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Everything posted by grahamR

  1. As in “I can recommend the cream horn” ?
  2. I had two wine gums at l'Enclume last week. Well, standing in the doorway looking at the menu (which is exactly the same as on the web site, but divided between the two walls.) I'm hoping to actually get inside for an actual meal towards the end of February. Managed to have a good old shoparoo in the deli at the other end of town. It was absolutely brilliant and the sticky toffee pudding about a third of the price you pay in London. The local smoked salmon was top notch.
  3. I made a special effort to go and check out the new "deli" that's opened on the site of the Sugar Club. I'm sorry to report that rather than a deli it's basically selling reheatable meals in fancy plastic bags. If you've been into Selfridges food halls and seen "The Grocer" ready-meals, it's the same stuff. They also have a few bits of cake in the window, but as I'd just been standing in a 20 long queue for Neil's Yard cheese I was too dispirited to do anything but look through the window, sigh and trudge off home.
  4. ...wouldn't be entirely out of place on the menu either.
  5. There is something odd about the wording of parts of the menu. There are elements of it that I don't know how to respond to (emotionally). "Chocolate mayhem, no more voices" is the sort of thing that little old ladies with lots of bags who spend all day sitting at bus stops might mutter as you walk past. But the big picture for me is still "Ooooo!" and "Mmmmm!". Anyway isn't it Jamie's creative team who do all the "words" (menus, books...)? By reputation, he's not much of an abstract thinker.
  6. At this time of year a good PX sherry with a mince pie or christmas pudding is sublime. In the UK, sherry has an odd reputation. I think partly because of some very poor quality high street brands and also because the lighter sherry oxidises quickly and becomes unpalatable. But really great thing about sherry being (essentially) unpopular is that it is almost always fairly priced. So if you're paying a little more for something, you generally are getting something of superior quality. And as has already been mentioned there are some really stunning quality producers who are not too hard to source. There are some 30 year old half bottles of PX available for about £12 and they are just amazing value for money. When we had the tasting menu at the Fat Duck the first two of the matched wines that arrived were sherries. For interest, here is the selection they serve. Some of these are ratehr hard to find, but it's an interesting check list of quality. I agree, PX on ice cream is inspired.
  7. I'll probably try for a quiet February booking. Something to look forward to when it's going to be horrible weather and cold as a snowman's, er, toes. For actual Christmas we've got Aunt Alice's "world domination fund-raiser" xmas pudding to get through.
  8. "Rumbley's Pies" (sorry for the previous spelling) was a sketch from Not the Nine O'Clock news where the kids sent to work in a pie factory were "mysteriously" disappearing. Hence the worry about people never coming back to write a review. [When I was but a child...] From the end of the 1970's to the middle of the 1980's I used to live just 30km from Cartmel. (Millom: Cumbria's wife-swapping and suicide capital.) It is a hideously remote location for anything. They certainly won't be getting much in the way of passing trade. But if The Three Chimney's can do it on Skye, then fingers crossed the l'Enclume team can do it in Cartmel. My parents live a 70 minute drive (according to viaMichelin) from l'Enclume. I was going to take them to Paul Heathcote's place (Longridge) as a Christmas present, but l'Enclume looks much more tempting. Plus they have somewhere to land my helicopter. That will be handy!
  9. Looking through the thread, there’s an uncomfortable number of people seem to talk about going to L`Enclume and then they never return. Are “Rumblies Pies” on the menu?
  10. I can have a very sweet tooth. As an aperitif, I adore a sweeter Oloroso with some freshly roasted then salted almonds. I wasn’t aware of the dry variety, but it sounds delicious.
  11. A very interesting point about the changing attitudes to spices. Of course, most Elizabethans were constantly drunk: “Merry England” being an exact term; the water supply in cities was so polluted that it was cheaper to drink beer or wine. It’s amazing they didn’t invent the kebab. Salted caramel certainly was a suprise. I think I first came across the notion through those talented folk at l'artisan du chocolat. Quite a few old gingerbread recipes (I'm thinking of Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) include black pepper and molasses. Now green peppercorns in white wine syrup... Ooo, sounds yummy!
