For those of you who lamented the lack of food or wine in Eileen Wright’s previous article, this one more than makes up for it. I got hungry reading it.
Blackburn, England boomed during the Industrial Revolution. Flemish immigrants settled into town and produced cotton products within their own houses (no mills or unions). Blackburn soon became the “weaving capital of the world” with products such as “Blackburn checks” and “Blackburn greys”. As World War II approached the town’s people were not worried about bombs, they were worried that the town depended solely on the textile (cotton) industry. Unfortunately, Blackburn suffered from the great depression and its population dissipated. Blackburn made a turnaround in the 1950’s with the engineering industry but currently enjoy the international attention due to the very popular football (soccer) team, “Blackburn Rovers”.
The day turned into night and I had not eaten since breakfast seven hours previous. Today, I wanted to see how the local pub fare has changed since my visit in 1979 (ouch, I think I just dated myself). I settled in at The Willows Pub. My memory takes me back to items such as: Sheppard’s Pie, Fish and Chips, Haddock and Peas, Bangers and Mash and Trifle for dessert. I was so pleased to see wonderful changes for instance: Wasabi Tempura, Moussaka, Chicken Tikki Masala, BBQ Ribs, and Cajun Chicken – an extremely multifaceted menu.
The items that had suited mine, and my friends, curiosity were:
Somerset Brie Tart: a shortcrust cheese pastry filled with vegetables, a creamy summerset brie sauce and topped with an herb crumb. This savory delight speaks for itself; beautiful fresh vegetables baked within a rich texture and hints of mushrooms- an amazing umami experience!
Next, Beef in Red Wine: British tender, slow cooked beef in a rich red wine, thyme and pancetta gravy with silver skin onions and slices of roasted field mushroom. The rich sauces compare equally to any sauce I have had whether in France or back home; flavors of the roast’s drippings, butter, bacon and a slight red wine flavor finishing on the palate. Succulent roast, beautifully tender falling off the bone that could be cut with a fork was shared by all until every last drop of gravy was gone.
Of course: Pedigree Beer Battered Fish and Chips: Battered in-house with Pedigree beer batter. The British are still top when it comes to fish and chips – just don’t forget the malt vinegar!
Peach and Apple Frangipane: sweet pastry tart with white chocolate, peach and apricot, baked in a frangipane (almond) filling: Incredible dazzling peaches and apricots baked in an almond crust, fresh and warm baked that morning.
Bread and Butter Bread Pudding: a fruity tea cake loaf made with West Country clotted cream, layered with plump raisins and sultanas and covered in a rich creamy egg custard and baked to perfection; I have to admit, I am a bread pudding fanatic. I will order bread pudding anytime it is offered. My expectation was set more on the pudding variety then on the bread variety. This pudding (dessert) was dry but I do have to admit that the outcome could be different due to the amount of cream, custard or ice cream one adds.
Lastly, Caramel Pie: chocolate pastry base, layered with caramel, soft sweet chocolate middle, finished with caramel. This was the biggest surprise of the night; how could chocolate and caramel not be sweet with a need for a chaser? I have come to find that the English are not big into sweet; this was an amazingly creamy rich dessert without the icky sweet palate.
Each order of dessert came with a choice of either: cream, custard or ice cream and of course I asked for one of each. Again, all sides were very plain and honestly uninteresting.
The wine poured to accompany our meal was Condesa de Leganza Tempranillo Crianza La Mancha, Spain: Medium-bodied red wine with ripe fruit and vanilla hints on the palate – a soft yet complex wine which paired fabulously with the sundry flavors in the course of our meal.
I can sincerely say, the local pub made a phenomenal impression on me and I am delighted to say I have experienced a great transformation.