Tag Archives: Pop Up

Most Memorable Meal: Mal O’Connor

22 Feb

I first met Mal at my first ever ‘official’ blogger event at Solita, and having heard on the grapevine that this fellow blogger was heavily into southern style barbecue, took myself along to one of his pop-up events to sample my first ever brisket, not to mention to the incredible states-inspired sauces he concocts. (If you ever see a bottle of Mal’s Alabama Red doing the rounds, grab it and run).

Spending the evening with a group of seriously interesting, very funny foodie people, eating barbecue and sipping bourbon was one of the most memorable experiences of last year, so when Mal started up his own concern in the shape of Fire and Salt BBQ and became the driving force behind the Manchester street food movement Guerrilla Eats, I was always going to be in support. Passionate about great food and bringing people together, I knew his most memorable meal would be a good story to tell…

Salt Lick Barbecue, Texas

The best meals are always more than just good food. Of course the food has to be good, although preferably exceptional, but you need more than that. There needs to be anticipation before, excitement, joy and wonder during and warm nostalgia long after. The best meals are always about the experience.

For me, the best meal I experienced was at the Salt Lick Barbecue in Driftwood, Texas. I was over in Texas about to start a three week road trip from Texas to California with my girlfriend and friends. We started our trip at the South by South West festival in Austin. While there, we were told we had to head out of town to the Salt Lick. Never passing up a good barbecue recommendation, we went for it.

Pulling into the white stone car park on a hot day in March, we had the window down so you could smell the faint aroma of mesquite in the air. By the time we got through the door, the aroma was in full effect but now intertwined with the scent of pecan shells smoking on the pit and the thick musk of brisket, sausage and ribs gently caramelising their glaze over that burning mesquite.

Through the door on the left I came to face the source of this aroma. This was my first ever sight of real barbecue. A stone barbecue pit right in the restaurant. The sight of all those delicious cuts of slow-cooked meat piled up there had me smiling already. To this day, the smell of wood smoke and seasoned meat brings me a certain joy that only barbecue can bring.

Taking a seat at a big timber bench in the lean-to shed on the side of the building, everything here felt sturdy and smoke-coated as if this were a living, breathing monument to barbecue.

Ordering was a simple process; we ordered the ‘Family Style’ plate. A heady mix of beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw and beans. Just for good measure, we even threw in a side of chicken.

Served up on big plastic plates, every aspect of the meal was superb. Soft slices of brisket with that delicious barbecue glaze that’s mopped onto the meat, hot smoked sausages that are plump and firm and the thick country-style cut ribs with more meat on than a normal pork chop. Passing the big family plates around the table, everyone ate semi-quietly, only speaking to pass comment on the excellence of the food or to let out a reverent sound indicating the enjoyment of the food.

As time passed, and we all slowed our eating pace, we had time to sit back and enjoy the moment. The sweet flavours, the laid-back country feel, the chance to take your time and enjoy knowing that there’s nowhere else in the world you need to be. What could possibly make a meal better than that?

This meal was one of my most memorable because it inspired me (in a roundabout way) to get into barbecue. Having said this, in a more prominent way, it was truly the perfect meal; spent with friends, great food, an inspiring location and sampling a type of food I had never experienced. These are the parts that went together to make the most memorable meal I have ever had.

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Bonbon Chocolate Workshop

12 Feb

You can’t have failed to notice the chocolate glut shoring up every high street counter of late. The behemoths that be Cadbury, Mars and Nestle are all assaulting our senses in the hope of winning the seasonal battle for the hearts and hips of us sunshine-smacking consumers. Row upon row of cutesy animal shaped, goo-filled chocolate creations, but rather than seeing me safely through the winter months as per, this year quite frankly has me feeling hollow as an Easter egg.

Our great British isle has a great chocolate heritage, and despite increasing food snobbery around the use of vegetable fats and our national crack-like addiction to milk chocolate, we still kick the arse out of the latest American influx of sweet treats. In their hey day, classics like Bournville and Fry’s were part of the national fabric, and Roald Dahl’s lingering descriptions of Cadbury samples in Boy seem like tales of yesteryear; it seems not so long ago, sweet shops were still revered, magical places that held excitement whatever your age.*

Nowadays, by the time spring has shown his happy face, our willingness to comply with increasingly early corporate crack at Valentine’s Day / Mother’s Day / Easter just seems greedy, and where chocolate once provided a momentary and affordable morsel of luxury, it generally has become nothing more than a commodity to shove in our mouths at the end of the day. In amongst the crammed, multi-coloured shelves of confectionary, that sense of theatre and the pure joy that enjoying chocolate brought has been lost.

