Using Local Lancashire Ingredients

fruit and veg

I am a big believer in using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. It is something that I try to do at home and is also something I look for when I am eating out at a restaurant. Not only does buying local ingredients support local businesses, the quality of the produce is so much better than buying processed and manufactured alternatives. The meats are fresher and the fruit and vegetables are in season and taste so much better.

lancs map

I am lucky in terms of the location where I live. I live in a semi-rural village in Lancashire, just across from the coastal towns of Fleetwood and Morecambe and at a mid-point between Blackpool and Lancaster. This means my village is surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by farmland. Both are fantastic sources of delicious ingredients.

The coastal location means there is a fresh supply of fish and seafood available and I usually shop at a seafood shop on the docks at Fleetwood.

Two of the best cheese manufacturers in the company are located within driving distance of my home; Dewlay and Butler’s. They both produce delicious ranges of cheese from their farm factories. These are sold directly from their own shops, local farm shops and many other retailers locally. My personal favourite is Lancashire crumbly.

Pork, beef, chicken and lamb are all available from local sources and sold in local butchers. There is also one of the biggest game hatcheries in the country, Hi-Fly, just one mile from my house and there are even ostrich farms in the surrounding area. 

The area in which I live is fantastic for anyone who enjoys farmers markets as these are held regularly in many locations in the local area. Not only are these a good place to buy the produce that is raised and grown locally, it is also a great place to sample foods created using locally sourced produce. This includes everything from pies to chutneys. Similarly, there are amazing farm shops in Lancashire and there are events that cater to food lovers throughout the year.

 

 

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Not a Fan of Tasting Menus

tasting menu

The latest trend in high-end restaurants is to have a set tasting menu. This consists of around six or seven smaller plates of food that focus on using just a few quality ingredients and presenting them in a beautiful way. Although this is now fashionable, I have to say that I am not a fan.

The first reason is the way the menus are presented. They describe a dish as lamb * lentils* carrots, or lobster* fennel* tomatoes. Is this not simply a list of ingredients? I always want to ask what cut of lamb is it? How is it cooked? Is there a sauce? In what way are the vegetables served? These are the pieces of information I need to know before I order. I would much prefer to see a dish described as ‘Slow-cooked lamb shank on a bed of puy lentils served with julienne carrots and a red wine reduction’. Without having to ask further questions, I know exactly what to expect from my meal. 

The second issue I have is the set menu situation. A tasting menu is a list of dishes and you are given all of them in the order in which they are presented on a menu. There is not a choice of three appetizers or a selection of main dishes from which you can choose. You are simply given exactly what is listed on the menu. Part of the joy of eating out for me is perusing the menu and deciding what I fancy to eat that day. A tasting menu takes away that element of pleasure from me.

Another issue is the cost. It costs a small fortune for two people to try the tasting menu at a top restaurant. When I was looking into eating at one of the establishments that serve this type of menu recently, I calculated that for my partner and I to go out for the meal, it would cost a week and a half’s salary. Diners can also opt to have wines specially selected to accompany each course. To do this, you can expect to double the cost again. I would much rather choose one bottle of wine I liked and drink that. 

My final issue is more about the type of establishment that serves tasting menus rather than the tasting menus themselves. I find them a little pretentious and I feel uncomfortable. I would rather dine in a restaurant that is a little more relaxed and where I can feel free to be myself; talking and laughing with my dining companions. 

Of course, tasting menus are not all bad and I can see why they have become so popular. It is an opportunity to sample some of the finest dishes made by top chefs that are created using the highest quality ingredients and presented in a beautiful way. When you put it like that, a tasting menu is a very tempting dining option. However, this style of dining simply isn’t for me.

Review: Breakfast at Marmaduke’s Town House Hotel, York

four stars

I recently spent a rare evening away from home with my partner and we stayed at the beautiful Marmaduke’s Town House Hotel in York. Although this is a food blog, I must begin by saying that the room was a delight with antique furniture and a free-standing bathtub. Also, the reception staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful. However, as the focus of this blog is food, I should move on to the breakfast we enjoyed during our stay. 

The dining room was light and airy, which made eating there a relaxed and pleasant experience. The waitress was lovely and explained that the menus were on the table and a continental breakfast was available on the side for us to help ourselves. She took our drink order immediately, and this was something that was welcomed as we had enjoyed a few drinks in the city the night before and were in need of a strong coffee. 

