Patrick Williams, at the Goods Shed. It’s been a privilege.

Quite a few years ago I used to have a weekend stall at the Goods Shed. My first memory of Patrick Williams was seeing him a few times before starting his kitchen. He would stay for a while, leaning on the banisters of the restaurant, it seemed he was reading the Goods Shed and its people. My second memory is a very personal one. It was the smell of his lobster bisque. I walked into the Goods Shed and suddenly I was a child again, transported to my grandmother’s kitchen in Roses, on the Catalan seaside, on a Sunday morning. Memories of smell can be incredibly powerful and make a huge impression. I think this was the first time Patrick and I spoke.

And it was typically thoughtful of Patrick that for my last lunch (for now, I hope!) from him at the Goods Shed the lobster bisque was there. With this perfect fillet of bream.

seabreamAs was his extraordinary beef and cep stroganoff. He used to send me and a few other fanatics a text each time he made it. I really hope this wasn’t the last time I have ever eaten this.

ceps stroganoffI have taken quite a few pictures of his food, ever since I got the Instragram food bug. And here they go, my way of saying thank you for so many happy moments, new and old memories and luxury train snacks.

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IMG_4341Somehow I never got round to taking a picture of the sausage rolls. They were the best in the world.

Patrick is starting a new life in London, planning to become a Hip Replacement (move over Hipsters!). He promises his music and his food will be back in Canterbury, so don’t despair.

Uplifting Canterbury: Salt

Salt, used well, lifts up flavours in food that would otherwise remain hidden. A simple, powerful ingredient that makes or breaks a dish.  So Salt seems a good name for a restaurant looking to offer simple, well made, seasonal food. And when it comes to the looks, the approach is very similar. Simple, relaxed decoration, gently lifting up a Canterbury building full of character.

25560828-233049.jpgFood comes in “small plates” ranging from £2 to £7, from a daily changing menu on the blackboard, and they make sharing easy. We won’t use the word “tapas” here, but that might be the idea.

Some gems from their menu this summer:

Almond and goats cheese balls with an apricot dip.

25560828-233138.jpgChargrilled Summer Vegetables with basil walnut and pesto

25560828-233255.jpgMarinated herring and pickled quails eggs

25560828-234429.jpgSalmon fishcakes with sour cream and pickled cucumber (apologies for the blurry picture!)

25560828-233404.jpgLamb meatballs with mint sauce

salt meatballsAnd a very unexpected highlight: a humbly named, and even humble-looking Summer Salad. It combines leaves, perfectly cooked crisp beans and peas with a subtle raspberry vinaigrette dressing. And just the right amount of salt. Someone knows what they’re doing!

25560828-233933.jpgA pared down list of puddings, starring a modestly named dark chocolate brownie with Kircsh cherries and vanilla ice cream (we thought it’s in the realm of a fondant).

25560828-234241.jpgAnd a peanut butter butter parfait with macerated raspberries. If you have not tried this, do.

25560828-234319.jpgThat is not all. Sunday evenings are music nights at Salt, live music from local performers, often raising money for good causes. Much to like.

Looking forward to their winter menu.

Salt is at 13 Palace Street, Canterbury, CT1 2DZ, and they can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @saltcanterbury. Closed on Monday evenings and Tuesdays.

Potted crab at the Windy Corner Stores, Whitstable. And how to get there.

A very good thing about Canterbury is that it is very close to Whitstable. And if you haven’t been to Whitstable, you really should go. For the seafood, the shingle, old and new character shops, pubs sea huts, sunsets and an increasingly stylish dose of eccentricity. And if you like cycling at all, then that is another good reason altogether.

The person writing this is not a seasoned cyclist. In fact, didn’t even own a bike until a few weeks ago. So, on a perfect English summer day, a similarly unfit friend and I set off on the Crab and Winkle Line, an old rail track that is now a pretty much road-free cycle route linking Canterbury to Whitstable.

The route starts with a big, steep hill up to the University of Kent, which we managed to walk pushing our bikes. Not a bad start! As you leave then university campus the landscape becomes more and more rural. In early August there are beautiful fields of blond wheat and cherry orchards along the way.

Wheat fields and girly bikes

Wheat fields and girly bikes

And there are quite a few nice places to stop, you can disguise exhaustion quite successfully by taking a keen interest on the very historic Blean Church, and when you reach Clowes wood there is a shady picnic area where it would be rude not to stop for much needed substenance.

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One more hill and you reach the outskirts of Whitstable, you’ll probably feel the sea air first, then hear the seagulls. There’s a bit of quiet road, and you need to pay attention to the signs when you reach the train station. If you are new to Whitstable, following signs to the Harbour will get you to where you probably want to be.