I haven’t been hit by that childhood sense of wonder for years, despite the best efforts of the innovative yet ridiculously slick Hotel Chocolat and the fine, fine work of the cocoa bean buyers over at Green & Blacks. Sigh. Then suddenly, Bonbon Chocolate Workshop miraculously appeared, popping up unexpectedly in Manchester’s Northern Quarter as an early Christmas gift, and no doubt thanks to the terrible weather and need for a little new year cheer, has thankfully hung around.

A sweet little hidey-hole of  chocolate wonder

A sweet little hidey-hole of chocolate wonder

Initially tempted in by the promise of hot chocolate one snowy Sunday in January, and having heard the masterminds behind the much lauded (but sadly never visited) Troffel were supplying the goods, I was keen to indulge. Sat on the slightly uninspiring John Street, expectations were tempered, but seconds within walking in, I knew I’d found it – the grown up, miniature version of my very own Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. (I wish). I could barely contain my mirth.

Raspberry Beer Truffles - down in one!

Raspberry Beer Truffles – down in one!

Flourless Chocolate Cake - on the hit list.

Flourless Chocolate Cake – on the hit list.

Slates of dusted, coated and colour-flecked truffles, fudgy brownies and a earthen pot of steaming hot chocolate, this small, intimate shop’s muted, charcoal tones and earthy paper packaging lets the chocolate do the selling, as well it should, given Valrhona chocolate is used in everything they create. Rich without being sickly – leaving that tell-tale, lip-smacking couverture coating on your teeth – it speaks volumes of quality, and leaves you in no doubt that you’re experiencing something truly special.

Hot Chocolate - Just chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder.

Hot Chocolate – Just chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder.

Salted Caramel Truffles - buttery gooey goodness with a slight salty tang.

Salted Caramel Truffles – buttery gooey goodness with a slight salty tang.

Made purely with chocolate, spring water, a little sugar and cocoa powder to help thicken the liquid, the melted hot chocolate is something else. Less fatty on account of the lack of dairy, and flavoured with the truffle varieties available in the shop that day, my bowl of liquid cocoa reawakened the love lost after years of overly sweetened, heavy set chocolate bars and the powdered, frothy hot chocolate we’re all too used to expecting. Even the drudgery of the overlooked NCP car park couldn’t spoil the appeal.

With room for 6-7 people max, getting into Bonbon is a challenge, but one well worth waiting out for. The knowledge on offer from the friendly staff encouraged me to take home several truffles to try; a sweet and tangy raspberry beer finished with a bitter beer hit and sea salted caramel, buttery in flavour with that mild salt sting cutting through. I’ve since been back for the brownies – gooey in the extreme and a perfect indulgence for the Sunday night treat tradition held by me and my flatmate Aoife – all in all, divine.

At just £3.50 for a truly delicious cup of hot chocolate, it puts Starbucks to shame, and with the best quality truffles costing no more than £1.50 plus plenty of innovative flavours to try, (the lemon curd and goats cheese in particular require another trip), why not give this little independent pop up a try? Inexpensive, decadent and truly exciting, Bon Bon is serving up chocolate exactly as it should be.

* Ruined by smug, know-it-all grown ups with big marketing budgets and no sense of fun, no doubt. Very Dahl-esque, don’t you think!

Bonbon Chocolate Workshop, 9 John Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1EQ

Manchester Christmas Markets

27 Nov
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but it seems Christmas has come a little early this year. The Christmas lights have been switched on to pretty up our grim wintery streets, the Coca Cola and John Lewis ads have kick-started the excitement / sentimentality of the season and the smug bastards who have been shopping since October have gone so far as to wrap their presents early this year. I tried hard to resist my friends, but the rampant consumer in me succumbed. I ate my first M&S Christmas Feast Sandwich last week, and it’s all come undone.
As standard, Manchester is bang on trend. Having transformed itself into a veritable winter wonderland since early November, the Spinningfields skating rink opened last weekend to the humiliation-hungry masses. Retro hang-out The Ski Club and the kitsch Christmas den that is Miracle both followed, popping up recently to provide an immersive yuletide experience and some of the most imaginatively themed and sickly sweet cocktails known to man. Candy Cane Collins anyone? Ridiculous amounts of fun both, they’re still simply stocking fillers when it comes to a Mancunian Christmas trip out.

