What I did arrive in time for - what I was trying to arrive in time for - was the first dinner of the symposium. Steve Parle's Spice Feast.
I found people I knew in the garden and we went in to the long tables of St Catz, set with trays of spices, yogurt, and tamarind water, willow fronds, butter, and bread. The colorful, plain vegetable salad, raw, chopped asparagus, radishes, cucumber, tomoato, broad beans, and a little pineapple, arrived later. The concept was that we made our own sauce for it with coriander, cumin, amchur, chili, salt. The same ingredients could be used for sauce for the potato bonas, deep-fried vegetable-and-potato balls. It was fun, it was conversational, it was cooperative. Some people shared spice blends. Others improvised their own on their plates. I did a bit of each, ringing the changes with the fresh crunchiness and sweetness of yogurt and tamarind. A fresh, salady riesling went with the vegetables, if not the potato.
Platters of herby freekeh, a whole grain, arrived, with jars of tahini ingredients for the shaking, and eggplants misrepresented as "whole" on the menu. They were halved, well-baked until the skin flaked and the insides all but melted. These were all accompaniments to the plates of tender, succulent Welsh lamb shoulder, cooked with seven spices and pomegranate molasses (says the menu). The spices were part of the thin, rich crust on the long strands of piled up lamb. The wine was a grenache, a cheery pale red promising vibrant cherry notes; not being a red drinker, I'll take their word for it.
Dessert was a cozy rice pudding with ripe cherries and the ingredients for a DIY cardamon sugar. A late arrival showed us how we'd used too much sugar in our first communal blend. A little for grit is a more effective way to start. I didn't read the menu closely enough or I would have noticed our table missed out on the botrytized viognier which was meant to accompany dessert. Perhaps that's why the bonus cava was on the table? A pity though, since I generally love dessert wines!
Still, it's the smallest tendril of a regret. It was a really wonderful, satisfying meal, and a delightful reminder of why I love this conference so much.