Monday, 15 November 2010
In which I eat too much at River Cottage
Inevitably the SP was the main attraction. As we signed in at The Alexandra in Lyme Regis, the girl on the front desk looked alarmed. ‘Where’s the puppy?’ she said, peering anxiously behind us. We reassured her that we wouldn't dare just bring our own boring selves and fetched him in from the car. Universal adoration followed as we went through to the bar and I could have sat quite happily drinking G&Ts and nibbling olives all night. But River Cottage awaited.
Dinner was a table-groaning feast. Trust me, there’s not a whiff of nouvelle cuisine here – it’s belt-straining trencherman stuff (but cooked with a light hand). The idea was that we’d be matching beer with the food. Now I don’t mind the odd glass of beer/ale/whatever but I’ve never gone an entire meal eschewing wine. I have to confess I was a little sceptical.
River Cottage Stinger (a nettle beer produced in partnership with River Cottage), sipping it alongside the canapés. Hellfire, they were a meal in themselves (hot smoked goose breast; ham rarebit; sea bass with chilli and garlic; carrot hummus on homemade pitta bread). I liked the beer (enough that I had two glasses) and, having it in a nice glass made a lot of difference (okay, I know that is a seriously girly thing to say but it’s true – a pint can be a bit offputting).
Golden Champion (a light refreshing ale with fruity/floral notes). It was perfect: hmm, I was starting to see how this could work.
My belt was straining but next up was venison (fallow) two ways (the shoulder slow-cooked in red wine overnight; the saddle with a bacon, onion, garlic and parsley stuffing, wrapped in caul fat). It was served with sliced of roasted pumpkin and briefly blanched cabbage and topped with a bordelaise sauce (with a tablespoon of Pickled Partridge). I found the venison saddle just a smidge tough but the shoulder was melting.
Pickled Partridge and Poacher’s Choice. Which did I like best, asked head brewer Toby, sitting to my right. He was talking about liquorice and damson notes; I think I caught the phrase ‘chutney in a bottle’ but, to be honest, I’d gone past the picky stage; I liked both of them (and had empty glasses to prove it).
‘That’s it, I’m done. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite,’ I said firmly. Then the Sticky Toffee Pudding arrived. Ah heck. It would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it? Particularly as Toby was pouring a glass of Blandford Fly. ‘Ginger beer for grown-ups,’ he said firmly, reassuring me that the ginger would cut through the sweetness of the pudding. It did – it really did – so much that somehow, against all known laws of physics I managed to eat a couple of cider brandy truffles.
Do you still get a hangover? Um, yes. But actually, not quite the stonker you acquire mixing champagne, white wine, red wine, port.
Did I go for the full English breakfast? No.
Did the SP get a long walk along the beach at Lyme? Oh, don’t be silly. I had to be wheeled out.
PS - will report on the cooking day when I've recovered...
PPS - above, the view from our hotel window.... *sigh*
PPPS - the diet? Just don't, okay?
PPPPS - have I got a clue what I'm talking about with beer? Nope. If you want proper commentary, try Adrian's blog - http://maltworms.blogspot.com/