Slow Brand

taking a slow approach to brands

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Month: August, 2009

Building your brand by telling stories

31 August, 2009 (17:20) | branding, food, social media | By: Shannon Clark

cc licensed photo by Richard Soderberg

cc-licensed photo by Robert Soderberg
photo by Ewan Spence

photo by Ewan Spence

I am spending the afternoon at my friend Ross Dawson’s Future of Influence Summit here in San Francisco (it is also running simultanously in Sydney Australia) I will have much more to write about this topic in future posts, but as I walked here this morning I was thinking a great deal about how brands are built today.

Telling great stories is the best way to build great brands

Here in San Franciso in the past year the local food scene has seen dozens of innovative, small scale food related businesses being created. Many of them are broadly speaking food carts, others are chefs who only cook a few nights a week, or other new forms of food and craft driven businesses. At the same time dozens of more traditional food businesses have opened in San Francisco. However I have observed that there are some common traits to the new businesses which are emerging with strong brands compared to those which have only a minimal if any brand recognition.

A great example here in San Francisco, though far from the only one,  is 4505 Meats, which is a local food business started by aclaimed chef Ryan Farr. He is building a fantastic business making a range of locally sourced meat products – Pork Chicarronnes which are available for sale in cafes and specilized markets throughout San Francisco and he is growing in acclaim for his handmade sausages, hot dogs and when he makes them hamburgers. He sells these products directly at the Thursday Ferry Bulding Farmers Market as well as select food festivals around town, but he is also increasingly a supplier of choice for many other small scale, innovative local food businesses.

In the process he is building a great, local brand, one which I suspect will only continue to grow in value in the years to come.

And his blog as well as the design choices he makes, including selling limited edition lithograph prints, all tell his story – that of food products made from very carefully sourced local providers made with care, old faashioned skill and a great sense of taste and quality control. He charges fair prices boh directly to customers at the markets and clearly to the many local businesses who are gladly doing business with him. As a result his business is growing and his brand is growing as well.

Take a look at how he is using twitter – follow him at @chicharrones – he’s using it to promote his events & specials exceptionally well.

And here in the Bay Area he is far from unique, there are some dozen or more similar, small scale, innovative food related businesses who are using Twitter as in many cases their primary form of marketing and advertising to promote their appearances, daily specials and over time to build up their brands – often in no small part by helping to promote each other’s businesses.

A few notable examples – but look at any of their Tweet streams for more are:

@adobohobo – a local food cart that makes Adobo Chicken (and occasionally other dishes), tasty, fairly priced street food.

@eatrealfest – a local, first time Street Food Festival which drew over 60,000 people to Oakland for three days of street food and farmers markets. They promoted the event throughout the Bay Area via posters and postcards but also benefited extensively from the social media usage (especially Twitter) of so many of the businesses who were selling at the festival, many of whom sold 1000’s of dishes in a single day.

@cremebrulecart – a local chef who makes a range of flavors of creme brule which he sells in parks and at events throughout the Bay Area, I’ve yet to see him fail to completely sell out at an appearance, his product is very tasty and fairly priced and not surprisingly quite popular. In addition to using his growing Twitter followers to announce where he will be, he is also using Twitter to get people to come out to help keep a favorite local park clean through volunteer efforts.

@missionstfood – a local Bay Area business which started as a food cart, then moved to their current format where they take over a local Chinese restuarant in the Mission area of San Francisco on Thursday and Saturday evenings. Each evening a different guest chef creates the menu, much of the proceeds of the evening go to a different charity (chosen by that evening’s guest chef). They use Twitter to promote the menu and over the course of the evening to inform people about what they have sold out of at the moment. They draw over 200 people most evenings, many of whom gladly wait over 1 1/2 hours for a table and they almost never have an empty chair from the moment they open until just before they close for the evening (usually having sold every dish they were ready to make). Just a few weeks ago they expanded further to now have a regular daily business, Mission Burger, selling beef & vegetarian hamburgers and occasional specials from within a local Mission market.

All of these small businesses along with dozens of others are using emerging media, such as twitter, as a core part of how they tell the story of their brand, in many ways using these tools to help them build and define a brand as it emerges in partnership with customers. While many of the businesses I have linked to have active online blogs and websites and many are increasingly attracting the attention of the media both online and offline, they are also using tools such as twitter to help them tell their own stories.

