Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

New dog-friendly café opens at Armitage

The new café and boutique bed and breakfast at Tuppenhurst Barn is in a beautiful rural setting within easy reach of Lichfield, Rugeley and Cannock. It opens on 22 June….

The new café and boutique bed and breakfast at Tuppenhurst Barn is in a beautiful rural setting within easy reach of Lichfield, Rugeley and Cannock. It opens on 22 June.

24 year old Melissa Bettson’s family have lived at Tuppenhurst Farm for more than 100 years, but since her father passed away their 500 acres of land has been let to other families who farm sheep and arable crops there. After graduating with a degree in Equine Business Management – and recovering from a spine injury – Melissa moved back home from Gloucester two years ago.

Wanting to make her own mark on the place and keep the family farm sustainable, she decided to transform a disused 17th century barn into a café and luxury B&B. £1 million has been invested in the project, which has seen parts of the listed building dismantled and rebuilt brick by brick. Four dog-friendly ensuite bedrooms have been created, including an accessible room on the ground floor.

The light and airy café will be open to the public from 9:00-17:00, seven days a week, from Saturday 22 June. Serving hot and cold drinks including Lichfield Tea and Iron & Fire coffee, as well as cakes from local baker Crumb & Burrow, the café also offers breakfasts and light lunches. 

With the canal just a couple of minutes away, it’s a lovely spot to have some refreshments after your walk. And your faithful friend doesn’t have to miss out – plant-based dog treats from Melissa’s other business, Bear’s Bites, are available and so is a ‘Doggie Breakfast’ of bacon and scrambled eggs.

If you’re particularly into old engines, there’s also a museum on the farm housing some very rare specimens that you can take a look at. And if you’re into horse-riding, Melissa has created a professional equestrian arena available to hire on an hourly basis.

Tuppenhurst Farm
Tuppenhurst Lane, Rugeley, WS15 4HJ
www.tuppenhurstfarm.co.uk

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Beer Central Festival comes to the Midlands

We Are Beer are putting on a stellar food and beer line up for their first Midlands festival in Birmingham this July. Beer Central Festival will take place on Friday…

We Are Beer are putting on a stellar food and beer line up for their first Midlands festival in Birmingham this July.

Beer Central Festival will take place on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 July at 119 Floodgate Street in Digbeth. Brad Carter, Original Patty Men, Baked in Brick and Purecraft Bar & Kitchen are heading the food line-up which aims to gather together the best in beer, food and music. It promises to be a packed day out and it’s right on the doorstep for hungry (and thirsty) Staffordshire foodies.

The ‘all-in’ ticket means all beer is covered during the event, with attendees able to choose from a vast selection of beers from more than 25 local and international breweries. It’s a line up that will get any craft beer fan drooling, with the likes of Northern Monk, Purity, Siren, Cloudwater, Verdant, Wild Beer all in attendance. The ticket price includes beer and a selection of cider, wine, gin, whisky, and soft drinks as well as a glass and festival magazine. Food isn’t included.

Chef Brad CarterOn Friday and Saturday night, Brad (whose restaurant Carters of Moseley earned a Michelin star in 2016) will be grilling and smoking a variety of meat, seafood and other seasonal ingredients using two specially created grills. The ingredient-led menu has been carefully designed to pair perfectly with beers from two of his favourite breweries, The Kernel and Braybrooke.

Award-winning burger purveyors Original Patty Men, who opened their restaurant in Digbeth in 2015 after starting out in street food, will be there, as will Baked in Brick, winner of Best Street Food Trader at the British and European Street Food Awards

In terms of music, revellers can expect a Kaiser Chiefs DJ set and a session from hip-hop turntablist DJ Yoda. Hip Hop Karaoke will be inviting people to sing some of their favourite hip hop tracks in front of a live audience. Also joining the line up are Ultimate Power, who run club nights across the UK playing hit after hit of the world’s greatest ballads.

Greg Wells, co-founder of We Are Beer, says: “We’re super excited to present a Michelin-starred chef as part of the food line-up for Beer Central. We’re super proud to host Brad and ‘Best Street Food Trader in Europe’ Lee DeSanges from Baked in Brick at the first Beer Central Festival. They along with street food kings Original Patty Men means we’ll be showcasing the breadth and best of what Birmingham’s food scene has to offer.”

