Can we assume by now you are feeling a certain level of withdrawal from your favourite restaurant experience? Understandable and we feel your pain which is why we have pulled together some of the elements for you. An enjoyable restaurant experience is so much more than great food, and although we can’t bring you the service aspect (delegate!) we are delighted to bring this collaborative collection which looks after your wine, pre dinner drinks, entertainment and our three course menu suggestions.
Table setting & wine selection
Like many people our dining table has become our home office but pushing all the paperwork offside for an evening is worth it. We have chosen a simple set-up of white linens, glassware and we have gone with a romantic botanical style by adding some greenery and what is a well aged candelabra which has lived in an outdoor space and as a result has naturally developed a fabulous rustic feel.
The all important drinks selection
We are starting the evening off with a cocktail ‘The not so Old Fashioned’ but before we start mixing we need to get our wine on the table and breathing. Our good friend Liz Harding-Bottomley from Titanic Wines Ltd is joining us to talk us through our choice of wine for tonight.
The ‘Not So’ Old Fashioned Bushmills Whiskey Cocktail
‘The Old Fashioned’ has as the name suggests been around for years, and there are many variations. The choice of Whiskey for us can only be Bushmills, made at the other end of the village from us and is reportedly the oldest licensed distillery in the world! We have chosen the 10 year old single malt but our personal favourite for this cocktail is the Black Bush, which is a blended whiskey with a high proportion of malt and it is aged in sherry casks. Bushmills Irish Whiskey will feature again at the end of our ‘Date Night’ evening as we are bringing you Gary Stewart’s (Tartine at The Distillers Arms) recipe for the perfect Bushmills Coffee.
The ‘Not So’ Old Fashioned Bushmills Whiskey Cocktail
35ml Bushmills Irish Whiskey 10 year Malt
25ml soda water
A couple of drops of Angostura bitters
Orange peel & slices
1 heaped teaspoon soft brown sugar
Optional (to sugar the glass)
Whipped egg whites from one free range Glenballyeamon egg
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Take the orange peel and rub the rim of the glass with it skin for flavour. As an optional touch dip the glass rim into the whipped egg white and then into the sugar. Place brown sugar in the base of the glass and add soda water, stir until sugar is dissolved fully. Add ice and pour in 35ml Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Stir well and top up with prosecco. Pour Angostura onto the orange garnish and drop into the cocktail and serve.
If ‘Music is food for the soul’ our ‘Date Night’ would not be complete without taking time to think about what to play. Restaurants need music to help create atmosphere but what we are brining you tonight is far superior to background music. We have a live performance for you to enjoy with your pre dinner drinks. Ruth McGinley is a gifted NI performer who comes from a hugely talented family, she is a former winner of the prestigious ‘BBC young musician of the year’ award and has performed with the BBC orchestra and many others worldwide. We first discovered Ruth through her sister Tanya, a dear friend and a great supporter of the French Rooms. Tanya and her husband Murray Erskine (also musically talented) gifted us Ruth’s album ‘Reconnection’ which is a diverse album of some of our all time favourite pieces. We have been hooked ever since.
Tonight’s exclusive performance is the Debussy classic ‘Claire de Lune’ which means ‘Moonlight’, a heart breaking love song perfect for our special evening. Ruth shares this emotional performance in such an effortless way you will be playing it on repeat. To learn more about the talented Ruth McGinley check out her stunning website www.ruthmcginely.co.uk. Her album ‘Reconnection’ is available to buy online via her website via iTunes, Amazon or direct.
Baked Camembert with McIvors Cider
A simple starter which can be prepped in advance and served oven to table. It is still possible to get great Northern Irish camembert style cheeses. Colooney or Ballylisk are excellent choices for this recipe both can be sourced online, check out the Taste Causeway E Shop for starters. McIvors Cider is a French Rooms favourite not solely because the family producing this deliciously refreshing drinks selection originate from France but they have created a top quality award winning cider.
1 whole camembert style cheese
100ml McIvors medium cider
3 clove garlic (2 chopped)
Northcoast Smokehouse smoked salt & pepper
12 Sourdough slices (thinly sliced)
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees (fan). If you do not have an ceramic dish with a lid suitable for the oven, take a piece strong baking parchment paper and use that to wrap the cheese and the cider reduction and tie with string to keep the liquids in.
Reduce the McIvors cider by placing the garlic clove, rosemary and the McIvor’s medium cider in a small saucepan and allow to infuse. Pierce the camembert with sprigs of rosemary and pour over the cider reduction. Tie up the baking paper or place the ceramic dish in the oven for 15 minutes.
To make the garlic toasts heat the garlic and the butter in a saucepan, season with North Coast Smokehouse salt and brush onto the sourdough slices (any crusty style bread will work, just slice thinly). Butter both sides of each slice and place in the oven for approx. 4 minutes.
Remove camembert and garlic toast from the oven and serve immediately.
