Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Halloween Hijinks

Yep, the Halloween weekend is upon us once again and this year I thought I'd do an adult's only round up of all the finest parties, nicest knees-ups and spookiest shindigs taking place in our fair city this weekend. Get yourself costumed up and get out there!

The Titty Twister
My absolute favourite event of this Halloween is the 1901 (Turkey Cafe) turning into a Dusk Til Dawn inspired Titty Twister for the night! I absolutely adore that film and so this is perfect for me. As I remember, the Titty Twister is a pretty lively joint at the beginning of the film, and then gets a helluva lot more rowdy as the night goes on, and I would very much go in expecting the same on Granby Street this Saturday 29th October.

So far, they've revealed details about fire performers on the night, as well as a snake ice luge to drink your venom of choice from. Keep an eye on their Instagram for more details.

Monster Mass VII
Get your costume on, get on your bike, and head down for the seventh spooky-themed Critical Mass. I cannot believe it's been going so long, but it's still fabulous. We all love a good bike ride in this city so you might as well dress up like an idiot and do it with a big group of other like-minded people.
Friday 28th October, 6pm - starts at Curve.

Halloween Alternative Rock Night
For those of you who prefer your Halloween with a bit more metal, head over to the King's Head. There's a prize for the best costume - and knowing the team down there, the more clever and creative you can be the better. Couple that with a fantastic beer selection, a heady mix of rock, metal, ska, punk and alternative and a really fun bunch of locals it's bound to be a fantastic evening.

All-night spooky filmage at the Phoenix? Well, why not?
From 10pm until dawn on Friday 28th October, head to Phoenix to watch 5 horror films and get a breakfast bap thrown into the deal too. Not bad for £25! The films on offer are a great mixture of classics like The Pit and the Pendulum to modern gore fests like The Descent.

If an all-night horror spectacular sounds all a bit involved for you, then go along to Leicester's most beautiful medieval building and watch a screening of the original Ghostbusters in style. Epic film classic on at the Guildhall. It's only a fiver and family tickets are available. A great way to finish your weekend on Sunday 30th October.

And finally...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Leicester Fashion Week 2016

It's Leicester Fashion Week again, a fantastic event put on by independent designers, producers and models in the city looking to promote their internationally significant work. There have been runway shows in a variety of venues around the city, and the event has also been supporting the good work of LOROS' Frocktober campaign, so if you missed it this year, it's definitely worth getting involved with next year.

I was in attendance with my own style icons, Harinder and Tracey

We were in the stunning surroundings of the Leicester Mercure, The Grand Hotel on Friday. A fittingly opulent location for the wide range of exquisitely designed and produced clothes that we were treated to in a full runway show (with excellent soundtrack).

I was really interested in the range of well structured, angular designs that we were seeing across designers. It felt like texture and almost architectural influence were key trends this year, with a lot of straight lines which were employed to either enhance or even to mask the natural lines of the models, This felt like an ambitious move on the part of the designers to really showcase their skill and to make the clothes the focus.

There were a lot of elements that I can see trickling down into common usage. A strong colour palette complemented the bold structural shapes, with royal blue and metallics still popular. There was also a strong hint of lace - full outfits as well as tasteful accents. It's definitely not just for the older generation anymore! It also felt like a very international affair, with clear inspiration coming from all over the world.

It also clarified the limitations of my £150 camera, as getting decent shots of the models was incredibly difficult, so apologies that they are all rather dark - I found my flash was far too harsh in the dim lighting of the room and then allowing for a longer exposure meant that I didn't have time to capture a still model. Much respect to all the professional photographers in the press pit who took some beautiful shots on the night!

All in, it was a really enjoyable event. It was a little difficult at first to be sure whose collection was being showcased, but after a while they started to announce the collections as they started so this made it easier to know where you were up to. I particularly enjoyed the work of Rosie Billington, which provided a bit of a contrast to the other collections, with their Classical inspired flowing lines. No prizes for guessing that I'd like the Greek and Roman influenced clothes the best! They were much softer in colour and texture, and had an almost dreamlike quality. It is really fabulous to see such bold work from a new graduate.

