Saturday, 16 July 2011

Four Puddings and a Full Stomach

Last night I went with cousin Helen (that's her full name) to a pop up restaurant at Vallum Farm. The farm is only 20 minutes drive from Newcastle but is set in the middle of Hadrian's Wall country, named after the vallum earthwork that runs from coast to coast alongside the Wall (and they said a Classics degree wouldn't come in handy...)

The chefs were Sally Walker and John Connell of W & Co who cooked using local produce much of which - vegetables, smoked fish, lamb and ice cream - was grown and prepared at the farm.

The meal started with a glass of prosecco with peach and some canapes including rosemary and cheese biscuits, which we scoffed so quickly that I forgot to take a photo.

Helen and I both had beetroot plate for starter (we had no idea you can get yellow beetroot, let alone stripy beetroot), then yes! an amuse-bouche. I love that word. We had pea shoot and truffle oil chilled soup. Helen had the lamb which she said was melt-in-the-mouth and I had courgette flowers with polenta and aubergine relish.

Stripy beetroot, pea shooter, lamby lambkins and courgette flowers
Special thanks to Sally who made my vegetarian main course so special - too often restaurants fob off vegetarians with pasta or risotto (like I couldn't make that myself) and if I see another bloody goats cheese tart I'm going to do something drastic like tut a bit. Courgette flowers are a rare treat I usually only get in Greece and are certainly something I wouldn't make myself. Sally said throughout her career male chefs have pushed the vegetarian option onto female chefs and that she learned a lot working in one of Ireland's top vegetarian restaurants. So next time I'm offered a bowl of tomato penne, I'll presume it's a man who has failed to put a second's imagination into my meal. We need more lady chefs! Rant over.

Helen and I kept reminding each other not to eat too much and to leave plenty of room for what was, for us, the main course - pudding. We were well advised because there was not one but FOUR puddings. First, an amuse-bouche of Vallum Farm vanilla ice cream with mascarpone and coffee, served in a coffee cup and so generously sized it could have stood as a course on its own.

Helen and I had been torn ordering pudding; she went for Northumbrian strawberries with lemon posset and Pimms gelee while I went for malted chocolate terrine with a little glass of milk that tasted EXACTLY like popcorn. I had a pang of pudding envy over the lemon posset as it was perfectly balanced between the tang of yoghurt and the sweetness of a panna cotta. If Helen had similar pangs, she was in luck as I admitted defeat three quarters of the way through the rich terrine and she finished it off for me like a big greeder. We finished with a pot of tea and a plate of petits fours, another excellent French idea i.e. extra pudding. We staggered home and went straight to bed.
Ice cream, Geordie strawbs bathing in booze, chocolate terrine and petits fours
And the fourth pudding? That was in a goody bag - two tubs of Vallum Farm ice cream and some shortbread. I realise that I've ended my last two blogs admitting I've eaten cake for breakfast and this one, I'm afraid, is no different. I breakfasted on the shortbread. I have no shame.

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