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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bloggers Unplugged

Recently Hannah at LovetoDineBlog set a challenge to food bloggers. She wanted to know what made us tick, how we started and what we most wanted. In the spirit of the challenge I decided to answer the questionnaire:

What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

Blogging was almost accidental. Having decided to go to Ballymaloe I had so many people asking for updates, that blogging seemed to be the most efficient way of keeping them all up to date. A former student had written that blogging reinforced her learning process and made revision, there are stiff written as well as practical exams, easier. So Bills Ballymaloe Blog was born, and attracted over 10,0000 hits whilst I was there. localandgreat.blogspot the current blog is the follow on.

Who is your foodie inspiration

Years ago a young Darina Allen had an afternoon TV show “Simply Delicious” in which she demonstrated how easy cooking could be, and above all that ‘Cooking Is Fun’. I bought one of her books and began to expand my repertoire, discovering on the way that she was right about the fun and, that I could cook.

Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?

It has to be the amazing Ballymaloe Cookery Course which you can often find in The Works for as little as £9.99. This book works as it contains the recipes cooked for over 30 years by nearly 200 students per year. None of @this serves 30 but we’ve reduced it to feed four’ so the ratios are wrong and it won’t work. I have three copies, the obligatory grease spattered one, the signed by Darina version, and a new one that I will replace the first with when it finally falls apart.

Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

I love Italian food and the food of the Amalfi Coast in particular. The small village of Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, in the hills above Sorrento is home to Don Alfonso1892 a Michelin starred restaurant where Alfonso Jaccarino cooks organic produce from his own farm or the seas immediately below it.
The tasting menu is incredible but my absolute favourite is the Lobster in Tempura batter with a reduced fish sauce. The freshest fish in a light and crispy batter with a deep sauce to accompany, I have it every time!

Another food blogger’s table you’d like to eat at is?

I am often tempted by Carol Adams (corpulent capers) descriptions of her food and share the love of good restaurants that she and Gomez Adams share on Twitter.

What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

Janet would say that I have too many, my four favourite words are Bamix, Magimix, Kenwood and Gaggia but, if money really were no object it would have to be a blast chiller.

Who taught you how to cook?

I was largely self- taught and muddled along nicely for 30 odd years until I went to Ballymaloe where Darina Allen, Rachel Allen and Rory O’Connell honed my skills and taught me so much. So if anyone it was they, and the talented and dedicated team of teachers in school who developed my abilities and passion.

I’m coming to you for dinner. What’s your signature dish?

I make a mean chicken liver pate, learned great tomato sauces in Italy so a pasta main course with locally sourced meats, and a Vanilla Ice Cream with the freshest vanilla pods imaginable from old friend Arun @greensaffron and a Pedro Ximines sherry poured over it.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

Fish Finger Sandwiches on Braces’ XXX Thick white bread, loads of Heinz Ketchup.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I really only got confidence in my cooking after I reached the national finals of Britain’s Best Dish and Ed Baines and John Burton- Race encouraged me to train.

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Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Bell at Caerleon, Great Gastropub

An unexpected visitor meant a major change of plans, and all for the good.

A knock on the door and my daughter’s partner stood there, calling in as he was passing. Since Sian lives in Hove and we live in Cwmbran “just passing” may seem unlikely, but Adie had been in Carmarthen seeing a client so on his way back he was actually passing.

Problem it’s lunchtime and I had not baked - so not even a sandwich was on offer.

This, however, was an opportunity not a problem. Ever since the Newport Food Festival Supper I had The Bell at Caerleon on my list of places to visit.

The Bell had provided starters and the Scotch Egg with Cider was to die for. “Fancy lunch in a really good pub?” I asked and we decamped for cars and the short drive to Caerleon.

Just out of town The Bell is a real pub in the way that those in the centre cannot be, depending on hordes of office parties and Friday night “revellers”.

The Bell is serious, not just about food but also Beer – CAMRA rate it highly and Cider, an award winning Cider destination. Certainly cider would be on the menu along with food.

Settled quickly and with a pint of Hallets cider (6%) and brewed in Crumlin, I perused the menu.

The Bell offers lunch for only £9.95, two courses, and believe me choosing was hard so much good food on offer.

It had to be the Scotch Egg as a starter as it had so impressed me at NFF and I had recommended it to our visitor. A Gwynt y Ddraig Cider infused sausage meat, cooked to soft perfection in a crispy breadcrumb coating and a perfectly runny egg served with a little salad, bruschetta and a home-made salad cream, what’s not to like. Really good said Adie, the best I’ve ever had.

