MK Food & Leisure Awards 2017

The winners, the food and how many glasses of fizz!?

JUDGING THE Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards Chef of the Year Cook Off 2016

Yesterday was quite a different sort of day for me. I got up early and went to college…

Well, the Brasserie at Milton Keynes College Bletchley campus to be precise. It was time for the Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards chef cook off 2016. A live cooking contest between local chefs from a whole range of local pubs and restaurants. A bit like Masterchef that you see on the TV and best of all, I was going to be a judge. Me!   

There were eight chefs competing for the coveted title of Chef of the Year:

Jack Behjet – The Crooked Billet
Brendan Flynn – Bell & Bear
Grae Conyers – Nonna’s
Daniel Novak – Woburn Brasserie
Neil Grimble – The Black Horse, Woburn
Chris Doyle – Oliver’s Restaurant, The Woburn Hotel
Spencer Orlington – Bistro Live
Vikram Kumar Sharna – Maaya Indian Kitchen & Bar

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All the chefs were to cook up three courses. A starter, main and dessert.

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The starter was a mystery box challenge. Eight identical boxes of ingredients were given to each chef and they were given just one hour to discover the contents of the boxes, conceive an idea for a starter, cook and then present it to us. This was so interesting to watch and to observe the thought process of a chef creating a dish from scratch.

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The main course was up to the chef. It was their chance to show off the very best dishes in their repertoire.

The dessert course was to present a trio of desserts. One, had to be a chocolate fondant. One, had to be a cheesecake, but the flavour was negotiable. The third part of the trio was to be chosen by the chef, a dessert that they felt complimented the other two parts.

It was not an easy task judging, but judge we must. All the chef’s worked exceptionally hard and turned out some stunning dishes on the day. Scores have been tallied and the Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards Chef of the Year 2016 will be announced at the glittering awards ceremony at Woburn Abbey on May 8.

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The Judges

 

Reckon you’re a good judge? There are still many categories that YOU can have your say in. Deadline for voting is 30 April 2016 and you can vote on their website http://www.mkfla.co.uk/

Special mention to The Brasserie who received an award in recognition of their talent and hard work from the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire on the same day I was there. Congratulations! 

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My Mother’s Day / Nonna’s / Lush Pampering / Pure Bliss

Yesterday it was my thirty third Mother’s Day as a daughter and my second as a Mother myself. I spent Saturday preparing my own Mother Afternoon Tea at her house with homemade scones and all the trimmings. I gave her a small gift of the Enchanted Eye Cream from Lush as a small token of how much I appreciate everything she does, not just for me but the whole family. She’s already used it a few times and was keen to tell me how much she loved how her eyes have been feeling, so I’m super pleased she’s enjoying it.

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On the Sunday I was extremely lucky to be given a lie in whilst my husband took the reins and kept our little monster occupied. When I awoke I thought I could smell something cooking but thought I must be imagining it, but when I heard both Mr LouBou and our little boy running up the stairs I saw they were carrying a big plate of cupcakes, they had been busy in the kitchen. I was super touched at the effort (especially that early in the morning). A cup of tea was brought upstairs and I enjoyed tea and cake in bed. It was the perfect beginning to Mother’s Day.

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I was given my first handmade Mother’s Day card from the child. To you it probably just looks like scribbles but to me it’s perfect. I am definitely cherishing this card forever. My husband had joined in and made me a card too to say thank you for being a Mum to our son. How sweet is that? I was also given some gifts, of course they were from Lush, where else? I was given a big bottle of Yummy Mummy shower cream and possibly the cutest bubble bar Lush has ever made, the Ladybird and my very own Enchanted Eye Cream to try. We then all snuggled down in bed and watched Peppa Pig cartoons until we felt like getting up and active.

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First it was shower time with my new Yummy Mummy shower cream and a little extra pampering with Lush’s Love Lettuce fresh face mask. Yummy Mummy is the first shower cream I’ve used as I usually opt for shower gels from Lush. The cream feels luxurious on your skin, moisturising and left a great scent on my skin that lingered for hours after. It has a dense purple colour, so it looks a little strange but it doesn’t stain your skin and that’s how it packs such a moisturising punch. Definitely going to be looking at more shower creams from Lush now as my skin always leans towards the dry side.

Like all Mums know, there is never truly a day off normality. That’s life and it’s not a big deal. So we then hit the supermarket to get some bits and bobs that were needed, we saw so many people running around with bouquets of flowers in their arms. I am guessing there’s a lot of happy Mum’s out there with cut flowers in their homes today.

Mr LouBou insisted on a pit-stop to enjoy one of my favourite noms. Shrimp tempura sushi rolls from Akasaka, the Japanese/Korean restaurant in Wolverton. It was a good call and kept us going as I knew a table had been booked in advance at Nonna’s for dinner.