For me, this is the real strength of Leicester Fashion Week. We have some of the best training in the world available at De Montfort University and it is events like this which encourage our graduates to stay in Leicester and bring those benefits to the city. A whole range of creative industries and communities are building in the city now and it is fabulous to see showcases and celebrations of our young talent growing in strength year on year.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Global Flavours of Leicestershire at the House of Commons

I was invited to a fabulous event at the House of Commons last week. The LLEP (Leicester and Leicestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership) organised the event and it was sponsored by Alberto Costa MP and Andrew Bridgen MP. It showcased the strengths of Leicester and Leicestershire's food and drink manufacturing industries. This included both global brands and SMEs, as well as having a focus on the ethnic diversity of the local offer which gives it such a unique flavour. (Pauses while pun-induced groaning subsides)

Having spent years immersed in the food and drink culture of both city and county writing this blog, writing for other publications and through events organisation for Thirst Media, talking to me about our amazing culinary offer is preaching to the converted. However, I was pleased to find some new companies were being showcased that I had not heard of before, as well as having the opportunity to revisit old favourites.

I was interested to discover that Cofresh (genuinely my favourite brand of crisps - try the chilli and lemon curls if you haven't already) was a Leicester-based brand. They have just developed a new range of more natural products, including hummus and quinoa snacks which I really enjoyed.

Naturally, cheese, Indian cuisine and pork pies all made an appearance. I was particularly taken by the passion with which Stephen Hallam of Dickinson and Morris described his Melton Mowbray pork pie as I tasted a sample. He is not wrong about the quality of the pork filling, the unique mouthfeel created by the hot water pastry, jelly and meat, and then the finale of the white pepper flavour developing in the mouth. There's a lot more to tasting pies than I had realised, and I definitely feel like I should put in more practice.

The cheeses from Long Clawson Dairy were absolutely delicious and it was fantastic to hear that such a big name promotes sustainability for their farmers and animal welfare. This is definitely the sort of thing that makes the difference when I make a purchase. And I got lots of great new ideas for which cheeses would pair well with local Leicestershire wine!

Happily, the drinks sector was also well represented. Given that the event started at 11am and I went straight in having travelled down from Leicester, Shelton's Coffee was a welcome place to start. Their Leicestershire based company produces single variety Columbian coffee in instant form - compressed into cute heart shapes which I just about managed to preserve on my way home in order to take a quick photo! I loved the earthiness of their coffee, it had a deep element that I couldn't put my finger on and was informed that the coffee grows near a volcano and that special something is probably a note added from the volcanic ash that settles over the plantation.

As things progressed though, it was time to move on to something stronger. And there were strong showings from both Everards, featuring their new look Tiger labels, and the Langton Brewery. This was a great opportunity for me to have a taste of their Fox Lager, which I have seen around quite a lot of late but not had a sample of. I really liked its punchy flavour - much gutsier than other craft lagers around!

After that it was time to sidle over to Two Birds distillery. I have waxed lyrical about them at length in the past - most notably the use of their passionfruit vodka in the Needle and Pin's German Filmstar cocktail. Delightful and delicious. This time round I tried their specially formulated cocktail gin which has a bigger punch of botanical flavour. Suits me down to a tee straight up, but I can see how that extra flavour element works wonderfully in a cocktail when competing with other ingredients.

There was plenty more besides, but I think you get the idea! I cannot emphasise enough how great it is to see this sort of showcase for local producers, although I hope that next time we get to share even more of the really small, sustainable micro-businesses that really make up the backbone of our city and county's gastronomic excellence! Those are the producers that drive tourism and investment into our local economy as well as providing economic benefits to the country as a whole.

Obligatory selfie. If you didn't selfie, you weren't there.

