So I’m in England for the next several days, tasting beers and ciders and visiting pubs and breweries and cideries and distilleries. But first, there was The Pudding Club!
Founded 25 years ago in the Three Ways House hotel in Mickelton, Gloucestershire, the Club is a near weekly – sometimes more, sometimes less – gathering of aficionados of traditional English desserts. (The Brits call pretty much any dessert a “pudding,” but traditionally they are steamed sponge cakes, such as the famed Sticky Toffee Pudding, or assembled cold puddings such as trifle.) The way it works is this: 60 or 70 people assemble for a modest dinner followed by a sampling of seven puddings, one at a time and each served with its appropriate sauce and “lashings of custard.”
If you think the idea of seven separate desserts sounds wonderful, you’re quite right, but it’s also challenging, to say the least. I began with the Rhubarb Trifle followed by Jam Roly Poly, the latter of which was good, if unexciting, while the former was unexpectedly delicious. Then things got a bit tart with a Sussex Pond, a sort of boiled bomb with lemons inside, and sweet again with the classic Bread and Butter Pudding.
My fifth pudding was my all-time fave, the aforementioned Sticky Toffee, after which the going got tougher. My stomach groaned before the Ginger Syrup Pudd, which I thought reminiscent of great gingerbread, and my palate cringed at the unctuous sweetness of the final pudding of the night, Squidgy Chocolate and nut.
In the end, however, helped along by a mid-point dram of The Balvenie Single Malt, I cleaned my plate the full seven times, and managed a pint of Scrumpy down at the pub afterwards. My favourite, and the crowd’s by a single vote, was the Sticky Toffee, followed by the Ginger Syrup and Trifle, selections also echoed by the post-pudding show of hands.
The moral of this story: There really is such a thing as too much dessert, and it’s a lot of fun finding out exactly how much that is.