Thursday, July 27, 2006

Soaring above the Plateau

Plateau had begun by playing a bizarre game of 'no you haven't got a table even though you got a confirmation yesterday' to 'yes, you can have your choice of tables and stay as long as you want'. I think they were persuaded to go from the first message to the second by me explaining very clearly how disappointed I was and that my clients would be also and that I felt not having a table at Plateau and having to schlep over to a very noisy Smollensky's instead would be far from acceptable. Something I said provoked a charge of heart and we were duly able to ascend their little lift to the restaurant overlooking Canary Wharf and enjoy a lovely lunch.
We were led into a little greenhouse at the side which seemed a good idea initially but progressively got hotter throughout the meal until we were fairly convinced that we were being cooked. Perhaps if we’d stayed until the evening we would have featured on the menu. We were seated by a wall of cacti and pondered if an unfortunate fall backwards would render us impaled on the plants. Fortunately we didn’t drink enough of the delicious rosé to put our concerns into practice! The menu looked really interesting. I knew it was modern French but I thought I detected a whiff of Asian influences also.
Plateau probably suffered unfairly from comparisons with our meal last night as some of us were still basking in the post Petrus glow. However the food was really tasty and attractively presented. There were plenty of fine fish dishes and a couple of our party plumped for the scallops cooked in yuzu juice which is Japanese citrus fruit and kind of a cross between a lemon and a lime. I went for the special of foie gras and artichoke terrine and a bitter leaf salad which was very pleasant indeed. After peering at the neighbouring table I espied some mashed potato (I am beginning to suspect that I may need to join M.A. - Mash Anonymous!) which I didn’t see on the menu. A quick chat with the waiter ensured that we could also partake in the fluffy delights and we shared mash, French beans and spinach to go with my steak on white asparagus with beetroot salad. I am not a huge fan of beetroot but it was sliced very finely and I didn’t detect vinegar. The colour was really nice of course. The steak perched on the white asparagus with the slices of beetroot made a very attractive plate. We forgo the dessert though I was hoping to share a little orange soufflé with a mandarin ice cream but as no one else is tempted we leave it at that.
I notice from the Plateau website that they are hosting a series of astrological dinners where your meal is designed around your star sign. I am rather intrigued but knowing my luck the chef would insist that my being a Virgo would demand a non-stop diet of tomatoes, red peppers, curry and rice and that just wouldn’t do at all!

I am so pleased that Plateau relented and let us in, we had a very enjoyable lunch with great company and I look forward to returning again. Next time I hope I won’t have consumed my body weight in Michelin starred food the night before and can also enjoy the desserts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Star-Studded Meal!

Give that man a star! Maybe even two! We had the sheer pleasure of being fabulously fine wined and dined at Petrus. Marcus Wareing (he of custard tart for the Queen's 80th birthday fame) had suggested a seasonal prestige menu for six of us and even organised a bump friendly version for H. For a client entertainment to be declared a success you need a triumvirate of wins. You need people that you want to spend time with and who appreciate the event, you need good food (in our experience most client events go much better if sausages are featured in some way!) and finally and certainly not least the service needs to be exemplary or as the host(ess) you feel responsible. Fortunately for us all three conditions were not just met, but excelled - we had great entertaining dinner companions and we were enjoying it all so much that we were last to leave, sublime food (no sausages, though!) and seriously attentive and considerate service. What more can you wish for? Okay, apart from sausages!

