloggers have chef James Martin licked at #LLF

If you could lick this TV chef, what do you think he would taste like?

Chef James Martin drawing a lobster for @CultureVulture
Chef James Martin drawing a lobster for @CultureVulture

That was the question (from the intrepid Katie of LeedsGrub) which rounded off today’s “bloggers conference”, held to launch the Leeds Loves Food festival in the city.

The organisers took a refreshingly different approach to letting people know about this festival, inviting prominent Yorkshire bloggers along for interviews and access.

It was a fun session – and one which resulted in a different set of questions than those which might be expected from journalists at a bog-standard press conference.

Here’s a flavour;

Q. How do you define being a celebrity?

A. Said he doesn’t consider himself a celebrity – that’s a term others apply and then revealed the difficulty he has with TV presenting due to his dyslexia: “It’s not like we are trained for it, like a presenter’s job. I’m as dyslexic as hell so reading the autocue is a nightmare.”

Q: Food hell and heaven?

A: Heaven is smoked haddock while hell is horseradish. Apparently he hates the stuff.

Q: I asked him what can be done to promote Yorkshire’s food reputation.

A: “We are renowned for great ingredients, some of the best in the world, so all we can do is really show people what they have on their doorstep. I don’t want to go to Thailand and cook a tree rat, I want people to understand what’s on their doorsteps. Everything has its time and now British food is having its time.”

During the session he also recommended some local suppliers – Betty’s, Trenchers Fish and Chips in Whitby and ‘the best lamb in the world’ from Skipton’s Colin Robinson.

Being a high-profile petrolhead, he also answered some car related points which you view on my Qik stream.

But the food was the point of the appearance andJames left the blog gathering and headed off to cook some of that local lamb for 1,100 people.

Which just leaves the question of chef tastiness – so, for the record, Mr Martin tastes of sweat, Christian Dior and mackeral – so he said.

Note: No chefs were subjected to unwanted licking during this blog conference.

Bloggers preparing to grill chef Martin
Bloggers preparing to grill chef Martin

links for 2009-07-02

  • Top chef, Nigel Brown, will be appearing in the Chef’s Theatre at Edinburgh Foodies Festival on Sunday 23rd August. Nigel has been touring the UK with Foodies Festivals entertaining audiences with his extremely popular demonstration of Passionate Puddings and Decadent Desserts. Seating for Nigel’s masterclass is strictly limited so make sure you arrive early to book your place.

#LLF Twitter food review competition

Visitors to this week’s Leeds Loves Food event are being invited to enter a food writing competition with a difference – the review is submitted by tweet.

Organisers believe its the first Twitter competition of its kind and have set up the hashtag #LLF to track the entries.

Stuart Bruce, managing director at Wolfstar, Marketing Leeds’ social media consultancy, is behind the idea and explains: “Usually restaurant reviews only tell you what it used to be like, but the Twitter reviews will be real time so you’ll be able to see where’s really good to eat right now. Because people can text their reviews to Twitter it means even more people can participate.

“As far as I know Marketing Leeds is the first destination marketing organisation to use Twitter  in this way.”

Diners can tweet meal reviews to be in with the chance to win a weekend break to Amsterdam, Paris or Alicante, courtesy of Jet2. The competition is running across almost 30 restaurants and will run on after the Leeds Loves Food festival  until the end of August.

There are instructions on the tables at the participating restaurants (full list below) to teach new Twitter users how to enter and include #LLF  – see the entries as they happen.

I shall also be tweeting from some of the festival @foodiesarah.

* Full list of participating restaurants: Atlas Bar&Pizzeria, Azucar Tapas Bar, Brewery Wharf, Blackhouse Restaurant and Bar, Brasserie Blanc, Bretts Fish Restaurant, Casa Mia Millennium, Casa Mia Grande, Chilli White, Chino Latino, City Inn Hotel, De Vere Oulton Hall Hotel, The Elbow Room, The Fig, Alea, Clarence Dock, Leeds Latitude Wine and Liquor Merchants, Las Iguanas, The Living Room, Oracle, Brewery Wharf, Sam’s Chop House, Sandinista, Strada, Tiger Tiger, Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa, Veuve Bar de Champagne, The Wardrobe, Zizzi.

links for 2009-07-01