Albert Square Santa, Manchester

For the folks of this fair city, it’s the Christmas Markets that have us counting down. Street upon street of wooden chalets, selling all manners of tat (a joy unto itself) and more importantly, huge pans of German bratwurst to dole out with hot mustard and ketchup, French crepes and waffles wafting the scent of cinnamon through the air and piping hot mugs of mulled wine and booze-infused hot chocolate to sip. Never mind that you’re freezing your tits off. The Albert Square Santa is watching you, and there’s charcuterie, cheeses and chocolates to snap up so you can continue your festive feast at home.

Bratwurst, Manchester Christmas Markets

Gingerbread Strudel, Manchester Christmas Markets

Each year I think I’ll tire of it, having been a massively greedy bint and spent way too much money shoving my face full of fudge. Yet December November comes around, and just as I find my self dancing like a loon to the same old Christmas songs, I can be found with this year’s Christmas Market mug in hand. It’s the perfect antidote to a hellish afternoon present shopping (being ideally distanced from the seventh level of hell that is Market Street), and makes for a cracking after work catch up location or quick drink destination before a Christmas night out too. I shall be ticking all the above off my list over the coming weeks.*

The Singing Moose Bar, Manchester Chrismtas Markets

Pretty scenes, Manchester Christmas Markets

Other being a little on the expensive side,* the only real turkey at the Christmas Markets is the distinct lack of local and regional fare. Though this year is slightly better than last, with Penelope’s Manchester selling hot pot and Mrs Kirkham’s being in attendance as always with their luscious Lancashire cheese, the food and drink on offer is distinctly European. Whilst wrapping your cultural chops around something different is never a bad thing, it’s a missed opportunity to showcase the food on our doorstep, especially given the ever growing size of the markets and the visitor numbers they draw in.

Mrs Kirkham’s, Manchester Christmas Markets

No matter. Locally sourced couch picnic in hand and a pan of wassail on the go, the Manchester Christmas Markets have got my holiday juices flowing. With the Christmas playlist on and the tree already bedecked, I might be at risk of overcooking it, but with a smorgasbord of seasonal treats on my doorstep, and the world of inspiration to take and recreate at home, I might just make it all the way to Christmas day.

* At £4 for a mulled wine, £4.50 for a bratwurst and £3.50 for a pancake, it’s a dear do.

Nutter does Famous

22 Nov
The pop-up scene in Manchester has truly exploded of late. Whether creative, inventive or as often as not, surreal, since my adventures at the Southern Summer Barbecue, the city has seen the birth of a street food collective, a new supper club come to the fore and more ingenuity from the pop-up pioneers behind The Yacht Club. With Guerilla Eats showcasing the streetwise talents of Fire and Salt BBQ and Dirty Dogs are Hot, Dine In Out delivering dinner party style events across Manchester and for this winter only, The Ski Club will be serving up an après ski experience right in the heart of the city centre, us Mancunians are spoilt for choice.
The latest pop-up to grace us with its presence was the Nutter Does Famous do, where Andrew Nutter of Nutters fame collaborated with Beau Myers and the Almost Famous team behind MFDF12’s Food Pioneer Award. With larger than life reputations both, renowned for their tasty and packed with a punch food, the £50 upfront tickets sold out quicker than an Almost Famous special. Understandably, expectations were high with a small amount of trepidation thrown in for good measure, given the teasing tweets and impulsive nature of the two guys at the pass.

Nutter does Famous Menu

Like any good pop-up, the surprises were plentiful. Queuing (as always) to get past the unmarked Almost Famous door, a vicious girl fight kicked off between two love rivals, only to morph into a street performance from carefully placed actors amongst the crowds. Our nerves were soothed in a festively-themed room, (more of which later), complete with harp player and the most elegant Grey Goose and elderflower cocktail to ever pass my lips, before being met for the sit-down dinner by the same theatre group singing ‘Food Glorious Food’ and sprinkling petals from the Almost Famous rafters. Curiouser and curiouser.