Jean Philippe of Hell's Kitchen fame was the maitre D' and from the moment we arrived made sure that absolutely everything went like clockwork. I think I counted 15 pre courses, courses or post courses. This was a serious tasting menu. We started with little amuse bouches of tapenade or sundried tomato nibbles and salt cod infused with parsley sauce and mini croutes. We were given the tiniest puff pastry triangles of foie gras which was an exciting taster of the liver-y treats to follow. Next we were presented with a flourish a shot glass of warm leek and potato soup topped with a leek foam, this was so tasty to drink the soup through the foam and we hadn't actually started the menu yet! The first actual menu item was the Pan fried foie gras on pickled rhubarb and roasted hazelnuts. Apart from H who had pickled vegetables (I have to ask ‘who’d be pregnant with such deprivation for 9 months plus?’ This was seriously good, and accompanied by some very tasty breads. Then a stylish deep bowl of 3 Scottish scallops, spiced apple purée and walnut foam was proffered and again, this was so perfect! H had a summer truffle risotto whipped up by Marcus, not such deprivation maybe? Then it was the turn of the Roasted quail breast served on baby carrots à la grecque, apricot carpaccio and fresh almonds. This wasn’t the main this was the dish prior to the fish ‘course’. K was already longing for a warm bed but we can blame jet-lag for that and not the lack of enjoyment. I can’t recall the bump friendly version of the too pink quail; I was just in a haze of food heaven by now! For the fish ‘course’ we had a delicious and light Roasted sea trout with fresh pea purée with Scottish langoustine. And now it was the time of the main course – the choice was New season English lamb, Provençal vegetables with a thyme infused lamb jus or Poached and glazed Goosnargh duck breast with fennel, sliced cashew nuts and green olives. The other six had the lamb and I continued with my duck loving theme and plumped for the beautiful duck breast – just faultless again! Though just a merest tea spoon of mash would have meant that I could have judged and included Marcus in my mash potato hall of fame. Ah well, maybe we’ll have to return for the winter version of the tasting menu. Though personally I can have mash potato in ANY season! After the beautiful lamb and duck we had a few cheese tasting plates. The cheese trolley has wafted passed us on several occasions and we felt it would be rude not to partake! After the cheesy comestibles we had the first pre dessert of Chocolate and Coffee gateaux with espresso mousse – this was the only thing I declined as I found the coffee taste just too coffee for me! The next pre dessert was much more to my taste and was a Sauternes and honey jelly topped with yoghurt and then apple granita – a fabulous little palate cleanser. I’m sure that if we were in Normandy we would have had this 9 courses ago! The final menu item was Vanilla cream, ginger sorbet and glasshouse tuile. This was beautifully presented and polished off very quickly. This only left the stunning little Hand made chocolates (including my favourite of the caramel filled sphere) to consume. But this was the equivalent of the ‘wafer thin mint’ for most of us so we had them packaged up in little Petrus boxes to go.
I didn’t make a note of the wines we had but fortunately had some help (thank you, L!), I do recall a very fine Sauternes to accompany the foie gras, and the whites were an okay Sancerre and a nicer Montrachet but the Chilean Pinot Noir was my favourite and was really very fine indeed.
We had sublime food and a perfect table. A round table next to the glistening glass balls of the giant abacus decorating the restaurant. The service was just exceptional and we even got the tour of the kitchen but we had spent so long eating all the chefs were long gone and we just saw the pristine prep areas and pass. I think Marcus was already tucked up in bed by the time we left! I exposed myself as some crazy Gordon Ramsay restaurant groupie but managed to secure some interesting information about the New York ‘London’ opening in September. Maybe I will go to the ball, watch this space!
In summary, this was a true Michelin starred occasion. Though I think he’s only got one which seems very unfair and I must reiterate – give that man a star, or maybe two! (But not as many as Gordon as we know he’ll be jealous!)

What's the buzz?

I've always liked bees! As a child I used to recite the verse 'Bertie the bee has a musical buzz and a bright yellow jacket of velvety fuzz...' The same verse taught me that wasps were aggressive and not to be trusted and duly noted, I've never liked wasps. According to today's paper wild bees are responsible for 40% of the world's food pollination. If this is true (and we're talking the Metro here so I feel I need a little more research!) we shouldn't just like bees we should worship them!
I sat enthralled several summers ago when D and N's father told me about his father's prize winning bee-keeping ways. It seems he was a bit of star in the bee world!
As much as I'm fascinated by bees I can't imagine having some of my own. For one I don't think I'd suit that white outfit and veiled hat; I'm not adverse to hats but all that white!? I also don't think I have room for a hive. I know that there are many successful hives languishing on London's high roofs and they benefit from the popularity of window boxes but I don't even have a balcony. So I’d have to have dwarf bees living in a tiny colony in a hive about the size of a pineapple perched on my windowsill. Hmmm, I don’t think that is going to work! I do recall a company at Borough Market selling bee related products that had a scheme where you could sponsor your own hive. This means without the trouble of donning a strange white suit or possibly upsetting the neighbours with excessive buzzing you can get your own supplies of honey and know you’re support an industrious population somewhere.
The reason why bees are in the press today seems to be not just the decline of their population but a study by the University of Newcastle tagged 20,000 bumblebees with tiny little numbers and released them in various places around North East of England and recorded whether they were able to find their ways back to their nest. It seems that the record was 13km for some intrepid bees which is further than always believed a bee could forage. I just love the idea of tagging 20,000 bees, what an insane task that must have been and if you found some poor disorientated bee buzzing plaintively in your window how surprised you would have been to see it carried identification. Well if it makes for happier bees, then I’m all for that. For some reason I now crave some honeycomb ice cream. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You are being counted!