  12. Thank you all for your kind comments. For me it’s nice to vent a little, having spent a ridiculous amount of time tinkering about with pepper. Chrisamirault: Fantastic to hear you can get the tellicherry peppercorns. I tend to favour my pestle and mortar, which is a huge lump of granite and does all the work for me. Interested to hear if anyone has a tried and tested mill that copes with the larger peppercorns. Fyi: I picked up December’s Gourmet magazine at lunchtime and lo! A peppermill consumer test. I think a Peugeot came out top, so you clearly have an eye for quality. My personal favourite mill is a free once that came fitted to a jar of cheap peppercorns. I am too ashamed to admit how much money I spent and how many mills I bought this year, but if I use a mill, of them all it’s the free one I like best. Tarka: Hi, fancy seeing you out here! So there’s a recipe gullet… I did wonder where all the recipes were. I think, apart from the syrup recipe included, the recipes I used for testing were the sort of thing you would expect. I did do a modified John “formulas for flavour” Campbell pepper ice-cream, but using a traditional custard base rather than his liquid glucose soft-scoop. Strawberry and pepper jam was really just an extension of the syrup idea. I’ll have a look in recipeGullet and have a think. Those tomatoes sound yummy! Toliver: That is a whopper! I wondered if there might be something in the new Harold McGee on pepper. My old edition is sketchy, apart from identifying both piperine and capsaicin as alkaloids. If I remember correctly, the physical effect is supposed to be that the pain receptors stimulated by the alkaloid have a sympathetic reaction with the taste receptors. Exactly the opposite of putting a hot water bottle on a tummy ache. As ruthcooks post underlines, the explanation as to how they actually improve flavours must be more complicated than that, as these different peppers and chillies work together, as well as having their own actual flavours. Alexw: It’s reassuring to be amongst so many other monomaniacs. Your post raises lots of questions for me and, as I’ve so enjoyed since starting reading eGullet, prompts me to find out about things like foams and jellies. I must say, of all the peppers in terms of something unusual the Long Pepper is worth looking into. I’m sure there’s something technically interesting to be made of its numbing effect.
  13. Sort of curled up in front of the fire size. With mushrooms.
  14. Elizabeth David wrote about salt. She wrote whole book, in fact. It's short and wonderful and if you're stuck for a Christmas present, just the right size for a stocking. It was reading this book that got me thinking about pepper. We use pepper so frequently and liberally it is hard to imagine it was once valuable enough to used as currency. Famously, Rome's ransom was paid (in part) by 3,000 pounds of pepper. The following is a brief ramble through the ideas, information and, to some extent, the conclusions that I've come to about pepper. Most surprising of all is how little is generally said about something so pervasive. Most people interested in food know that table salt has more in common with an industrial chemical than with something you'd want to eat. The anti-caking agent added to the purified salt allows the fine grains to run smoothly, but at the cost of adding bitterness. In any case flavoursome salt isn't a pure chemical, complex mineral impurities (iodine, magnesium, and even sulphur) add desirable character. So well known are these facts that most supermarkets stock at least the option of Maldon sea salt, which is a brilliant and world-class product. It's not that much harder to find Fleur de Sel, rock salt, river salts or even smoked salt. Although quite what smoked salt is for I can't imagine. Pepper tends to get overlooked. While most people realise that freshly ground pepper is generally superior to pre-ground it's unusual that the type of peppercorn gets a mention. I have also noticed that many otherwise knowledgeable cooks don't follow the basic rules of pepper use and abuse. Peppercorns are really two things: the husk and the kernel. The black husk is the source of most of the complex pepper aromatics, while the white kernel accounts for the majority of the pepper's heat. There are a number of accounts which relate that pepper was used as the source of heat in highly spiced cuisines before the Portuguese exported chilli from South America (circa 1490). This may certainly be true of Malaysia and Thailand, where pepper vines grow natively. Pepper is certainly recorded as well established in the cuisine of India by the time it was invaded by Alexander the Great (around 300BC). It is interesting to note that the heat from chilli is quite different to the heat from pepper and the two can be quite complimentary. White pepper, which is typically used for that very concentrated heat, is produced by stripping the husk from the kernel before the peppercorns are dried. To an extent the drying process seals in the volatile components of the peppercorn, but like any product they will gradually lose their potency. Ground pepper (white or black) very quickly loses any culinary value, but this is not just a simple case of surface area. The coarseness to which a peppercorn is ground radically and immediately changes the character. Fine grains produce almost no aromatic effect, unless you include a