Recently in eating and drinking Category
On Food & Drink Michel Roux Jr asked his guests (Monica Galetti!) if he gave them £5 what comfort food would they buy. Kate Goodman said salt & vinegar crisps and Monica Galetti (Monica Galetti!) said chocolate.
Without thinking, what came to my mind was ham. My ham obsession started when Mum fed me it after I came home from swimming lessons and I could never resist great quailty ham on the bone. SIgh. Sigh. Sigh.
All I can afford now is sliced ham in packets. Not very high quality, but I can still eat scads of it.
Had a gathering with mm and her mum at her place. Cheese and dried sausages with a nice gewurztraminer. I made warm grilled vegetable salad (peppers, courgettes, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, rocket). Also tried making a french apple tart, and mm requested apple crumble.
The apple tart recipe is from Michel Roux Jr, I saw him make it on Food & Drink and it looked straightforward.
Roll out 180g puff pastry into a 25cm round, chill in fridge. Spread over apple compote (an apple stewed with a bit of water and sugar) and lay over sliced apples. Eggwash the pastry edges, sprinkle 2tbsp sugar and dots of butter, glaze. Bake at 200°C for 30mins until golden brown.
Except it wasn’t straightforward. The pastry didn’t rise properly and the tart ended up with what Paul Hollywood would call soggy bottom. I have no idea why. May be the pastry wasn’t cold enough, may be the compote and apple slices weren’t cold enough, may be the compote was too wet, may be the oven wasn’t hot enough. I can bake fairly competently and have no problems with crumbles and choux pastry. I’m just not very good at regular pastry.
I pan-fried a slice in a regular frying pan and the bottom was crispy. Overall, the flavours were fine so it’s a matter of mastering the puff pastry.
One of the tasks on the trip was to get whisky at DXB duty free. It helped that I saw the large selection last time, and on the layover to Copenhagen I was able to browse even more. I’d promised a GCLS friend I’d bring a bottle of VAT 69 to Dallas, so I got that. Big bargain, less than $20.
I could get another bottle, which would be for myself. I’d finished an Edradour (mostly making whisky honey & lemon when I was sick in Feb) so I wanted a Speyside or HIghland. In any case, not peated as the Ardbeg is still open. This ruled out a very tempting Laphroaig PX or an even more tempting Caol Ila 12. Sigh. I briefly thought about a Jura 16.
Original intention was Dalmore 12, seeing how popular it is. But I didn’t want to commit to a whole bottle of a standard expression without having tried it first. That was what I did with BNJ and the aforesaid Edradour, and I would have preferred Highland Park 12 over either one.
My eye was drawn to a Glengoyne Burnfoot. No age expression, travel retail only. Named in honour of the original name of the distillery. But the difference was, I had tried it before, sometime last year when RM and I were doing the distillery rounds. I have a bottle already at home. I remember it being smooth and sweet. And at a price of AED143, or £30 for 1 litre, is good value for money.
It’s as sweet as I remembered. Needed a drop of water and to sit a while for the flavour to develop and the kick to dissipate. Reviews say apple, I get sticky heaviness and lots of citrus to finish. Definitely a more than worthy successor to the rather sharp Edradour. Next time, Dalwhinnie or Old Pulteney or back to my favourite HP12.
Met up with Sis to catch up. We’d originally arranged to meet at this bar/restaurant called the Globe but when I got there it was busy and the wait staff was unfriendly. Directed me to the bar where someone had already set up their laptop and some sort of credit card application form, probably someone on the staff. Didn’t like the noise level so I headed off elsewhere. Ended up at an old standby, Jaspas.
Pretty nice dinner, and the waitress was super nice and super friendly. We both had surf and turf and a glass of wine. Then walked over to the FCC for dessert, I had summer pudding. Sis had coffee and I tried the Dalmore 12. The FCC like all foreign correspondents clubs all over the world, a little British, a little old school, full of hard drinking journalists. I almost bought a Dalmore 12 in the duty free on the way back, but at the end opted for a Glengoyne Burnfoot instead. Having tried the Dalmore, I’m glad I decided against it. It’s not bad, just not exciting.
I got sick on the first day of our holiday, the first day in Copenhagen. Could have been on the plane, layover at Dubai, the train from the airport, or when walking around in the city. I knew when my throat felt so dry when I woke up after the first night. It wasn’t a sore throat, just an extremely uncomfortable dryness. I tried drinking throughout the day, and had a supply of ricola and chewing gum at hand.
By the time we got on the cruise I knew I was going to be sick. The worst day was Kiel, when my throat felt like it was on fire the whole day. Apart from that, I didn’t feel any worse than normal, no tiredness, no cough (yet) so I tried to continue with the holiday as normal.
The fiery throat abated somewhat over the next 2 days when we reached the fjords but the coughing started. Mum asked if I wanted to go to the medical centre, but I didn’t want to. By the time we reached Bergen, I had begun to run out of ricola but luckily we found a 7-eleven and bought some strepsils. Or as they call it, repsils. Big help, especially the double action ones.
What also helped was the availability of honey and lemon in the cafeteria. I took enough pots of honey at breakfast to last the whole day and there’s always sliced lemon at the tea/coffee station. Drinking 3-4 large glasses a day must have helped soothe the scratchiness in my throat. And the coughing too. If I were at home I would have added whisky (of course) but just the honey and lemon was good enough.
Plus, this time I didn’t try to run a half marathon in the middle of a flu, just slow 30mins on the treadmill in the gym, so I didn’t get more sick. Still coughing a little, just as well I still have a supply of honey.
We went for an oyster opening short course in the evening. 6 oysters and they say 2 glasses of wine that turned out to be total one glass in volume. No matter, it was fun.
We each got an oyster opening knife which we can take home. The instructor was pretty good, demonstrating the technique first then helping whenever anyone needed help. Things we learned from him: soak the oysters in salted ice water for 15mins to get rid of scum and bugs — salted ice water not because it’s like seawater but because salt reduces the temperature of the ice and will numb any bugs embedded in the shells so they fall off. The skirt of the oyster inside can be brown or black depending on the temperature when they were harvested. Squirt some lemon juice or gently touch the skirt once opened to check if the oyster is still alive, the skirt will shrink if it is.
Place the oyster around a wet cloth folded over, hold it down with your palm, insert the knife through the lip. Firmly push it up and down a few times, and make sure it’s touching the roof of the shell and stuck inside. Then lever gently and it will open. Clean off bits of shell and detach. I got my first one opened within a few seconds and I even managed a couple of more difficult ones.
The oysters were extremely fresh, and full of seawater. Lovely, lovely taste. No need even for lemon or any condiments. Our favourite was the fine de claire which had a little mineral taste and excellent texture. There were also rock oysters from Ireland, ones from Holland and another French one.
Met up with mm, she came to pick me up in her car and I directed her to a new area she’s never been to. Just simple lunch of rib-eye and vegetables. Went to the library, window shopped at estate agents and went to a small store. Went over to the church so she can get a spare copy of her baptism certificate. I wanted to get my confirmation certificate filled out too, but apparently I have to return to the church I was baptised in, not the one I was confirmed. Strange.
Met with family at a pub near Sis’ place so we can have a family dinner for early celebration of Mum’s birthday. Nice pub, not too crowded and it was okay for my niece. I had smoked duck breast with mash and a big floret of broccoli. A couple of glasses of Hoegaarten too.
The newest tasting, Adelphi whisky. Not quite my usual, something from an independent bottler. The name is taken from an old distillery that closed in 1907.
Tasted the cheaper blended one, which was quite okay and the price was good for daily drinking. The one that got me excited was a cask from Caol Ila that says it’s 25yr. I’m not sure I’m convinced about independent bottlers, or blends. Withholding judgement yet.
An all around eating out day. Lunch with mm at Bistrot Le Fauchon, 2 courses with tea/coffee for just over US$10. Salad for starter, I had duck breast and she had a lamb shank. We shared a carafe of wine and a dessert off the à la carte menu. Haven’t tried iced cheesecake before, it was beautifully presented in a cone made from dark and white chocolate. Very nice, creamy and not too sweet, just a hint of cheese. Found a recipe worth trying — seems to be normal chilled cheesecake but frozen instead.
Met with sis and gis for early dinner before taking gis to the Dr Bunhead show. Gis had goats cheese tart and I had a scotch egg—still full from lunch. Afterwards we headed over to Holly Brown for ice cream. Another first for me—blue vanilla ice cream, which I had coldstoned with blueberries. My tongue was blue! Taste was creamy, fruity and I enjoyed it.
Whenever I had some spare time in Covent Garden I’d always try to go to 10 cases for a glass of wine. Prices were the same as pubs and they have a more superior selection. That was where I developed a taste for Chinon, especially during last summer when I felt like a lighter red. Chinon is a Loire wine and mostly cabernet franc. I was quite happy to discover that one of the supermarkets has it, albeit a little more expensive than the Australian, Chile or South African wine that occupy most of the shelves. I’m still on my old world kick, and I have to be careful about French and Italian wines here. They’re either overpriced (Bordeaux) or not very good plonk.
Met mm for lunch, then went to an appointment with her. She had taken the afternoon off, so we took the car and drove out to a little bit further. It rained, but we were lucky to get a parking space quickly and managed a nice walk around. Explored the wet market, the pier, stopped for oysters (gillardo, cumbrae, holland live) and a small glass of wine. Back to her place for pizza and red shrimps. For the second night in a row, she drove me home.
I can’t remember when Japanese food became so popular. To show my age, it wasn’t widely available when I was younger, and now it’s everywhere. It’s one of my favourite cuisines. Can’t go wrong with fresh fish, tempting tempura and yummy yakitori. I have missed Japanese food while I was in Chicago and London. Spicy tuna rolls, while very nice, aren’t Japanese food. And in London I stuck with yo!sushi which again, not quite authentic.
Always happy to have Japanese. Quick dinner with mm, fresh prawn, salmon, squid, sea urchin sushi with steamed tofu. And I had a draught beer too. It’s all very fresh.
It’s mm’s birthday. We met up after lunch for tea — she had fruit sponge and I had a nice chestnut cake. Rich hot chocolate and iced chocolate accompanied the delicate (and a little expensive) cakes. Wandered around the shopping mall, took the bus to the flower market street and bought some cheap diffusers.
Dinner at a new restaurant, one that serves seafood. We had braised eel with taro and pumpkin, stuffed peppers and noodles. The eel was sweet and the sauce very nice. The highlight was the stuffed peppers though, very delicious, a little spicy with the seeds left in. Large plates too, we both had enough to take home.
1.7l (3pt) milk
1 vanilla pod
300g arborio rice
5 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
I saw this recipe for orange rice cake on Two Greedy Italians and it looked so fabulous that I couldn’t wait to try it. So I made it for my parents.
Bring the milk to a boil together with the sugar, vanilla pod and large pieces of lemon zest. Add the rice all at once, stir at low to medium heat until the rice has absorbed the mlik, around 25-30mins. The mixture should be creamy and slightly thick. Remove from heat and cool, discarding the vanilla and lemon zest.
Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with cointreau. Whisk the whites until firm. Once the rice mixture has cooled, add the egg yolks, raisin, orange zest then fold in the egg whites. Bake at 180°C for about 1 hr. Can be served hot or cold.
A long time ago, I had a moist, custardy, slightly heavy cake from France. It’s a bit like canalé but with dried fruit. This tasted a bit like that. There’s a lot of custard flavour, the rice gives a different texture and the citrus is a good contrast. Flourless, butterless but still very rich and yummy.
March 27th is international whisky day, a global celebration of whisky originally set up to honour the late Michael Jackson:
On this date let every whisk(e)y lover annually raise a dram - wherever in the world he or she may be - to honour the many unsung heroes of the past and present, who have been crafting the King O’ Drinks for centuries and will hopefully continue to do so till the end of time.
I have 3 bottles of whisky currently open at home:
- edradour — the smallest distillery in Scotland. When I had that terrible 3 week bronchitis, I made serious inroads into the bottle making whisky, lemon and honey, aka hot toddy
- ardbeg — peat monster, no introduction needed
- kavalan — from taiwan, one of the newer and more unusual whisky producing countries
I think this is a good strategy, to have a selection always on the shelf. A highland / speyside / lowland, an Islay / island and then one from the rest of the world: either a bourbon or one from an unusual location. Three seems to be a good number.
Went with sis and gis to a small, family styled japanese restaurant for dinner. Only a few tables, patchy service, but very sincere. I had one of the set: selection of small starters, deep fried pork chop with chicken rice, honey custard pudding. Sis had yakitori and udon. Gis had pork chop and rice, no set. The set came with sake, plum wine or calpis soft drink. We had the sake, one hot and one cold.
Lunch today was unlimited japanese hot pot. Beef and pork sliced from the freezer. Vegetables and noodles and tofu at the buffet bar. Plus soft ice cream and soft drinks. Yet another day where lunch was also dinner.
Went to Korean bbq lunch with parents, an all-you-can-eat affair. Small banchan selection (kimchi, spinach, potato etc), hot food, lots of meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, squid) and vegetables. Dessert included sweet tofu, coconut pudding, ice cream, fruit. Plum juice and soy milk at the fountain. Very full. Enough for the whole day, we all just had a little fruit for dinner.
Normally I don’t drink white wine; it gives me a headache. But with Indian food with Sis yesterday, it was the better choice — I would have liked a rosé but the shop didn’t have any ready chilled. So I got this riesling which went by a long name: Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten. The vintage was 2011. And it was very nice, very sweet, and didn’t give me a headache. I took the rest of the bottle home.
Went over to sis’ in the afternoon. Dinner was at a nearby Indian restaurant, we were the only customers but the food was good. Fish curry, lamb biryani, mutter paneer, samosas, peas rice, roti canal. BYO Riesling. I’d go back again.
8.25km 1.04.39hr 7.50min/km (12.37min/mi)
I need to pull my finger out and get over this lethargy. No running for 3 weeks, stuck inside for a whole week? Pitiful and lame. So I went running after lunch. 8.25km is just over 5 miles. Mostly ran slowly, with some walking at the water fountains. Just getting back to the rhythm.
And because it’s St Patrick’s Day, the reward is pork chops, roasted cauliflower and a big bottle of Guinness Foreign Extra. Yum.
p.s. that glass is an extremely heavy ML crystal glass that I got when I reached 5 years’ service, there’s a tiny bull engraving at the front. Wonder if it’s a collectors’ item now.
Met up for mm, she had car hunting on her mind having all of a sudden decided she wanted to buy a car. Had shanghainese lunch — eel noodles, snow peas with dried tofu and jellied pig’s trotter. It’s been a long time since I had the sautéed eels, used to have it a lot with my grandparents. Fried with bean sprouts and noodes, it was more filling and less oily.
Then went to a bunch of dealers, first to look at new cars. Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford. Then to a second hand place. Saw a lovely BMW 118i that I liked. Not many golfs so we headed to the VW dealer. Booked a test drive for next week.
It was like going out with a good friend. That’s as much as I can expect nowadays. 10hrs together is better than sitting around like an idiot at home.
While I’m not sure, sadly, if I’ll ever get fresh yellow beets again (the ones in the pic are from the farmers market in Chicago), I can get the regular red beets. Easy oven job, roast beets, roast corn on the cob, chicken drumsticks.
Feeling depressed. Tried to meet up with mm, did a bit of shopping. Went for a glass of wine at the place where you get unlimited peanuts and you throw the shells on the floor. On the floor, that’s what I feel like right now. In my life, in everything. Not sure what I’m doing here in a place I hate, not sure what I should do, not sure of anything, full stop. Feel like I’m struggling to push myself into a rare timeslot she has graciously made available for me out of pity. Need guidance from angels on what to do now, and what future to look forward to. Not in a good place.
I found this video on my iphone. Last year mm and I went to a Japanese whisky bar, and the bartender / owner demonstrated to us how to make a perfectly round ice sphere from a large cube of ice by hand. There are moulds and machines on the market, but this guy did it using 3 different knives. In 3 minutes. I snipped repetitive parts, and also so it fits within the 1:30 limit.
Trust the Japanese to invent something so odd, yet so beautiful. The theory is that the sphere has the smallest surface area of all 3-dimensional objects so a spherical block of ice will melt slower than regularly shaped ice cubes. This is especially important for whisky, you want the whisky to get cool but don’t want it to get watered down so quicky.
It’s not really a mushroom fricassee, just 3 types of mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, enoki) thrown together with some leftover chestnuts. And fried hard tofu. Served with quinoa. Very brown and plain, but tasted nice.
Now that I’m sick and not running, I have to be careful of what I eat. Well, when I have the appetite, I haven’t felt like eating much anyway. My maintenance calorie target isn’t very generous; if I go out for a meal that usually is it.
It’s interesting to see what 200 calories look like. One avocado, half a bar of snickers, a huge plate (almost 1.5kg) of celery, or a tiny glass of baileys. Some quite deceptive.
Bad night, still feeling terrible. But sis called and asked if I could go around to her place and stay with gis for a bit after school. So off I went and we ended up watching tv. Stayed till dinnertime, and we all went to this creperie. I had a goat’s cheese and caramel one followed by apples flambéed with calvados. Sis had just banana and chocolate; gis had ham, egg, tomato, camembert breakfast one followed by a nice lemon one.
Went with mm to a shabu shabu restaurant called something like Mou Mou club. Fun name. It’s an all-you-can-eat affair, with pricing depending on the quality of beef and pork you want — it goes from the normal sliced beef all the way to wagyu beef. There’s also a buffet counter with lots of vegetables, noodles, miniature sausages, fish balls and rice. We picked a tomato soup base. Unlimited soft drinks and ice cream included too. The only downside is the time limit of 90mins, which meant we couldn’t linger. A good deal overall.
1976 McDonald’s coffee and apple pie, by flickr user daniel85r
Met mm for lunch at a Japanese place near her home, then we took the bus to one of the beaches. We walked round the very touristy market stalls for a while then decided to stop for a coffee (for her) and coke (for me). Instead of going into the overpriced and crowded cafés, we headed to Mcdonalds. She only wanted a regular coffee and quite honestly, my coke zero was cheaper and tasted exactly the same as those expensive places. We even got a pie each. The 4 items together would have bought us just a coffee at the other places. I showed her my cruise pics on my camera and we continued to get caught up on 10 days’ worth of news.
I have 10,000 airmiles expiring today, so I was searching to redeem those miles. Last year I exchanged 15,000 miles for a bottle of Ardbeg 10yr plus a tasting glass. Initially I was tempted again but decided I have far too many bottles of whisky at home. Besides, the Ardbegs I really want are Uigeadail or Alligator. The standard 10yr is really nice, but the others are nicer.
What I did end up getting for 8,000 miles was a Riedel Swirl set of 4 wine glasses and a decanter. The glasses look good and are perfect for everyday drinking. I have a selection of traditional stemmed and contemporary unstemmed glasses, and these are a great addition to the collection. I don’t have a wine decanter, so this is a plus.
While browsing the food and dining section of the miles catalogue, I saw a bunch of Manny O wines available for only 3,500 miles. I’d never heard of this brand of wines, and my first reaction was that they are plonk. A little googling revealed that it’s a custom wine blender from the Philippines, of all places, that have won some awards. I thought the rosé was interesting but it was out of stock so I got the 2009 Sumiler from Yecla, Spain — apparently from 40 year old vines. There are 2 bottles in the set, let’s see if they are any good.
Met up with mm for lunch of soup and rice. Sounds normal enough? Ha!! The soup is thick and savoury, made with snake, chicken, mushroom and topped with chrysanthemum leaves and crunchy crackers. And yes, snake tastes like chicken — a little tougher chicken, as if it’d been boiled for too long. Tasty, very tasty.
The rice was cooked directly in a claypot. We ordered two, the first was topped with frog’s legs and more mushroom, the second was snake liver and fish swim bladder. Probably scary even just reading about it, right? The frog’s legs were our favourites, and they taste like very tender chicken. The snake liver and fish bladder were okay, a little crunchy, as if they needed a bit more braising. The rice was almost burnt, so the bottom is like crunchy rice cracker. Nice.
Food I’ve had recently. This was at a local restaurant where the service was quick and, to be honest, not very good. Food was freshly made though. Steamed minced pork in a tower, with a salted duck egg. The pork was soft, juicy and not oily. Perfect with plain rice.
The second dish was steamed fish. Just cooked, with a nice sauce. Another great dish with plain rice. We ordered clams also, but as part of the bad service, it never arrived. In a way it was okay because we were pretty full with the pork and fish.
I was watching 2 different Jamie Oliver programs. The first was his food revolution program where he was in an American elementary school and kids couldn’t even recognise a fresh potato, or tomato, or eggplant, or any fresh vegetable. They could all recognise french fries and fried chicken though. The second was an old Naked Chef program where he visited his old school in Essex. He brought out some buffalo mozzarella and asked the class if they recognised it, and most of the class said yes.
