The format behind the Best of Brighton Live Food Show is genius. A formal sit down lunch with the courses being cooked (and demonstrated) by a selection of Brighton's best restaurants creates an incredibly exciting and diverse dining experience.
We've all been to live food shows in white marquees with Madonna microphoned chefs but this was a far more intimate environment (at the very nice Radisson Blu dining rooms, formerly the Royal York) to really enjoy talking and eating food. As we sat down to enjoy the food after the demonstrations, we were talked through the wines selected and provided by the formidable Henry Butler of Butlers Wine Cellar. For all the stuffy wine demonstrations and talks you may have been to, you will never have seen one executed the way Henry does them. All I can say is see him in action and outfits at the brilliant Winebox.tv.
First up was the incredible image at the top of the page was the Twice Baked Nut Knoll Ash Goats Cheese Souffle with Asparagus Creme and Olive "Soil" by Terre a Terre chef Dino Pavledis. It's a take on their famous Elephant and Rocket Oil Twice Baked Soufflé which is in their cookbook with a few tweaks and twists (as they like to do). The soufflé is encased in layers of filo pastry sprinkled with nuts and rosemary. The hollow in the top is filled with asparagus spears and rocket leaves.
It has to be said that this dish has the most plate presence of any I have ever eaten. Once this beast was tackled flat on the plate, it was evident that the flavours were just as important as the visual impact, the lemon droplets lifting the whole dish. This is seriously sexy vegetarian food and has inspired me to get to grips with the two page recipe in the book. Deconstructed in the chef's demonstration, it doesn't look as scary. Maybe.
The wine matched for this dish was the Plumpton Estate Rose, 2009 made locally by students of Plumpton College which was light and refreshing.
Next up was Sam Metcalfe from Sam's of Sevendials and Sam's of Brighton. I like Sam's ethos to food. No fuss, simple and all about the eating. This Crab and Herb Ravioli served with foraged Wild Garlic and Crab Bisque was a delight. Although I make my own pasta all the time, this demonstration was the most inspirational for me and most useful. He popped in a quarter ratio of finely ground semolina to type 00 flour to create his pasta dough which I have never done but will try next time. Also to try would be his technique for kneading the dough through the pasta machine on the widest setting which seemed to give great consistency. I have also never prepared crab before so that was really useful to get all the tips for crustacean wrestling. The filling for the ravioli was a super light mixture of prepared crab meat and salmon mousse with plenty of herbs. I thought the wild garlic worked perfectly with the flavours without overpowering. Really nice.
I love sherry so was pleased as punch to see that Henry had chosen the chilled, crisp Bodegas Argueso Manzanilla to go with this. We really ought to be drinking more sherry with food.
Next up was a Trio of Pork by Andy McKenzie of Drakes. This had the drool factor. Laden with butter in every part, and delicious for it, this would be a doable dinner party dish at home. All that's needed is a few tricks with the meat prep and the ingredients here speak for themselves. A fork-soft pig cheek, crisp, chewy confit belly and smoky pancetta wrapped loin. A plate of porky goodness for sure with a lovely white bean puree, savoy and creamed potato. Most surprising was the addition of cinnamon which I don't think I would ever think to put with pork but it is an inspired companion for it.
A bio dynamic Champalou Vouvray Sec was chosen for this dish which had bags of personality and although I don't think it would be for everyone, I really liked it.
What I needed next was a bit of a lie down but instead we were shown a cocktail demonstration by Myles Cunliffe who showed us how to make his signature Myzo cocktail, with vanilla vodka, elderflower cordial, lemon juice and fresh chili. This was right up my street and the post dinner pick me up I needed.
Refreshed, we watched Raymond Blanc trained Julien Plumart from by beloved Cocoa Patisserie create the best tarte tatin I have ever eaten as well as his recipe for boozy chocolate truffles. Served with salted caramel icecream and a teeny macaroon, this was heaven and, convinced I would have gone to hell had I left even a scrap on my plate, I polished off the lot. The sweetie even wrapped one up for me to take home to Mr Graphic Foodie as this is one of his favourite desserts.
Tickets to this event were a measly £45 when you take into account the four courses, matched wines, cocktails and other refreshments plus all the demonstrations. Dining in any of these restaurants for a more modest meal would probably cost you more.
Worth mentioning is that events like these happen due to people involved donating their time (and sometimes produce in the case of Butlers Wines) for free. It's a labour of love to raise the profile of Brighton food scene and something I really appreciate.