As I mentioned in my earlier post Conwy Feast this year was bigger and better than ever. I’m a regular attendee and love to discover all the new features they add each year. They know how to keep it fresh and it’s always a lovely surprise to see old favourites and new additions, so you can imagine my excitement at being asked to take part in a special new event. A supper club which was held on the Saturday evening before Blinc.
It all began at the beginning of October when the organisers approached me with the idea of cooking a six dish tasting menu with matched wines alongside Jimmy Williams, Welsh culinary squad gold medal winner and head chef at Signatures restaurant in Conwy and Morfudd Richards, wine expert and restauranteur….home cook versus accomplished chef. I’d originally mentioned that I would like to do a demo so this idea came as a pleasant surprise!
Eeeek… I admit initially I was slightly terrified, rather daunted but also delighted that they’d asked me.It sounded ambitious, but I like a challenge so I didn’t hesitate when I said yes!
Guests paid five pounds a head and since we were very much testing the waters tickets were limited to sixty. None of us knew what was going to happen, whether people would be interested, whether costs would be covered, so it was a real shot in the dark, but within three days of the tickets being released, half were gone; snapped up presumably by eager supper club and Signatures fans. It all looked very good.
Jimmy and I met, discussed menu’s and planned. He opened up his kitchen to me for preparation, which is where I spent best part of the Friday afternoon and Saturday. I fretted over not being able to source all my produce locally, not being able to contact my mushroom supplier and whether my venison was too dry and Jimmy spent hours measuring perfect 4cm portions to fit into the tiny tasting dishes. Neither of us had done anything like this before so we were winging it from day one.
Our supper was to take place at 5pm in the True Taste kitchen immediately after Michelin starred chef Bryan Williams. I left the jam stall at 1.30 in order to head over to Signatures to meet up with Jimmy and finish off our prep only to discover my car blocked in. The culprit? The same Bryan Williams. I refrained from having a hissy fit. I kept my cool as he returned to his car looking a little sheepish. Car abandoned I managed to get a lift from one of the festival assistants. I can’t remember his name, I think it was John, but whoever my knight in shining armour was I was very grateful!
We’d been allocated an hour in the prep-kitchen to do our final preparations before the demo at five. By four o’clock we were all packed into our borrowed van, trays of food precariously placed in the back with commis chef Sam wedged in beside it all in the hope he would stop the stuff from sliding around and my helper Mark driving. It’s all glamour you know!!
We arrived into a busy prep kitchen and promptly had to find ourselves fridge space, oven space, work surface space and plating space. Jimmy seemed to know everyone and I felt like the rogue cook in the camp for a bit, but the Llandrillo college staff and students were really helpful and I soon settled down to what I needed to do.
A little while later Morfudd arrived and grabbed me saying,
“you must be Denise” as she planted a couple of kisses on either cheek before dragging me off to taste all the wine she’d selected for my food. Next I was introduced to Sian Lloyd ITV weather and TV presenter who was hosting the event. With about five minutes to go before we were due to cook Sian asked,
“so what are we doing”?
Jimmy and I looked blankly at each other “dunno” we both replied.
“Who’s directing?” she tried again. We still looked blank.
“well does anyone know what’s happening?”
We grabbed Fiona the organiser, who helped us map out a rushed itinerary, the ordering of how the dishes would be served and when the wine samples would be handed out and Jimmy and I decided who would cook first. While outside the they tried to work out who had paid for their tickets and who hadn’t. It was all done on the hoof, but by 5.15, only fifteen minutes late we were ready to go.
I described how to hot smoke fish and put my trout on to cook, Jimmy prepared his sea bass and the first samples were sent out to the waiting group of guests. We talked about our main courses and then I demonstrated my caramel (which for the record did end up burning…but not during the demo, it jut didn’t cool down quickly enough at the end). All in all though for a new, untried event I think it came off very well. If overheard comments were anything to go by the guests loved it, they thought the food was fantastic and I for one didn’t even have a hint of nerves, in fact I had a ball.
Yes of course there were a few glitches, but hey it was a pilot and we all learnt from the experience. Jimmy says if we do it again he will put away his ruler and I reckon I need to work harder on my food ordering and costings (I definitely over spent on the venison!).
So are we doing it again next year I hear you ask? Well that is in the hands of the organisers. We have a year to work on it so watch this space!
The menu’s and wine:
Hot smoked local rainbow trout with horseradish cream on a bed of carrot and beetroot slaw (courtesy of Ellie and Rosie at Salad Club) and winter leaves
- Las Medallas Manzanilla, Spain
Roast venison haunch with wild mushrooms, dry cure bacon and herbs, potato dauphinoise and buttered wilted kale
- 2008 Rasteau, Cotes du Rhone villages, Dom de Escaravailles, France
Pear tatin with vanilla salted caramel and Black Mountain cream
- 2007 Royal Tokajii Aszu 5 putt, Hungary
- 2010 Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie, Loire, France
- 2010 Zarcillo Pinot noir, Chile
- 2007 Ballet D’Octobre, Dom Cauhape, Jurancon, France
- Beetroot & carrots and potatoes – Pippa and John small holders in Bethel who run a vegetable box scheme (otherwise known as ‘them two over there’)
- Local venison-Williams & son, butchers in Bangor
- Wild mushroomsThe Mushroom Garden
- Dry cure bacon – Williams & son butchers, Bangor
- Fresh herbs (parsley & thyme) and kale – Moelyci environmental centre (market garden)
- Butter (unsalted) – Calon Wen
- Salted butter-The Victorian Farm Food Company, Shropshire
- Sea salt and vanilla salt – Halen Mon
- Black Mountain liqueur –Celtic spirit company
- Olive oil – Petros
On a personal note I want to say a massive thank you to all the producers that gave me free samples to use in my demo, to Mark and Sam for making lovely looking samples in the tiniest of dishes and for being the perfect commis chef’s, to the staff and students of Llandrillo college for being helpful and professional and being lovely to this strange woman who breezed in, in her flowery sundress and tights, to the organisers of Conwy Feast for taking a chance with this (and me), to Sian and Morfudd for being generally lovely and making the event relaxed and informal, to Jimmy for opening up his kitchen to me and of course to Sean, Sophie, Rosie and Becky for holding the fort, flogging my jam and chutney and being the perfect PR assistants for supper club.