IMG_2153And you will quickly find yourself immerse in the happy bustle of the harbour. Whitstable is not short of good eating places and cycling makes you very hungry. There are plenty of Whitstable oysters, shellfish and fish and chips available from the Harbour itself. We fancied a slower pace so we turned left towards the Seasalter end. And on the way there was quite a lot of fantasizing about getting a beach hut. This one in particular.

IMG_2155And we made it to the Windy Corner Stores, which is a neighbourhood shop/cafe/pop-up restaurant/ secret cinema/ tapas bar… All in a very welcoming place.

windy signThese thirsty cyclists quenched their thirst on the beautiful Fentiman’s Rose lemonade (yes, it has rose, and ginger, and it works).

IMG_2144 And feasted on great focaccia sandwiches and particularly well seasoned potted crab.

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At Windy they also sell very good cakes. Very, very good. And as you need plenty of energy to cycle back to Canterbury it would be foolish to give them a miss.

Windy Corner Stores is at 110 Nelson Rd, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1DZ, 01227-771707, and they tweet as @WindyCornerS

You can hire bicycles locally from Canterbury Cycle Hire, near the Canterbury West train station.

Browns: looks like an innocent coffeehouse. It’s actually the door to a whole new world!

Until today I always thought of Browns Coffeehouse (off Stour street, in Canterbury, by the river), as just a classic coffeehouse. A place with big squashy sofas, free wifi, a very well made flat-white coffee and delicious macaroons. Somehow I hadn’t realised quite how much more was there was to it.

Rewind to two weeks ago. My old Bialetti stove-top coffee maker finally died. After many years of use it had become almost impossible to screw open after use… and at my last attempt the handle broke. So I started using a French cafètiere press just because I had one around. I did not like it. It seemed time to get a “grown-up” coffee machine, which I expected to be very expensive and bulky, and I asked a friend who I knew to be fairly obsessed with coffee what should I get. He mentioned something called AeroPress and said he’d get me one.

And he did get me one. And got a demonstration of how to use it. And tasted it. And I am no longer a flat-white woman. There is another coffee world out there and this was a first glimpse.

Then I took the AeroPress home. And this happened.

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And then this.

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It was much, much better than any coffee I had ever made with the Bialetti and, of course, the cafetière. But not nearly as good as the one I tasted at my friends’ house. So today I remembered that I had seen tweets about Browns CoffeeHouse selling some very good coffees. So I thought I’d give them a try.

And obviously the coffee gods considered it was time to finally let me see what real coffee is about. Because when I walked into Browns their large table was set up for a coffee tasting. Or coffee cupping as I now know to call it. And they were very happy for me to join in. So I did.

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There is no way I can explain exactly what happened, or even attempt to give names to all the new aromas I experienced for the first time ever. And I did not manage to taste the blueberries or pomegranates in the coffees as mentioned in the tasting notes.

One thing I learnt, though, was how important the water you use is. Thom Burrows, the barista, made two versions of each coffee, one with tap water and one with mineral water. This was one difference in taste I did manage to get. And you could see it very clearly too.

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Tap water on the right, mineral water on the left

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And how to do you taste coffee?

You pour the water on the ground coffee. A very precise ratio of coffee to water that I can’t remember. Then let it rest for a very precise time that I can’t remember either. And then you use a couple of spoons to “break the crust”, which is the top layer of ground coffee that has floated to the top.

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And taste. No, you don’t drink it. You slurp it, as loudly as you can manage, from a spoon.

And you are in a new world of coffee. We had four different coffees. Until today, the only aromas and flavours I had really noticed in coffees where completely dominated by over-roasting. I could tell if a coffee was more or less bitter, or, in some cases, stale. I had no idea there were so many other flavours out there!

So, tasting (or cupping!) done. Time to get some coffee to take home. And not only did I get my coffee ground, but I also got an Aeropress tutorial by Thom Burrows. This is the “inverted” method. Because the Aeropress is upside-down. And, of course, it was amazing.

And now I really covet a brewing kettle with a thin spout, super precision scales with a timer, and a coffee grinder, of course.

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Browns hold regular coffee cuppings and they love answering questions and, best of all, demonstrating how to make good coffee. They are very happy to let you into this new world of coffee.

I seem to remember there was a time when it was nearly impossible to get a good cup of coffee in England. It seems a very long time ago!

Browns CoffeeHouse is at Water Lane, off Stour Street. Canterbury CT1 2NQ.

