It may still be cold outside but with Valentine’s Day and Shrove Tuesday on the Calendar, February already has some great foodie highlights to look forward to. But in addition, the food and drink businesses of Milton Keynes are once again offering up a bunch of exciting food & drink events this month from pop up catering to evenings out and monthly markets.
Kicking off the foodie delights in February are Open Air Foods, whose shop will be reopening on Friday 4th February, alongside their neighbours, Bourton Farmed Foods. There is a new veranda on show and, of course, local pork and lamb products raised with the highest welfare plus the usual deli delights from Open Air Foods. Find them on the Bourton Road, off the A421 not far from Buckingham.
You can also enjoy some of Open Air Foods’ catering at their pop-up café at Evenly Wood Garden, not far from Buckingham. This delightful privately owned garden is a lovely place for a walk and now you can stop for a bite of lunch. The launch day for this is Friday 4th February and then they will be open at weekends until the end of February. The gourmet menu can be viewed on the Open Air Foods facebook page or on the website for Evenley Wood Garden.
The MK Biergarten will once again be hosting a number of events throughout February and the first of these will be on Monday 6th February. This Beer & Indian Food Tasting night will run from 7pm to 10pm and tickets can be purchased for £22 per person. This is a collaborative event with Wolverton based Saf’s Kitchen and tickets include five Indian snacks paired with five beers.
Following this, the next event at the MK Biergarten will be a special Valentine’s night Beer and Chocolate Pairing. This takes place on Tuesday 14th February from 7 to 10pm. After the success of two ‘Chocolate and Beer’ tasting events of 2016, The Chocolate Mill MK is back at the Biergarten to present a new set of culinary delights with a romantic twist. There will be five beers, five types of chocolate and lots of information about the pairings. And don’t feel shy, it isn’t just for romantic couples – everyone is welcome.
On 22nd February the Bierclub is back between 7 and 10pm with a Cloudwater Special. Come and taste some interesting and unusual beers from this Manchester based brewery that is getting people talking.
Saturday 11th February is the first of the Artisan Markets for 2017 up at Wakefield Country Courtyard near Potterspury. Taking place between 10am and 4pm there will be plenty of local artisans showcasing their food, drink and crafts just in time for Valentine’s Day. Hot street food will be provided by Clucking Oinks and there will be a selection of interesting food stalls from locals Jam Moo Kow, the Chocolate Mill MK, Fistful of Spice, Reasons to Season, Geoff’s Real Artisan Bread, Minkiemoo Bakery and Indian Orchard. In addition there will be a number of non-food craft stalls. With Upton Smokery, Wharf Distillery and Virtual Orchard in the farm shop and the ARTea Room all on site, this is an ideal opportunity to pick up an interesting Valentine’s gift and to enjoy some unusual local food and drink. Look out for future artisan markets taking place on a bi-monthly basis at this venue.
After a successful debut in January, the Sunday Street Food Session returns to the Craufaud Arms in Wolverton on 12th February between 12 and 6pm. This month hot food will be provided by AVegetative State, The Little Oven of Joy, Caribbean Shack, Urban Grilla and Sizzler Burger Shack. Regulars to Wolverton Farmers Market will be familiar with AVegetative State’s selection of vegetarian and vegan fayre. The Little Oven of Joy is a Wolverton based wood fire pizza stall. Caribbean Shack is Taco Shack having a mix up and trying out some Caribbean cuisine. Wolverton’s Urban Grilla will be doing a fabulous Greek style barbecue and Sizzlers will be serving up handmade gourmet burgers. Nicky Kenny will also be there selling her homemade vanilla fudge in time for Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget that the Craufaud Arms serves real ales, craft beers, wines and a selection of soft drinks and families are welcome. Keep an eye out for this event, occurring on the second Sunday of every month and featuring a variety of local food traders.