Friday, 14 October 2016

You can bank on Middletons

We were invited to road test the new Middleton's Steakhouse in Leicester this week. Set in the cosy surroundings of St Martin's, the former NatWest bank building, which has stood empty throughout my time in Leicester, has been transformed into a chic dining venue. The monumental architecture, with dim lighting and high contrast decor pitching the impressive white cupola against dark wood and clean lines makes for a venue with real impact that is not really paralleled anywhere else in the city.

Despite the high ceilings, the acoustics are really well managed, making the hubbub of other diners feel warm and relaxed - not cold and informal, or annoyingly buzzy. This is a restaurant with just the right amount of smarts, without any pretension. We found it to be pleasantly upbeat and fun.

They have an open kitchen, which is always something I like to see and apparently this is the sixth venue in the small chain, with the owner still living above the first site. It is quite a meteoric rise in fairness, given that the chain only began in 2011.

The menu is broad and varied, naturally centred around a high-quality meat offer, but with plenty of other choice to hold the attention. For me, the starters were where it's at. There are no big surprises on the starter menu, but the dishes were just so well done and satisfying that I think I would be very happy to return for lunch and just have a starter!

I kicked off with plump, sweet mussels, farmed in Scotland. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality, portion size and the balance of the white wine and cream sauce - with just the right amount of garlic. It was served up with chunky slices of farmhouse bread, with a deliciously soft centre and chewy crust, which was perfect with the generous dollop of parsley butter. All in all, it was a dish you just dive right into - dip those shells in the sauce, and throw your inhibitions away with the empties. There's always a napkin to clean yourself up with after. Maybe not first-date food.

Keeping on the 'not for first-date' menu choices, The Boy opted for the half rack of ribs - again incredible in terms of quality of cooking, quality of meat and portion size. The ribs were tender to the point that you would try to pick one up only for the meat to fall right off the bone! The sticky, sweet sauce was finger licking and punctuated nicely by the intense heat of the chopped red chilli garnish. Again, eating it don't look pretty, but who cares?

The only area for improvement I really noticed at this point was that the plate used  as a lid to keep my mussels warm was whipped away from the table by super-keen staff as soon as I removed it - leaving me with nowhere to put my empty shells! But I think these sort of teething issues in service are exactly the reason why a soft launch is so important for a new restaurant as the team learn their environment.

Galloping on to the mains, and while the quality was still very consistent, I must confess I was not as enamoured with them as I was with the starters. I think it might be as simple as requiring 2 sides to accompany each dish, rather than just the standard choice of one - I always feel a bit cheated when I don't get a sniff of vegetable or salad along with a main meal. The Boy, for example, ordered the rib eye steak, which was brilliantly cooked to order - rare in the middle and good flavour from the char on the outside, and a great cut of meat which was juicy and full of flavour. But as you can see from the picture above, it felt a little sparse on the plate. The chips were also nice and crispy but the tomato was barely grilled - so swings and roundabouts on that one.

I treated myself to a half lobster with dauphinoise potatoes for my side, and also an additional side of seasonal greens to add that balance to the dish. It arrived and smelled delicious, but then I had to wait a while before digging in as we had not been given cutlery for our main course! A little frustrating, but it was clear that the restaurant was extremely busy and waiting times were a little up as the team settled in.

The lobster was sweet and luxurious and the Thermidor sauce complimented it very well, although there was not a lot of sauce. The dauphinoise was not quite a rich and creamy as I was hoping for, but it was full of beautiful oven baked sweet garlic flavour and had a lovely crisp top which added some good texture to the dish. The vegetables, sugar snap peas and wilted spinach were served plain, but the peas had good bite and the spinach was very tasty so I was pleased I had ordered them as an extra.

Accompanying our meal, we selected the Vina Edmara Pinot Noir 2015. I took so long to choose the wine I wanted that I totally forgot I was ordering two fish courses, but I was very keen to try this Pinot Noir so I decided to take the hit in terms of the food matching. As it turned out, the wine had good raspberry flavours tempered with floral notes and an interesting touch of bitterness which helped to cut through the rich, creaminess of the dishes I'd ordered so it actually worked out quite nicely!

