Winding roads, rich pastures and generous rainfall was the first thing that greeted the attendees of the Slow Food UK Wales Chef Alliance launch. The small car park at The Crown at Whitebrook quickly filled up with cars that had just taken the journey through the picturesque Wye Valley, the birthplace of sweet green spears that would soon appear as one of five delicious courses.
The guests were warmly welcomed by the friendly staff with tall glasses of Highland Park Whisky cocktails, smoked bacon beignets, Welsh eggs with truffle mayonnaise and hot cheese profiteroles. As the smells from the Michelin Star kitchen filled the room, the gastronomes turned their attention to the purpose of the day. Catherine Gazzoli (Slow Food CEO), Charles Campion (Forgotten Foods advocate & Slow Food Advisor) and Gareth Johns (Slow Food Wales Leader) poignantly addressed the crowd on the importance of keeping local and regional produce alive by employing sustainability and biodiversity as a way of life. Stressing the need to keep scratching the back of the local farmer and not let these specialised producers fall by the wayside.
The Chef Alliance Project plays such an integral role as the stepping stone between the producer and the final user. From earth to plate and from birth to late, the initiative aims to inform, educate and influence the users of the food chain to act responsibly and ethically when it comes to land and sea. At the end of the day the best food is good, clean and fair and the guests at Whitbrook had even more tasteful ways to describe the meal that day.
Modest and focused, Chef James Sommerin joined us in the restaurant momentarily before galloping back into the engine room to place the delicately, slow cooked pheasant eggs in a dish with crispy bacon and Wye Valley Asparagus. A perfectly seasoned fillet of Mackerel followed, partnered with horseradish, white chocolate and beetroot and it was no surprise that new season Welsh Lamb would be on the menu. To our delight it was perfectly cooked, hugging tender sweetbreads, St George mushrooms and spring vegetables. As if this wasn’t enough when two desserts of decadence were placed in front of us. Rhubarb, lemon and vanilla cleansed the pallet to brace our spoilt taste buds for a Strawberries, white chocolate and lime.
Complimented with a delightful prosecco, floral pinot gris, robust, spicy shiraz and light sweet moscato, we were drinking like Kings and Queens all thanks to Naked Wines generous help. A smooth 18 year old Highland Park Whisky for the road and Slow Food Wales were ready to spread the word for a better way of living. As the Slow Food team rolled out of Monmouthshire, the impression was that Wales and the West Country was already fully aware of how brilliant and unique their produce is and almost reluctant to share it. Let’s hope that the last a final instalment for the regional Slow Food Chef Alliance Launches, has the Midlands willing to share another fruitful part of the United Kingdom and the great produce that lies within and around her borders.