Street fight. Nutter brings a true taste of Rochdale to the streets of Manchester.

Not a jam jar in sight. Grey goose and elderflower cocktail.

Theatrical performances aside, what was truly surprising was the food. Expecting a dirty burger, boozy mash-up, we were presented with classic flavour combinations, expertly executed and exquisite tasting food. No kitchen towel on the table, cutlery in hand, we were set for a right royal feast. Baked clam chowder thick with mussels, soft, pillowy brill topped with a rich and moreish pesto and the most unctuous pork belly served with crackling and fat piggy juices, our table full of Twitter lovies found themselves silenced on more than one occasion. Finished off with a honeycomb-adorned chocolate mousse, we were transported far beyond the burger trays to fine-dining heaven.

Brill with Jerusalem Artichoke, Wild Mushroom and Pesto

Pork Belly, Crackling and a Pineapple and Black Pudding Beignet

The biggest revelation of the night however, was Nutter himself. Having only ever seen him from afar, Union Jack flag and a bottle of grey goose in hand, I was expecting some full-on antics, but when it comes to his craft, he’s one serious dude. Passionate about great flavours, local ingredients (bury black pudding wontons anyone?) and heard on the grapevine from crew members past, a great man to work for too, leading from the front and inspiring his team to deliver the refined food his Rochdale-based restaurant is renowned for.

Andrew Nutter plating up dessert

Chocolate mousse with honeycomb and a chocolate orange bee

In a night full of the unexpected, it was entirely expected that Beau would have something up his sleeve. Master of the big reveal and king of creating a sense of urgency around his creations, in our journey from Socio Rehab for cocktails and canapés to the top floor burger den for the main event, we were introduced to the marvel that is Miracle, the Christmas themed pop-up from Almost Famous.

Promising the mother of all turkey burgers, fondue-style desserts and Christmassy cocktails when it opens this week, we enjoyed a sneak preview of the venue amidst the twinkling ambience of log cabin bars and slightly bizarre sprout prints whilst enjoying our amuse bouche. And whilst a Bloody Mary lobster shot is for life and not just for Christmas, could this be another pop-up to put on the wish list, perhaps?

The Ski Club Manchester

12 Nov
When it comes to writing a blog, you are your own editor. No-one recommending where you review, helping you pull together a content plan or fine-tuning and editing your piece for publishing. For the most part there is great joy in that. It gives you the blessed freedom to push your own agenda and write in your preferred style, and given that the majority of blogs are self-funded, (this one included), it means you can eat and drink where the hell you like. So far, all gravy, but given it’s your hard earned cash being spent, you tend to stray towards those places you knows you’ll enjoy, resulting in largely warm to glowing reviews. 
 
Occasionally however, you are invited along to a free event, and whilst you are glad your purse is provided with a much needed night off, the do in question might not be quite your thing. Resultantly, the friendly tone that typifies your usual writing style takes a break too. Whilst it is no bad thing to stretch your mean muscles, and as a blogger, important to write fair and unbiased reviews, (especially when food and drink is being comped), for a lady who believes that unless someone had literally pissed on your chips, there is no such thing as a terrible experience, so forgive me if I choose to see both sides of the coin.
 
The latest free do I attended was one of the launch nights at The Ski Club, the newest venture from Heart Soul Rock and Roll, Manchester pop-up pioneers and the guys behind The Yacht Club. Fond of Spinningfields and taking inspiration from the playgrounds of the rich and famous, off the back of their first success seemingly believe themselves to have found a winning formula. Whilst not a fan of either Spinningfields (soulless and way too fond of a chain) or establishments characterised by overly coiffed hair and too much ankle on show (and that’s just the boys), I can concede that The Yacht Club was a cleverly thought out and well-executed idea.
 
The Ski Club however, not so much. Overly excited by the promise of fondue (which is making a comeback, don’t cha know) and a creative cocktail list, expectations were high. Sadly, these were quickly managed. Located in a business block to the side of Spinningfields, the place already lacks the prestige that The Yacht Club achieved, and welcomed by cheap roll-out carpets and sickly blue lighting, you quickly wonder where it all went wrong. The tacky fixtures and fittings won’t speak to the moneyed crowd the pop-up will be hoping to attract, despite the great people watching that the alpine-style window looking out over Spinningfields affords.

