Thursday, April 19, 2012

Still Keeping in Touch

Got up early this morning so thought I'd let you catch up on what has already been done.
Had the phone call yesterday evening confirming numbers - and yes, it will be catering for 50! But they have decided against having any desserts ('as this means too much washing up'!) but they would like my 'Indian sweets'.

Have already shown the fudge and coconut ice, and yesterday evening made some more (shown below). The ones in the bowl are strips I marzipan that I coloured red and green, and sandwiched with plain (yellow) marzipan, then cut into cubes and rolled into multi-coloured balls, these then rolled in a little white desiccated coconut to stop them sticking together. Left them open to dry off overnight.
In front are, on the left, some of the fudge cut in half, then rolled into balls and then into sesame seeds. In the middle are glace cherries, covered in marzipan, rolled into balls and then cut in half. On the right are the same but this time cubes of crystallised ginger rolled in marzipan and then cut in half.
I have yet to make the stuffed dates and apricots and date bars. These will be made some time today. This next picture is one taken this morning of the mixed salad leaves. They are not at all yellow and as pale as they look, think the flash may have caused this, and they really do look far darker and healthier. They are beginning to 'flop' a bit due to their size as they are regularly watered.
Final chat today is about the 'birthday meal' last night. It was a lovely venue, being an old 'sort of' mansion. The food was good. Yet - as ever - I was critical. It is good to find fault then this makes me even more keen to produce 'something better'.

My starter was smoked mackerel with mixed salad leaves. These mixed leaves seemed to be served with most dishes and am not sure they are worth 'the fashion', many being more stalk than leaf with pale green strips of 'frilly' leaves sticking from the main stem, and these don't feel pleasant in the mouth. Give me iceberg lettuce any time!

Expected the mackerel to be served as a fillet, but it had been flaked and piled into one of those 'circle' moulds, with the salad leaves at the base, sliced cooked potato above and the mackerel on top. Nothing wrong with that, other than this presentation made the salad leaves very soggy, and myself felt (and I think rightly) they would have been better served at the side. But it looked impressive enough and tasted OK.

Main course choice was chicken breast rolled in bacon with barbecue sauce topped with a cheese sauce (the chicken was overcooked and dry, the bacon a bit too salty for me, the sauces were OK). Served with the obligatory mixed salad leaves and 'hand cut' chips.

Dessert for me was Jam Sponge Suet Pudding 'smothered with jam' and 'lashings of custard'. As ever there were two spelling mistakes in the dessert list (Black Forrest Gateau) and Chocolate Gateaux (should have been one 'r' in forest, and no 'x' at the end of the second gateau, but who am I to talk, I make mistakes all the time when writing my blog, but then it is not a printed list in a posh restaurant). A little bit disappointed in the pud, it had been cooked in a small individual pudding basin, lovely and light at the sides, but a bit dense and heavy in the centre. The jam was lovely and there was a lot of custard. Not particularly good custard (both my daughter and I thought it might have been made with water, not milk - probably from a catering mix).

Also as we were having the cheaper 'set' menu we could not expect gourmet fodder, and what we got was excellent for the price. But had to smile as when we looked at the al la carte menu, the Lemon Tart details (on the set menu) were exactly the same as given with the 'Tart au Citron' on the more expensive menu (both desserts being the same anyway). Like 'hand cut chips' and 'hand-formed burgers' (the latter also on the menu but not just the ordinary burger, this time it was made with water-buffalo meat) it's 'all in the name'. The idea I suppose is to make something 'ordinary' sound expensive/posh and therefore more can be charged.

It was lovely having a 'meal out', and any criticism was not intended to down-grade the food (because it was good), it's just that I am always judging what I eat, mainly because I often feel a chef 'could do better' (better than me anyway). There have been only two places I've eaten where I felt every penny we paid was worth it. One in Leeds where it closed down because the overheads cost more than the money earned (they didn't charge enough!!), and the second here in Morecambe at Hest Bank Inn/Hotel where the food is beautifully presented, very substantial and not at all costly. Also tastes wonderful. Think they have won awards for this.

I'd love to be a 'mystery diner' and give my views on meals at various 'eateries', but doubt that many places would get a star rating from me. Is it me that is too critical, or is 'commercial' cooking getting worse? I'd love to try the food at somewhere like Raymond Blanc's restaurant and really find out how good food should taste like. If someone else paid of course!

Today sees the start of three days of cooking, but not really too much as have organised the timing and as long as I stick to my lists hopefully will sail through it.

Considering my above remarks, know that it is very important for me to provide food that no-one will criticise and (hopefully) worthy of a top restaurant. Or is all that a pipe dream? Have to wait and see what comments are made. Not that it means much, even I say I enjoyed a meal when I really didn't.

You will hear all about the 'curryfest' on Monday (unless of course I can't wait to tell you and I write something up on Sunday morning - closer to lunchtime). So probably nothing more from me until next Monday, when I hope you will return to find out if everything went to plan. See you then.