Feb 072017

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia.

L-R, Paul Whitecross, Nick Nairn and Ross Spence.

Three of Scotland’s finest chefs are teaming up to share their passion for food in a unique culinary experience, which is set to be a recipe for success for Aberdeen.
Nick Nairn, Ross Spence, executive chef at The Marcliffe Hotel & Spa and Paul Whitecross, executive chef at Trump International, will each present an individual course aimed at delighting the senses, showcasing their world-renowned gastronomic skills.

The trio are working together to cook-up Savour, a culinary feast which will take place on Saturday, 4th March, at the Marcliffe Hotel & Spa.

The event is being hosted alongside North East Sensory Services (NESS), a charity which supports people of all ages from babies to grandparents, who were born deaf or blind, or for those who have lost their sight or hearing.

The chefs will each create a course for the gastronomic adventure, focusing on the senses of taste, smell and sight, which coincides with the charity’s work with people with sensory issues.

Ross Spence said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to work with Nick and Paul for this event and we will present a superb overall dinner which will thoroughly delight the guests. NESS is an important charity in Aberdeen and across the North-east, supporting more and more people with hearing or sight loss, and we are delighted to host this unique evening.”

Paul Whitecross added:

“The team at Trump International is always keen to support charities which are important to the North-east community and this is set to be a fantastic foodie event to tantalise the tastebuds of the diners who are lucky enough to secure a place at this exclusive event.” 

Nick Nairn commented:

“Given our position with the business and our commitment to the North-east we wanted to be able to give something back to the community that supports us.  NESS is an excellent charity and it’s a wonderful opportunity and a wee challenge to create a feast which excites the senses.”

NESS CEO Graham Findlay said:

“We are delighted that these prestigious chefs are taking the time to devise and present a unique menu for NESS. We are looking forward to an incredible evening, which will excite the senses.

“Nick, Ross and Paul are great supporters of NESS and the Marcliffe Hotel & Spa has been a very good friend to the charity for many years.”

As well as a four-course dinner focusing on the senses of taste, smell, and sight, the evening will include a champagne drinks reception, a VIP auction and raffle, followed by entertainment and dancing.

Savour will take place on Saturday, 4th March, 2017, at the Marcliffe Hotel & Spa. Tables are priced at £950, with individual tickets available at £95, and can be purchased from neil.skene@nesensoryservices.org or by calling 0345 271 2345.

Issued by Frasermedia Ltd on behalf of NESS.

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Jul 262012

Gubby Plenderleith samples a premier epicurean experience.

It’s amazing how many people think that life as a hard-nosed journo is all glamour and perks.

This hack, however, can tell you that that, most definitely, is not the case.

Until recently, the only ‘extras’ I ever enjoyed were getting home the same day I set off for work.

Imagine my surprise then, when I was summoned to see ‘the big chief’, aka the editor of this electronic rag. 

I say ‘surprise’, but my initial reaction was one of terror and dread – that’s the way most of us newshounds react when summoned to the great man’s lair.

So there I was, quaking in my boots (well, Gucci loafers actually) as I arrived at our esteemed leader’s 5th floor eyrie and reported to Brunhilda, his secretary, executive minder and Amazon queen.

“Sit,” she commanded, pointing to a small waiting area, “and don’t dare move!”

I obliged and, after what seemed like a fortnight’s holiday with the family, she barked,

“That’s him free now” and pointed at the heavily armoured door which led the way to the head honcho’s hideout.

Taking a deep breath, I stood up and made my way, on strangely gelatinous legs, to the entrance to his lordship’s sacred retreat and my unknown fate.  As I approached the portal, it slowly opened to reveal a vast chamber at the end of which sat the nabob of this esteemed organ.

“Come away in, ehmm … Pendledork,” he shouted, “and be quick about it, I don’t have all day!”

I was quick about it and hurried across the deep pile axminster to the majestic desk behind which he loured.  Fixing me with an icy stare, he idly flapped a glossy brochure and growled:

“OK Pittendreich, I need someone to go and check out Pierre Whitting Heston-Balls new eating place but Torquil McCorqudale, my regular critic, is down with a gippy tummy, something about a bad oyster or some such bloody thing.  Anyway – cut to the chase – there’s no-one else so it’s got to be you, God help us!”

 Talk about a bombshell. I was rendered almost speechless and could only croak out a weak:

“Y-yes boss, Mr W sir.  When do you, I mean when would you like … well, you know …”

He appeared to have anticipated my question as he barked:

“As soon as poss, man, which means bloody NOW! 

“Brunhilda’s got travel documents to get you and Mrs Plunderteeth down to Gargunnock – pick them up as you leave.  Now I’ve got work to do so …”

So saying, he dismissed me with a flap of his hand and, as I exited the editorial control centre, his amanuensis handed me a brown envelope as she told me:

“There you go – two Stagecoach tickets to Stirling, where you’ll need to change ‘buses for Gargunnock.  You’ve got a 7.30 reservation at Mr Heston-Balls’ restaurant and, as this is an under-cover job, your booking’s in the name of Smith and you’ll need to pay cash.  Got that? 

You’ve also got a double room booked at Mrs McLaverty’s B&B – we’ve used her before and she demands payment up front.  Make sure you get receipts or your claim for exes won’t be sanctioned.

“That’s it Plenderleith, on your way and don’t let us down or you’ll have me to answer to.  OK?”

I’ll skip the intermediate bits like ‘phoning the good lady wife and pleading with her until she eventually agreed, albeit unwillingly, to accompany me, the deprivations of a Stagecoach ‘bus trip and the, highly-debatable delights of Mrs McLaverty’s doss … er, boutique establishment.  Suffice to say that, suitably dressed – Euphemia wore her new twinset and tweed skirt – we presented ourselves at the gastronomy master’s four star Austerity Canteen a few minutes before 7.30.

  what they’ve achieved has a truly authentic ambience of deprivation and financial hardship

The award winning chef’s latest venture was inspired, I read in the menu, from his deep conviction that we all need to economise if we are to weather the current economic recession.  To that end, the proprietor had brought in his crack team of interior designers to create an ascetic wilderness in what was once the local benefits office and the final result is simply breathtaking.

The menu notes further reveal that they had invited some local youths to spend an evening attacking the walls with sharp implements in order to obtain a genuine distressed look.  They also employed a squad of folk scouring the country for anything old and battered that could be used in the eatery – from tables and chairs to cutlery and kitchen equipment that had seen better days.   And what they’ve achieved has a truly authentic ambience of deprivation and financial hardship.

But on to the menu itself which, true to the general theme of this cordon bleu bistro, offered an extremely limited choice, an aspect which went down very well with Mrs P who abhors making decisions.

For starters, my dining partner opted for the Scotch broth, made from an old Scottish recipe consisting of a few chopped vegetables left to marinade overnight in a dram of whisky.  I, on the other hand, went for the old traditional failsafe of a Scotch salad, in this case comprising a lettuce leaf, 2 slices of cucumber, half a tomato and a tablespoon of grated carrot.

Following the appetisers we were both keen to get our teeth, quite literally, into the mains for which my colleague plumped for the mini all day breakfast.  This comprised two chipolata sausages, a couple of quarter rashers of bacon, a brace of fried quails eggs and a button mushroom drizzled with a ketchup jus.

My choice, on the other hand, was the vegetarian dish of le pain grillé avec les pâtés, which was revealed as a piece of toasted bread topped with a scoop of alphabetti spaghetti.  We washed our interesting feast down with a bottle of the house wine, a cheeky little liebfraumilch which, the sommelier told me, could be picked up for just over £3 a bottle in Tesco.

Our main course over we were excitedly anticipating our puddings when our waiter brought us bad news.  It turned out that the container van that delivers the creamed rice to the Stirling Lidl had been involved in a motorway pile up so the only sweet available was fruit salad with lait d’carnation.

My other half asked if the fruit salad was fresh and, after checking with the kitchen staff, our waiter was able to vouchsafe that, not only was it fresh, but the tin hadn’t even been opened yet.

By the time we had greedily devoured our dessert it was still early – barely 8.15 – so we decided to skip coffee and explore the sights of Gargunnock before returning to Mrs McLaverty’s.

As I settled the £236 bill I realised that we had just had an experience denied to so many in these cash-strapped times and, as I said to herself while we strolled through the town:

“I think this is the best fish supper I’ve ever eaten!”

May 242012

By Suzanne Kelly.

Some months back I had a chance to take a full day course at the Nick Nairn Cookery School, but I never got my schedule straightened out in time to sign up.

Instead, I found time for ‘Quick Cook: Classic Crepes’ – a two hour lunchtime course.

I am not the most easily pleased person, but I can truly say this course was everything it should have been – instructive, enjoyable, hands-on, perfectly structured, and the results were delicious.

I already knew how to make crepes decently – so I thought.  Louise’s techniques (different and clearly superior to my usual style) were demonstrated with enthusiasm and clarity.

We were all flipping crepes and turning out beautiful, perfect golden specimens by the time Louise was done with us.  The other students were clearly having fun, and one woman was profusely thanking her friend for taking her there as a gift.  And that was even before we tasted our handiwork.  The immaculate, state-of-the-art cooking area and dining bar were a joy to work and eat in.

The savoury crepe we were making was to be filled with a smoked haddock and cheddar sauce with herbs.  I decided to taste some of the herbs before adding – and I’ve never had better except perhaps from my garden.  Louise explained what to avoid when buying smoked haddock (ie artificially coloured fish which often has other additives) – what we had ingredient-wise was the best you’d be able to get – I wish I could remember where in Scotland the cheddar was from.

As we sat down to eat the crepes we’d created (garnished with rocket), Louise demonstrated how to do Crepe Suzette.  This dish may be retro to some, but I personally love it, and it is apparently gaining in popularity.

There was no time for us to make the dish ourselves – but with the skills we had learned and what was demonstrated, we will all be able to replicate it at home. Suffice it to say that the Crepe Suzette she served the students was better than any I’d ever made, or that I’d ever been served.  (I make my own variation which I call ‘Crepe Suzanne’ with Jack Daniel’s – and I’ll be trying that very soon with my new skills).
I’d learnt a better way to cut and dice, a faster and more successful way to make white sauce, and I’ve taken away a dozen other hints and tips.

Don’t bother trying to get on the next crepe course – it’s already sold out.  But whatever your level of cooking or your specific culinary interest, there is a course for you.  I’ll be on the next full day Nick Nairn course I can get on.

Eleven out of ten.  This is a win for Aberdeen, and I wish the school every success.

May 172012

By Suzanne Kelly.

Nick Nairn’s long-awaited Aberdeen Cook School, which opened its doors on 9th May, caters to a demand from would-be cooks from across the country.  The £500,000 project is providing further jobs and a tourism boost to the north-east of Scotland.
The new Aberdeen Cook School has been a passionate desire of Nick’s for several years and is located in a stunning listed building – formerly St Nicholas Kirk’s old church hall in the city centre – which has been transformed into two separate state-of-the-art foodie havens.

Work on the building has been carefully designed to enhance original features such as the carved mouldings and stained glass windows, alongside striking stainless steel and white kitchen areas, designed by Kitchens International.

The new cook school follows on from the success of the Nick Nairn Cook School in Port of Menteith, near Stirling, and Nick explains:

“We have a disproportionate number of people coming to our existing school from the north-east, so an Aberdeen school seemed a natural progression.  Also, the north-east is a farming community and some of the finest produce comes from here.

We have found that cooking enthusiasts from this area are passionate about developing their skills and particularly enjoy entertaining at home.  They can commit time to learning due to their working patterns and disposable incomes.”

Nick will also be trialling a brand new venture in the new cook school, with after-work and lunchtime classes at its Quick Cook Bar.  This is a new urban concept where participants can cook, learn and eat in two hours, picking up invaluable tuition from basic knife skills to creating culinary masterpieces.

Nick said:

“ It will be perfect for people who work during the day.  You can pop in after work or do it over a long lunch-break.  It’s also an affordable place for students to come along and learn to cook for themselves.”

The Aberdeen Cook School is employing 10 people, as well as two well-known chefs heading up Nick’s team.

Head chef Kenny Smart, who joins from the prestigious 1906 restaurant at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, will run the large teaching kitchen upstairs.  The Quick Cook Bar area downstairs will be overseen by Louise Chapman, previously restaurant co-ordinator for the hugely successful Taste Festivals.

Nick will also teach classes on dedicated days, as well as the cook school’s established chef John Webber.  John brings more than three decades of knowledge and experience, having trained with Anton Eddelman and Anton Mossiman before being awarded his own Michelin accolades in the country house hotels he previously worked in prior to joining forces with Nick twelve years ago.

While full-day classes for 24 people will be held upstairs at the Aberdeen Cook School, the ground floor level will also feature a cook shop, selling essential kitchen kit from a £5 heatproof spatula to a £3,000 Falcon range cooker – and gadgets that gather absolutely no dust.

The new Nick Nairn Aberdeen Cook School also makes an exceptional private hire venue with bespoke options – including Nick himself – being available.  Various gift cards are available for classes as unique, thoughtful presents.

Aberdeen classes start from Sunday 20th May and can be booked now via www.nicknairncookschool.com or by calling 01877 389 900.