Janet didn't repeat her NFF experience where she had the Field Mushroom and Blue Cheese Salad but went with the chargrilled goat cheese and vegetable gateaux, served with three sauces (Balsmic Glaze, Basil Oil and Red Pepper Coulis) declaring it YUM (her highest accolade).

We all chose different main courses, and given the menu we could have chosen several times over.

Adie went for the Gammon with fried egg, Janet for the Rump Steak Ciabatta with Caramelised onions and for me it was Sausage of the day with Mash.
A good sized horseshoe of gammon topped with an orange yolked egg and chips was rated highly by Adie who announced that he would certainly eat here again and would also recommend The Bell to people who were in or visiting the Newport or Cardiff areas.

Janet’s rump steak cooked perfectly rare and served with a small salad and chips was equally well received and, at her insistence, I tried one of the chips. A crisp light golden exterior hid a fluffy floury interior which matched any chip I have ever eaten and made me wish that there was a Sausage and Chips option on the menu.

Three sausages on a bed of mash with carrots and beans on the side awaited me. I like the idea of Sausage of the Day, it implies a range of sausages will be used and that the same dish will vary each time you eat it. That has to be good.

Mine were quite coarse in texture with a good herby background and obviously “real butcher” sausages not the bland euro-snag that all too often appears. They matched the creamy mash well and the little onion gravy set the dish off

As it was lunchtime not too much alcohol was consumed, my Hallets was the only one but it went very well with both courses and is certainly a pint that I will try again. Hallets only make two ciders, the other being their Vintage which is aged a year before bottling. That has to be my next port of call.

So to sum up the Bell: Quite rightly described as a Gastropub, a good range of real ales and ciders on offer, pleasant surroundings and a menu that is seasonal and local, simple and well cooked.

Will I be back, you betcha and –with the amazing lunchtime deal - it might just have to be lunch again until the entre menu has been sampled.

Finally a recipe for Salad Cream.
Most pubs/restaurants serve mayonnaise or the ubiquitous Heinz so it was a real treat to find that the Bell made its own Salad Cream. Here is the recipe for Shanagarry Salad Dressing which we made at Ballymaloe:
2 eggs (free range if possible)
1 tablespoon of dark, soft brown sugar
a pinch of salt
1 level teaspoon of dry mustard
1 tablespoon brown malt vinegar
2 to 4 fluid ounces of cream
Boil the eggs for 7 minutes then cool in cold water before shelling.
Cut the two eggs in half and sieve the yolks into a bowl.

Add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites finely and add some to the sauce. (any spare whites can be used to sprinkle over salads as a garnish.)

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Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cooperation in Abergavenny

It’s always good to see cooperation in food, small producers are not engaged in the ultra- competitive wars of the big supermarkets, they are not responsible to shareholders and have a love of the product not a commitment to profit. Of course without profit they would not remain in business but artisan production is a calling not a means to global brand domination.

So I was very pleased to be told of a small event hosted by Sugarloaf Catering at their base in Abergavenny. Just a few local producers, getting together to show, and sell their wares. The degree of cooperation showed there was extremely impressive, each was incorporating each others produce in their own offerings.

Sugarloaf is owned by Mark & Claire Coulton and has traded since March 2005. Mark has over 20 years experience as a chef and met Claire in the early 1990's while working for Franco Taruschio at the celebrated Walnut Tree Inn. So a good local connection there for a start and an indication of the quality of the food that they make.

Their food philosophy is encouraging “We support the local economy where possible so if we can't buy a product from a local producer we will buy it from an independent local retailer” said Mark.

In addition to catering for functions and events Sugarloaf make ready meals of quality for people who want to eat well but are pushed for time through their Chef in a Freezer function. Certainly the Smoked Haddock Fishcake – made with Black Mountain Smokery’s fish, was extremely good and the Roast Salmon variety is an award winner.

They also run Supper Clubs with a themed basis and I am looking forward to the next on with a Murder Mystery theme to be held in the newly refurbished Old Sessions House in Usk. Is there a better setting for a murder theme than an old court house?

So, mulled Apple Juice in hand I headed into the main hall.

Immediately I met Roisin from Burren Bakery. I had enjoyed her Porter Cake at the Abergavenny Farmers Market and was keen to renew my acquaintance with it, as was Mrs K who had lost out last time. The cake uses Stout made by Tudor Brewery who were on the next stall.