bit of sneezing. Cracked peppercorns are rich with deep aromatic complexity. Whole peppercorns are practically inert and impart very little to stocks or sauces. It is much better to crack peppercorns if they are to be strained-out before serving, or to coarsely grind them if they are to be left in. There are a range of mills that can be used to grind peppercorns. As a rule of thumb the more expensive the mill the less useful it seems to be. Peppermills where the coarseness adjustment is a tightening nut on handle part of the mill tend to suffer from accidental tightening. Novel designs often fail to deliver a substantial amount of pepper for the effort put into using them. A classic mill with a coarseness adjustment which can't move during use works best. I have not yet been able to convince myself that ceramic or metal grinding mechanisms produce noticeably different results. A good, heavy, pestle and mortar generally works best of all. The quality of the peppercorn used does have a dramatic effect on the culinary result. The standard supermarket peppercorn is a fairly bland product. Mechanical harvesting, used for mass production, must be supplemented with fairly brutal fumigation methods. Steam fumigation is disastrous for the flavour of the peppercorn. Chemical fumigation has been associated with health risks: the cheapest fumigation chemicals have been made illegal by some consuming nations, forcing producers to consider other methods. Irradiation is increasingly popular. Hand-picking berries means that many of the problems corrected by fumigation do not occur in the first place. The question is a priority of cost or quality. Commercial pressure pushes producers to choose the cheapest methods of production and, over time, food standards change to exclude more and more chemicals as some become viewed as unsafe. Organic peppercorns cost more than non-organic but, especially as you will be eating the skin, there are good reasons to consider paying more. Organic peppercorns are much livelier than the supermarket standard version, but it's still unusual see this pepper described as anything than a generic product. In reality, even the same variety of pepper can become quite different peppercorns. Farmers who harvest the raw berries early avoid considerable losses to feeding birds. Less mature berries produce peppercorns with more subdued character. Allowing berries to ripen further on the vine produces larger peppercorns with a more matured flavour. The drying process also changes the flavour of the end product: although it is here, arguably, that a high-tech solution (using warm air blowers in drying houses) improves upon the traditional method of sun-drying in the open. In the 12 months or so when I indulged this small obsession with pepper, I eventually came across The Spice Shop in Notting Hill. Their web pages include a great start for anyone interested in tasting notes for individual peppercorn varieties. I would also point out that Lakeland provide a very reasonably priced supply of Wynad peppercorns. A friend, and talented chef, grinds supermarket pepper to a fine dust and mixes it in a measured proportion with salt. This mixture gets deposited in a lovely pinch-pot and the mixture added when seasoning is required. As already discussed, the pepper in this concoction is basically dead. It also raises the point about when to add salt and pepper to a dish. Unless specifically required I always add salt at the end of cooking to avoid drawing water out of what is being cooked. A notable exception is when sweating onion, where drawing out the liquid is actually what you want to do. Pepper can survive and even benefit from the cooking process. Although the fragrance is usually best revived with a supplementary twist of pepper just before serving. In the same way as a tiny splash of fresh wine freshens any sauce based on a wine reduction. In my own experiments with pepper I discovered an interesting phenomenon. As I was using better quality and more potent pepper, I was using rather less salt. This may simply be what psychologists refer to as an attention effect, but I'd be interested if other people have the same experience. One of the most successful pieces of recipe experimentation was revisiting the combination of strawberries with pepper. I came across an interesting article by Russ Parsons on the topic of using simple sugar syrups. His infusions started with rose geranium and then with peppercorns, allowing fruit that could do with a bit of cheering up to have a bit of a soak in it. The idea certainly belongs to Mr Parsons, my own preference is simply 6 freshly cracked Wynad peppercorns infused for 10 minutes in a cup of syrup. I use it more to anoint good strawberries (halved and brought to just below room temperature) rather than soak poorer ones, as the pepper syrup loses the freshness fairly quickly. I should add, by way of conclusion, that I have no connection (financial or otherwise) with any of the suppliers mentioned above. Nor do I sell pepper or Elizabeth David books for a living. I am based in the UK and my comments are based on my experience as a consumer here. I'd be fascinated to hear if the same basic scenario exists elsewhere. Handy References: http://www.thespiceshop.co.uk/acatalog/The..._Peppers_9.html http://www.lakelandlimited.com http://www.theeagle.com/food/recipe/070203syrups.php http://www.foodnet.cgiar.org/market/Tropcomm/part2pq.htm