As you'd expect, on such a busy pre-launch night, there were plenty of familiar faces around at Middletons. I spotted a few local foodies and bloggers around the place and then all of a sudden fabulous theatre and arts blogger Carpe Diem Emmie was seated at the table next to us, so that livened things up no end with her typical whirlwind dervish of quick humour and plentiful smiles.

Many thanks again to Middletons for inviting us along to review the food. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal although I am inclined to leave it a couple of weeks before returning while the staff properly find their feet. I think once they nail that then it will be a really fabulous place to spend an evening - stylish enough to impress your nan, but friendly enough to take your bestie for lunch at the same time. In that respect, they are showing signs of being all things to an impressive range of people.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Dining at Dhaka Deli

Sometimes a friend gives a recommendation that is so compelling that it cannot be ignored. Particularly when that recommendation happens over Twitter and the restaurant then invite you down to try their food for yourself.

This happened to me with Dhaka Deli, one of Leicester's fine Indian restaurants based down the Narborough Road. I must confess I had not even heard of it before - I think with so many Indian restaurants to choose from we're all guilty of finding a couple that we like and then sticking with them and perhaps not trying new places as much as we should do.

The restaurant is beautifully presented with crisp white table clothes, clean lines and pleasant, inobtrusive music which sets an excellent scene for an enjoyable meal, without having any of the twee decoration that so many Indian restaurants in this country seem to cling to.

While we looked over the extensive menu, we munched on a poppadum with a great pickle tray. I must confess that I am not the world's biggest pickle fan. Far from it in fact, I tend to just stick to the raita. However, excepting the lime pickle (which was a little hot for my tastes) I got to enjoy everything on the tray this time - mango, tamarind, onion and mint. Delicious!

Along with the pickle tray, the wine list must get a special mention too. The wines are all incredibly reasonably priced - nothing is over £15 a bottle. At those sort of prices in a restaurant I think we'd all agree that not too much hope would be pinned on the quality, however this is incredibly far removed from the reality of the situation. As I did not require a whole bottle of wine to myself, I tentatively ordered a glass of their house wine - a Merlot - and you cannot believe how happy I was with it!

Their house red is a Chilean merlot from Valle Central, produced by San Andres. It has a great mouth feel and enough tannin to give interest without detracting from the blackberry flavours. It is smooth to drink with no overbalance of acidity and has enough punch to stand up well to the robust spicing of the food at Dhaka Deli. An excellent choice for the price and an impressive 3.4 out of 5 average score on Vivino confirming that I'm not alone in being impressed with it.

On to the starters and in our excitment, we accidentally double tikka'd. Still, can't complain because anything with crisp edges and that deep, pink, flavoursome marinade gets my mouth watering. The chilli garlic chicken tikka did exactly what it said on the tin with plenty of heat, but not so much that it drowned out the spicy marinade. Succulent and juicy it was cooked to perfection and the fresh salad it was served with was just right to take the punch out of the chilli and make the whole thing extremely enjoyable.

We also tried the paneer tikka shashlik, which is a similar marinaded and charred affair with plump, soft paneer, but served on a sizzling tray with onions, peppers and a sweet and spicy sauce. Although they do not make their own paneer inhouse, it was carefully handled and had not dried out even on the sizzling serving dish. I think I would be inclined to over this over the chicken in future because it was so full of flavour.

Main courses are go with a new dish for me, the Baigan Bhuna from the Chef's Recommendation menu. You want to be listening to their chef because that dish was amazing. Tender, good sized chunks of lamb with not a speck of chewy fat, in a medium strength sauce with slow cooked aubergine. The aubergine was absolutely melt in the mouth and because it had been treated so carefully it gave out a real feeling of buttery luxuriousness in the mouth. I could probably eat this dish all day. And then have it for leftovers the next day.

