Come Dine with Me

DACWM Menu

All foodies love watching Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine with Me‘ and I have wanted to host my own ‘Come Dine with Me’ style dinner party for a while and we have decided to do just that. Three sets of friends; three nights. Ours was the first, the friends we are competing with are from overseas, so we decided to go for a ‘Best of British’ menu. The (wonderful) menu was designed by Toby.

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To start we had pimms and prosecco cocktails with a cucumber garnish and some ‘British themed’ canapes; mackerel pate, mini prawn cocktails, sausage rolls and some oyster and vinegar crisps made by the ‘Kent Crisps‘ company, a great start to the evening (we thought). Only the cocktails are pictured as we gobbled down the canapes far to quickly for any photography to take place…

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Our starter was a Crab and Salmon Tian. We went to Whitstable to source the crab, we wanted everything to be local where possible. I am usually awful with presentation so these little beauties made me feel a little better about that…

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Next up, our main course; Roast rack of Lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and redcurrant jus (gravy for us common folk). We served the lamb with green beans and carrots. The lamb was from our fantastic local butchers, Glover’s Farm in Hartley. As I suck at presentation, we put the vegetables in ‘help yourself’ dishes – I recommend this to those that can cook but not serve.

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Dessert was a ‘Trio of English Desserts’; a strawberries and cream cheesecake, cherry bakewell tart and a raspberry cranachan. My favourite here is the strawberries and cream cheesecake, Toby prefers the bakewell tart. I made the bakwell and cheesecakes the day before to ease the pressure on the day. Again, we can say that we thought that were delicious but we will have to wait and see, the proof is in the pudding (ha).

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We then had a cheese course, the cheese was from a fantastic farmer’s market in Shipbourne and a stall called Traditional Cheese Dairy. We had two award winning cheeses including a British sheep cheese and a standard cheddar for the less adventurous. We teamed this with some chutney and quince jelly.

We tried to keep our alcohol British where possible, hence adding the Pimms to the prosecco. We also had Chapel Down‘s Flint Dry, Biddenden vineyards ‘Gribble Bridge’, The Traveling Apothecary’s Cucumber infused gin, Millis Brewing’s Gravesend Guzzler and some English distilled raspberry liqueur.

We have no idea how we scored yet, the last night is still to come but it has been great fun. We just went to one of the other dinner parties and feasted upon a multitude of Australian delights including; prawn, avocado and mango salad, kangaroo and crocodile burgers – it was terrific. We are looking forward to the last night – a “French-Polynesian menu, we will let you know how we score….

Patty and Bun

As you have probably guessed, we love burgers. We were told by some foodie friends of ours that Patty & Bun, in London (near Bond street) is THE place to go for burgers. So off we went…

There is always a queue outside Patty & Bun, a table for two on a Wednesday evening was a 45 minute wait, were salivating, deciding what to get and eagerly awaiting our burgers.

The inside is very small, the place probably only seats around 35 people, it has a very ‘cool’ vibe. It was extremely busy, we got a little bench table which was fantastic.

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On the recommendation we went for the ‘Ari Gold’ burger, a delicious looking cheese burger with a brioche bun and Patty & Bun mayo. We also ordered rosemary fries which were fantastic, I love chips and these were no exception – I would happily have eaten buckets of them. The burger was somewhat disappointing. Don’t get us wrong, it was great, a fantastic burger. We were expecting the best burger we had ever had and it wasn’t that. We were lucky enough to have a ‘Street Kitchen’ burger at a food festival last week and that was AMAZING.

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Friends of ours that have frequented Patty & Bun think that perhaps we just had a bad evening, all restaurants have them. The burger was good and we would probably give it 7/10. Definitely go and try Patty & Bun, if you do, be sure to order the chicken wings, they are sensational.

Swan, Chapel Down

Swan is a fantastic chain of three English restaurants. They are situated in West Malling, The Globe theatre near London Bridge and at the Chapel Down Vineyard. We set out to try Swan at Chapel Down winery.

The restaurant looks fantastic and is very inviting, if you are fortunate to have sun when you visit, there is a gorgeous rooftop eating area.

Being in a restaurant at the Chapel Down vineyard and winery, we of course went for a bottle of their staple, Flint Dry. This delicious wine was used at the wedding of Will and Kate and usually retails at around £8 a bottle, we therefore felt that the price of £17.50 a bottle was a little steep given the location. Swan, do however source as much produce as possible from within a 25 mile radius which is something we really appreciate.

When we were seated, we were presented with a complimentary bread board with a delicious olive bread and tapenade. We decided to go for the fantastically priced ‘Garden Menu’ which was £14.95 for two courses and £16.95 for three courses.

