Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Skye's the limit

When I arrived at Blueprint Café tonight and saw my name place card perched on the end of a long, long table I wondered how this would work. We don’t normally have place cards and so I generally hold back and slot myself in an available space. Mostly this has worked out perfectly fine but at the cookbook event before last I found myself at the end of the long table with no-one sat opposite and my only neighbour a strange taciturn gentleman who barely spoke a word to me all evening. The food was very good but I felt much less enthusiastic by the ambience and wondered if I should continue to attend these events. It wouldn’t have mattered so much if the room was quiet with intense concentration on the food and hushed tones murmuring requests for the water bottle to be passed but it was a big party that everyone else was having and I felt like some late gatecrasher, some Billy-no mates who was propping up some wall in a dark corner. But I did come back again and last time I cunningly placed myself right in the middle of the table before anyone else was sat down so I was guaranteed several neighbours but I needn’t have feared because it was a friendly lot that tucked into Sophie Conran’s fine pies with gusto and I had a great time. But would tonight be the same, fortunately I spotted a few friendly faces from last time, Sarah who actually works with Sophie and sampled many of her gorgeous pies and some of her colleagues. Sarah was moving around some of the place cards to be more appropriate and actually added a table on my other side, so I was in luck – I was going to have some neighbours so surely someone would speak to me.

I pondered this sobering thought whilst tucking until tonight’s nibbles, a Jeremy Lee special – asparagus wrapped in filo and doused generously with Parmesan and cut into bite size pieces. Actually it all turned out perfectly and I needn't have been remotely concerned, I was on a great, lively table - I had Mrs W. from “The Weasel” column in the Independent’s Saturday magazine on one side, Mark Hix’s fabulous girlfriend C from Quadrille the book publishers on the other and opposite the lovely commissioning editor from Waitrose Food Illustrated. Yes I was in a media melee but fortunately even if my day job doesn’t qualify me to be in such illustrious company, at least my blog scribblings give me some vague credence.

We are all here tonight to celebrate the talented Skye Gyngell of Petersham nursery fame and her book “A year in my kitchen.” Skye is Australian and a really innovative cook, though she does inject a touch of fusion and Thai flavourings that I’m not always a huge fan of. But that’s me; my Asian food gene just has never been really developed. However, I am very much willing to try.

Tonight’s starter is tea smoked salmon with crème fraîche & nam jim. Nam jim is a new experience for me, it’s a hot Thai sauce with chillies, coriander, fish sauce and palm sugar. I was worried it would be hotter than it was and would drown out the delicate salmon but how could I have even considered it, Skye is way more talented than that. It was very tasty.

And then we got to tuck into the spring lamb with borlotti, asparagus & anchovy dressing. The lamb was beautifully tender and just melted in the mouth. I found the borlotti beans a little tougher than I'd like, but I've then never been particularly partial to a bean! Our next course was goat's cheese with walnut oil & finely sliced fennel, which despite the lip-smacking words of 'yum' from those about me I decided to pass. There were others there who feel goat's cheese doesn't just smell and taste of goat and take all the other ingredients hostage but feel it it's a good thing - hmmm, each to their own!

I saved myself for the utterly gorgeous steamed chocolate cake & burnt caramel, ginger and salt, I'm never going to feel that chocolate is not a good thing and maybe missing out on the goat's cheese (totally not a sacrifice!) meant I enjoyed it so much more. And if these unctuous chocolate wasn't enough we finished with pastel plates of sweets from Romanenga. Though the chocolate covered cherry was a bit of a surprise, they were quite large so I took a bite and a fountain of alcoholic Kirsh sticky liquid spurted out. It went everywhere. Chocolate cherry surprise anyone?

We had another wonderful evening, Jeremy Lee was on fine form, Skye Gyngell was sweet and shy and I got to have some very interesting conversations with my fellow diners. I received some inside tips to help me indulge my cookbook habit, discussed the intriguing and occasionally bizarre letters received by Waitrose Food Illustrated, whether Gordon Ramsay is trying to shock in his latest F Word series and how tricky it is to get a table El Bulli. I tried to extract some inside knowledge about the Great British Menu from C but she was the mistress of discretion! I did find out that Mark Hix shares my passion for collecting cookbooks and it's high time I booked myself a table at Scott's or the Rivington Grill. I really hope Mark and therefore C get to go to Paris.

The next evening at Blueprint Café is the summer party to showcase Jeremy Lee's Great British Menu Scottish heat winning dishes. It should be a very fine evening, I am positive that Jeremy will be on excellent form. Now when is your book being published Jeremy?


Sarah said...


Glad you enjoyed Skye's dinner with Jeremy. The salmon was my highlight as well.


clare said...

good to see you at Taste. if only the champagne had stopped there! enjoyed reading the blog - drop me an email lets eat.