Tag Archives: Street Food

Seasons Eatings Supperclub

2 Mar

Food trends can get pretty tiresome, no? Even if you personally called the latest fad to topple dude food, or find yourself basking in the glow of uncovering the contender to Simon Rogan’s crown – smug sensibilities aside – you will inevitably suffer the indignity of seeing your find trampled upon by every food nerd in town, followed by a spate of pretenders springing up to steal your prize discovery’s sunlight…

Seasons Eatings January Supperclub Menu

Seasons Eatings January Supperclub Menu

Green Shoots

Not emotions ever experienced by me, you understand. An eternal late bloomer, I’m far too rooted in (read weighed down by) last year’s fried chicken trend to outpace this country’s ever-evolving victual vogues, and living in Manchester, have needed peer no further than my Twitter feed to keep abreast of original ideas from our fair capital taking seed in our increasingly food obsessed city.

Marmite Butter and Trove Baguette

Marmite Butter and Trove Baguette

Of late though, it seems a spring awakening is occurring in our little corner of the North. Green shoots in the form of undiscovered cooks, inventive little food producers and the occasional lesser spotted food concept – we’re nurturing home-grown talent which has real potential to blossom into something beautiful. All quite exciting, really, but how to find them?

Pastures New

Having eschewed overly conceptualised restaurant openings and corporately sponsored food festivals of late, I started trawling local markets, and keen to get away from the foodie rent-a-crowd, stalking supper club owners on Twitter. Street food stalls, off-the-beaten-track eateries and food clubs have all been on the agenda, with each and every one providing shiny new eating experiences in abundance (and not a Manchester Confidential critic in sight).

Beef and Rye

Beef and Rye

How else would I have gotten to try Colombian street food if it wasn’t for the street-side ministrations of Arepa! Arepa! or understood the true potential of bacon if Bobby’s Bangers (of Levy Market fame) hadn’t cured it in marmite. It’s this new crop of food markets, home-hosted supper clubs and street food festivals that enables the more adventurous foodies of our fair city to set out their stall for minimal outlay, and the rest of us to feast anew.

Seasons Eatings

Most brilliantly, it allows producers to tweak recipes and chefs to shape their style over many months, all whilst building a following, which is exactly what the gifted ladies of Seasons Eatings have been doing. Since I first encountered them late last year at their supper club promoted through MFDF, they’ve blossomed from a monthly event rooted in the ambient surroundings of Trove to more regular appearances at North Star Deli in Chorlton and the fabulous Fig + Sparrow in town.

Brill and Clam

Brill and Clam

Determined to nurture their own style, between them having worked in everything from city restaurants to private yachts, Issy and Suzy’s use of unusual, seasonal ingredients gathered in and around Manchester isn’t anything new, but their execution is. Toying with techniques to best showcase flavour, the girls’ keen palates and deftness of touch makes for dishes which allow big hitting ingredients to shine, all whilst bringing together beautifully the composite textures and tastes across the plate. Budding talent, indeed.

Budding Talent

At the supper club I attended in January, two dishes truly shone. First up, the starter of rich, raw beef fillet served on crisp rye bread, expertly balanced by the sweet tang of pickled shallots and flecked with olive oil powder, all of which emulsified and spread the earthy, piquant flavours featured in the most mouth-watering way.

Rosemary, Praline, Artichoke and Orange

Rosemary, Praline, Artichoke and Orange

The rosemary ice cream served on a sesame praline inspired most awe, however. The fragrant, herby flavours paired beautifully with the nutty, umami rich base, making for an intensely moreish few mouthfuls. Sadly, the accompanying artichoke and white chocolate mousse failed to see the unique flavours come through, though the use of blood orange fruit and jelly unified the dish texturally, and introduced much needed sweetness as a foil for the creaminess of the dessert.

Milk Chocolate and Vanilla Black Pepper Marshmallow

Milk Chocolate and Vanilla Black Pepper Marshmallow

Home-made marmite butter slathered over a freshly baked Trove baguette to open, pillow soft vanilla and black pepper marshmallows served with coffee and a fruity, rum based Campari cocktail to whet our appetites before the main, even the punctuating dishes and drinks served packed a mean punch, constantly keeping you keen for the next dish (or supper club, should you sadly find yourself at the end of the meal).