The point? It is a sad state of affairs in the US, where kids have never seen nor come into contact with fresh food. Is it typical? I’m no expert, but anecdotally, I can say that America is where I have found the greasiest, most processed, hugest portions of food as well as the least adventurous eaters. I must say, I’m not immune to a big steak or good pizza myself, but there has to be a balance between fast food and fresh, home-cooked food. And NO EXCUSE for parents for bringing up kids who can’t even recognise a potato.
It’s slightly better in the UK, though it seems that the trend is alarming skewing towards obesity caused by fast and processed food. At least people in the UK are more accepting of non-British food. Chicken tikka masala is the national dish, after all (and I say this with sarcasm because it’s certainly not a true Indian dish.) McDonald’s in France feels less like fast food than in America, it’s still McDonald’s.
Which brings me to another part of the world, where palates are developed early in life and food is for enjoyment, not just sustenance. On buzzfeed recently there was an article about a Japanese toddler called Rino who loves trying new food. The youtube channel is called Rino which eats world various dishes and ignoring the slight Engrishness of the descriptions, every single video on there is worth watching. Repeatedly. The construct is simple,
a few shots of food prep — pad thai in one video, a Spanish tortilla in another — then many many shots of Rino shoveling the food in her mouth, usually with total delight
There is no need to understand Japanese, the delight is easy to see. Watch this one where she tries pho. At 2:10 when she picks up a tail-on shrimp and takes out the tail. Then at 3:40 when she claims her meal as her own. And good manners too, at 5:58 when she says thank you. She’s 3 years old and other videos in the channel show her trying bibimbap, tiramisu and tortilla. Very cute.
If I had Christmas decorations it’s the day to take them down, it’s twelfth night. Anyway, I didn’t have decorations. But mm did come round for our New Year celebration meal. Because of traffic jam she didn’t get here till almost 3pm so I wouldn’t call it lunch.
We started with jamón ibérico and cantaloupe melons; the ham we bought at an expo at Christmas. Easy peasy starter. For mains it was also easy, we made inroads into the stockpile of sausages I had in the freezer, these were from Prague. Ah, memories.
For dessert she requested apple crumble so I made that. Added some cranberries I had left over, I think adding berries to apple crumble gives it a nice kick and makes it look more appealing. As per instructions from the guardian I made the crumble mix in the morning, sprinkled on some water and put in the fridge before baking.
Ham from Spain, sausages from Czech Republic followed by a very British dessert. A European New Year meal. We opened the bottle of Kavalan whisky from Taiwan, but also tried a drop of Edradour and Ardbeg.
I saw a photo and article about a ridiculous pizza from Pizza Hut called the cheesy opera which consisted of a thin crust pizza on top of a twisted cheese crust. I went to their site and saw that I had a credit card offer that included the pizza, some pasta, a couple of sides and sodas.
People make New Year resolutions like go to the gym or eat more veg. So I bucked the trend and thought, why not try this ridiculous thing as an experiment. I can split the food into enough meals for several days. It’s frugal.
Turned out, if I ordered online, I get even more: an extra pasta and more soda. The total of $298 is equivalent to US$38 or £25. I got: smoked ham pizza, clam spaghetti, chicken pasta, seafood rice, meatballs, spicy chicken wings and 6 cans of diet pepsi (oh yes, I ordered diet pepsi so there’s at least one “healthy” item on the list). It was delivered on time at 12.30pm and I spread it all out on my whole coffee table.
It’s called cheesy opera, but it’s a translation from “stage” — the concept is that it’s like in the theatre, with pretty decorations on a smaller base sitting on a larger base. One thing I had forgotten, is that portion sizes are different than in the US. It wasn’t as large as I imagined, about 13” in diameter. The smaller base was the size of a large tortilla shell. The twisted cheese crust was rather flat. Manageable quantity of topping. All in all, it was an attempt to market an ordinary pizza hut pizza with a slightly different name and concept, and it tasted of generic pizza hut pizza too. I had 2 slices; I ran 7.5k today so I had the appetite.
There was a lot of pasta that came with the meal. I tried the clam spaghetti in black pepper sauce, it was baked and the pasta wasn’t overdone. Quite rich and stodgy though, I had about 1/4 of the portion. The rest of the pasta and the meatballs went straight to the freezer.
Would I order it again? Probably not. Chicago has ruined me for deep dish, and around town there are better pizzas available.
Compared with the enormous christmas feast I cooked for myself last year, this year’s christmas was very simple in comparison. Mum ordered a whole turkey and I got a container of already shredded white and dark meat. I had that with some failed sparkling cranberries (didn’t dry sufficiently, good as accompaniment though), courgettes and cherry tomatoes I had in the fridge. Finished with a slice of panettone, some chestnuts from the yacht club yesterday and a wee dram of Ardbeg.
Met up with the family for dinner at a curry restaurant. Parents had laksa, Sis and Robert and Gis had gado gado and stuffed tofu. I had green curry chicken with roti canai. Enough to take home for another meal.
I now have the last of my whisky collection, mm brought the bottles she’d brought back and been holding for me. Over 30 bottles, plus a bunch of miniatures, occupy 2 shelves of my display cabinet, some of my sideboard as well as one borrowed shelf of my TV cabinet. Amongst them:
- bunnahabhein 25
- ardbeg corryvrechan (and a 10)
- laphroaig px
- bruichladdich F in bordeaux cask
- highland park 12, 18, 1994 and St Magnus
- redbreast cask strength
- arras filled from cask at the whisky exchange
- yamazaki 12
Not just whisky, there’s a bottle of pyrat rum, a bourbon cream from buffalo trace, belvedere vodka, pear liqueur from Switzerland, the world’s best beer, a strange tomato liqueur from Japan. Not to mention tons of wine from Provence and that bottle of masi amarone 1996 that I got from Verona.
Dinner with Sis’ family at a restaurant called Home. Slow service, okay food. Pasta, lamb chops and some wine. For dessert Sis had affogato with amaretto and my niece and I both had a waffle. Should have asked for no chocolate sauce, just ice cream. Quite nice and freshly made.
And the world didn’t end. It was supposed to be at 7.11pm our time (11.11 UTC), and we were smack in the middle of eating.
There is a type of steak diner here that serves acceptable steaks as well as SE Asian food like curries, satay, sambal and the like. It also has standards like pasta, noodles and sandwiches. Went there after the concert on Friday. I had the rib-eye dinner (soup, steak, coffee or tea), sis had baked garoupa and rice, little one had spag bol.
Sis spotted that they had baked alaska on the menu so we ordered it, none of us ever tried it before. 20 min wait, then the waiter brought over this white bombe, poured alcohol over it and lit it. Nice!
The inside wasn’t quite what I expected. There were a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, some sponge and a sprinkling of canned fruit cocktail. The outside meringue was very foamy, Sis said it was like edible bubble bath. Would have preferred it to be more browned and crunchy. Overall, I quite enjoyed it. Too big for the three of us, there was enough for 6 or even 8.
Mum and I went to this dim sum place that has the dinkiest dim sum dishes. The prawn dumplings were 2 per basket as opposed to the usual 4. Everything was managable small sized. We ordered these mini one bite shrimp burgers with wasabi mayo, very nice. And the cheung fun was cut up and presented nicely on a glass plate. For dessert we had mango pudding that came in these small cups, even smaller than tea light holders, more like a sake glass.
I was home sorting the kitchen — about 90% done, most stuff in cabinets, I need drawer liners, cutlery tray and to screw in my new magnetic knife holder. Mum came with me to iron my shirts — I never iron, she insists on ironing everything, even t-shirts we wear at home.
We went to dinner at a local diner. This set had ramen noodles in cheese sauce, fried pork chop and garlic bread which came with scrambled eggs. Adding cheese is one of the ways to upgrade ramen. It tasted good, I dread to think how many calories were in that dish.
Catching up on a few posts. This was from 1 November. Sis saw a Highland Park dinner tasting at the yacht club and wanted to go. Not a lot of resistance from me, I got mm to go too. I even wore my HP polo shirt.
The evening started with a tasting of Famous Grouse, which is also owned by the Edrington Group. Fairly innocuous blended whisky, nothing special. The starter of prawn tartar and scallops was accompanied by Naked Grouse, another blend that has a high % of Highland Park. We liked it.
Deep fried pigeon with citrus and nut salad came with HP18, now we’re talking. Lamb chops with turnip and risoni came with HP21. Chocolate crème brûlée was served with HP25. And we finished with HP30. Fantastic.
My niece came to hang out with me in the morning while Sis went to Parents-Teachers meeting. She did homework while I worked on tidying up. All clothes are now in my wardrobe, and shoeboxes underneath the bed. A good start.
After Sis finished at school, we all went for lunch at boqueria, had the tapas appetiser buffet, then I had flank steak while Sis had garlic prawns. Finished off with churros. Everything was good, lots of serrano ham, roasted veg, manchego cheese, even purple tomatoes. The only slight complaint was the churros weren’t crispy or fresh enough, it was as if they’d been sitting out there for a while and gotten more doughy.
After running in the park yesterday, Mum and I went to a Chinese Halal restaurant and had their famous beef pastry. They call it juicy beef cake, and it’s their signature dish. Freshly made when we got there at 5pm. Crispy outer dough and the beef filling oozes out gravy when you bite into it.
Just like there’s a synagogue near my apartment, there are muslims here too. Quite unusual. This is a family business that has been around for 60 years. Strictly no pork and no alcohol served or allowed. It’s one of those no frills place where service is quick, prices are low and it can get busy at meal times. Good reviews too.
We took the train over the border to SZ to hunt for lights. They are cheaper, and I saw a couple I liked. There was this building where the whole floor was dedicated to light fittings, but just our luck that the entire building had a power cut. It’s fine to look for most stuff without lights, but not light fittings. The effect just isn’t there.
Resolved to come back, we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Went to a large bookshop where mm bought some piano music. Early dinner of individual hotpot at a nice foodcourt. We both opted for the tomato soup base and then we had the usual trimmings — beef, lamb, vegetables, fish.
Dinner with my ex-colleagues at the French Window. RM’s new company owns this, so he gets a discount, and is greeted by the staff. Nice food and great view. Expensive, only saved by the discount and we didn’t order wine. Strange way of having French food though, we shared everything: seafood platter, mussels, steak tartare, lamb then dessert of paris brest, rum baba and apple tart.
Lunch at Saboten, a tonkatsu specialist. Tonkatsu is fried pork chop, although they also have chicken and prawns. Lunch set consisted of 3 different pieces — regular pork chop, pork with cheese and crab cake. Came with miso soup and unlimited rice, salad and pickles. The rice was either normal white rice or brown rice; salad was shredded cabbage that came with the exquisite sesame dressing.
I stayed home while my parents went out for lunch and to do grocery shopping. There’s a lot of food at home, ranging from snacks and cereal bars to tons of unknown boxes in the freezer. My dad does the cooking, and he cooks healthy food — lots of veg and very little oil. It’s still not my own food, and I feel fat and bloated lately. So I just had an apple pear for lunch. These are not tiddly conference pears, they’re the size of a grapefruit, crunchy and juicy. To try to control my eat-too-fast habit, I cut it up into little chunks.
Fruits are different here. Lots more tropical fruits like mango, papaya, dragon fruit. We have oranges, tangerines, red plums, green plums, apples, aforesaid apple pears and kiwi fruit in the fridge. At the market are ridiculously over-priced Japanese fruit but we like going for the value pack instead. To be honest, I’m missing American honeycrisp apples right now.
Autumn marks the start of the hairy crab season. Small crabs from a specific region near Shanghai, they have little meat and are fiddly to eat. It’s the smooth, cholesterol-laden yellow roe inside the shells that make these a delicacy.
It’s been years since we had them. So I met mm after work, went to a reliable shop and bought two each. Just steam them and then tuck in. Yummy.
Took a break from home stuff to do personal stuff: got a haircut, went with sis to foot massage, and tried out a whisky bar I found. With a name like “Malty” it’s a risk — personally I think it’s a bad name, too cheesy. It’s more like a normal bar with a few more whiskies than a real whisky bar. They had vertical flights of glenfiddich, glenlivet, macallan and the like. Nothing terribly exciting, although more than an average bar/pub. We ordered a basic flight of 3x30ml drams — balvenie doublewood, highland park 12 and laphroaig 10. Sis had never tried highland park before and I think I have a convert.
All the palaver about Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, I almost forgot about the other book published this year also called Sweet Tooth. Not a spy thriller, but a sort of personal-discovery-essay-history of sweets, aka candy, by Kate Hopkins, more well known as the Accidental Hedonist.
The kindle page has no kindle version available. I can get it directly on my kindle though. Strange. I haven’t gone through with the purchase, I wonder if it will work.
photo by flickr user miikka skaffari
Many years ago when I was travelling to Singapore regularly, one of the indulgences was asian style jerky from bch. I tried chicken bak kwa, and it quickly became a favourite. The chicken, or the more traditional pork or beef, is marinaded in spices, sugar and salt before being cooked in a smoker. The distinctive sweet, fruity, meaty flavour is best enjoyed while the slices are hot. I find the Singaporean and Malaysian versions tender and juicy while the Taiwanese versions are more dry and spicy.
So mm and I shared a packet to take home. It’s not cheap, so we opted for the sliced pork which was on special. And now I read that a few fine engineers in the Bay area has started making and selling their own. Something for my adventurous American friends to try.
Went to watch my niece at her taekwondo lesson, then we went to dinner at a mussels and beer place. My niece had goat’s cheese pie and mash potatoes. Sis and I both opted for the mussel pots. She had a coconut beer served in a coconut shell shaped bowl and I had a kwak. It’s just like at belgo’s!
Mum and I met with a contractor about flat renovation today. Before going, we thought we’d have lunch at one of the nearby places, but most of the ones we remember have gone. So we ended up at Mcdonald’s. Aside from the sausage egg mcmuffin for under US$1 available all day, there are other offers and special menu items. I had a shogun burger which is teriyaki pork burger on lettuce and a sesame seed bun. Nice teriyaki sauce flavour. Reminds me that there are special international items not available in the US, some of them look pretty nice — chicken katsu burger in Japan, paneer wrap in India, cordon bleu burger in Poland. And beer in cool countries.
Flight tonight is at 8pm, so as long as I’m back at the room by 4pm I’m fine. I took the tube all the way out to Covent Garden and had lunch at Hawksmoor. Sigh. That wasn’t a surprise at all, right? Not a filet person, always finding it too bland. But I finally tried the filet tail they had on the board, plus bone marrow and a side of peas and lettuce. No dessert, moved to the bar for a Blanton’s though. And then got a free shot of Rittenhouse from the bartender when I told her that I was flying out. The end of an era, of sorts.
It’s a long way to go from Covent Garden to Heathrow, over an hour on the tube. There was enough time for a shower and final packing. Check-in was straightforward, at 21kg I wasn’t even overweight. I’m only bringing minimal clothes, the heaviest items in the suitcase are Prague sausages. I’m wearing my Highland Park t-shirt, and had a nice chat with the people at World of Whiskies. Flight looks to be full, I hope I can sleep.
Woke up extremely early to pick up mm from heathrow. Dropped off her luggage, took a bit of a rest then headed out for lunch at Maze Grill, one of the restaurants in the Gordon Ramsay group. It’s a grill, so the speciality is steak. There’s a set lunch menu, 3 courses for £24, but we opted for the special steak — 25oz bone-in rib to share worked out to he £65. We had it medium rare, it came a little bit overdone. The flavour was really nice and we enjoyed it. Only shared a spinach side, didn’t have dessert. I had a glass of malbec. Walked it off the rest of the day, all the day to Covent Garden and back.
Having defrosted the freezer, and with mm coming on Friday, I needed to replenish my food supply. Went to Whole Foods to get balsamic vinegar and veal rib roast, then saw bavette steak on special. 350g for only £3-ish. I’d never cooked bavette steak before, and a little online research reveals that it’s also known as flank or flap steak. Marinated it overnight with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and garlic. Fast grilling to ensure it stays medium rare, rested for 10mins. Nice flavour. Even at this doneness, it’s not exactly soft and a tiny bit tough, but I’d definitely buy it again.
What I ate today. Veal rib roast with cabbage, tomato and rocket salad for lunch. Roasted from frozen, 770g took about 1.5hrs for rare. No, I didn’t eat the whole joint, just one chop. It was nicely pink and very juicy.
For dinner I had roasted butternut squash and carrot soup, totally homemade, even the stock which was from the bones I had in the freezer. Not sure what exactly they were, hehe, my freezer bones are normally a mixture of chicken, duck and it may have even included guinea fowl and squab. The butternut squash made the soup so, so sweet. Crumbled a bit of stilton when serving, to give a bit of creaminess.
Over at the kitchn they were asking for ideas for a british foods for an olympics dinner party. Surprisingly, there were some authentic and good ideas. One of the better ones is for Eton Mess.
There’s been a resurgence and attention for this very English dessert. Takes no time to make too. I used mascarpone (broken up with a little milk and sweetened with a tbsp of sugar) instead of cream. Spoon over meringue nests, add some strawberries and blackberries. I did one pretty-ish presentation, but as befits the name, it needs to be messy.
I’ve been trying to go to 10 cases for a while. Their gimmick is that they order wines 10 cases at a time and when they sell out, they sell out and they get another 10 cases of something else. I like the small bistrot location, you can sit at the bar or at the tables or outside.
Started with a white chateauneuf with small dishes of potted crab and saucisson. Then I had a bacon, pork cheek and poached egg salad. Supposedly a starter but big enough (and with robust pieces of bacon) for a mains. Didn’t have dessert, went to a gelato place.
I was having dinner with a new acquaintance, someone from work who transferred a while ago. It has taken us more than half a year to connect. I guess going to a new restaurant was a risk, I’m glad I suggested this place.
The casual bistrot style means people don’t need to go especially for the food. Sit at the bar, have a glass of wine and order the small dishes. Less expensive than the pintxo bar I was at earlier.
I had half an hour at Covent Garden before a dinner appointment. Instead of walking around the shops I decided to give pix bar a try. It’s a pintxo tapas bar that at 6.15pm on a Friday was heaving, the lady at the door found me a nice corner at the bar though. I had a glass of ribera del ducro, a chorizo and manchego skewer plus a fig and cheese bruschetta. Not cheap, wine by the glass £5-8 and each skewer was £1.90. There was a fun Hemingway quote on the wall about doing things sober vs drunk. Will I return? There are other places in the area, that’s the thing. Next time I have half an hour to spare I’ll go to a pub or to 10 cases, which was where we had dinner. See next post.
I’m at home most of this week, no need to go out or eat out till Friday, so plenty of opportunities to eat simply. Weeks like this, I want to try to have at least one vegetarian day. Made yellow and red pepper stuffed with mushroom, halloumi and Israeli couscous. This is my favourite stuffing, I can just eat it by the spoonful. The Israeli (aka giant aka pearl) couscous adds taste and chewiness that regular couscous, being too small, doesn’t have.
We are trying to cram everything into 2 days, get as much eating and time together as possible. Changed our reservation at Hawksmoor to lunch — had D-rump, sirloin, bone marrow followed by honeycomb cheesecake. I’m so happy that mm likes the place too. Bought cheese at Neal’s Yard diary. Resumed our trek to Foyles and then had ricotta cake at Princi. Went to John Lewis and bought towels, bowls, glasses and other kitchen stuff for mm. Took the bus home and had hoummous and cheese for dinner. I opened the bottle of peach wine from Georgia. Fantastic day.
I didn’t go to heathrow to pick mm up as it was too early, sis still here, and mm needed to check into the hotel anyway. We met up mid-morning at john lewis and walked around the entire store. Slowly made our way to covent garden where I had a reservation at l’atelier de joel robuchon. I’m losing track of how many times and who I’ve taken to all these restaurants, hahaha.
The restaurant was pretty full, but we still had a good seat at the bar. We opted for the 3 course lunch menu with wine pairing. To start I had sea bream carpaccio and she had asparagus cappuccino. For mains I had black leg chicken and she had hangar steak. We then moved upstairs to the bar for dessert — chocolate mousse and cheese plate. Just over £100 for the two of us. I ended up drinking most of the wine, including hers.
She wanted to go to foyles to look at music, which we did. Then her jetlag and wine got the better of her and we had to go back to the hotel quickly. Napped until early evening, went out to m&s to get dips and chicken wings and that was our dinner for the day. We’ve been looking forward to seeing each other for a while, it’s nice to simply spend time together.
My sis is here so I went down to visit them. We went into town for lunch, ended up at brasseric blanc, a sort of Manoir lite from Raymond Blanc. We shared a starter board of vegetables, smoked mackerel, pigeon rillette and other stuff. Sis had braised lamb shoulder and I had the dressed crab, opting for something that is too fiddly to do at home.
