When I think back to this time last year, it feels like a very long time ago. So much has happened since then, personally, professionally, and on this lil blog of mine, that I almost feel like a different person. I’ve certainly been through the mill in some respects and learned a lot. Of course that mill was mostly operated by me. The worst boss you’ll ever have is yourself, I just never give myself time off. There was lots of good stuff too that’s worth celebrating. New recipes, fun events, trips abroad and lots of new people and some fond new friends. So, let’s delve in!
I took a quick look at the posts that I wrote at the end of last year (here and here) and the year before. It made lovely nostalgic reading. It’s a little hard to believe that this is my third New Year blogging – 3 years! It feels like such a long time.
It was a year of new challenges and adventures. I moved house twice, and had several jobs. Sounds dodgy, eh? Fear not, I am not on the run, I work as a contractor now. This is perfect for me, as it allows me to free patches of time up to focus on hobbies and travel in between intense spurts of work.
I’ve tried lots of things, not always successfully, but I took the risk and when they paid off it was worth it. When they didn’t, well, they didn’t, and there’s no point dwelling on that. Lessons have been learned and stored away, I am sure I will benefit from them in the future.
On the downside, I made some promises to myself, that I didn’t keep. I’ve yet to redesign and move to my own server, I am working on that now. Remember the monthly round up? I lasted three months. I started a new job and wasn’t blogging as much as I would nomally, and a round up in April seemed overkill. Then it seemed pointless to resurrect. Overanalysis? Perhaps. Regardless, I will aim to rekindle the monthly roundups this year.
2009 was a very interesting year from a blogging perspective. Blogging in the UK, certainly in the world of food, really exploded. At the start of the year I felt that I knew most UK food blogs, and now, I can’t keep up. There are new ones appearing all the time. This is fantastic, it really enriches the virtual culinary landscape with so many different perspectives, cultures and attitudes to food. I’ve met lots of new people, many of them food bloggers and lots of wine bloggers too. It’s been a year of fun and lots of education. I’ve learned so much, and hopefully have shared a lot of that here.
So, as is custom at this time of year, I am going to be a little indulgent, and do a review of the year, a retrospective, from the ELAG point of view. I didn’t blog everything, as 365 days isjust not enough (heh heh), but I did photograph everything, so I will link to flickr photos of things that didn’t make it here. My busiest month was the quietest on the blog, as there simply wasn’t time to write and attend everything, or at least I didn’t make time. I blame work! I’ve self flaggelated now, and will make sure that doesn’t happen this year. I did have fun though. In my defence, I did twitter and flickr almost everything, so it was all covered, just not in one place. That’s ok, right?
Brace yourselves – this is a big ‘un, and part 2 has yet to come.
Top recipe posts of the year:
- Salmon Fish Cakes
- Butternut Squash, Chickpea and Spinach Curry
- Prawn Curry (again)
- Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply
- The taste of summer – Israeli cous cous
- Slow Roast Pork Shoulder
- Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach
- Slow Roast Pork Belly with Cider & Lentils
- Pea & Ham Soup
- Spiced Roast Pork Belly
50% of them have pig in them! I wish the Salmon Fish Cakes would move off No. 1. I hate the photos in it, it’s from the very early days. So, I’ve decided to make them and blog them again, an updated version with proper photos… once I replace my camera, of course.
Between jobs and housesitting, January felt like a displaced month. My heating broke, and it snowed, life seemed to be working against me for a time. I had some fantastic meals out to cheer the soul though, starting with a dinner with the winemakers from Dinastia Vivanco and Rob of the Wine Conversation at Fergus Hendersons seminal restaurant St Johns in Farringdon, where I feasted on an epic steak and kidney pie of Desperate Dan proportions. It wasn’t my first visit, I went in 2008 also, but it was was lovely, and my second time in the private room. The next time I will be there will be in a few weeks for the suckling pig. I fell in love with the Dinastia Vivanco wines that night, and have been a firm fan since. Flickr photoset of all of our dishes here including the famed bone marrow, chitterlings, kid goat and teal.
I had my first trip of 2009 to Tayyab’s, although it was far from my first dinner there, and had the slow roast lamb for the first time. Delicious! Tayyab’s became my most visited restaurant of the year, visiting again later in January and many more times over the year, it’s still a favourite. Photoset of this visit here.
Roast Yorkshire Pork was the perfect antidote to the grim weather and the cold and Salsify & Roast Garlic Soup was a lovely creamy support and culinary adventure. A trip to Baozi Inn, Chinatown, London with visiting friends was a lovely and cheap and cheerful affair (although their brusque manner has wound me up since). We were there around Chinese New Year, which was lovely. Chinatown was busy and very pretty, the perfect spot to bring visiting friends.
Finally, we had snow.
February was all about the comfort snack. King of these was the Tortilla Pizza. My passion for a good and indulgent brunch continued, and reached a new high, with what became a regular feature Brunch Baked Eggs. We held our first Guilty Pleasures Dinner Party, which was fantastic fun. I made a guilty macaroni and cheese with lots of bacon and pork fat.
Time Out listed me in their feature“London’s Best Food Blogs and Websites”, which was really exciting and very flattering. I was thrilled. I didn’t know until a friend texted me after she had seen it.