Fresh Flavours

More often than not, Season’s Eatings ingenious use of ingredients works wonderfully, and reading their Twitter feed – the only place they post pictures and detail their upcoming events – continue to become more bold and inventive as feedback pours in and more people shout about their food. Its people like Issy and Suzy who are keeping our food scene fresh, rather than buy into the same old food trends creeping up from London. Who needs another dirty burger, anyway?

So, you heard it here people, (though not first, naturally). Loathe as I am to share, for fear of never getting a seat at the table again, their next supper club at Trove is on 03 April 2014. Don’t all rush at once, now…

Guerrilla Eats

9 Dec

Ask and you shall receive, it seems. Having long lamented the lack of street food in our fair city, it seems my prayers have been answered. Hallelujah! Having watched London kick formal dining to the Kerb with its Kings Cross hub of independent traders, and Manchester Food and Drink Festival making the mobile food vendors of our metropolis the focus of its festival hub, it was only a matter of time before Manchester’s disparate food talent came together to feed the foodie thousands in need of an exciting new concept and a seriously good feed. God, am I grateful.

Guerrilla Eats started life in a car park out the back arse of Castlefield, the brainchild of Mal O’Connor of Fire and Salt Barbecue fame. Bringing together the most passionate and creative people from Manchester’s burgeoning street food scene, our very own collective of traders landed this weekend in the Northern Quarter, a spiritual home (of sorts) for quirky pop-ups and the city’s on trend food outlets and watering holes. And whilst hanging around a car park on a grim December evening might not sound like your idea of heaven, overlooking the crumbling mills of the Piccadilly Basin, for me it was as close to a food epiphany as I’m going to get.

Guerrilla Eats, Port Street Car Park, Manchester

Guerrilla Eats, Port Street Car Park, Manchester

I realised that behind the greatest food, there’s always a great story, and these traders have them in abundance. Chaat Cart, selling classic Indian street food, want to replicate the fresh, hot and intensely delicious experience of dosa and puri, experienced during the owner’s childhood in India. Mal, on the other hand, serving up crack like mac and cheese and the softest, most unctuous pulled pork, founded his business on the back of an obsession with southern style barbecue, picked up during his time spent travelling the southern states of the USA. Inspiration feeds passion, and with the Guerrilla Eats traders, it’s evident in every bite. Preach!

Chaat Cart Samosas. Ligly spiced vegetables in crispy pastry.

Chaat Cart Samosas. Ligly spiced vegetables in crispy pastry.

The Barn House Bistro Burger. Rump Steak Burger with a Lime and Jalepeno Mayo.

The Barn House Bistro Burger. Rump Steak Burger with a Lime and Jalepeno Mayo.

It also seems that no matter where the divine inspiration comes from, street food seems to pack a punch wherever you go. With constantly changing locations making it challenging to build up loyal custom, plus being outdoors and often out of the way, each trader’s food has to have some serious chops to draw each crowd anew. Immediate feedback also allows for a fast turn around on fine tuning recipes, so regardless of the experience of the trader in question, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a tasty morsel of food, and with prices hovering around the £5 mark, at seriously good value too. Amen to that!

The Sugar Bun Sisters. Chocolate Orange and Apple and Custard Cupcakes.

The Sugar Bun Sisters. Chocolate Orange and Apple and Custard Cupcakes.

Ginger's Comfort Emporium. Whisky Marmalade Ice Cream (FTW)

Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. Whisky Marmalade Ice Cream (FTW)

So, whether you try the gourmet ice cream at the award-winning Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, veteran of the Manchester street food scene, or the incredibly inventive beef and pork franks from Dirty Dogs are Hot, make the pilgrimage to the bottom end of Port Street this Sunday and find yourself converted to street food. Open from 11am to 4pm today, there’s a buffet of seriously delicious and vastly different foods on offer. And who knows? You might just be witnessing the birth of something exciting this Christmas too. With the food talent on show, who knows where these Guerrilla Eats traders might end up? A car park today; their own premises tomorrow? I can only pray.