Revisiting the Past – Lessons for Social Media – Boy Scouts and Social Games

27 August, 2009 (16:41) | social media | By: Shannon Clark

For SXSWi 2010 I have proposed a talk I have long wanted to give on Revisiting the Past – Lessons for Social Media. This is the first in a series of posts where I will cover portions of what I would cover in that talk, please add your questions and experiences in the comments here. Also, if you think this would be a good talk for SXSWi please go to the Panel Picker and vote for my panel.

So what can the Boy Scouts teach us about Social Games?

A bit of history first – the Boy Scouts were founded in 1907-08 in England by General Robert Baden-Powell (most of my notes here are extracted from the great history of scouting published by Troop 97 on their website) after he noticed boys using his book written for military scouts, he then rewrote his book and started what has become one of the largest global organizations on the planet, with scouting groups in 185 different countries (and in many countries multiple different related groups).  Baden-Powell started Girl Guides around the same time, in the US what grew to become Girl Scouts. Scouting differs slightly from country to country (considerably in many countries), the rest of my discussion will focus mostly on the Boy Scouts of America (and since in many ways the Girl Scouts follow similar patterns lessons from them as well).

I followed my father as a boy scout for many years as a child, starting a cub scout when I was younger, then as a Webelo and finally as a Boy Scout, acheiving all but the final rank of Eagle Scout (which I’m sure was/is a disapointment to my father who was an Eagle Scout and considers it a major achievement of his youth).

As an Atheist I have serious issues with the Boy Scouts historically and currently, the current Boy Scouts of America is heaibly dominated by the Mormon Church whose troops make up some one fifth of BSA membership and their highly conservative influence runs deeply in the structures of the current Boy Scouts.

All that aside, this is a look back at the past of Boy Scouts and at the structures which were in place from nearly the very beginning and what lessons they have for social games of today.

Imagine the following – a group gathers, at first everyone is the same, low rank, following a series of detailed instructions many involving large scale group activities they start to rise in rank. With each rise in rank they recieve tangible rewards and group acclaim. But they are not isolated, from time to time they encounter other groups who have been following the same sets of instructions and in those cases their ranks are respected across groups. Individual activies and events evolve to have special rewards unique to those groups, as well special organizations form within the framework of the larger group which require invitation to join. Over time the achievements evolve adding new achievements as the times change…

That is not a description of the current Social Game, rather it is a description of the earliest days of scouting (and in most respects still is true to this day). What the global scouting movement captured, which is being replicated many times over by social games and social applications across the web, is the power of many small achievements and rewards which can be displayed to others who are participating all in the context of a larger, highly social set of activities, activities which bridge a tight, close social network with a far larger shared social context.

While it may seem that the evoluation of badges, achievements and even the applicaiton of levels is somewhat new in the past few years of online social applications and games it has its origins nearly a century ago with the early days of Scouting. In turn Scouting was adapting lessons about the power of medals and badges to motivate which had been learned within military organizations for many decades dating back at least to Napoleon.

It is important to look at what is working today within social applcations, to learn what makes Mafia Wars and other similar games so successful and engaging but it is useful and important to look beyond just the short term, immediate examples from other online activities and to look further back at pre-Internet examples of similar social activities and movements.

What Scouting shows is that there is a great deal of power and engagement from a large scale standard for achievement coupled with a mostly local and tight knit social group. The Global framework provides standards and contexts as well as rewards in the form of shared respect, respect which can in the case of achieving Eagle Scout status extend long into the future. The large gatherings and the badges and patches which arose from them while not the same as Merit Badges offered another form of incentives and engagement. They also formed the opportunities for cross troop groups to form.

Online games such as FourSquare are starting to learn some of these lessons, they emphasize your circle of friends over the larger game context of a given city, while having achievements (literally badges in this case) which are tied to in most cases a given city). Over time I would guess they will evolve further shared social achievements and rewards.

In future posts I will look at other very early examples of social activities which offer lessons for the social media of today. I will also trace some of the early history of the Internet and the evolution of those early online activities and applications in to the modern, post-Web 2.0 world of today.

Please leave your comments and feedback here!

So Shannon can you cook brunch for 40 tomorrow?

24 August, 2009 (01:01) | food | By: Shannon Clark

That was the question my friend called to ask me Saturday evening as I was walking home in the Mission. I thought for a bit, then said, sure, could we meet up in a bit and buy all the ingredients.

