21 August 2014

Semibreve Supper Club (Newcastle)


I was really excited to be invited to the inaugural Semibreve Supper Club, hosted by chef and foraging expert Pia Phillips-Griffith and pianist/teacher Annie Ball on a balmy night near Leazes Park towards the end of July. The invitation sent to my house came with a wax seal on the back, a sophisticated hint of what was to come. I knew the evening would combine two of life's joys - food and music, but I wasn't completely sure exactly what to expect. I had been to supper clubs before which focused solely on the food, so was looking forward to trying something a little different.
Upon entering the dining room of the beautiful period house, I noticed the effort the hosts had gone to to make the tables look wonderful, with little origami butterflies made out of sheet music scattered about, and spoons of salmon ceviche laid perfectly in a line next to vividly coloured foliage. Jars and candles had been covered in sheet music, which everyone thought were really nice little touches.
Ceviche spoons
There was an eclectic bunch of people who had come along, fellow bloggers and a barrister turned vicar who was great conversation. After everyone had become acquainted over a glass of wine, Annie treated us to the first musical interlude of the evening. The theme was "Nocturnes," which are classical compositions inspired by the night, traditionally played at evening parties. Annie explained that the first pieces of this type were written by John Field, seen as the father of the Romantic nocturne. We were treated to his Nocturne Op33, which was a perfect precursor to the variety of starters which were brought out. 

   

Red pepper and harissa gazpacho, Garden herb marinated broad beans, Wild Sorrel & Hazelnut flatbread, salad of nasturtiums and radish, Lebneh - za'atar and mint, black onion seed, honey and black pepper

The gazpacho shots were delicious with just the right amount of spice. The salad was almost too pretty to eat, topped with flowers and punctuated by the pink of the radishes. The flavours in the flatbread were a perfect combination and were an ideal accompaniment to the broad beans and cheese. I loved the presentation, on wooden boards that were all angles. A large range of ingredients were foraged and the flavours were sublime, and obviously outdid the supermarket equivalent of herbs that most of us use daily.
As the boards were cleared away in preparation for the main course, Annie played a nocturne by Chopin (Op. 15 No. 1) who was seen as the master of the form, composing a total of twenty one of them during his career.

Annie playing a Nocturne - Image courtesy of Ed Blazey

















Happily sitting with a refilled glass of red, the main course arrived. I told the ladies that I was vegetarian beforehand, and was accommodated by a mouthwatering piece of fish, but couldn't resist a mouthful of the sweet herb marinated roast beef fillet from local Knitsley Farm, served with a hot beetroot and horseradish salad. Again the food was beautifully presented, decorated with purple flowers.  The beef was one of the best fillets I've ever tried.
 
Knitsley Farm sweet herb marinated beef with beetroot and horseradish salad

We were treated to more music from Annie as the plates were cleared. She played Liszt's Notturno III from Liebstraume, the most famous of his series of "Lovedreams" which almost moved me to tears.

The dessert was sublime, and chocolate, which pretty much covers my dessert requirements. Dark chocolate and rose torte with almond cream, to be precise. The delicate rose flavour went perfectly with the chocolate. I was starting to get a little full, but there's always room for cheese and a little more music. Next up was a nocturne from the composer Edvard Grieg, Op.54 - one of sixty-six Lyric Pieces he composed.
   
Ewe's cheese and compote

The cheese was ewe's cheese from Redesdale which was served with a sage and honey plum compote. Perfection. The sweet and savoury flavours in the compote worked together really well, and started giving me ideas for other herb and fruit combinations. Annie, a classically trained musician and a talented pianist, played the final piece of the evening, Samuel Barber's (of Adaggio from Strings fame) Nocturne Op. 33 and a homage to John Field. Lemon balm and lavender tea followed - more of Pia's foraged ingredients. I realised that it's not just the main ingredients that make something special, a delicate balance of quality herbs can make all the difference to a dish, and Pia's knowledge of flavour combinations is amazing. Annie's enviable musical talent and Pia's cookery skills are a winning combination

Invitations were given out for the next supper club, Songs for Your Supper, to be held at Ouseburn Farm on Thursday 16th October at 7.30pm. Again with the wax seal. I didn't really need to think too hard about it - prepare to be musically and tastefully moved.

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