The (link) baitbox: Street food, Subway’s complaints handling, secretive cakes and more

Some of the tastiest morsels with a northern edge to enjoy for your lunch.

Good to see plenty of Northern foodies get a mention in the Guardian’s best street food feature;  Leeds caterer Manjit’s Kitchen is offering to make the Indian dish Daulat ki chaat for customers; Manchester’s Jackie Kearney suggests using mushrooms to create a veggie version of the Thai dish Phat Kaphrao; Kada from Moorish Feasts in Leeds makes a version of burek, wrapping two layers of filo round goat’s cheese and lamb merguez; Hazvineyi Mapungwana of Shekinah African Food in Keighley, West Yorkshire, serves walkie-talkies with sadza (cornmeal) because she’s from Zimbabwe; Babushkas in Cheadle, south Manchester, serves a healthy version of bratwurst.

– I hear that food writers Tom Parker Bowles and Matthew Fort are on a mission to revive the Great British Pork Scratching. They’re launching their new brand, Mr Trotters, at Booths in Media City on Thursday.

– A new restaurant offering ‘good hearty original food from around the world’  has opened in Manchester’s South King Street – read more about Mish here.
– Example of poor customer service at a branch of Subway reported over at the Yorkshire Dales Food blog  not just a bad coffee – but a simply terrible response from a major brand.


– The baking force behind the Clandestine Cake Club is considering the future of the afternoon teas as well as getting used to television appearances. Expect to see her on the Alan Titchmarsh show around March 16. More details here.

– Ever wanted to have a veg box delivery but worried whether you’ll get through it all? Ruth Hinds has been carrying out a veg box experiment and her experience surprised her.

– Katie at Leeds Grub has got round to reviewing Create in King Street, Leeds and enjoyed an intersting sounding menu (squid and black pudding?) as well as a good feeling:

“Create is actually an organisation that provides support and training to disadvantaged people within Leeds, so as well as having a great meal you can get the extra satisfaction of knowing all of the profits get ploughed back into their good work. “

Grazing at J Baker’s Bistro Moderne, York

The word ‘grazing’ might lead you to think of little morsels, nibbles and impossibly twee amuse-bouche. Maybe.

Well forget that idea, the ‘grazing by night’ menu of this rather fantastic bistro in York’s foodiest street is anything but the light option. The seven courses on offer are rather more substantial than a morsel but no less fun for it.

Everything has the sort of attention to detail that you’d expected from a Michelin-starred chef and the little twists which make really good food soar.

We attempted to pace ourselves, taking care not to dive too deeply into the generous helpings of bread but, in the end, resistance was futile, this menu is designed for the long haul.

Each of the courses has left a memorable impact – and one proved just too challenging but left me with a timely reminder about trying new things which I’m pleased to have been pushed on.

The vodka infused and thickly cut smoked salmon was sweet with a silver spoon of oyster and caviar bringing the aroma of the sea straight into the darkened city eatery.

The Redcar smokies served with a corn chowder were exquisitely light, with a level of flavour which kept all the elements of the dish separate yet combined – they’d be worth going back for as a meal on their own.

The platter of duck’s liver, quails egg and blood sausage bonbon was a step too offally for my tastes but gusto a plenty over the table before the piece de resistance of Shorthorn beef with spinach and a delicately encased duck egg.

Sweet lovers don’t miss out either with a chocolaty take on one of my all time favourites, piping hot rice pudding which came with ‘chocolate air’! The ‘air’was a lighter-than-light mousse and a sudden surprise  with the chill of some ice-cream.

Some cheese? Well if you can, and we did, there was a quality selection of regional cheese including local offerings from the Thirsk-based Shepherd’s Purse.cheese

And it doesn’t end there with a selection of truffles which were handily provided as a takeout when that really did prove to be one treat too far.

All-in-all a remarkable feast with a lovely laid back service, completely unhurried and wonderfully intimate.

It seems I’m not alone in my admiration, checking the list of those who’ve also eaten there is like a who’s who of foodies.

Of those, I think Jay Rayner summed things up pretty neatly:

“If there were more places like this in Britain’s towns and cities, there would be a skip in my step and a song on my lips and a killer scar on my chest from where they’d gone in to perform the heart bypass on account of my overindulgent eating habits.”

