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Peter Green

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  1. September 21 – Footloose and free of fancy Morning found me awake and on my own. Alone in the kitchen. Well, almost alone. Ean was walking the younger dogs in the woods, leaving me with the two older ladies – Gussy and Sadie. They had that look that pleaded for a walk, but I was hesitant to take them out without clear instructions. So I had a beer instead. I’d taken a small selection from the store the day before. For a day’s beginning, I opened the Tanglefoot from Badger. I’d been impressed by their beers before, but this one was a thing of wonder. The whole kitchen filled with the smell of hops and other flowers. It was like being back at Kits High School when the brewery across Carnarvon was in full production. The beer takes its name from the failure of feet suffered by the master brewer – John Woodhouse - when first they sat down to try the brew. It’s sweeter than it is bitter, probably more fruity. The bottle says “brewed for crisp, dry finish”, and “deceptively drinkable”. I see no deception in the matter. I drank it. Crisper than the Taylor of yesterday (less malt) it was a fine way to greet the day. By the time I was done writing, Sue had risen and was ready to take the girls out for a walk. I joined them, and enjoyed that damp peace of English mornings – others out with their dogs for walks; the soft light through the trees; a cat waiting in the grass surrounded by magpies, just hoping for them to come that one hop too close. Just one hop more.
  2. The Belvedere – Sunninghill The Belvedere, on London Road in Sunninghill, was our spot for today. Ean and Sue had been here several times, and it was the consistency of the scallops that was bringing us back. It’s a nice old building, with Ascot Oriental perched up above it on the rise to the left. The town itself was just a bit behind us, and was flush with boot sales and an interesting looking farmers market (which would close before we could make it back there, so don't ask). The pub itself has all the external trappings you would expect – the picnic tables, the wee brook, the willows. Inside, the furnishings were very comfortable; modern rooms worked through in the small spaces. The rustic antiquery had been set aside for a greater degree of comfort. I do like comfort. But, the small space design of these old buildings precludes large seatings, so we went outside. On a pretty, sunny English day this isn’t a great hardship. My only complaint, if it amounts to that, is the level of vehicle noise from the London Road. But, seeing as this was a roadhouse in the past, being close to the road does make some sense. We started with beers. I took a Timothy Taylor Landlord, a good ale, although Ean holds that it’s not as strong as he remembers from his earlier encounters (and nights spent sleeping rough). Very smooth, with a pleasant head. The others were doing Amstels and other such stuff. I guess I’m just a tourist. Daniel talked of Oxford, and of the wealth of small breweries there. It’s been ages since I’ve been through Oxford and I should return sometime soon. Charles, in turn, brought up Zero Degrees and Hobgoblin in Reading as worth the visit. And this, being closer, was noted down in the book. We did the scallops all around. The meat was soft and moist, consistently cooked through. A trio of these was set against a tomato salsa, rocket, and a drizzle of balsamic. For a wine, having worked hard to clear our palates of the beer (I know, I know, I shouldn’t drink beer before wines, but a warm sunny day cries out for a pint) we started with a pinot grigio (Francesco), and then moved to a Semillon Chardonnay (Crammer’s Deckchair). Yoonhi had chosen the less traditional crispy duck, a take on the Sino-Thai dish, which she was quite satisfied with. She’d ordered this from the regular menu. As is the fashion nowadays in pubs, the menu was a mix of traditional and Asian inspired dishes – usually something I’ll rail against on pub menus, but, as I’d mentioned the interior décor already, I could see that that would fit here. Mind you, the Specials menu was all traditional. Meats, fish, chicken pies, and veggies. Oven baked, roasted, or slow roasted. As a main, Sue and I had the slow roasted pork belly, with rosemary mash (something I’ll try at home) and an assortment of very pretty British produce. I suppose I’be become too acclimatized to the washed out produce I have at home. As pork belly goes, this was acceptable, but not what I would call brilliant. The outer skin hadn’t quite made it to crackling, while still being too hard to cut easily. Still, it’s pork and so I was content enough. Ean was just far enough away from me to escape the intrusion of the camera (he shot Yoonhi’s dish), but he had gone for the hake, served with linguini and a sauce of white wine, herb cream, and prawns. Daniel, sitting beside me, was having the roasted rib with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and more vegetables. And Charles, on my right, was enjoying the best of the dishes, the roasted lamb rump. They’d mixed the order up a bit, and brought him the special, which was with roasted potatoes. He’d been looking forward to the mash. But the goodness of the lamb was such that it didn’t matter that much. We eschewed dessert (as I was still chewing on the pork rind), and closed out. We needed to head home to prepare for dinner. En route, we made a stop at Sainsbury’s though (Charles much prefers M&S, but Sainsbury’s is close) and picked up some cheese and pate for later. While there, we came across these – Tomberries. Small, berry sized tomatoes from the Netherlands. How could I pass up something like this? A lazy afternoon of writing and conversation led into an early evening of food. Still relatively satiated from the full frontal of lunch, our evening meal was a simple thing of antipasto, Italian cold cuts, melon, pate, cheeses and bread. And more pinot grigio. The cheeses were, as always, a joy. An English Brie, melting away in contentment; a buttery French cheese, firmer, but still yielding to the touch; a staunch chedder; two goat cheeses, one ashen; and a firmly moldy Stilton. With some prunes and grapes to settle things. And then to bed (after some more wine).
  3. September 20 We’d left the night before on what Martin Amis kindly described as “the Tube in the Sky”. Flight 007 for London, which I suppose should be auspicious, but these flights just leave me feeling like something the dog might take a liking to first thing in the morning. Formalities were extremely straightforward and pleasant, with no queues to speak of, and we found ourselves soon thereafter with our friends, Ean and Sue, driving west through the pleasant roads of Berkshire. This was our plan - to enjoy a serene few days in England while avoiding the clutching grasp of London. I’ve talked before of the almost Nosferatan grasp of London. This time, we would spend our four days lolling about the house, enjoying the weather, and accomplishing little outside of eating, drinking, and talking with our friends about eating and drinking. At the house, our bags upstairs, having evicted their son Daniel from his room (I did feel a twinge of remorse over that, but he didn’t mind), we set about the aforesaid purpose of our visit – gluttony. First there was breakfast. Sausages, grilled tomatoes, toast, eggs, ham, and mushrooms. A fine start, and one I was too happy about to shoot. (Sorry, but there’ll be breakfast pictures aplenty later). This was a fine, heaping platter of food. But Daniel put things in perspective with descriptions of eating at Mario Cafe’s in London on Warren Street. They don’t serve the breakfast on a plate, but rather on a beer tray to accommodate the ten sausages, ten eggs, bacon, beans, five black pudding, a mound of tomatoes, and mushrooms. The ten slabs of toast are stacked to the side, as the tray’s not big enough. The draw here is that if you can finish breakfast in under twenty minutes, you don’t pay the ten sterling. A lad loves a challenge. (From the photos, they were just shy a few pieces of toast and some eggs from the finish). After breakfast there was just enough time to unpack, soak in a tub (I love a tub I can stretch out in), nap, and read for a bit. After that sort of physical exertion, you get hungry, so the six of us (their other son, Charles, having awoken by now) were off down the London Road for a bit of lunch.
  4. Peter Green