I went for a chicken salad to start, the dressing was delicious and I was really impressed with the portion size.

Toby went for a steaming hot bowl of fish soup, again a great portion for a fixed price set menu. Notes of saffron aplenty!

On to the mains, I went for pork and it was amazing.

Toby went for a Barnsley chop, he was not disappointed.

We also could not resist trying the three times cooked chips, Heston would be proud. However, giant and crispy bad boys were satisfying but did not quite live up to the hype for me.

Feeling full, we shared a desert – ‘Strawberry and Elderflower plate’. I was not really too sure what to expect, when it arrived it was essentially a glorified deconstructed eton mess with meringue, fruit, strawberry moose and elderflower jelly. Delicious and light following our starter and main.

We would 100% recommend to Swan to anyone wanting a delicious and classy feeling meal. If you do happen to go to the Swan at Chapel Down, be sure to try all of their delicious English wines and book a tour of the spectacular vineyard!

Tea Accessories

Most Fridays, we like to venture out to the supermarket to get bits and pieces together to make a memorable Friday night Dinner. One friday we were scouring the shelves for some tasty dessert items when Didiers’s Patisserie caught our attention.

Dressed in the least manly packaging imaginable, were six equally masculine pastry based treats. This little box set was a whopping £7, but we were taken in by the charm of it all and just had to have them!

Alas, not learning from our past mistakes of being taken in by fancy packaging, we were again disappointed. If these had retailed for around the £4 area, there would be a few more pleasant words to say about them, however, at the price they were, we would have to say that more was expected.

The top left one was by far the best with its toffe chocolate tasty goodness that was very much enjoyed, the rest were definitely 5/10 territory.

Wahaca

On a dire, dank and dreary Sunday afternoon we fancied something spicy. It had been bottoms up the past two evenings and we decided on Wahaca as the cure to our ailments. We have eaten here before, and were impressed by the great value, authentic and ever so tasty Mexican street food on offer.

Wahaca is the brain child of Thomasina Miers, winner of Masterchef in 2005 and fanatic advocate of Mexican Street food.

We started off with simple tortilla chips and salsa. These chips hit the salty cravings and the course salsa with plenty of coriander was both delicious and refreshing. This washed down with some sparkling water had us well on the road to recovery.

Then the medley of street food started arriving…

The Frijoles was amazing, it is rich, creamy black beans cooked twice for flavour, and flavour it had in abundance with just the most amazing texture.

Here is the Frijoles again at the back with its sweet potato wedge and chicken wing friends. All lasted only minutes. It is amazing what seasoning can do to what you would think to be simple foods.

Spicy slaw was spicy.

Delicious black bean Tostadas topped off with Lancashire cheese, perhaps this is fusion?

So we left sated, sober and oh so very satisfied with what was very tasty mexican street food meal. There are not that many Wahaca restaurants around, but they are growing in numbers fast! Check their site to see if there is one near you! You wont be disappointed.

Duck Sandwich

Borough Market is one of my favourite foodie places to visit in London. It caters for almost any cuisine you can imagine, serving up both delicious food to take away and raw ingredients to make the most exotic of recipes at home.

Passing through regularly, it is always a good place to grab some lunch and pictured is the overwhelmingly popular Duck Sandwich from Le Marché du Quarter. The vendor of this fine food craft is located right at the back of the market and is easily found by following the masses of people coming from there with these things in hand. You had better be quick though as there have been times that I have missed out due to there being no duck left!

What you can expect if you are early enough is a delicious crispy/smooth duck sandwich garnished with rocket on a Ciabatta bun. For £5 you cant go far wrong with this and it goes down oh so well with a delicious pint of New Forest Cider who have a stand just round the corner.

Stained Glass Pasta

Pasta can be so dull and is often used as a bland meal filler. It can however be the main attraction as we found out a couple of weeks ago with an intense masterclass from a real Italian about how to make Stained Glass Pasta. The idea is simple, make your pasta using a traditional recipe and then create pasta sheets with it using a pasta maker. Make it as thin as you dare and then lay it out on a flour dusted surface. Place on half of the long thin sheets, various herbs (the greener the better, basil and coriander are great) and fold over. Run the sheets through the pasta maker again to seal in the beauty.

What you are left with is a clear understanding as to how this type of pasta gets its name.

Let the pasta dry for about half an hour and use as you would use any other fresh pasta sheets. In simpler dishes the flavours of the various herbs will come through, but in a more complex dish like a lasagna, the flavours will amply augment the existing flavours.