We also had a go at the Chicken Karahi. Karahi curries are named for the thick pan they are cooked in and this one had a delicious thick sauce, made with lentils for extra texture, as well as peppers and onions all with a delicate but reasonably punchy level of spice. Again the chicken was perfectly cooked and plentiful. No complaints here!

For a side we paired up a Tarka Daal, our go-to dish and benchmark for good Indian food (since The Boy makes such an excellent one). Here again I can only be gushingly complimentary - beautifully smooth and rich daal, with ramped up levels of garlic and butter and just the right amount of fresh coriander chopped over the top.

We added a serving of jeera rice and a paratha to this, knowing that we would certainly not need a rice and bread each with this amount of food! We were proved correct, we still needed to get some of it boxed up at the end! They have a phenomenal selection of breads on offer, by the way - not just a wide variety of flavoured naan, but also paratha, roti and more besides. Truly something for every taste.

What better way to finish the meal than with a delicious liqueur coffee? It's be rude not to, right? And after so much food I always think that a coffee is the only thing that I can possibly squeeze in! We went Calypso Coffee with the cream floating on the surface, rich and delicious and very indulgent. It paired nicely with the complimentary chocolates and was an excellent full stop to a very impressive meal.

I can only encourage you to pop down Narborough Road to Dhaka Deli. The prices are very reasonable for the quality and if you don't fancy making the trip you can order online via their website (powered by Hungry Horse) or through Just Eat to save you having to leave the comfort of your sofa. I can see it falling into my regular rotation simply because I haven't got a single point of criticism or improvement to level at the place!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Blue Boar, Leicester

There's a new micropub in town and its name is The Blue Boar. Open just under a month so far, its city centre location, relaxed atmosphere and great beer selection is already proving a bit of a hit locally and there is regularly standing room only in this diminutive ale den.

Hanging out at The Blue Boar with the good folk from The Beer Hub

On Millstone Lane, the Blue Boar has a traditional feel, but the newly refitted building is still crisp and fresh in feel, with the logo etched beautifully on the windows and hops dangling artfully (if anything can artfully dangle) from the ceiling. It's full of plain wood on the walls and board games on the shelves and a friendly atmosphere abounds.

The inspiration for the Blue Boar was described to me by landlord, Kieran:
"Having drank in, and delivered to, a lot of the new micropubs 
that have appeared over the last few years, 
the idea of a small ale pub that supplied fine ales 
at a competitive price from all ends of the country 
sounded like an establishment that I would like to drink in. 
Providing a small, comfortable space with no distractions, only banter, 
is something I believe the Leicester public will enjoy!"

Their custom made stillage racks allow up to 18 different beers ready to serve at any one time and they also offer a good selection of ciders, wines and soft drinks as well as some interesting spirits from Adnams, including the Spirit of Broadside, a beer distillation which is surprisingly smooth and drinkable thanks to its 18 month aging in oak casks.

As you would expect, there is a wide variety of beers turning over at a rate of knots so if you see something you like on their social media, don't hang around because it won't be there for long! Although they are independent they have a special relationship with the Leatherbritches brewery, so they can be found as regular features on the pumps, but we've seen beers from near and far. Gin beers, berry beers, IPAs, and good old fashioned bitters, there really is something to suit all tastes. Of course, if you're not sure what you fancy you can ask for a little taste first.

They also offer a small snack menu. At £4.50, the cheeseboard is definitely taking my fancy, particularly as they will be doing a regular rotation of cheeses and plenty of them local. So pop down and have a sup. It's already a pub on our regular rotation and I can virtually guarentee that you'll have an interesting conversation with someone you haven't met before whilst you're in there. I know! Conversation! You remember that don't you?

Friday, 30 September 2016

Macmillan Coffee Morning with M&S

It's the seventh anniversary of the world's biggest coffee morning, celebrated each year in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. Each year all across the country people get together for a chat over a brew and some delicious cake and all the donations go to Macmillan to ensure that no-one has to face cancer alone.

