An evening of swine & dine…

Last week my belief in Cambridge as a foodie destination increased tenfold. I think it will always remain in London’s shadow to a certain extent but with coffee scene really taking off, new supper clubs and pop up events being set up and the standard of food increasing across the board from pubs to fine dining establishments, we’re heading in the right direction. Being one of the food obsessed inhabitants and part of the Twitter community, I’m very aware that Cambridge folk definitely have the hunger for more!

I was very lucky to secure a place at a ‘Flying Visits’ event hosted by Alimentum and organised by Dingley Dell Pork. This was the 3rd of these special events, celebrating all things pig! I only discovered it a mere 24 hours beforehand and had no idea what to expect…

I arrived at Alimentum and was promptly welcomed with this exciting looking cocktail…

It was created by Joe Tivey of 12A Member’s Club and was entitled ‘If Pigs Could Fly Across the Pond’ which hints at it’s UK and US inspirations. It was made with Four Roses Bourbon that had been infused with maple syrup and smoked bacon (they even got pig into the drinks, you just wait until dessert!) and then smoked with hickory and applewood smoke. It was served on the rocks with a squirt of Aspalls Cider foam and a spoon. I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to tackle it, so I tucked away my pride and asked someone. Apparently the spoon was there to taste the Aspalls foam but after that we were encouraged just to sip as normal. I’m not really a Bourbon drinker, but this combination worked very well indeed! 

Not only did we have a 5 course meal to look forward to, the team had also devised a wine to match the each course…what a treat!

There were boards of canapés doing the rounds…

Cider jelly and smoked bacon on toast, shortcrust pastry topped with pulled pork, red onion chutney & apple puree and how could anyone resist a delicious little quail scotch egg! (served with Perlette d’Abbaye Brut, Rhone Valley, France, NV). They were the creations of James Drury and Rachel Speak, two students from the Colchester Institute, who had won the chance to create and serve their canapés as part of the ‘A Passion to Inspire’ competition

Glasses were clinked and our attention was directed at Mark from Dingley Dell Pork, who introduced the evening. We also heard from Bob Waller of Freedom Foods and received a very interesting butchery master class from Direct Meats

I eat a lot of pork but if you’d presented me with a whole animal and asked me to cut it up into well known joints, I’m ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t have much of a clue. Luckily there weren’t any squeamish people in attendance, we all remained upstanding and were ushered through to the restaurant for dinner.

I was sat on a table with Freedom Food afficionado, Bob Waller, and spared no time in grilling him on the subject. However, I took a few minutes first to crack into these delicious mini sage loaves and delicate milk loaf…

I find the labelling of meat in supermarkets a bit of a minefield and managed to put my foot in my mouth straight away by asking Bob if Freedom Foods classification was the step down from free range. Bob explained that Freedom Food status can be awarded to meat across the board from Supermarket own brands to free range but by having the Freedom Foods symbol on their packaging it means that the farmers comply with the minmum levels of animal welfare set out by Freedom Foods. He likened it to Fairtrade and used the analogy of fairtrade chocolate, which could vary from Cadbury’s to Thornton’s or Co-op.

So enough of my (w)offal (sorry I couldn’t resist a meat related pun). The first course presented to us was crispy pig’s head with garden vegetable salad and almonds by Eric Snaith of Titchwell Manor (served with Saint Mont Blanc, Andre Daguin, Gascogny, France, 2008)

We found out that the white blobs were almond oil balls, and had a very unique texture. I loved this dish, the pigs head was unbelievably tasty and the salad so fresh and vibrant. 

Next we had pork belly with carrots, liquorice, sweet cicely and lemon verbena by Russell Bateman, Colette’s at The Grove (served with Pinot Gris, Domaine Materne Haegelin, Alsace France, 2010 – an amazing wine, it won the place of my favourite for the night!)

Fresh liquorice was grated onto our dishes at the table, which I thought was a great finishing touch! We identified the lemon verbena to be the white powder on top of the pork…on it’s own it was very unusual but eaten with all of the other components it really came alive.

During the meal there was live footage being streamed from the kitchen onto televisions in the restaurant so we could see exactly what was going on…

The next course was  called ‘Ham, Egg and Cheeks’ by Ross Pike and Madalene Bonvini-Hamel from The British Larder, Suffolk, who hosted the last Flying Visit (served with Toscana Bianco IGT, I Veroni, Tuscany, Italy, 2011)


I’m not usually a great fan of savoury jelly but was pleasantly surprised by how tasty it was. There were nuggets of black pudding in amongst the pigs head and knuckle terrine and the pea shoots as an accompaniment were amazing!

Next up was Alimentum’s owner Mark Poynton’s creation…hay smoked pork loin with turnip, apple and jack by the hedge (served with Huaquen Reserva, Pinot Noir, Curico, Chile, 2009)

I made the mistake of diving straight in for a taste of the lurid green concoction, which as suspected was the jack by the hedge. It was incredibly bitter, but as with the previous dish, when eaten with all of the other components, worked really well! No sooner had my neighbour asked the waiter to describe jack by the hedge, when Mark himself appeared at our table to describe it as a herb not unlike clover but on a longer stem, easily forageable in the English countryside. It’s true…you learn a new thing everyday!

Predictably perhaps, I’d been really looking forward to the dessert of peanut, strawberry and crispy pork shoulder created by Michelle Gillott, chocolatier (served with Coteaux Du Layon, Vielles Vignes, Loire Valley, France, 2009)

The pork shoulder had been marinated in fish sauce then left to dry before being deep fried and placed atop the delicious strawberry sorbet.

Every single course had been so well thought out by a very talented team of chefs…

It was a great evening and a true celebration of everything great about pigs and pork! A high standard has been set and if we can manage a few more foodie events like this, London had better watch out…Cambridge is hot on it’s heels!

To keep up with future events you can follow Flying Visits on Twitter @FlyingVisits

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