A few years ago, I decided that birthdays were just too much fun to be restricted to one day per annum, and enthusiastically adopted the tradition of the Birthday Week. This is of course far more sensible than it might sound - most of us these days have a pretty extended network of friends and family, spread out in various geographical locations, and the flexible notion of the Birthday Week allows for the lucky celebrant to catch up with all of those people nearest and dearest to them. And - less worthily - adopting this tradition also means a/ more nights out and b/ more presents.
Unfortunately, in this household, this year is a story of monkey see, monkey do, monkey want MORE. This year is a special birthday for Mr Liz, and he is insisting on a full birthday fortnight, running from Monday just gone to Monday week - and I've got to be honest, I'm exhausted already. I've already eaten my own body-weight in cheese at Tuesday's International Cheese Awards (more of this in another post), and we've still got Damson, Olympic football, Linen at Manchester 235 and - oh - PARIS to go. Last night, though, was the last Wednesday of the month, so you know what that means...Gourmet Evening at The Mark Addy. Here's this month's luscious line-up:
1. Morecambe Bay Shrimp Shooter. Regular Addy-ites will know that this dish has appeared on the Gourmet Evening menu before; its popularity (as well as its local and seasonal nature) meant that this shot glass of hot, fishy broth, rich with cream and flecked with fiery pepper, was deservedly back. I burnt my mouth on it last time and am ashamed to say that absolutely NO lessons had been learnt and I burnt my mouth on it all over again.
2. Glebeland Growers Salad. In his opening preamble, Chef Robert Owen Brown said that he's getting quite into salad, as long as it's "proper salad". I can confirm that ROB's understanding of a "proper salad" is one that contains approximately three small pieces of greenery along with a selection of popular breakfast items - in this case, cubes of warm, crumbly black pudding, slivers of fat, flavoursome bacon, and a quivering poached egg. Absolutely delicious, although I fear disappointment and perhaps a tantrum when I next serve up salad at home to a husband who has been given false expectations of what a healthy dish should be like.
3. Signal Crayfish Cocktail. I really can't get enough of prawn cocktail - I love it in all its forms, even the plastic, luridly pink versions that come in a tub from the supermarket. I can't help it; I think it's because I was born in the 70s. Being the Addy, of course, this was neither lurid nor plastic - saucy, sexy, local crayfish peering haughtily from their rightful place in a martini glass. There was even a tiny - tiny - bit more salad in the bottom of the glass.
4. Roast Pork Fillet with Summer Truffles and Mushrooms. This was the only dish last night that I wouldn't give full marks to - my piece of pork was on the small side (yes, I AM aware that I am in the middle of eating six courses, but hungry is as hungry does) and also a tiny bit dry. The rest of the dish effortlessly redeemed itself though - the potato was deliciously soft, creamy and garlicky, and the sauce pungent with but not overwhelmed by the earthiness of the truffles.
5. Dunham Massey Berries. The desserts at Gourmet Evenings are often deceptively straightforward - this was just fresh, sweet berries in a syrup made from their own brethren, and topped with lots and lots of cream. When the raw materials are this good, you just don't need to do any more to them.
6. Selection of Local Farmhouse Cheese. Course number six is always cheese, and for the second month running I stayed to eat it rather than have it packed up in a foil party bag that ALWAYS intrigues fellow travellers on the bus on the way home. As usual, I ate the blue one, Mr Liz ate the non-blue one, and we fought over the grapes.
I must also mention two exciting things that happened last night - firstly, the generous folk at The Addy had arranged for a bottle of birthday champagne to be waiting on our table for when we arrived (I kindly helped Mr Liz drink it, for it was a school night *good wife*), and secondly, the lovely James from Bobby's Bangers brought me along a bag of sausages that had missed the food barge on Monday (more of these fellows another time). It's been a life-long dream of mine for a man to hand me a bag of sausages in a pub (although I didn't actually know this until it happened), and his small, kind action has earned me countless brownie points with Mr Liz.
So, for the second month running, there was nothing here that could possibly upset anyone - which does rather take the fun out of posting the menu on Facebook and then checking a few hours later to see what particular dishes poeple have got their knickers in a twist about this month. Although please ROB, do NOT see this as a challenge for next month...