You can buy tickets for Beer Central here.

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Have a foodie Father’s Day

This Father’s Day, leave the annual-new-pair-of-socks tradition in 2018 and get your dad something he really wants: good food and drink! We’ve been scouting some of the best foodie gift…

This Father’s Day, leave the annual-new-pair-of-socks tradition in 2018 and get your dad something he really wants: good food and drink! We’ve been scouting some of the best foodie gift ideas from across Staffordshire to really impress your dad this weekend.

DIY – Bradbury’s Farm Shop, Lichfield

Fancy flexing your culinary skills this Father’s Day? Nothing says ‘I love you, Dad’ quite like a home cooked meal, and if you really want to impress him, shopping local is the way to go. The family run farm shop is tucked away on the outskirts of Lichfield, and is a delightful little hidden gem for local produce. Bradbury’s Farm Shop only supply locally sourced meat from around Staffordshire and also from their own family farm which is located just a couple of miles from the farm shop. All of their traditional breed cattle and sheep are grass fed and naturally reared by father and son duo, Peter and Jake, so you are guaranteed ethical and tasty produce every time.

And what’s a Father’s Day Sunday lunch without crisp, fresh veg? Bradbury’s Farm Shop have an abundance of delicious, seasonal veggies which will perfectly complement your meat.

Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea & Canal Cruise – Georgie’s Canal Cruises, Penkridge 

Treat your Dad to a gentle two hour cruise along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal with Georgie’s Canal Cruises at Penkridge. Not only can you enjoy the sights together and meander the Sunday afternoon away through the Staffordshire countryside, but they also offer a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, featuring home-cooked savoury delights. The Gentleman’s Afternoon tea features the sweet treats of the traditional Afternoon tea, but has some sumptuous savoury additions. Expect homemade onion marmalade sausage rolls, mini Cornish pasties, cheesy nachos, and to top to it all off a bottle of beer or ale. The Gentleman’s Afternoon tea is priced at £27.50 per person inclusive of the two hour cruise, and is available from 12:00-14:00 or 15:00-17:00. All aboard!

Father’s Day Sunday Lunch – The Dog & Doublet Inn, Sandon

Get the whole family together and make some memories this Father’s Day with a traditional Sunday lunch. Set in the picturesque village of Sandon, The Dog & Doublet Inn are offering a delectable three course Sunday for lunch for just £20.00 per person. The vast menu offers dishes such as poached pear and Wrekin Blue salad with candied walnuts to start, slow roast loin pork with crispy crackling and sage and onion stuffing, and to finish, rhubarb creme brûlée with shortbread fingers. Yes, please! Table reservations are filling up quickly, so get booked in now to avoid disappointment.

Brewery Tour with Live Music & Beer – Mart’s Brewhouse, Hanley

Every dad loves a beer on Father’s Day, so why not take it up a notch and get him a Brewery Tour with a Twist at Mart’s Brewhouse & Tap in Hanley’s Cultural Quarter? You and your dad can learn all about the art of local beer brewing, enjoy live music and good food, and of course, sample some of their incredible brews. We love Mart’s Dutch Letters marzipan stout and Mart’s Early Bird pale ale. This special Father’s Day tour will take place on Saturday 15 June at 11:00 for just £21.55 per person. Tickets must be booked in advance, so what are you waiting for?

Father’s Day Hamper – Canalside Farm and Shop, Great Haywood

If your dad can’t resist some good quality farm shop produce, then this is the gift for him. Canalside Farm Shop is offering traditional hampers packed full of delicious food and drink, and you can choose from four different structures. If you know your dad’s fave foodie treats like the back of your hand, call into the farm shop and select your hamper contents from Canalside’s array of quality produce. If you would rather leave it to the experts, the lovely folks at Canalside have been creating hampers for over thirty years and will select the products you. You just need to tell them a little bit about your dad’s tastes and interests, and they will construct the perfect gift. If Father’s Day has completely slipped your mind this year and you need a last minute gift, there are ready made hampers in store which are available to pick up straight away. And finally, if your dad is a real advocate of local Staffordshire produce, Canalside also offer a hamper which showcases the very best of Staffordshire’s food and drink. Give them a call in advance for this hamper, and they will handpick the products the day before you collect.