The Ski Club Manchester: Fondue

The Ski Club’s saving grace comes from the comfy seating and cosy atmosphere. Tucking into a cheese and meat board of French and Swiss provenance or spooning hot cheese into your mouth on the end of a sausage, you can’t help but relax and enjoy the company you are keeping. Minor blunders blighted the experience however. Too little bread for the cheese and meat board to share was a sloppy oversight, and despite some interesting flavours on show in the canapés, including bratwurst wrapped in pancetta and a wild mushroom arancini, the bites were dry and cold. Underwhelming to say the least.

The Ski Club Manchester: Cheese and Meat Board

The Ski Club Manchester: Bratwurst wrapped in Pancetta

As for the cocktails, the most that can be said is that they were bold. Truly a winter warmer menu, the list read with great promise. Cognac, brandy, sloe gin and port all featured across the board, but cack-handed delivery made for clunky cocktails where big flavours drowned one another, and despite some fun presentation, were largely disappointing. The Brandy Blazer was the best of the bunch, with Grand Marnier, apple brandy and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg to recommend it, but heated through prior to serving, the marshmallow-adorned brandy glass came with a nostril hair singeing amount of ethanol that took several minutes to dissipate.

The Ski Club Manchester: The Brandy Blazer

The award for the most fun cocktail to look at was closely contested by the bright blue and coconut-rimmed Tiffany & Coco, a bizarre and overly sweet Jack Daniels and blue curacao concoction, and the monstrously large Ski Club Punch Bowl, a kind of chilled mulled wine brew. Served in an oversized gold cocktail glass, it made quite the statement, but with a heavy dose of plum bitters and red wine, left an unattractive lip-curling skin on your teeth. Resultantly, the blue cocktail won out, but as beauty is only skin deep, I won’t be flirting with this cocktail menu again any time soon, nor the champagne or spirits by the bottle list, which stretches way beyond my budget.

The Ski Club Manchester: Tiffany & Coco

The Ski Club Manchester: Ski Club Punch Bowl

Had Heart Soul Rock and Roll not skimped on the décor, presumably to save money after the grandiosity of The Yacht Club, and paid more attention to the delivery, this could have been a wholly different review. Great ideas are all in evidence here, and hiring #22 Redbank to design the food menu shows they’re dedicated to seeing through a good concept, but the devil is in the detail, and they’re missing it. Small successes can be seen in the friendliness of the staff and a reasonably priced food menu, but in spite of that, I won’t be returning, despite the temptation of that delicious fondue.

I will be keeping an eye on future ventures from Heart Soul Rock and Roll, however. This kind of creativity is much welcomed, and has the potential to inject some much needed fun into the Manchester hospitality scene. Just not this Christmas sadly, kids.

The Liquorists Belvedere Trail

9 Nov
When it comes to a night out with The Liquorists, you know you’re going to get an education. Good job really, as when it comes to booze, boy do I need one. Starting out early on the back streets of Bolton with a bottle of white lightning, like the majority of Britain, my meandering and oft ill-advised experiences with liquor and occasionally binge-y attitude to booze has left my knowledge (and palate) sorely wanting, but with aficionados like Tom and Jody around, no more.
 
From the cider and cheap wine of our youth (hello Concorde) to the more classy concoctions that could be achieved with a bottle of Taboo / Malibu / Martini, many of us had a brief flirtation with paint stripper styled spirits in our early twenties before happening upon the joys of wine. (White to break you in, red when you reach that certain level of ‘sophistication’). Then comes the day when you find your spirit. People start proclaiming ‘I’m a gin drinker’ and the like, thinking it means something about the person they are (absolute horse-shit) and believe their days of learning are complete.
 
It’s not, of course. Without getting too wanky, there is a shit-load of science behind your favourite sip, and when I realised rum was the drink for me, (I like spicy, earthy flavours and that’s the beginning and end of it), I started on a voyage of discovery. With long histories, numerous production methods, brand stories and myriad ways in which to express and enjoy each spirit, a lot goes in to producing and finding your favourite drink, with a lot of fun to be had in the process.*
 
One of the best ways to start out is by trying different brands, and for those lucky enough to be based in and around Manchester, The Liquorists run spirit trails which have you sample a shed-load of brands over the course of an evening, though of late have been running brand specific nights, allowing you to get well-acquainted with the back story and full booze catalogue of various spirit houses, with the latest do being a night dedicated to the infinite beauty of Belvedere.
 
