Thursday, March 24, 2016

In Good Taste: Feast Review for Highbridge IV

[Editor's Note: photos courtesy of Jason Rosa; bangers and mash photo courtesy of Britny Fowler]

Highbridge is an event known for its daytime education (fun, IC classes taught by PCs to PCs) and for its immense feast.  In the past, Rhiannon set a table of devastatingly good food.  This year,  Melissa managed to fill those shoes (and bellies) in an amazing fashion.  While this was my first Highbridge, I was stunned at how tasty the food was.  While I do not claim to be a gourmand of any sort, I do love food.  Of course there were a few glitches, but these are unavoidable when serving such a massive amount of food pre plated.  Many dishes came out cool, but still incredibly tasty.  Each course had a MADE FROM SCRATCH bread to go with it.  What?!?!  No, seriously.  I could have been thrilled with the breads alone.  But why stop there?

The first course was the "salad course"  Out came these delightful little plates with baby spinach, dots of balsamic, a pecan half, and topped with a goat cheese filled raspberry.  It looked like a little bloom,
and I was pretty excited, but shocked, as this is not what I heard about for portion size.  I gobbled down my raspberry and nut, and quickly stole a few others.
This lead to a fun IC interaction between Atticus/Tam Lin (the host) and Aymise having a fun argument about portion size.  She rectified the situation with a different salad:Below is a picture of the "salad course".  Bangers and mash with proper brown gravy, served with a side of peas with mint.  
Due to my diet, I missed out on the delicious traditional bangers, and was served the vegetarian version, of veggie Italian sausage with mushroom gravy on mashed.  While the Italian sausage didn't mesh perfectly with mushroom gravy, the gravy and potatoes were delish, and the portion size was intimidating.  I ate about half the dish.  The star of the course, in my mind, was the home made Parker House Rolls.  They were little half circles of delight, I would have eaten about 6 given the chance.  There was no chance to steal any, as everyone else promptly devoured theirs.

After the "salad" course was a soup course.  creamy and smooth potato and leek soup was simple but elegant.  Its hard to get the flavor balance right for this soup, it can easily be bland, or too oniony, but this was just luscious. It was served with home made rosemary focaccia that was crispy and chewy.  
A small (though bigger than the first salad) salad of spinach, goat cheese, candied pecans and a fresh raspberry vinaigrette rounded out the course.  This is the one course I ate everything (the portion was very reasonable)

While some people might have seen this as a strange detour from the traditional English fare we had been feasting on, the chicken curry is, in fact, a very very common dish at English dinner tables.  This
curry was very well spiced, no easy task.  The palette of the chef behind this dish was able to balance the flavor and heat in a way that most people cannot hit.  The choice of chicken thigh meat was the way to go, as many other cuts of chicken can easily dry out before picking up the flavor from the sauce.  Served with a wonderful, crispy naan.

At this point, we were starting to feel the effects of 3 full meals served (each course was a meal unto itself, by design)  Many plates were going back tot he kitchen with a  lot of food still on them.  Sadly, mine was included.  To mangle a song quote:  The spirt it willing, but the flesh is getting full.  
Thankfully, we got a 'break' with a palette cleanser.  There was some dickering at the table about the flavor of the sorbet, but it was a lemon/lime basil.  The first flavor was a sweet, syrupy taste, which was followed by a citrus zing, and the herby greenness of the basil.  Perfect texture.  Many people asked for seconds on this course.

For those who had the professor package, a croquembouche of profiteroles filled with cream and drizzled with chocolate could be had.  Again, very well executed, pretty to look at, and just as
delightful on the tongue.

This was the knock out course for me.  1- after this, I couldn't eat any more.  2- I am sure the nothing could top this course, it blew me away.  
I ordered the beef, and was shocked at the rare roast beef with roasted veggies, asparagus, and
yorkshire pudding.  This is one of my favorite dishes, so I was beside myself.  The only complaint is the food was cold when it hit the table, but this is nothing against the chef.  When serving 40 plated dishes at once, some are going to get cool before they hit the table.  The beef was perfectly cooked.  PERFECT.  I got crispy edges with seasoning, rare center, and incredibly tender.  The roast potatoes were nice, and the yorkshire pudding was filled with nostalgia for me.  fluffy and crispy, with a slight chewy texture, yorkshire pudding should be served more often.

The trio of desserts (each full sized) included sticky toffee pudding, treacle tarts, and banofee cupcakes.  

To round out the meal, tea was served.  Not just the beverage, mind you.  No, proper English (low) tea.  Scones, sandwiches, and other snacks.  Which no one had the room for.  A shame, it all looks lovely.  

In sum, this feast was fantastic.  Easily one of, if not THE, best feasts I have been to.  The flavors were all perfectly balanced, the theme was clear and adhered to.  The only negatives were minor: cold food, and an upsetting amount of wasted food due to portion size.  While I understand the point is to have an overwhelming amount of food, it was kind of heartbreaking to see so much of the delicious food sent back to the kitchen, then to the trash.  Half portions of the servings would still be a meal unto themselves, and would allow folks to enjoy (most) of each course.
This feast is absolutely worth the drive and the price.  I ate better here than I would at most restaurants.
All in all, I know I will be trying my damnedest to hit this feast next year.

1 comment:

  1. For anyone reading, bring your own leftover containers like Rekees did; you can save some of the deliciousness for yourself in your car(ts) afterward. :)