I had a fantastic meal at my first Dine with Dos Hermanos at Vinoteca (photos here), star dishes for me being one of the starters of squid with harissa and a rich and gorgeous mutton pie. I even managed to sit opposite an Arctic Monkey, a really nice, friendly and interesting guy, dining with his girlfriend who is a fan of Dos Hermanos. I finished the month with Roast Pork Belly, cooked simply, which I cooked for a friend who was moving to Japan.
I went to Franco Manca, famed pizza establishment in Brixton. Sadly, and unlike most, I was very disappointed. I was really excited about trying the buffalo mozarella, as I had read that they had flown a Neapolitan cheesemaker over to teach the folk at Alham Wood farm, but there was none on the menu, the white was wine terrible, and my pizza was served cold. I clearly caught them on a very bad day as most people love it, but I’ve not been back to check I was so discouraged. I will visit soon and report back.
Finally, I went to the breakfast launch of Taste of London, and indulged in champagne and tiny bacon and egg sarnies cooked up by Giorgio Locatelli. Theo Randall and Shane Osborne were also cooking the likes of tiny eggs benedict. I, of course, overindulged. Lots of fun.
A very quiet month for ELAG, with only two blog posts, I was out and about more than that though. We had a superb bloggers dinner at Tayyab’s – how have I not blogged Tayyab’s yet? For St Patrick’s Day I made Chilli Roast Salmon and Potato Salad with Frank Hederman’s superb chilli roast salmon from Selfridge’s. I also paid a visit to The Underground Restaurant, my first trip to a supper club, and not the last.
I had a fantastic lunch, matching Bruno Paillards champagnes to some fantastic food at L’atelier de Joel Robuchon. One of my favourite lunches of the year, and my first champagne tasting over several vintages and disgorgements. I took lots of photos, as always, and you can see them here.
I moved house, gained a fantastic kitchen and had a fabulous Easter Sunday lunch with friends.
Asparagus season started early and I stocked up. I love it, it’s the start of the fantastic slew of seasonal veg which grace our markets in Summer. I started with New Season Asparagus with a Poached Egg and also had another lovely asparagus breakfast, and I met Dan of Food Urchin and fantastic side project, Where’s My Pork Chop to collect a wild garlic plant from him back garden, with which I made Wild Garlic, Cream Cheese & Roast Tomato Pate on Toast.
Socially, I had a wonderful dinner at Le Cafe Anglais with co-owner Charlie McVeigh and some other bloggers. The parmesan custard was sublime as with my previous visit, new favourites were pike boudin, spinach mousse with morels, smoked eel salad, duck confit and the roast chicken. There was a terrific rhubarb dessert also. I’ve been a fan since it opened but this trip cemented that for me. I can’t believe I didn’t blog it. What’s wrong with me?! Charlie was shocked at our gluttony, and rightly so. You can see for yourself, he posted the mammoth menu on his blog.
Another new favourite emerged when I discovered Salt Yard. It had been on my list for a while, having tried and loved their sister restaurant Dehesa. The food was superb, but I think I prefer the vibe at Dehesa. However, I did go to Salt Yard a second time with a visiting friend who also loved it. We had their fantastically meaty and unctous meatballs, kidneys, pork belly, squid, croquteas, jamon, and their signature courgette flowers stuffed with monte enebro cheese, tempura battered, deep fried and drizzled with honey. Go for those alone. Lovely wine list too, we indulged in some Txacoli from the Basque region in Spain, which was one of my favourites last year.
Now for the glamour, the Oyster & Champagne Tasting with Bibendum and The Wright Bros at Galvin at Windows. This was a terrific event, and my first time dining at Galvin at Windows. I have yet to have dinner there but will rectify that soon. We matched Galvin & Bibendum champagnes to oysters of varying origins, some cooked and most raw. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to more interesting events like that this year. And I’ll write about them! Such a shame as this one was really interesting. Lots of photos though as always, and the full photoset is here.
My heavily pregnant sister and brother in law visited and we went to The Wonder Bar in Selfridge’s, where I was rudely accosted for taking photos of my meal. I say rudely, because it was handled so badly and obnoxiously, referring to non existent and invisible rules in a haughty manner. The gentleman in question insisted that I delete my photos, which I refused to do. So sue me. Heh heh. Of course, as a result of the interruption, the photos aren’t as nice as they could be but hey-ho.
We had my favourite Frank Hederman smoked salmon, sliced thickly as it should be, and some venison The food was delicious, but unfortunately, there was a sour aftertaste after the rude handling of the situation. I understand if they don’t like the camera, but the obnoxious handling of it was offensive.
Champagne tasting done, it was time for an Iberian wine tasting at Vinoteca with Catavino. An educational and fantastic experience, lovely wines, interesting people and great food. It launched me firmly into the world of wine tasting, I attended many more, and learned a lot throughout the year.
April is not over yet. A trip to the Chocolate Festival at the Southbank where I sampled Damien Allsops wonderful chocolates, and finally met Petra of Chocstar, who towards the end of the year would become a market buddy at the Wish You Were Here market in Soho. Her martini shots and brownies are to die for. Go get yourself some.