Now, these days, in the age of  boutique distillers and super brands, you rarely hear people say they’re a vodka drinker. A seemingly dull choice when it comes to drinking shots and the base of many a sickly-sweet cocktail, I’ve avoided the spirit for years on account of putting too much of the cheaper stuff away at uni. However, with Smirnoff increasingly positioning themselves as the party brand, Grey Goose prolifically marketing themselves and Chase fast becoming the hipster tipple of choice, vodka is fighting hard to get back in vogue, with the super-premium Belvedere sitting right at the top of the tree.
 
For that reason alone, I’ve never tried it. In my spare time, I drink cider and am permanently welded to my well-worn skinny jeans, (for the most part because of the scoffing I do), so the thought of spending an evening trotting around Manchester’s most exclusive bars filled me with a small amount of dread, but in the name of learning (cough) and with the chance to taste the world’s first super-premium vodka, I took one for the team.
 
Made from rye, a hardy grain that yields a soft, vanilla-scented vodka with a creamy mouth-feel and taste, with Belvedere you experience none of the burn you come to expect from drinking vodka neat. Starting off with the pure Belvedere, the base vodka from which all of the Polish brand’s flavoured variants are based, this four-times distilled and three-times filtered spirit is one hell of an experience, making the super-expensive price tag that comes with such a super-premium drink sort of understandable.
 
Naturally kicking off our evening at The Lowry Hotel, (a swish location to match the swish drink), along with a sipping glass of the good stuff, we tried a classic Belvedere cocktail, comprising grapefruit juice and almond syrup; a bitter sweet, citrusy concoction that fizzed on account of the added tonic water. Paired perfectly with the passion fruit jellies we were provided, on account of the no hangover guarantee The Liquorists promise through feeding our bellies as well as our minds, we were off to an excellent start.

Belvedere Cocktail: Grapefruit Juice, Almon Syrup, Citrus Juice, Tonic Water

Next to 22 Redbank, home of The Liquorists, to be welcomed by the Belvedere Bloody Mary, an actual Bloody Mary and olives and chorizo to soak up the juices. Smelling and tasting exactly as you’d expect, with tomato notes and a peppery burn, you can tell Belvedere use macerations rather than essences to flavour the vodka, as the drink seriously packed a punch. I finally found myself converted to the soup like cocktail too, whilst being taught by Tom that said cocktail is the base of much bragging amongst bartenders, each claiming to have a ballsier Bloody Mary than the next. Jody’s kicked ass, FYI.

Belvedere Bloody Mary

On to Kosmonaut to try the Belvedere Citrus, a lemon and lime scented sipper bizarrely accompanied by a Mr Kipling Lemon Slice. (A brand alliance with legs, no?) Here we had my favourite cocktail of the night, making use of the lesser spotted rhubarb liqueur, grenadine and egg white. Lip smackingly good stuff. My favourite of the vodkas, however, was the Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, which we enjoyed at Épernay Champagne Bar. Not too sweet and with a hint of ginger, I could have happily gone on sipping the hard stuff over ice, but luckily made way for a Hemingway Royale, of grapefruit juice, Ayala champagne and maraschino cherry fame, made by the charming Joey Butcher.

Belvedere Citrus

Épernay Champagne Bar: Hemingway Royale

The most exciting drink of the night was the Belvedere Unfiltered. Sexily packaged in black, highlighting the famous Belvedere Castle in gold, the vodka tasted earthier, offering hints of black pepper and sea salt with a musky nose. Sadly, the vodka was lost in a cloying cocktail of overly macerated rosemary syrup and mint at our final destination, The Ski Club. The newest pop up in town from the guys behind The Yacht Club, overlooking the Spinningfields skating rink opening just in time for Christmas, they thankfully made up for it by providing fondue for fodder, which also helped prevent the super-premium hangover that was in the post.

The Ski Club: Fondue

Am I a convert to premium vodka? Absolutely. Can I afford it? Can I chuff. However, I will be splashing out for special occasions and putting Belvedere Pink Grapefruit in my letter to Santa. I’ll also never underestimate vodka again, nor be intimidated by the swankier Manchester establishments, where it turns out barmen are funny behind the flashy façade and you can totally get away with wearing your scruffy skinny jeans. See? An education.