Tudor is very much a family business, a microbrewery set up in Abergavenny, continuing a century old tradition of local beer making. The Tudor name is taken from Tudor Gate, the medieval town entrance.

The beers are all named after local mountains, Sugarloaf, Skirrid and Blorenge with each bottle having a silhouette of the mountain on the label.
Sugarloaf is a dark beer with a smokey base whilst Skirrid is a medium strength (4.2%) session beer. Blorenge is lager like but with a citrus taste that makes it clear that it is a pale beer and definitely not a lager.

Black Mountain is the stout used in the Porter Cake and a very good drop it is. Taste wise somewhere between Guinness and Beamish, not as metallic as a Guinness and with some of the flowery hint in a Beamish. I had to sample all of the beers and bought a pack of the Black Mountain for both culinary and drinking purposes. Again there is a silhouette of mountains on the label but, as we approach Christmas, a small Santa and Sleigh can be seen flying over the mountains.

I carried my last drops of Blorenge to Nicholas Snell’s stall. Nicholas is a Private Chef who also acts as a Master of Ceremonies and Professional Butler, so get Sugarloaf Catering to provide for your event and Nicholas to manage it, stress free!!

Nicholas had a small selection for tasting some rather fine Vanilla Shortbread, in which the vanilla was subtle and the thin, crispy crumbly shortbread melted in the mouth.

He had also made some Cheese biscuits, again crumbly and with a good cheesiness, certainly Cheddar and Parmesan featured though other ingredients remained a secret despite rigorous questioning!
These were teamed with cheeses and both Roisin’s Soda Bread and Usk River’s pickles. Clearly Nicholas can partner food which suggests a very professional approach.

Rhian from Usk River had a full range of pickles for sale including the award winning Pearlilli my current favourite. Deciding that a serious pickle tasting was in order I managed to test them with biscuits, Soda Bread and some hastily snaffled fishcakes. I can report that they went well and the Tomatorama came close to usurping Pearlilli in my affections.

Held the day after the Royal Welsh Christmas show the get together suffered slightly as some of the intended exhibitors had sold out of product in Builth Wells and were unable to attend, though those on show were very good and a number of purchases were made by visitors.

It is really pleasing to see producers actively cooperating and supporting each other, with initiatives such as these the local food scene can only strengthen.

If you missed out make sure you get to the Abergavenny Christmas Fair on 11th December where most will be exhibiting along with the cream of artisan producers.

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Saturday, 26 November 2011


Each September Abergavenny is the centre of the foodiverse but it doesn’t stop there. Sure there is the Christmas Fair (December 11th this year) and talk of a spring event for 2012, but week in week out Abergavenny is a food destination.

Very good pubs and restaurants, several highly acclaimed Butchers (H J Edwards is my favourite) and an indoor market from which I usually source my (farmhouse) butter are all open year round and well worth a visit, particularly on Fridays when food is the key element of the market.

But it is the Abergavenny Farmers Market which drew me back this week. My employment as a Local Government Officer meant that Thursdays were difficult but my recent transformation to “Freelance Foodie” meant that I could now attend.

Pork and all things pig was the aim of the trip, my favourite meat, and well represented in the Market Hall.

First things first, a tour of the stalls, old favourites from Usk were there Elmtree pies and Burren Bakehouse, Ty Mawr Organics and Café Nativo, but the move just 10 miles or so up the road meant that the centre of gravity had changed and a number of producers from South Herefordshire and Powys were also there.

But back to the quest for pork, and ignoring the beautiful breads, charming cakes, verdant vegetables cracking chutneys and handsome honeys I concentrated an all things Pig.

I have been disappointed recently to discover that Elmtree had sold out of Pork Pies by the time that I hit their stall, but all that changed, and I was confronted by the last four pies and this just 15 minutes after the market opened.

The Elmtree Pork Pie is a work in progress. Collete has yet to settle on the perfect pie, all Lard or Lard and Butter crust? Jelly or no Jelly? Spicing?. The important thing here is the pies are really good and it is customer feedback that will determine the final outcome (or maybe a range?). The jelly question is largely self-answering, jelly makes for an extra depth of flavour and texture but the pies are so full of meat that there is very little room for any jelly to be added and, jelly lover though I am, a high meat content gives real value.