  15. Having met friends arriving in London at Kings Cross and then having quite a few hours to kill, we made our way to The Eagle on the astonishingly confusingly numbered Farringdon Road. Much to my surprise, The Eagle is a tiny pub. This single room has bags of character: half the wall behind the bar makes up the kitchen, which is fun if you’re nosy enough to watch the kitchen at work. The seating is a bit precarious, but the staff were very friendly and helped us get a shared table. The menu was short, with less than a dozen dishes. The vegetarian options were a beetroot risotto, a celeriac soup or mushroom with polenta. They clearly make a lot of use of the broiler at the Eagle, which allows them to turn out the grilled steak sandwich or the grilled marlin steak pretty quickly. Roast chicken leg, ham and white beans, roast lamb make up the rest of what I can remember from the menu. As you order at the bar, there’s a clear view of the kitchen library. As I’m basically obsessive-compulsive about such things, I was interested to see pride of place going to “Leaves from a Walnut Tree” and Hugh F-W’s “Meat”. Lacking a pair of binoculars, I couldn’t make out titles on the rest of the spines. While still managing to pull in the punters, the food was basically dull. The slice of polenta was about the size of a well-fed cat, it tasted somewhat bland although had been prettied-up with charred stripes. It was served with heaps of dark and stewy mushrooms which made it demanding beyond the appetite of mortal man. The risotto was similarly huge but uninspired, a colossus of parmesan, beetroot and rice. The marlin was passable, although indistinguishable from swordfish. The lamb was cooked through to well done (no medium or rare options inquired for when ordering) and came with roast new potatoes. The ham was probably the best of the bunch, though the white beans rapidly wore down any enthusiasm to eat. Desserts are all but absent. £6.50 for sheep's milk cheese, and apple and toast or £1.20 for a Pasteis de Nata. Veggie food was just under a tenner, meaty food just over. As a local, the Eagle had something a step up from pub grub, but really wasn’t worth a cab ride to get there.
  16. Do they serve Gordon’s “milk chocolate and pistachio truffles”? (Part of his Unique Characters range available at Tesco.) I just tried one and I’m seriously considering a swig of fabric conditioner to take the taste away.
  17. Finally got around to visiting Fino this evening. Arrived with no appointment just a tick after 7pm and managed to get the last free table. The menu is oversized, and full of interesting options. It takes some time to work out what to order, and a few questions are required. The charming waitress has a fairly heavy accent. We ask what Percebes are. “They are like gooseberries… They grow on cliffs.” She tells us. As they are in the seafood section of the menu this seems unlikely. A few more probing questions reveal them to be barnacles! Put us down for a plate of those then… When they arrive they look odd. I’m reminded of the Sea-Devils episode of Dr Who. The plate smells very strongly of a harbour. To eat barnacles you have to twist the grey-white “head” from the rest of the tube and yank them open to get to the flesh inside. It takes a few attempts to do it without squirting warm sea-water across yourself. The taste is actually very subtle and the texture a little chewy but less so than a whelk or badly cooked squid. Crispy fried shrimp arrive at the same time as the barnacles. Was that luck or some hand guiding the order of the dishes? It worked brilliantly. The shrimp are a flavoursome whitebait style dish. Picking back and forth between each of the dishes was a pleasing contrast. To drink, we couldn’t decide between two options of sherry. Our waitress brought us a small glass of each to help decide. We selected the Papirusa (Emilio Lustau). It was light, very fresh, and with a wonderful aftertaste. It also worked brilliantly with the seafood. The next dishes to arrive were the Jamon Iberico Gran Reserva and Jerusalem artichokes. The ham was pushing the boat out a little at £15 but it was a very definite treat. The artichokes were served with sage and a liberal amount of sea-salt. The scent from the sage was terrific. An extra glass of red wine was called for at this point. We opted for a very drinkable Guelbenzu, which got no complaints. Classic tortilla and pinchos morunos were the last of the dishes to arrive. The tortilla was pretty, an individual item rather than a slice from some monster backstage. The flavour was nice; we’d ordered the classic style so it was nothing showy. The pinchos morunos (which we roughly translated as pork kebab) came as four enormous cuts of pork. They were delicious: a crisp exterior and nicely tender inside. We managed two and a half before having to admit defeat. Although feeling we’d already eaten too much we ordered the desert selection to share. Highlights were the shot glasses filled with cream and chocolate foam (eat with the straw provided) and a killer Santiago Tart – rich with ground almonds and topped with orange peel and raisons. The apple sorbet was simple, refreshing and just what was needed to finish the meal. Total bill for two, a jot shy of £90. The service was charming and helpful. The food was good, expertly cooked, entertaining, and the options were interesting. We had a great evening.