Apparently most blogs only last 4 months and then peter out but I can assure you gentle reader (I've always wanted to write that!) that I haven't finished eating yet so there's plenty more to write about! In honour of passing the 4-month milestone I've finally figured how to add a visitor counter to my blog. The black on black one was a little too stealthful even for me but the white version seems to be doing its job.
I've been asked quite a few times recently why I started a blog. I fell into it like many people do I guess. I was reading someone else's and I thought 'I could do that!' and frankly it's very easy. Though that begs the question - why would I want to? In the past I'd made several attempts to record fabulous meals and interesting things I'd seen or read but a Palm Pilot that inconveniently crashed and having my purse and notebook stolen from my handbag meant that various efforts were thwarted. I contribute to the Harden's restaurant guide each year and I generally could remember the restaurants but not always the food, and this is a good as medium as any to record my ramblings or rumblings. Initially I didn’t tell anyone about my blog and intended keeping it secret - yes, I know secret on the Internet is rather an oxymoron! But when I let slip to D that I had a blog, she was very persuasive. And then M wanted to read about our trip on the OE to Venice so I gave her the address also.
I want it to be all about the food and less about me, hence the anonymous profile. I am positive I have written nothing that could possibly offend my employer but I don't need my clients to look at me differently because they don't share my love of mash potatoes. And I have read Dooce and am very well aware the power of blogs. And I do have other interests beyond food... occasionally, like shiny, sparkly things, Coco Chanel and West Wing but I thought I'd write about something I get to do everyday (and a weblog about breathing seems a little biological!)
I guess it is indulgent but as the theme of my blog seems to be indulgence, it all appears very fitting! So it's my indulgence!
Now back to the eating…!

But the bump is hungry!

Today will go down in history as the day H & I ate and perhaps blaming the bump won’t cut it. Curiously we had both skipped breakfast, I know bad start. So when we heard there were unclaimed sad and lonely sausages left over from a breakfast meeting we went on the hunt and rounded up enough to make a couple of very fine sandwiches. Sated we still thought that a light lunch would be in order and rustled up a hot chicken and bacon bits strewn over mâche. But on return from our trip to Waitrose we discovered that word had got out that we’d happily live off sausages and sausages wrapped in bacon, chicken wings and bump intolerant Palma ham wraps were waiting for us leftover from a lunch meeting. Don’t these people ever eat? We had our salad and some of the additional treats and when the afternoon just stretched too long without food we forced ourselves (!) to consume a Gü raspberry and chocolate dessert (we shared little black polystyrene tub of Gü raspberry and chocolate icecream with the table yesterday – all in the name of research I may add!). Fortunately I didn’t eat another thing after the Gü treat, though I don’t know if a certain bump managed to bypass their toast craving. Tomorrow we are going all Michelin starred and we have a tasting menu to consume – so no sausages!

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Tomato-free Duck Pizza

I had another Duck pizza at Pizza Al Rollo as I’d enjoyed it so much on M and my last visit back before the Venice and Orient Express extravaganza. I think it tasted even better this time perhaps due to the anticipation of such a lovely pizza creation. I have since discovered that Pizza Al Rollo is part of the Pizza Express family of companies that have a parent company of appropriately named Gondola Holdings. I am intrigued with why they opted to open two more brands of pizza restaurants. Maybe the best sort of competition is another one of your own companies!
I first discovered Duck pizza at the Gourmet Pizza Company at Canary Wharf. It was a regular haunt for a while. It was handy for various clients and had a couple of fine tomato free pizzas. Initially I always tucked into their Leek and Tallegio pizza. This had a great advantage of me not having to go through the 'no tomato, no tomato sauce, no tomato at all' routine. When they got bored with creating that (maybe I was the only one who loved it) I moved to the Duck and Hoisin sauce pizza. And this was a very pleasant pizza for a while until they decided to tinker with the winning formula. On a visit last year with LL cool T and N, I realised to my horror that they'd added an entirely unnecessary tomato sauce layer to mingle with the Hoisin sauce. Okay you may think, this isn't a problem - just order it without the tomato. But when the pizza turned up the base was so crispy that any attempts near it with either a knife or fork caused it to shatter. It wasn’t burnt but had turned into a kind of hard cracker type thing – now a Jacob’s Cream Cracker is a fine thing in its place but not on the base of my pizza. After complaining, they produced another which was equally inedible but the fault was placed at my door as they blamed my tomato hating ways. Now this seemed odd considering their previous forays into the world of tomato free pizzas, and these pizzas had work perfectly. Well, whatever the reason I haven’t returned as I don’t know what affect my tomato avoidance may have on them, so that little avenue of pleasure had been closed. So it was with great delight I realised that a new forward thinking pizza company had introduced a duck pizza and more importantly had eschewed tomato in the composition. And I recall that M had a lovely Crayfish and Crème Fraîche pizza on our last visit that also was devoid of tomato substances. Pizza Al Rollo have proved that it can be done and it’s very good indeed!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

