Kavey Eats: Blaggers Banquet: The Big Night21 Nov 2009 by Kavey

The big night came and went, and it was marvellous! Bloggers pulled together to create a truly unique and fantastic event for which tickets were purchased by generous supporters, all of whom seemed to have a great time!

We raised just over £3,000 in ticket sales for the Blaggers Banquet, held on the 15th November, in London’s Hawksmoor restaurant (thank you, Hawksmoor!).

So what did our customers get for their money? A range of fantastic drinks (which kept flowing all evening), beautiful canapés, a truly delicious multi-course meal and raffle tickets to win a towering pile of fantastic prizes. All this got them in the mood to put their hands up again and again, allowing us to raise over £3,300 in the auction on the night. Oh, and they each left with a bursting full goodie bag too!

That’s well over £6,000 and we’re not finished yet! (See below).

Some bloggers excelled in blagging food and drink provisions for the night as well as raffle and auction prizes. Some worked out menus and invented cocktails. Some took on kitchen-prep and cooking duties and others put together goodie bags. And of course, the front of house team served the punters with all that food and drink. And there were a myriad other tasks from creating menus and name stickers to arranging deliveries and taking on pick ups to tidying up afterwards! The entire team was pulled together by Niamh, whose brainchild this event has been.

What was I doing? On the night, I attended as a diner but my main job has been the IT side. I set up the Ebay and Paypal accounts and got the tickets on sale, and dealt with any payment enquiries. And created a door list for the night. (Don’t even get me started on what a nightmare Paypal has been to deal with – I understand that they need to be watchful against money laundering activities but those of us who are legitimate have to jump through so many damn hoops; they make it so damned difficult that I’m surprised the only people with the patience to persevere aren’t the criminals they’re trying to thwart!)

I have also had the pleasure of dealing with a number of lovely suppliers who’ve responded generously to my blagging requests for food, drink and prizes! (Thank you, again!)

My biggest job started only after the banquet evening was over – we blagged so many fantastic prizes that we’re now running an online auction which we expect to last for at least a month! Every day I’ll be listing another great item that you can bid on, all donated by our kind and generous suppliers. I’m also still following up payments for tickets and on-the-night auction wins.

If you couldn’t attend, you can still participate by visiting our auction page regularly and bidding generously on the wonderful items on offer.

Here are a few of my pictures of the night. You can also see a much larger set, including all the preparation, cooking etc., taken by Foodbymark, here.

Kavey’s Pics


Blaggers Banquet, been and gone…19 Nov 2009 by tehbus

Blaggers Banquet 2009

So, Sunday came and went.

After weeks of organising and planning, food and wine bloggers converged on the Hawksmoor to help put on the Blaggers Banquet. As a member of the advance party, we arrived to find the restaurant packed to the brim with produce and prizes, the fruits of labour after weeks of blagging by many of the blogging community. We were soon organised, assigned roles and the work could begin in earnest. Once the goodie bags had been stuffed and put to one side, the real focus of the day could begin, the food.

Blaggers Banquet 2009

As part of the canape crew, we stared at the fruit and veg from Riverford Organic, a beautiful soft goats cheese from Brockhall farm and a variety of salts from Halen Mon, wondering what the the best course of action was. After a few tastings and matchings, @ginandcrumpets and I decided on our offering, a canape of soft Brockhall Farm goats cheese on Peter’s Yard crispbreads, studded with pomegranate and sprinkled with vanilla salt and chives. A combination of sweet and salty with contrasting textures, I really thought this worked well and sat well alongside the gougeres and mozzarella & tomato skewers that were served alongside the rest of the banquet.

Blaggers Banquet 2009

Whilst we were crafting the little buggers, the small kitchen was a hive of activity. Even with a few supplier hiccups, the kitchen continued forward in the prep for dinner. The bar staff diligently learned how to knock up a cracking martini as the sommeliers tasted the wines and matched them to each of the individual courses of the banquet. It was all slowly piecing itself together.

