A Meal with a Masterchef

This weekend saw the Dinner at the Manor staff descend upon beautiful York for their Christmas party. The chef was to be Sara Danesin of Masterchef fame and proprietor of Sara at St John’s, York’s now famous supperclub. We had to book months ago for this and even then places were hard to come to by, so we were very excited. Sara was the passionate Italian chef on Masterchef who made it to final three but was pipped to the post by quirky and innovative chef Tim Anderson. She is probably most remembered for the consistent quality of her food, and whilst most of her peers crumbled around her she always kept her cool. I was very excited to try a meal prepared for her as she had been my favourite on the show. I also secretly hoped she’d rustle up the chocolate ravioli for us!

Sara at St John’s is based very centrally in York with views of the city walls and the Minster nearby. We arrived at her garden gate and when the Minster struck 7pm were let in by host, and husband to Sara, David. Despite being left out in the cold for a few minutes I actually loved this touch and we may bring something similar to the manor as our guests will know that our actual front door is accessed by our back garden. Watch this space!

Sara’s home was cosy and inviting with amazing smells of licorice coming from somewhere. Sara was busy in her brand new kitchen, which I understand was only built in her new extension this summer. We were seated at our tables in her dining room cum living room. As a party of four we had our own small table, perhaps more private dining than supperclub and not as conducive to chatting with strangers, but pleasant nonetheless.

Our amuse bouche was a tiny rye toast with fried quails egg and truffle oil. It was perfectly seasoned with the yolk still runny. I wolfed it down, as did everyone else. We all agreed we could easily have had ten more each, delicious! I’ll apologise now for the photos which were taken by my mobile phone, but it gives you an idea!

Amuse Bouche

The starter was Sara’s audition dish for Masterchef, a very neatly presented aubergine parmigiana. It came complete with smear of homemade pesto and olives from Taggiasche. The olives were unique to a certain part of Italy and were soft, sweet and tasty. This dish was rich and tantalising. It could potentially have been a bit rustic but Sara’s talent introduced a subtle elegance to it. My photo isn’t great as I’d already started eating it having forgotten to take any pics!

Aubergine Parmigiana with a vine tomato and Taggiasche olive concasse

For main we were all slightly worried as we had been promised Whitby white crab ravioli. All of us are very greedy and were concerned that we’d leave feeling hungry! We needn’t have worried as the ravioli came plump and generously served with a salty beurre noisette. We were last to be served for this course and yet still first to finish! I’ve never been a fan of crab but the use of white meat alone gave a very sweet and pleasant filling for the perfect spinach pasta pockets. Again, I could have easily polished off another serving! Hats off to Sara for making such a time consuming course for a large group of guests. It showed real skill, especially as they all looked exactly the same as well!

Whiby white crab ravioli

Dessert was my champion course of the night. A beautiful dish that comprised an Alphonso mango parfait, passion fruit glaze, white chocolate and coconut pannacotta and a black olive caramel. The parfait was smooth and creamy and the passionfruit glaze gave it a tangy, tongue tingling edge. The pannacotta was less up my street but was a good contrast to the fruity elements. The black olive caramel was suitably intriguing, offering a new taste sensation and a talking point around the table!

Alphonso mango parfait with passion fruit glaze, white chocolate and coconut pannacotta, black olive caramel

We ended with coffee and little mince pie bites, after which Sara came round to chat to us all. I have to say that I was very impressed. The dining room looks directly into the kitchen so we could see Sara hard at work all night. As ever she was graceful and in control. The kitchen as well was clean, spotless and in complete order! We’re now four events into our supperclub project and I cannot say the same for the state of our kitchen at the end of each night! Sara has a good few more events under her belt (she’s still running about two events a week at the moment), but even so I still think it’s impressive!

If you can get booked in I do recommend you pop over to York and pay Sara a visit. She’s booked up until September 2012 so you might need to get booked in now! You’re guaranteed a taste sensation. I didn’t get to sample the chocolate ravioli, but there’s always next time!

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