MFDF: Indy Man Beer Con and Oktoberfest

6 Oct

Indy Man Beer Con

The past few years have seen a creeping revival of the British booze scene, witnessing everything from boutique gins to farm house ciders become more prevalent, thanks to artisan producers of some serious craft injecting real energy and excitement into the drinks of our history and heritage. For its part, real ale has spearheaded this resurgence, moving through the ranks from old man’s treasure to hipster tipple of choice, headlining the agenda at the local boozer to its current mainstream status, with larger swathes of supermarket shelf space dedicated to independently brewed beer than ever before.

It hasn’t blown wide open quite yet however, and is highly unlikely to, given the complex flavours and process geekery inherent, ensuring it will never truly ensnare the masses. Resolutely remaining an acquired taste for the largely long-haired, beard-wearing crowd, said crew were on show at Indy Man Beer Con, the latest offering in beer festivals. Headed up by the passionate folk at Common and Port Street Beer House, they put on a do aimed to out-do all dos at the most stunning of Manchester venues, Victoria Baths, and as part of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) programme, I felt compelled to go along.

Victoria Baths, Manchester

Indy Man Beer Con Events Hall, Victoria Baths, Manchester

Now, largely a red wine, rum and cider drinker, the real ale movement has somewhat passed me by, apart from the occasional half pint of Robinson’s Old Tom and a recent flirtation with the brewery’s collaborative beer with Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys. I know cock-all about the terminology, processes and drinking culture involved, so was half bricking it, half tingling with anticipation over what a day of learning and drinking would bring. A warm fuzzy glow as it turns out, and a burgeoning relationship that I hope grows into a full-blown love affair.

Indy Man Beer Con, Cask Room

Pumped up and ready to go… (sorry)

Having wandered the venue (a treat in itself) and clocked the cask, keg and event rooms squirreled about the place, (and a nifty little Brew Dog pop up to boot), I broke myself in gently with a pale ale, as you do, from Yorkshire based Magic Rock Brewing Company. Curious by name, curious by nature, it unexpectedly tasted of mango and smelt divine, with citrus fruit wafts emanating tantalisingly from the third of a pint chalices we were given by the organisers, with the aim of ensuring we tried as ‘broad a spectrum of beer’ as possible. Excellent idea, and more than manageable for a rookie like me.

Magic Rock Brewing Company, Curious

Magic Rock Brewing Company, Curious

Unlike many of the attendees, pottering around with beer sheet in hand and ticking off ales as they inhaled them,* I winged it , wandering round sans sheet and talking to brewers for want of clue, and did fairly well (I think). The joy of the pale ale led to me trying a Blood Orange Tea collaborative number from Stockport’s Quantum Brewery and North Tea Power, a slick, fruity ale with a bitter back hit that set me nicely on course for a stout, mixed with chilli and chocolate by the magicians from Brewing Bitches. Cack name but cracking stuff.

Brewed specially for the event, it comprised cocoa, scotch bonnet and naga chillies to make for a sweet initial hit, which gave way to rich, dark flavours followed by a tingly sensation. Incredible! All in all, the day was a revelation. I learnt the difference between cask (twice fermented and traditionally hand pulled) and keg (brewery pasteurised with added gas), the history and characteristics behind a session beer (less than 5% ABV and drinkable over a period of several hours), and that traditional brews are complex, flavoursome and happy drinks, produced and supported by some incredibly passionate people.

Indy Man Beer Con, Portable Street Beer House

Indy Man Beer Con, Brew Dog Pop Up

Much to my dismay, I also learnt that drinking real ale turns you into a big old pig too. On arrival, I had myself a pork shoulder barbecue roll from Mal at Fire and Salt BBQ (smothered in the fast becoming legendary Alabama red sauce) and heading out the door snaffled myself a Dachshund Dog of smoked polish sausage, stout-soaked sauerkraut and Bavarian smoked cheese joy from those geniuses at Dirty Dogs are Hot. After four hours of drinking, I was in sore need of a smackerel of something to soak up all those beer juices, and serious sustenance to power me through the 40 minute walk back to town. That’s my story, is all…

The Dachshund, Dirty Dogs are Hot

Having attended the beer lite session during the day, I missed out on the potent promise of the evening’s festivities, which served up beer talks on yeast, hops and craft beer at large, brewer tastings and live music, plus the true excitement only apple candy floss can bring from the guys at The Moss Cider Project, in attendance with their co-operatively produced Cider Pony. From all reports, the evening was a great success, and with more of the same today and tonight, I’d heartily recommend you try bag yourself a ticket. I’m already putting myself down for next year, all in the name of continuing my education, of course.