Mine did not contain any jelly though it honestly did not need it and good quality Pork delivered a good taste whilst the traditional all Lard pastry gave a crispness and crumbliness hard to beat. A good measure of Sage in with the meat completed a good pie enhanced by an organic tomato and Usk River’s Pearlilli on the side.

Pork Pie sourced I moved on to look for Ham Hocks. This most versatile cuts of meat allows for sandwiches and inclusion in classic recipes such as Ham Hock Terrine, Pea and Ham Soup and Chicken and Ham Pie. And, as a bonus, some highly jellified and flavour intense stock perfect for soups and gravies.

Glaisfer Uchaf Farm is located in Llangynidr between Crickhowell and Brecon, or just over the mountain from Ebbw Vale and they provided the Ham Hock. Just over 3lbs with a relatively low bone content this was an absolute bargain. Glaisfer have their own cutting rooms and welcome visitors to shop on the farm or try their product at Peterstone Court Restaurant.

Not far from Llangynidr is Talybont on Usk where Coity Bach have their farm. Again I was after Pork and from a wide range I chose sausage meat to make Mark Hix Meatloaf somewhere between a Scotch Egg and a mega sausage roll. Having made this with good free range eggs I wanted to get prime sausage meat for an improved dish. By choosing two types of meat I should be able to make a meatloaf which has depths of flavour and which offers a different bite each time.

Crossing the hall again I approached The Welsh Pig Company. Based just outside Raglan they offer snout to tail piggy perfection and process the meats into salami – the black peppercorn was epic!. It was the Smoked Belly Pork which caught my eye on this occasion, I love belly, especially slow roasted with a crisp crackling but haven’t cooked a smoked belly yet so this is an experience that I am really looking forward to.

There is another string to their bow, Coffee Roasting. From a small workshop they roast Columbian beans on a small but often basis providing extremely fresh coffee that shows in the taste just how fresh it is. Each bag has the date of roasting on it, not the “Best Before 2057” often found on supermarket offerings. Chef Wes Harris uses their coffee at The Charthouse restaurant and a bag is always in my cupboard, replenished regularly from Usk Farmers Market.

Finally one more producer.

I sometimes head for Ludlow, a great source of prime ingredients and a town which was the UK’s food destination before Abergavenny took the crown and induced Shaun Hill to abandon Ludlow for the Walnut Tree near Abergavenny!!
The butchers in Ludlow are my main reason for the visit, their product is always good and the shops tend to specialise in one type of meat ensuring that they sell the best Lamb or Pork, Beef or Game.

The Tudge family farm on the borders of Herefordshire and Shropshire raising free range chicken and Berkshire Pigs. They mainly sell through Famers Markets from Ludlow to Abergavenny and have an online presence too.
What I liked especially was the bits that you don’t always see in a butchers. Black Pudding from the pigs, large squares of perfectly set, deep golden jellied stock and squares of well fatted skin ready for roasting into crackling. I bought all of these and also some cocktail sausages in anticipation of snacky buffets as Christmas approaches.

Now for the Shaun Hill connection:
Shaun has used the Berkshire Pork from Tudges for years and the following recipe by him is taken from their website:

Loin of Pork with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce - for 4 persons

800g well-trimmed pork loin
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 pealed shallot
1 small stick celery
1 small carrot
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
50ml. red wine
50 ml. water
1 tbsp. capers

Season the loin with salt and pepper, then brush with oil.
Heat a roasting tray, then place the vegetables and meat - fat side down - to sear. This may be a touch smoky, but the idea is to start crisping and caramelising the fat so that it is sweet and well done by the time the eye of the meat is just cooked.

Place the roasting tray in a moderate oven – 175C – cook until done – probably no more than 40 minutes.

Lift the meat onto a plate or rack to settle while you make the sauce. Pour off almost all the fat and, over a low flame, stir in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any residues stuck to the roasting tray and then add wine and water. Bring back to the boil, stirring regularly and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and add the mustard and capers. Bring to the boil. Add any juices which may have seeped from the cooked pork and serve.

Overall a very good morning’s shopping and enough fresh ingredients to keep me busy for a few days yet.

Just one more stop, Rosin at Burren for a slice of her Porter Cake, made to her mother’s recipe but with a secret inclusion of her own. Just right to follow a Pork Pie for lunch!!

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Shop Local and Shop Well

Saturday meant a return to my local Farmers Market in Usk. We visit every other Saturday and manage to plan most of a week’s menu from that visit.