*%$£*&^% pictures !*&!*?

Currently my blog and seemingly many others using the illustrious blogspot site are unable to enhance their entries with images. This is most frustrating as of course I now have a new camera and am more likely to take random and unnecessary photos to adorn my Fork travels.

This picture here was supposed to show the lovely raspberriness of my last Frescato and I had to share it with you as I provoked a bit of a stir trying to take its photo balanced on an Evening Standard tin box (the drink not me!) I have been trying to post it to the previous entry for two days and have now decided that as I’ve finally downloaded it somewhere, it can stay!

You've got to admit - it's a lovely colour!

It's hot in the city - the curative properties of Frescato

Now one of these pictures came from the Costa website and one was a shot I took of my restorative head-freeze drink balanced on a white board in the middle of a busy London street - I wonder which is which?!. A few people did stop and stare and think that taking pictures of a drink was 'slightly odd'. And that's saying a lot for London!

I was forced to find something to drink in Starbucks earlier this week. Now I appreciate that I am definitely in the minority here but coffee doesn’t do it for me (it joins the tomato list) and finding alternatives to coffee in a coffee shop is quite an art. I used to plump for Diet Coke (if they sold it) but that’s just so 2005 for me! Then it was water – still if you please, which seemed rather dull but then I was introduced to Costa Coffee Frescatos. My, how exciting the world of coffee shops had become, Tough I figured pretty quickly that I needed to be in a Costa Coffee to partake of such a delightful brew and this doesn’t really help me when I am in a Starbucks and very hot and thirsty. Another thing that joins the black list with tomatoes and coffee us whipped cream I like to cook with cream and am very happy to have mussels with a creamy cider sauce, leeks in a cream sauce and a little in my mash potatoes if I’m feeling indulgent but not cold and drizzled over a dessert or in whipped mounds slathered in a cream cake or over anything. Now Costa didn’t chuck any whipped cream at their fine Frescatos but in the last couple of months they have added it to the top pf my favourite double chocolate flake, renamed it ‘indulgent’ and charged a little more. Sneaky! Now I am aware of this cunning ploy I can prevent them from spoiling my double chocolate flake icy fabulous creation. However I am here in Starbucks and it seems to be coffee in a variety of guises Tazo (trendy tea I presume, or wasn’t it those funny plastic hexagonal things you used to get in crisps packets, I am confused!) and a Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino which seems a little like my beloved Frescato. Naturally I eschew the whipped cream unnecessarily adorning it but am sure that cream features in other ways and it turns out my suspicions are correct - there are some dubious lumps of white cloudy stuff bobbing around in my drink. I suppose like a poor man’s Isle de flottante – not what I want in my drink. Hmm I wish I was in a Costa! I extol the virtues of my much missed Frescato to someone drinking a skinny, light, Soya, probably coffee free and taste free colour of washing up water - I kid you not - coffee style drink. I am not sure she's had a drink so wanton. I mention that the fruit ones are fat free and she looks sceptical!Today I needed by head to be frozen to counteract the extreme heat of the melting London streets and naturally my boiling brain turns its thought to Frescato. I am not sure that double chocolate is required and I'm not sure I still have the power to construct the sentence 'definitely without the whipped cream please' so I have a Summer Berries, which is seriously a pleasing colour. So pleasing in fact that I have to record it for my blog and raise a few eyebrows outside a very busy sizzling city station. I blame the heat! Of course, when the summer ends and that will surely be as randomly as it started I will no longer be able to frequent coffee shops unless I can face a hot chocolate - without the whipped cream of course!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Smoked Salmon Craving

Today I have a massive craving for a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich a la Corney & Barrow but I don’t know where to lay my hands on one and I have along schlep across the city to O & co. Well it only seems a long schlep in this heat – fantastic weather for sunbathing ducks! After my errand in O & co I espy an unfamiliar Italian sandwich shop called Spianata and think it looks worthy of a try. They have these fantastic breads surrounded the sandwiches and after pondering between mozzarella and prosciutto or Tallegio and speck I see a mirage in the haze – a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich in foccacio bread. Okay not very Italian – but exactly what I craved. And it was bellisimo!