A rich red wine stew which can be as complicated or as straight forward as you wish it to be. During our demonstration video I tell a story about attempting a recipe by the great Thomas Keller, Chef proprietor of Napa Valley’s French Laundry (which is on my bucket list). Thomas published a stunning coffee table book called ‘Bouchon’ a few years ago and I couldn’t resist. Every page makes your mouth water, the photography is stunning and the recipes are technical but inspiring. Whilst juggling a busy career I announced that I would make his Beouf Bourguignon recipe for a special birthday treat, 3 days later after following the very detail recipe to a ‘T’ , I served up my version. I had at that point been turned off the whole concept of the dish myself so couldn’t face a plateful and the Birthday Boy took one taste and said ‘Its OK but not as nice as the last one you made’. Lesson learned, I now always read both the recipe and the method three times and decide how much time is required and if I have the motivation to dedicate that time to recreating that dish. Paula McIntyre published a great cookbook a few years back aptly entitled ‘Down to Earth’ , Paula included recipes that she knew her foodie followers can handle and will get a sense of satisfaction from preparing. The following recipe is my own adaptation of a well loved favourite, I have bulked it up with carrots as we need to prepare food sensibly especially during Covid19 but as with all my recipes you can adjust and alter to what you have ‘in stock’.
Ingredients (serves 2/3)
500g beef pieces
1 large onion or equivalent shallots (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 bay leaves & fresh herbs (parsley and rosemary)
200g sliced mushrooms
100g smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 tbsp plain flour
1 75cl bottle of red wine (Burgundy if possible but not essential)
200ml chicken stock
Northcoast smokehouse salt and pepper
Broighter Gold smoked hickory rapeseed oil.
With a drop of Broighter Gold Smoked Hickory oil Brown the meat, remove from the pan and add the carrots to the same pan and soften. Add the onion and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the flour to thicken, pour in the chicken stock and stir well. Add the browned meat pieces back into the saucepan and cover with the red wine. Finally season and add the herbs. Cover and place in a low oven 130 degrees for at least 2 ½ hours until the meat is tender and the juices are a deep red colour.
Sauté the mushrooms and streaky bacon in Broighter Gold smoked hickory oil. Remove the Bourguignon from the simmering oven and add the mushrooms and bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. Serve with rice, creamed potatoes or crusty bread.
This baked custard is a winner. Not difficult to make but impressive to your guests when entertaining at home. You can make it the day before and ‘brûlée’ it just before serving. This recipe includes milk as well as cream. We do this to make the brulee a touch more delicate which after the Bourguignon is not a bad idea! The key to success with this desert is preparation. The gently warmed milk and cream mixture is dying to form a skin so you must have your dishes ready in the makeshift bain-marie (water bath) before you even place the mixture on the stove to heat. Be ready to skim off the mixture to ensure your brulee is smooth. Another top tip to avoid the scrambled egg version is to slowly add the milk and cream mixture to the whisked egg and sugar mix. You can flavour your brulee – another favourite author of mine is David Lebovitz who features a delicious recipe in ‘My Paris Kitchen’ which includes espresso and Kahlua …………..maybe a variation for next time! Please note I have kept the recipes suitable for small numbers to reduce any waste potential, adjust as appropriate.
Ingredients (2/3 portions)
3 eggs yolks (free range Glenballyeamon)
200ml double cream
50ml whole milk
Vanilla pod or a drop of vanilla essence
Brown sugar for the topping
Preheat the oven 150 degrees (fan oven). Prepare your ‘bain-marie’ place 2/3 ramekins in a deep baking dish and pour in hot water. Gentle heat the milk and cream, as it reach boil turn it down to a gentle simmer. Whisk eggs and sugar, add the vanilla essence. Take the cream and milk off the heat, skim off any foam or skin and slowly whisk into the egg yolk mixture. Before pouring into the ramekins, remove any skin or foam. Loosely cover with foil, ensure the foil does not touch the ramekins. Place in the oven for 40/45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle some brown sugar on top of the baked custards and caramelise with a blow torch or place under a hot grill. Serve immediately.
We started our evening off with a Bushmills Whiskey Cocktail and we are ending it with the suggestion that you follow Chef Gary Stewart’s (Tartine at Distillers Arms Bushmills) recipe for the perfect Bushmills Coffee.
Finally, to end what we hope has been a really special evening we have one more special performance for you to enjoy. We dedicate this moving rendition to all the front line workers out there who are helping Save lives as we Stay at Home and Stay Safe. When we clap for the NHS our thoughts are also with the retail staff, Royal Mail & delivery service workers, care home workers, refuge collection teams and all of those who are taking risks every day on our behalf. Thank you and grab the Kleenex as I introduce Ruth McGinley and her performance at the BBC Proms in the Park a couple of years ago. Little did we know then that rainbows would symbolise what they do today. Thank you Ruth x.
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