Blaggers Banquet 2009

As the guests arrived, sparkling wine was distributed and the front of house went into overdrive. The front of house were decked in black and worked their proverbial socks off, weaving in and out of the tables carrying tray after tray of carefully prepared comestibles. Such was the passion and efficiency, I doubt you would find better service in many of the more well versed restaurants in London. Starters of monkfish ceviche came and returned empty, as did the plates of lamb hot pot, Winter stew and buffalo steaks (yes, three mains. You really got your moneys worth!).

Blaggers Banquet 2009

The meal was punctuated with a raffle of blagged prizes and was rounded off with a stunning chocolate fondant cake and some jelly boobs from Bompas and Parr. And as the guests sat there full and hopefully happy, we moved onto the final section of the evening, the auction of the rest of the blagged items.

It had been a triumphant evening. We had raised a shedload of cash for Action against Hunger with more to come with the daily auctions. Keep an eye on this page for some great items and bid liberally!

So that was my truncated view of the day. There are so many people to praise and thank. The blaggers, the organisers, the suppliers, the Hawksmoor, the list really is endless but without you all, we really could not have achieved this. Special thanks go to @eatlikeagirl who crafted the day, with weeks of planning and all under very difficult circumstances, and @scandilicious who worked so hard to get the food prepped, planned and cooked with constant curveballs being thrown from every angle.

I for one was very proud to be part of this and even though I was dead on my feet by the end of it, would be happy to do it all over again.

Please keep and eye on the the Blaggers banquet twitter feed. There you will find all the latest items for auction and all the write ups from guests and bloggers.

Blaggers Banquet – the review19 Nov 2009 by ruduss

I arrived at the Hawksmoor restaurant with trepidation and nervousness as I was on my own and had no idea what exactly was going to happen at this Blaggers Banquet. I knew the basics – that it was for charity (Action Against Hunger), and that everything such as the food, wine and venue had been blagged all for this great cause.

Walking through the door I immediately felt welcomed by one of the hosts and recommeded to go straight to the bar (which is exactly what you would like to hear). There were people mingling talking amongst themselves, and I soon got chatting to many people about mine and their favourite subject – food. Yes, I was amongst fellow foodies. It was so nice to be dining and sharing this experience with others who would appreciate like me the effort involved in getting such a thing organised.

All sorts of canapés and drinks were being served before sitting down. I was drinking the Blaggers cocktail – a sugar lump with champagne and quince liqueur. The canapés I’m sure I tried them all, and had seconds and thirds. The cheese herb puff was great, I’m stealing the recipe of the fresh goats cheese with pomegranates on crisp bread, and the cocktail-sized tomatoes on sticks with mozzarella exploded in your mouth (so you had to be careful). Please excuse me if I missed out on a canapé – it may not have passed where I was standing.

My seating arrangement was near the middle of the biggest table, so there were plenty of people to talk to. I had to ask if I was in a ‘twitter friendly environment’. Thankfully all said yes – they were more curious and quite entertained at how I was twittering all through the courses (@ruduss if you want to look them up). All the volunteers I had noticed were all twittering when they could as well. I saw a group of 4 standing around the bar with their phones tweeting like mad as they needed to catch up on their tweet count for the night.

Food was served on large plates and bowls where everybody just grabbed what they wanted. This added to the great atmosphere and comradeship and made for the extra sociability of the occasion.

The first course was a monkfish and beetroot tartare. I would have to say it is the freshest and best tasting monkfish I had ever tasted. There were whispers by fellow diners saying ‘I hear they just caught it this morning’. This fact was backed up later – driven 5 hours from Devon (I think). The only problem was there wasn’t enough of it – I wanted more it was so good!

Winter lamb and beef stews came out next in huge bowls. Once again – complements to the chef, etc. The meat was so tender and lovely. It was also great dipping the sourdough bread into the last bit of the juices.

My second favourite course was next – who can go wrong with a chocolate fondant cake. They were served with jellies that were moulded out of a breast-shape. Where can I get me one of those?

And then my favourite course came out – the cheese. You know that the night is being run by foodies when there is a cheese course. There’s nothing worse than having a menu that has a choice between the cheese or the dessert. The main cheeses were represented here – goats, cheddar, Caerphilly. The only thing missing was a juicy munster or epoisse. Although that is not for the faint-hearted. It could have ruined the atmosphere…maybe…..