So in less than 24hrs I sourced everything for a brunch for 40+ people, cooked most of it the evening before the party and had almost everything else prepped and ready to go for the brunch as people started to arrive (thankfully many arrived a bit late).

Here’s the menu which I came up with and sourced everything to make in less than 3 hours.

Appetizers:

Country Bread from Tartine w/olive oil

Baked Ling Cod w/whole, large salt cured caper berries – this disappeared quickly and was incredibly simple to make. I bought about 5 lbs of large Ling Cod fillets (two fillets in this case), made sure they were cleaned of any scales and placed them in a large glass baking pan. I then washed the salt off the caper berries and sprinkled them liberally over the fish. I finished the dish with some of the salt which I had washed off the caper berries. I put the pan into a preheated over at 325 and let it cook for about 30 minutes (until the fish flaked easily). Very simple but exceptionally tasty – the caper berries added just the right flavor & salt.

Salad:

Mixed greens w/heirloom tomatoes and fresh figs in a simple Balsamic dressing – I made this salad four times over the course of the brunch as it was eaten quickly. To keep everything simple I used a prewashed, packaged selection of organic mixed greens and a package of mixed heirloom tomatoes from Rainbow Co-op. Alas, as it was organic I did have to check the tomatoes carefully and some of the larger tomatoes in two of the packages were spoiled (so I discarded them) and I made sure to wash the others carefully. I took the stems off the cherry tomatoes and sliced the larger tomatoes into thin rounds (having a very sharp, high quality knife was key here). I then washed a handful of fresh mission figs and sliced them lengthwise into thin slices. The dressing was very simple – great quality olive oil, Balsamic vinegar (in roughly 1 to 1 proporation), salt, fresh pepper all mixed in a jam jar I reused – the trick being to reseal the jar and then shake it, the shaking mixing the dressing perfectly. I drizzled it over the salad and then tossed it.

Entrees:

Slow scrambled farm eggs with sauteed sweet onions and Shitake mushrooms – a simple dish but one that does take some time to get right. I first sauteed a finely diced sweet onion in some olive oil, then sauteed sliced Shitake mushrooms also in olive oil. When each were finished I put them aside in a bowl. I then took a small pat of butter and melted it on the bottom of the largest pan I could find (ideal for this is one with large, deep flat sides). I then cracked a dozen eggs into a bowl, broke the yolks and mixed them vigorously (but briefly) with a fork and poured that into the pan, I then mixed in the onions and mushrooms and cooked the eggs over low to medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. The goal is to cook slowly enough that the resulting eggs are light and fluffy, a far cry from the scrambled eggs of my childhood. I cooked this dish three times and it was never on the table long

Roasted dry rubbed Duroc Pork loin w/homemade apple sauce and quick pickled onions – I roasted the pork loin the night before the brunch. I rubbed the pork loin with a spice mixture I made (I started with a base of a dry rub from the Salt Lick BBQ in Texas but added dried lime peel, powdered cloves, Indonesian cinnamon, salt, fresh pepper and maple sugar in powdered form). I rubbed this generously over the fat side of the lion and the ends. I placed the loin in a roasting pan, fat side up the roasted it until the meat reached 150 degrees uniformly. While it roasted I rotated the pan a few times to ensure even heating.

To make the apple sauce, I halved 3lbs of apples, put them in my largest copper pot and added some Indonesian cinnamon and then simmered them with the lid on the pot (very important) on low heat until they broke down naturally. Very simple, no added sugar needed and amazingly tasty. You could then pass this mixture through cheesecloth if you had it, but I didn’t so just trusted that people could eat around the cores, stems & seeds.

For the quick pickled onions, I peeled and sliced one large purple onion into very thin slices (again having a very sharp knife helps a great deal). I put the onion slivers into a large tupperware style container, poured rice wine vinegar over the onions and added generous amounts of course salt (Kosher salt would be ideal, I used a coarse rock salt I had on hand). I then sealed the container and let it marinate in the fridge. Again a very simple dish but also quite tasty – the key is to use very thin slivers.

