Now, I am obviously aware that my reputation for restraint and abstinence became irreparably tarnished some time ago, and that starting up a blog in which I physically chronicle this greed has hardly helped present the image of someone who eats like a little bird. And yet I must stress at this point that today's double-headed blog of shame is absolutely not my fault; after all, it was not me that decided that The Mark Addy Gourmet Evening would be on the last Wednesday of the month and that North Star Deli would hold theirs on the following day, so I can hardly be held accountable for the fact that I have consumed a total of nine giant courses over just two evenings.
Having established my utter lack of culpability, I shall proceed with impunity, and confess to having consumed the following at Robert Owen Brown's latest feast at Salford's Mark Addy:
1. Potted Squirrel. As this month's Gourmet Evening fell during The Salford Food and Drink Festival, ROB's challenge was to use only ingredients from that well-known foodie mecca of Salford, a mission he apparently kicked off by sending Lee Frost from WH Frost Butchers out with his shot gun to fell squirrels in Mr Frost Senior's back garden. One can only imagine the pleasure Mr Frosty Butcher presumably took in such an operation, smearing camouflage paint on his face and rampaging through the undergrowth in search of his prey; I took much pleasure in the result - a generous smear of coarse, gamey pate atop a square of toast. Bravo Mr Squirrel Nutkin - a tasty fellow indeed.
2. Wild Mushroom Shooter. A gorgeously peppery soup made from foraged funghi and served in a wine glass tailor-made for unladylike slurping.
3. Baby Leaf Salad with Honey and Horseradish. Now, course number three is normally the fish course, so I can only surmise that ROB either failed to find any piscine life at all in Salford, or perhaps delved in the river and came out with one of those three-eyed specimens so common in Springfield and a rusty shopping trolley. Anyway, once we'd got over our surprise at such a healthy course appearing on an ROB menu we did enjoy the salad, although Mr Liz did maintain hope until the bitter end that he would move a piece of greenery and unearth a stray piece of black pudding underneath all that rabbit-food nonsense.
4. Chicken "Hindle Wakes". It was as this course arrived that I realised that, once again, I had neglected to photograph ANY of my food before wolfing it, thereby implying - erroneously of course - that I am not perhaps entirely professional in my food reporting. This time, I would do better, and take a lovely picture of the tender chicken pieces, stuffed with a gorgeously festive mix of prunes, almonds and spices, and served with a light, tangy lemon sauce. Eagle-eyed readers who notice that there is in fact no picture of this dish may like to blame the ebullience of landlord John, who came and sat next to me as the food arrived and distracted me with his beauty, wit and charm.
5. Eccles Cakes with Sloe Syrup. Well, what else would you expect to be served for pudding at a Salford Gourmet Evening? These were plump little creatures, stuffed full of juicy fruit and served with a sticky sloe reduction; considering how delicious they were, I am both astonished and proud to append below some photographic evidence of their perfection.
6. A Bit of Cheese, not from Salford. Perhaps ROB thought we would rise up, en masse, and revolt if deprived of cheese; I can find no other explanation for the small piece of cheese that arrived at the end of the meal. The small piece of cheese later admitted under interrogation that it was in fact not from Salford, and that this was its first visit to the area. I have not taken a picture of this interloper.
So, it could perhaps be argued that a girl who has troughed six courses (well, five really - you can't properly count salad as a course, surely) should sit quietly at home the following night, drinking water and nibbling on fresh air. Being, however - as noted above - an entirely professional food reporter, I considered it nothing less than my duty to show my face at Join Us For Supper, the monthly gourmet night at Chorlton's North Star Deli. This month was Game Night, celebrating the start of the season with a stunning menu of Autumnal delights that made you want to don a scarf and kick through some crisp leaves whilst breathing out white dragon breath into the cold, bracing air...hardly Deanna's fault that Game Night ended up taking place on the hottest September day in the history of the world. This is what we had:
1. Game Soup. A little bowl of intensely flavoured broth in which small birds and animals had selflessly disseminated their deliciously warm, gamey flavour, tender pieces of pigeon, mallard, rabbit, partridge and venison lurking tastily at the bottom of the dish. I could have eaten about twelve bowls of this, AND the butter for the bread came in the shape of star *impressed face*
2. Moroccan Spiced Partridge with Roast Root Vegetables and Apricot Sauce. A whole, plump little partridge reclining amongst meltingly soft, cinnamon-spiced vegetables, requiring girls with normally immaculate table manners to pick it up in their fingers and apply directly to face. This course was preceded with a talk from - guess who - Mr Frosty Butcher himself, a man who seems to have pretty much cornered the market in felling tasty creatures and then talking genially about the whole process; he is also a passionate believer - as I am - in treating the countryside with respect and taking only what you intend to eat (obviously, I intend to eat pretty much all of it) and not exploiting creatures for meaningless sport. AND he'd shined his shoes especially for the occasion.
3. Desserts from the Orchard. This turned out to be an apple filo tart, served with pears poached in both red and white wine and damson and plum ice-creams, and was actually my favourite course. Presentation was immaculate, and the ice-cream truly the best I have had. You may wish to observe that each of these courses is accompanied by a picture, and attribute this either to a growing professionalism in my work, or the fact that I am far more scared of Deanna than I am of Robert Owen Brown.
So, as the world's longest blog post finally draws to a close, I can only hope this session of vigorous typing has pretty much cancelled out my, ahem, temporary bout of gluttony - lets just hope I'm not called upon to do it all again next month...
- The Mark Addy is on Stanley Street in Salford; tel 0161 8324080 to book.
- North Star Deli is at 418 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester; tel 0161 8620133.