  18. Saturday lunch at the Anchor and Hope. Just had lunch at the Anchor and Hope. I searched for the right thread to add comments only to find it’s the most reviewed gastropub on here! I will keep my comments brief. Arrive early if you want a table at the A&H. At 11:45am all of the tables for two had been taken and we were seated on a shared table for six. Clearly this isn’t to everyone’s taste, the first couple to be appended to us sat for three minutes before gathering themselves up and walking off. However, by 12:30 our table was full and so was the whole of the restaurant. I didn’t mind so much as it was a good opportunity to see close-up at what everyone else had ordered. We were given two slices of crusty sour-dough bread and a little butter to keep us company while we chose from the menu. The lunch menu doesn’t have much truck with the traditional divisions of starters and main courses. The food starts cheap – just over a fiver for rabbit and swede soup – and works it’s way up to the leg of lamb (serves four). In fact, many of the dishes are built to share: the Shepherd’s Pie (serves two, but with a side dish would easily be enough for three); the aforementioned Lamb; and Sea Bass (again, for two). It’s a nice little menu. The best of the dishes on offer have a very satisfying comfort factor to them. Added to that there’s a definite element of ingredients which are the sort of treat one rarely gets around to cooking at home: Snail and bacon salad; Plaice on a bed of mussels; Salsify served with poached egg and dressed with a caper vinaigrette. Salsify aside, the only other strictly vegetarian option was a mushroom risotto. One of the other couples on our table ordered it. The portion looked large, but darkly menacing and with an unconvincing toupee of grated parmesan. The lady who ordered seemed to be having problems making headway and gave up halfway through. It didn’t look a tempting choice for a next visit. The “properly garnished roast chicken” (around £12) comes as a leg and breast, skin crisp and salty; a thin but well-seasoned gravy; bread sauce – oozing, softly lumpy and scented with clove; thin deliciously crisp roast potatoes, just right with the gravy; and watercress dressed with vinaigrette. Not too sure about the value of that watercress, but otherwise the dish was just right. A choice of four desserts on offer: a fig and almond tart, zabaglione cake, pana cotta with muscat grapes and a chocolate St Emilion. We both opted for the last of these, although if I’d seen the tart before ordering my choice might have seen swayed. The St Emilion reference in the title of the dessert is the almond macaroon rather than the red wine (thankfully!). The chocolate is closer to a ganache than a mousse, the texture being quite solid. The chocolate is laced with a little brandy and layered with macaroon. I would have been happier if there’d been a little more macaroon in there, which would have lightened things up a bit. Such is the way with chocolate desserts that most people probably enjoy the full chocaholic fix. So over all it was a pleasant lunch. The experience was relaxing and food nicely done. While not every item on the menu looked equally appealing there is plenty to entice. Will certainly be going back to try it again. Total bill for two with a glass of wine each: £32.50.
  19. Fortnum & Mason have a nice tea selection, but prices are a bit high. They currently have two Oolong teas in stock: a Jade Oolong and a Formosa Oolong, both I assume from Taiwan. There's a good dozen green China teas at the moment. Particularly of note a second picking Darjeeling and an interesting single garden leaf. Unusually they currently have two white teas in stock: a white Darjeeling and another one which now slips my memory. The white tea tends to go quickly, being bought by a particular sort of Fortnum Lady for antioxidant skin treatment properties. Applied, rather than drunk. There is a small range of Japanese teas, but for those you really want to visit East Tea at borough market. I hope I'm not giving away secrets if I tell you that l'Artisan du Chocolat use East Tea for their House Tea chocolate. Given we've just had London Chocolate week, I'm sure I don't have to go on about how good their taste is. Back at F&M: there's a very chatty gent with a heavy European accent who's usually manning the counter and I've always found him very helpful. If you're unlucky there will be one of those indolent Eton-style brats lounging about. Like Butlins, avoid the red coats. As I went to add these comments, the local news just popped up with a feature about Yauatcha, where the most expensive pot of tea will cost you £78. Aside from making F&M sound much cheaper, they also made reference to the Tea Museum near London bridge. A little searching shows their shop looks rather promising.
  20. Basildog is of course referring to a healthy option version of the full Blackpool breakfast: 20 cigarettes and a pot of tea. For the mainstream, the full English breakfast is definitely relegated to a holiday breakfast. That said, if you look near any bus garage, milk depot, postal sorting office or working market, you still find examples of those exceptionally good greasy spoon cafes serving full breakfasts for 3 or 4 pounds.
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