How can I top that? Can I? Yes I can! How about a rare breed steak tasting at Hawksmoor? Ha! Brilliant. A fantastic selection of steaks hot of the chargrill in Hawksmoor, from diverse georgraphical locations and breeds. Top for me was their Ginger Pig Longhorn, gorgeous taste and texture and the fat tastes like blue cheese, which is a very good thing. Sophies Choice though as almost all were delicious. Lots of pictures here.
Via twitter, and a perpetual hunger for rhubarb, I made a trip to Celia Brooks Brown’s nearby allotment in Tottenham to get some of her home grown produce. It was the first of many trips. I am very excited about her book on urban farming, our in early 2010.
Finally, a return visit to one of my favourite Sichuan restaurants in London, Chilli Cool in Bloomsbury. I’d been the previous year with some friends, including a passionate native from Chengdu. He highly rated Chilli Cool and ordered a banquet for us. I was so impressed, and, as always, took many photographs. All set to blog it, it wasn’t to be, as in my idiocy and whilst hungover I wiped my memory card clean. Favourite here is the grouper and tofu hotpot, which I get every time. Gorgeous, gentle and tender white fillets of fish nestle with tofu in a spicy and oily broth, surrounded by the sharks that are dried chillis and sichuan peppercorns, famous for their heat which is both numbing and spicy. I am addicted.
And… that was April. How did I do it? I was working full time. No wonder I couldn’t blog most of it.
May is a busy month. Blog birthday, my birthday, and this year, my first niece was born. Exciting times. Lots going on in the world of food also, of course. Starting this year with the fantastic project, Eating Eurovision, brainchild of Andrew Webb. I chose Sweden at our draw at the BBC, and promptly started researching everywhere I could, most successfully on twitter, where the Swedish-London food contingent came out of the woodwork. It was enormous fun, and we ended up at Garbo’s in Little Sweden in Marylebone (who knew?!), eating at a restaurant once frequented by Roxette for album launches. Love it. The owners, while hating the Eurovision, were really friendly and welcoming and we had a great evening, moose and all.
It was the third birthday for ELAG although I was in Ireland, so it went unacknowledged on the blog. I wrote a piece about Twitter, Twitter me this, my lovelies , indeed my rhubarb escapades were documented on the Times Online. I made Asparagus and Truffle Carbonara. I worked with Ryan & Gabriella from Catavino to host a London Food & Drink Bloggers wine tasting at the Westbridge in London, which was a fantastic success, gathering as many wines as bloggers in one room for an enormous and varied tasting. It was the first of many over the year.
More wine, with a trip to Brightwell Vineyard in Oxford, arranged by Andrew of Spittoon for English Wine Week. We had a great day with a tour of the gorgeous winery, a tasting, and further tasting of more English Wines with fantastic English cheeses at Andrews. It was a wonderful day, we need to do more of that this year. Brightwell also rear pigs and sell them by the half. Cute, aren’t they? Even nicer by the half I bet! I am tempted this year.
I cooked the first of many Slow Roast Pork Shoulders for my birthday feast along with a leg of lamb with anchovy, rosemary and garlic. Both were a hit, although, I must confess that I found catering for such large numbers very stressful, which is pretty crazy considering that I ended up cooking for a lot more at Covent Garden Real Food Market and loving it.
I made a lovely and fresh Crab Linguine with Cornish crab, delicious Fresh Garlic, Chorizo & Pork Burgers and participated in Where’s my pork chop? delivering Prawn Curry to culinary barterer Dan of previous wild garlic fame.
Another Dine with Dos Hermanos was hosted at Casa Brindisa and was another great success. The food, in the main, was great, with the smoked anchovies, tortilla, croquetas and jamon were favourites for me.
I attended cupcake classes organised by Shikhita of Fair Cake. It was a lovely day, decorating the cupcakes was the most fun, and really educational. Her white chocolate and limoncello cupcake is delicious – you can get the recipe here [PDF].
I scooted back from Woolwich to Regent’s Park as quickly as I could to catch the Taste of London Fringe Festival, run from a boat on the Regents Canal by the Guardian Word of Mouth team. I only caught a bit but it was superb, a fun idea, and running contrarily to what has become a very corporate and overpriced event. Which is a shame, as everyone loves food, don’t they? My wrath is reserved for the organisers though, the producers work hard, and pay a lot as I understand it.
Another day, another supper club. This time, The Secret Ingredient in Islington, run by Horton Jupiter and his girlfriend. A really cosy and intimate affair with very pleasant food, we had a really good time. I must explore the scene further this year.
Throughout June I was experimenting with different types of meatballs, spiced lamb and pork and chorizo being the favourites. I never blogged about them but shared them on twitter and flickr. I will make them again and blog the recipe.
And that’s it. Half the year is done. I’m exhausted, that felt like it took forever! I feel I need to be dropped into the centre of an ice cold lake now, like they used to do to hysterics in the Victorian era. It was fun to relive it though.
I’ll be back tomorrow, with the rest of the years round up, and my favourite places of 2009.
Thanks for reading, as always! Comments appreciated :)