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Sunday, 3 June 2012

May's Gourmet Evening at The Mark Addy, Salford: Local Man Still in Recovery from Unexpected Experience

Now, there are a number of expressions in the English Language that hint at the retributive nature of justice: "you reap what you sow", for example, or "what goes around comes around". This is why something nice will surely happen to you if you help an old lady across the road, or rescue a sad kitten from a tree, or crochet a blanket for someone who is cold. And this is why you should never, EVER joke with your work colleagues about how Robert Owen Brown will probably feed you squirrel testicles at that evening's Mark Addy Gourmet Evening; frankly, you deserve everything you get. And, this is what we got; Mr Liz is still recovering from course number three, but we'll get to that in a minute.

1. Buttered English Asparagus. Not much to say about this one, other than simple perfection: fresh fat spears of England's finest charred and softened and served swimming in a sea of butter and black pepper - hard to improve on this dish really, although Mr Liz IS distracted by the thought of what's to come.

2. Baked hand dived scallop glazed with Lancashire cheese sauce. Again, no problems here: a single plump, quivering scallop - with the coral, the tastiest bit in my humble opinion, still attached - served in its shell covered with a thick blacket of tangy cheese sauce (essentially a scallop mornay but done the Lancashire way rather than the French). Delicious, delicious, delicious - although the ridges in the scallop shell DID mean a finger had to be employed to really get out every last bit of cheesy goodness *puts on best ladylike face but fears this may be too little, too late*.

3. Pan Roast Lamb's Fry with Capers. Sounds pretty normal, doesn't it - every one likes capers, after all, and lambs are tasty fellows. The pallor that instantly drained all trace of colour from Mr Liz's face when Chef Owen Brown explained that "fry" = "testicles" was quite something to behold; I swear his bottom lip may even have trembled slightly. In the end, of course, they looked nothing like one might have expected: tender slices of pillowy-textured, intensely savoury meat in a buttery sauce so tasty that even Mr Liz managed to clear his plate, along with lots of other brave and hungry boys. Would I order this particular delicacy again? Probably not, but I AM a big believer that if you're prepared to eat animals then it's wrong to turn your nose up at certain cuts of meat, and it DID provide me with enough material for around half an hour of smutty banter with a passing History teacher the following day.

4. Slow Braised Grey Squirrel. So, my premonition had been proven half right - rather than the envisaged squirrel nadgers, instead we were presented with a dainty dish of rodent haunch, slow roasted and served atop the potato version of Table Mountain. I'm a big fan of squirrel - it's lean, it's tasty, and were I a little more enterprising I could harvest a seemingly almost inexhaustible supply from my own garden - and although it can be a little fiddly, the gamey flavour totally rewards the patient diner. Much easier to let a chef get most of the bones out of the little blighters for you though.

5. English Strawberries Three Ways. This month's dessert was a triumph - I don't have a massively sweet tooth, so this combination of fresh and freeze-dried berries, pretty pink strawberry soup, and custard-filled sponge cake was right up my street. The soup was the star here - essentially a posh smoothie, I could feel it physically cleansing my system of all the calories I had previously consumed; at least, that's what I like to hope was happening.

6. Selection of Cheese. Once again, my eyes were bigger than my stomach - no mean feat considering that by this point of the evening my stomach was the size and heft of a small bungalow - and we had to have our cheese foil-wrapped to go. It's hard to express quite how satisfying it is to leave a restaurant clutching a shiny package that you know is filled to bursting with brie, grapes and crackers - even if your stomach IS full of balls.

- The Mark Addy is on Stanley Street, Salford M3 5EJ, and the next Gourmet Evening will be on Wednesday 27th June.

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