Our conclusion is that it was nice, but not outstanding. A long way from le manoir — even though we’d never been there, we can imagine the quality of food. This was like a chain, and probably more in the standard of a café rouge. The starter was kinda boring, the bread being the best part. And yes, I did appreciate that someone went into the trouble of picking all the flesh out of my crab, but somehow it all tasted quite bland, even with an abundance of brown meat. We didn’t have wine or dessert.
There are plenty of french style bistros around. I think I’ll give some of the others a try before returning to this one.
Started the day at 8am for the drive back to Chicago. An uneventful drive until I got to the I-80 and all the traffic and aggressive trucks. There’s something about Chicago that brings out the crazy in drivers. Gained back an hour to unload and see if my purchases fit into the suitcase. Then drove downtown, again having to negotiate crazy drivers on the Ryan and the huge traffic ham on the Kennedy. All so that I can go back to my old haunts to meet up with ex-colleagues. The office was pretty empty, people keep leaving. I got to see the people I wanted to though.
My two ex-colleague friends, L and E, took me to Maude’s liquor bar at Randulph and Halsted, where all the trendy places are located. A small plates type of French restaurant, we shared a chopped salmon carpaccio starter and at L’s recommendation I had the foie gras pâté with sour cherry jam and sourdough toast. Very, very rich. A small portion, but I was stuffed very quickly and couldn’t finish all the bread. We shared a bottle of white wine and caught up with gossip.
Not wanting the evening to end, we headed over to Isabella’s, a favourite of ours for a cosmopolitan. Then it was time to head back. It was nice to see them again. It’s sad, I’m not sure when if I’ll get a chance to return to Chicago in the next few years. Sigh.
When I went to Brussels with A in April and did the chip’n’choc walk, we bought a chocolate shoe from Wittamer that we thought would be perfect to donate to the silent auction at GCLS. We had in mind several attendees who are very interested in shoes and chocolate, and we hope would gamely put in generous bids.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been posting teaser images of the shoe on facebook; basically I took pics at odd angles and photoshopped them. Been extremely pleased that a fair bit of buzz has been generated. We got to the con today and finally revealed the actual item. Hopefully it wasn’t a disappointment, from the reactions it would seem that there may be a potential bidding war. All in aid of the GCLS which is always a good thing.
RM emailed me yesterday with the message that went something like, “ARGH OMG we forgot to pick up our whisky at heathrow!” What happened was that on Saturday we took advantage of the shop and pick up service, bought some whiskies from the duty free and would have picked them up when we came back to London. Whether it was because we had too many Guinness that day or it was late and we wanted to get home, neither of us remembered to pick up the shopping.
So we made it an outing today. I got a zipcar and we went to Chutney Mary’s for dinner, drove out to Heathrow and then I drove him home. It was very important that we retrieved our shopping. That bottle of Bunnahabhain 25yr is easily the most special bottle of whisky I own thus far. There’s also a bottle of Glengoyle Burntfoot in there too.
This relatively new product scored 93 points in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible so I was curious to find Writers Tears when in Dublin. It’s a pot still blend that markets itself as a salute to the great Irish writers who drew inspiration from the water of life. People like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw etc. The label has some words to the effect of
I traded my tomorrows to remain in yesterday
Whiskey tears are fallin’ here and each one cries her name
Now any fool would have thought that this was a poem from one of those esteemed Irish writers. But googling showed that it’s from a song by an American country singer I’ve never heard of. Again, just to show, marketing. That said, pretty nice whiskey, on the sweet side, mild/
Lunch at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon with Mum. It being a weekday, it wasn’t that busy. We were sat at the counter and ordered the set lunch. I had mine with wine pairing.
Amuse bouche of foie gras with port reduction and parmesan foam. I had white asparagus salad and Mum had salmon carpaccio for starter. For mains we both had the hangar steak which came with polenta and a daikon celeriac side. Mum had passion fruit soufflé for dessert and I just had cheese. For coffee and tea they took us upstairs to the terrace bar. Nice.
After visiting Islay, I got interested in several of the other good whiskies — Talisker, Balvenie, Old Pulteney and Highland Park. Then I started getting obsessed with Highland Park, and naturally my obsession turned into a desire to visit. And this is why RM and I dragged Mum to Kirkwall this past weekend. The purpose (not sole, but certainly top) of our trip was to the Highland Park distillery, where we’d pre-booked the Magnus Eunson premium tour. It promises a tour with a senior guide, a souvenir book, souvenir glass and full range tasting. Considering a miniature of the 40yr is £77, at £75 it was something I’d looked forward to since we made the reservation.
They picked us up from the hotel and dropped us back, which is much needed service. We were there 10mins early, and joined the regular tour group for the introductory video. Then we separated and went with our guide, James, a retired banker, who took us more slowly around the distillery. The floor maltings, mill, mash tun, washbacks and stills were familiar by now, it was great to have a refresher. The stillman even showed us his computer that monitors the alcohol % at the safe.
Before the tasting got underway, we looked around the tasting room and all got a chance to hold a bottle of 50 year. At £10,000, we were all extremely careful not to drop it. I made notes as we tasted.
- new mix spirit — this is the clear liquid that comes from the still before it gets into the cask. At 69.8% it’s strong on the nose. Tasted surprising sweet
- oloroso sherry — mainly to nose, this is the sherry which occupied the casks before being filled with whisky. Rich in colour, it was quite dry
- 12 year 40% — the standard expression, to me the nose was chemical and medicinal, not terribly nice. Pleasant enough to drink
- 15 year 40% — richer, fruitier, sweeter, spicier, more of everything compared with the 12
- 18 year 43% — spicy but less than the 15, sweet, lots of complexity, methinks one should always have a bottle of this on one’s shelf
- 25 year 48.1% — lots of sherry, dark, sweeter again, rich almost like wine, has a kick and tons of body; not everyone liked this but it was my favourite so far
- 30 year 48/1% — not spicy on nose but stronger alcohol, rounded almost delicate, flowery, can definitely feel its warmth travelling down me
- 40 year 48.3% — smells like 25, lots of sherry, big, big smell; big, big body, so sweet! With a little salty and bags of finish, sigh sigh sigh
- Thor 16year special edition 52.1% — first of a series of 4, big hit and really sweet and fruity
Sometimes the instinct is to go for the most aged, most expensive expression. The question becomes, “is it worth the premium?” The 40yr is almost £1,000; the 25 £130-ish. Is the 40yr 7.5 times better than the 25yr? Not really. In terms of value for money, the 18yr at around £60 hits that sweet spot, and I think that’s the one I’ll have as standby at home. I would like to buy the Thor (£120) because it’s the one that appeals to my palate and wallet most, I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to get the other 3 in the series when they come out.
This was one of the best tastings I’ve been so far and my first vertical tasting. Expensive, and we were rushed at the end — the tour started at 4pm and we weren’t even halfway through the tasting at 7pm. I think instead of having the driver wait around, a deal with a local cab company would have put less pressure on us. It’s not the most value for money tasting, that would go to Ardbeg; nor is it the most fun and informative, that would be Laphroaig. Is it worth coming all the way out to Orkney? Yes, it was well worth the long trip out.
Met A for steak whilst she is visiting London at, where else, Hawksmoor. That’s twice in a week for me, and still I’m not tired of it.
I was wandering around Covent Garden beforehand but it started drizzling so I went there early and sat at the bar. Wasn’t tempted by the cocktails today, I was perusing the whisky shelf behind the bartender and saw a couple of intriguing looking bottles. Upon enquiry, it turned out that they were Blanton’s straight from the barrel unfiltered bourbon. Cask strength means anything from 60-70% alcohol, but it was so sweet and smooth I didn’t feel any of the ethanol at all. I also declined wine during the meal, and sipped that glass of bourbon.
Ah, the meal. Sometimes I have to cast my mind back to my first time there with RM, and how it felt. I hope A wasn’t too overwhelmed with the sheer size of the steaks on offer on the board. They were large today, mostly almost 1kg (except the filets and they had one 600g rib-eye). We decided on a 900g (32oz) porterhouse, which came rare and sliced. Broccolini and bone marrow for sides. For dessert A had sticky toffee pudding and I had sticky orange pudding. They were slow getting them out, the server told us that they missed the order, so it was comped. Wow, I hadn’t expected that, smart of them. All in all it’s as close to a perfect meal as I can imagine.
While A had earl grey tea, I went for a second bourbon, an Elijh Craig 12yr. It smelled wonderful — sweet, woody, caramel, everything that suggests a great bourbon. Taste, for me, it couldn’t compare with the Blanton’s. Blander and harder to drink. Didn’t detract from a perfect meal though.
Took Mum to Hawksmoor. Had Porterhouse 900g / 30oz and D-rump 200g / 8oz between 3 people (went with RM, who else?). The best thing about Hawksmoor on a Monday is that it’s BYO wine for only £5 corkage. Got a nice bottle of £30 Mendoza from the shop near the office, I’m liking the idea of Argentinian wine with steak.
Dinner with friends tonight and a bottle of Finlaggan whisky was produced. The smell and taste identified it immediately as an Islay whisky, but hey! I’ve been to all the distilleries on Islay and there is not one called Finlaggan. Apparently it’s from a mystery distillery whose identity is a secret that the bottler will jealously guard. Probably more to create marketing buzz. Pretty reasonably priced, starting at £22 and the cask strength is under £40.
It’s Mum’s birthday, and I’d booked lunch at The Ledbury, one of the best restaurants in London. Two Michelin stars. And only a few bus stops away on Ledbury Road, near Portabello market.
We opted for the lunch menu at £35 for 3 courses. The meal ended up being 7 courses, more on that later. The restaurant is on a corner, a black building but once inside it was nice and bright. A large mirror at the back wall gave the effect of a bigger space. There are about 18 tables, we were one of the first to arrive and by the time we left the place was full.
I ordered a half bottle of valpolicella for myself, having declined the offer of champagne. Even the bread and butter were cute. As is normal nowadays, we got an amuse bouche of foie gras and kumquat jelly on crunchy biscuit. We both started with the white & green asparagus cooked in earl grey with a crisp pheasant egg. The asparagus was fabulously sweet and the egg perfectly soft boiled.
We got an extra starter, buffalo milk curd with truffle toast and grilled onion broth. The milk curd was just like custard and the toast smelled and tasted of truffle. Very nice.
For main course, Mum had turbot with radishes, barley and a cream of white beer sauce. I had pork cheek & jowl with pear, celeriac and dandelion. They brought the roasted pork as it came out of the oven for me to “inspect” before sending it back to the kitchen for plating. Mum’s fish was super fresh, love turbot. I had a lot going on my plate, the crunchy skin, the fatty meat of the cheek and then the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the jowl which had been slow cooked. Lovely sauce too.
Mum had blueberry, mango & pear sorbet for dessert and I opted for coconut cream in milk chocolate and sea buckthorn bed. I’d told them that it’s Mum’s birthday so they gave us an extra dessert — lemon soufflé with sauternes ice cream. Everything was perfect. We ended with petit fours. Mum had a peppermint tea and I had a glass of Hedonism, an unusual blended grain whisky from Compass Box. I think, yes, 7 courses:
- amuse bouche
- asparagus starter
- milk curd and truffle toast second started
- fish and pork mains
- sorbet and coconum cream dessert
- extra dessert lemon soufflé
- petit fours, tea
The bill came to £120 which I think is good value. The extras were the wine, whisky, bottled water, tea and service charge. There was no skimping on portions, textures or flavours. Everything was perfectly cooked and presented. The service was friendly and helpful. When bookings for August opens on 1 June, I’ll be on their website to make a reservation for mm’s visit.
Cooked the white and green asparagus we bought yesterday in Stockholm. There are recipes that say serve white asparagus with hollandaise, viniagrette or other sauces. Since we eat plainly at home, I just steamed them. Steamed the green asparagus and broccolini first, then kept warm before steaming the white asparagus by themselves for about 15mins. Mum bought beef kebab skewers and pork sausages so we had those with the vegetables. Last time I had white asparagus I found them a bit tasteless, this time was such a huge difference — they are sweeter and have a more delicate flavour. Yes they are expensive (8 spears each cost almost £20) and the season is short, all the more reason to savour them and treat them right.
Gaucho was supposed to have the best steak in London until usurped by Goodman and Hawksmoor, so RM and I were keen to try it out. Since Mum is here, I thought it’d be a good place to introduce her to London steakhouse. For convenience I booked the branch at Piccadilly, under an arch off Regent’s Street. Our table was in the basement and we had to walk through the cowhide decorated front entrance and bar. It was very, very dark.
We had a bottle of Lagarde 2009 malbec. I don’t usually order malbec, but this was a good choice — an argentinian wine in an argentinian steak restaurant. We ordered 3 different steaks to share: their signature picana, a marinated rump and a sirloin. I thought the rump had lots of beef flavour although they were a bit tougher than I would have liked. The sirloin was grilled to medium rare perfection and also very good. For dessert they had chocolate & macadamia tart with vanilla ice cream and I had an ice cream.
Bill came to £150, which is okay because of the wine. The verdict? Nice enough, and there are a couple more dishes I’d like to try — the “cheaper” cuts of skirt and flank which aren’t as readily available but can be really fantastic. One more to add to the list, as a reserve.
Yesterday after finishing at King’s I met up with RM at Borough Market for a late lunch (kangaroo burger, springbok burger, cider) and then to check out the whisky exchange’s shop at Vinopolis just behind the market. Their online shop has almost every whisky under the sun (to this beginner anyway); the physical shop doesn’t have as many, but there are something like 1,000 different whiskies available. Plus other spirits and accessories too.
We were like kids in a toy store. No, even more dangerous: kids in a toy store with their own credit cards. The phrase spoilt for choice comes to mind. There were samples of their own bottlings, including an intriguing elements of islay range that takes whisky from thinly disguised distilleries (let’s see, it’s so difficult to guess what Lp, Br or Ar stand for) in chemistry-themed bottles.
We were (comparatively) restrained. There were speciality “fill your own” casks and we each bought something different. I bought a blend branded Arras, 500ml for £40. And then we went crazy with the miniatures. I know that miniatures are not value for money — 50ml small bottle for £4 when the whole 750ml bottle can be bought for £30-40 — but I can’t buy or try everything I want to, because that’s too much drinking. In the end I got miniatures of:
- auchentoshan 18 — because one has to try a lowland whisky sometime
- balvenie double wood — everyone goes on about balvenie, must try
- dalmore 12 — same with dalmore
- highland park 30 — £16.95, gulp
- monkey shoulder — hipster blend, got it for the funky name
- penderyn — from wales; if the english whisky company had miniatures I would have gotten those too
- poit dhubh — for sheer unpronouncability
- singleton of dufftown — another popular whisky
- springbank 10 — from campbeltown
It’s SM’s last day so he, RM and I went with another friend to Brixton market for Friday night drinks and food. He and I sneaked out early, at 4pm. We stopped by a pub before heading over there and ended up at the wonderful seven tapas and cocktail bar. We had nibbles, he had a beer while I had an old fashioned, while we waited for the others to arrive. It wasn’t until past 7pm that our party was complete and we walked around the village looking at the choices before deciding on pizza at franco manca. The queue was long, but moved quickly. Within 15mins we were seated. The pizzas were as good as before. I had the vegetarian special and we ordered a bottle of the house red.
Not wanting the evening to end, we headed back to the village arcade and found a place where we could have wine. In addition to the wine we had limoncello, sambucca and grappas. RM had an apple strudel and the restaurant didn’t mind that I got gelato from the stall around the corner — all very community spirited. Great evening with friends.
Our colleague was in town on a visit so RM and I took her to Boisdale for steak. The one at Bishopsgate is hidden at the end of a dark obscure alleyway next to a pub called, of all things, Dirty Dick’s. You go downstairs into the dungeon of a restaurant to be greeted by red walls lined with pictures of famous people (Churchill, Monroe amongst others), a cosy intimate atmosphere and a jazz pianist.
No going crazy on ginormous 1kg steaks for us, we were very demur and ordered the regular sirloin on the bone. A little too much of a tough tendon for my liking. Didn’t have dessert but RM and I couldn’t resist the large whisky selection. He had a Bunnahabhainn and I had the most excellent Highland Park 18 year.
Whisky isn’t just from Scotland or Ireland, or the American bourbon or the Canadian version. There’s English, Welsh, Australian, Swedish and Indian. Yamazaki from Japan was named best single malt 2012.
I’d read about Zuidam distillery’s Millstone whisky and asked A to buy me a bottle. €60-ish for the 8 year French oak expression. Their special trick is that their casks are stored at a higher temperature than normal so the whisky ages quicker. Their 8 year is equivalent to perhaps 12 year other single malts.
I should have asked for a miniature bottle too. The product comes in a nice wooden presenation box, I’m not sure I’ll want to open it soon but I’d love to have a taste.
We had a leisurely morning, taking our time to wake up, check out and have breakfast. Then a short walk to find a couple more friteries near the hotel. It was too early for them to be open, so it was just a matter of taking pictures and then moving on.
Having done the savoury chipwalk yesterday, it’s the turn of the sweet chocwalk, making our trip the chip’n’choc walk trip (my invented word). Of course, Belgian chocolate is famous all over the world, and we took inspiration from this really useful nyt article and made a beeline to Place du Grand Sablon which promised us 8 chocolate shops in one square.
The first shop was Pierre Marcolini’s two storey extravaganza. They treat chocolate like delicate vintage, and have a box that includes the Grand Cru selection. Other selection include one that offers the taste of cocoa from different parts of the world, and one that has spices. I also bought a €49 box of rum & whisky chocolate. The next stop was Wittamer where I bought a box of 9 pralines topped with chocolate coated crickets. Yes, crickets as in the insect cricket. The unboxing and tasting deserves its own post I think. Wittamer was also where we stopped for a hot chocolate. I don’t usually order hot chocolate but this was well worth the exception. The intense cocoa flavour is nothing like the hot chocolate from a packet. Even the cream was delicious. Final stop was Neuhaus for truffles.
I was now pretty laden down with chocolate purchases. But that wasn’t the end of our chocolate adventure. We made our way back to Grand Place and visited the museum of cocoa and chocolate. For €5.50, we visited the small museum, watched a demostration of how to make pralines and had a small sampler. Nice little museum to spend an hour or so in a tiny street just behind the main square.
And in a touristy shopping street the other side of the square, I found the other thing I was hoping I’d find, Westvleteren 12 beer from the Abbey of St Sixtus at Westvleteren. Their beers are in huge demand because of having consistenly been voted the best beer in the world and the small quantity made at the abbey. To make a purchase, people have to ring up to check when reservations are available; then ring up again when reservations do open to make an appointment for a visit. They have to indicate the licence plate number of the car visiting, and one licence plate can only buy every 60 days. Such is the rarity that I wasn’t sure I’d even see posters of the beer let alone the real thing. I had no hesitation in shelling out €12.95 for a bottle (actually got two, plus one each of the blonde and the 8).
Now I was well and truly carrying a very heavy load. Not a lot else to do with only a couple of hours, we ate more frites (at one of the friteries not on the list), had ice cream at at biscuit place and then camped out at a small café. I had a couple of beers and A had a diet coke. Then got a bit hungry, A had a salad while I ordered an américaine, which here means steak tartare. I can’t imagine a dish more misnamed, I can’t imagine many Americans eating steak tartare. It’s been a while since my last one, and it was okay, not the best one I’ve had. Sigh, really have to go back to Switzerland one of these days.
Walked back to the hotel, hung out for a bit in the lobby until it was time to catch our respective trains. Not even the Eurostar delay on the way home, because UKBA was so understaffed they asked the trains to go slow, dampened my overall impression of the trip. What a great weekend, it was a good idea to meet up and do something different than the usual touristy stuff.
I took an early Eurostar train to Brussels to meet up with my friend A. We’d arranged to go on the chip walk together. The chip walk is part of this year’s Brusselicious food festival, which includes other events such as gourmet tram dining, mussels at the beach and a wine festival. Apparently one of the distinctive food features of Brussels is these friteries, roadside stalls or shops that sold frites, aka fries, aka chips. Traditionally they are hand-cut, and there’s even an app that has an interactive list of the top 49.
I’ve been in Brussels once, a very very long time ago, for half a day with my family. That almost counts as having never visited. The train was only 2hrs from St Pancras, and our hotel literally across the road from the station. We couldn’t check in yet, so we stored our luggage and set off on foot to the central areas.
It took 1hr to find our first stall, having walked through the tourist attractions and to a more local part of town. The stall was very unassuming, the woman at the stall took pre-fried chips and fried them again to order to give them an extra crunchiness. There’s a variety of sauces, but mayo is the standard. There are other food items too, but are mainly deep fried processed meat in the shape of sausages or meatballs or burgers. I had the meatballs, because I needed food at that point.
