Parkers Arms – Newton in Bowland – Part 2

I can’t believe it, the latest trip to the Parkers Arms was even better than last time shock! 
The Flame and myself enjoyed a wonderful Sunday lunch a few months back. When faced with where to meet a couple of Yorkshire foodies I made the call to get them into the heart of Lancashire with the promise of some top home cooking. So no pressure then! I needn’t have worried. Suffice to say Stosie, AJ and the team turned up trumps once again.
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We met in Clitheroe for a stroll round the old town. During the time there I was constantly pressed and niggled that lunch better be good. We wound up through the pretty village of Waddington and over the moors before the now familiar sight of The Parkers Arms hove into view. I had booked online for four. We were shown straight to our bay window table by a young, fresh faced slip of a lass. Our table groaned by a simmering log fire. Candles flickered. Two pints of ‘Hen Harrier’ ensured the male half of the scheme were bang in fettle. Wine and water put the other half at ease. Starting to feel at home it was left to AJ, the genial host, to put our slippers on and order our grub. 
Just to explain AJ is the front of house part of the trio that make the Parkers Arms what it is. Stosie and Katie head up the foodie bit. It is a winning team. AJ, spectacled, with a full shock of curly locks, ‘Wallace & gromit’ cardie/cordrouy trousers and broad Lancashire brogue is arguably the friendliest and most eccentric host you’ll ever meet. His explanations of the wares on offer are a delight and had our guests chuckling like new born babies. He convinced our guest Julie to have the pheasant as ‘you can have beef anytime’.
We had three menus to go at! The Sunday special, the seasonal specials and the normal menu. It all adds up to a wonderful Lancashire feast. We pretty much all went from the seasonal menu. 
The Flame had a wonderful slab of game terrine. I have never been allowed to taste a finer one. The Yorkshire cove wolfed into a three cheese soufflé with a cheese sauce. It was proper cheesy. The Yorkshire cove considered it highly beneficial to his overall wellbeing. Me and the Yorkshire lass had probably the smoothest, crabbiest, crab parfait you will ever imagine. It was sublime.
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Mains were a revelation. Between us we had either pheasant or venison and pork pie.
The pheasant came two ways. The breast had been rolled into a ballotine whilst the leg was encased in a pasty pastry. Set on seasonal veg with a creamy, buttery mash. I would argue this was the best dish I have had in years. It ticked all my boxes. My morsel of venison pie was gorgeous. The cove and the flame went away very happy with their pasty. It looked good as well with the hot, rail sleeper chips on a slim plate.
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Despite being satiated we decided (for research purposes) to have a go at a sweet! Going back to my childhood I ventured into a plate full of Victoria plum sponge pudding with custard and cream. Took some doing but golly it was good. The flame plumbed into Katie’s wet Nellie. Fruit, mince, nuts, treacle, it just has to be good.
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It really was a tremendous meal. Great company in a fabulous environment. Sat overlooking the countryside from our fireside table was a delight. What we really needed was a room so we could have stayed! A couple of cigars and a brandy might have worked as well but we had to drive away into the evening chill. I can imagine with snow on the hills and the Christmas tree lights on it would make the perfect Christmas card.
Our Yorkshire troop texted later that it was the best meal they had in years and thanked us for taking them there. They will definitely be back. And so will we. And so should you all.
 
Parkers Arms
Newton-in-Bowland
Nr Clitheroe
Lancashire
BB7 3DY
 
01200 446236

 

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SoLita – Northern Quarter – Manchester

Stop Press – This could be the best burger I’ve ever had!

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about SoLita for months now. I think SoLita is short for South of Little Italy? The twitteratti has been encouraging discerning flollowers to try out this little Mexican gem in Manchester’s northern Quarter. The problem has been I’ve never known where it was! 
However, a couple of weeks back I stumbled on it whilst searching out a decent pint on the way home from work. Having memorised its location I ventured out once again to sample its delights.
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It operates from a corner plot, tucked away from the bright lights of the city. The munching takes place on two floors, a large, red, banquette, diner style awaits below while a small, intimate bistro greets you from the street complete with funky, cartoon wall graphics!
As it was only tea time on a Wednesday eve I was able to acquire a high poseur table slot. Perfect for a lonesome soul, (the flame was otherwise engaged). The menu, printed in black on white acts as your place setting. Perfect for someone who had forgot his readers! There was also a large blackboard shouting out the specials in coloured chalk. There is plenty of choice here. A big feature is their use of an Inka grill which uses charcoal to provide heat and barbeque flavours. A whole host of fish, meaty steaks, chicken and sausages can be had off this, but I went for one of the specialty burgers. 
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I went for the Catalan burger (£10.90) with sweet potato chips. Boy oh boy it was sensational. A Catalan burger comes with the obligatory melted cheese, that goes without saying, but it then comes with large slices of chorizo sausage, roasted peppers and a roasted tomato allioli. The combination provided a wonderful, juicy, spicy mess. For a bit of crunch I opted to pay an extra £1 for the sweet potato chips, which were slightly less successful, but hey, a minor quibble against the main event.
I was only in for a quick snack, but I have to say I will be back for more. I had to leave without tasting my own tiramisu (see blackboard). The menu is wide and varied, the atmosphere and service is warm, friendly and utterly beguiling. And to add to that they even served a decent ale! I washed this Spanish delight down with a ‘Top hop Hornbeam local 4.2%!’ Result.

