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(West) Hampshire foodie…Cote Brasserie, Bournemouth

Hampshire Foodie always tries to ensure that you hear first about the food she finds in this fine county!

But did you know that once upon a time, before the boundary changes of the early 1970s, Bournemouth used to be in Hampshire? And that some folks are still so nostalgic for the days before their beloved BoMo was in Dorset that they stick with the old ways? (I’m thinking of the West Hants Tennis Club here).

So that’s why I think that my trip across the county line to join some fellow food bloggers and writers at the newly-opened Cote Brasserie was totally legit – it’s a place you really should not miss out on.

The restaurant occupies the old Austin Reed building at the end of Westover Road and so is perfect for a pre-show meal or for shopping lunches. It has a balcony and the kind of ambience you always hope to find in a restaurant; just the right amount of lighting, candles to flatter, and the pleasant hum of a happy clientele.

The reason they are happy is because the food is fantastic, punching way above its price-point weight. We started off with canapes, fresh, light salmon, crispy squid with hand-made aioli and tuna carpaccio then started tucking into some serious starters.

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For me, the prawn gratinee was perfect, giant, succulent prawns in  white wine, garlic and chilli sauce with parsley croutons and because it felt that kind of evening, I immediately jumped into a fish parmentier. But the steaks were doing great business too along with their extensive vegetarian offering.

Anyone who dines regularly at the Cote restaurants won’t need reminding how great their puddings are. Sumptuous chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream, frozen berries, and the yummy and filling praline crepe.

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One of Cote’s major priorities is ensuring that the food it serves is cooked and presented to its customers by committed and enthusiastic staff. They are. And knowledgeable, too.

Which is why, despite its avowedly English location, eating at any Cote Brasserie – and especially this one – reminds me of happy meals in France.

 

Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Festival – and a Masterchef, too!

They call it ‘Hampshire’s hidden treasure’ and I agree – the sparkling wines produced in this county are simply fabulous; light, distinctive and award-winning. If you’re one of those backward souls still scoffing at the very idea of English wines then you are definitely behind a very steep cuvee.

The tasting marquee at Cottonworth in the Test Valley today was rammed with visitors determined to sample and celebrate every fine thing the Vineyards of Hampshire have to offer.

We kicked off with some of Jenkyn Place’s 2009 Rose, comprising aromas of wild strawberry and cherry, with notes of jasmine and violet, produced in Bentley and winner of no less than seven awards.

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Moving round, Raimes‘ Classic Cuvee hit every spot, as did the relatively youthful Exton Park’s Rose, while, for contrast, Danebury Vineyard’s Madeleine Angevin a dry, fruity wine, seemed more than up to the task of pairing with shellfish and seafood, as well as the robust pork pie we picked up from Jake’s Artisan Foods. (Quote from Mr Hampshire Foodie: ‘This is the best pork pie I’ve ever had’.)

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This event was part of Hampshire Fare’s month-long festival of Hampshire’s food and drink and was supported – and officially opened! – by Masterchef UK 2016 champion Jane Devonshire (centre of pic). She is delighted to champion the cause of Hampshire food and drink although, as she explained: ‘It really isn’t difficult when you have quality like this.’

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Food festival virgin? Don’t worry – here’s what you need to know

Wandering round the wonder that was Southsea Food Festival this weekend it struck me that many of the visitors were probably attending a food festival for the first time.

Food festivals are great places – not just to sample the finest food and drink from your region and a little bit beyond, but also for the way they make it so easy for people, even those on their own, to get out and about and enjoy their community in a relaxing, inclusive atmosphere.

But – hard to believe but it’s true! – some people can be put off visiting because they’re not entirely sure what to do

So, if you’ve never been to a farmer’s market or a food festival before, here’s a quick guide on what – and what not – to do.

*Try and arrive by public transport or walk. Then, if you feel tempted by the gin or cider stall, you won’t have to worry about how much you sample or the dangers of driving back.

*Bring plenty of change – many stallholders either don’t have card machines and so much of what you’ll want to buy – like these delicious rosemary and cheese scones  were just £1.50.

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*Bring your sustainable shopping bag. Firstly, because it’s nice to be nice to the planet. And secondly, because you don’t want your hands so full of sourdough bread, fruit and sunflowers, that you can’t sample a strawberry.

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*Taste and try as much as possible. Go on, don’t be shy, the lovely people who work hard to bring you produce like this really do want you to taste the fruits (and vegetables and cupcakes) of their labours.

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Interested in a stall but they have no information? Take a quick snap on your phone and hunt them down on the internet later

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