Summer Greens – Producers’ Lunch at The Old Course Hotel
I was really excited about the quarterly Producers’ Lunch being held at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. I know the food was going to be good, but didn’t realise how good. The man responsible for the day’s menu was Head Chef Ross Marshall, almost young enough to be my grandson, who has just won Young Chef of the Year – congratulations young man, well deserved!
Champagne and canapés were served in the Road Hole Bar. As the wind whipped the sea into swirling white foam on the steely grey water, we were treated to six glorious courses featuring some of the best local food. Laurent Perrier champagne went down very nicely with the lush canapés; these were beautifully presented and tasted gorgeous.
One of the diners hadn’t had steak tartare before, but with gentle encouragement from those present, gingerly tried it and was very surprised how good it tasted. It wasn’t what she expected, I think.
We were also treated to blue cheese mousse and grapes on baby oatcakes. The combination of crunchy oatcake, creamy mousse and a sweet juicy grape will always be a winner.
Voluptuous always comes to mind when scallops appear and these were just that; served with cauliflower puree and florets – opalescence of Italian marble, sweet as a mermaid’s tear and soft as a lover’s kiss.
Not to everyone tastes, but I loved the unctuous, velvety texture of a shot of beetroot and apple gazpacho that was a most satisfying deep purple. I felt it was doing me a world of good.
And no plate of canapés is complete without smoked salmon, served on blinis. I could have happily stayed on the squishy sofa eating these joyous morsels and sipping fizz for the rest of the afternoon, watching the gulls battle with the strong winds that battered the golf course and sea.
We were led to our tables and I found myself sitting next to Simon Whitley Director of Food and Beverage at The Old Course, so it was good to chat with someone whose passion for local, seasonal ingredients was on a par with my own views.
There were softly whispered oooohs as our lobster soufflés were gently placed in front of us. I think we were quiet so as not to disturb the delicate fabric of the dish. Teasing the top apart I dribbled the watercress into the soufflé and breathed in the fresh seafood fragrance. There was silence around the table as we savoured every delicious mouthful.
The plates were cleared and another beautiful dish was set before us. This time Falkland venison, which was smoked in the kitchens at the hotel; exquisitely presented, delicate as an angel’s wing and gone all too quickly.
The last in the trio of mains presented was West Coast sea bass, pan seared perfection in a savoury soy mushroom broth that didn’t intrude on the delicate nature of the fish. Roasted squash added a blaze of burnt orange complementing the almost monochrome coloured dish. I could have quite happily eaten another plate of this fabulous food.
Dessert was to be taken outside on the deck, but due to the inclement weather we stayed at our tables to enjoy the quirky fruit satay and white chocolate dip; refreshing mango-wrapped sorbet, skewers of pineapple to be dipped into a warm pot of white chocolate. I’m not a fan of this confection, but the sweetness was balanced against the strident fruit.
But my favourite had to be the pancakes with the wild Fife berry compote and clotted cream ice cream. I just loved the simplicity of this dish. The heady berries and the ice cream took me back to my childhood of long hot summers; strawberry, raspberry and blackberry stained lips and ice cream dripping down my arms, melting in the heat of the day. Bliss!
We finish with coffee and chocolates made by Iain Burnett the Highland Chocolatier as we chat with Ross the young chef.
He has free range in the kitchen to design and build the menu according to the seasons, “The produce we work with at the resort is nothing but the best, and it gives me the opportunity to create, what I hope, is seen as some very innovative and exciting dishes,” he smiles. He asks if we enjoyed lunch and we nod in agreement. He is a quiet spoken young man with an immense talent and just wants to cook food that will be enjoyed by all his guests. Standing there in his chefs’ whites and stripped apron he adds, “It has been a pleasure to cook the lunch today, and I have received some lovely feedback form our guests about the event and the dishes, which I hope impressed them!”
Ross Marshall certainly deserved winning Young Chef of the Year and, I for one, look forward to heading back to St Andrews when the wind has died down, the sun has come out and the golf competitions done and dusted.
Suppliers at the lunch: Iain Campbell of George Campbell and Sons who supply the hotel with fresh fish. Lynn Birrell of John Birrell and Son supply fruit and vegetables. Stuart Birtles, regional account manager from champagne house, Laurent Perrier.
(c) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track. 2011