Oktoberfest

Final weekend of the MFDF and its all eyes to the festival hub, where street food still reigns supreme, plus more beer based fun for your roving (and now rolling on account of all the MFDF food and booze consumed) reporter. The beer tent has morphed into (what I suspect to be a slightly watered down version of) Oktoberfest, with German beer brand Veltin’s sponsoring. Packed to the rafters with after-work drinkers and kids kicking off their weekends, the whole of Albert Square was in excellent spirits on the final Friday of the festival.

Oktoberfest, Veltins

El Kantina, Pulled Pork

With the street food changeover taking place earlier in the week, my flatmate Aoife and I tucked into pulled pork nachos from El Kantina, though Chaopraya and Levanter Fine Foods were also pulling the crowds with Thai delights and paella respectively. All washed down in the beer tent with a pint of Veltin’s, an easy-drinking clean and herbal beer, we were serenaded by a lederhosen toting oom-pah band, who had the crowds up on the tables dancing to Poker Face, Delilah and Bohemian Rhapsody, not to mention a rousing Happy Birthday for an eighteen year old I’ve ever met.

Oktoberfest, Table Dancing

Great food and drink and great atmosphere, take yourself along to the festival hub to see MFDF out in style.

* Real ale drinking may just be the train spotting of booze. All little beardy men with sheets, ticking off the beer supped and looking sublimely happy as they go.

MFDF: Street Food / Festival Hub

28 Sep

Street food is a glorious concept, but not one we do particularly well in Britain. Whilst I’m sure the majority would lap up the idea of beef and gravy in Yorkshire pudding on the way home from the pub, our traditional cuisine doesn’t really lend itself to easy scoffing on the street, and resultantly have had to borrow from other countries to get anywhere near delivering the cheap, tasty, roadside experience you can find in India or Vietnam.

Sure, we have the ice cream man, fish and chip stand and the ubiquitous burger van, but these saturated fatty delights are all concepts borrowed from other countries, and apart from fish and chips, have been made considerably worse since landing here. (I’m eyeballing YOU Mr. Whippy). It made for a glad heart and expectant gut when the concept went gourmet. So far, only London has done the most recent food trend with any aplomb, with gems like as Meat Wagon kick-starting the burger fad that labours on to this day, and Kimchi Cult, dishing up Korean fast-food that hasn’t yet hit the conciousness of the North.

In Manchester, we have a few contenders in Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and The Hungry Gecko, and joyfully, these have all been herded up and penned in at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) hub on Albert Square, with a moving feast of proprietors throughout the run of the festival. A fine line has been crossed with the invitation of restaurants like 63 Degrees and Chilli Banana, moving the designated ‘street food’ area into pop up territory, but as long as the food is inexpensive, easy to eat and delicious, it works for me.

MFDF Street Food: Zouk

MFDF Street Food: Churros Susanna

Despite the current run of cack weather, the festival hub was still pretty busy on a chilly Thursday evening, no doubt helped by the sheltered beer tent and the warmly-lit Liars Club pop up bar, which had drawn quite the crowd. A mix of after work drinkers and beardy flat-capped types, my mate Alison and I spent the evening stalking the street food stands, finally settling on a not-so-dirty seekh kebab from Zouk and a fat-ass pot of churros from Churros Susanna, all washed down with a pint of Old Tom* from Robinson’s Pub on the Hub. All in all, my multi-cultural combination came in at the tidy sum of £7.80. Joy!

Zouk Kebabs

Churros and Chocolate Sauce

Robinson’s Old Tom

Wood-fired pizza from Fire and Slice Pizza and game burgers (with the most disgustingly decadent sounding red onion and cheddar coleslaw to slap on your bun) from Ank Marvin all sounded pretty special too. With a cider tent (which I’m saving myself for after Tuesday’s glut with The Moss Cider Project) and portable wine van from Harvey Nichols, there’s also booze for all, easy to wander around with people watching or enjoying the sounds from the live music stage, and though reggae music might not be the most fitting choice for a grim Manchester night, it was still a pretty good do.

* One of the best Manchester brews around. Rich chocolate in colour with an initial hit of roasted coffee, it comes over all dandelion and burdock towards the end of each swill. Northern heaven in a pint glass.