An English tapa for a Catalan competition

Friends of mine who run Mes Cub, one of the most imaginative restaurants in Girona, are running a tapa competition… which must be submitted via a short video using Vine App. and the hashtag #vinealmescub The prize is very appealling: a weekend for 2 in Girona (flights not included). More precisely: “two nights accommodation at Peninsular Hotel, dinner at our restaurant and a travel bag with vouchers worth €100 for you to spend in restaurants and participating establishments, allowing you to discover all the secrets Girona has prepared for you and your companion”. And they cook your tapas too. Girona is one of the foodiest cities in Catalonia, if not in Europe, so it seems worth having a go. Deadline is the 1st of April 2013, if you are interested!

So, what can a Catalan in Canterbury do? It would make no sense to try to submit a Catalan tapa, as I can’t get the right ingredients (specially this time of the year!). It’s early March and at the Goods Shed the only signs of spring at the moment are the wild garlic and some very early tomatoes. So, sticking to English winter flavours, the veg stall has some very pretty looking beetroots, local walnuts… Cheesemakers of Canterbury have the clean-flavoured Rosary goats cheese on their counter… and as it happens today the Wild Bread people are here with a fantastic-looking sourdough.

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And here is my tapa:

Golden beetroot with goats cheese and toasted walnuts on sourdough toast.
Clean up the beetroots and boil till they feel soft when you prick them with a fork. Crack the walnuts open and toast in a frying pan. Cut the cooked beetroot and the goats cheese into cubes, put into a salad bowl and add the toasted walnuts. I used a very simple dressing of three parts extra virgin olive oil, one of Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, a bit of lemon juice and Maldon sea salt. And finish by serving it on a toasted piece of sourdough.

And eat. And, I hope, enjoy. These are flavours I certainly love and I would have never come across in Catalonia.

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I don’t think I will win as my actual video wasn’t very good, Vine only gives you 6 seconds and I can’t see that there is a way to edit it… And it is not so easy to film and cook at the same time, even if it is simple food like this! If you enter the competition I suggest you find a camera person to help you out for much better results. But it has been fun to look at English winter food with tapas in mind and find strong and simple flavours that I do not think have anything to envy what we normally think of as tapas.

Pudding love at Rafael’s Restaurant at the Goods Shed

I loved Marina O’Loughlin’s review of Rafael’s Restaurant at the Goods Shed. Everything she said about it sounded just right. As it happens, Emma Wilcox and I had eaten there around the same time (maybe even the same day?), and also had THE treacle tart (in Marina’s words: “The only disappointment I’ve ever had is a timid treacle tart, lacking the texture and jamminess of the best”).

2012-12-14 16.12.46I can see it wasn’t what we usually think of as treacle tart. It was rather soft and had more in common, somehow, with a custard tart. But it did come with a perfectly infused creamy bay leaf ice cream that made me very happy.

We had also ordered another pudding: Pears poached in mulled wine, served with cinnamon ice cream and meringue, caramelised crab apples… and a dainty cup of mulled wine. It was as beautiful as it looked.

The thing is, I have always really enjoyed the puddings at Rafael’s. And one unusual, or even disappointing, treacle tart does not take that away. Here comes a little trip down my own memory lane of their beautiful puddings.

The bay leaf ice cream. It was so good I had it on its own on the next visit. And I do have an almost identical photo of a surprisingly delicate parsnip ice cream. And their cinnamon icecream. And the pumpkin one…

2012-12-16 14.40.55A perfect winter apple mess

IMG_7036Happy summer memories of a lemon tart with poached strawberries

013 trimmedAnd the biggest treat of all: this early October sharing platter. Worth getting a group of people together just to be able to share. I have always found that the worst thing about the puddings at Rafael’s restaurant is having to choose just one.

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This is a SANDWICH, do not accept bad imitations

Apparently, 11 billion sandwiches are consumed in the UK every year. These are a lot of sandwiches. And not many are enjoyable, sadly. But good sandwich experiences are possible.

Jonny Sandwich, at the Goods Shed, Canterbury (Kent), a very talented chef, makes consistently superb sandwiches to order. Be prepared to wait, every sandwich is made without shortcuts. We think of sandwiches as fast food, Jonny gives them a bit more time and care, and it shows.

2012-12-23 11.11.27The bread is cut and buttered.

2012-12-23 11.13.03Going for a beef sandwich. Juicy meat cut straight from a perfectly pink joint. No dry bits of meat that have been sitting around in fridges.

2012-12-23 11.16.44Adds caramelised onions and roasted tomatoes

2012-12-23 11.18.20Looking rather good, well seasoned.

2012-12-23 11.25.36Some leafs and lemon juice.

2012-12-05 12.07.04The finished article. This IS a sandwich. Say no to cheap and fast imitations.

 

© Adelina Comas-Herrera and A Canterbury Food Love Story, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Adelina Comas-Herrera and A Canterbury Food Love Story with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.