Roasted Leg of Lamb w/fig-mint sauce – a reprise of a dish I made for my Fig & Olive dinner last weekend. With the only (albeit somewhat important) difference being that here I used boneless legs of lamb which my butcher prepared for me (the bones which I asked him for I’ll use in a lamb stock I’m making tomorrow). I also didn’t have the butcher’s twine which I should have used to tie up the roasts as they cooked. I rubbed the lamb with olive oil, then inserted garlic clove slivers, whole fresh rosemary and fresh mint. I then added salt and chopped fresh mint to the outside of the lamb and put the 10lbs+ of lamb on my roasting rack (the rack is a key factor in why my roasts tend to be very good – it allows the fat to drip down as the meat cooks and to then be out of the way. I roasted the lamb along with pork until the lamb was at the right temperature as well (which ended up being almost the same time as my pork but that was unintentional and a bit surprising).

To make my fig-mint sauce I followed much the same recipe as I did last weekend. I took fresh figs (Mission Figs in this case) choosing the ripest (overripe would actually be ideal for this dish) and then very thinly sliced them. I put them into my small Le Creuset sauce pan, poured in apple vinegar and fresh mint (which I quickly cut with a very sharp knife into course slices) and added a small amount of salt. I simmered this on low temperatures, stirring occasionally until the figs softened and mixed with the vinegar. I then added this mixture to a large glass container (reused) and added more apple vinegar to fill the container (about 1/4 more of the container being the additional vinegar. I then let this cool in the refrigerator. The sauce was sweetened by the figs but not overly sweet and complimented the lamb very well.

Roasted baby carrots w/fresh ginger – another simple dish which I could make while my meats roasted. I took bags of pre-cut and cleaned baby carrots and fresh ginger which I julianned and tossed them with a small amount of olive oil and sea salt in a large mixing bowl so that every carrot was lightly coated with just a hint of olive oil. I then put them in a single layer onto a chef’s pan and roasted them until the carrots were soft (and generally a bit crinkled). For the brunch I served the carrots cold, for past meals I have served them hot and sometimes added a hint of Balsamic to this dish.

Dessert:

Roasted Mission Figs – another very simple dish. I washed fresh mission figs then put them in a glass roasting pan, taking care that no figs touched. I then roasted them in a 350 degree oven until the figs were glossy and their juices were just running. I served some of these with a drizzle of Balsamic which I think adds a great contrast to the sweetness of the roasted figs.

Maple Madelines – the only dish I make regularly for which I always start with a recipe from a book (though I almost always modify it). The recipe I use is roughly 1/3 cup of flour to 1/3 cup of plain, nonfat yogurt to one large eggs and a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. To this I then add either savory or sweet flavors, today I added maple sugar (in powdered form). In the past I’ve often made this with herbs, occasionally with cheese. The other key to making Madelines is to use the right baking pan, I have an amazing Madeline pan which is metal but nonstick. I cook at 450 degrees until the tops are a bit bubbly (and the bubbles are just breaking) usually just a bit under 10 minutes. I then cool and pop them from the pan (which thanks to the nonstick coating is easy. These didn’t last more than a few minutes. Very simple, light, flavorful and not too sweet.

And that is my menu, most of the big dishes I prepared ahead of time and the others I cooked on site but had designed them to be easily done multiple times over as more guests arrived. If I had had a bit larger of a kitchen and slightly more time my plan was to have made a variety of Madelines, probably with some savory flavors evocative of the meal such as rosemary and mint.

While many of the dishes I made were not vegan friendly quite a few were – the carrots, salad and apple sauce were all entirely vegan as were my roasted fig dessert. The fig-mint sauce was also vegan albeit with little to serve it on top off in this case. I also made a couple of roasted portabella mushrooms w/Shitake mushrooms for some of the vegans who wanted them.

All together for 40 people this meal cost my friend about $500 for everything we needed to make the meal and while there are a few leftovers for the most part people ate nearly everything I had been prepared to make. We ran out of pork, apple sauce, carrots, salad, fish and figs. I could have made another batch of the eggs and we had a few lbs of the lamb left over as well, along with one whole loaf out of the four loafs I bought from Tartine.

My Figs & Olives dinner

15 August, 2009 (23:27) | food | By: Shannon Clark

This evening I had 9 friends over for a formal, multi-course, plated feast to celebrate the Fig season here in the Bay Area. Many photos were taken, alas not by me, so I will hopefully update this post with some photos from the meal in a few days.

The menu arose out of an email from the CEUSA (who run the wonderful Ferry Building Farmers Market here in San Francisco) which noted that this weekend at the market would be a celebration of figs. With that as a theme I set out crafting a menu from ingredients which were in season, local, fresh and I hoped tasty.