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May beers with Otter’s Tears

Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, is back with his final instalment of Spring beer recommendations… This month it’s all about the hops! Much as I love a…

Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, is back with his final instalment of Spring beer recommendations…

This month it’s all about the hops! Much as I love a good rich malty dark beer, especially at the end of the day, as the weather warms you just can’t beat reaching for a cold, juicy IPA – and boy do we have some beauties in the shop at the moment.

With that firmly in mind, I’m kicking off with an old favourite of mine that has returned revitalised after a short period of absence: Ageless IPA from Macclesfield brewers RedWillow. “A blast from the past, our old school IPA takes no prisoners, hopped right through the boil and dry hopped to death. Upfront it is all tropical fruit and aroma, then it finishes with a long and assertive bitterness.”

I’ve known Toby and Caroline at RedWillow for many years and consequently have drank a lot of their beer. Ageless has always been a favourite, but there’s something about this release that is setting it apart – it’s just so drinkable. So drinkable in fact that I bought myself a full case to take home and it’s my current go-to fridge filler. That is definitely a first for me, because as you can imagine I’m rarely short of choices for a beer.

WxY4 Southern Hemisphere IPA is the result of a meeting of minds between Geordie brewers Wylam and New Zealand based Yeastie Boys, possibly the best name for a brewery EVER. “The tetrad edition of the OG juice bomb. Brewed annually with our favourite NZ beer boys Yeastie Boys. This year’s sacred hop offering delivers fresh Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy, Moutere and Motueka.”

Last year’s release WxY3 was one of my beers of the year, so I’m super excited to be able to get lots of this in to lubricate you through the next few weeks. Expect it to be big, dank and juicy, with grape-like flavours and hints of pepper: overall super refreshment!

The grand finale this month is a bit of a beast in more ways than one, a 10% Imperial IPA with beautifully ferocious can art to match. Illicium Imperial Milkshake IPA is from Manchester’s masters of lactose, Wander Beyond Brewing. “Part of our Milkshake range. We upped the hops, lactose, oats and vanilla to deliver a smooth, fruity and sweet dessert style IPA. Well hopped with Mosaic and Citra. This juice smoothie is as enticing as an illicium – the luring light of an angler fish.”

Wander Beyond have produced some incredible beers in the last year or so and whilst not all of them have used lactose in the brewing process, the imperial stouts and massively fruited imperial IPAs like this one have firmly cemented them as favourites in the current craft beer scene. Crazy sweet, thick and juicy, it’s basically hoppy custard!

Check out find Phil’s March and April beer picks, or head straight to Otter’s Tears to browse the vast selection on offer and get some personalised recommendations.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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Charity dinner with Matt Davies x Sauce Supper Club

Clear your diary on 24 June, because Sauce Supper Club and well-known Staffordshire chef Matt Davies are joining forces to host an exclusive, one-off dining experience at University College Birmingham,…

Clear your diary on 24 June, because Sauce Supper Club and well-known Staffordshire chef Matt Davies are joining forces to host an exclusive, one-off dining experience at University College Birmingham, in order to raise funds for local hospitals and specialist departments.

Matt Davies delighted the people of Staffordshire with his exquisite culinary skills for over thirty years. He began his incredible career in 1984 as a stagiaire at The Savoy in London, after previously spending eight years training under the wing of Michelin starred chef Andreas Antona of Simpsons Restaurant, Birmingham.

Prior to a life changing accident, the former Chairman and now Vice President of the British Culinary Federation was responsible for an 80-strong kitchen brigade spread across six Michelin-listed and multi-Rosette fine dining outlets in Staffordshire. Matt managed a thousand daily covers, encompassing everything from fine and modern UK and European cuisine, all the way through to gourmet burgers and classic country cooking.

“After suffering life changing trauma, I would like to thank some very special people and their corresponding charities by holding a Charity Dinner to raise much needed funds to carry on helping other people in the future,” says Matt, whose enlightened outlook on being a chef is that it is not just a profession, but rather a passion and a way of life that has you striving to be the best you can.

