Was it really 30 plus years ago when I was asked to pick a profession for my high school 2 week work experience ?
Already too tall for airline stewardess and harboring way too much energy to sit in an office for more than two minutes, my mind started working on how I could turn this situation into a money making scheme so that I could start traveling.
I declared that I would like to spend 2 weeks in the kitchen at "Sevens Wine Bar " This trendy restaurant in downtown Farnham, Surrey was the hub for local business men & women as well as a social haven for young players literally lapping up the wine bar scene.
Run by a savvy & gregarious entrepreneur Tony Green, Sevens was on the "Nouveau Beaujolais run" which meant that once a year, on the third Thursday of November, almost immediately after bottling, the new vintage of Beaujolais wine was raced across the British Channel by boat or by plane to be poured and guzzled in wine bars through the British Isles.
It was of course sent all over the world but the proximity of England to France made it even more exciting.
Barely in my teens at this time,and although I was already enjoying the occasional pint of hard cider or jug of my fathers home made brew, I was not allowed to drink the wine at Sevens,
I did however get caught up in the excitement and the buzz afforded this quaffable if unsophisticated beverage.
Anyway, My plan worked. I spent my allotted stint chopping vegetables, baking quiches, assembling coronation chicken salads and sweeping floors. then, when it was time to return to school, I asked Tony if I could have a part time job.
Fast forward to 2011, after 10 years of traveling and cooking on private yachts in or on the waters of twenty plus countries and now running my own catering company in Vermont USA, I'm heading back to England for a short visit which always starts with a good pub dinner with Mum & Dad.. In Farnham's heyday, there were over 50 pubs and yes we did attempt to crawl from one to the other on a Saturday night
Sadly, Tony passed away a while ago and Seven's Wine bar is now a mediocre Italian restaurant, but his spirit of congenial hospitality lives on strong in his daughter Sam.
Sam, knee high when I worked for her father, is now a beautiful young woman with her fathers ready smile and a talent for making you feel as comfortable in her inn as you would be in your own living room.
Hearing that the food "rules" at her pub The Fox , we made a reservation and luckily so as even on a Wednesday evening, the place was hopping.
Pub grub in England has turned into "gastro pub cuisine" over the last 20 years. The bangers and mash replaced with Mediterranean chicken sausage & celery root puree, steak and kidney pudding replaced with organic British beef & Abbott ale pie.
Creative & healthy vegetarian dishes from all over the world are scattered throughout menus holding their own against the local wild game,sustainable fish and organic poultry offerings.
I introduced myself to Sam as she welcomed us in and we warmly and enthusiastically discussed how her dad had inspired and encouraged us both.
Dinner was delicious !
I started with with a warm salad of spicy chorizo sausage, black pudding and sun blushed tomatoes whose soft and juicy texture were a great compliment to the sturdy and colorful locally sourced spring greens. My entree of grilled halibut filet on a minted pea puree w' citrus butter had great flavor even if the fish could have done with a little less cooking.
Other delicious sounding entrees included pan seared duck breast w' a blackberry & red wine sauce on a potato rosti .
We were too full for "pud" but I did glance over the dessert board and they all sounded delicious !
If you ever find yourself in the south of England, close to Farnham, do stop in at the Fox Pub for a bite. It's a great example of how an English pub can and will survive by upgrading the food and maximizing the ambience and the hospitality.