Monday, July 17, 2006

I, camera!

I wish to introduce my beautiful black baby, my lovely Leica. It not only performs fabulously but is a gorgeous stylish sleek ‘objet de culte’ also! It is definitely the Gary Rhodes’ mashed potato of the camera world! I am so pleased with it that I am booking it (and me) a holiday - a digital photography and gourmet food holiday in France. Just think of all that bread, foie gras, duck confit, moules, Brie, Camembert and fine wine to eat and to photograph. Oh and there’s magnificent scenery as well!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Let them eat bread!

It's Bastille Day and though I need little encouragement we've used it as an excellent excuse to partake of some fine French fare. We've opted for Café Du Marche surrounded by all the meaty establishments in Smithfield's market. They aren't festooned in tricolours like Club Gascon but it still looks very French inside (and we are treated to that special French service!) H has arrived before the rest of us (clients, but also great dining companions!) and there's already a basket of warm from the oven French bread on our table. Okay this is where is all goes wrong in a French restaurant; the bread is just too good! We all dive in and are soon in bread heaven, I think it must have special powers. We all feel strangely euphoric and just a little full and we haven't started our meal yet. I have a good small starter portion of risotto - there's a fighting chance I'll be able to eat the rest of my meal. The risotto is Risotto Saint Jacques et Boudin Noir. And I can report that scallops and black pudding is an excellent addition to the creamy risotto. We um and ah over whether to split a Steak Bearnaise but opt for Duck Confit with Figs and Honey served with mash - yum! It was an inspired choice and tastily continued my duck theme. The duck-tacular was going to feature duck confit but I wanted to do it several days in advance and I ran out of days! The portions were a perfect size especially considering that we'd eaten our body weight in warm bread - ahhh warm bread beforehand. The final flourish was a little slab of chocolate and hazelnut mousse terrine. C'est fin! Hmmm must make a mental note to find some more French events to celebrate!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cheese & Meat Feast

The final meal of the weekend was beef at the request of T (of the LLs!). And with a slight nod to the summery weather we opt for thick slices of rare beef interleaved with buffalo mozzarella, sautéed new potatoes and of course - all together now - mâche! We wanted beef fillet but a plague of locusts had wiped out much of the stock on M&S's shelves so we plumped for rump. The beef and mozzarella really go together so well, the mild creaminess and the peppery chewiness. But before the beef we tucked into the new M&S cheese soufflé. They're okay, very cheesy but they don't rise very satisfactorily due to there not being enough mixture. However, their saving grace is the pleasing elliptical (yet round at the same time) white ceramic pots supplied to pour the slightly mean amount of the soufflé mixture into. They are very delicate and definitely fine enough to join the huge collection! Now if only I had more cupboard space! (Note: LL-T managed to appear in the soufflé shot - he has been keen to increase his prominence!)
Dessert was either a slice of raspberry cheesecake or a melting middle chocolate pudding. I know that I was truly fortified for the journey back. A marvellous end to this visit to Cambridge. Next time is the ‘Black Tie and Diamonds’ dinner – better dust off that tiara!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More cheese, please!

Doesn't the new Michael Aram cheeseboard look lovely?

And the Montgomery Cheddar, Isle of Mull Cheddar, Gorgonzola and extremely yummy Brie de Meaux taste pretty good as well!