We had planned on hitting at least 4, which we sort of did. We only bought frites from 3 of them, and by the last one we just ordered a small portion to share. Too much carbs. They were good though, it’s surprising how something simple like fries can taste different from stall to stall. #2 had the most anecdotes: a) the queue was a whole hour long; b) nearby bars and café had signs that said “frites accepted” so people can take their frites packages and enjoy them in the bar. Of course, it meant purchasing a drink, so it’s a smart move. I had a Westmalle beer while A had a tea.
After the last stall, we were on the lookout for ice cream, which we found nearby. I had an orange one, and it was fantastic. The weather turned nasty, it had been showery all day, and now the rain was steady. After walking for a bit in the miserable rain, we took the wise decision of taking the metro back to the hotel. All chipped out tonight.
Broadgate market opened today at Exchange Square, almost literally across the road from the office. Whether they can move back to Finsbury Square depends I guess on Occupy London, last time I was over at the square there were tents galore. That was a month or so ago so they may have been cleared already.
The market, being in the City, is a mix of normal farmer’s market — one high end vegetable / salad stand, specialist cheese, bread, cake, garlic stalls; and then the rest of the stalls were hot food. There were loads of choices — paella, roast hog, roast lamb, chicken sandwich, burger, sausages, goulash, curry, and the one I ended up picking, freshly made pasta: spelt tagliatelle with courgettes, tomato and wild garlic pesto. The chef was cooking the pasta to order, I’m glad I went before noon, I can’t imagine the queue when the throngs descend at traditional lunchtime.
As I’m still officially in marathon training mode, my metabolism the past week or so has sky-rocketed to turbo, I allowed myself an indulgence and got a piece of guiness chocolate cake with guiness buttercream. It was on the dry side, I’m reminded of why I’m not a big chocolate fan.
For my birthday, CC kindly treated me to lunch at steak exchange, which is near both our offices. We shared the 800g bone-in sirloin (£48.95). The reviews I’d read online weren’t as glowing as the other steakhouses, and there were some comments that the steaks were overdone. No problem this time, it was very nicely medium rare and tasty. Didn’t care much for the peppercorn sauce, the spinach side was good too. Also shared a bottle of French Pinot, very fragrant and light. We liked the place, but in terms of atmosphere and everything else, we decided we preferred Hawksmoor.
No danger of not eating enough today, I couldn’t stop what with jammie dodgers and M&S rhubarb cookies. I was watching The Truth About Fat on iplayer over the weekend and they were saying that obese people have different levels of hunger and full hormones to normal sized people. That normal sized people have a higher volatility, ie gets hungry, but then drops. Obese people have lower levels of both hormones but are mainly straight lines, so they are always slightly hungry and never totally full. Sometimes I wonder if I’m like that — occasionally when I have a craving or eating something, I can’t stop. Gives me a chill, to remember 4 years ago before I started running and watching what I eat, that I was on the way to being a balloon. Brrrr.
32.22km (20mi) 3:58:35hr 7:24min/km (11:56 min/mi)
Second 20 miler of this training cycle; and then the taper begins. It was a hot day, luckily there was some wind. I ate a big ham & egg sandwich for breakfast and took off at 9:30am. So happy that the water fountains are back on, I was running out of liquid at one point. Refilled and immediately drank half a bottle. Managed the full 20 miles in just under 4hrs, a bit slower than the first 20 miler, pretty pleased with the pace.
I was exhausted when I got home. Didn’t have any energy to do anything but sit on my sofa with my feet up for half an hour before my calves stopped hurting so I could go shower. Then mm whatsapped me, and Mum wanted to skype. Sigh.
The upside of running 20 miles is…I can eat whatever I want. I got this bone-in rib from Whole Foods a while back, it was on sale. 700g (24oz) for £9-something. At Hawksmoor, it’s £9 per 100g, so this was bargain compared to eating out. I know, can’t compare restaurant food with home-cooked food. Instead of Hawksmoor’s extremely hot charcoal grill, I grilled mine slowly on the hob and had it with cavolo negro (black cabbage), carrots and mushroom. Tasted great. Couldn’t eat the whole thing, may be about 2/3rd.
Since I’m over here, I’ve decided drink less new world wines and go back to old world or at least focus on European wines. I’ve started drinking more Valpolicella, Chianti and mm likes Rioja and Gewurztraminer. Beaujolais noveau doesn’t really count. Anyway, I got this bottle of Rosalcy Lalande-de-Pomerol 2008 at Whole Foods. I figured, start with a simple Bordeaux. Needed 2 hours of breathing. I think I need a decanter. Deep and rich. Not sure I’ll return to it, I’m still not a big merlot fan.
One more possibly for the US shopping list is chocovine, described as
a combination of ingredients, including Cabernet red wine, Dutch chocolate and cream
It’s calorie laden, but may be quite interesting to taste. Available in the US, but alluding to a Dutch origin. I wonder. Everyone loves Bailey’s and I remember mozart liqueur so this could be quite good.
I like shopping at Waitrose because they have more unusual stuff. Yesterday I saw prepared guinea fowl and quail. I haven’t had small game birds for a while so I bought the quail to try. They are already trussed up ready for the oven. Season and roast for 25mins at 190°C, basting a couple of times, and they are ready. They are quite small, so 2 of them, especially on a running day. Great to eat with fingers. Very tasty, succulent and not dry at all.
Watched riveted as Masterchef champion was announced after weeks of gruelling competition. Remember this name: Shelina Permalloo. She was born in Southampton and lives in Tooting. Her family is from Mauritius and her food was described by Gregg Wallace as
sunshine on a plate
a restaurant waiting to happen
She was consistent, joyful, and calm. She never made bad mistakes and she was always on time in tasks. And her food. Wow. In the beginning, like all amateurs, it was great tasting but did not have professional presentation. By the end, oh wow again. This was her octopus salad starter from the final — beautiful and apparently full of flavours. If she opened a restaurant I’d be there in a flash.
RM and I had lunch at l’atelier de joel robuchon at covent garden. Chef Robuchon calls this restaurant a theatre of senses, and we had high expectations of this 2 michelin star place. We picked the more casual ground floor counter concept, where we could sit facing the open kitchen watching the chefs at work. We’d seen this on masterchef, and can’t imagine the amount of stress the chefs come under — to perform, cook, plate right in front of the customers. The head chef looked pretty young, but she was very poised and organised. Even when telling her sous chefs off, she wasn’t shouty or anything.
I got there first and ordered a cocktail while waiting — vodka with beetroot, cranberry juice and ginger. We both decided on the 3-course set lunch with wine pairing £45, which turned out to be pretty good value for money. We had an amuse bouche of foie gras cream with foam. For starter I had chestnut velouté, which was a warm creamy soup of chestnut and celeriac — I didn’t have a chance to take a picture before the waiter poured the soup onto the filling. It was creamy and felt very decadent.
Mains I had confit saddle of lamb on haricot beans. Very rustic, but with a classy presentation and cooking. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender and perfectly seasoned. We got a small pot of cauliflower cheese as side dish. For dessert I had pear with chocolate mousse and pear sorbet. Hard to go wrong, again very delicious.
2 michelin star restaurants like this, we expected to see tiny portions with more flair than substance. We were pleasantly surprised. While not huge steakhouse-like portions, it was not stingy and we were both full afterwards. The wine pairings were great, and at an extra £10-ish over the regular menu price, it’s a bargain for 3 glasses of wine. I’d definitely come back, and take Mum and mm when they visit. They also do tasting menus for over £100, but I’m happy enough with the set lunch.
So SM, AT and I went back to princi for dinner. We thought it would be really crowded but we got lucky, it was still early and we got seats easily. Started with aperitifs — £7 for a cocktail, a plate of snacks and a small bowl of chips. Not bad. Then we moved onto pizzas and salads for mains and then from the bakery for dessert. I had a chocolate slice that was far too rich. I had some valpolicella and they stuck with beer. Afterwards we found a pub and had a nice drink and chat. They are good friends.
I bought a whole side of salmon 1kg, half price at £10, a great bargain. Instead of slicing into individual steaks, I baked the whole piece in the oven at 180°C, with butter and fresh lemon thyme. Ready in 25mins. I can get 8 very generous portions out of this, fantastic.
Met SM and his wife for dim sum. I’ve started to take people who are unfamiliar with dim sum to New World. Not that I’m impressed with their food, service or décor. It’s just that it’s one of very few remaining places with trolley service. It’s always great to show people choices and let them pick the dishes they want to try. We had lots, including lotus rice, all the usual dim sum and crispy fried noodles. Beer too. £15 each is very good value.
We didn’t have dessert, instead walked up to Soho and had cappuccino at algerian coffee. This place was established in 1887, and is a treasure trove of all things coffee, tea and chocolate. Fresh, organic espresso or cappuccino from an authentic coffee machine, oh the smells. I don’t drink coffee, and I had a cappuccino that I thought was very good.
Onward, and we walked along Wardour Street towards Oxford Street. Wow, so many new food and drink places. We found ourselves at princi — pizza, salads and all manners of scrumptious cakes. Semi-self service. I had a ricotta cheesecake, SM had a chocolate cake and AT had a passionfruit cheesecake. Love the design and concept of the place.
We said our goodbyes and I went to Waitrose at John Lewis. Bought vegetables and a bottle of Caol Isa cask strength that is apparently discontinued and therefore discounted to £25.
I had a groupon for the hyper japan festival this weekend. Billed as the UK’s biggest j-culture event, I was intrigued.
There were lots of stalls for gadgets, toys, comics, dvds and all sorts of Japanese cute stuff. A couple of stalls selling sweets like collon, melty kiss and this PSP sour candy. I wasn’t tempted, because I know where to get these stuff cheaper. And I’m less interested in the cosplay and video games stuff anyway.
The main reason I wanted to go were the sushi and sake tasting events. Each of the competitor stalls will give you a sample so you can score and vote. There is also a chance of some big prizes. It was interesting, but also quite disappointing. 5 pieces of sushi for £20 and a chance at a prize draw is not good value for money. Same with the tiny sips of sake and a minute piece of cheese or snack they give you, for another £20. If I hadn’t had the groupon, I would have felt badly ripped off.
I had some yaki soba and gyoza too. Grabbed a few free bottles of yakult and was out of there before noon.
I normally make pancakes for pancake day, but I didn’t feel like it this year. So I got crumpets and had them with strawberries and the frango chocolate sauce I still have in my cupboard. I must say, I lurve crumpets.
Over the weekend i caught up with The Very Hungry Frenchman, the new bbc2 program where Raymond Blanc travels back to France and explores the cuisines of various regions. The series started with him going home to his parents’ house. How lovely to see his mother’s garden and kitchen, it’s no surprise that he learned a lot from her. This clip shows him making comté soufflé. Wow, oh wow.
Thus inspired, I looked at packages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, his 2 Michelin-starred hotel restaurant in Oxford. Pretty expensive is an understatement. There are midweek and weekend packages as well as one the combines a day at his cookery school. For example, the Decouverte Experience includes:
- room varying between luxurious to super deluxe suite
- welcome drinks, flowers, chocolate
- 9 course dinner, which has dishes like confit de foie de canard, wild brill with caviar, roasted venison and vacherin with truffle & honey
- french breakfast
will costs at least £800. Gulp. Talked it over with mm, and even though it would have been a fantastic visit, we decided it’s too expensive.
It seems that all I eat nowadays is steak and duck. (Well, there’s the soup weekday evenings and chicken or salmon for lunch, but I digress.) I bought 4 duck breasts at Tesco’s yesterday, and even though I have a huge pot of lamb stew in the oven, it’s duck for dinner again. Yummy. These are very nicely pink and served with delicious duck fat potatoes (fat from last week), roasted celeriac and savoy cabbage.
It was always on the cards to return to Hawksmoor, after our last experience. This time, we tried the one at Spitalfields, which is less than 5mins’ walk from the office.
The setting is similar to the other branch, same casualness, same leather furniture, same dark setting. We had cocktails, and then headed straight into the steaks. Tried 2 new cuts: a 350g D-rump £20 and a 700g chateaubriand £12.50/100g. Big difference in price. The chateaubriand was as soft as a filet but had flavour; the D-rump was chewier but less tough than normal rump. Had bone marrow as a side, a bottle of red and a couple of desserts. £100 per person. What can I say? I’ll come back again and again and again.
I feel my resolve crumbling in the UK, I can’t resist all the biscuits and crisps that I grew up with. Chocolate I can leave. Except when it comes to chocolate orange. Sigh. I found these different varieties of chocolate orange on sale for 99p at Smith’s and simply had to get them:
- honeycomb crunch
- volcanic popping candy
- white chocolate smasher
Apparently there are even more flavours. Argh. 4 segments is 180 calories, or running 3k. I guess I’ll have to really stick to the training plan.
My valentine lives 8 timezones away, so I don’t participate in today’s romantic festivities. I did make good use of the special effects on picnik to make a pic of me and mm framed with hearts and flowers and musical notes. Whatsapped it to her before bed last night. She sent back a romantic, beautiful video, kiss the rain by Korean pianist Yiruma.
I left work with my friend SM. He was going home to cook dinner for his wife and stopped at Patisserie Valerie to get dessert. He kindly bought me this fruit tart. Such a sweet gesture.
I bought this at either Borough market or at the real food show or…somewhere. Honestly can’t remember. Great tasting ostrich burger. Low fat, much healthier than beef. Low carb dish too, I didn’t put any bread or pasta or potato.
It’s been a while since I did wholesale home cooking. Dinner today was something I’ve had before — roast gressingham duck, carrots & parsnips and cabbage. Didn’t need sauce, the duck was very tender. I also stuck a few slices of orange into the cavity as it was roasting to give it a slight tangy flavour. I also made roast chicken thighs for lunch, sautéed savoy cabbage, baby corn and the said carrots & parsnips.
So, how many of the top 40 must try food have I tried?
- french toast — yes, yes. I scrape the butter off though
- scrambled egg sandwich — yes
- stinky tofu — yes
- cheeseburgers — no, not sure what they are
- sweet tofu soup — yes
- pineapple bun — yes
- chicken feet — yes
- wife cake — yes, but I don’t like them
- ginger milk curd — yes
- five layer roast pork — yes, not too keen on the fat though
- indonesian satay — yes
- steamed meat mountain — yes
- preserved sausage — yes, but not for a long time, too fatty
- trendy hot pot — hot pot yes, what’s trendy?
- beef brisket — yes, not a favourite
- egg tart — yes
- yung kee roast goose — oh my, yes
- kowloon city thai — yes, a whole street of thai restaurants, what’s not to like
- roast pigeon — yes, many times
- snake soup — yes, I miss it
- lotus seed paste — yes, not on its own, in a dessert or bun
- typhoon shelter crab — yes, a little too spicy for me
- egg noodle — yes, not sure why it is on the list
- milk tea — yes, under duress. tea made from canned milk is disgusting
- joy hing char siu — yes, I used to get scads of it and freeze them
- cha siu bau — yes
- claypot rice — yes, yum
- north point egg cakes — yes, but the np ones are overhyped
- thai shrimp sashimi — yes, RM took me to a place last year
- mulberry mistletoe tea — not sure what this is
- block 13 cow offal — no, I think
- congee — yes, who hasn’t?
- bowl pudding — yes, childhood memories
- tonkatsu — in general yes, even in Japan, but not the specific place mentioned
- b boy grass jelly — yes, mm and i were going to go, but didn’t have time
- mango pudding with mango sauce and mango — yes, oh yes, mango yes
- sweet and sour pork — yes, far too many times
- louis steak — yes, must go back soon
- fishball — yes, love the stuff
- swiss chicken wings — yes, I think
My parents invited mm to hotel icon for buffet lunch (my second icon buffet). I can’t say they took her, because although it was their intention, she trumped them by sneakily paying in the middle of lunch, how naughty! I was much more selective this time round, and we all agreed that this is one of the best buffet places, even better than café too yesterday.
Spent the afternoon with mm, just ambling. Looked at mba vs mbp for her. And then it was time to say goodbye. ::cry:: She went with me on the train, and we have to console ourselves that we’ll see each other in August.
Met up with Sis for drinks at a new wine bar. Its selling gimmick is a touchscreen bar table where customers can get wine recommendations. Unfortunately it wasn’t working. The wine came in 3 sizes: tasting, medium and regular. I thought the place is on the expensive side, the wine selection seems to be uneven.
Dinner at a Vietnamese fusion type of place. Spring rolls and chicken wings. Something called complicated noodles which was a plate of plain noodle sheets, meat and sauce so we made our own noodle package. Dessert I had mango sticky rice with mango and mango ice cream.
Lunch buffet at Café Too at the Island Shangri-la. When mm rang up to book, they told us that the table would be in a high traffic area and do we mind? She asked them to move us to a better table if one is available, and when got there they took me to one next to the window and definitely low traffic, so good for them.
What can I say about that buffet? I’ve always liked it, many different stations: Japanese, salad, seafood, cold meats, dim sum, hot dishes, roasts, noodle bar, curry station and lots of dessert. I started with salad, sashimi and seafood, hot appetisers including dim sum, and a couple of bowls of chicken soup. The soup was made individually and steamed in this giant vat, when it was ready they rang this bell and people rushed to get the fresh soup.
Didn’t have too much main course, they had these freshly grilled sliders and I had a slice of the roast beef. I was pretty full by then, so had the noodle station make me some vegetables (no noodles). Had a plate of colourful desserts and a waffle cone of mango and green tea ice cream. Stuffed!
The quality seems to have diminished a little though, no oyster, no lobster, and the desserts are either small bowls, the standard cake or mousses. Still a very nice lunch, especially since it was with mm.
Did a little more shopping, but not much. I don’t have a lot to buy this time round. Early evening we made it back to her place for a rest — I tackled playing on her pb2 and she practiced piano. Dinner wasn’t really dinner, we went to a tapas place, had some wine and a few tapas. She has to go to work tomorrow morning, so not a late night.
My niece was already up when I woke up. We had lunch at home (ahhhh, so great to eat some simple home cooked food) and then spent the afternoon playing on the wii. Mostly, she played and I joined in a little, in between uploading pics.
They had to go home for dinner so it was just me and my parents. We went to another all-you-can-eat Japanese place. Sat at the sushi bar and ordered our little hearts out. Soft drinks and beer were free. We ended up having a ton of sashimi, a handroll each, some beef sushi, tempura, grilled vegetables, salad and ice cream. My favourites were sashimi and the whole sweet beef tomato. Not a lot of meat, just fish and vegetables.
After dinner, Mum and I went to the computer centre to get some flashdrives. We also went to the “sneaker street” but I was so disappointed. Nike Free 2.0 and Lunarglide 3 were more expensive than if I used a coupon at runningwarehouse. No Sauconys in sight whatsoever. Of course it means I have to be in the US to pick up the delivered shoes.
Lunch buffet at hotel icon which is part of the tourism and hotel management school at one of the universities. The hotel is staffed by students at the school, nice concept. The buffet has one of the biggest spreads we’ve ever tried, and we’ve tried many many hotel buffets. There were: all sorts of freshly made bread, salad, parma ham, singaporean yu sheng, alaskan king crab legs, prawns, lobster, sushi station, noodles station, grilled steak, lamb chop, sausages, salmon head, ribs, duck breast, ribs, too many hot food to mention.
There were 2 dessert stations. One with the more traditional cny type desserts, plus ice kacang; the other had cakes, cheesecakes, macaroons, ice cream and bread & butter pudding. We left there, impossibly full.
Then we tried to walk the food off at the science museum. Had to avoid the trick mirror that gave us all additional 300 pounds and doubled our waistline! My niece had taekwondo practice at 6pm so we went to see that. Amazing that the master and his 2 assistants can fit a class of 12 kids in a squash court. There were toddlers who had just started, intermediates like my niece and a couple of older kids with black belts. Very impressive.
And to top it off, my sis had reservations at peking garden for peking duck dinner. The rest we stuck to vegetables, but we were too full to finish. Took 3 containers’ worth of food home, plus the duck carcass. They had spares so they gave us one more carcass too. Luckily, my mum has 3 fridges.
Lunch with my own family, vietnamese food: beef pho for me, and we shared some crab rolls, prawns on sugar cane and pork chop. Then it was up to Sis’ home, I played on the wii with my niece while the adults watched tv, went for a walk or did their own thing. Dinner was pizza which we heated at home. I had a godfather’s pizza, which was pepperoni, ham and sausage. A little bit too meaty for me, but still good. Nice chat, a little bit of wine and lots of chocolate that I brought back.