The wines I was drinking all through the courses were perfectly matched, which I was surprised about. I was expecting a really oaky generic Australian chardonnay, and a really alcoholic red from Spain to be my choices. Thankfully the white and the red I picked were perfect.

So will I be the first in line to go next year? Definitely. I’ll certainly bring friends, although if they decide not to come then I will just go myself again. And next year I’m taking the next day off. I can’t work while still trying to digest such a great meal. Congrats to all who organised it and volunteered – Eat Like a Girl who helped organise it has a better blog post here.

eat mynels: Monkfish and Beet Tartare at the BlaggersBanquet 19 Nov 2009 by eatmynels

I clambered into the whites rolled out the knifes and pushed on to get the starter done. In collaboration with the Scandelicious Signe we decided that I would make monkfish and beet tartare and for this we managed to scoop the best monk tails available on this island.

Paul Trudgeon from Fish for Thought, based in Cornwall, heroically drove all the way London on a Sunday to make sure we had the freshest possible produce to give the banquet diners. He arrived at 2 pm with more than 4 kilos of gleaming fish. The recipe I was using (based heavily on this one) recommended that the fish marinades for 8 hours before the fish is sliced and diced; time I didn’t have. Having prepped the tomato, walnut oil and, sherry vinegar marinade in the morning I had no choice but to dice the fish and combine the two and leave it for as long a possible before plating.

I decided to ‘autumn-up’ the dish with the addition of a beetroot disk under the tartare stack and dress the plate with a zingier concasse than the recipe suggests, capers lemon juice helped here. This dish isn’t a molecular masterpice but the flavours are quite subtle and can’t be messed with too much, the freshest of fish is essential. It would have been improved had the fish been marinated whole overnight as the tails would have taken on more flavour and a drier mix would have produced a dish slicker in appearance.

A massive thank you to Fish for Thought who not only made the ten hour round trip to deliver the star ingredient for my starter but they also donated a £50 voucher for the auction. The night was a great success, lots of money was made for Action Against Aunger and it was a huge honour to be able to cook for fifty discerning paying guests. Hats of to everyone who helped out front and in the kitchen, but especially Signe and Niamh!

Quinta Lagoalva and the Blaggers Banquet 19 Nov 2009 by winesleuth

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Portugal for the EWBC and visited the Quinta Lagoalva as part of the conference. Little did I know that upon my return to London I would be running into Quinta Lagoalva quite unexpectedly at the Blaggers Banquet. The Blagger’s Banquet was a charity event organized by London food and wine bloggers for the organization Action against Hunger.

Miguel from Casa Leal and Viniportugal, a government organization dedicated to promoting Portuguese wine, got wind of the event and kindly donated 18 bottles of Quinta Lagoalva de Cima 2004, a blend of tinta roriz and touriga nacional. It was my task at the event to match up the donated wine with the food.

One of the main courses was Buffalo steak with a bearnaise sauce. The Quinta Lagoalva went quite well with the steaks. A spicy, fruity nose, full of ripe black plums and ripe black berries, the palate followed through with a smooth and mellow black cherry character, round tannins that complemented the steak, nothing terribly complex but a very good match for the buffalo which was not near as gamey as I though it would be. Quite a tasty piece of meat and smooth operator of a wine to go with it. The wine is available from Casa Leal.

portuguese red

Thanks to Viniportugal and Casa Leal for donating to a very worthy cause. Looking forward to next  year’s Blagger’s Banquet.

The BlaggersBanquet – The Day Itself by Billy Abbott

Sunday rolled around, as it often does, and after my day of walking on Saturday I had an even greater test – The Blaggers’ Banquet (I’m still not sure about that apostrophe).

