Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Crafthouse - The Elderflower Trail "From forage to fork"

The Elderflower Trail is a new and limited availability event which is hosted by Crafthouse. The event takes you on out of the restaurant to forage for elderflower, back in to the restaurant to witness live demonstrations, take home recipes and best of all gives you the experience of eating Elderflower inspired dishes. The team at Crafthouse invited me and a few others along to test drive the event.

The night started with an Elderflower cordial cocktail, served on ice with the small elderflower blooms lightly floating on top.

Surprisingly sweet and not overly floral as I expected the elderflower was refreshing and light, a great way to start the night.

Whilst we sipped on our cocktails introductions were made, Stefan Rose the head pastry chef for Crafthouse and Angelica introduced himself to everyone in the group. Stephan would later be showcasing his talent to the group through his selection of desserts which used elderflower and gooseberry, both currently in season.

Once the cocktails were finished we retrieved our coats and headed out of the restaurant so that Stefan could lead us to an elderflower tree within the city centre. The city centre wouldn't be the first place I'd look to do some foraging and I was surprised that we managed to find an elderflower tree, let alone be told there was more than one growing nearby. We were given a short lesson about elderflower before we headed back to the restaurant.

The options on the menu were lighter dishes chosen from both the lunch and pre-theatre menus, this was done specifically so that we didn't lose our appetites for the star of the show - the elderflower desserts.

I'm not sure if anyone else uses this method of selecting starters and main, please tell me if you do, I always decide on my main course before I chose my starter. I like my starter to compliment my main and I prefer to not have two courses that are too similar, or contain the same meat... unless there is a damn good reason not to do this.

On this occasion I opted for the baby spinach and spiced couscous salad.

A summery starter with flavours that balanced and complimented well. However, me being me, that is not elegant whatsoever, I could feel a stubborn piece of spinach in my tooth which stayed lodged there until my main course. I tried to subtly dislodge it with wine, with water, with my tongue... honestly you can't take me anywhere.

For my main course I decided to explore something new... Gammon. I've heard a lot about gammon, mainly I associate it with greasy caff's and pubs as this is where I've seen it most on the menu, accompanied with either a slice of pineapple or egg. It's never really appealed. My thoughts on this night ran along the lines of "here is probably the best place to try it if I'm going to try it for the first time. I hope it doesn't come with pineapple".

Thankfully, for me, it didn't come with pineapple, but this preference wasn't echoed across the table.

Gammon wasn't what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be like a thicker slice of bacon but it wasn't at all. It wasn't smoky as I have my bacon at breakfast and it was grilled in a Josper grill. The Josper grill at Crafthouse is pretty impressive implement in their kitchen, I could see the fire as the door opened from my seat, it reaches temperatures of 480 degrees and creates a great charcoaled graze to the meat.

For pre-dessert, yes PRE-dessert, in my mind every meal should come with a pre-dessert, we had an elderflower granita with warm honey Madeleine's.

The granita, if you haven't had the delight of tasting one before, is a frozen, almost defrosting dessert that sort of tastes like an adult like or more refined slush puppy. The ice melts in your mouth releasing the flavours encapsulated within. The accompanying Madeleine was warm and freshly baked, soft on the inside with a slightly stiffer outer edge. Marvellous.

Our main dessert was a selection of smaller desserts featuring the tastes of elderberry and gooseberry.

I'm probably going to describe all of these desserts incorrectly, as someone who is not au fait with fine dining unfortunately I haven't become familiar with the correct dessert jargon. So please excuse the crude descriptions...

There were two donut balls rolled in sugar that sat on a puree of gooseberry. An elderflower sorbet that turned to liquid as soon as it touched your lips was placed upon a caramel crunch. A gooseberry mousse is the large green sphere you can see, it delicately shone through with a fruitful flavour. In addition to this there were elderflower and gooseberry gels which were tart and sweet but paired perfectly with the rest of the pieces of the dessert.

To end the night Stefan kindly brought each of us some of his elderflower cordial to take home with us. I can wait for some nice weather to take pack up my elderflower cordial, gin and tonic ... possibly some sandwiches too and pitch up a picnic.

The next elderflower trail with Crafthouse is on Wednesday 10th June, booking is essential and places are limited. For more information about the event please see here . Price per person is a reasonable £25 per head, includes food, foraging and goody bags.

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