After another fine breakfast fry-up courtesy of MC we head for Burwash Manor to get some goodies for the barbeque. D and I have espied an 'olive' recipe for butterflied chicken breast and pesto cream so it's off to Mr Knibb's for some of his finest poultry. We also succumb to the call of his onion marmalade sausages as really they should be mandatory for all barbeques. (LL)T has rejected both the chicken and pesto cream so it's lamb burgers for him. And there's also tasty back bacon and chipolatas for a Sunday indulgence. We also stock up on some excellent cheeses from The Pantry including Montgomery Cheddar, Isle of Mull Cheddar and an excellent Brie de Meaux with black pepper encrusted biscuits. This fine feast was accompanied by the ubiquitous mâche and parcels of Boulangere Potatoes courtesy of (dare I say it) Ainsley Harriot! - Occasionally he has a good idea when you get past all the Suzy Salt and Percy Pepper rubbish. There was a tricky moment when it transpired that we had a fuel-less barbeque but a mad dash by D and MC saved the day. Perhaps the sausages weren't actually needed but damn fine they were anyway. And the pesto and crème fraîche were extremely good. I think MC considerately licked the bowl clean! We were even able to catch the last few sun rays without being either rained on or bitten! Result!
Another fabulous meal at the finest of Cambridge restaurants!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cambridge Cream

Okay I was several hours late arriving in Cambridge. So instead of hitting the kitchen we headed for Cafe Rouge. The Cambridge Cafe Rouge is rather sweet; the walls are decorated with little painted pictures of a chef, a cooker, various bits of tableware and bees. I was unable to tear myself away from the chicken liver parfait and the gorgeously plump breadsticks dipped into extremely garlicky butter. Main was the chicken with herb mash, chosen because both D and I were craving mash. The mash was okay but a little rough. Clearly this is in a totally different class to Gary Rhodes' mash heaven. His is funky little copper pans filled with the creamiest, most unctuous mounds of potato nirvana. With each mouthful you can hear angels sing! Unfortunately the Cafe Rouge mash was more perfunctory and maybe even slightly grey! It was improved by asking for some extra butter to mash into it. But to little avail, it seems that Gary has spoilt me for all other mashes! I've should have taken T's (or LLT now!) lead and gone for the steak and frites and then I wouldn't have compared the sadly inferior mash! D and I split a simple crème brûlée, which considering the location I should really call Cambridge Burnt Cream.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lunch and Debauchery!

We had lunch at Corney & Barrow. The chips had been highly recommended and frankly rightly so. But I was rather taken by the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. Sandwiches don’t normally excite me but these were very fresh and tasty. I was slightly confused by the triple-decker arrangement and ate one sandwich to be rather perplexed as to where the top (or bottom depending on which way it was held up) had gone. I scanned the table, the floor, and my lap - how could I have lost it? And then it was pointed out that the sandwich consisted of three parts and I'd only eaten two. I blame the fabulous refreshing rosé, which E encouraged (I hasten to add that I'm easily led astray!) me to drink rather a lot of - and on a schoolday as well, ummm! Though what is one to do when sat outside on a summer's day in the sunshine? Well it was sunny right up until the moment it rained, well that a British summer for you! Definitely a good, long lunch!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The art of balsamic

Flame-haired H has been saying that he’s gone off balsamic vinegar as it tastes just too well vinegary. I felt that here was challenge I could rise to. A little drizzle of Harvey Nix finest over some mâche (only because I happened to have a stray bottle on my desk) and then a purchase of a bottle of my beloved Belazu soon taught the error of his ways – if you buy cheap balsamic, that is exactly what you get! And he has been convinced, well almost. The Belazu has gone home to be savoured but a cheaper bottle of vinegar and caramel has appeared amongst the desk’s condiments for his lunch time salads. Evidently I still have work to do!
Talking of having balsamic on my desk (next to the post-it notes actually!), I realise that I seem to have acquired quite a batterie de cuisine about my desk. In my drawer with all my expense receipts, old business card and pens etcetera I have and lemon zester, cheese slice, paring knife and a magic whisk (well, how would I whip up a French dressing?). I have plenty of cutlery, especially soup spoons as there is no way I could ever lay my hand on a spoon in this office when the urge to consume soup struck me. I also have a salt and pepper mill and for the aforementioned French dressings – Dijon, olive oil and a fine chardonnay vinegar. I feel it’s important to be prepared for every culinary whim whilst in the office. Though I know I’ve gone too far when a couple of Globals and a pasta machine appears!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Low fat or Italian?