After I sent out the invitations multiple who were coming (though in the end did not) were vegans so I did make some choices which resulted in a nearly entirely vegan meal and as I’ll note below, I had dishes planned for the vegans as alternatives to the few dishes which involved meat (or dairy products).

My menu:

Appetizers

Roasted seasonal organic local figs w/Cowgirl Creamery marscapone – for this dish I used medium sized figs which weren’t overripe. All I did was place them on a chef’s pan into a 350 degree oven until they looked done (juices started to flow out)

Sauteed Patron & Shiso peppers in olive oil w/gray sea salt – local peppers from a farm that specializes in peppers. Patron peppers are a Spanish pepper, Shiso are a Japanese. I sauteed them in extra virgin olive oil (very thin layer on the bottom of a pan) turning them occasionally until they were crinkled, I then transferred them to a platter with kitchen tongs & sprinkled with sea salt (if you choose to wash the peppers make sure they are completely dry before cooking them in oil to prevent splatter) This takes only about 5-6 minutes.

Local bread w/pepper infused olive oil – I chose a very simple, basic sourdough bread from a local bakery. I then sliced it into about 1cm thick slices which I then trisected – i.e. to get to about a few bites sized portions. The olive oil was the oil in which I sauteed the peppers which I let cool then transferred to a small glass bowl. The pepper flavor was infused into the oil.

Salad

Fig & Tomato Basil salad – this was a very simple plate, intended to be a great mix of flavors without an overly large portion. I used two types of organic tomatoes from the farmers market. In the center of the plate I put a large, orange colored heirloom tomato, cut in a single circular portion. Around the edges I placed one small dry farmed Early Girl tomato which I cut into small wedges. I also selected two varieties of small figs and quartered them, placing a half of each fig on each plate. I then added torn leaves of Lemon Basil as well as more traditional Italian Basil (all from the farmers market). Finally I drizzled the plate with a splash of a local Californian Balsamic vinegar (also from the market) and finished with sea salt.

Pasta

Fresh pasta w/roasted heirloom tomato sauce w/olives, mixed mushrooms and figs – Earlier this afternoon I took a selection of heirloom tomatoes and quartered them then roasted them with a few cloves of garlic in the oven. After they had roasted I transferred them into a large, copper pot (taking care not to use an aluminum clad pot as tomatoes react with aluminum) and added to that pot a can of Italian tomatoes for additional color and flavor. I then let this simmer on the lowest temperature for a while. After about 30-45 minutes I added to the pot slivers of Kalamata olives (taking care that no piece of pit remained) and then continued to let the pot simmer. To finish the dish and sauce I cut a variety of large figs into thin slivers and also sliced up some mixed mushrooms also into thin slivers. I put both in a pan, sprinkled it with a light, local olive oil and sauteed it for a few minutes, adding in the roasted tomato & olive sauce until it formed a thin layer in the pan. I then cooked the fresh pasta – I used a fresh, eggless pasta from the market, my guests described it as a bit like Italian Udon noodles. I put a small portion of pasta into each bowl then spooned a small portion of the sauce onto each. The goal again was to have a great mix of flavors without an overwhelming portion size. The result was quite good, if I do say so myself. My intention was that the Kalamata olives and the roasting of the tomatoes would add depth, the figs a layer of sweetness and the mushrooms some unami as well as other earthy flavors to counteract a bit of the sweet. I did add a little bit of sea salt the sauce as it cooked but mostly the salt in the sauce came from the olives. The pasta being fresh was a great complement to this sauce.

Entree

Bone-in Leg of Lamb over roasted Purple, baby red and baby yukon gold potatoes w/a fig-mint sauce – The first part of this dish I made was the sauce. I selected the ripest figs I had purchased, the ones that were almost overripe and very soft to the touch (even already splitting). I quartered the figs and then put them in a small Le Creuset saucepan I have (their smallest size). To this pan I added apple vinegar, finely ground sea salt, and roughly cut (but in small pieces) mint. I simmered this on fairly low temperatures mashing it as it simmered to meld the flavors. Once it had all come together I transferred it to a reused jam jar to which I then added more apple vinegar (about the remaining 1/4 of the jar’s worth). Cooled this resulted in a tasty, very minty, slightly sweet sauce.

