Some of my very best food memories involve the subject of this post: Heritage Portfolio.
I have been wowed by a champagne dinner at Lennoxlove House; astonished and bowled over by a Hallowe’en themed Mansfield Traquair and cosseted in the intimate dining room at the Museum of Scotland before going to the Edinburgh Tattoo. But, as stunning as the settings have been and the superior level of service, the food has always been the star.
The quality of the ingredients are absolutely top notch, of course. But what you might not expect, if you have experienced food at catered events, are the modern touches, the attention to details and tastes and flavours you’d expect to find at the very top restaurants. At the heart of this passion for food is Robbie Gleave, the development chef.
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Heritage Portfolio are hosting a series of Aficionados Events to give lucky invitees a glimpse into their passion for food and to give an idea of what goes on behind the scenes.
Sorbets like no others
The location of the event was the stunning Signet Library. On entering, in addition to my name badge, I was given a picture of a yellow plastic duck. Now what was that for?
I really enjoy demonstrations where you get to taste what is being created. Robbie soon got us tasting a sorbet, asking us what flavour it was. We all identified strawberry but were unsure about the other flavours that were definitely there but not truly distinct. This was designed to make us realise that the best sorbets have very few ingredients. There is no point in adding often expensive ingredients that add nothing to the overall taste.
We were soon tasting a sorbet that Robbie was happy with as he described the plate he was creating. He’d recently spent some time at Noma in Denmark, and the pickled vegetables in the dish had been inspired by that visit. Each had been pickled separately. The sorbet accompanying the vegetables was a subtle salted cucumber and fennel.
He described how the dish had been served at Holyrood Palace the previous weekend and was pleased it had been for a small number of guests as there were so many different vegetables to add!
We went on to taste wild garlic sorbet (absolutely gorgeous) served with Clava Brie cheese; rhubarb and ginger – subtle but very rhubarb-y, truffle oil sorbet and an alcoholic one, Bloody Mary sorbet.
The Food Apprentices
Now it was our turn! We had 20 minutes to create a sorbet. We were split into four teams (mine was the Duck team) and asked to create a sorbet for a particular occasion. Each team had the same ingredients. I was project manager and soon found just how challenging that is and I had a team of very helpful, motivated people!
Our sorbet was to accompany a smoked duck dish for a Chinese Delegation. We had a base stock flavoured with star anise to which we had to add flavours. We quickly focussed on the more Asian ingredients, wasabi, ginger, seaweed and pimento peppers. Creating a test batch, we remembered that we had to make the flavour quite powerful as it would diminish when frozen. After a few tweaks, we finalised our recipe. It was great fun and we were really pleased with the result!
Once you have worked with Heritage Portfolio, you become part of the family. As director Mark Miller explained in his introduction, “We choose who we work with, and we work with people we like”. This extends to trusted suppliers who they partner with to create dishes. Time to meet Reno Di Rollo.
A Cool Partner
Whilst our sorbet was being frozen, Reno Di Rollo talked to us about sorbet production. Robbie had explained that he makes smaller batches of sorbet for up to 25 people in the production kitchen, but when it came to make much larger batches, it is made in the Di Rollo factory. Reno and Robbie work together very closely to ensure the recipes work in large volumes. What works for 25 might not work for 300. Without Reno, sorbet for 300 would just not be possible
I learnt so many things, it could fill another post, but suffice to say I will be taking Reno’s offer up for a visit to the factory to find out more. It was fascinating to learn about the different ways to freeze the mixture and how they prepare the finished mixture for service, such as making individual canapé balls.
No one was fired
The time came to for Robbie to judge our dishes in true Lord Sugar style, complete with sidekicks “Karen” and “Nick”. We each presented our sorbet in turn, complete with cost of ingredients. Although Robbie liked ours, another team’s blue cheese sorbet (which accompanied a mediterranean dish) won hands down. Grudgingly we all had to agree it was superb. There’s even talk of it featuring on Heritage Portfolio’s summer’s list of sorbets. Luckily none of us got fired.
So, another food memory is created, thanks to Heritage Portfolio. Thank you guys! If you want to celebrate a significant birthday with 50 people or are planning a wedding or conference, you’ll know who to contact. Do order a sorbet.
As a finale, Robbie flambéd a sorbet. Yes, really, and it didn’t melt!