Had lunch with mm’s family at the usual restaurant. Lots of food, and I got to take some of the sago tart away with me. Had to carry it with me all day though, small price to pay for good food. After lunch mm and I walked to all the nearby computer malls to search for a wiimote and some flashdrives for mum. Normally these things are easy to get, but during the holidays almost all the shops were closed.
She wanted to look at some watches but when we got to the shop none of the models appealed. We ended up at the top floor bar of the excelsior where we had a glass of wine each (she had a gewurtz and I had a valpolicella) and then headed to her home. Went to the market nearby and got fresh prawns and some fish; at the supermarket we got vegetables and tofu. She made 2 simple and delicious dishes for dinner — cooked prawns and a quick soup with the fish, veg and tofu. After dinner we went to a nearby dessert place, just 10mins walk. It’s cold, she needs to break out extra duvets for us tonight.
Too much eating out is beginning to catch up on me, and I’m missing my own cooking. It’s all excellent food though, don’t get me wrong.
Met SC and AK for lunch at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place. It’s not a buffet, the food is made to order. The ordering sheets are stacked together into a 3 inch thick stack, there are sheets for 8 categories, from A to H. A is sashimi, B is sushi and so on covering tempura, yakitori, noodles, salad and everything one would expect from a Japanese place. It was good food.
Early dinner with parents at the market place we went to on Friday. Same slow cooked pork ribs and vegetables, but this time we added black bean steamed eels (delicious, so fresh) and curry mixed mushrooms (oh my, the curry sauce so yummy). For dessert we had steamed milk pudding made inside a young coconut. No sweetener, the sweetness of the coconut juice was enough. Silky smooth, almost decadent (even though at a local eatery on the top floor of a wet market is anything but decadent.)
I was feeling full, but okay. Mum gave me a tangerine when we got home and that was when the problem started. I got hit by this painful indigestion attack. I haven’t had one for years, and this one took an hour to go away. Argh.
There was this saying, I can’t remember where it came from, that if you haven’t been to Khan’s you haven’t been to London. It’s not as if they serve high end food; or have great service; or there is a special dish. Khan’s is just one of those London institutions that like Wong Kee or the bagel place on Brick Lane that, yes, if you haven’t been, you haven’t been to London. We used to like it because it was nearby, and we hadn’t ventured so far away to Brick Lane yet. It used to be always busy, and sometimes the queue was so long we went to another eat-as-much-as-you-like Indian place a couple of doors down.
I hadn’t been to walk around Bayswater since I’ve been back, although it’s on my run route to Hyde Park, and I went with Mum to the Nando’s at Westbourne Grove. Queensway proper, this is the first time in a while. Heh. There are even more tacky souvenir shops than before. More Chinese restaurants. The place where we had hot chocolate is gone. Whitley’s is still there but pretty quiet and desolate. The ice skating place is still there; as is the casino. Khan’s is still there, but not that other place a few doors down.
Sunday at 1pm and there were only 2 or 3 tables occupied when I walked in. By the time I finished, there were all told, 6 tables. Not the heaving place I remembered. The thali came quickly (from left of pic) — daal, vegetable curry, sag, aloo gobi, raita; plus poppadom, naan and rice. I also ordered a salty lassi. If I had the presence of mind, I would have eaten more neatly and take the leftovers away, but I finished it mostly. It was pretty good, but not piping hot and definitely not as mindblowing as I remembered. £10.95, plus lassi and the bill came to £15. Or 1/3 of the Goodman’s steak last night.
The best steakhouse in London, many say it’s Hawksmoor, which is where we went last week. Seems that the other #1 steakhouse is Goodman’s, so we felt we should also try it.
There are 3 branches, and we picked the Canary Wharf location as it’s close to RM’s place. Not too far of a commute for me. Again an early booking of 5pm. Decoration-wise, it’s even more traditional and macho than Hawksmoor. We ordered a St Emilion to be decanted and waited for it to become drinkable. In the meantime, we dawdled over the menu.
They had an ageing cabinet for display next to the kitchen, where steaks were let to dry age for anything up to 50 days. Big, big cuts. Very impressive. The menu had rib-eye, sirloin and filet. The chalkboard had porterhouse, t-bone, chateaubriand, bone-in rib-eye and bone-in sirloin. The beef is sourced from US (USDA grade), Ireland and Scotland and were corn, grass or partially grain fed. We had a small lesson in farming. We didn’t share this time; RM picked a 800g (28oz) bone-in rib-eye from Ireland and I had a 650g (23oz) bone-in sirloin from the US (Nebraska, we were told by the website) which on the board was described as Kansas cut.
We skipped starters as frankly, nothing stood out. Then our steaks arrived. Wow. Talk about charcoal grilled. The outside was crunchy, almost crackling like. The inside was perfectly cooked. Very perfect. Our lovely server gave us all 3 sauces: peppercorn, bearnaise and stilton. Didn’t need any sauce. As if I wasn’t greedy enough, I had a truffle mac and cheese, which must have been doused in truffle oil because I could really taste it. I asked why mac and cheese was on the menu as a side and the response was that steakhouses are American and mac & cheese is American, so that’s why. Hee.
I did enjoy my steak. RM liked his better than Hawksmoor but I preferred the Hawksmoor one. It is truly a case of YMMV. We skipped dessert too, again because the choices were not outstanding. And this is probably where, if we only had one day and one meal available, both of us would go to Hawksmoor. The steaks at both places are outstanding, but what Hawksmoor was better was the menu selection for the non-steak items; as well as that fabulous cocktail bar experience. I’ll still put Goodman’s on my list of places to take people, no question.
p.s. not cheap, 2 huge steaks, 2 sides and a bottle of admittedly very fine wine came to £150.
I had a 2-for-1 main course voucher for Belgo so RM and I had dinner there. The mussels were a bit small today, but the sauce was good as always. I had a Kwak beer where the glass came in an unusual wooden stand. RM had the waffle and I had the pavlova for dessert. Belgo is normally reliable, but I’m now I’m putting them on the “may be not” list because of those tiny mussels.
RM and I were talking about steak and were looking into good steakhouses in london. Everywhere we looked, it seemed that Hawksmoor comes up top. I can’t find a bad review, and the price though expensive, people are saying it’s worth it. We rang up yesterday and managed to get a very early dinner reservation, which suits us fine because both of us like to eat dinner early.
I did my weekend long run today, 11 miles. He did a long gym session, so we both banked calories for the feast. Good planning.
We went to the Seven Dials branch, hidden in a tiny side street in Covent Garden. The imposing heavy wood front door seems intimidating, but once inside it’s all very different. The decoration — dark lighting, dark wood, leather banquettes — suggest stuffiness, but it’s the opposite. People were in jeans, and it’s almost diner-like in its casualness. Like very much.
The menu is, well, steak steak and more steak. Aside from the filet, sirloin and rib-eye on the main menu, they also had specific cuts of chateaubriand, porterhouse, bone-in prime rib and filet mignon, all chalked up on a board. So basically you order the particular piece of steak by weight. At our server’s suggestion, we had the bone-in prime rib. The smallest piece was 900g, almost 32oz; the largest over 1kg.
To start, we shared a crab on toast. After our great st john experience, we have great expectations of crab. This wasn’t st john level in terms of sea-freshness, but it was nevertheless very delicious. A small heap of white and brown meat on sourdough toast, perfect starter really.
The steak soon arrived, unpretentiously bursting out of an oval cast iron pan. As the restaurant described, dictionary thick. RM had the bone, and I was soon tucking into a couple of thick, chunky, juicy, meaty, absolutely heavenly slices. It was prime-rib, so there was a thick ribbon of fat. I normally won’t touch fat with a 10ft pole, but this was different. Just a small portion with some of the meat, and oh wow. The beef is sourced from longhorn cattle at the ginger pig farm in Yorkshire, and it is as good as it can get. I wanted chips, so we ordered triple cooked fat chips, could have also gone for the chips cooked in beef dripping — next time.
Pretty soon, all the steak was gone. We had room for pudding, so we had sticky toffee pudding and chocolate & rum pudding. Good stuff.
It wasn’t even 8pm, so we got the bill and moved to the bar area for cocktails. They have a glorious cocktail menu and our server recommended some good ones. Apple brandy cocktails, and then I had a treacle PX with rum. All in all, an extremely satisfying dinner. With 3 courses, wine and 2 cocktails the bill came to something like £90 per person. This is one restaurant I can’t wait to go back.
Here’s a fun snack for new year’s eve: smoked salmon, vegetarian caviar, samphire. Strange, that the most common ingredient on this plate is the salmon (ignoring the lemon wedge!). I got the vegetarian caviar from a food show a while ago, I can’t find anything about it online and I’m wondering if it’s fake or what. Samphire is now available quite widely at the larger and better supermarkets, I got this packet at Waitrose. You’re supposed to steam or sautée it, but I had the oven on, so I just heated it up in the oven with a small knob of butter. Very nice, tastes a lot of the sea.
Happy New Year.
Traditionally the boxing day sale is the biggest shopping day of the year. This year, with both Monday and Tuesday being bank holidays, it means record breaking sales at all the retailers. I had debated whether to join the madness, I don’t really have anything to buy; may be some new plates if I see good ones. Then again, I should go out for a little bit, just so I can say I ventured outside during the 4 days for something other than running and taking the rubbish out.
Wasn’t sure where to go, so I just walked over to the bus stop and waited for the next bus. Normally #6 (to the West End) is the most frequent, but I had a premonition that it would be the 187. And I was right. 187 goes to Swiss Cottage and the O2 centre. No big department stores but there is a Habitat. I bought a box of Christmas cards there, then ambled over to Sainsbury’s. Oh yes, my big Christmas sale shopping was at…Sainsbury’s. I got sprouts on the stalk and celeriac for 30p each, huge bargain. Also got small planters, a set of table mats and adjustable spanners at Homebase. Shampoo and laundry detergent at Waitrose. Kinda boring, but useful stuff. Pretty pleased.
Something simple and vegetarian for Boxing Day. This is from thekitchn. What caught my eye was that they could be made in advance, although I don’t see why they can’t be made on the day. I actually did make them yesterday, roasted the beets and sweet potatoes at the same time I was making that massive christmas feast. I managed to get 3 large beets which cut up into nice rounds. I used the larger ends of the sweet potatoes and the rest went with the roast.
To assemble, start with a slice of beet, then goat’s cheese, sweet potato and top with beet greens. Repeat to make a stack. Reheat in the oven for about 15mins. I made a vinaigrette from orange juice, mustard, balsamic and EVOO to go with it. Very simple, and tasted great. The sweetness of the potato and the vinaigrette plus the beets and everything held together by the goat’s cheese. It was difficult to eat the stack, I ended up breaking them into 4 smaller half-stacks.
Visually, it’s pretty stunning. If only I were able to get better produce. The beets were okay, but i ended up with white sweet potatoes which, while tasting sweet and wonderful, have a tendency to go grey and woody. I probably should have soaked them in water when I was prepping them. Sigh. Imagine if I was able to make this dish with yellow beets and purple sweet potato, what a switch up, wow. And then serve with something a little crunchy: the recipe had toasted walnuts and fried onions, so obviously I omitted them. Could probably have done with a sprinkling of panko, or to be real fancy, some sort of tuile on top. You know, just to be chef-y.
I did cheat, yes, with a store-bought roast. I got from M&S a guinea fowl, duck & pheasant ballotine — it’s not something I would get normally, nor would I have been able to make it myself, so I consider it my Christmas indulgence. It came out of the packaging all ready for the oven, all I needed was to prep the veg — new potatoes, sweet potatoes and purple sprouts (on the stalk). The ballotine was supposed to take 2hrs at 180°C, so I timed the veg so they were ready at the same time.
Skyped sis and mum around 1pm, and by 1.45pm the food was ready so I signed off. While the ballotine rested, I reheated the veg and made the gravy. Boneless meant easy to carve and I generously gave myself 2 thick slices. Served with cranberry & port sauce and lots of gravy. Bear in mind that there’s how the picture looks (before) and how the plate actually looks (after) — I add food and literally poured gravy onto everything after I took the pic. The ballotine was good, although I couldn’t quite tell the difference between each of the meat, all I could see and taste was that there was some dark meat and some white meat. The potatoes were good, good, good. Everything was delicious. It didn’t feel strange to be eating at almost 2.30pm.
Waited till nighttime for dessert. My downstairs neighbour invited me for tea so I had to stop by for an hour. Plus getting dressed and combing my hair, heehee. Dessert was stollen which I bought in Prague. Had it with the sparkling cranberries and a dollop of marmalade. All in all a very filling and unhurried Christmas feast.
Some recipes, you see it for the first time and you know you have to try it out. This was the case with this 101 cookbooks recipe for sparkling cranberries.
Time consuming, but extremely simple. Macerate fresh cranberries in simple syrup (same volume sugar and water as the cranberries) overnight, which for me turned into a few days in the fridge cos I didn’t have time. Drain the cranberries and toss in caster sugar, let dry on a baking sheet overnight, toss again in granulated sugar. Mine didn’t turn out as picture perfect as Heidi’s, but I’m happy. They are delicious, with the sharpness of the berries contrasting with the sweetness of the sugar. And very, very Christmasy.
Oxtail soup to chase away the blahs, it being so cold and gets dark so early. Been on a soup kick lately, but there is something about homemade soup. The oxtails were very lean, from the market only £5 for the whole tail. Browned it with garlic and red onion, added carrot, potato, celery, tomato, tomato paste and fresh thyme. Just water, no need even for stock. 3 hrs at a gentle simmer, then stand overnight to skim off the fat. It’s thick, it’s warm and it’s filling. Perfect.
I bought a couple of fresh seabass when I was at Brixton market yesterday. The fishmonger cleaned them, but left them whole. I debated whether to cook them whole or to filet them and decided that I really don’t like eating any fish that still has bones. I have a fish knife, and I know how to take the skin off, but I’d never really tried fileting before. It wasn’t too difficult, although there was more wastage than I would have liked. I even managed to get rid of the pin bones, luckily it’s a fish that doesn’t have bones that are too small or fiddly.
Pan frying took about 1 minute each side. I served it with the vegetarian caviar I got a while ago, sauteéd prawns, scampi, roasted baby potatoes and asparagus. It was a running day, so I had a cider with it too.
I met SM and his wife for lunch at franco manca, which I have now decided is the best pizza in London. There are other great pizza places of course, the thin and spare ones in Rome, the deep dish Chicago pizza pies that make me homesick, even the by the slice one we got at the neighbourhood place in NY. But in London, this place rules. It’s a small joint, hidden inside Brixton Market, one of the many modern eateries amidst the older styled fish, vegetable and bric-a-brac stores.
What makes franco manca pizza special is their base, made from sourdough that had been slowly rising overnight and baked in a wood-burning brick oven made all the way in Naples. Ingredients sourced from organic farms all over the UK. Can’t get more authentic than this.
No reservations, the place opens at 12pm and we got there at 11.50pm, they let us sit looking at the menu while they prepped. Needless to say, the place filled up quickly. There are only 6 pizzas on the menu, plus 2 daily specials. I had #4: gloucester old spot ham, wild mushroom, mozzarella and ricotta. We shared a salad and had one beer each, the bill came to £11 per person. I’ll definitely come back.
Can’t believe that a generation ago, Japanese food was not very well known outside of Japan. Now, it’s so widely available that it’s hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know how to use chopsticks.
That said, Japanese food outside of Japan suffers the same fate as any other world food that is transported out of its origin country. It becomes bastardized. Which is why I’m so looking forward to this forthcoming documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi,
the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review.
Just watch the trailer, and make sure you have a napkin handy.
Try again. No lamb shanks left, so I grilled a couple of lamb chops. Served with super delicious roasted potato wedges and gently grilled baby gem lettuce. The crumble was a single portion left over from yesterday, I added tons of balsamic vinegar and did a modern-ish presentation with a shot glass of custard. Better.
My guests were late and I was in a hurry to serve the food before they dried out in the oven. As a result, I almost forgot to take a picture. The food was good — the lamb shanks had fallen off the bone, the roasted vegs were soft and crunchy and the mashed potato smooth and creamy. If only I took a few more pics.
Same with the apple crumble. Tasted great, the crumble was crunchy and the apples tart — I didn’t put any sugar on purpose. Good contrast with the sweetness of the custard. Pic wasn’t good either. Sigh.
I’m having SM and his wife over tomorrow, so I did as much food prep as I could tonight: cooked lamb shank, prepped the root vegetables, made the crumble. So tomorrow I need to: make the potatoes, set out the munchies, get drinks ready, slice the apples so when they arrive I put the crumble in the oven. Menu:
- mixed nuts and olives
- mulled wine
- red wine braised lamb shanks with mashed potato and roasted root vegetables
- green side salad
- apple crumble with custard
The departmental christmas dinner was at the dispensary which is about 15mins walk from the office. It being a work dinner, the atmosphere was quiet although everyone was quite relaxed. We’d chosen our menu before, so there were no surprises. I had pumpkin soup, roast sirloin with trimmings and chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet. A few people couldn’t make it at the last minute so their meal was shared between those of us who could manage a second helping, which is how I came to also finish a plate of figs & ham.
At best, I would describe the food as mediocre. We think it’s because we’d been watching too much Masterchef and gotten spoiled. Or that the menu for a large group is different (and more mass produced?) than for regular diners. But both SM and I agreed that we ourselves could cook equivalent or better. The problem was that the food tasted like they came from Sainsbury’s instead of cooked at the restaurant. I liked the pumpkin soup, but then again I like New Covent Garden soup, and the two were suspiciously similar. The beef wasn’t steak, more like a prime rib, tasted ok but the gravy was think and had no taste. The chocolate torte was definitely shop bought. SM had a creme brulee and it came with 2 bourbon biscuits, straight from the packet. Argh!
I’ve been wanting to try this kale with tahini recipe for ages. I’m not familiar with kale, but I have a good idea of how it could taste like. It’s very easy, just sautée garlic and kale until soft, then toss in a mixture of tahini, water, lemon juice (I used lime), sesame oil and salt. It’s really good. The kale never lost its vibrant green colour, and was cooked until just soft. I went running today, so I’m allowed lamb. Had a couple of chops with the kale and some grilled asparagus.
I have a very simple wishlist for Christmas. I want a metal pasta strainer that can fit in my large le creuset pot. Just the strainer, not the pot because I don’t have the space for another pot. The reason I want the strainer? To use to put the ingredients when I make stock. I can’t believe how easy and a lightbulb went off in my head when I read this. All my colanders are plastic so they won’t survive 3 hours in boiling stock. A metal one will.
And now back to the regular food porn series. I got this venison steak for £5 at M&S on Friday. Pan fried for about 6mins so it’s still very rare. Deglazed the pan with butter and served with sautéed little gem lettuce. Took all of 10mins. Drinking it with a beaujolais nouveau I got last week. I’ll never get on Masterchef until I learn more about artistic presentation, but I cook pretty well, I think.
So, the more facebook friends we have the more developed our brains are in certain regions: memory, emotional responses and social interactions. Hmm. I have almost 900 friends in my “public” account but less than 100 in my real name account. So, fail here.
Another study shows that faster walkers have higher life expectancy. Hmm. I’m not a fast walker, mm always leaves me behind. Fail again.
At least I’m not a total failure: beer contains silicon, which helps prevent osteoporosis. Yet again, it’s all about the beer.
I was trolling around teh interwebz and came across a couple of references to a sandwich shop at London Wall called assenheim 56. It’s about 10mins’ walk from the office so I dragged SM over there. Perfect for a friday afternoon. First thing that hit me as I was walking down the street is the delicious smell. Second thing was the queue, which stretched to the neighbouring shops.
Having done my research, I knew exactly what to expect with the special ordering method. First of all, there are 2 sides to the shop. The sandwich, salad and pasta side is on the left and there is no line, just walk up to the counter. The grilled chicken is the one with the long queue. Customers are served in batches of 10, we lined up and remembered our numbers as the chef called out. Then it was a matter of picking from: rice, vegetables and potatoes. “Number 1?” “Rice and salad, please.” The salad is already prepared and in the box. Whether we wanted dressing, tabasco and sauce were the next stage of ordering and the required response was the same as with the accompaniments. It was very organised and we were amused by the whole experience.
The chicken itself came fresh from the grill so it was nicely charred and moist. De-boned leg is probably my favourite cut. The chimichurri sauce was lavish. The rice and salad were good. The whole meal came to £7, which we thought was on the expensive side. If it were a little cheaper, we’d be there all the time. I guess if it were cheaper, the queue would be all the way to the moon.
Anyway, we decided to go for something to eat once every week or so, to break up the monotony of bringing in our own lunch.
Went to dinner with JA and RM at tandis at chalk farm. For starters we had a very nice mixed mezze selection of yogurt with spinach, chicken salad, hummus and grilled aubergines. For mains we had 3 different styles of lamb kebab: cubes, flatted and minced. All were nice, big portions too. Including 2 bottles of wine and a sparkling water it came to £35 per person, pretty good.
