Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A Tasty day out in the Big Smoke of Brum

Goodness me, it turns out to be quite distressing being away from the internet for a few days! I hadn't planned to go so quiet, but spent the weekend baking up so much bread that I didn't have time to post about it all before going away. I've only been away since Monday but the lack of email at my research trip/conference has driven me to the local unethical purveyor of hot drinks just so I can use their wi-fi :) Bizarrely, although I am in Liverpool, my internet connection thinks I am in Germany and all my web searches are coming up auf Deutsch! What a mad and inexplicable world the internet is (unless there's some weirder stuff going on in Merseyside than I'd realised...)

Anyway, I might not have been organized enough to write up the recipes for my breads before I left, but the breads themselves are all nestled in the freezer awaiting my return, so I will blog about them then. In the meantime, here is
a brief mention of the Birmingham Taste Festival which we went to on Friday. It was a great day out to the local Big Smoke for us little small-town mice, and it was all the better for being a work day. I love that naughty feeling of doing something fun and non-work-related on a work day, even if it’s taken out of your holiday allowance.

The Birmingham festival was the last in a series of national events, designed to promote local produce and restaurants. They have their own special paper currency which you can exchange for small dishes cooked by top restaurants, and there are also cookery and wine tasting demonstrations, a local producers’ market, and lots of all stalls all falling over themselves to let you try morsels (and large morsels at that) of their wares. Most of the actual dishes were very meaty, but there was so much to taste that I didn’t really even need the very nice stuffed dhosa I shared with The Scientist. He, on the other hand, got free rein to spend my share of the Taste Crowns as well as his own on posh meaty dishes he wouldn’t usually get to try. We were too busy stuffing our faces with cheese samples to get round to taking any photos, but I did get one of our last Crowns purchase, which was a limoncello trifle to share. It turned out to be not veggie-friendly, so I just tasted the biscuity bits (The Scientist was strangely upbeat about this), The bits I tried were very good, and The Scientist was very pleased with the top layer, which was a fluffy Heston-esque foam.

This was two days after our very rainy trip to Henley Festival, and it rained on us again, but only intermittently, and there was more than enough free chocolate and cheese (and awnings to shelter under) to make up for it. We did make some purchases as well as munching on freebies – some green herby cheddar cheese, some fruit wine, some white balsamic vinegar, and a posh new kitchen knife which I have fallen in love with. Unfortunately up here in the north-west, I can’t remember the names of any of the producers, and so can’t credit them properly :( The nicest thing about them was how free they were with knowledge, information and enthusiasm as well as samples. It’s a very lively demonstration of how vibrant our local food market is (although in today’s financial climate of course, they are arguably increasingly luxury items…). There were some national companies there too, including Gu puddings (oh yes, some of those seemed to make their way into our bag to keep The Scientist going while I’m away. I wonder if I should have stipulated whether I wanted to be able to try any on my return!).

In the Taste kitchen we watched Aldo Zilli make fresh pasta and sauce, and we did a wine tasting of French reds in the wine stall. I deliberately cultivate a complete lack of appreciation of fine wine so that I can happily continue to enjoy cheap plonk, but I came away really quite squiffy on all the samples. And to crown the day, as we were leaving I was accosted by a man from – I’m guessing – a herb marketing board, giving out free herbs. I spied some rosemary, which I adore the smell of, but my eyes became as wide as (wine-spiked) saucers when he said I could have ONE OF EACH! I bore away a big bunch of thyme and sage as well as the rosemary – hence the mad bread-baking session to use as much as I could up before I left.

We came home sated, happy and tipsy. The Taste festivals are all over for 2008 now, but we'll definitely be going again next year. In the meantime I may be putting my new-learnt wine appreciation skills to good effect toasting Eco Sis, who has just heard that she got a top mark in her big exam a few weeks ago! Congrats Smartie-Sis!!! If I can navigate my way out of Liverpool-am-Mein that is.


LisaRene said...

Sounds like you are having a lovely time, even in the rain. I'm eager to read/see your bread posts, I do love my bread!

Ilana said...

well at least it wasn't Liverpool-an der-oder, sounds a bit smellier...

i think a dog has moved in next door, humph...

have done nothing all day! yay! i actually won a game of absolute balderdash last night... and husband has gone to America... and thus concludes the Eco News...

Lysy said...

Bip, bip, biiip. In other news, a cat snuck in and slept on our bed most of the night because I had insomnia and he got in when I got up. I think my brain was too excited about our new niece! And he head-butted me for strokes incessantly when I came back to bed.

Sorry about your dog. Maybe it will wee on the scaffolding and force someone to take it away. I'm glad husband got off to America ok. I lost appallingly at Settlers last night - I thought I was doing well to get to four points and then The Scientist won from nowhere.

Lisa: the bread posts are coming soon, I promise! I keep getting distracted by all this exciting family news :)