A normal a Saturday wouldn't usually involve as much as I would hope at the moment , but with girlfriend visiting from some deepest (quiet) darkest (boring) part of the beautiful South West I was hoping to showcase more of the lively Bristol city.
I wanted to do things that were more interesting and active than sipping away at an alcoholic beverage or involved slipping on some wet suits and attempting to afloat on the murky harbourside waters, I needed something casual and pleasant.
Taste Chocolate seemed a good way to start the day, a nice little chocolate festival held near the magnificent SS Great Britain.
So I awoke Saturday morning a little bleary in an empty bed, no drama there, sadly I just don't sleep so well so there was going to be an inevitable displacement of up times.
I cooked a little breakfast while g/f got ready and we headed out, me feeling all grown-up for not acquiring a hangover from the night before which I have sadly fallen foul of recently. In fact, I felt super smug for going training last night rather than opting for the easy option of sofa crashing while waiting for the first showing of gogglebox. I love training but still need to be coaxed now and then.
It was pretty nippy outside, but the walk down was pleasant. I felt calmed by the thought of a food festival and intrigued as to one of the food classes timetabled for 11am that would show us a lamb and port/chocolate sauce recipe. The plan was to watch the class and if it was any good actually make it that evening as part of our little Easter celebration.
We walked down to the cranes , I stopped to inspect some flowers tied to the fence by the water with a photo of a man probably similar in age and figured it was in memory of a poor chap who had, cycling to work, fallen off his work sustained a serious head injury then fallen in the water. I felt a bit sombre for a few minutes afterwards.
Walking under the cranes is always cool, they stand proud and boast of power and ingenuiety, they have probably helped shift thousands of tonnes of items with many men working those gears to keep the cogs of industry working. I always remember the time the election debate was held at the arnolfini and the police snipers could be seen, no doubt on purpose, positioned at the top of the cranes.
The tram lines spurred on chat about Istanbul and the trams on İstiklal Avenue (Youtube footage of the tram) along with many other topics including the peculiar look of the nearby flats which we reckon have been styled on storage containers, since the apartments on the opposite side of the water look like cruise ships, a matter of opinion maybe.
The view improved closer once we arrived at the festival, which was a bunch of sheltered stalls in that little square near the iconic ship nearby. The area peppered with unbelievably huge anchors. As I gazed at one I feared it may topple on someone and the damage it would do. Squished people isn't a nice thought, so I worked at moving on from that imagery.
There were lots of truffles, the most amazing spread of chocolates made using all manner of chocolate sets, some absolutely stunning cakes that looked too perfect to eat, toffee topped flapjacks, salted caramel slices, chilli infused chocolate, prosecco, home made easter eggs and a trout stall.
We perused the stalls keeping mindful of the options before committing to any kind of financial tranaction. There were quite a few familiar buzzwords like gluten-free and organic flying around, the former quite important for my affected g/f.
The weather was quite crisp and the clouds a little gloomy but the atmospehere was really pleasant and jovial. I felt quite happy to wander between each stall engaging with the folk trying to art with their produce. On one stall, a guy had a selection of easter eggs that, it turns out, were hand-made, packed with filling like honeycombe, 'packed in like a brick' he said clasping his hands together to illustrate his point before having to quickly grab one of the eggs that nearly got blown off the display by a strong gust of wind. We did giggle about that one.
We had managed to stroll around the 10-15 stalls, definitely not in the mood for trout, in time for the first cookery class of the day. We plonked ourselves down on some hay bales, really quite comfy I must say.
Oleg Dimitrov is a head Sous-chef at Bourdeaux Quay, enough to convince me he's good as BQ is quality.
Using a smoker, he injected flavour into the meat using a mix of sugar, earl grey tea and rice which smelt wonderful when he passed around the blend to smell and whenever he opened the smoker to check the meat. If I had to describe it, I would say it smelt like calm summer days spent down canal sides, nearby cricket or croquet being played.
Prior to the smoking Oleg had cured the meat using a spice mix that included salt, lemon peel, orange peel and Indonesian peppers. It was a stunning smell.
Oleg has a really pleasant manner while he was talking, I remember commenting to my companion that he sounded either French or Italian maybe with a hint of Welsh. As if he had heard this he mentioned how he came from Bulgaria.
Without ruining the dish by incorrectly listing the ingredients, I will seek out the recipe he said he could put online, I will just say the dish he cooked tasted wonderful, very succulent meat but the flavours, so subtle but so nicely securely trapped in those layers of meat and perfectly rendered fat.
After this nice demonstration we got our own little snacks of a salted caramel slice for me and a gluten free brownie for g/f then sat at a nearby dining table overlooking the ferry stop and shared a really flavoursome 12oz latte from a small cafe buggy parked up neat to the Italian chocolate stall.
We were inspired to do more with our day and we were inspired to try Oleg's dish.
From there our day included: a trip to the M-Shed to view Bristol new and old and sit on an old 1960s bu;, a stroll to the bear pit to see if the bus cafe was open yet (it wasn't); walking round St Nicks checking out all the place has to offer; a beverage in the snug at the cafe revival; then a trip to the supermarket to pick up some duck, port and potatoes.
Wind forward some more and there we sat with some empty plates at the dining table really contented by the meal we had just cooked. We couldn't perfectly recreate Oleg's dish due to a lack of a smoker and no real time for the cure, but the duck cooked and well rested as he had advised drizzled in the port and balsamic sauce with the cao cao shavings was really nice. We accompanied with roasties cooked in the duck fat (waste not want not) and some simple little veggies to round off the plate. We both really liked the dish and there is already talk of regular dishes where we source out random recipes to try of hopefully equal quality.
Thank you Oleg, will be watching your twitter for other recipe suggestions.
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