Yesterday, my last full day in Chicago, was spent resting my tired legs, uploading marathon pics and generally not doing a whole lot. Walked out to Walgreens for some last minute stuff. And passed by shawn michelle’s handmade ice cream store. I’d read reviews of the place and had always wanted to try whenever I drove past. They weren’t ready when I walked by before lunch, so when my friend M came to visit I suggested that we went there.
They gave us free samples, lots of them. I decided on vanilla and honey cinnamon graham cracker. Very nice. M had banana and butter pecan which also looked yummy. Now I’m sorry I didn’t start going there earlier.
Like some sort of hardcore idiot I’d organised a conference call for 9am. When I got in at 8am I saw an email request for it to be rescheduled because of people’s unavailibility. Sheesh.
So I said sod it, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s. This famous diner is across the street from the office. I didn’t feel like omelette, otherwise I would have had their signature dish served in a skillet. I had french toast with sausages instead. Yummy.
I was walking back to the office after sorting out my car registration when I came across a food truck selling gumbo, jamalaya and cajun food. Having read about food trucks I wanted to try it out. Had the chicken gumbo which wasn’t very impressive. It was a few bits of chicken and a lot of soup, with a slice of bread on top. Not worth $8. May be I should have tried something more substantial. I’ll give it a second chance if I’m ever out that way again.
I wanted to try to make pea and broad bean bruschetta that I tried at Jamie’s Italian last week. Don’t really need a recipe, but this is one from bbc good food is a good reference.
Cooked the shelled fresh peas and double-podded broad beans in water until just done. Roughly crushed with a fork with freshly chopped mint (I bought a mint plant especially for this), s&p, a little olive oil and a tiny bit of parmesan. Toasted a whole mini-baguette and spread a generous portion of the pea mixture on top. Heh, this is one of those dishes that I can only eat on a running day without guilt. And yes, I did 20k before lunch.
Went to the autumn real food festival at the southbank with RM, SM and his wife. Similar to the last time I went in May except with more stalls that spilled out to the river side. We walked around checking out all the stalls. I had Heston’s crab cakes and whole roast hog roll, again. I figured I won’t know when the next time I’ll see it, the weekly market probably ends when it gets near winter. For dessert we shared some mini Dutch pancakes and chocolate mousse. The Dutch pancakes, or poffertjes, were tiny, fluffy and made from a grill with small holes like the ones the Japanese use to make octopus balls. Traditionally served with butter and sugar which was how I ordered it.
What is this about vendor lunches and dinners lately? Another one wanted to take us for dinner but we decided on lunch after a meeting instead. They are based in Richmond and they took us to la buvette, a nice bistro serving regional Frehcn cuisine.
No wine as it was lunch. Most of us had the artichoke and tapanade to start. I’m glad we know them quite well, it’s difficult to eat artichoke without hands. I liked it, it was tasty and done just right. Mains I had calves’ liver with gremolata, bacon and portabello mushroom. Again, cooked just right. Dessert was chocolate tart with honeycomb.
I’d say if I were back in Richmond I might return, although there are so many other good restaurants that are worth trying.
Another vendor dinner, this time at northbank right next to the millenium bridge. Another modern British restaurant with a daily changing menu. We like this team of people and we had a good time
I had crab cake with fennel, duck breast with puy lentils & cherries, and poached strawberries with pannacotta. The crab salad was a little small, and I finished it in about 1 minute. The duck breast was just like any other duck breast I’ve tasted, but the pairing with cherries did work. Duck with any sort of sweet fruit works really. The dessert was fine, again it was a 1 minute affair. Reminds me that I should make pannacotta again.
image from wikipedia
I forgot to take a pic, but I was feeling particularly peckish this morning. SM dragged me out to a wonder coffee place (I had chai latte) and I got a bacon sandwich at the shop opposite. Just plain British bacon (none of the thin and crispy American stuff) in between 2 slices of granary toast. And brown sauce. Hit the spot.
Of course no one in the UK calls it a bacon sandwich. It’s either bacon sarnie or bacon butty.
It seems obligatary that any article about st john restaurant must contain the almost clichéd phrases: “nose-to-tail” (ie offal) eating, cooking pig’s head and the place where Anthony Bourdain would eat his death row meal. (Yes, I had the one dish he singled out, more later.)
There, I got them out of the way.
Despite calling only 1 day ahead, RM and I were able to score a reservation at 6.15pm. I’d deliberately run past the place on Thursday’s run home. The restaurant is in what used to be a smokehouse, and retains a lot of the simple decor and feel. The bar, bakery and dining room were white, plain and stark. The menu changes every meal, and they didn’t post the dinner menu till 5pm.
We got a bottle of house red and set about ordering. What about those bone marrow that Bourdain loved? I’d actually had the dish before, so I knew what to expect. To eat it with parsley salad and a pinch of rock salt is new, and it is a good pairing. The marrow is like cooked, fatty meat jelly and was delicious. What was even more delicious, to our surprise, was the crabmeat on toast. Can’t quite tell what was in the sauce — crab roe for certain — the crab smelled and tasted of the sea, it was so fresh.
The menu for the past couple of days included ox heart so I had my heart set on it [groan]. Unfortunately not tonight. The best choice was ox tongue, which was tender but I would have liked something I hadn’t tried before. RM had grouse which came very rare, not for the faint-hearted.
Dessert was madeleines, which had a 15min wait and came to the table with the piping hot taste and smell that only something that came straight from the oven could achieve. Great meal, came to around £60 per person, not cheap. Worth it though.
London shopping day. Bus to Harrods, but none of the food hall eating places appealed so we went outside to Brompton Road and found a nice Italian place. Beef carpaccio and Irish oysters to start and spaghetti vongole as mains. Had a couple of glasses of chianti too. The restaurant wasn’t that crowded, although there was a steady stream of takeout orders from regulars so it must be popular with office workers nearby. Spent most of the afternoon wandering around Harrods, including when mm played extensively on their bechstein pianos. Some people stopped to listen and some even applauded. So proud!
There was enough time to go to whole foods. We bought salmon for sashimi, cranberry bread, veal chop and a dry-aged sirloin steak. It’s always good to shop there, although the bill did come to £50+. The veal and steak came to £20, which is a fraction of how much they’d cost in a restaurant. I grilled them, cooked some of the fresh corn from yesterday, and opened my last bottle of snafu wine from Chicago. Too full for dessert even though we know we have to try the mint choc cornettos that are mm’s favourite.
Our tax consultant invited our whole team to their in-house fine dining restaurant at the top floor of their building down at Canary Wharf. It’s very fine indeed, with professional wait staff and a nice menu:
- pork rillettes, apple jelly, sourdough & scottish girolles
- roast breast of cobb chicken, sweetcorn purée, sautéed spaetzle
- moist coconut sponge on chocolate mousse & cherry purée
- selection of english & french cheeses
- coffee or tea with petit fours
Well cooked, beautiful presentation, as good as any good central london restaurant. The whole meal accompanied by a nice white wine. Only in Europe do you get wine with a working lunch. It was a long lunch, finished at 3.30pm and almost 5pm by the time we got back to the office.
700g (about 1.5lbs) peas, shelled — use frozen if fresh not available
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
30g (1/3 cup) parmesan
1 clove garlic
This is a great recipe from smitten kitchen that I’ve wanted to make for a few weeks. Just happened that fresh peas were on discount, so I got a big bag. I’d never bought fresh peas before, and even the shelling process was fun.
Cook peas in boiling water for about 3mins until just done, drain and cool. Meanwhile dry roast the pine nuts if not already roasted. Put peas, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and s&p in food processor and blitz until smooth. Slowly add olive oil. Blitz some more.
Cook pasta and drain, saving the cooking water. Return pasta to pan and add pesto, using pasta water to dilute to a loose paste consistency. Season and serve.
I made roasted cauliflower from a recipe from summer tomato.
Cut cauliflower into small florets, season with olive oil, s&p and a little paprika, cover with foil and roast in a very hot oven (250°C) for 10-15mins to steam cook. Remove foil, return to oven and toss every 5mins until caramelised.
I’m not a big cauliflower fan. I’ll eat it, but aside from trying to make cauliflower cheese that one time, I can’t remember buying it very often. I think that will change. This is fabulous. So sweet, so delicious, so simple. I went running for 2hrs+ today, so I’m allowed a big dinner. I had 3 pork & apple sausages (yum) and about 1/4 of the cauliflower. Very tempted to chomp more of this.
Friday after work, I went with RM to the great british beer festival at earl’s court. It’s sponsored by the campaign for real ale, and offers 500+ beers and ales and ciders from regional breweries. Entrance is £10, and glasses are £3. We wisely opted for the small glass and only bought 1/3 pint portions so we can try more. Most were around £1 for 1/3 pint.
It was hot and crowded, getting through to the bar was a bit of a scrum. Altogether we managed to try the equivalent of 2 pints of all sorts — ale, porter, german pilsner, perry. It’s RM’s first outing as a UK resident and I think he had a good time. We also tried kangaroo burger, boar burger, scampi and I couldn’t resist a cup of whelk and a huge bag of pork scratchings.
I fell in love with rainier cherries the first time I tried them, and managed to get some for my parents when they visited. I’d given up on ever finding them and enjoying their sweet, sweet taste again. That is until I saw my colleague with a punnet. She told me where to get them — good old M&S — so I immediately went and got 3 punnets, half price at £3.67 (yes, that’s almost US$6) for 400g (14oz). Price was not a concern.
I’m not sure how long the season is, i know it’s short. I want to somehow make sure mm gets to try them, so I froze a bunch. They don’t look very good when defrosted, and are less firm, but the sweetness is there. I hope she likes them.
Thomas Keller will be opening a pop-up of the French Laundry at Harrods in October for just 10 days. Nine course tasting menu for £250. Even if I could afford it, I doubt I can get through to reservations when it opens on 1 Sept.
I had pancakes and bacon breakfast a couple of weekends ago at the wetherspoon pub in Victoria station while Sis and I were hanging out.
- the good — real British bacon. Years in the US and I had missed real bacon. There’s a big difference between the two types of bacon, so much so that they can be considered two different meats. American bacon is streaky, fatty and served crunchy. You bite into it and it’s like biting into a mouthful of grease. Quite yummy in a perverted, unhealthy kind of way. British bacon is leaner, less salty and actually tastes of meat. It’s usually not fried or grilled to within an inch of its life and is more like cured pork chop.
- the bad — the bacon wasn’t done very well, in fact the whole dish was a bit tasteless. I guess it was too much to expect from mass produced restaurant food.
- the ugly — microwaved rubbery pancakes. I couldn’t decide if these sorry excuse for foodstuff were what we’d call drop scones in the UK or the American pancake. And they were definitely reheated.
It being a pub, I managed to finish the meal by washing it all down with a pint of cider (yes, it was available even at breakfast time). That made everything tolerable. Ah, the effects of cider.
The first time I went to le relais de venise was when I was in new york last year. The one in London is just north of Bond Street and the menu is identical. Sis and I were supposed to go running for a bit then to the Thai place opposite the station, but I decided to take her to steak frites instead.
The food was as good, the sauce buttery and creamy. We had a whole bottle of corbieres and followed with dessert. Must go running tomorrow to make up for the rich food, heehee.
Met Sis’ friend C and his partner for dinner at Strada. Pretty okay food, nothing special. The best was the garlic pizza bread starter. I had risotto. First time I’ve met them together (can’t remember C that well), but we had a great time and good conversation.
In other news, after a week of outlandish and outrageous revelations, the announcement came in the afternoon that the news of the world will close after sunday. I’ve been following the story all week, and I can truly say good riddance. There are no words to describe what they did, the invasion of privacy of ordinary folks at their most vulnerable is just…inhuman.
Met Sis after work and went to Brick Lane. Had a nice Indian meal — chicken bhuna, paneer mattar, lamb biryani. Then walked to the famous 24hr authentic bagel shop and got some plain bagels. Ah memories.
This is a very simple, healthy, no oil recipe from elise. It keeps the juices intact so the meat doesn’t get dry, and even people who don’t like chicken breasts should like it.
Cut the chicken breast in half lengthwise, season with s&p, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Wrap up tightly in cling film (American: plastic wrap), tie the ends in a double knot — using the type that is microwavable. Alternatively, wrap in parchment paper or foil then plastic for people who don’t like plastic touching their food.
Bring a pot of water to boil and turn the heat off. Place the wrapped chicken in the hot water, cover and allow to slowly cook for 20-30mins, depending on the thickness of the chicken. It’s just like sous-vide, only no need for expensive equipment. Remove and serve with a nice salad and sauce. I used an apple & chilli jam although pesto, gravy, even ketchup will be good.
I was invited to my friend CC’s friend S’s house for bbq. There was another couple with 2 kids, 4 kids in all. Lots of yummy food — beef, chicken, pork chops, lamb meatballs, mushrooms, potato salad. I brought s’mores wrapped in foil. Didn’t have the traditional graham crackers so I used digestives instead. It was a gloriously sunny day to spend with friends.
Free range veal chop from the real food festival a few weeks ago. I lightly browned it and then finished cooking in the oven. Meanwhile I made the sauce. I don’t normally make separate sauce or gravy, although I know the principle — the sauce makes the dish. It’s too much bother for one portion. I find it’s often enough to just have s&p plus the juices from the de-glazed pan (okay, I use flavoured salt and flavoured pepper so there are about 10 different ingredients in my s&p, that’s the secret).
This time, inspired by Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s recipe, I made a reduction from red wine, garlic and thyme. It tasted too sharp and vinegary so I added a drop of honey and a teaspoon of apple & chili jam. It was just right, lifted the whole dish to another level. I might have to invest in one of those very small saucepans to make sauces.
There are 5 Whole Foods in London, the largest, at high st ken is only a bus ride away. I’m so glad I made the trip. Had lunch at their restaurant — a kind of high end food court with salads, sandwiches, hot food, Mexican food, vegetarian, pizza, Japanese. Tried the shabu shabu of lamb with udon and veg. Nice, but pricey. A very decent iphone pic here.
The store itself is split on 2 floors and by London standards very large. Actually, it’s comparable in size to the Ashland store. I couldn’t help myself and came home with a veritable treasure trove of food I love and have missed: t-bone steak, osso bucco (in brown packaging underneath steak), tahini, clay pot yogurt, my beloved goose island beer, passion fruit, legbars (blue) eggs, abate pears, heirloom tomatoes, coulommiers cheese, st nectaire cheese — altogether £53, not cheap. I remember Car saying Whole Foods = whole paycheck.
And then I had to go to Tesco afterwards to get regular stuff like ham, fruit, vegetables and salmon, which set me back another £20. I was on whatsapp with mm throughout and I told her I bought more than enough food for 2 people for a week. Hee.
This is what I collected this morning at the station, free food — vitamin water, soy milk, tea bags, cereal bar, soy yogurt. The soy milk people have been there all week, and it was nice to have free breakfast for 5 days. I don’t like the after taste of regular milk (not even skim) so this soy milk was great. Their marketing may work, I’m going to look for chocolate soy milk, which is perfect for post long runs.
I ran 12km this morning, so I’m allowed ice cream. I had this Waitrose stem ginger ice cream that’s supposed to be “seriously creamy”. Well, it’s okay, but why do they have to put chocolate bits in it?? Sigh. Looking around the ice cream cabinets at Tesco or Sainsburys and it’s 90% chocolate or caramel or one of those very sweet flavours. The Haagen-Dazs page on ocado shows: cookies & cream, choc choc chip, pralines & caramel, chocolate midnight cookies, cookie dough, vanilla, belgium chocolate, white chocolate & raspberry, dulce de leche. The only respite from the chocolate, cookies and caramel attack is strawberry cheesecake. Sigh. I know H-D has many more flavours in the US. Why aren’t they available in the UK?
It’s the same story when I look at Ben & Jerrys available here — phish food, chocolate fudge brownie, cookie dough, cherry garcia, caramel chew chew, half baked. I wonder if British people only like chocolate or heavy flavoured ice creams? I know there are other choices, but I don’t find that there is enough for me. The problem is I’m confined to smaller stores, and therefore the choices are not great.
What I miss are the delicate five ice creams: mint, lemon, strawberry, vanilla bean. Only 5 ingredients. Frozen yogurts. Talenti gelatos and sorbets. Starbucks ice cream. Dairy Queen. Even rainbow sherbert. I’ll stop now.
she bakes a big oblong white cake and smaller yellow, red and blue cakes, and cuts them into long thin shapes. She coats each of the pieces in ganache - a thick, rich covering of cream and dark chocolate - reassembles it all in a long loaf pan, lets it chill overnight, then ganaches the whole thing
Not hard technically, just takes time. And oodles of creativity and inspiration.
Another vegetarian wednesday. Last night I made a stir fry with quorn pieces, broccolini, baby corn, mange tout, red and yellow peppers. Easy to heat up for lunch. Didn’t have it with anything but could have added noodles or rice or pasta or something starchy, except I try not to eat too much carbs.
I like Stella Artois beer for its nice clean taste. Plus, of course, it’s reassuringly expensive. Just a couple of weeks ago, on royal wedding day in fact, they launched their own cider, called so imaginatively, Cidre. I bought one yesterday and tried it today. Pretty clean, not too sweet, quite apple-y. And no longer reassuringly expensive, it was the same price as the Magners and the Koppabergs.
When I made shakshuka for the first time, I liked it very much. So for this week’s vegetarian day, I thought I’d have it for lunch. Made the base last night — garlic, tomatoes, red pepper, yellow pepper. Brought 2 eggs with me, cracked them into the base and microwaved in the office. Took about 2mins to get to the soft-boiled stage. Scooped it up with a naan. All done in a lunchbox. Healthy and filling.
I was at the real food festival early, even before the doors opened at 11am. It was a nice day out, lots of stalls and demos at the exhibition centre:
- Cesar Garcia from iberica showing us how to make 3 spanish dishes in 30mins, including a nice looking red berries gazpacho
- Mark Gilchrist showing us how to skin a rabbit
- Polish food, Chinese food, Indian food, Welsh food, food boxes, organic everything
- beer, cider, wine makers
- cheese, cheese and more cheese
- game meat, meat pies
- sauces and condiments
- sweets, baked goods, dessert, coffee, tea, drinks
And many many more. I was there till past 3pm, sampled lots and my backpack was very very heavy when I went home. This is what I bought, from left to right: beer, cider, buffalo burger, ostrich burger, venison chops & filet, calves liver, Indian meals, chutney, organic caviar, apple & chili jam, jerk seasoning, balsamic vinegar, assorted cheeses, naan, beef pie.
This was the highlight of the real street food festival at the south bank this bank holiday weekend. A whole roast hog. Several, in fact. Served in a white roll with apple sauce, rocket and crackling. So good, I had two of them. Two sandwiches, not even I can eat 2 whole pigs.
Aside from roast pigs, there was a seafood van, pulled pork, churros, burgers, indian lassi, curry, crepes, cakes, beer, cocktails and many more. It was a gloriously sunny day, perfect for a day out with good food. I texted my friend S and his girlfriend, and we met up for a good chat and a couple of drinks.
More pics, the whole set at flickr.
Easy roast gressingham duck recipe. Cut off as much of the skin and fat, make sure the skin is dry, rub salt all over. Roast at 180-200°C for about 1 hr. The best part, roast potatoes with the duck so they are cooked in the fat. Delicious, delicious, delicious. I’m not allowing myself the potatoes unless I go running.
Vegetarians and those who are squeamish about their food should skip this post. (Although I should have posted the photo under a cut. Ah well.)
I only realised it when I had finished and was washing up, that it’s Easter Monday and I had rabbit casserole so I ate the Easter Bunny, ack! It was totally unintentional. I bought a nice duck and needed the freezer space so the rabbit and venison sausages came out. I had the rabbit from last time I was at the farmer’s market, it’s chopped up, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it. I’m not that squeamish about my food, but I can’t get used to a rabbit-shaped rabbit yet. It’s like people say cuy, or South American guinea pig, tastes wonderful but on most travel and food program they serve it whole and I don’t think I’ll be able to tackle it looking like that.
The options were to roast, pan fry or make a casserole. Mum says that when she was younger she had roasted rabbit, which was quite nice. I had a bunch of carrots and root vegetables so I thought I’d casserole it. Pretty standard recipe — rabbit, sausage, garlic, onion, carrot, swede, red wine, canned tomato, in the oven for 2 hours. There wasn’t a lot of meat, less than a chicken, hence the addition of the sausage. I deboned it and served with rocket and roasted butternut squash. Tasted a little more gamey than chicken, but still pretty mild.
