Monday, 21 September 2015

When the chef came to dinner: The Plough at Eastbury

There's a pub near Newbury that is my partner and I's go-to place for treating ourselves gastronomically. One evening, he surprised me again and off we went through some Berkshire villages to our favourite spot. I had scallop, lobster, and crab Thermidor which was a dream. I may have licked the plate but don't judge me - you would too. It was so good that I couldn't manage all of my surf and turf of Rib-eye steak and giant prawns. I rolled home, happy as pie. This pub is called The Plough at Eastbury and we love it. Graham and Louise do a great job and it's a pleasure to spread the word about it.

The most important thing we saw that evening was the board in the bar about a gourmet quiz night. It was happening in a few weeks time so I messaged round the foodie crew and the 5 of us went along on a warm Tuesday evening to see what it was like. It was a very reasonably priced 5 course tasting menu with matching wine. As each course and wine would come round, we'd have a question and answer sheet about how it was cooked, what ingredients were used, what year and what grape the wine was etc. At first, it was going well, we guessed that the amuse bouche was a green veloute but guessed that it was broad bean and not asparagus. Fatal error. Most of the answers we got wrong were discussed amongst us but we all somehow convinced each other of another answer. We regained points on the cold-smoked trout (chef was impressed that we were the only ones to get the technique of the trout down - go Budgie!).

Fish course was fried monkfish but we guessed crayfish, but we regained points again with the finer details with the ingredients in the sauce. Meat course was pulled pork and goat with a crunchy salad and sweet potato mash. We did ok here. Don't think anyone guessed the goat. The cheese course is where it all went wrong. We hadn't even heard of the cheese, Chaource, but trust us to be in competition with a french cheese specialist. Shame they knew nothing apart from cheese though (haha). We gained almost no points for that course, but then the desert came. There were small black seeds in a mouse like fool and I said there is only one fruit with seeds like this and that's a dragon fruit. We put it down in vague hopefulness and chef nearly ate his hat. He thought that that was a definite that no-one would know but then how did he know that one of the quizzers had it every morning in a smoothie from a stall in Thailand?! Our knowledge on the finer detailed ingredients put us ahead of the pack and we won by a strong margin. Beginners luck was no way a part of it, we just love our food.

With regards to the wine, I don't actually remember much about it and I didn't really know any of them - that was Katie's department. We did well and got a sauvignon blanc spot on. That reminds me, I do want to do some sort of wine tasting course so I can taste and judge wine with more of an expert nose and palate. Perhaps a vineyard visit when we go to Spain next week.
At the end - chef Graham announced that the winners (yes, us!) would receive a meal cooked by him at our home...our mouthed dropped open (and Katie screamed). We thought we'd get a bottle of wine. So, after a mission to get everyone's calendars together, we picked a Monday evening when his kitchen at the pub was quiet, and he came to cook two beautiful courses for us lucky people. We'd get one of our favourite chefs cook us dinner? At home? What a night.

That Monday night arrived and we were treated to scallops, hogs pudding, pork belly, blackberry, cold smoked venison and trout for starter followed by venison, pigeon, and crab in a Vietnamese nasi goreng style sauce. The roasted radishes were a delight. Until that night, I've only ever sliced a raw radish in a salad. We absolutely loved it. All of us who ate at the meal work hard every week night to put yummy dishes on our own tables but for this special evening, we were the ones who got cooked for and we dined like kings and queens.

Here's to more foodie memories and the reigning gourmet quiz champions maintaining their new title! Thanks Graham.

ZP x

P.s. Please note that the The Plough didn't ask me to write this - we genuinely just love the place.

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