We both opted for a full English breakfast, which came with bacon, Yorkshire sausages, half a grilled tomato, mushrooms, black pudding, toast, and an egg cooked either fried, poached, or scrambled. The speed at which the breakfast arrived was quite surprising and everything was cooked perfectly.

Particular mention must go to the sausages as I am very picky about which sausages I will eat and I often decide as soon as I see a sausage on a plate that I won’t even touch it. The sausages served by Marmaduke’s Town House Hotel were what I describe as ‘real sausages’. By this, I mean that they clearly had a good meat content and had a good firm consistency. They are the type of sausages you buy from the butcher’s rather than those terrible processed sausages bought in packs from a supermarket. 

Overall, the breakfast at this hotel was great and our stay, as a whole, was very enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this hotel to others and would go there again.

 

Healthy Eating in Italian Restaurants

restaurant

Most people enjoy a good evening out in a restaurant.  It is a great opportunity to let somebody else do the hard work of the meal preparation and the washing up, giving you the opportunity to relax and simply enjoy the food.  One of the most popular types of restaurants that people choose to visit is an Italian restaurant.  However, these are famous for their calorie-laden pizzas and rich pasta sauces. This can be difficult for those who are on a diet or are simply health conscious. In spite of this, much Italian food follows the principles of a healthy Mediterranean diet and lots of healthier options are available.  If you are looking for healthier options when enjoying an evening out in an Italian restaurant, then here are some ideas to give you inspiration for making healthy food choices.

Vegetable Based Dishes 

First, the Mediterranean diet is famous for making use of lots of brightly coloured vegetables, such as courgettes, tomatoes and peppers.  If you are choosing a pasta dish, then opt for one that is served with a sauce based around these ingredients rather than a richer, more unhealthy choice such as a cheese sauce as this is laden with fat and calories and will also lie heavily on your stomach for a long time after your meal leaving you feeling lethargic and bloated.

Meat Options

If you prefer a meat dish, then the healthier option is to look at chicken dishes rather than red meat dishes as these are usually lower in calories, whilst still providing ample amounts of protein.  If the meat is served with a sauce then try to choose a healthier option as previously described to reduce the fat and calorie content of the meal.  Many restaurants will also serve food without the sauce if requested.

Accompaniments

When choosing accompaniments to a meal, ask for salad rather than chips, potatoes or cheesy garlic bread, as many people find themselves overfilled by such carbohydrate heavy accompaniments.

Desserts

When it comes to desserts, it’s probably wise to avoid these altogether.  Many Italian desserts, such as pannacotta, are made using cream and are high in both fat and calories. However, if the temptation is too much, consider a fruit salad or a meringue.   Meringue is low in fat and calories, despite being made from a large amount of sugar.  Ask for any dessert you do choose to be served without additional cream, ice cream or custard.

REVIEW: Cafe Rouge, York

cafe rouge

I recently booked a night away in York with my partner and without our children. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was our evening meal as I had been told the options for eating out were excellent and there are many outstanding restaurants in York. Having never visited this city before, I wanted to take my time choosing where to eat so we took a stroll through the city centre reading menus as we went along and looking into the restaurants trying to find somewhere with a good atmosphere. We finally returned almost to the beginning of our trek to eat at one of the first restaurants we had seen- Cafe Rouge.

The Venue

A French bistro called Cafe Rouge at The Adams House, 52 Lower Petergate, Low Petergate, York YO1 7HZ

Ambience

One of the reasons we choose this restaurant was because there were plenty of others eating there. We had walked past many restaurants that were large and almost empty. This was not the ambiance we were looking for to enjoy a romantic meal. Cafe Rouge was welcoming and warm, which was just what we needed on a cold January night. There was a mix of couples and families ranging in age, so we felt this would be a comfortable place to eat.

Starters

I opted for the breaded camembert which was served with a cranberry and redcurrant sauce. The melted cheese was delicious and my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of the tangy sauce. My partner opted for an unusual starter which is something he had never tried before. Eggs meurette is a poached egg served with a red wine, bacon, and mushroom sauce and accompanied by chargrilled sourdough bread. He said it made a nice change from the usual starters he orders.