“I am humbled to introduce to you some of my dear friends, who have given up their personal time to produce a very special six-course Charity Dinner at the UCB Birmingham.”

This special event on Monday 24 June will bring together some of the most celebrated chefs in the country to raise money for causes that are close to Matt’s heart: Mind, UHNM Charity, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity, and Hospitality Action. 

Guests will be treated to six courses from Tom Brown (Cornerstone, Hackney Wick), Glynn Purnell (Purnells Restaurant), Luke Tipping (Simpsons of Edgbaston), Jonathan Howe (Lumiere Restaurant), Aktar Islam (Opheem Restaurant), and Adam Bennett (The Cross at Kenilworth) assisted by Andreas Antona (Simpsons of Edgbaston).

Tickets are available to purchase here from Sauce Supper Club.

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From Italy with love: Lichfield Tea Company

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea…

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea Company.

“It was a hobby that turned into an obsession that took over my house, so we had to get a shop. It was something I used to do with my nan, who was Italian. In Italy they only drink coffee – they don’t drink tea at all. If you’re ill, you get chamomile.

“In the mornings she used to make everybody a cappuccino – she just called it milky coffee. I’m allergic to milk, so it would make me really poorly. She would then give me chamomile, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, so instantly I would feel better. She thought tea was magic. She didn’t realise it was an infusion – because it’s called chamomile tea, to her it was tea.”

Rae’s grandparents owned an old-fashioned newsagents and all-stores in Coventry when she was a child. Her grandma started importing tea for her to taste and to sell in the shop.

“So I grew up drinking lapsang souchong and Earl Grey,” Rae explains. “She really got into it and it was our little hobby. When they retired they moved to the South of France and we would take tea every time we went to visit. I started the shop with money from my share of the inheritance when they died.”

In 2016, tired of working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a stressful job, Rae and her husband Ollie decided to slow down a little and opened their first shop on the other side of Heart of the Country site. They moved into a larger unit when they outgrew the first premises, and have now expanded floorspace further by knocking through into the neighbouring shop. They have installed a kitchen and will soon be serving ‘hearty, homely, vegetarian food’, cooked by Rae herself.

In terms of teas and the various coffees Lichfield Tea Company offers, choosing what to stock is largely a matter of personal taste with some family input and, of course, an eye to what customers will think.

“I try it, and if I like it, we sell it,” laughs Rae. “When my grandparents had their shop they kept meticulous accounts. My uncle still had records of some of the tea gardens. So we still had a connection, for example, with Kenilworth. My grandparents were in Coventry so they recognised the name and went with it; now we stock tea from the same garden in Sri Lanka.”

English Breakfast is by far the most popular choice. Naturally, visitors to the shop tend to be blinded by the sheer number of options with around 80 teas in stock on Rae’s shelves at any given time.

“It’s much easier to have a conversation with someone and make a recommendation based on what they like and whether they want to try something new,” she says. “We’re thinking about a tea passport, where we have a little description and space for comments to keep a record of what you’ve tried.”

Rae’s seasonal picks for March, April and May start with the aptly named Spring Tea, a fresh and floral green tea with strawberry and rose.

“We also have this Japanese black tea, which is a real little find. It doesn’t smell particularly, but it tastes like the centre of a Malteser. It’s really light but flavoursome, so ideal for spring.”

If you’re looking to push beyond your comfort zone and try something unique, Rae recommends Pu-Erh – a real tea lover’s tea.

“It’s a fermented tea so it’s super good for you, like kimchi. It’s only grown in the Yunnan province of China. They come in cakes, and they get more expensive the older they are.”

As for the recent trend for cold infusions, Rae has no truck with the idea that shaking a teabag in cold water is the way to go…

“If you want cold tea, make a really strong cup of fruit tea, hot, pour it out and put ice in it,” she suggests. “We do a lemon tea that’s basically homemade lemonade in a very sweet vat of strong English Breakfast. It looks like pond water but it tastes amazing and goes down a storm.”

Interestingly, the recent resurgence of interest in tea after years of growth in coffee seems to be driven by a younger generation, with new brands like T2 and familiar names like Whittard benefiting from the attention.

“The people who are most excited about it are the 18-24 year olds,” Rae enthuses. “It captures their imagination and they love trying something new, and they love the fact they’ve discovered you.”