This time I had a specific agenda in mind before we set off.
One of my favourite stalls is James Swift’s Trealy Farm charcuterie, winners of countless True Taste Awards and plaudits from The Observer and other influential food commentators and industry experts.

Trealy do an amazing range of product, largely sourced from their own stock though they also process meats from good local producers. Having crossed Europe training with experts, before setting up, Trealy make some of the finest charcuterie in the UK.

Ballymaloe Cookery School uses the similarly great produce from Gubbeen in Schull, County Cork, though during my time there I sang the praises of Trealy and in December I shall have the chance to show how good it is to the current students.

So, I needed to sort a good range of meats with James.

As the Air Dried Lamb is unique and a multi award winner that was a straightforward choice, but with only 15 minutes to get the story over and give tastings I had to select those meats which James considered best represented Trealy.

Between us we settled on Smoked Air Dried Monmouthshire Ham, Smoked Air Dried Beef, Salami with Cracked Black Pepper, Fennel Salami, Venison and Wild Boar Salami and Sweet Chorizo. Monmouthshire on a plate, and great tastes for the discriminating students.

Just down the hall from James was Roisin from the Abergavenny based Burren Bakery.

Good Soda bread is Roisin’s stock in trade Having fallen in love with Soda years ago, and made lots and lots at Ballymaloe I can confirm that Burren make really good breads and the local Hotels and Restaurants that she supplies speak eloquent testimony to this. One of my favourites combines Figs and Walnuts to produce a sweet bread that is almost cakey in texture and certainly in taste. Similarly the fruit bread (Spotty Dog in Ireland) is rich and tasty, great for breakfast with marmalade or a good jam.

Cakes are also available, the Irish Apple Cake is my favourite, though some amazing crisp and moist Brownies caught Mrs K’s attention and demanded purchase.

A couple on their first visit were stunned to see Roisin and I swapping chutneys that we had made and exchanging Sticky Gingerbread for the aforementioned Brownies. Their amusement turned to pleasure as Roisin offered to swap bread for some of their Walnuts on their next visit. Every Little Helps and you don’t get that in your local megamart.

Sandwiched between James and Roisin was Sue Ryder of Wye Valley Cheese. Some weeks ago I blogged about The Perfect Ploughman’s and bemoaned not being able to find a Monmouthshire based Cheesemaker, the All Wales Ploughing Championships were being held in one of our villages. Had I but known about Wye Valley then.

The cheese is made from unpasteurised milk and is a sort of cross between Gloucester, just over the border, and Cheddar. It is pressed in traditional presses, some of which were last used over 100 years ago!
Mature at around three months, having been stored in a purpose built room dug into a bank with an earth roof to create the right temperature and humidity.

I prefer the Extra Mature and the date on my piece said that it had been made in January of this year so 10 months old when bought. If you don’t make it to the Farmers Market you can buy the cheese direct from Lower Gockett Farm Shop Monday to Saturday.

A little local gem well worth a try!

As ever we selected vegetables from Ty Mawr Organics which would be paired with the Organic Free Range Chicken from Tom Llewellin at Penucha'rplwyf farm. Not only are Tom’s chickens superb, and come with giblets, but he also gives carcasses for stock on a first come first served basis!

A couple of Elmtree pies, minted mutton for Mrs K, boozy beef for me meant that we would have a good, and light lunch whilst I started the stock from the carcass.

Finally a dash to the fish stall for dressed crab and Arbroath Smokies. The Smokies would be breakfast but the crab would be mixed with a white sauce and covered in buttered crumbs and browned for tea, A simple garlic mayonnaise would accompany some Soda Bread and a mixed leaf salad to set the tea off.

I started with collecting Trealy Farm charcuterie to take to Ballymaloe and the salad for the crab reminded me of Ballymaloe again. Ty Mawr’s mixed leaves included Mizuna, Mibuna, Bok Choi, Pak Choi and TatSoi amongst others. Part of the Mid Term and Final exams at Ballymaloe are Salad Leaf recognition tests and Ty Mawr could have set them judging by their great mix.

Usk Farmers Market…. Local and Great

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Inn at theElm Tree

We had a manic day, driving to Aberystwyth to pick up some tickets, then down to Pembroke Dock to see how long it would take; we are seeing a band in Aber then getting the ferry to Rosslare for our pre-Christmas sourcing expedition. From Pembroke Dock it was a trip to Bridgend and then home.