As someone with an empty Sunday I turned up at Hawksmoor at a worryingly early 11:30am (although that was 30 minutes late due to a long coffee queue at the rather excellent Market Coffee House, the best coffee place round Spitalfields) to help set up the bar, my assigned place for the night. After a few moments of examining root vegetables I was whisked off to act in my standard role of fetcher and carrier, picking up beer from the George and Vulture and then working with Dan to get things iced up and organised for the evening. One of the bonuses of working in the ‘chilling’ team was that you can’t do a lot while things are getting cold, so I turned my hand to a bit of parsnip peeling (killing that bonus), for the excellent parsnip crisps that appeared during the banquet, before being a general dogsbody.

Wow. I really do have an impressive gut.

As the sky turned dark more helpers appeared and our first important bar staff duty rolled in – tasting the wine. Denise TheWineSleuth was the first of our sommeliers to arrive and I happily slurped at the wine with her, making appropriate faces and comments. It seems that I was the only person on the team to like the Chardonnay, as my untutored white wine palate tends to the woody, but there was a general agreement on the excellence of the Portugese red (although there were allegations of favouritism after last week’s wine blogging conference in Portugal…).

Wine wasn’t really the responsibility of my team, so we got on with the setting up of our menu – beer, cider, soft drinks and cocktails. On the beer side we were heavily loaded, with London Pride and Martson’s Pedigree on the more traditional end, and Daas Witte, and Curious Brew Brut and Admiral Porter (the latter of which I may have obtained a few bottles of, and might be drinking one of at the moment). The Witte was a solid bottled wheat beer, with maybe a touch too much in the way of floaty yeast if the bottle caps and necks were anything to go by, and the Brut was a crisp lager produced using the same yeast as the british sparkling wine that greeted out guests. As a fan of dark beers the porter stood out for me – an easy to drink dark beer with quite a lot of fizz. I suspect it might work better if not quite so fizzy, but it worked surprisingly well for a beer style that is normally known and appreciated for its flat murkiness.

Cocktail-wise we put together a fairly simple list, using up the Sipsmith Gin and Vodka that were blagged, as well as the Fevertree tonic (which definitely makes a better G&T than Schweppes but still tastes Wrong to someone as indoctrinated as I), some Bramley & Gage quince liqueur, some of the Raspberry and Apple juice that we got from a company I can’t remember the name of and a bottle of vermouth that was picked up from the Tesco over the road by a generous barperson (although based on the number of martinis that didn’t get across the bar I suspect enlightened self interest played a part). As the board in the photo above (drawn by my fair hand) says, along with the obvious beverages (although I would like to point out that our martini contruction skills became rather excellent within moments of the bar opening and constructions involving twists, olives, shakes and stirs flowed until blindness started setting in for both punters and staff) we also put out a Cornish ‘Champagne’ cocktail, with a sugar cube and dash of quince liqueur added to a glass of the Chapel Down fizz, and the mysterious Blagger-tini, as invented by the lovely Mel Seasons and including secret ingredient X – Galliano Balsamico, part of a case of special boozeb;agged by Huw, bossman of Hawksmoor. I can reveal that that the Blagger-tini consisted of Vodka, raspberry and apple juice, and Galliano Balsamico. Exact proportions I leave as an exercise to the reader, but as the Galliano isn’t meant to be available in the shops yet it may be difficult to experiment.

Along with the boozing I also managed to blag some music, in the form of Julian and Steph of Georgia Wonder. I’ve known Julian for a while on Twitter (and I thank him yet again for his introducing me to The Old Coffee House, purveyors of Brodie’s beer, in Soho after the Amplified conference earlier this year) and saw them play a small gig in Chiswick earlier this year (where I ended up getting very drunk and saying little else than ‘Mastodon are, like, really great. You know Mastodon, right?’ to Georgia Wonder’s occasional 3rd man and Mastodon fan, Dev of Little London) and despite not being a ‘background music’ kind of band decided that the banquet sounded silly enough that they’d like to come and have a play. They serenaded the mostly chatting crowd as they arrived, and may have played around slightly to see if people were actually listening – the assistant manager of Hawksmoor may not have noticed the very long version of one song, but he did notice a repeat. When the punters sat down for dinner Julian and Steph left them to dinnery chatting and ran off for pastures new. They’ve got a new EP out Real Soon Now (which I may have bought a few copies of to help fund the release) and are rather good.

