A few of the Drunken Butcher’s favourite things

DSC_0044bSince we went to another DineInOut event in April – “Around the world in 8-ish steaks”, which I didn’t relate mainly due to an aggravated case of over-indulgitis followed by fuzzynitis memorae – we missed out on V-Gin, Cluckin’ Hell and Pizza the action. We were about to miss out on “A Few of my Favourite Things” because instead of booking tickets for an event that clearly was the Glasto of the foodies (gone in a couple of hours) I told everyone about it and my friends ended up bagging the last ones. But whoever cancelled their 2 places early in September, I owe them big time as we managed to squeeze in (literally) in the end.

The night started out at Must and Mash Manor with a bottle of Nicolas-Feuillate Champers. As an aside I have seen this on offer at various supermarkets and wine shops of late so get your mitts on it asap if it’s still on. It’s a decent drop and at a good price when reduced. It’s not so bready and yeasty that it tires the palate but it still has a decent body and flavour so you know you’re drinking Champagne.

Arriving at the Drunken Butcher’s house, Tania and the team greeted us with a Dirty Martini, the one with the olive brine in it. I don’t really like Martini and drinking brine is not my thing I’m afraid, sorry Iain but that one isn’t for me.

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If you read my review of the Joy of Pork you may remember Los Chicharrons? As crunchy as they are flavoursome. It’s like a fine and elegant pork scratching (never thought that was something that could ever be said). And believe you me, there are quite a few steps required to obtain this refinement.

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Once boiled, cooled, fat scraped off, dehydrated and then deep fried, the taste of pork skin is really something special when it is masterfully extracted and crafted.

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Some more amuse-bouche in the form of pork cheek and pork head. Crispy outside, TLC inside.

The cheek was braised with chili and soy sauce whilst the head was poached, meat and fat separated and shredded and then recombined again, crumbed and deep fried.

DSC_0038bVelouté de celeriac, mildly sweet and softly comforting.

Slow cooked with home made chicken stock, a touch of cream and slashings of chive.

This “light” part of the meal was as treacherous as anything to pair with a wine. Clearly we had to deal with a wide range of flavours – big meaty ones, light and delicate fishy and veggie ones – and a variety of textures – soft, crispy, oily. I went for a simple and compromising white I brought back from the Roussillon. The food was always going to be the star of the show and anything too serious would not have stood a chance.

Le Bosc Blanc from Domaine des Schistes is a blend of Grenache Gris, Vermentino and Macabeu (or Macabeo). It has fresh green apple and lime fruit but it also shows a little buttery richness and this is how I think it coped with all these dishes. Crisp and dry to cut through the oil and keep the palate fresh but with the richness adding weight to accompany the bigger flavours and textures.

DSC_0040bFish two-ways with fennel salad.

5-spice, pan fried monkfish and battered and deep fried cod cheek. The trick here though is the fennel. Aniseed-y and bitter when completely raw, it was marinated in lemon juice for a while allowing it to soften and mellow making it very refreshing and contrasting with the oily fish.

To follow from the Bosc Blanc and as a bit of a transition so as not to immediately saturate our palate with big tannins I picked up a Pinot Noir from Malbrorough. You already know it, I reviewed it here. Light, fresh, juicy and slightly spicy, in fairness it probably lacked the body to match the meat but looking at the big reds ahead it provided a bit of respite before tannin saturation. Our friends who usually goes for big oaky numbers was suitably impressed… Pinot for the win 😉

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Small and Small – Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011

We then moved on to more serious stuff. So serious in fact that…oops, sorry

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That was a very succulent and tender slow-cooked back rib with home made hot sauce and a cucumber and gin granita to chase it down.

DSC_0046bOregano and paprika crusted pork fillet, seared, roasted and most importantly rested.

This was laid on a bed of on-the-cob roasted corn salsa and topped with home-made crisps. I am told the fine slices of potatoes soak in cold water for three hours then get a shower of boiling water before being deep fried. Not sure I’d be that tasty after such treatment… (sorry, TMI).

At this stage both the kitchen and the guests agreed to take a small break which gave us all the opportunity to catch up with people who were not sat at our table, check out the mess in the kitchen, take a bowl of fresh air etc. So we were given a mid-dessert which did a great job at resetting our taste buds in place, ready for the final stretch.

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Lemon sorbet…classic and effective palate re-setter.

Following this little interlude we opened this Artesa Rioja Crianza 2010 which came from Reserve Wines in Didsbury. Absorbed in the enjoyment of the dinner I did not take detailed notes at this stage. It was however a much bigger wine than the Pinot as expected, rich and fruity with a little oak, a classic style.

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Artesa Rioja Crianza – 2010

Whilst the quality of the wine was not in question it was not necessarily the best paring for the very herby and spicy pork fillet. It did however match much better with the next dish.

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Roasted Yorkshire veal chop with sage and red wine sauce made from stock and deglazing the pan. Spring veg cooked in 50-50 butter and water and triple cooked chips.

The meat was sumptuously tender, the green salad, probably thanks to the massive amount of butter, was sweet and delicious and the sweet, syrupy, sticky gravy was out of this world.

In view of the lamb, and the final dish before the dessert, we decided to also open this Cabernet Sauvignon from Jim Barry (also from Reserve Wines). It’s an Australian big red from the Limestone Coast region of Coonawarra, famous for its Red-topped soils planted with Cab/Sav. From what I remember it was a classy red with vibrant fruit and gentle spicy oak as opposed to being a really big fruit bomb. I remember being pleasantly surprised by it and I reckon a couple of years in the cellar would do no harm. Still, it’s a food wine and it paired pretty well with the lamb.

IMG_0491bThe Cover Drive, Jim Barry – Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

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This doesn’t do it justice really.

Slow cooked lamb with red wine, thyme, bay and rosemary, mini mac & cheese in the middle, pan fried liver, poached and deep fried sweetbread in spiced batter and sweet red peppers to accompany the sauce from the lamb.

The liver didn’t conquer everyone but if you don’t like it here, it’s just not for you. The sweetbread however, is a far too rare delicacy and when prepared properly is capable of procuring a time-stopping, levitation-inducing sense of pleasure. This is one of the many ways to cook it and it was amazing. It’s so tender and delicate one should really pause and take time to savour it.

We finally arrived on to the dessert for which we managed to find a cubic inch of space.

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Red wine poached per and ice cream.

Red wine, bay and cloves poached pear with poaching liquor reduced to a syrup. The ice cream is a special Drunken Butcher signature. It involves cream, vanilla….and I am told a significant amount of whisky for the sole purpose of keeping it soft and melting even when straight out of the freezer.

Another evening of culinary mastery of the kind I genuinely deeply enjoy, probably far more than the chemical destruction of ingredients observed at restaurants aimed at a clientèle with rich pockets but poor palates. Thanks again for a great evening and a great experience.

We are visiting Tania and the Drunken Butcher again later this month for the Malty-tasting which is based on the Soreen malty bread. Another food and drink pairing challenge. I’m thinking beer for this one, what do you reckon ?

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