After the excesses of Christmas, January is a time of purity and self-cleansing, purging one's body of the kilo of mince pies and gallon of mulled wine consumed the previous month, living off mung beans and boiled water with slices of lemon in. Or so you'd think. An exceptionally greedy week has seen my calorie intake go off the scale; worse still, I'm only halfway through my social commitments for the week. There is a serious chance I may have to go to work in a flowery smock on Monday, a little like the one worn by Homer Simpson in that episode where he eats plasticine to get over 300lbs.
The problem began on Tuesday and, as is often the case, can be blamed on the power of Twitter. When the lovely Kath tweeted that takeout cod and chips from Didsbury's Foster's Fish Bar were buy one, get one free all week, the selection of tired vegetables waiting hopefully on the worktop were instantly cast aside in favour of chippy tea; I admit it, I am weak. But look in your own fridge, and then deny that you are now seriously tempted to get your own tea from there tomorrow.
Then last night was the monthly Mark Addy Gourmet Evening, held on the last Wednesday of every month and offering six glistening courses of all that is good and tasty in the world. Last night's meal was a more intimate affair than normal (perhaps some folk ARE actually following the worthy nonsense from the first paragraph; or maybe they just drank too much at the Burns' Night shindig the night before) but this mattered not a jot to the fifteen loyal Addyists gathered together to witness Robert Owen Brown produce perhaps his tastiest menu yet. This is what I ate, and yes, I'm afraid I did eat pretty much all of it:
* Trio of Beetroot with Leagrans Cheese: you can't fault the concept of this dish - take something astonishingly healthy like beetroot, roast it, and then "garnish" with a canoe-sized piece of cheese.
* Celeriac Soup with Small Bacon Dumplings: as celeriac is the world's ugliest vegetable, the lucky legumes (I hope celeriac is a legume - I rather like the alliteration here) that made up this silky smooth soup must have been besides themselves with gratitude; I think I even saw one of them crying tears of sheer joy at its transformation.
* Oyster Bhaji, Bloody Mary and Pan-Fried Scallops: words cannot express the beauty of an oyster bhaji, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, a little like an armadillo. I wanted to photograph it for Twitter, but found I was unable to on account of how I had already eaten it.
* Saddle of Hare with Jerusalem Artichoke, Curly Kale and Chestnuts: goodness, where to start with this one. Tender meat, cooked to rare perfection, draped seductively over a pile of nature's trumpiest vegetables - a marriage made in heaven.
* Oven Baked Spiced Toffee Apple: this was perhaps my least favourite of the courses, but only because I'm not good with toffee. It's been a quiet day today though, as Mr Liz'a teeth are still welded together from the sticky remnants he insisted on chiseling up from his plate.
* Cheese: I'm afraid I can't be specific with this one as the names weren't listed on the menu, but I will flaunt my culinary knowledge and go with "a good strong cheddar and a lovely stinky orange one with blue bits in." Don't worry if you're not quite au fait with the technical language I've used here - you must remember that I am a professional cheese eater, so it's natural for me to sound clever; if you pay a lot of attention, you may one day be as expert as I am.
Please make sure you book for next month's dinner - this is exceptional cooking from one of the country's best chefs, and represents great value for money at £30 a head. Last night was owner John's birthday, and next month's Gourmet Dinner is on Mr O-B's; come along and wish them well.
So, I may have been greedy, but at least I can eat lettuce for the rest of the week. Oh no, wait - tomorrow is Girls' Curry Night, and Saturday sees Mike Garry regaling happy diners with his poetry at Love2Eat Deli in West Didsbury. More news on these, and the smock, next week...
- Foster's Fish Bar is at 812 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6UH
- The Mark Addy is on Stanley Street, Salford, Manchester M3 5EJ, tel. 0161 8324080