The latest delicious and olive have winged their way to me. Two very different themes this month. Delicious is all about low fat and low calorie with definitely some interesting things. For example, ‘poached egg and new potato salad with crispy bacon and a mustard dressing’, ‘lemon and lime granita’, ‘pea, ham & Taleggio tart’, the fabulously green ‘basil sorbet’, a very interesting sounding ‘crab and salmon cheesecake’ and ‘old fashioned ginger beer’. All very interesting if a tiny tad virtuous! This month’s olive has a distinctly Italian feel to it. After a quick flick, my initial highlights are: ‘poached chicken with a mustard herb sauce’, and three very interesting dishes with my personal super food pesto – ‘pesto and potato tart’ – sorry Dr Atkins, this sounds fabulous! ‘butterflied chicken with pesto cream’, ‘salmon with lemon pesto crust’, ‘Gennaro’s grilled lamb cutlets filled with Parma ham and herbs’, ‘chocolate crinkle cookies’, ‘spinach, bacon and new potato salad’, ‘Giorgio Locatelli’s Grana Padano crisps’ served with aged Balsamicand surprisingly for me and collection of interesting desserts. However, personally I felt the desserts were not displayed at their best on the busy retro crockery. Seeing the Midwinter’ design from my childhood was really nice but it just didn’t work with the mango and vanilla terrine. My favourite desserts at first glance were ‘blackberry fluff’, ‘quick peach brûlée’ and my top pick - ‘chocolate and raspberry torte’. As I have a trip to D, MC and T’s next weekend, we have plenty of delicious material to work with.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Battle of the Saturdays again

Battle of the Saturday’s again
I thought I’d check the two Saturday food offerings again and compare and contrast. AWT’s Saturday Cooks has Momma Cherri, Gino D’Acampo and Ching He-Huang. Gino cooks tomato sauce – fortunately I have a fast forward button. Next the newly named Meals on Reels (the ingredient randomiser), is pulled and chooses for Gino - turkey, red pepper and vanilla pod, Ching gets lamb chops, water cress and Parma ham and AWT gets tuna steak, radishes and walnut. I think I’d rather have Ching’s option. Momma cook’s her favourite Fourth of July dish – bar-b-q chicken wings (with loads of tomatoes) and Gino uses his tomato sauce in a Chicken Arrabiata and pizza Napoli. Ching makes a kind of Thai spag bol. Thai-style meatball and noodle salad. The BBC option is looking much more attractive for me at the moment! AWT makes a potato salad but unnecessarily (I think) uses loads of mayonnaise. And if that wasn’t enough it was coleslaw testing for the supermarket test. Clearly they didn’t want me to watch the show! At least the very pretty Ching’s recipe for the mystery ingredient was chosen though of course she added the ubiquitous soy sauce. She whipped up a terriaki style glazed lamb chop with crispy Parma ham and watercress salad.
James Martin has John Torode and Oliver Rowe. John cooks a halibut, butter bean and chorizo dish. The programme excerpts started with Rick Stein lovely French Odyssey with creamy clams and steak tartare in Bazas. Yum! Jamie’s bit was making the chocolate pots and the ‘Jamie breakfast’ for his wife and her clubbing friends, the Hairy Bikers were in Namibia and Delia concocts some cold almond and garlic soup and ginger ice cream. James Martin took the steak tartare and turned it into an inside out cheese burger with Tallegio. Oliver made a very interesting chicken, creamy spatzel and cabbage dish. Oliver does his spatzel with a piping bag and not through a colander like I saw on another food show. It looks a much quicker way to make them. Oliver and John compete in the Top Gear sty-le fastest omelette challenge and John wins but is slower that Paul Rankin’s 57 seconds omelette last week. The fast-forward didn’t really get used in Saturday Kitchen at all. Finally, Arlene Phillips from the Strictly come dancing programme is forced to eat her hell dish of onion gravy and Yorkshire Pudding instead of her heavenly chicory jam, goat’s cheese and beetroot salad. So in conclusion and I am sure with no surprise, with the much superior food choices and the lack of adverts, Saturday Kitchen wins hands down! And I also managed to catch Gary Rhodes’ doing his savoury dishes – smoked haddock lasagne (mmmm, no nasty tomato!), home made baked beans (many, many tomatoes!), oat meal fried salmon slice, really gorgeous looking mushrooms and pesto and melted Gruyère on toast, my favourite Eggs Benedict, sardines on toast and to finish, homemade digestive biscuits to go with cheese. Really a veritable feast of savouries! It is lovely to see the like of Gary Rhodes’ repeats on BBC as of course when they’re repeated on UKFood they have to be annoyingly edited to accommodate the adverts. It is only when you see them like this that you’re reminded of how much gets cut. BBC wins again!