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The afternoon was a mix of sofa slobbing with the new season of House of Cards and playing on the Wii U whilst the child napped. Netflix and Mario Kart are probably my two most favourite past times when it comes to things to do away from beauty/pampering and of course, the child. House of Cards, Forensic Files and Better Call Saul are my Netflix loves at the moment. Time ran away quickly and then it was time to get us all ready and leave for the restaurant.

This wasn’t going to be our first visit to Nonna’s. Our first visit had been back on Valentine’s Day weekend last month. It had been an enjoyable meal but we had felt let down by a few service issues. We had received a personal apology from the owners and because we had enjoyed the quality of the food and the setting of this extremely relaxed and pretty restaurant in Woburn Sands, we agreed to give them another go.

When we arrived we received a lovely warm welcome from the staff and were seated in the back restaurant room. It reaffirmed my admiration for the décor in this brasserie/restaurant. It’s so relaxing. Like you’ve been invited into someone’s home for dinner. Someone who is decidedly chic and full of understated style. I am a sucker for a candle and there’s some dozen of them on each windowsill.

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Massive mummy blogger point to Nonna’s. Not only is it great to see young children welcomed as part of our party, it was also great to see a highchair at our table, already in situ with the chair that had been there before, now long removed. Too many times I’ve turned up at a restaurant that’s been booked in advance for a high chair to have to ask for it once we’ve been sat at our table, even when the server can clearly see that we have a small child with us. It’s highly annoying trying to be prepared and then to have to hold a toddler still who just wants to explore his new surroundings, then having to move chairs and get a highchair in place around other diners, which can then start your meal off on the wrong note. So, thanks Nonna’s for thinking of us, it’s only a small detail but it really goes a long way with us parents. I was also presented with two pretty pink flowers for Mother’s Day and felt very special indeed.

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We had pre-ordered our food from their special Mother’s Day menu. I had the seafood cocktail, Mr LouBou the meatball and egg soup. We both had the pan fried garlic and peppered Hake fillets for main with a whole variety of sides. Sweet potato mash, triple cooked Tuscan chips, roasted med veg and ham and asparagus croquettes. Our son had garlic pizza bread and pasta Bolognese.

Each dish was presented beautifully. The seafood cocktail was served inside a warm fresh roll which was very comforting. A few chilli peppers inside the cocktail made for an interesting twist and the cucumber balls were dainty and refreshing. Mr LouBou enjoyed his meatballs, the soup in particular was well seasoned and full of flavour. 

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It was the first time for both of us eating Hake fillets. It’s a tasty fish and could tell it was well cooked. The star of the main was the roasted red pepper and thyme sauce that the fillet sat on. It complimented the generously sized Hake well and the pretty purple cress-like garnish was a lovely touch.

Our son, whose toddler tastes can vastly change from one meal to the next, confounded us both with his appetite. He devoured the majority of the supper plate sized garlic pizza bread and had half of his well sized children’s portion of Bolognese (do remember he’s only just over 18 months) he then even proceeded to tackle our sides and enjoyed the sweet potato mash very well.

With the starters and main now demolished and being washed down with a bottle of rose prosecco, we were looking forward to our desserts, although concerned whether we could squeeze them in our nearing-full tummies. But when the food is coming out and tasting this yummy, you’ve got to at least try! I had ordered the warm blackberry and apple pie and my husband the intriguing, chocolate and orange baked risotto. I’ve never heard of a sweet risotto before, but we eat rice pudding, right? It couldn’t be too bizarre, I was sure.

I hasten a guess that a chocolate risotto is a very hard dessert to make look visually appealing. But with the handmade chocolate decoration, I think the chef had a fair attempt. The taste was a great balance of sweet chocolate and bitter orange without being too sickly sweet. The generous slice of pie with vanilla ice-cream crowning the top of it packed a zingy fruity punch that you get from freshly peeled Bramley apples and sharp fresh blackberries. The ice-cream was a pleasant mellower to ensure it wasn’t too tart. The child had a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and I’m sad to say he was the only one to finish his dessert course. We were defeated.

Service throughout the whole meal was attentive, friendly and helpful. I wonder whether after Valentine’s Day we were being taken extra special care of and only a future visit will give a more consistent view of how Nonna’s service is on a regular basis. But when you’re looking at their freshly cooked, well made dishes served at a fair price, I don’t think it’s going to be long before we are back to try something else.

I noticed when we were leaving that they have another special menu for Easter. It’s something I am definitely going to consider.

When we got home it was time to unwind. I enjoyed the Lush Ladybird bubble bar in a hot bath with the little one. I think this Ladybird is going to be one of my all-time bath favourites. A mountain of lovely smelling bubbles with very little needed from the bar and we both came out thoroughly relaxed, pink cheeked and moisturised.

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I don’t think I could have dreamt of a more enjoyable day with my little family. Another day, another reason why I am so lucky to have two such amazing guys in my life.