Here in Leicester there has been a flurry of coffee morning action. Exchange bar was handing out free tea and cake to customers in 'exchange' (geddit?) for a donation to the charity. There were also coffee mornings happening on Leicester Market, Crossfit Leicester, The Black Horse in Aylestone, The Globe, James' Cafe Bistro and more!

I popped along to the coffee morning being held at Jewry Wall Museum. The front of house team and the Friends of Jewry Wall have been putting on such charity shindigs for a number of years now so they are well versed in doing it right. There were a lovely array of donated cakes, including gluten and dairy free treats and some vegan yummies too - made by the lovely folk at The Magic Kitchen

There was also free tours of the Roman bath house and croquet out on the site so you can't really argue with that. Pretty teapots, a decorative bird cage and fancy cups. If you missed out, then put the date in your diary for next year as it really is the place to be for a nice chat.

I had the refrigerator cake, which was a chocolatey mass of Rocky-Road style goodness. Weighing in at 7 squillion calories per slice, it's dense texture meant that cutting a thin sliver was nigh on impossible. I also tried the marble cake, because it was pretty. And I'm greedy. They were both delicious and my donation was duly deposited in the allotted slot.

Then the Mercury photographer turned up to cover the museum event, so naturally I made a swift exit. I don't have a photogenic side.

Marks and Spencers are the main corporate sponsor of Macmillan's Coffee Morning and they have released a range of limited edition sweet treats and baking accessories which all gather a lovely donation for the charity. They kindly sent me a few to try out for myself!

Typically, my postie decided to hang on to my parcel until after I had left for work this morning so I couldn't take the delicious Victoria Sandwich to donate to the museum, however I will be donating my MacMillan mug to the stock of fun tea party kit for use in future years. We also received some swank tea towels, which I must confess I will be keeping because they are such delightful quality, I don't think I've ever had such a luxurious tea towel before. All decked out in the MacMillan polka dot these items are all lots of fun and best of all add a little contribution to the cause when you buy them and put a smile on the face when you use them.

Have you been enjoying a Macmillan Coffee Morning today?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Gastronomic Adventures in Turin, Piedmont

Well we're home after a fantastic time of gastronomic adventure in Torino at the Terra Madre Salone de Gusto - the birthplace of the Slow Food movement. [Edit - apparently it's near the birthplace. Slow Food was born in Bra, a small place south of Turin, but still in Piedmont, so slap on the wrist to all the stallholders at the festival suggesting it was Turin!] 

As well as this, probably the most significant international food event in the world, naturally there was a whole gamut of local food to explore and we took the opportunity to try as much as we could.

Of course, there is great, artisanal gelato as I have already discussed, but much more besides to sample. Some is relatively unique to the city, others to the region of Piedmont and of course others are now relatively ubiquitous across Italy as people move and take their home favourites with them. Here are a few of the highlights we tried.

Vitello Tonnato

Probably my favourite dish was this delightful antipasto. Thin slices of veal - definitely one of the favoured meats of the region - are served gently braised over a long period of time, giving them a soft, sumptuous feel in the mouth where the full flavour of the meat is able to dominate. This is topped with a delicate but complex creamy sauce flavoured with tuna, anchovy and capers which makes it sounds like it will literally explode in your mouth. Such is the skill of the Torino chefs that they can blend these punchy ingredients into such a light experience with every ingredient developing in the mouth, having its place to create a whole that is so much more than just the sum of its parts. Absolutely unmissable.

It doesn't look much. But looks can be deceptive.

Piedmontese Antipasto

Next up in the antipasto stakes there are a range of options so often it is nice to get a platter to try a little bit of everything. Surprisingly, the seafood in Turin is very good, despite the distance from the coast. Fat anchovy fillets are served either with pungent olive oil or a vibrant green sauce  Tomini is a beautiful soft cheese, a little like a ricotta but without as much texture, served with a fresh herbacious green sauce. Also look out for the sweet and tangy preserved vegetables in tomato sauce with a good balance from vinegar and good olive oil.