As well as the collaboration with the MK Biergarten, Saf’s Kitchen will be busy this month with various other ventures. If you don’t fancy cooking your romantic Valentine’s meal then you can pre-order one from Saf’s Kitchen. These homemade chicken pasta parcels come in foil containers for easy cooking and freezing. The fresh tagiatelle and basil pesto is layered with Saf’s mild spiced chicken and topped with mozzarella. All you need to do is put it in the oven. Orders need to be placed by 8pm on Sunday 12th February and collected between 4-7pm on 14th. Keep a look out for her Friday Curry Nights as well for other opportunities to have great food without cooking. Saf is also continuing her series of cooking classes throughout February too, with a few spaces still available on the Beginners Class on Sunday 26th February.
For other ideas for Valentine’s Day gifts, take a look at the newly revamped Chocolate Mill MK website where you will find details of two special edition boxes of chocolates especially for Valentines. Containing 12 truffles, with two of six flavours inside so that you can share (or not!), one box has the classic flavours and the other has some luxury and limited edition flavours. Chin’s Kitchen is also offering a range of Valentine’s goodies including cupcakes, brownies and fudge which can be pre-ordered by 9th February. If you want to go a bit more DIY for Valentine’s then check out her recipe at the end of the blog for Valentine’s Cupcakes. If you fancy a curry this month then she has Curry Night menus available for Friday 3rd and 24th February.
On 18th February Urban Grilla will be hosting an open house event between 2 and 7pm where you can pop by to sample their barbecued food. If you have any big occasions to celebrate this year, this is an ideal way to find out if Urban Grilla could be your caterer of choice. Not only can you sample the food but you can have a chat about what they can offer for your event. Just ring or email to let them know you will be dropping by.
The Buckingham Food Fair is on Saturday 25th February, running from 10am to 3pm in the Buckingham Community Centre. Now into its fifth year, this event promises a host of interesting local food and drink stalls. These include Milton Keynes based Indian Orchard and Baja Cantina as well as other locals such as Beekeeper Honey, The Beer Garage, herb teas from Hippopot Herbs Ltds, salted chilli caramel from Chimoulis plus cakes and gourmet nuts.
To round off the month perfectly, Shrove Tuesday this year falls on the very last day of February and nowhere does Pancake Day more impressively than Olney. Unbelievably, the famous Pancake Day race in Olney has been taking place since 1445 and they have even been competing against the women of Liberal, Kansas, USA for 68 years. The race itself starts at 11:55am but there are plenty of other things taking place on the day. Celebrity chef, Lesley Waters will be cooking breakfast between 8 and 10 am, with the help of chefs from The Bell and Bear. This was a sell-out success last year so early booking is recommended. There will be refreshments available in the church hall, a prize draw and a recipe competition too.
Calling all local food lovers: voting is now open for this year’s Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards so pop over to their website to vote in a whole range of categories from best café and restaurant to best local attraction. Closer to the awards night there will be a cook off to find the best local chef and entries will be made for the best local product. A new category for best local street food has been added this year so there will be some friendly rivalry between the local street food traders to see who will be the first to take that honour.
Don’t forget to get out and support the local farmers markets too. Date are as follows:
Saturday 4th and 18th – Wolverton
Sunday 5th – Olney
Sunday 19th – Woburn
Friday 17th – Newport Pagnell
Friday 24th – Stony Stratford
You can keep up to date with all the latest news in the local food scene by liking our facebook page at Artisan MK Food & Drink. We also have an email list so that we can directly email food producers and interested customers to let them know about upcoming food events that we hear about so please send us a message via facebook to let us know if you would like to join our mailing list.
With Valentine’s Day on 14th February, this month’s recipe is for a batch of Valentine’s Cupcakes, courtesy of Chin’s Kitchen, who has other goodies on offer on her page.
110g soft butter
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
110g self-raising flour, sieved
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 baking cases
150g soft butter
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Piping bag with star-shaped nozzle
Heart and letter cutters
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Place baking cases onto a baking tray. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour. Divide the mixture into the baking cases and bake for 10-15 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a cooling rack. To make the buttercream, put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat until soft. Gradually sieve in the icing sugar, beating well after each addition, to make a smooth buttercream. Add the vanilla extract to flavour. Spoon the buttercream into the piping bag and pipe on top of the cupcakes to create a swirl effect. Roll the red icing out and cut out hearts and/or letters. To finish, pop the decoration onto the cupcakes. Enjoy with a cup of tea.