Lichfield Tea Company
www.thelichfieldteacompany.co.uk 
Unit 11a, Heart of The Country Shopping Village, Swinfen, WS14 9QR

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Candid Beer opening Good Friday

Good Friday just got even better, with Candid Beer’s bottle shop and taproom set to open in Woodings Yard at 12 noon on 19 April, just in time for Easter…

Good Friday just got even better, with Candid Beer’s bottle shop and taproom set to open in Woodings Yard at 12 noon on 19 April, just in time for Easter weekend.

Stafford’s latest addition champions craft beer from small independent breweries across the county and beyond, with suppliers selected by owner Mark Bamping to complement Candid’s relaxed and community-focused ethos.

Relax and have a beer with your friends in the new taproom, or purchase your cans and bottles to take away – perfect if you’re planning a cheeky spring barbecue. Some of the names you can expect to see lining the shelves are Loka Polly, Northern Monk, Marble Beers, Cloudwater, Six°North and Pomona Island Brew Co.

If delicious craft beer isn’t your thing, don’t panic. Candid Beer will be serving Staffordshire Gin, local wines from Halfpenny Green Wine Estate, Hasbean and Ethical Addictions coffee, loose leaf tea from Birdhouse, soft drinks and bar snacks. 

Candid Beer also doubles as a creative workspace for those who need to get out of the office, or for those who don’t have an office. ‘Can-Do-Er’ membership, which includes come-and-go-as-you-like access to their shared working space in the taproom or quiet breakout space, unlimited tea and coffee, WiFi and the much needed buzz of co-working company, is available at £65 per month.

Upstairs, Candid will offer ‘Creative Space’ hire suitable for everything from team away-days to weekly book clubs. The space is fully equipped with display and audio equipment as well as access to tea and coffee facilities. Future plans also include the opening of a nano-brewery on-site.

“We are really excited to embark on this new venture and to bring Candid Beer to Stafford,” says Mark. “Our aim is to take the best bits of a pub, a bar, a café, an office, and a studio and bring them together under one roof in what we’re describing as a community hub. We’re looking forward to opening our doors on Friday 19 April 2019 at 12 noon and welcoming the community of Stafford into our new home.”

Easter weekend opening times:

Friday 19 April 12:00-18:00
Saturday 20 April 11:00-21:00
Sunday 21 April CLOSED
Monday 22 April 12:00-18:00

Candid Beer
candidbeer.co.uk
Units 4 & 5, Woodings Yard, Stafford, ST17 4BG

Photo credit: Matt Winnington

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April beers with Otter’s Tears

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month… Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that…

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month…

Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that have meant a lot to me over the years – people who have become firm friends as well as brewing the beers I love and can trust to deliver.

Torrside brew in New Mills up in the High Peak. It’s a democratic set-up between 3 experienced home-brewers – Chris, Nick, and Peter – with support from their long-suffering partners, one of whom is the talented artist who designs the labels for each beer. The guys started out with the mindset of wanting to brew what they loved to drink, and this is reflected in their smoked beers, imperial strength monsters, and well-balanced hop-bombs. With that in mind, I’ve sneaked in two beers for one here.

Torrside Sto Lat GrodziskieZenkai Pale Ale, 3.7%
Part of a two-way collaboration with Bramhall’s Made Of Stone. A simple, crisp malt base allows Mosaic and Chinook hops to come shining through in the aroma. With plenty of grapefruit and mango flavours, Zenkai is a delicious session pale ale perfect for the changing season.

Sto Lat Grodziskie,  2.8%
Grodziskie is a traditional Polish beer style brewed using 100% oak-smoked wheat, and Sto Lat stays as true to the style as possible. Ultra-pale with plenty of fizz, it owes its refreshing bitterness to Polish hops. The smoke comes through particularly well in such a low ABV beer, with an end result lying somewhere in the unexplored hinterland between champagne and smoked ham! Head Brewer Chris thinks this beer perfectly represents Torrside; I think it will also appeal to the flavour loving readers of Sauce.