I’m already looking forward to finding an excuse for a repeat visit.

* The grazing menu costs £39.50 per person. J Baker’s is at 7 Fossgate, York. 01904 622688.

War vets opening artisan bakery tomorrow

An artisan bakery staffed by war veterans opens in North Yorkshire on Thursday.

The Veterans’ Artisan Bakery at Catterick Garrison, which won the support of celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, has been set up as a social enterprise and will provide accredited qualifications to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress or who are vulnerable to homelessness with new skills and insight into running a business.

Pierre White told the Veterans UK website why he’s got involved.

“This bakery is a way to bring people together and work for a common cause. The veterans deserve this opportunity – I know how tough it is – my visits to the frontline have been truly life-changing experiences. I have nothing but respect for the soldiers who served there and I am honoured to support a valuable project like this. So let’s break bread and salute these great people.”

The new bakery is the culmination of work between housing group Riverside ECHG and the Clervaux TrustThe Clervaux Trust which operates a similar artisan bakery in Darlington.
The bakery will be officially launched on February 16 by celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager.

10 tips to survive that Valentine’s meal out

You know how you said you wouldn’t? But now you’ve gone and booked a restaurant on Valentine’s night….what were you thinking of? How much death by chocolate will prove to be romantic?

A bit like New Year’s Eve, as big night’s go, this one’s a difficult act to pull off. The Guardian food blog’s got some tips based around some top London destinations and a search for ‘snugness, the cousin of snogging’.  

But if you’re less of a snuggles bum and want some practical advice here’s a few alternatives for a successful Valentine’s night out for you:
– don’t set off to a restaurant without a reservation unless you literally  hooked up with him at a speed dating session.
– Japanese cuisine is probably the sexiest food known except if you’re clambering out of that space for your legs under the table in a short skirt. That just makes it comically obscene.
– if you’re wearing something revealing, avoid food which is magnetically attracted to your cleavage eg. any long pasta ribbony things, stew.
– do you, don’t you do shellfish? It’s both or neither as there’s nothing less attractive than a pair of pliers  and a bib if only one cracks the crab and lobster. (unless you’re both surgeons I suppose) – rule above also applies to garlic and steak.
– avoid dishes with spinach…..teeth.
– beware red wine lips  – this really shouldn’t be an issue unless someone’s cheapskating on the bubbles then who cares if you look like dracula’s wife.
– balloons, cheap flowers from the bloke who’s wandered in off the street. Just don’t.
– also don’t stare at the couple having the major domestic at the next table. It’s rude you know.
– do sort out in advance who’s treating who. Staring at the bill in uncomfortable silence has to be the ultimate passion killer.
– all else fails, there’s nothing more romantic than some fish, peas and chips in the garden/yard by candlelight and fireside. It’s all a question of attitude. Aka, being content to be a cheap date.

The (link) baitbox: Baker’s Rwanda trip plus curry, Cornocopia, Claridges and more

Some of the tastiest morsels with a northern edge to enjoy for your lunch.

– Baker Ruth Clemens, who blogs at the Pink Whisk, has arrived in Rwanda for a tour with Save the Children. In the first of her posts about the trip she finds a country with plenty of food but also child malnutrition.

“Arrived safely in Rwanda with the team.   I’m going to admit I’m a bit shell shocked – travelling so far on my own is in itself a big milestone for me let alone suddenly finding myself immersed in an African city.  Based in the capital of Kigali we’ve spent the day doing some country briefings and have learnt some shocking stats gathered for the Life Free From Hunger campaign.”

– Yorkshire-born chocolatier Paul Young tells the Independent about his earliest food memory:”Going to my great-grandfather’s house after school on a Monday evening, when my grandma would come over and cook stew and big Yorkshire puddings.”

– In a boost to regional produce, North West food chain Booths has instructed its buyers to find Forgotten Foods and bring them to market – delights such as Formby asparagus, double curd Lancashire cheese and a true York ham.

– The Yorkshire Dales Food blog posts about a visit to Cornucopia at Leeds Corn Exchange and has a collection of links about the event which brought together local food producers.