I don’t do the give something up for lent thing. No particular reason. I do, however, abstain from meat on good friday. No particular reason either. This was a beautiful Scottish organic salmon fillet that I got from Waitrose this morning. I was stuck by how pale it was, there was almost no pink and when cooked the colour was more chicken breast than salmon. As for taste, it was good.
It’s “friday” and a colleague’s birthday, so naturally we went for a drink. I only had 2 beers, one Amstel and an Estrella, nothing too intense. But that was enough for me already. Have I been too used to weak American beer? Age? Not running enough? I’m glad though, the days of 6 pints in one sitting have no appeal anymore. I do find myself missing a good 312 beer.
I came across yotam ottolenghi’s shakshuka recipe the other day. I’m not familiar with chef ottolenghi, although I gather he’s fairly well known in the UK. Shakshuka is a middle-eastern dish that has many variations.
The normal recipe calls for sweating onions in olive oil, but I skipped it and used 2 cloves of garlic instead. Then I added sliced peppers, one red and one orange. Cooked for about 5mins with fresh basil, thyme, paprika and cumin till soft. Added 1 can of tomato and cooked even more until the peppers were very soft and the mixture with a consistency of pasta sauce. Made 2 depressions and cracked in 2 eggs, covered the pan and cooked until the eggs were just done.
The best thing about this dish is that it’s so delicious that you just eat it straight from the pan. Scoop it out onto bread and that’s it. Heavenly.
My downstairs neighbour, a retired lady, invited me for tea today. To an American, it would have been oh so quaint — best china, leaf tea, buttered walnut loaf. So very English.
I’ve lost my feel for the British, I don’t know if she was being neighbourly or wanting to see what i was like. Probably a bit of both. I think I surprised her that I actually am local and brought up in the area. We had a nice chat and she showed me round her apartment. I don’t know if I should reciprocate. In any event, I can’t until the flat is sorted.
Woke up later than expected, by the time I got to the office it was 11am. Chatted with my department’s people, went out for dim sum with them at a nearby place. All very familiar and usual.
Got my hair cut and picked up my new glasses. Hair is a little shorter but a lot lighter but it’s not that obvious. Glasses have a darker and thicker frame, mum says I look even more studious, hee.
Dinner with Ricky at a famous neighbourhood Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. I can’t find its website, but here’s an English writeup of cambo. We had mostly the signature dishes — prawn sashimi marinated in garlic, lots of chili and fish sauce; “juice bursting” fish balls; satay; soft shell crab; fried rice. And a sticky thousand layer pudding. Ricky is living pretty close to my parents’, he grabbed a taxi and I took the bus home.
Originally we were going to a Japanese restaurant at the Peak, but sis called when we were waiting for the bus to say there’s a change of plan and we were going to saikou at LKF. It’s a new place, and we all ordered the mini rice set — choice of 2 small bowls from a selection of 6-8. I had uni fried rice and one with uni and salmon roe, it’s a uni type of day.
Afternoon was spent as Sis’ place sorting out her mbp. She says it’s old but it’s newer than mine, but she upgraded to 10.6 and it’s been slow. I was thinking it’s to do with all the files she has, I did disk utility, fixed some permissions and showed her how to organise her iphotos. She also wanted me to set up a fb account for her so she can try it out.
Dinner was with mm’s family, her mum’s birthday. At the usual restaurant and everything specially made by the master chef. I had a couple of bottles of tsingdao, heehee. I’m at mm’s tonight.
I woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep again, blah blah. Lunch was at Wa Sa Mai Japanese restaurant. The story is that Mum called mm for a recommendation, as they all know I wanted to have Japanese food. So mm recommended this one, and got invited to lunch. Okay, is it freaky that my mum asked my gf to go out to lunch with the family? Heh. I had the sushi set and it was brilliant, came with appetiser, salad, miso soup, steamed egg and dessert.
Afterwards we went to get new glasses, it was just me, mum and mm. I was all done, picked my frame, got my eyes tested and all. They were still at it. Jetlag caught up with me and I fell asleep in the chair. Eventually they took pity on me and finished quickly. Quick dinner with Mum and I can’t be happier to be getting ready for bed.
Met up with CC for lunch at nearby pub. She had a club sandwich and I had a steak sandwich. Pretty tasty, came with sweet pickled onions which I even ate. She didn’t have to go back to work so she had an ale. I thought about it for half a second, and joined her. I’m guessing there may be some rules on lunchtime drinking. I didn’t feel any worse for wear afterwards, but I can’t see this being a habit. May be very occasionally.
No, not in Spain but the tapas bar just down the road from the serviced apartment. I did research and wanted to take mm to this place at Old Street, but we saw this other place as we were walking towards the bus stop. It’s only 5 mins from our place, so we came here instead.
It was still early, only a couple other parties there. We ordered serrano ham, white anchovies, fried potato in tomato sauce and mushrooms. It was happy hour so we ordered a jug of sangria for £6.50. Overall it’s pretty okay, not super but it was great conversation and just nice to be together.
We went to my new home to drop off some stuff and move some furniture around. Still depressed, thinking about the lack of space. Walked to Warwick Ave and had tea at baker & spice, the chocolate and blueberry cheesecake were nice, but expensive.
Took a bus down to Marble Arch and spent a couple of hours at M&S before taking another bus back to Liverpool Street. Dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant.
By the time we got off work we were both hungry and didn’t feel like cooking. So we went to le bouchon, which we had wanted to go to for a while. It’s a french brasserie, serving the typical french fare. We didn’t have any starters, mm had the lamb chops with dauphinois potatoes and I had the steak tartare. Haven’t had tartare for a long long time, and it was really nice to see the waiter prepare it tableside. He also recommended a couple of nice red wines for us. Nice meal out.
I took mm to borough market, we both loved it. It was crowded though. We bought a tray of clementines for £1.99, a couple of speciality beers for me and 5 different types of cheeses — a couple from a small cheese maker from West Sussex, a Caerphilly and a Jura and Camembert. The last store also had this moldy soft cheese, may be next time I’ll give it a try.
We bought this really nice boneless lamb shoulder roll last week and i made it for mm this weekend. The joint was 700g, or 1.5 pounds. The cooking time was recommended at 25mins per 500g, plus 25mins for medium. I reduced the additional 25 to 15mins so it was nice and pink. Roasted it with garlic and rosemary plus a whole garlic and brussel sprouts. The new potatoes were boiled. While it was resting, I made a small amount of gravy with potato water and a bit of stock cube — had to improvise, don’t have a ready supply of homemade stock here.
Had mulled wine that we didn’t drink over christmas, so I warmed it up and we had it with the lamb dinner. Kind of a perfect meal to bring in the new year, right?
I was supposed to wake up at 3am to get to Heathrow by 5am to pick up mm, but I was too antsy and ended up waking up at 2am. I did go to bed at 9.30pm last night, so at least I got some sleep. It was dark, and the roads were empty so it was an easy drive. It took me until the end of the Embankment almost to Earl’s Court to get used to driving this car, and driving on the once familiar roads.
Her flight was the first to arrive, and by the time I’d reached the meeting point the board showed that it landed at 4.43am. About 10mins later I got a text from her that she’d arrived. And then I replied that I was already there, heehee. It was so great to see her.
I introduced her to the crappy apartment, and she was generous enough to say it’s fine. She set about unpacking while I got our Christmas feast ready. The carrot & butternut squash soup I made yesterday turned out very nice, even though I could have done with a dollop of creme fraiche for presentation. We also had mushroom pâté on some krisprolls with the soup.
The main course took longer than expected because of the barely functioning oven. I’d already broken down the pheasants but they still took a while to cook. Made a rudimentary gravy with chicken stock and some of the bones. Served with carrots, parsnips and new potatoes, all of which had been par-boiled then roasted. Everything washed down with this fabulous châteauneauf-du-neuf from M&S.
We were too full for dessert. While waiting, she got tired so went to bed for a nap. I joined her for a little while and then got up in the evening. Watched tv, played mafia wars while she sleeps on, she needs the rest. What a great Christmas with mm.
Almost ready for Christmas and mm arriving — chocolate, wine, mulled wine, cider, stilton, christmas pudding. And this is just drinks and stuff. Tomorrow’s plan is to prep and make our christmas dinner —- make soup, prep the veg, defrost the meat, make part of the dessert.
Woke up at noon, didn’t believe it when I glanced at the alarm clock, but the clock radio agreed. Slept for over 10 hours, which is okay, hopefully this gets rid of the jetlag. The ice on the road has mostly melted when I walked to the Tesco and bought more stuff. That was the only time I went outside today.
I wanted to make roast chicken, but found out that there is only a small baking sheet. I could have spatchcocked the chicken, but finally decided to make chicken stew. Carrots, celery, potatoes and 1/3 bottle of red wine. I took the skin and bones off, so the meat ended up shredded. I’ll use the rest to make a pasta sauce.
This is from nyt.
medium tub small-curd cottage cheese (it’s a 2 cup tub, I’ll need to check weight next time)
50g shredded mozzarella
750g | 1.5lbs assorted courgettes and squash
1 small onion
parsley, garlic, s&p
- strain cottage cheese for at least 20mins to get rid of excess liquid
- sprinkle salt over diced courgettes and drain
- sweat onion with garlic until soft
- beat eggs, add cheeses, onion, garlic, courgettes, parsley, season
- bake at 180°C for about 1hr until golden brown
- rest for 5-10mins in pan before serving
Next time I’m going to skip the onion. I should have known better. They suggested serving with tomato sauce and I agree, eggs and tomato sauce go well together. It was a great dish to eat hot or cold; as main dish or side.
There are still some summer squash left at farmer’s markets. I got green and yellow pattypans and small yellow courgettes. Two new recipes, the first one is rigatoni with summer squash, bacon, basil and goat’s cheese, from the kitchn.
- cook and drain pasta, keep a little of the cooking water
- fry up the bacon and cut into pieces, drain on kitchen towel
- pour out all but a little of the bacon fat, sweat garlic
- add courgettes and cook till done
- add pasta to pan, season
- add fresh basil
- turn heat off, crumble goat’s cheese over
- add a splash of pasta water to make a creamy sauce
My bacon was in bite sized pieces, unlike the recipe which used it as topping. I wanted to eat that bacon! I used rigatoni, I think a smaller and more delicate pasta would have made the dish prettier. But no complaints. It tasted wonderful. I made this on Saturday, for carb loading for the 20-miler on Sunday. I had TWO helpings.
They were cooking elk on chopped, which reminded me that I had a delicious venison tenderloin. Car’s cousin gave it to me, her husband hunted and they had lots of venison in their freezer. All I did was pan fried it with some fresh thyme, and kept it very rare, almost undercooked. It wasn’t gamey at all, delicate and tasty. Served it with rocket and cherry tomatoes.
I was a) in the area and b) no driving, so I thought I’d try out frontera grill, Rick Bayless’ restaurant. They don’t do reservations (unless for large parties) so people were there before 5pm. They gave me one of those electronic blinking things and said it’ll be about half an hour. The restaurant was empty but I guess they have to prepare. Besides, people waiting at the bar = buying a drink.
I started with the ceviche trio — albacore (white tuna), squid & scallop and tuna & mango. Had that with the topolo margarita. For mains I had the duck breast with peanut-thickened green mole served with red bean mash and kale. It came with tortillas on the side. I debated whether to have wine, but decided on the blackberry mojito instead.
For dessert the server recommended the sweetcorn cake with blueberry-tequila ice cream. The ice cream and sauce was great, but I didn’t like the aftertaste of the corn cake. I was surprised, cos I usually like corn. To my surprise, they took the dessert off my bill! I added it back with the tip. Small gestures like this, together with the high quality of the food, will ensure I come back.
This is adapted from a new york times article that talked about savoury loaves, or cake salés, that are French families’ secrets. The idea of using a muffin base appealed to me very much, knowing how easy it is to make. The recipe itself is straightforward, though I didn’t have gruyère so I substituted grated cheddar. I also converted the American measurements to something I can work with.
300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
80ml olive oil
175g diced ham
175g grated / diced cheese
Mix the eggs, milk and olive oil in a large bowl. Fold in sifted flour and bp. Do not overmix. Add ham and cheese, season with s&p.
Bake in a lined loaf tin at 180°C for about 45mins. Remove from tin and cool for about 30mins to firm up before slicing.
Alternately, make individual portions using muffin pans.
Never has a cuppa tasted so flipping grand. It was just my regular PG, but after one day without, it was well needed. I know, I know, it’s bad to be so dependent / addicted.
Now I want these cuppa mugs, if only to teach Americans how to make proper tea. (Hint: nix the lipton, tea bag in mug FIRST.) £7.50 but sold out. Sigh.
photo courtesy goenetix (…), copyright acknowledged
I just wanted to type “porn” again. Yes I’m twelve.
Anyway, any interesting tidbit is that the food porn flickr group is moderated by none other than the accidental hedonist, one of the food blogs I follow religiously and probably top of my list of bloggers I’d like to meet personally, if only to ask her for the name of the restaurant she sanctified.
I read about summer lasagna recipes at the kitchn. I never make lasagna because it takes too long and it’s too stodgy for me, but take out the baking and the heavy sauce and it’s a great version of a traditional dish. They had a few recipes, this one at framed was the closest to how I wanted it, and had the best picture.
Normally lasagna is made with ricotta but I didn’t have it, and besides I’m not a huge fan. I substituted mozzarella instead.
- cook lasagna sheets in water until done — took longer than the packet said, then I realised the packet assume the sheets will be baked later; altogether around 15mins
- sauté courgettes in garlic until soft — the pic doesn’t show it well, I had both green and yellow courgettes
- once courgettes are almost done, toss cherry tomatoes into the pan to cook for a bit, then add red pesto
- start building — vegetables, pasta, cheese, vegetable, pasta, cheese, vegetable
- decorate with fresh basil, a drizzle of EVOO and fresh ground pepper
For all my running and eating healthy I can’t resist ice cream at all. So I’m at Car’s and when she said let’s have ice cream I was like “yes!” even though it took me hundreds of calories over for the day. We went to dairy queen and I had the strawberry cheesequake blizzard. Still not much of a chocolate person.
I’ve been drinking this sweet peach wine from butterducks winery in Georgia. Yep, there’s wine in Georgia. Anyway, it’s sweet. I’m not a big white wine drinker, but if I do I tend to go for the sweet varieties. Gewurz or Chablis or even ice wine. Basically I treat white wine like white grape juice. It also means i drank 3 glasses tonight.
I left work early and took parents to whole foods. Not the big one at Halsted, just the small one on Ashland. Already good enough. We had a great time walking the aisles. One of the favourite things they bought was rainier cherries, which looks like just coming into season. $4.99 for a pound, cheaper than Jewel. Oh, I’m soooo glad for them, these batch of cherries are soooo sweet.
We went for Mexican food at a local place. It was great, they don’t get a lot of chance to try mexican food.
What food is Chicago most famous for? Ask this of 10 Chicagoans and most likely the answer is chicago deep dish pizza. Ask 10 Chicagoans where the best deep dish pizza can be found, and be prepared to start a war.
One of the deep dish pizza places, and probably the oldest, is gino’s east. Giordano’s has stuffed pies, Lou’s has, well, the Lou. And Gino’s has the sauce.
They don’t take reservations, which was just as well cos we were early. Walking through the cavenous space with graffiti on every conceivable surface was an experience. We ordered half cheese and half sausage pizza, plus a salad. The pizza is made to order, and they warn us it’d be 45mins. We knew that, so weren’t bothered. Nibbling on the salad and drinking lots of diet coke was perfectly fine.
And when the pizza finally arrived, it was hot, and huge, and the sausage spread all over the base. The crust had gino’s signature cornmeal, and was crunchy and yummy. The sauce was as good as expected. In other words, the whole experience was delicious. We could only manage one slice each, and were happy to take the rest with us.
Even though we were full, Mum and I went over to cheesecake factory to get a special treat — red velvet cheesecake. Again a huge slice, the three of us couldn’t even finish one. A perfect foodie evening.
My previous experience with chinese buffets in the US was in NYC. All I remember was the sheer amount of food, the crowds, and it bears repeating, the sheer amount of food. This one in Toronto, Imperial Buffet, is no different.
Except there was even more food.
My relatives took us to the one at Ajax, apparently it’s the best. The main attraction was the mountain of alaskan king crab legs. Cold and hot. Clams, mussels, sushi, fish, salad, prime rib, 3 stations of hot food, chocolate fountain, huge dessert station, ice cream.
Everything was good. I tried to limit to only the food I wanted to try, and to limit the size of the portions. Easier said than done. The crab legs were as good as expected. The prime rib was tender but a bit tasteless. The vietnamese rice roll was scrumptious. And there was a coconut ice cream that was particularly nice.
Gah. I’m stuffed.
So since Papa and I scoped out taste last weekend, it was our turn to take Mum there. Unlike last week, they didn’t let people in till 11am on the dot. Silly, cos they could have just let people in 15mins early to buy tickets instead of a huge crowd building outside the gate rushing in.
We kept to taste portions and tried many of the ones we liked last time — polish sausage sandwich at kasia’s, lou’s deep dish pizza. New was Iyanze, an African restaurant. The jerk chicken with rice was very nice, and the unusual bissap sorbet (frozen hibiscus tea) perfect for the hot day. Savoury was rounded by steak and chicken taco.
Dessert was sugar-free chocolate cheesecake from eli’s, watermelon from dominick’s. I had a frozen yogurt and berry cone while parents shared a rainbow cone. We stayed under the shade of the trees near the Congress entrance, right opposite the free amp lemonade stand.
It got very very crowded. We were full and had used up all our tickets. Time to go home to relax.
I needed to pick up my running packet for tomorrow’s race, so I dragged my dad along to Taste. We took the 147 bus and was there in no time. I remember my own advice, of getting there at 11am when they start to avoid the crowds.
Couldn’t find the running crew to get the packet. I’ll get it before the race tomorrow. We explored all of the stalls, and took our pick of what looked interesting. Polish sausage, pierogi, catfish, turkey wings. I liked the sausage deep dish pizza from Lou’s, and we both had a huge rainbow cone to finish.
Tickets weren’t cheap. $8 for a strip of 12. Most normal sized portions were from 8-12 tickets, with sampler sizes 2-4 tickets. It was hot and I really wanted a beer, but at 9 or 10 tickets, that’s like $6. I waited till I got home.
I went to nobu. I think I can stop writing now, the place speaks for itself. This one, nobu fifty seven, at 57th and Fifth, isn’t one of the michelin-starred locations, so I can’t claim that. I sat at the sushi bar, and had an impressive chef’s selection of sashimi and sushi which the chef made in front of me. Everything was fresh and savour-worthy.
Needing more, I ordered a king salmon nigiri, japanese uni sushi and a salmon skin roll. I would have tried the hot food but I was pretty full already. And mindful of my wallet. The bill, plus a sake, would feed me for 2 weeks. Heehee.
Was it worth the hype? The dishes were indeed good, but I’ve also had fish cheaper and equally fresh. I guess you’re going there for the brand and the location and all that. It’s a special meal type of place.
Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote has one dish on its menu:
green salad with walnuts dressed with mustard vinaigrette followed by steak frites, served with a secret recipe sauce
The only decision to make is the heat of the steak and whether to order dessert. The setting is french bistro, and the wait staff write the steak order on the paper tablecloth (“R” for rare). I’d seen this restaurant in London, and once my day finished at a reasonable time I was looking for somewhere to eat. Could have gotten fast food, but at $24.95 it was reasonable.
The salad was nothing special, I ate all 3 pieces of bread that came with. The steak was served sliced, and split into 2 servings. The frites were a little too oily for my liking, but went well with the sauce and the mustard. I ordered a glass of corbieres with the meal.
It was okay to be dining alone. I brought my ereader, and noticed other business diners. Still early so I had a dessert of mont blanc. Ah, memories.
I’ve decided that vegetarian burgers and sausages all taste the same.
gluttony by Artemio Rodriguez
My dailyplate record over the last few weeks haven’t been good. When I’m running I don’t eat enough. When I’m not, like when I was in London, I eat too much.
Went out with my vendors for a 3-course lunch at marché — pear & brie en croute, whitefish with chickpeas, crème brûlée. Dinner was at Car’s house where her mom made gram’s stuffed cabbage. Went over to her aunt’s house and I had a few spareribs. Still hungry when I got back to the house. Need ice cream. I think I’m overcompensating for not enough food during the week. I don’t want to think about calories this weekend.
I seem to have developed an obsession with vegetarian burgers recently. They’re so simple to prepare — microwave or grill — and go well with the rocket, pepper and cherry tomato combination I seem to have permanently in my fridge. I agree mostly with serious eat’s taste test, that commercial burgers are pretty much what you’d expect packaged food to taste like. The original flavours seem to be the best, and since I eat the burger plain without bread, the taste (or lack of) really comes through.