Carne Cruda

A real local's favourite, this is truly flavoursome veal cut into tiny slivers and served in a patty-like mound, with simple seasoning and olive oil. Rare as the day is long, the 'Razza Bovine Piemontese' is the high quality local cattle, bred with a low cholesterol content which remains delightfully juicy despite the absence of any significant marbling. It's incredibly meaty, it can be nothing else and is a tribute to the Torino obsession with high quality, regional produce.

Fiori di Zucchine

In the right season, you'll see these in a variety of dishes. I enjoyed them as a garnish on top of a pesto tagliatelle with courgette which was absolutely beautiful, just the most flavourful basil explosion I have ever had but still with the courgette coming through. As with all Italian cuisine, it is the simplicity of the dishes, allowing the quality of every single ingredient to shine out, that really makes it so, so enjoyable.

I also saw a stuffed courgette flower dish, with the flowers served with ricotta stuffing, as well as the flowers as a garnish on a Vitello Tonato salad variant. All beautiful, fresh dishes.


A ravioli-like stuffed pasta with meat and vegetables inside and yet more veal in the sauce. A deep and earthy dish with the perfect balance of savoury flavour.


A meltingly soft beef dish in a savoury, quite heavily salted broth served with potatoes. It's all about the quality of the meat which provides that comforting, melt in the mouth texture. Absolutely beautiful with the great bodied, deep fruited red wines of the region.


Another thing that seems to be very popular in the region is rabbit. We sampled a rabbit ragu over spaghetti that had a great balance of gamey flavour with rich, slowly cooked tomatoes as well as a main dish of stuffed rabbit leg which was really showcasing rabbit at its absolute best, with a great boost of flavour from the breadcrumb based stuffing, run through with herbs and carefully chopped vegetables. Served with both a rabbit gravy and a cream sauce, this is something that I would be happy to see in this country!


Something I don't remember ever seeing in the South of Italy (although I could be mistaken!) is the Tris - a trio of dishes in one, with a small portion of primi, secondi and contorni (starter, main and side). The one we tried was notable for the main dish, which I have literally no idea of the name but it was a bean dish run through with a variety of sausages. It was heavily seasoned and full of flavour from the slow cooked stock with carrots, onion and celery. The black beans were beautiful and silky soft.

Best of the rest...

Of course, each region of Italy has its own speciality meats and cheeses. As I've already noted, Turin has the largest market in Europe and there is no shortage of local products available. From the various salami, I would urge you to seek out the black truffle variety which is powerful and deep, just an incredible complement to the thick textured, slightly sweet meat. If you like your cold meats big and bold this is the one for you.

We found a small producer of sheep's cheese in amongst the huge number of Terra Madre stalls (with a vineyard attached, so more on them soon!) which were absolutely incredible. La Campore are true craft producers of astoundingly high quality sheep and goat's cheese, from soft, fresh balls of soft cheese seasoned with a variety of ingredients including curry powder, poppy seeds or their home grown hemp seed, to their hard cheese, served at a variety of maturities for comparison. Absolutely fascinating to see the difference in taste and texture in 1, 2, 3 and 4 months of maturity. And of course, it was all served with the typical 'grissini' breadsticks.

Now that's what I call a sample.

And an honorary mention for the 'Limoncello of Piedmont', or so it was marketed to us! An almost syrupy sweet liquor full of mint flavour which is more of spearmint than any other kind of mint. Refreshing as an aperitif, or as a long drink, or as it was suggested to us, as a topping over gelato I thought this was an interesting little find. Something I would have again and apparently something which may have its origins elsewhere as mint was brought to the local hills to Turin and became a hit with the locals - a refreshing summer soft drink also being milk with mint!

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