Food Fascination ventures away from Liverpool and heads south to sample tea at Claridges.

The Cook in a Curry will play host to an Indian Ladies Lunch at Close House Hotel in Northumberland next month.

North West Nosh  speaks for many of us when it comes to stocks and provides some solutions.

“I don’t have the time for stock making (ie I’m lazy) or we never eat enough meat to stockpile the bones for something like beef stock. My freezer’s already full to burst, so meticulously adding in bone after bone to a stock bag and then remembering to use them just doesn’t happen in our household. So it’s to the trusty prepared stocks, mainly cubes and powders, that I turn.”

Six best places to eat in Richmond, North Yorkshire – updated for 2012

The first version of this blogpost was published in 2009 and has proved to be one of the most searched for things on this blog so I thought it was about time it got updated for 2012.
Taking into account some off the feedback, some re-visiting and some new ventures opening have led to this new version of the whistlestop tour.
1. Pub grub
Last time I recommended the Black Lion Hotel in Finkle street but I’ve updated this after a few disappointing meals there more recently. This year’s recommendation is the George and Dragon in Hudswell. Just a couple of miles out of town and well worth the trip, the community pub that’s found favour with the television programme makers and locals alike has got into its stride with the food. You’re unlikely to encounter much Fijian food in these parts so it’s worth trying out the specials for that experience. The chicken stir-fry with noodles or the fish with banana are both easy introductions to an unfamiliar cuisine. Call: 01748 518373. Map on
2. Cafe
Last time I mentioned the Cross View Ream Rooms (which remains good for home-cooked food) but this time I’d like to recommend Deli 10. On Darlington road near the island for the Co-op, this small venue has a well thought out menu of freshly prepared sandwiches, panini and cakes. The homemade soup is always well seasoned and piping hot and the salads with an interesting selection of leaves, walnuts and olives drizzled (not drowned) with dressing. The always friendly service is another bonus in a town where surly teenage waiting staff are the norm. Call: 01748 822114.
Salmon fishcakes
3. Fine dining

We’re still struggling in this category with the Frenchgate Restaurant and Hotel the only place coming close but…. of the two more casual dining places to open up in the past few years, Rustique in Chantry Wynd is worth a try. Aside from the cliche theming of the decor (cancan, chat noir etc.), the food on offer is well priced and well-cooked. The menu is very much on the traditional side of French – rich and buttery. The meat dishes are large and attention is paid to the customer’s cooking preferences. The pleasant service also adds to make for a relaxed evening out. Call: 01748 821565. Map on

4. Smart lunch
Last time I mentioned the Seasons Restaurant at The Station which is OK as far as cafe style service and menus go but the other addition to the town which is worth a try is La Piazza 2. The stylish decor and prompt service have quickly made this into one of the busiest eateries. Basically pizza and pasta which are well done. My only criticism is the lack of any dinner salads (just rather a dull side salad) and the extremely costly soft drinks. Call: 01748 825008.

5. Take-away
The Delhi-cious kitchen made the list last time and is still working away to deliver curries across the town but I thought I’d make an addition for the town centre itself in this update – Shanghai City in the Market Place. With it’s hand-written menu additions scribbled on bags pinned up on the wall, perusing the choices can be a bit haphazard but worth struggling through. Although the main menu is fairly standard Cantonese stuff, these specials include items such as massive dishes of udon noodles cooked in your choice of sauce or salt and pepper squid from the Malaysian cook. Call: 01748 825955.

kingsheadhotel6. Missed opportunity
I’ve added this category in because of the disappointment first at the closure of the excellent Frenchgate cafe and also about the way the landmark King’s Head Hotel has proved to be in recent times. What a fabulous building, what lovely new decor and add to that the interesting menu and the selection of wines – this should be the jewel in crown for the town. Why then is it so often empty? Having seen people wait more than an hour to be handed a menu and then marching out in exasperation as teenage waitresses gossip ignoring their efforts to order or have the tables cleared – it’s not difficult to understand why. I seriously hope summer 2012 will see its return to form as well as the Frenchgate cafe finding a new owner.