The second part of the dish was the legs of lamb. I had two legs of lamb, each about 3lbs. I drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil, then added ground course sea salt & ground fresh pepper. I inserted julianned cloves of garlic into the hollow in the middle of the leg of lamb cut. I also added a half stick of rosemary into the same hollow. Then I added roughly cut fresh mint to the outside of the meat. I placed each leg of lamb onto my roasting rack and put them into my oven which I had preheated to a bit over 400 degrees. I check them with a meat thermometer (taking care to check each leg in a variety of places) and removed when the meat was uniformly at (or over 140 degrees) as I like my lamb a bit medium/medium rare. The lamb finished earlier than I had expected, taking only about 1 1/2 hours.

The third part of the dish was very simple, I took the three varieties of small potatoes I purchased at the farmers market (from a farm that specializes in potatoes) and put them into a large bowl (I quartered the larger purple potatoes but kept the baby potatoes whole). I then drizzled a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt and fresh pepper. Using the bowl I tossed the potatoes making sure that each was lightly coated. I then put them onto a large chef’s pan and roasted in the oven at 300 degrees.

As the potatoes (and the lamb) had finished long before we were ready for the entrees, after the potatoes finished cooking I turned the oven off but returned the lamb and left the potatoes in the oven to heat back up a small amount.

To serve I put a small selection of the purple & baby potatoes into the middle of the dinner plates. I carved a leg of lamb and put two slice of lamb sufficient to just cover the small amount of potatoes. I then drizzled a small spoonful of the fig & mint sauce over the lamb and potatoes. I finished each plate with a sprinkle of Hawaiian Black Volcanic Salt both for the flavor & the color contrast.

Again not a huge portion for each guest but everyone, even the guests who don’t usually like lamb enjoyed it.

Planned vegan alternative – since the vegans I expected did not actually attend, I did not make this dish (but will probably make it later this week). My plan was to make roasted portabella & miatake mushrooms over potatoes. I would have cleaned and trimmed the portabella mushrooms and put them and whole miatake fronds onto an oven suitable pan (probably one of my trusty chef’s plates). Then i would have drizzled a bit of olive oil over each mushroom. I would then roast them in the oven. To serve I would have plated the mushrooms on the side of the plate with the potatoes on the other side and would have finished the potatoes with the fig & mint sauce (which I might have also added to the roasted mushrooms depending on taste)

Dessert

Figs two ways with fig ice cream and olive oil shortbread – I made the olive oil shortbread entirely from scratch and from a recipe I made up myself.

Olive Oil Shortbread

  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 5 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pastry flour (I used a whole grain organic flour)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • seeds from one whole vanilla bean + additional generous pinch of vanilla powder (which I buy from The Spice House and prefer over using liquid vanilla as the powder imparts the flavor without the alcohol)

I mixed the sugar and olive oil, then added the vanilla, sea salt and flour. I used a medium sized metal mixing bowl (which I highly recommend, metal bowls are quite useful) once fully mixed and dough like (I mixed it with just my hand) I put the metal bowl into my freezer. I left the dough in the freezer for a bit over 30 minutes. I then spooned the dough into my Madeline pan after first adding a few grains of gray sea salt to each. The dough had a similar texture to a Madeline dough, though the results were a bit flakier and crunchier than Madelines. I baked them at about 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. My pan is an excellent one so the cookies just popped out (I did not use any spray or the like – my pan is a non-stick specialized baking pan. I then let these cool on a rack while I cooked the rest of the dinner. The resulting cookies had some sweetness, but tempered by the olive & salt flavors.

For the dessert I mixed two roasted figs with two fresh figs, taking care to ensure that every person had at least two varieties of figs (over all I purchased 5 different varieties of figs for this evening’s dinner) I scooped a small scoop of fig ice cream (from & made by a local shop) and layered the cookie on top of the ice cream in the middle of the bowl.

My original plan was to buy Fig Sorbet instead of fig ice cream. Had I managed to do so, this dessert would be an entirely vegan dessert. The sweetness of the figs contrasted well with the olives and salt of the shortbread.

And that is the menu. I ended up making a second portion of the pasta and as people arrived in two main waves of guests, I made two batches of the peppers for the later arriving group. Over the course of the meal we drank two bottles of Musketal (both excellent), a bottle of Chardonnay, a bottle of sparkling apple cider and with dessert a half bottle of a very good port.

All in all a very successful experimental meal – an experiment in that I plated each dish for all ten people (myself included) for every course and experimental in that most of these recipes I made up on the spot (including the shortbread)