Food appeared, food was eaten. Happy punters availed themselves of our services and became happier still. The barstaff sampled drinks, for quality control reasons, and we also became happier. Jelly boobs from Bompas and Parr were wheeled out and much amusement was had in their extraction – the nipples had been made from a specially formulated jelly that was harder than the main body of the boob, but was annoyingly just as susceptible to melting when we immersed them in warm water to try and release them from their moulds. They were also covered in 24ct gold sprinkles though, for that extra element of class.

Anyways, after the boobs (and a rather excellent chocolate brownie and chocolate truffles) came coffee, courtesy of my heroes at Square Mile, and cheese. I was especially impressed with the cheese and while I may have said differently on the night, favouring the Gorwydd Caerphilly, the cheddar (Barber’s 1833) was rather spectacular.


Then came the normal closing down fun of a gradual chivvying of people through the door and cleaning. Much as I love being a barman I always forget the amount of work that is left after the punters are thrown into the street. Glasses were run through the glass washer, leftovers were moved around the restaurant and drunk people were rearranged from corner to corner. I ended up running away at about 1am, realising through the martini haze that all the tubes were now shut and eventually jumping into a cab. My driver was grateful to get a decent fair on a Sunday night and thus let me tell him my life story. What a nice chap.

So, the inaugural Blaggers’ Banquet is now done. However, Action Against Hunger needs the cashes and we are not done yet. On top of the meal (which ended up being a full house after a few final days of frantic ticket selling) there is also an ongoing selection of auctions, with new bits and bobs going up each day. As of writing the available lots are a visit from a chocolate van and a 3lb pork pie. 3 pounds. That’s a pie. Bid early, bid often!

Now, lets see if Niamh is silly enough to try and organise something again next year…

The bar team were me, Mel Seasons, Dan, Ben Bush, Tim Hayward and Elly
There’s a pile of stuff available on Twitter, probably including a pointer at this post, under the hashtag of #blaggersbanquet. Someone else currently beats us on Google, but that can’t be for long…
Photos are by Mark of Food by Mark, used under the CC Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivative Works license, apart from the rubbish one of the cheese, which is all mine.
I also seem to have bought a domain for writing a booze blog on. This is what happens when you talk to food bloggers when drunk. They didn’t even have to point and do a ‘one of us!’.

Blaggers Banquet – prep talk18 Nov 2009 by alexthepink

Blaggers Banquet – prep talk

The blogosphere has been buzzing with Blaggers’ Banquet talk lately.  In case you missed it, last Sunday 50 food and wine bloggers took over Hawksmoor restaurant in London in a huge charity blogging event.  We blagged and blagged til our slippery tongues could blag no more.  All the ingredients for the dinner, the wine, the goodie bags and a fantastic selection of auction prizes were blagged from our PR contacts.  We then sold tickets, all in aid of Action Against Hunger.

After a couple of weeks gathering support from our very generous contacts, the big day finally came.  I arrived bright and early at Hawksmoor, to find the place full – of food, bloggers and wine.  Vegetables and fruit needed sorting, the menu needed last minute tweaks to accommodate ingredients we thought we had, goody bags needed stuffing and auction prizes sorting.
The vegetable spread from Riverford was particularly impressive, if muddy, and I spent part of the morning dicing with death (or at least nicked fingers) making parsnip crisps on the mandoline.

Goody bags were very good indeed – absolutely packed with treats generously provided by our PR pals.

Lizzie (or @Hollowlegs) and I will be forever after known as the Greasy Gougeres Girls, after a slightly disturbing and slippery encounter with a choux-filled cheesy pastry bag.

Denise and Billy kept a close eye (or should that be nose?) on the wine.

I was gutted to have to go home before the event really kicked off, but from the photos (all taken by @Foodbymark), I can rest safe in the thought that the diners all had a great time.

The fun doesn’t stop there though.  Our auction, with some truly fantastic prizes like tasting menus, chocolate tastings and more, is currently running on Ebay and more prizes will be drip-fed as the weeks go on.  The perfect place for a foodie friend’s Christmas present, or maybe just a treat for yourself!