Main Courses

Rather unpredictably, we both ordered the 8oz sirloin steak, his cooked rare and mine cooked medium. These were served with frites and we paid extra for a peppercorn sauce each and a house salad. The steaks were cooked to perfection and were exceptionally tender. The sauce, although not much of it, had just the right amount of kick and was not too creamy as is the case with many peppercorn sauces. My one very minor complaint was that the house salad we ordered as a side dish to share was tiny and basically consisted of a quartered tomato with a few green leaves drizzled with sauce. 

Desserts

I didn’t really have room for a dessert but as this was a special treat, I decided to have one. We had looked at the set menu when we had arrived and the desserts looked delicious. However, we had decided to order off the main menu. When we asked for a dessert menu, it consisted of completely different desserts from the set menu. My partner called the waiter and asked if we could choose a dessert from the set menu and he reassured us that this was fine. We both opted for the chocolate torte served with a vanilla creme fraiche. It was absolutely divine! 

Service

Our waiter was called Raffa (apologies if the spelling of his name is incorrect!) and he was welcoming and courteous as soon as we arrived. He even put two tables together as we had ordered side dishes so we would have more room for our food. He was attentive when needed but disappeared when we were enjoying our meals and conversation. He was especially accommodating with regards to our request about the dessert menu. At the end of the meal, we were asking him about the area and for recommendations of places to enjoy a drink where there was a good atmosphere. He was very chatty and helpful. 

Cost

The prices at Cafe Rouge were a little more than I am usually willing to pay, but this was a special treat. If you look at the online menu there are no prices on it and there is a reason for this, I suspect. The cost of a very average bottle of cabernet sauvignon was £22 before we even started on the food. However, looking at other venues in York, it is quite a pricey place to eat out no matter which venue you choose. The total cost of the meal came to just short of £92 for the two of use. Was it worth the cost? Just about!

Overall Rating

four stars

Overall, I would give Cafe Rouge in York a four out of five-star rating. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and there was a great atmosphere. There were just a few minor points that let it down, such as the cost, the tiny side salad and the lack of sauce. Other than that, I would highly recommend this restaurant. 

Eating Out on a Diet

salad

Dining out while dieting is where many people hit a stumbling block in their diet. The temptation to opt for a dish that is high in fat and served with a rich, creamy sauce can spoil the effort that you have made to lose weight for the rest of the week.  However, it is not necessary to avoid dining out altogether.  Here are some tips for dining out whilst dieting.

A Glass of Water

Taking the simple step of drinking a glass of water before you leave home can reduce your appetite making you less likely to overeat while you are dining out.  Similarly, drinking water with your meal will help to prevent you from overindulging.

Choose Your Venue Carefully

There are some cuisines that are more likely to offer a menu with lots of high fat and high-calorie meals. For example, fast food restaurants and fish and chip shops are places that are best avoided whilst you are on a diet.

Choose Meals Wisely

Take your time to read the menu and choose a meal that you will enjoy but that is also a good option for while you are on your diet.  If you are unsure of whether a meal contains ingredients that are high in fat and calories, then ask your server for advice.  Try to select a venue where there is a wide choice of food available on the menu or one that offers a salad bar.

Avoid the Sauce

The majority of sauces are high in calories and fat, so avoid these if possible. If the sauce is optional, then don’t order one.  If you find food too dry without a sauce then choose one that is vegetable based, such as a tomato sauce, rather than sauces that are cream based, such as peppercorn or brandy sauce. Similarly, ask for salads without the sauce. 

Side Orders

The accompaniments served with the main part of your meal can make a big difference.  If your meal comes with a choice of potatoes, then avoid fries and opt for boiled potatoes or a jacket.  A salad is also a good dieting choice as an accompaniment to your food.  Other additional items to avoid include side orders of garlic bread or onion rings.

Desserts

It is probably best to avoid desserts while on a diet.  However, if you have a sweet tooth and can’t resist, then opt for a fruit salad, meringue or ice-cream.  Do not order extra cream or custard to accompany your dessert as this will only increase your overall fat and calorie intake.

Drinks

The drinks you choose can also make a significant impact on your calorie intake when eating out. Although most drinks are low in fat or fat-free, they are often high in sugar and calories. If you are drinking soft drinks, then opt for the diet options. In terms of alcoholic drinks, spirits are the best choice. Drink these wither straight, with soda water or with low-calorie sodas. This is great news for G&T lovers!