Leaving home at 8:30 and still being on the Motorway at 6, and having missed lunch, I didn’t feel particularly like cooking but remembered that Colette from Elmtree Foods (great pies and pasties) had recommended the “Inn at the Elmtree”.

Turning off at Newport and navigating our way across the marshes and reens to St Brides the inn was a welcoming site, especially as they started serving at 6:30 and could accommodate 2.

We settled into comfortable chairs in the bar with an orange juice for the driver and a Pint of Badger Beer “Golden Glory”. This hoppy 4.8 pint has a distinct aroma of Peaches though on the palate a bit of Melon cuts in. Not oenophile hyperbole, it really does smell and taste that way. Pleasantly sunny and, the website confirmed, ideal for a crisp winters day.

The menu looked good, and decisions were not easy - especially as the Soup of The Day (served with a hunk of locally baked bread) turned out to be Tomato with Tarragon and Thyme.

Janet decided that Goats Cheese Medallion with Beetroot sounded good and, despite the obvious attractions of the soup I opted for the hot-smoked Salmon Fishcakes.

A large round of cheese surmounted a good balsamic dressed rocket and walnut salad and thin rounds of roasted beetroot lay to the sides. Janet pronounced it Yum and this from a woman who rates food on a scale from Alright to YUM! Clearly hit the spot and my tasting mouthful concurred.

The Fishcakes were more like small crumbed timbales, a good ratio of salmon to light potato in a crispy crumbed coating. The accompanying Lemon Mayonnaise introduced a citrus bite and the Mango Salsa (mainly tomato with small cubes of mango) gave a fruity offset. The Frisee and Radicchio saladhad thin slices of tomato and onion and gave overall balance to the dish. Very good.

Mains saw our usual split. Welsh Lamb Loin rolled in Fresh Garlic and Rosemary with honey roast carrots, minted new potatoes and roasted root vegetables served with a Redcurrant Lamb Jus for Janet. I did not try this dish as lamb has a distinctly difficult effect upon me but a YUM was the verdict from my dining partner.

It was the Chargrilled Ribeye that caught my attention, served with a flat mushroom, tomato and triple cooked chips. I asked for my steak rare.

I am always concerned when a steak knife is provided prior to the arrival of the dish.

Does the chef have such little faith in their ingredient or cooking ability that they have to provide a small saw to cut it?

As my ordinary knife had not been removed I determined to use it, and, If the steak knife was necessary to reject the offering.

I am pleased to report that the steak knife was utterly superfluous, neither needed nor used. When I mentioned the steak knife to a member of staff she was highly apologetic. “They’ve been told not to give them out unless the diner requests them, some do like well-done which does toughen the meat but anything less should never need one”. Clearly a chef who knows how his meat will emerge.

A good Char gave strong flavour to a steak cooked perfectly rare that cut like butter and melted in the mouth.

Triple Cooked chips with a resounding crunch and a fluffy light interior were the ideal accompaniment. The tomato had intensified in flavour during their brief cooking and the mushroom had real depth of taste. Perhaps a little more butter on the mushroom but I believe that a pound of butter could always use more butter! A red onion marmalade both sweet and full of allium taste rounded the dish in more ways than one. Magnificent.

Then desserts. I chose the Vanilla Ice Cream and the Butterscotch sauce. Could not fault it.

Janet chose the Cheese Platter to include Perl Las, Mature Welsh Cheddar and Brie. Hmm Brie? Why not a good Caerphilly? or a smooth and creamy Perl Wen? Still we debated which Welsh Cheddar would come with the dish, a good offering from Caws Cenarth? Maybe a little Hafod?

This was the only, but severe, let down of the evening.

The cheese platter had crackers, grapes, celery and cherry tomatoes and a small dish of the Onion Marmalade to accompany the cheese.

It was the cheese that was the let down. Stilton (English), Applewood Smoked Cheddar (English) Brie (French) and a Jalapeno infused Jack cheese (Mexican). Not one Welsh Cheese amongst them.

When a restaurant advertises itself as a "local produce restaurant" you expect it to do what it says on the tin. Serving non Welsh Cheeses when you expected them is like ordering Champagne and getting Lambrini. Not good!

Setting this aside we had a good evening. Friendly helpful staff, good choice and well cooked food.

We will definitely return, and certainly recommend the Inn at the Elm Tree to others, hopefully when we return the Cheeses will deliver what they promised

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