For us, hosting a beer tasting with TRACK was an opportunity to delve into the culture of beer drinking in the north of England. To foster some of the stories linked to ale’s fragrant past.
We started the evening with a plate of poppadum and house chutneys. I grew up on curry and it is still one of my most comforting foods. Every Friday night we went to the local pub with my grandad, auntie and uncle. I drank orange soda and my grandad taught me to play pool. Then we’d pick up an Indian takeaway on the way home.
The table would be piled with samosa, bhaji, poppadum and pickles, curries of fragrance and heat, salty and sweet and steaming charred naan. These are my first memories of sharing food with loved ones, of staying up late and talking around a table, of the exotic (different tones on the palate compared to my gran’s swede and mash). I’m sure this is where my love of traveling came from and why I ended up in India for so long and this is where I realised that food was important for social unity, sharing and swapping stories.
So we made poppadum, to share, to spark a topic, for fun and, in the spirit of the North, to sink down a crisp lager. Our poppadum are made from Red Duke of York, a heritage variety of potato dating back to 1942, supplied by the Carroll’s at Tiptoe farm. We made chutneys form our preserves including pickled apricot, salted damson and a wonderful sheep’s milk yoghurt made from milk supplied by Alan Jones in North Wales, spiked with woodland wild garlic.
We rolled our bread in spent beer grains from the beer making process to add further crunch and caramelisation to the crust of our sourdough. Out from the oven they looked ready for battle, armed and textured with a malty shell.
The windows in our dining room look out onto Robinson’s brewery and we share the same red brick heritage. We are, ourselves, situated in an old Victorian Warehouse. We wanted to tap into ale’s part in the industrial revolution, its lubrication. Workers, lined up outside the gates in the smoggy dawn, receiving a pint of nutty brown ale to fill their bellies, swirl their heads and ready them for another day of grind.
What better beer to represent this, than Track’s ‘Sonoma’. For me, its the new pride of Manchester, one foot firmly in the real ale camp whilst edging over, with citrus notes, to the growing craft beer scene. It’s a beer for all people at all times.
So we got our guests out of their chairs and they lined up at the bar. For the first time at WTLGI we served a pie dinner. Liz’s saddle back pigs filled a crisp pastry, all swamped by a split pea wet with mushroom vinegar. And Stefan met them at the other end of the bar with a frothy ‘dimple’ of barrel aged ‘Sonoma’.
Dinners like this allow us to get closer to the people in our community that we respect. That are plying a skilled craft with honesty and integrity. They allow freedom to us chefs, allowing us to dig into certain themes and whet our creative appetite. We can express ourselves in ways we may not dare on regular nights in the dining room and they hopefully allow our guests to see a different side of WTLGI, to explore and meet new friends and find new flavours and stories that have been resting patiently on their doorstep.