I was excited when I first read the Taster Menu on the ‘Fruits of the Forage’ Facebook page for the February Wild Food Club meal. Our experience the other Monday night at the Poacher’s Inn in Bollington, East Cheshire, did not disappoint. In fact it confirmed categorically that the humblest of ingredients, in skilful and imaginative hands, can be elevated into something truly exquisite.
This is how it read:—
Wild Garlic & Three Cornered Leek Soup, pickled wild garlic buds and wild seed foccacia.
Braised Pheasant & Morels
(V/Braised Cauliflower & Morels)
with spiced yoghurt, chickweed pakora and wild garlic naan
Hogweed Marinated Beetroot, pickled damsons, blue cheese, pear, dandelion leaves
Roasted Duck Breast
(V/Scorched Purple Sprouting Broccoli)
Kale, pickled cherries, crab apple and red cabbage, duck fat fondant potatoes
Northern Lemon Sorbet, frozen apple, wild stone liquor
Apple Pear Pastries, damson ice cream, damson gin sauce
Wild Sweets & Winter Warmer
I was fascinated to see how this was going to translate into reality. Too often you go to a restaurant and get excited by what’s on offer only to find the food on your plate turns out to be rather humdrum. By contrast, the food that arrived that Monday night at the Fruits of the Forest ‘pop-up’ restaurant was inspired. The flavour combinations were sublime, the execution faultless and each dish beautifully presented without being too fussy - such as the white china cup that cradled green soup bursting with leafy, garlicky flavour or the clear glass jar containing the zingy Northern Lemon Sorbet.
Every course held a sensory surprise but one of my favourites was the hand-made chocolate truffles (‘Wild Sweets’) with a tiny berry in the middle of it which injected an orangey zesty burst of flavour into the mouth to contrast with the rich dark chocolate as you bit into it.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed this tasting menu more than any restaurant food I’ve had in years. It was fresh, honest and superbly executed. What’s more, Fred was a charming and charismatic host, welcoming his guests as they arrived and introducing each course with an explanation of the ingredients, handing round tufts of hogweed or seeds of dock as he did. His chef, Ben, also spoke briefly at the beginning and end of the meal and both men were ably assisted by other Fruits of the Forage family members all working together as an impressive team.
Fruits of the Forage began just a few years ago with an idea and a few pots of chutneys and jams from hedgerow finds. These humble beginnings then progressed to local market stalls but the quality of their product has now led to Good Taste awards and an investment in a dedicated premises with catering kitchen.
In these days of shortages of fresh produce from Spain and elsewhere, there seems no better time to be drawing on the natural ingredients which we can find down our own garden path.
Fruits of the Forage host twice monthly Wild Food Clubs. For more information visit their Facebook Page and click on Events.