Northern Monk Seismic Shift DDH IPAI’ve followed Northern Monk from long before their first brew. Back even before current head brewer Brian’s mammoth, year-long training journey with some of the world’s finest brewers across multiple continents, we have a long history and friendship. The Northern Monk Patrons Project is an initiative set up to foster collaboration, creativity and community between artists, athletes and creatives across the North. This is their latest release, which features peel-able label art from amazing street-style artist Tank Petrol.

Seismic Shift Double Dry Hopped Double IPA, 8.5%
Simcoe hops feature prominently in this beer, bringing passionfruit, grapefruit and dank pine to the forefront. It carries tangerine notes of Amarillo, the tropical flavours of Citra and Mosaic and finally a touch of floral, citrus Loral. A high percentage of flaked oats in the grist, plus a touch of wheat, ensure a soft mouthfeel. Fermentation with their IPA yeast of choice leaves an accentuating sweetness with generous peach and apricot esters.

Durham Brewery DiabolusOur final beer is from Durham Brewery and is a bit of a beast. Durham have been at this brewing malarkey for a long time, so they know a thing or two about good beer. I was first introduced to them around 2010 and was immediately hooked by their mastery of tradition and willingness to embrace innovation. I helped launch their White Stout, a beer with the qualities and flavours you’d expect to find in something black as pitch, whilst being pale and transparent. I also built a Twitter-led international Imperial Stout tasting session around their beautiful Temptation Russian Imperial Stout, which leads perfectly onto the third beer: Diabolus, a variation on that brew.

Diabolus Rum Cask Aged Imperial Stout, 11.5%
In a very limited edition of just 600 bottles, this batch of Diabolus – like all the others – is a variation on the theme of Temptation. Durham have matured the beer in oak rum casks, resulting in a deep dark colour with flavours to match. Aromas of rum and black treacle with hints of oak precede a body that’s creamy and full, with strong liquorice flavours. Sharp, fresh morello cherry and damson notes cutting through this rich umami body, and the finish is long and lingering.

You can pick up April’s picks at Otter’s Tears this month, and find Phil’s March beer recommendations here.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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Roots Larder to open zero plastic shop

This Saturday, 6 April, sees the opening of Roots Larder’s permanent presence in Stafford. After spending its first 6 months as a mobile service, eco-friendly business Roots Larder is now…

This Saturday, 6 April, sees the opening of Roots Larder’s permanent presence in Stafford.

After spending its first 6 months as a mobile service, eco-friendly business Roots Larder is now planting its roots within Tranquility, off Newport Road close to Stafford train station.

The local business offers bulk wholefoods including a range of spices, herbs, grains, pulses, cereals, dried fruits, nuts and loose leaf teas, all without unnecessary plastic packaging. All are sold by weight, so you can buy as much or as little as you need to cut down on waste, and customers are invited to bring their own containers to fill.

Until now, Roots Larder has operated at local markets from a trusty transit van as well as offering a click and collect service from Stafford, Eccleshall, Stone or Uttoxeter. To enable the shop to carry more stock and offer a wider range of goods that fit in with the ethical approach, owner Nigel has decided a permanent shop space is needed.

Along with the selection of store cupboard essentials and plastic free toiletries and kitchen wares that Roots Larder has become known for, Nigel will also be introducing Fair Trade silver jewellery, Rawsome bars, fresh bread, natural incense, stained and fused glass items, and handmade dog accessories.

The shop will be open from 10:00-15:00 on Saturday for the launch event. Meanwhile on Friday 5 April, small business owners are invited to share what they do and chat reducing single use plastic at a pre-opening networking event in store from 18:30-20:30.

Normal opening hours for the shop will be:

Wednesday 13:00-19:00
Thursday 10:00-16:00
Saturday 10:00-15:00

Roots Larder
www.rootslarder.com
Castlefields, Off Newport Road, Stafford, ST16 1BQ

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Chris Cohen: A man on a mission

Feast with Friends is the Stoke-on-Trent based chef teaching young and old to pay attention to eating well. Cooking has always been a passion of Chris Cohen, the chef behind…

Feast with Friends is the Stoke-on-Trent based chef teaching young and old to pay attention to eating well.

Cooking has always been a passion of Chris Cohen, the chef behind Feast with Friends. Now in his 40s, Chris worked weekends in his mum’s catering business as a teen and wanted to pursue a career in the kitchen on leaving school.

