Month: August 2010

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Eating Lyon: Le Garet, the perfect bouchon

Lyon has a promising culinary reputation. Reputed to be the gastronomic heart of France, friends and natives had talked it up and I was worried it may not live up to my increasing expectations. I quickly secured a reservation at 2* Le Bec, the reviews are exceptional and it looks exciting, but much to my misfortune, they had water damage on the day I was to dine ,and were closed. 3 restaurant La Mere Brazier was also high on my list, but sadly (for me) they were closed for summer holidays. Paul Bocuse was mentioned but I had already decided to save that for my next trip, the prices are lofty, and the reviews mixed. I’ll visit another time with another food obsessive. So, what to do? In truth, I was always more excited about the Lyonnaise Bouchons, peculiar to Lyon and serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Bouchons were always going to be the heart of the trip and there was a few I wanted to try out. The highlight of these was a recommendation from …

Marché St Antoine: Food Market, Lyon

Ah, the glory of the French food market. Fresh produce, glorious flavours, bright colours, the smells of the fruit and lack of smell from the fish. As the heart of gastronomic France, you would expect Lyon to have a very good one, and it does. In fact it has several, but time was restrictive on my two night Eurostar trip their last week, so I chose one in the heart of the city by the Rhone, the Quai St Antoine Food Market. It winds along the river gently. Starting at 4 or 5 am and running until midday in the heart of the city, it’s a very popular and well sourced market. Everything was fantastic, the selection was varied, and better than all of that, in the main it was local. All kinds of tomatoes begged to be picked up, flat peaches radiated perfume and I swooned at the first bite. Bounties of herbs, garlic and fresh beans. Bright pink radishes with their green leafy hat, baskets of saucisson and legs of ham. Dripping gravy …

A Postcard from Lyon

Whoooooosh! I am not sure if that is the sounds of the Eurostar, or the TGV (super fast French trains), or my trip to Lyon, but it all seemed to go by far too quickly. It seems like weeks ago that I boarded the Eurostar and travelled to Lyon, but it was only Tuesday morning. We travelled swiftly from grey wet London, current home of the bad hair day and soggy feet, to sparkling hot Lyon, home of bright intense sunshine, great wine and food, and a peep of sunburn. My Irish skin could barely handle the 34 degree heat that awaited us. I love travelling by train. I could spend days and weeks travelling Europe by train, and anywhere else for that matter, it’s my perfect means of travel. The Lyon trip was a baby train journey but enjoyable nonetheless, taking a piddly 5 hours and allowing us a break for a glass of wine in Lille. A perfect two night break all in all. It was just lovely, holed up with my book, …

Supper Club: Stolen (Mark Hix Oyster & Chop House Night)

With most restaurants now producing accompanying books, Stolen Supper Club is a brilliant idea. They recreate the dining experience of high end restaurants as far as they can, from a house in West London. How far do they take it? When I visited for Mark Hix Oyster & Chop House night, they had secured some Hix napkins, and Mark Hix wine for seafood. They found out who his suppliers were and sought them out e.g. they used Jack O’Shea steaks for the main course. They sourced the recipes from his new cookbook. On arrival, we had an apertif in the garden, which was supplied by our hosts. It was a small group, no more than 15, all very friendly and chatty. One of the worst things about supper clubs is the house envy and this was no exception. I wandered past the courgette flowers and strawberry plants, and coveted the kitchen. When can I live in a real house and not a pokey rented flat, please?! The starter was an Oyster Mary, six large Irish …

Ode to a Crouton

Ode to A Crouton? A crouton?! No, croutons, plural and lots of them. I love them so. Bready, crispy, chewy in the middle. In soup or salad, they add a base note, some crunchy substance and I like to think, a bit of personality. I love them so much that, sometimes, I get overenthusiastic and ram lots in my soup, and then the soup disappears within the croutons, so that I am left with a soggy bready mess. Self control is important. But, it’s just a crouton? No, my friends it’s not. I have spent a while playing with my croutons, and seeing what I could do with them, and I have come up with some nice little recipes for you to try at home. Are you still with me? So… have you ever thought of spicing your croutons? Yes, spicing them! Well, it seems so obvious now, but the first time I thought of it, I felt like a genius. Cheese? That extra umami whack from some parmesan on your crispy crouton will work wonders for …

Supper Club: Ben Greeno’s at Tudor Rd

I was very disappointed to miss Ben Greeno at The Loft Project. People were a buzz with it, but it was sold out. I watched from the sidelines as the pictures unfolded, read the blog posts and felt quite sorry for myself. Then I heard that he was back in London from Copenhagen and would be starting his own supper club very soon. I didn’t hesitate booking. Ben is an increasingly renowned culinary talent, a rising star. He started out in the UK at 21 Queen Street in his native Newcastle, and then to Sat Bains and over the last 9 years has graced the kitchens of many a restaurant that I hope to visit – notably the current No 1 in the world, Noma, where he was recently joint head pastry chef and David Chang’s Momofuku. I was a little disorganised and found myself anxiously seeking a decent wine shop way too near the time of the supper club. Stamford Hill, where I live, is a fairly dry spot, more akin to synagogues (it’s …

