Monday, 10 October 2011

Create - Leeds

Please note this establishment has now closed. 

Being a newbie to the Foodie/Blogger/Twitter scene I was yet to attend my first blogger/twitter event. I have been keeping an eager eye on my twitter feed for such events.... and was absolutely thrilled when I won the chance to go along to Create for their first taster-demo event... and it was free to the lucky winners. (Double whoop).

A few months ago after walking back towards the train station along East Parade, I noticed that something was stirring in the building at the bottom of the street which used to house a pizza place (correct me if I'm wrong I never actually visited the place that was here before Create). Being of a curious nature I wandered up to the windows and tried to have a peak, the colours and website displayed in the windows had caught my eye. Although I couldn't see inside I made a note of the website and planned to look it up once I got home.

I did my research and was inspired by what I read. Their manifestos pulled at my heart strings, doing something great and changing people's lives. What Create do in their own words... 'give people a hand up not a hand out' training and creating opportunities for those who wouldn't normally have the same opportunities that you or I have had in life. The people they help are those who have lived on the streets, have less than pretty backgrounds, and are real everyday people. I personally feel we need more approaches to business like this one, maybe then there will be less disgruntled youths rioting in the streets?

I attended the event with my plus one and turned up at 11am at the front door of Create. Having to give my twitter name for my reservation was a bit awkward... I do have a real name too. It's Claire in case you were wondering.

We were told to go upstairs where we could get tea or coffee. The coffee wasn't quite ready but we decided to go for the tea anyway. Everyone was sort of stood around not really knowing where to go or where to sit... Having a cup and saucer in my hand and not wanting to end up spilling it everywhere whilst I tried to stir and remove a tea bag I decided to sit down. There was a row of tables lined up one side with glasses set out on paper, so assuming this was for us I sat on the end. Slowly everyone joined us in sitting down.

I was a little early but after 11am everything still wasn't set up and ready to go. I didn't mind waiting and chatting to fellow tweeters and finding out who those around me were, but we were all a bit clueless as to what was happening and I was glad to find out that it wasn't just me who didn't know what they were doing!

In front of us was three wine glasses with a shot of alcohol in each. Before the first presentation started we were given little pasties filled with mushroom and an almond cupcake.

Both were great although I burnt my lip on a hot mushroom! Slightly embarrassed in front of a table full of strangers.

The first presentation was headed by a lovely fellow from Latitude Wines. He explained that the three substances in front of us were vodka, gin and marmalade vodka. It was obvious that they were spirits of some kind as the fumes reaching my nostrils were intoxicating. He went on to explain that the brand of these spirits was Chase, the same guy that brought you Tyrrells crisps... also brings you vodka and gin. Where is the link? Potatoes. A modest farmer who wanted to take on Walkers' domination of the countries crisp market, he remortgaged everything he owned... and luckily he succeeded. Being an entrepreneur, as entrepreneurs do he got bored and thought... what else can I do with potatoes. The result was vodka, not just any potato vodka but a high quality potato vodka. The amount of potatoes that go in to making just one of these bottles is phenomenal, and hardly seems profitable.

We were told that we would be tasting the vodka and gin that laid before us. It was still before 12pm and I was a little bit deterred as I don't have a great thirst for Vodka or Gin. We were told not to taste the vodka as if we were tasting wine, the trick is to put your nose to the glass and breath in through your mouth, so not to get a punch in the face from the fumes that followed. I am not exaggerating here the proof on these spirits was pretty high and the aromas were very steep. The first vodka has won the title of the worlds best vodka and it hasn't been in circulation for all that long. I had a sniff and it smelt of extremely strong vodka... I took a sip and expecting a scrunched up face I was surprised. It didn't have that awful taste that makes me hate vodka, it was almost tasteless but with a refreshing wisp.

In the second glass was gin, which apparently is just flavoured vodka. You learn something new every day. I wasn't too keen on this one but I'm not a gin drinking either... The third I was really put off trying, as soon as I smelt it I was transported back in time to when I was 17 in a bar on the Costa del Sol... it's not a good memory. I tried it anyway and it left tingle on my tongue... I could taste the orange and it was by far the group's favourite.

Once the vodka tasting was over we were told to go downstairs and take a seat for the next part of the session. The part I was looking forward to the most... the food part.

It was nice to see that people shuffled around a bit so we weren't all sitting next to the same people as upstairs. On the tables there was a keep in touch card and a pencil and paper to take notes if we needed.

It was at this point that I turned to my phone and checked Twitter and realised most people had been tweeting throughout the first half and people were describing who they were by what they were wearing and this continued until the end of the event.

I was delighted to find out that both the head chef of the restaurant in Leeds and Create's National Executive Chef who over sees all of their food. Both were very likable people and explained things in simple terms (no chef like jargon) so that everyone foodie or non-foodie could follow along with the demonstrations.

One of the first demonstrations was using Bream and a mix of vegetables, a handy tip for all you fish cookers out there use baking parchment (not paper) in your frying pan drizzled with oil to stop the fish from sticking to the bottom of the pan. This demonstration was followed by a potted curried shrimp (potting is a method of preserving in case your not sure), and salmon cured in beetroot.

Here was our sampler plate.... from the left hand side we have the potted curried shrimp on toast, duck pate, bream and vegetables, and the beetroot cured salmon. I think the group favourite here was the duck pate.

Another thing which I really rate a restaurant on is there use of local ingredients and produce. Richard explained to us at the beginning of the demonstration that where possible they tried to source local food but sometimes that is impossible. The head chef also showed us some different coloured carrots explaining that carrots haven't always been orange. He seemed quite shy and not used to speaking in front of large crowds but that made him adorable in my eyes, and you could tell he was passionate about food and knew what he was doing.

The salmon about to be dissected much to the horror of the vegetarians sat amongst us!

One of the things I really like about this restaurant is that it has an open kitchen. An open kitchen shows that the restaurant has nothing to hide and they are confident in what they are doing. I also like to be nosy and see how my food is made.

Another demonstration that was shown to us involved a very large piece of beef and a lot of red wine.... the dish wasn't big enough as the liquid was supposed to cover the entire piece of beef.

At the end of the demonstration we were given a goodie box to take home with us that contained a variety of biscotti, flapjack, mini-meringues, chocolate brownie and honeycomb. All were delicious and went down very well at home with a cup of tea.

All the recipes that were shown to us were given to us in a printed out pack put together especially for the day.

This was the first of creates taster -demo sessions and they will be running future ones in the next coming months. The cost to go is £10.75 per head and if you like the food and alcohol tasting it is well worth your money. It would be nice to see that these events are advertised on their website and hopefully will give a sneaky peak of what to expect. I would have loved to have gone to one of these events anyway but I think if I had found out that it was mostly fish I would have not attended this particular one. I am not a great lover of fish although I did try everything on my plate... I hate to say it but I didn't like any of it! If there was a vegetarian option available I would have preferred that. There was one vegetarian in the group who had her own platter made up for her, however not actually being a vegetarian myself I didn't want to make a fuss!

It's a really good idea and it was lovely to meet the chefs especially Richard after reading all about his achievements and success. It does need a few tweaks here and there, but I found it a very enjoyable way to spend my Saturday morning. I felt privileged to have an insight in to inner workings of the chefs cooking and even more special when those walking past the windows were peering their heads in trying to get a peek at what was happening inside. Some audience participation would have been nice too, although I understand if this wouldn't be possible with our health and safety crazy nation.

I can't wait to go back to Create and dine there properly this time, I have my eye on grilled sausage beans and tomatoes for starters, and the Yorkshire burger with chorizo... if I have enough room I'd be very tempted to try the dark chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream.