Season + Taste’s April 2017 Mexico diary!
Cargo Cantina is set to be the latest hospitality business to come from Season + Taste,
opening down at Cargo 2, Wapping Wharf. We are visiting Mexico for 10 days to get
inspiration, finalise plans and meet suppliers, before opening the Mexico City inspired Taco
Bar in June. Myself, Kieran, and Cargo Cantina manager Sara Sanna (not forgetting baby
Winston Waite!) set off for Mexico in the middle of April….
Day 1 Tuesday 18 th April
Arriving in the dark…..
Perhaps unwisely, I left reading the foreign office advice on travelling to Mexico until just before boarding our 11 hour flight. Driving through the dark streets of Mexico City at 5am with our baby, I wondered if we’d made the best decision. It doesn’t make light reading, referencing Mexico’s problems with crime and violence, carjacking, theft and even kidnap. It didn’t sound like the same country Kieran and I fell in love with on our travels 10 years earlier.
Thankfully in the light of day, we found the lovely tree-lined streets of the Condesa neighbourhood (where we are basing ourselves) were anything but intimidating. We started our exploration of Mexico City with ‘tacos de canasta’ for breakfast, sold by a friendly man with his taco stand at the corner of our street. These are literally ‘tacos in a basket’ - you add the salsas yourself, which also come sold in baskets. From this taco stand we could see at least four other street food stalls, and were already salivating - we were going to be spoilt for choice!
Further exploration of the local area led us to a bustling street market which is only there on Tuesdays- we had struck lucky. Vendors plied us with tasters at every stall, and the scent of ripe tropical fruit was intoxicating. Here we had our first taste of Mexican ‘barbacoa’ - totally different to our expectations of barbeque from the UK. Shoulders of baby goat are wrapped in banana leaves, and buried in a smouldering fire pit. The meat slowly steams until it is completely tender and falling off the bone, keeping its flavours and juices locked tight in its banana wrapping. The barbacoa is then delivered to the market in an insulated wooden box, still wrapped in its casing of leaves.
By the end of our first day I felt relaxed and at home in Mexico City. Yes, you do have to take plenty of sensible precautions, like taking taxis at night and avoiding certain areas. But the people are overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming, and parts of the city have a wonderfully relaxed air you just don’t expect in such an enormous capital.
Stream Farm April 2017
Tucked into a secluded valley high in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, Stream Farm nestles in the heart of the countryside, producing top quality organic beef, chicken, lamb, rainbow trout, and more. Stream Farm are unique in their methods of egalitarian share farming – and take agriculture and its methods very seriously. They are proudly organic, and their livestock clearly enjoy a quality of life unrivalled by the suppliers of supermarkets.
Bravas assistant manager Fee, Bravas Head Chef Mark, Bakers FOH member Dani and Season + Taste assistant Emma visited the farm in early April on a sun drenched Friday. James, who heads up Stream Farm, took them around the farm to visit the new life – beautiful calves, born to their pedigree Dexter cattle, grazed amongst the daffodils next to their lake. Dani, Emma and Fee even got to hold Stream Farm’s first lamb of the year – who they affectionately named ‘Dani’ after our own Dani! – who had been born just a few hours before the team arrived.
Before they left, James and his colleagues offered the guys some of their deliciously crisp homemade organic Stream Farm apple juice, along with a plate of their home-smoked, award-studded rainbow trout. Fee, Mark, Dani and Emma were sad to leave this calm corner of the world behind…..but took the trout with them. You can sample the delights of Stream Farm rainbow trout on the menu at Bravas, cooked simply on the plancha, and also in their newest White Russian salad (which you won’t want to miss)!
MARCH 2017 – Bravas go to Sevilla!
On a damp, blustery Sunday in March, we gathered at Bristol Airport at the ungodly hour of 5am to hop it over to Sevilla for a good dose of Vitamin D and tapas. Stepping off the plane into beautiful Spanish spring sunshine, we all breathed a sigh of relief!
15 of us, plus baby Winston, took it upon ourselves to eat as much tapas as possible over the ensuing trip. We sampled the delights of backstreet tapas bar Las Teresas in Sevilla’s city centre, tucked shoulder to shoulder feasting on sweet mushrooms soaked in olive oil and seeped in garlic, delectable jamon, and sipping on sherry. When Kieran and Imogen first took the Bravas staff to Spain 3 years ago, it wasn’t quite so tricky to take 3 of them out to the local tapas bars. With 15 hungry mouths to feed, cramming into bustling bars in Sevilla wasn’t as easy – but all the more fun for it!
We took in lots of supplier visits along our way too – morning sherry and brandy drinking at the Bodegas Romate, where we get our beloved Cardinal Mendoza brandy for Bravas, and Losada, our olive producers, who hand pick – and hand process - our exquisite green olives
La Azotea, one of Seville’s best tapas bars, opened for us especially and created a 12 course tasting menu just for Bravas – complete with classic paella, salmorejo with melt in the mouth mackerel, and simple sweet organic tomatoes with rock salt and drizzles of olive oil.
On our way back from Sevilla, we stopped off at one of Bravas’ favourite haunts – Malaga Market. Birthplace of our now famous aubergine with molasses, we took in the sights and smells of the market, snacking on razor clams, concha finas, and of course, fried aubergine, before hopping on a plane back to rainy Bristol, dreaming of the sun soaked streets of Sevilla left behind……
MARCH 2017 –Intermediate Level Barista Skills training with Extract Coffee
We are proud to serve the wonderful Extract coffee in both Bravas and Bakers & Co, and are always keen on fine tuning our coffee making expertise. There’s no better place to do that than at Extract HQ…..
Our general manager Jose, Bravas assistant manager Fee and Supervisor Edgar joined Bakers & Co manager Paul and assistant manager Beth to take their level 2 Intermediate Speciality Coffee training at Extract’s roastery in St Werburghs, Bristol. This coffee training, which is SCA approved, focuses on taking baristas’ skills in depth – looking at not only how to produce the perfect cup of coffee, but also probing the processes behind this.
The team learnt about coffee cupping – exploring the complexities of coffee flavour – which is a skill akin to wine tasting. They also practised making high quality coffees with stunning latte art as fast as they could – a key asset to any barista’s repertoire!
Join us at either Bakers & Co or Bravas to reap the benefits of the team’s efforts and to sip on a cup of our delicious Extract coffee whenever you like!
March 2017 - Bravas and Bakers & Co Shipton Mill Visit
On a beautifully sunny day in March a few members of the team headed to the Cotswolds to have a look at where our wonderful flour comes from.
We started in the classroom at roller mill site, where we learnt about different types of grain, and individual properties of various flours.
We then donned our lab coats and headed outside to see where all the grain (1000 tonnes per week!) is delivered and deposited in to huge silos, where it is stored before being processed in to flour.
Each delivery is tested in their on-site laboratory, to ensure that all the grain that makes it to the mill is of the highest quality. After having a poke around in the lab, we were led in to the unbelievably loud milling room, where the grain is fed through different sets of rollers to be split and ground.
The grain is split in to two main components : bran - most of which is waste, however some is added back in at a later stage to make wholemeal flour; and semolina - the really valuable part, which is ground ever finer until it resembles the white flour that we are all familiar with. Chris pulled out samples of the flour at different stages so we could feel the different coarseness of each stage (excuse the hairnets):
We then set off to visit the stone mill. Half an hour away and down a winding stoney lane stood the historic building, next to a beautiful stream and nestled amongst biodynamic gardens - not a bad place for an office!
We spent the next half an hour climbing up old wooden ladders and ducking around low rafters to see the inner workings of the mill. The huge stone burrs work in pairs to grind the grain - the process is much simpler than the modern roller method, however it is harder to control and the bran and semolina remain unseparated. This is great for a traditional stoneground wholemeal flour but the method is far less suitable for finer white flour.
You will find Shipton Mill flour in all of our breads and cakes. You can even pick up a bag for yourself in Bakers and Co. for using in your own creations at home!