Posh Lunch Club at Viajante: That 6 Course Lunch

A 6 course lunch. Some would say it’s greedy, gluttonous, wasteful even. I say it’s a perfect indulgence. You pay your £90 to see Madonna in concert at the O2, or to see Arsenal play in Highbury, whatever luxury you see fit. I’ll spend the same 3 hours enjoying the culinary highs and lows, the curiosities, the matched drinks, savouring every bite, anxiously awaiting the next, and tenderly arranging the first bite on my fork, before discovering what Nuno Mendes and his team has decided to put on my plate. Of course, if you’re reading this, I expect you’re of a similar mindset to me, but I find myself justifying these jaunts frequently, to wide eyed friends, family and acquaintances. Why not, I say? I work hard for it, and I love it. But… you’re putting on weight (that’s my mother talking). I know, I know, I’ll deal with that later. After my 6 course lunch. Really, I will. I must! Like the first time, we chose the number of courses, but had no clue …

Posh Lunch Club: Living it Large at Viajante

Life is for living eh? And I do know how to indulge. Viajante,  new player in the playground that is London’s restaurant scene, offers something different in the gentle wilds of Hackney. Nestled in the new hotel at Bethnal Green Town Hall, it is  a mere 10 minutes on the train from my flat, and I have found myself there three times. That’s not the only reason I have gone of course, being a Londoner, I am spoiled for places to spend my hard earned dosh and can relieve myself of my salary in eating establishments in record times  should I choose to (I try not to very often, there is rent and all that!). I do like what Nuno Mendes is doing at Viajante though, and they do a tremendous posh lunch. I had been awaiting the launch for some time. I must be one of the few bloggers in London at the time to miss his previous restaurant Bacchus, and I’d heard great things about what he would do in Hackney. Often hailed as …

A Sneak Peek: Posh Lunch Club at Viajante

Well, hello there strangers! Apologies for the radio silence but I have had no internet. No internet?! Liberating and detrimental at the same time, I am back now and you can expect a few posts from me over the coming days to make up for it. Today, I am afraid I am useless. Sleep deprived with few words of my own, I am fit to only crawl into a corner with my book (a good one it is too – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). I have a had a wee tummy upset, grim at worst, tiring at best. However, in advance of my next post – Posh Lunch Club at Viajante (Oooooo-er!) – I would like to share some photos of a 3 course set lunch that I had at Viajante some months ago (mid May), but never got around to writing about. To whet your appetite in the short-term, while I gather mine. I’ll be back soon, brim full of energy and bubbling with words to tell you all about the 6 …

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic by Ruth Reichl

It’s summer. A time of escape and holiday. When stuck at home, what better way to escape than with a great book? There is a particular type of book that I love: the food memoir. Stories and anecdotes punctuated with recipes. Recipes of significance, from childhood and striking occasions, recipes that evoke memories and feelings, and warmth. Sometimes detailing such intimacy you feel you are in it, and when you finish the book it is with sadness, as all of the people you got to know, disappear. I always seek them out, and recommend them to friends. I started to wonder why I wasn’t recommending them to you, so here you are. The first review in what will be many recommendations of books that you can escape in. Gifted to me by a friend some years ago, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic is one of these lovely books. Authored by Ruth Reichl, ex editor of Gourmet and prior to that, critic for the NY Times, it’s a captivating read. I …

Recipe: Spaghetti with Slow Cooked Tomatoes & Prawns

It was the day after my cousins wedding and I was tired. I had had an extraordinarily busy week and lots of rich food, and I found myself craving something fresh, comforting and healthy. My sister and I surveyed our options and thought – take away – as neither of us had the energy to cook. Thoughts of rich creamy Indian food quickly persuaded me that I should though. My tum couldn’t take anymore. I love staying at my sisters house. It’s lovely to be home with family. They’re amazingly hospitable, even as I laze and graze, and it’s lovely to see my tiny 14 month old niece. There’s also her lovely garden with herbs and salad growing a plenty. We agreed I’d cook and I surveyed the larder. Prawns, small juicy tomatoes, parsley & thyme from the garden, white wine and spaghetti. Fresh bright flavours, tastes of the sea and comfort. The deal was done. I started with 8 small tomatoes, bigger than cherries but about half the size of normal tomatoes, they were …

A Demonstration & Tasting of the Art of Confectionery: Romanengo at Petersham Nurseries

I embrace most foods and have few food hates. There are some that require a pep talk – tripe and drisheen would be an example, but there are some that have made me bawk. Hello dried fruit – particularly raisins. I hate them. I really do. I attribute this to a kilo bag of raisins I ate as a child, and promptly vomited back up. Silly business. In recent years I have discovered some that I enjoy though, those big Spanish ones that are a dull green, juicy and tender and wonderful in salads, dried mangos and pineapple grace my table too. And then I realised that I was being really silly, so I have reintroduced them to my diet. I still hate those small brown raisins though. Why would you do that to a grape?! Romanengo, the Genovese confectioner could have converted me immediately. They do wonderful things with dried fruits and since 1780 have been conserving fruits and flowers with skills transferred through the generations. Dried fruits is a poor term for their wonderful …