It was like an Enid Blyton adventure, only with swear words and selfies. Rachel, Jane and Claire, three bloggers from the North West, packed up their car with cheese scones, toffee apple flapjacks and more electrical devices than the Apple Store and went on a road trip all the way to Dorset.
We’d been looking forward to this trip for weeks, debated footwear that was suitable for both Christmas ‘do’ and tractor ride, considered which of us might, if we had the chance, run away with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and committed to eat and drink every single morsel that was placed in front of us. Because we were invited to an exclusive evening at River Cottage HQ!
Of course no adventure would be complete without a few twists and turns and we had plenty of those on the winding country roads to River Cottage, only to discover that we’d arrived at the ‘old’ River Cottage, no less than 20 miles away from where we were supposed to be :-S
So instead of arriving before sunset (and before the rain) and joining all the other bloggers in a tractor ride down the hill to the collection of buildings that makes up River Cottage HQ, we found ourselves in the rain, stumbling down the muddy dirt track in the dark! But at least we worked up an appetite, which is a good thing because we were about to eat ALOT.
We arrived just in time to hear a talk about brining meat. I’ll explain more about that in a later post because while it’s a process most commonly used to preserve pork, I was able to try turkey that had been brined before cooking and I promise you it was the best turkey I’ve ever tasted. I’m going to have a try myself at home and then share the method with you.
Once the talk was over and after a little networking amongst the bloggers, it was time for dinner.
Cleverly Rover Cottage had implemented a seating plan meaning that we couldn’t sit next to bloggers we were familiar with. It was a wise move and meant that I was lucky enough to spend a few hours chatting to some new friends.
If you’ve ever watched River Cottage on TV, you’ll know that the chefs are committed to using only the finest local, fresh and seasonal produce available.
Our chef talked us through the magnificent menu which included meat from the neighbouring farm, herbs grown in the garden and mushrooms forraged in the surrounding fields. The chef’s eloquent description was met with oohs and ahhs as were the dishes themselves.
I famously detest mushrooms. I really, really don’t like them. I don’t love the flavour but it’s the texture that my mouth seems to find particularly offensive. Nevertheless there was no way I was going to turn down anything that these food artists placed in front of me, so I tried and really enjoyed the starter! AND I’ve eaten mushrooms since! They’ve cured me 🙂
What followed was a kind of pulled ham dish which was served with the most delicious beans. We’re really working hard to balance out our meals at home. Making sure we have the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat etc. I was very taken with the bean side dish as an alternative to potatoes or rice.
It was really satisfying and the flavours perfectly complemented the rich ham. It felt like decadent comfort food.
I thought I was full but as we all know, there’s a special part of the tummy that’s reserved for desert.
I could eat the honey comb creme brûlée again and again and again and happily never have another desert for the rest of my life! It was so good!
Now I know what you’re thinking – who ran away with Hugh. I can confirm that nobody ran away with Mr Fearnley Whittingstall, not least because we didn’t see him! I’m reliably informed however, that he did pop in to deliver this lovely fish that he’d caught.
So close yet so far away haha!
Our evening ended with a tractor ride back to the top of the hill before we made our way back to the little cottage we were renting.
In terms of fresh produce, innovative menus and warm welcome, Christmas at River Cottage HQ was head and shoulders above anything I’ve eaten for a long time. It was so good infact that we decided to visit River Cottage Canteen the following day ?