* For the record, my favourite tipple is a dark and stormy – much like me after a night out. Boom-tish. (Sorry).

MFDF: Launch

21 Sep

For a foodie, is there a more gluttonous or lusty an occasion than a food festival? Local producers, celebrity chef demonstrations and the occasional beer tent… What’s not to bust a gut over? Yet, whilst the traditional rendering of a festival will leave you amply satisfied, an urban food festival provides a whole new level of indulgence, with wine tastings, street food stalls, cook offs and restaurant events all at which to gorge, indefinitely proving you have eyes bigger than your belly and leave you craving broccoli for a month.*

As far as city offerings go, Manchester Food and Festival (MFDF) is one of the best. Rolling around at that time of year when the nights draw in, and people are in want of an opportunity to come together and lay down store for the winter, it’s perfectly positioned to provide. Constantly innovative in outlook too, drawing the best of the region’s foodie talent and getting bigger and better each year, now in its fifteenth year, this do promises to be a good one. So, as the official festival blogger, I have dedicated one dress size to the next fortnight in the name of eating myself silly and having a fabulous old time.**

Running from Friday 21st September to Monday 8th October 2012, there is a ridiculous 18 days worth of foodie fun to be had, the majority of which is listed in the festival brochure, though keep your eyes peeled for local restaurants and bars running special events in conjunction with MFDF. There’s plenty to see and do, with something to suit every taste bud and budget, but for me, I’m most excited about…

Independent Producers Fair (Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd September)

Sponsored by Booths, much loved retailer and champion of local food will be bringing a host of fabulous regional producers to the free to access festival hub down on Albert Square, with Booths cookery demonstrations and wine and beer master classes to boot.

Street Food (Friday 21st September – Sunday 07 October)

Over the course of the festival, the street food offering down at the festival hub will change on a regular basis, seeing scene stalwarts such as The Hungry Gecko and Ginger’s Confort Emporium rock up, plus special offerings from Almost Famous and 63 Degrees.

Fergus Henderson and Robert Owen Brown Long Table Banquet (Friday 28 September)

These two renowned chefs, of St John Bar and Restaurant and The Mark Addy fame, will be hosting an evening of ‘nose to tail’ eating down at the Festival Dining Hall on Albert Square. With wine included, the evening offers excellent value for just £40pp. Book here.

Proper Local Food Day (Friday 28th September)

A celebration of all things local, head down to the festival hub to see the best of Manchester’s producers, a hotly contested cook off between Robert Owen Brown and Andrew Nutter (of Nutters in Rochdale) and cooking demonstrations from Manchester favourites Aumbry and Sam’s Chop House.

Big Indie Cheese and Wine Fest (Saturday 29th September)

As a regular attendee at this event, this year’s addition of cheese makes the prospect of a day of sipping wines and talking cork more enticing than ever, especially at £11pp entry. Clear the rest of the day for lying around and hiccupping. Book here.

The Liquorists (Various)

Over the course of the festival, The Liquorists will be hosting a series of pop up bars and gastro nights, which following the success of their rum and other drink trails, promises to be booze fuelled and seriously good fun. Book here.

Oktoberfest (Friday 5th October – Sunday 7th October)

MFDF’s tribute to Munich’s Oktoberfest, award-winning beer brand Veltins will host the dedicated and free to access bierkeller, with Bavarian banqueting sessions taking place too down at the festival hub on Albert Square.

15th Birthday Party (Sunday 7th October)

A super sweet way to ease yourself out of festival mode, head down to Albert Square on the final Sunday for an afternoon of cake and party games. With all cake sale proceeds going to charity, it’s your chance for one final binge and some do-gooding too.  

The festival culminates with the MFDF Awards, where the most exciting hospitality ventures and personalities in Manchester are applauded for their efforts in evolving Manchester’s food and drink offering, and keeping the city an interesting and tasty place to eat. With hotly contended categories such as casual dining venue of the year, best restaurant of the year and the tremendously exciting food pioneers award, make sure you vote before the Monday 3rd October deadline to ensure your favourite places receive the recognition they deserve.

Enjoy!

* In my case, at least.

** Some of these events I get to roll up to for free, but the majority of plans I have will be paid for out of my own pocket, and as always, you can expect a fair, hopefully coherently