When Lauren from North East food blog Scran on the Tyne e-mailed me to invite me to the Scran Social, I was more than a little excited. An event especially for Newcastle's food bloggers at Gusto on the Quayside? Hanging out with likeminded food fans? Sampling lovely food? Yes please!
When the day arrived the sun was out in full force so some rather hot and bothered bloggers met over huge jugs of refreshing iced water. There was a fantastic attendance and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces as well as a few new ones. I love foodie events as there's always such a great mixture of bloggers and we get to spend a whole afternoon appreciating food and taking as many photos of our plates as we like.
Gusto is a very short walk from my office so it's somewhere I've been a few times before. Unfortunately I've never really taken the time to appreciate it properly, as grabbing a quick lunch in an hour before heading back to work tends to mean ordering quickly and hoovering it all up before you get a chance to really taste it. So I was really looking forward to spending some proper quality time at the restaurant.
Gusto is an Italian, and although it's a chain with 8 other restaurants across the country the interior of the restaurant, knowledgeable staff and flavourful food make it a league above the competition.
We began our afternoon with a spot of wine tasting hosted by Jonny which was really interesting. I'm not going to claim that I'm any kind of wine expert and although I love my food and eating out I don't usually take a great deal of care in what wine I'm ordering.
Jonny had a white, red and dessert wine for us to try and gave a quick introduction to how wine can compliment food. He soon had us holding our glasses up to study the colour, dunking our noses in for a good whiff and taking sips whilst sucking air in through our mouths to fully appreciate the flavour (easier said than done!). Seems that the North East food bloggers are great lovers of wine as there was very little spitting and instead there were joyful choruses of "cheers" round the room whilst we all drained every drop from our glasses.
I really enjoyed each wine we tasted and was especially surprised with the dessert wine as it's something I've never really considered ordering before. It was so sweet and fruity and as a huge lover of dessert it's certainly something I may think about having in the future.
After we'd drank our glasses dry the food arrived so we spent an enjoyable afternoon sitting at little tables eating far too much food and gossiping in between getting up to the "help yourself" station for seconds and thirds.
I found myself on a table with some of my favourite North East bloggers Paul, Ashlie and Cate as well as Emily whose blog I'd been reading for ages but had never met. We had a great afternoon, mostly chatting about our favourite subject, food!
We enjoyed a sharing board full of breads and meats. Unfortunately we didn't have any cheese on ours and were too busy chatting to get up and pinch some from another table.
The idea behind the event was to sample food from Gusto's new Summer menu. So the selection from the Mains included pizzas, pastas and salads as well as a big bowl of saffron risotto served with white crab salad.
The dishes were all gorgeous, and I left completely rethinking my opinions on ordering salad in a restaurant. You'd never catch me ordering a bowl of leaves when I'm out for a meal but the Summer salads we tried were refreshing and delicious - full of wonderful colours and flavours. I especially loved the poached egg and asparagus topped salad - Summer in a bowl!
Of course we all know that dessert is always my favourite course so I was very enthusiastic when I saw some really eye catching treats arrive on the table in the form of bombolini (mini donuts) with chocolate sauce and cream for dipping (or dunking if you're me!) and Italian Mess (blueberry meringue with cream and strawberries)
As you can see I grabbed as much as I could and made a wonderful gooey mess on my plate which tasted just as good as it looked. Too often dessert menus in Italian restaurants aren't anything to sing about but I loved the offerings from Gusto and will definitely make sure I leave room for dessert next time I'm there.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye but we all had a fantastic time and I will definitely be returning as soon as possible to try some more of the Summer menu and to perch myself out on the sunny terrace.
Thanks so much to Lauren for organising and Jonny and Jess at Gusto for letting a pack of hungry bloggers invade the restaurant.
All food and drink was provided free of charge so we could sample the Summer menu but as always opinions are my own and I am a definite fan of Gusto!