Brighton Foodies Festival 2009: Sushi, sherry, the failed oyster and the first aid cake

by - May 18, 2009

The first Brighton Foodies festival showcased a mix of cooking and drinking masterclasses, demonstrations and a food market. To be honest, the organisation was a bit of a hash which marred the day and I think most people noticed but it was their first one, I had a good day overall and what the hey, call me Italian - we all love a bit of arm waving and confusion.

I kicked off with an impromptu Sushi masterclass at Yo! Sushi. Whilst not being my first port of call for sushi, the chef was superb and could wield a knife like no other. We made 2 different types of rolls and the top tip was to cover your hands in (Chinese!) mayo whilst making everything. She then proceeded to feed us a generous variety of dishes, which highlighted how freshness is king to good sushi. Looked easier than I thought and well worth a bash at home.

I was so full up I needed a drink. So straight off to the sherry tasting masterclass. Yeah, yeah it was only 11am but it was for educational purposes. DON’T JUDGE ME! So we were the only two that turned up. This was probably down to the fact there are very few lushes around that time of morning or that no one knew where it was or thanks to the promoters, that it was happening at all. I felt sorry for the lovely and understandably peeved Mel Jones who had traveled down especially to do this. However, she valiantly powered on and taught us many fascinating things about sherry, how it is made, the varieties and what food to serve with each. Sherry is set to be the next new craze in the wine world. Oi! No chuckling at the back! You heard it here first so buy it whilst it’s still cheap my friends.

Mel is a wine writer and general vino expert extraordinaire but is also interested in sherry, its pairing with food and getting restaurants to promote it (and store it) better. I personally would not have thought to crack a bottle open with dinner but there are some wonderful, almost white wine like varieties that will change you opinion. We stated with these amazing light versions and ended with the dark almost treacle like types. Top on my list were the light and refreshing, almost savory La Gitaha, Manzanila, which I would agree with Mel's pairings and serve with fish or other lighter fare and the Moscadel Emilin a darker sherry more suited for dessert. We also tried a Pedro Ximénez which was syrup-thick and brilliant to top ice cream with but way too sickly to drink.

Harvey’s Bristol this ‘aint and in short, sherry is not just to make granny giddy. I’m a convert.

Mel has a website (Quaffers Offers – great name) that has been recommended by BBC Good Food which lists all the wine offers on the UK high street. You can search by variety, shop, price and country.

She was so nice she gave us a good few bottles for the er, road as they were not used. One bottle went within 24 hours. It was good.

Now nicely fuzzy for Heather Mills’ cooking master class (her first cooking appearance – woot!) we made a short pit stop and I decided to overcome my food Achilles heel – the oyster. Had a choice of either Poole or Jersey oysters so I opted for the former as it was supposed to be lighter. The slightly more refined Mr. GF adores oysters went straight for the Jersey, loved it, then watched me for a painful five minutes as I gauged how to tackle this obstacle in my hands.

Now oysters. They don’t exactly look like something one should put in their mouths now do they? But taste is everything and I have chowed my way through sweet breads, fois gras and any offal going with glee. I overcame the visual and had it in my mouth and gave a few good spirited but tentative chomps. I was not having any of it. Luckily the lovely cake stall owner across from the oysters saw my various facial expressions of panic, fear and discomfort and came running to my aid with a morsel of ginger cake. First aid cake. Now there’s a thought.

I felt so disappointed with myself that I promise to try again and if not successful, I shall book myself in to Riddle and Finns for their oyster tasting session. Any other foodies have issues like this?

Next time: Eating meat substitutes with Heather Mills, the amazing Richard Eldon from Blanch House and more beer and cocktail tasting.

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