TUESDAY 28 AUGUST 2012 BRASSERIE BLANC ST ALBANS
This not so little piggy at Brasserie Blanc St Albans
The Oxford Sandy and Black pig is back in town!
On Wednesday night I was in the ancient market town of St Albans, for the opening of the latest Brasserie Blanc.
It was a wonderful & busy evening. St Albans has no fewer than 120 restaurants and pubs, for it is a city of bon vivants and epicureans.
Brasserie Blanc is located in Verulam Road. This road is named for the philosopher and “inventor of the scientific method,” Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who was the first Baron Verulam in 1618, and in 1621 became Viscount St Albans. In fact, Bacon had a connection with cookery – he died from pneumonia, which he contracted while experimenting with freezing as a method of preserving meat – some say he got ill while trying to stuff a chicken with snow.
I must be sure to tell this interesting historical titbit to the St Albans General Manager, Gemma Collinson, and the Head Chef, Shanti Bhushanial.
For the opening I welcomed our guests with a glass of champagne and some lovely canapés.
Steven from Redbournbury Mill gave me some beautifully crafted bread, which we will proudly display in the brasserie.
Among the guests was Anna Ranking, who supplies us with our locally-sourced rare-breed pork, from Micklefield Hall, near Rickmansworth. I was delighted to learn about Anna’s Oxford Sandy and Black pigs. The breed was created 200 years ago (so it’s not quite as old as Sir Francis Bacon – please forgive me for making such an irresistible pun in English) – by crossing a Tamworth with a Gloucester Old Spot.
I can tell you that the meat has better flavour and texture than any intensively farmed pork – as you would expect from pigs that are free range “with plenty of outdoor space in which to enjoy themselves,” says Anna’s website. Each sow and her piglets get an entire paddock and Anna lets “them forage and wallow to their heart’s content”. Obviously “they have a wonderful life on the farm!”
I made a staggering discovery. I’ve learned that the breed has been brought back from virtual extinction. The Oxford Sandy and Black pig produce “succulent pork, fine bacon and excellent ham.” Says the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Society.
This sounds very much as if the pig who figures in so many of the Blandings Castle stories of PG Wodehouse might have been an Oxford Sandy and Black; but it seems that Wodehouse was very precise about this: the doting Lord Emsworth’s beloved “Empress of Blandings” was, in fact, an enormous black Berkshire sow.
Long live the Empress, long live the pig.
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