SoLita
37 Turner St, Manchester
0161 839 2200

 

 

Mr Coopers House and Garden – Manchester

It finally happened. I bagged a table at Simon Rogan’s Mr Coopers House and Garden in Manchester. Ever since it was announced that Simon was coming to Manchester the buzz about town was palpable and I sensed that finally I can grace a Simon Rogan restaurant.
L’Enclume, Simon’s more famous Michelin starred restaurant in Cartmel has been top of my list for a couple of years now. The closest I’ve been was when I pressed my face against the window like a stray waif when I went camping in the Lakes last year. I’ve still got ‘The Trip’, with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, on the hard drive to give me a fix. You may recall this was a comedic, ‘gastronomique’, tour of Northern eateries. L’Enclume was featured in one episode along with ‘The Inn At Whitewell’ and others.

 

Mr Coopers (for short!) is camped in The Midland Hotel, arguably Manchester’s swankiest and classiest gaff. It is the second and most accessible restaurant in the complex. He opened ‘The French‘, a true, gastro, tour de force last year to high and universal acclaim. It remains Manchester’s best chance in decades of attaining a Michelin star.

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The Flame and I crept in on a calm Monday evening. Traditionally a graveyard shift in the world of hairdressing and feeding people. We entered to a gentle and perfectly pleasant buzz. We were in early doors as we were heading round the corner to see Scottish Rock Goddess KT Tunstall.

 

As the title suggests the room is divided between the house and the garden! We sat in the garden. This is easily identified by the tree and living, green wall. The overall effect of the room though is colonial opulence. It couldn’t be much else really set in the Midland with its high ornate ceilings and crystal chandeliers. Browns and reds swathe the furniture, although a natty sage green marks out the garden furniture. It is beautifully done.

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We chose our meal from the ‘house menu’ three courses for £23 (5.00 to 6.30pm). There are three starters, three mains and three deserts to chose. Our rather splendid maître de informed us that this menu changes every month.
The flame started with the smoked salmon belly with barbeque beets, violet mustard and golden raisins. She loved it. I’m not a great lover of smoked salmon but the sliver I was allowed was very tasty and had a lovely soft texture.
I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘uncious’ and finally I can use it to describe my molasses glazed pork belly, borlotti beans cassoulet with crushed avocado. My thick finger of pork belly simply melted in the mouth. It washed down beautifully with the slightly spicy beans and cool avocado mousse.
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The mains were equally sensational. My spiced salt cod, parsnip purée, spinach and raspberry vinaigrette was superb. The cod was cooked to perfection. It took me back to the original Rick Stein seafood programmes. He said fish should flake and be translucent. My cod hit that mark, it flaked and ‘transluced’ (see pic top right below), the salt and the spice sublime.
The flame had the butter poached chicken, chorizo stuffed peppers, pok choi and sweet potato, drizzled in a chorizo jus. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted better chicken. The small finger nail piece I was allowed to try was incredible. It could be that the flame won dish of the day with this!
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We both finished with Pumpkin pie, chocolate and nut granola with treacle ice cream. Yes, it was as good as it reads. The ice cream in particular was a treat. It was great with the crunchy flakes of granola.
After the meal we left feeling very satisfied. The bill with a couple of large glasses of rather splendid Spanish red and some coffees came to £70. A touch over the top for a Monday tea perhaps but a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. If you’re a T-bone steak, chips and onion rings man, this isn’t for you. This is exquisite, elegant dining, the accent firmly on flavour and great service. We will be back, probably on a busier night when I’m sure the atmosphere with more covers in will really pep up the heat.
Give it a try.
Mr Coopers House and Garden
The Midland Hotel,
Peter Street
Manchester
M60 2DS
0161 932 4128

Cauliflower Rice – A no carb, no points accompiament

It might be difficult to believe but maintaining the cook twit’s svelte like figure takes some doing. A couple of back to back restaurant reviews can easily add serious poundage to the cook twit frame. I have to let you into a secret. Erstwhile cohort ‘the flame’ doubles up through the week as a weight watcher leader. This means that through the week serious effort is made in ensuring we enjoy a guilt free weekend. Anyone who has attempted to lose weight will have heard the mantra. Eat more calories than you burn off, you put on weight. Eat a balanced diet, plenty of veg and fruit, less sugar, less fat, we’ve all heard it. The ideal weight watcher food = zero propoints. 