“Funnily enough, my mum put me off that,” he tells Sauce. “She wanted me to be creative in more obvious ways. I guess what she didn’t know then was that food would become such a creative discipline as it is now, and so visual.”

His own experience in the education system has influenced the path of Chris’ development as a chef and as an educator – with a degree in architectural design.

“I really struggled at school and I love the fact that I educate now,” he says. “I treasure that beyond anything. Sharing what you know is important. I worked across Staffordshire and down in London running kitchens. Then I realised I wanted more from my education. I got my degree and did a teaching qualification, taught in schools and colleges and really enjoyed it.”

Chris Cohen, Feast with Friends

Photo © Stephanie Murton Photography

Over the last year Chris has found a way to unite his love of cooking with a desire to teach, under the Feast with Friends banner. He works both as a private chef, creating dining experiences for people in their own homes, as well as teaching classes and workshops for people of all ages in schools, colleges and workplaces across the county.

In the future, Chris has a longstanding ambition to set up a means of educating and training aspiring young chefs in the Stoke-on-Trent area. He sees this as creating a pipeline for the expansion of the independent dining sector in the city, as well as providing opportunities for its young people.

“I’ve worked with and played a part in the training of a few people who have gone on to do amazing things. You see what they’ve done and how they’ve travelled. It would be great if people travelled then came back to Stoke to set up their own restaurants. What can we do to move that forward? That’s something I’m passionate about.”

In the meantime, much of Chris’ day to day work centres around the Well Fed Initiative. Aimed at educating people of all ages about nutrition and eating well, the initiative provides tailored courses for everyone from small children to university students, with the option of curriculum-focused content.

“I’ve done a lot of work in primary schools, which is immensely challenging purely because most primary schools don’t have a space dedicated to cooking,” Chris relates. “It is a case of doing things in different ways to get kids cooking and thinking about healthy eating differently. Not making them feel like they’re being talked down to is part of that.”

Chris developed the principles of his specialised food workshops based on health service guidelines, to the extent that he has permission to use the NHS logo on the Well Fed Initiative.

“I’ve taken some of the guidance – which is something I did in my teaching anyway – and used it to come up with my own ways to get people eating more healthily,” he explains. “I work on a five F system, which talks about factors like feast and find, based on food psychology and exploring food.”

Part of the joy of food is the idea that it is an exploration of different tastes, textures and aromas – an idea that Chris believes should not be reserved for fine dining restaurants. Indeed, he’s trying to instil this way of thinking into even the youngest children through his classes, seminars and parties.

“What’s obvious with a lot of children is that, even by quite a young age, their relationship with food is already difficult,” Chris notes. “It’s very natural for children not to want to eat very green vegetables, for example, because of the strong chlorophyll flavour, but by cooking them in different ways and getting them to eat them in different ways you can overcome that.”

Doing things differently in this context will often include trying out mindfulness, which Chris introduces using the ‘raisin test’.

“We take any ingredient, usually fruit or veg, and they put it in their hand and look at it,” Chris explains. “It’s getting to know it, looking at the way the light shines on it, giving it a sniff, pulling it apart so you can really smell it, and putting it on your tongue but not eating it straight away. Then we’ll talk about how that’s where digestion starts.

“What amazed me the first time I did it was how it intensifies the flavour of what you’re eating. It’s so powerful. And alongside that, if you try it with food that’s heavily processed in a negative way, the flavour of that food is always absolutely dreadful because you’ve explored it properly. If you slow down the way you’re eating, you get to enjoy your food – and learn which food you enjoy.”

It’s all too easy to be distracted by screens these days, or just the rush of work and family life, but actively paying attention – not only to what we put into our body but how our body reacts to it – can help in more ways than one. Chris is fascinated by ongoing research into the gut microbiome and digestive health, and particularly its influence on good mental and overall health.

“I think personalised health is about listening to your body,” he says. “Sometimes we wait for something to be wrong, whether it’s a skin condition or IBS or a heart problem. It’s about getting people to think, ‘If I get my digestive health right, the rest can follow’.”

You can find Chris’ recipe for cured mackerel with carrot purée, pickled carrots and wasabi avocado in Sauce Spring 2019.

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