Any excuse to visit the White Swan at Pickering, so when an email popped into my in-box inviting me to lunch with the CEO of Slow Food UK and some of Yorkshire’s top chefs, I was off like a shot.
The event was sponsored by Highland Park whisky so we were welcomed with a cocktail of Highland Park and ginger beer.
Lunch was a fabulous menu of northern loveliness, cooked by Darren Clemmit of the White Swan, all regional seasonal produce including ingredients from Slow Food’s Ark of Taste – some 44 foods which are in danger of disappearing and which Slow Food want chefs to promote and help save.
Our starter of potted shrimps come from one of only two Morecambe Bay potted shrimp producers left in Britain. The damson jam in our roly poly pudding came from the beautiful damson orchards of the Lake District that similarly need protection. From Yorkshire we had bread made with Spaunton Mill spelt from the North York Moors, watercress from Eric Smith at Pickering Watercress, and red cabbage pepped up with Ampleforth cider. Roast belly pork was supplied by Tim Wilson, the Ginger Pig man who farms at nearby Levisham and whose delightfully named rare breed Plum Pudding pigs are a cross between a Berkshire and a Tamworth producing – guess what? – a ginger pig with black spots. We finished with some Highland Park, tangy Ryedale cheese from Shepherd’s Purse served with, a nice touch this, Chorley cakes.
The point of all this deliciousness was explained by Catherine Gazzoli, the CEO of Slow Food UK. She wants to sign up top chefs across the UK to a new initiative called the Slow Food UK Chef’s Alliance, with the aim of getting more sustainably sourced, regional produce on restaurant menus.
All the chefs seemed in agreement that the initiative was a good thing. For our part, a Slow Food logo on a menu would be a great way of pointing out a restaurant that cares about its food and sources the best possible ingredients. In other words, just the kind of place we like to champion here at Squidbeak.
The chefs at the lunch were: Richard Allan from Create, Richard Johns from Artisan at Hessle, Colin McGurran and Sleweck Mikolajczyk from Winteringham Fields, Mark Taft and Jack O’Sullivan from the Angel at Hetton and our hosts Victor and Marion Buchanan at the White Swan.