Well here we have it, welcome to ‘zeropoints’ Cauliflower Rice.
I wouldn’t say it was an outright replacement for rice. It’s not quite as forgiving with very wet sauces, I’m sure it would ‘mush up’ a bit but generally this is a no carb, no fat replacement.
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1) Firstly take the humble cauliflower. I used a medium sized one here. Chop in half, half again and discard the centre stalk or core. Basically you want the florets.  
2) add the florets into a food processor and blitz for about 10 seconds. This will reduce the florets to rice sized grains. I dare say you could use a hand grater at this stage but it would take a lot longer.
3) collect in a large bowl. A medium cauliflower produces about 300g of ‘rice’. I used 75g per person in the photo. If you have any over, put in a bag or container and freeze.
4) to cook, I dry fried 150g of the grains in a non stick frying pan on a medium heat. I added a pinch of salt, some pepper and a few shakes of paella seasoning. I reckon you could add herbs, or other fine spices at this stage for a bit of flavour.
5) dry fry for a few minutes stirring occasionally. The grains have moisture and so by the time they have warmed through they will have dried out as well leaving a real ‘rice’ like texture.
6) I served with a chilli con carne, but I reckon you could add a curry or any other dish you might consider with rice. 
Its a great way of getting through what is often considered a boring, but nonetheless good for you vegetable.
As I said, no carb, no points, no fat, low GI food that fills you up with goodness. Give it a try. 

 

Luck Lust Liquor and Burn – Manchester

It’s a blustery, cold, November, Sunday morn. The Cook Twit has succumbed to a virulent bout of ‘manflu’. Such is its ferocity that full blown ebola has taken hold. I doubt this blog will get finished. The flame, unable to accompany me on this trip, calls me a wimp and tells me to get on with it. I venture aimlessly into Manchester. A protracted visit to ‘The Hungry Gecko’ in Chorlton is curtailed as the local trolley buses are off due to ‘engineering works’. 

The Cook Twit is nothing if not a resourceful soul. When faced with such adversity, he brushes himself down, he doesn’t quibble, he quickly gets himself into a hostelry for an alcoholic restorative to ponder his next move. A pint of ‘The Governor’ quickly puts the old fish oil into gear. Never one to shirk new technology, google maps reckons I am a mere 170 yards away from ‘Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn’. Handsome words have been scribed regarding the qualities of this Northern Quarter stalwart. Not least for its kind rescue act of the burger joint ‘Almost Famous’ whose burgers Liquor and Burn now feature.
Liquor and Burn (for short!) is housed in a quaint, corner plot close to the former market gates in the High Street in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter. 
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In order to keep in trend it is not posh. Decor is strictly hip, up cycled, mis matched wooden furniture. The soundtrack is Marvin Gayeish and at a pleasant volume. The vibe therefore is very relaxed and the flashing young blades behind the bar made the cook twit very welcome. No real ale of course but a dark, Brooklyn lager kept the pipes moistened. The menu is printed in black on white A4. Courses have flash titles with hip tag lines, letting you know what you’re in for. Chicken Lickin, Beef Smackdown and Triple Nom just some of the names.

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Tucked away high on the left was my corking starter. A pint of shrimp and squid for £7.50. These exquisite pieces of succulent seafood came hot and deep fried in a light salted and BBQ batter. They came with two dips, one a hot sauce, and one a sundried tomato sauce with pieces of fresh lime to squeeze over. I have to say this was one of the best starters I’ve had in a long while. The effects of the death ridden strain of Ebola was subsiding fast.
For the main I had ‘Fire Alarm Chilli’ for £8.50. Again well presented in its own cast iron skillet set in a terracotta dish with tacos on the side. It came smothered in various sauces and creams (cheese and sour cream) which I may have preferred on the side. The chilli itself was delicious though. Very tasty with a nice heat. It had pulled beef, bacon and chorizo in there which all conspired to give a wonderful smoky flavour. I resisted the salted caramel brownie for afters.
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All in all a very pleasant hour and a half for the cook twit. Perched on my high stool by the window I had a great view of the bar in action. Obviously being a Sunday afternoon it was probably a little quieter than say a Friday night. I’m sure the action revs up a bit then, along with the volume of the music, but it had a great atmosphere and the service was fine. 
 
Manflu? What manflu!
 
Luck Lust Liquor and Burn
100-102 High Street, Northern Quarter
Manchester
0161 832 8644