The natural next step for me is to make my own. This is based on 101 cookbook’s ultimate vegetarian burger recipe, with modifications. This is for 12 burgers.
- blend 2 cans chickpeas with 4 eggs until smooth(ish)
- season with rosemary, thyme, s&p
- add half a tub alfafa sprouts and 2 chopped up portabello mushrooms
- mix in about 250g breadcrumbs and leave for 5mins
- shape into burgers and grill
A tad on the dry side, I’ll use less breadcrumbs next time. Other vegetables can be used, I like having mushroom. Heidi makes thicker burgers, split them in half and use as the bread equivalent. I might try that next time.
It doesn’t get more traditional than cauliflower cheese. And no, New York Times, it’s NOT cauliflower and cheese. No, no, no.
I used yellow cauliflower, so now I’ve had white, green and yellow. Next up, purple.
- trim off leaves, steam the whole head for about 15mins till tender
- cut into florets, arrange in a single layer in oven dish
- make a roux from 2oz butter, 3tbsp flour
- add about 3/4 pint milk (I used a mixture of cream and milk) slowly, stirring constantly until just bubbling
- add 4oz shredded cheese
- pour sauce over cauliflower, season
- bake at 200°C for 30-40mins until golden brown
Big, big difference between this one and what used to be served to us at school. No comparison.
I was at a cocktail reception tonight. Most of the time I tried to stay hidden with people I knew. Then afterwards I helped tidy up. There was a lot of finger food and wine. Beer too.
I get talkative when I’m drinking, before going very quiet. I drink a whole lot of water after I get home. Unless I totally go crazy and drink a huge amount, I don’t really get hungover.
Remember my post last week about taking pictures of food? Well, I think that if one’s hobby gets mentioned on the new york times, one is vindicated, no?
Anyway, since I was chatting with K earlier, here’s the wonderful jardin de mariscos — seafood platter — I had when I visited her in Chile a couple of years ago. Look at all the fresh seafood — crab, loco (like abalone), prawns, mussels, scallops, razor clams, piure (orange slimy clams).
A croquembouche is a showpiece dessert of French origin that is popular at big events such as weddings and anniversaries. It’s basically a tall tower of profiteroles. Lots of recipes and writeups about it.
I have a foolproof choux pastry recipe from the Sainsbury’s home baking book. I’ve been using this recipe for years and years and years.
- 4oz butter
- 300ml water
- 5oz plain flour
- 4 eggs
Heat the butter and water until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. I’d double sifted the flour beforehand. Beat with wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the saucepan. Add eggs a little at a time, combining well. Spoon onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 200°C for 25mins until golden. Make a slit at the side and cool. I used regular whipped cream sweetened with a little icing sugar for filling. This made 24 small profiteroles.
Carefully melt caster sugar in a heavy pan. When caramelised, dip profiteroles one by one and arrange. The caramel acts as glue to bind the puffs together. To make the sugar decoration, dip a whisk in the caramel and flick it across 2 sticks (I used planting sticks, although rulers might have worked better).
Normally croquembouches are very tall, hence their centrepiece nature. Mine was more like a mini version.
I couldn’t find any mascarpone in the supermarket. It’s ridiculous. First off, cheese is in 3 different places at my local Jewel — “speciality” cheeses next to the deli counter, cream cheese and *yuck* cheese slices near the butter and cottage cheese/ricotta/sour cream where the milk is. Stupid.
To me, mascarpone is a BASIC ingredient. But I guess to Americans who are used to non-food like cool whip, canned frosting/icing and spray cream (the thought of all these make me puke), something like mascarpone is just way beyond their comprehension.
So I had to buy regular whipping cream. It’s so frustrating.
Why did I need mascarpone? It will be revealed tomorrow (hopefully).
I’m down at the house to celebrate Easter. All new traditions for me. One being working in a tag team to make pie. I’ve never liked pastry, but this seemed straightforward — flour, corn oil, ice cold water, rolled out. Filling was ricotta cheese flavoured with parsley and sugar. Baked at 220°C for 30mins. My task was at the end, since I’m the newbie. I put on the eggwash (over the pie but not the crust!) and kept track of the rotation — we had 2 ovens going. The crusts turned out golden, and the filling was soft and tasty.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started, but I have been taking pictures of food for a long time. Both what I make, and when I eat out. To the point that none of my friends and family bat an eyelid when I take my camera out before a meal. They either continue eating, or even help me find the best angle. Why do I do it? I dunno exactly, if pressed I’d say one of the reasons is to have a visual record of what I experience in life. How else would I remember chicken feet, or brie and cranberry sauce pizza?
I read on timeout chicago about Grant Achatz’s take on people photographing their meals at alinea. Now alinea is a progressive, awesome, difficult-to-get-reservation restaurant that serves delicate, delicious tasting menus with as many as 30 courses. Chef Achatz is not against his customers taking pictures, but questions
why people so passionate about food would sacrifice the integrity of the courses, instead prioritizing the documentation
Some of the examples he quoted did seem pretty extreme. Setting up a tripod and spending 3 mins moving plates around and finding the right light; videoing the kitchen staff; using voice recorders to describe the food. I agree it’s taking things a bit too far.
One of the reasons I got the s90 is because of its ability to perform under low light conditions. I always keep the flash off because flash can be very distracting and I don’t want other customers to be bothered by it. I’m usually pretty quick about it. I’m not using it for commercial purposes, and I hope that too many foodies taking pictures won’t alienate restaurants owners and managers and they start banning it.
A lively discussion was had when my post about broccoflower fed over to facebook. Among the topics discussed were canned asparagus and broccolini. Broccolini is known in the UK as tenderstem broccoli and was the featured ingredient in the 2008 bbc good food calendar. I’ve never seen it in any of my supermarkets or markets here, but I still decided to look for it this weekend.
Not surprised that I couldn’t find it. I did however find broccoli rabe (aka rapini) at Edgewater Produce (can always rely on them for fruits and vegs, and an overflowing shopping basket for around $20, that’s another post). A number of recipes online use it like broccoli, especially in a pasta dish. So that’s what I did. Sautéed it with garlic, threw in a few cherry tomatoes for colour and served it with rigatoni. Needed to carb up for a 10k practice run, so it was perfect.
It has more “green” flavour than broccoli, that’s true. I didn’t find it bitter, the trick when cooking is to teat it like any other stem-y veg you find at Asian wet markets — in terms of taste and appearance it’s more like gai lan or choy sum, so I added soy sauce and a bit of sugar in addition to the usual s&p. I’ll buy it again, for sure.
That actually is a green cauliflower, I’m not kidding. It’s a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower called broccoflower. In terms of taste, it’s like broccoli. You cook it like either. I stir-fried it with red peppers and chicken. Tossed in some tagliatelle in place of regular noodles and it was a very nice tasting and looking dish.
- Branston pickle
- a few pieces of your choice of English cheeses; Cotswold, Huntsman, Stilton, Shropshire Blue, English Cheddar, etc.
- a hunk of crusty bread
- a pint of good English ale
- (optional) cold cuts or pâté
- (optional) apples
- (optional) hard boiled eggs or pickled eggs
I would normally not eat the pickled onions and no, the apple isn’t optional.
And now I have a craving for branston, even though I didn’t usually have it even in London. Sigh. It’s available in the US from amazon and other online british food places. What I find interesting is the “other customers also bought” bit which shows: HP sauce, marmite, golden syrup, piccalilli and ribena. Double, triple, quadrupole sigh. Major homesickness about to hit in 3, 2, 1….
p.s. Brits — did the packaging on the branston change? it’s different from before.
We had a visitor from the london office this week, and my nice colleagues took her out for chicago style deep dish pizza. I tagged along to Lou Malnati’s, which according to some people, has the best deep dish pizza in town.
The pizza itself was pretty good. We had two: the Lou’s which is spinach, mushroom and sliced tomato; and the sausage. Personally I prefer the vegetarian one, the sausagemeat was a whole layer spread on the crust which was too much for me. Man, the slices were thick and the crust as crunchy as expected.
What I can say is that the pizza is the best thing at the place, possibly the only good thing. Service was mediocre, on the slow side. Initially they placed us in a desolate upstairs area when downstairs wasn’t even full. We had to ask to be moved downstairs to better surroundings. The pinot noir we ordered with the pizza wasn’t bad. Compared with Giordano’s I probably prefer the latter.
The eating continues. I’ve been over my calorie goal, and no exercising, for more than 2 weeks. But, I’m on holiday, right?
Went with parents to the café marco for lunch buffet. Seniors get a discount so there were quite a few there taking advantage. It was well worth even the full price. Everything was so well done — salad, seafood, sashimi, 3 hot dish stations, extensive desserts, chocolate fountain, movenpick ice cream. Amazing.
After all the gorging, Mum and I spent our energy hunting for a wii. Went to the golden arcade, but the ones on offer there were too “fixed” — she couldn’t use regular disks, had to download into a flashdrive — I didn’t know where to do that. So we went back to 188 and got the proper version for a higher price. I got a couple of games myself too — lego star wars and sports resort.
Dinner with sis and my niece at tokio joe. I was stuffed from lunch but couldn’t pass up more fresh delicious japanese food.
Today’s itinerary can be summed up by these 2 pots. Lunch was at a local restaurant that specialised in “chicken and pork stomach” pot. There was a long wait for it, may be they had to cook the chicken? It arrived with the chicken in the soup, a bit like sukiyaki. It was again, fresh and delicious.
The second pot is fish congee. The fish was swimming fresh, the flesh went into the congee and the bones was steamed. A theme to the food here is everything fresh.
In between? We went to Walmart and bbmm went for foot massage. Weather is very very cold.
omg, I’m turning into a health nut or at least a health nut wannabe. I started eating oatmeal! I mean, for most of my adult life I only had 2-3 cups of tea for breakfast. The past year or so I started to have cereal, but more often than not I’m not eating anything. I’ve always equated oatmeal with breakfast porridge, ie stodgy gummy tasteless stuff that only appeal to militant vegetarian yoga health fanatics.
Then last week I got some instant oatmeal with apple and found that it tasted nice and was great at staving off my morning hunger. Today I cooked up a pot of steel cut oats (30mins of simmering and stirring), mixed in a small pot of greek yogurt with honey, and finally a handful of blueberries. It was rather good and filling. I deliberately cooked 5 portions, and divided it up into small containers so I can reheat at work.
Crikey. What next? Meditation, chanting? I hope I don’t start talking about supplements and ginko jujube whatever. I take 1 multi-vitamin tablet and 1 vitamin C drink a day if I remember, that’s it.
I had 2 cheeseburgers today and they couldn’t have been more different. The first was at the ski slope (yeah, I was at wilmot mountain again, it was damn foggy but fun), the type of cheeseburger you get at a self-service fast food type of place. It tasted of unidentified meat and artificial cheese. But I’d been skiing for 2 hours on just a bowl of oatmeal and I was hungry — it was what I needed then.
The second cheeseburger was a pretty standard portobello mushroom cheeseburger that I made at home. There are plenty of recipes, including this recent one at the new york times. I marinaded the portobello in balsamic, olive oil, garlic and s&p for 15 mins, then sautéed it in a frying pan. Topped with a couple of slices of mozzarella and on a bed of cooked spinach in a bun. It was brilliant. Didn’t miss the meat at all.
I went crazy with the cooking this weekend, and have ended up with way more food than one person can reasonably consume. Heck, a whole family. Recipes to be posted in due course but here’s what I made:
- braised turkey leg from elise — turkey drumsticks, mirepoix, turkey stock, potato, carrot and parsnips for 3 hrs on the hob — a satisfying and economical stew for the winter
- roasted brussels sprouts, elise again — roasted with olive oil, garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of salt — surprisingly irresistible, the outside leaves were crunchy and the inside wasn’t mushy like traditional boiled sprouts
- eggs baked in potato skin, from kate in the kitchen — easy to make, if a little time consuming (potatoes take 1 hr to bake, eggs take 15mins to set) but so good! For a non-vegetarian version, sprinkle some bacon bits on top
- mashed potato — from the potato flesh, see above. I made 3 baked potatoes so lots of mash, and also 6 of those baked egg skins
- grilled chicken thigh — a whole pack of 8, for during the week
- blueberry muffins — one of my standby recipes, from delia’s summer collection — i can never get the muffins to puff up like commercially made ones, but i’ve always loved these, and they are never too sweet
There’s also mushroom, rocket, spinach, yellow pepper, carrots and cherry tomatoes in the fridge, as well as honeycrisp apples and red bartlett pears. How much running do I have to do to eat all of that?!
This is from simply recipes though to be honest it’s a standard braising recipe that I’ve used time and time again. The 2 new things are: short ribs, which I’ve never done before and reducing the sauce till it’s very thick.
- brown ribs (no oil needed, it’s already fat enough), remove from pan
- remove excess oil, sweat mirepoix until soft
- add 1 bottle wine, reduce to 1/3 original volume and almost syrupy
- return ribs to pan, add chicken stock until ribs are almost covered — recipe says veal or beef stock, neither of which I have
- braise at 180°C for 3hrs until meat is falling off bones
- leave overnight — normally it’d be in the fridge, I did one better and left it on my balcony with its 4” of snow
- remove fat layer (there’s a lot of it), reheat making sure ribs are well glazed
We had a get-together after work, for a couple of colleagues who left at the end of the year. It was at the Trattoria Isabella on Jefferson. We had a corner of the restaurant, and instead of a sit down meal, had pizza and wine on bar tables. It was great. I ended up having the equivalent of one whole pizza and a bottle of wine. I’m glad I didn’t drive. It was past 9pm so I took a cab home.
I discovered quinoa over the summer and has made it several times as a salad or as the starchy part of a meal. Little did I know, until I read more about it, that chocolate and quinoa go so well together.
This recipe is adapted from here. The author thoughtfully tried to convert American cup measurements to metric but failed in a spectacularly cute way — there is no way on earth that flour and sugar are measured in ml.
225g cooked quinoa
1 tsp bp
- whisk egg and sugar until pale and thick
- melt butter and chocolate over bain marie
- add chocolate mixture to egg mixture
- add quinoa
- sift in flour and bp
- bake at 180°C for 30-35mins
Okay, this is just…phenomenal. The quinoa gives it a chewy crunchy texture that is unique and the cake itself is moist and fluffy. I ate a slice, then half of one, then the bits that fell off when I moved it. I’ve never been so lacking in discipline, and I don’t usually like chocolate.
All of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago I received a letter from cx that I should go to their site to claim a gift they were giving to all their US-based diamond members. So I filled out this simple form, and a bottle of wine arrived in the office just before christmas.
Turns out, it’s a napanook 2006 from the dominus estate in napa valley. Heehee, what’s it with the cute vineyard names nowadays. A little research tells me that
the 2006 vintage is deep crimson in color. Its nose is dense, complex and full of black cherry, fresh almonds and bitter chocolate notes. The entry is very full and velvety, enveloped with round, deep tannins. The finish lingers on with aromas of bramble berries, cigar tobacco and cocoa beans.
It’s a blended red made from 87% cabernet sauvignon, 5% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot and 3% merlot. A total of 3500 cases were produced, and the price is around $40. It’s meant to be consumed new, but can be laid down for 10-15 years.
Come to think of it, making yule log is one of my family’s christmas traditions. This is a nigella like recipe made from a flourless cake mixture and chocolate butter icing.
6 eggs, separated
6oz / 150g sugar
2oz / 50g cocoa powder + 2tbsp for icing
3oz / 75g butter
8oz / 250g icing sugar
- whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks, then add 50g sugar
- in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, rest of sugar until pale and mousse-like, add cocoa powder
- fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture
- bake at 180°C for 20mins until cake springs back when pressed
- cool for 5mins, then turn out to greaseproof paper sprinkled with sugar on a wet tea towel
- make icing by whisking butter, icing sugar, 2tbsp cocoa, 2 tbsp milk
- spread icing on cake, then roll up like a swiss roll
- cut off a branch, stick to main branch using icing
- spread icing all over, sieve icing sugar and decorate
It was too sweet, next time I’ll use crème au buerre filling and ganache as icing.
I’m very happy I set myself this goal. I’m not vegetarian, but in the end it was super easy to be a vegetarian for a week. I didn’t miss meat at all and didn’t feel like any of the food was a compromise. Of course it was made easier because I had control over what I cooked and ate. So, a representation of what I ate this week:
- butternut squash and apple bake, with chickpeas and cranberries
- red bell peppers stuffed with tomato and mozarella
- pasta with brie and tomato
- mushroom & asparagus bread pudding
- normal salads with spinach, peppers, tomato and regular ingredients
- cheese pizza — from beggar’s on friday, we also had sausage pizza and I wasn’t even tempted
I hadn’t given savoury bread puddings much thought, because of the whole carb thing. But I was looking for new vegetarian recipes and came across this at 101 cookbooks. And the more I read about it, the more sense it makes that it will be a nice, filling dish for main course or as a side dish.
I cut up about 2/3 of a round of sourdough bread into cubes. The bread needed to be stale, and mine had only been out for a day. So I took as much of the crusty part as possible. Instead of sourdough, I think any type of crusty, heavier-than-sliced-white bread will do.
I then added diced mushroom and asparagus. Ended up about half a punnet of mushrooms and about 12 stalks of asparagus. There really is no need to measure, but put in as much as the pan can fit.
The liquid was a mixture of 2 eggs plus 500ml milk and stock (about 2:1 ratio). The recipe talked about cups, which always confuses me. I used ‘normal’ milk, I think skim milk will be too thin. And because this was vegetarian week I used vegetable stock, any other time I would have used chicken stock.
I let the liquid soak into the bread for a bit, then baked at 200°C for 1 hr until the bread is golden brown. Let the pudding stand for 5-10mins before serving.
It’s good! I’ll definitely make it again. There are so many other vegetables that can be used — peppers, butternut squash, root vegetables.
This is an old recipe revisited. I got this off an early Jamie Oliver series, may even have been the original Naked Chef. Now that’s memories.
It’s so easy to make, no cooking apart from the pasta. I used fettuccine rigate, which is like regular fettuccine except with ridges along the length of the noodle. Basically, cook the pasta, drain and add cubed brie and cherry tomatoes. I used a mixture of fresh and roasted tomatoes. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese. Season and drizzle with olive oil.
The first time I came across quince paste was in Australia, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had quince paste in my fridge for many years. I had to throw them away when I moved. Which was why I was so ecstatic to see fresh quinces at the store last week.
Quince the fruit looks like a pear, which was a surprise to me. I’d never googled it, for some reason in my little brain I thought it’d look like kumquats for no good reason other than the ‘q’ factor. Heehee.
This time I did google, and learned that in its raw state the fruit is inedible. Mostly it’s cooked and made into a paste or jelly. In Spain it’s called membrillo and is eaten with manchego, a hard cheese made from sheep’s millk — to the extent that it seems to be the national snack.
This quince paste recipe is straightforward but time consuming:
- peel, core and chop 6 quince fruits (about 4-5 pounds)
- cover with water and simmer for 1-1.5hrs until tender
- strain water away, blitz until smooth
- return to pan and cook for 2hrs until thick — took me longer than that
- dry in low oven (100°C is the lowest mine goes) for 12hrs — again, took me longer than that, and it never really solidified like the commercially bought ones I used to have
Oh, so worth it, so delicious. And I went especially to the new french market to get the manchego cheese. Then I spread the paste over like jam. The manchego is nice, it had a rosemary crust and a mild taste. I’m thinking I can substitute comté or gruyère to pair with the quince.
We had a potluck at work today. Just simple food, no competition or anything complicated. Normally I’d make dessert but other people signed up for it already. So I made salmon egg roll. It was okay.
Some of the other dishes include: a whole ham, cold cuts and sandwiches, meat pasta, pasta salad, taquitos, taffy apple salad, pecan bars, fruit.
I saw oxtail and I was so excited. It’s been a long time. I braised it with a bottle of guinness and several ice cubes of chicken stock. The vegetables were standard mirepoix plus canned tomato. I let the finished product sit in the fridge overnight so the extra fat can solidify to be scraped off.
This was served over potato and turnip mash.
I was invited to Car’s family for Thanksgiving. There was a lot of preparation last night, and I helped with mushing the stuffing (they call it dressing so I’ll follow) — minced beef, celery, onion, bread, egg and sage. The turkey we stayed up till 3am last night to put in the oven. It’s 25 pounds and calculated time is 8.5hrs, I think it was cooked a little longer at the end. Other members of the family brought some food. I filled up my plate and went to town with eating, I was very full afterwards. I think everyone was happy too.
from top: mash potato (sweet potatoes hidden behind), polish sausage w/sauerkraut, turkey, cranberry, italian sausage, cornbread, dressing, brussel sprouts