I’ve just about recovered enough to pen some thoughts on an extraordinary Thursday evening of fine wine and dining. The venue was a converted farm in deepest Sussex and the occasion was an event hosted by Red Anywhere, a new catering concept by Masterchef Dan Clarke.
It was an evening I’d been looking forward to for some time following an invitation from Adam Stafford, head honcho at Fresh Egg whose company I’ve been using for SEO work with Liberty. I’m increasingly amazed at just how many businesses and ventures this man has a hand in! (Adam had spent lunch that day being entertained by a dragon, but I’ll let him explain that one…).
So, 5pm from Waterloo down to Haslemere and, after a desperate search for a cash machine, a fair trek through Midhurst to Farbridge, Preston Farm. A fantastic setting and a farm once owned by Edward James – I urge you to read about this guy. He made his money in timber and railways, married the ballet dancer Tilly Losch and ended up Las Posas in Xilitla where he created a surrealist fantasy in the Mexican jungle. Isn’t that really what we all want to end up doing?!
Just had time for a quick freshen up and then straight into the venue to make introductions and prepare for an evening of a feasting and a boozin’.
Red Anywhere are fronted by Dan Clarke who has worked for, among others, Gordon Ramsey and Rick Stein. A highlight of an evening like this, is that you get to talk directly with a clearly talented chef who is open t sharing stories of some of the colourful characters he has worked with. Before each of the courses, Dan introduced the dishes and conveyed the passion behind his craft. Utterly beguiling.
But what is great food without great wine?! The wines were supplied by Colin Bradshaw a fine seller of all things vinous. I first Colin met a few months ago when Adam took me to the wine shop in East Preston. Colin is a proper wine man selling proper wine. His shop displays a healthy lack of brands in favour of interesting finds from acrosss the globe. Every wine has a hand written note adorning the neck of the bottle – do you need me to say more? Well, watch out for some interesting web ventures that these guys are putting together, more to follow on that one…
During an evening of excellent conversation with the men behind myrepeats.com and the Bushwalla, a whole lot of amazing food and wine was consumed (as you can see below). Apologies for the lack of accuracy on some of the wine choices, my notes got progressively worse during the course of the evening but I’m sure Colin will fill in the gaps!
Amuse Bouche – leek and Potato Soup, Crispy Leeks, Chive Oil and Cheese on Toast
Starter – Ravioli of Goats Cheese and Parmesan, Caponata Vegetables, Fig Balsamic
Wine – Woolaston Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Nelson, New Zealand. A South Island wine that doesn’t have the often overwhelming acidity of much of NZ ouput. Much lighter and more Old World in style and all the better for it.
Fish – Seared Loch Fyne Scallops, Lentil & Coriander Broth
Wine – A White Burgundy from Montagny 2004, Colin, help me out on this one – I didn’t catch the more detail than that!!
Main – Sussex Venison Loin, Spiced Poached Pear, Celeriac Puree, Smoked Bacon & Red Wine Sauce
Wine – Chateau Haut Brisson 2002, St Emilion. Predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A cracking Claret – crimson, intense, magnificent nose (wood, small black fruits, liquorice, tobacco – or maybe that was the smokers next to me?) simply lovely.
Pre Dessert – Chocolate Mousse
Wine – A Red Dessert Wine from Mouret, Roussillon. An original choice and one of those that provokes the surprise refrain of “red wine with pudding!? Shurely Shome Mishtake” The wine was made from Old Vine Grenache and although not my to my taste, I could nevertheless appreciate the quality
Dessert – Collection of Puds! Sticky Toffee Pudding, Salted Toffee Sauce, Apple and Cinnamon Crumble, Hot Apple Sauce, Vanilla Pod Ice Cream and Bread and Butter Pudding
For me the star of the evening was a wine style that I usually steer clear of. The Late Harvest Muscato from Rioja was a perfect match for such an eclectic medley of puddings and was just fine, fine, fine. It had the lightness that allowed all these extraordinary puddings to shine – I’ve never experienced a Sticky Toffee Pudding like it. My god.
Cheese – Cornish Yarg – Biscuits and Grapes
Wine – Port of Course! From Gould Campbell, a Late Bottled Vintage from 2001.
Coffee and Homemade Fudge
An indulgent post this one, but I can’t apologise for that. I’ve never had a better experience of food and wine matching and I can’t even begin to give the sticky toffee pudding the elevated pitch that it so deserves.