    Seafood Meal

    I'd agree with Chris. One note, though, how are you planning the seating? Separate dining room, or are the diners close to (or in) the kitchen? A la minute is fun if you're with your guests as you do it.
  5. One change to the list.... Carla Pernambuco from Carlota in Sao Paulo has opted out, and Paola Carosella from Arturito in Sao Paulo has stepped in. She'll be working with Bodega Catena Zapata from Argentina, so I'm definitely going to be there. The chance of a good Malbec always makes me bare my canines. The wine tasting is going to be Chateau Le Pin. For the sake to go with Sawada's meal, I have this: SHIRATAKI JUNMAI DAIGINJO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE SHIRATAKI JUNMAIGINJO JUKUSEI NO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE SHIRATAKI JUNMAIGINJO JOZEN MIZUNOGOTOSHI SAKE ICHINOKURA TOKUBETSUJUNMAI SHORAI SAKE ICHINOKURA HONJOZO MUKANSA CHOKARAKUCHI SAKE ICHINOKURA HIMEZEN SWEET SAKE I'm getting rather excited.
  6. Saturday night, and there's a flight with my name on the manifest.
  7. A week to go (or close to it) The Bangkok Post has this from Realtime.
  8. Badger's Tanglefoot Zero Degree's (Readding) Vienna Dark, Elderflower Lager, Weissbeer, Pale Ale, Mango Lager, Black Ale Adnam's Bitter and Honey & Hops (I may have the first bit of that wrong, but I can't read the photo yet)
  9. April 2 – Uomasa That evening I met up with one of my Beijinger friends I hadn’t seen for ages. He was looking after matters for his company in SouthEast Asia, and happened to be in Bangkok at the same time as I. As the two of us are friends primarily over our common interest in Asian cinema, we decided dinner would be either Japanese or Korean. Yes, there are a lot of good Chinese films as well, but we didn’t want to go all the way down to Yaowaraj for dinner. As I’d been somewhat flush with Korean food of late, I chose Japanese. First, of course, we needed to rendez-vous, and this was most easily done at the Londoner, just down the street from me. It meant happy hour, and a chance for me to catch up with other friends over pints of reasonably priced beers (at 2 for 1 it’s reasonable – plus, you can book your beers in advance of arrival). For something different, I thought Uomasa would be a treat for my firiend. But I was sorely disappointed. The food is okay, but not outstanding. The real draw has always been the “specials”, the menu of whale sashimi and the accompanying carte of raw horseflesh, served partially frozen. These were “different”, and not something he was as likely to have come across elsewhere. But the “specials” were gone. I was saddened by this but not enough to leave the restaurant. I still had fond memories of having my first chuhai here, and of watching the shellfish critters flinch as we poked them on our plate. I prevailed, and they did bring out a small dish of shavings from Mr. Ed. Very buttery, that melt in the mouth fatness I remember from before. We ordered some sushi. The eel was fine – rich and oily - but the ikura didn’t have quite enough of a brine to them, and I’d wanted that clear saline pop with shards of tissue to go with the eel. Oh, well. Such minor qualms are easily calmed It just takes a few bottles of Hakutsuru junmai, a Nada sake, and reasonably good company for the evening. the softshell crab tempura was very good, I must say. And it brought a smile from my friend who was getting a little troubled at my choices of dishes (Hey! It was his suggestion that I pick something). In the midst of a fairly active discussion of the management styles and team building methods of the Three Kingdoms (Chinese literature as applied to modern business is another bonding topic), something new arrived. A magnetic induction unit. I wasn’t the only one thinking on these lines (I never am). This is perfect for tabletop dining, especially in hot climates where you don’t really need a lot of excess heat dishcharging into the atmosphere. This was for the seafood nabe, a collection of cabbage, tofu, fish, spring onions, mushrooms, oysters, and more mushrooms. And a bund of stuff I’ve since forgotten. As the broth heated up, they brought out a piece of grilled mackeral to keep us busy. Notthing like the blowtorched masterpiece of Shunbo, but still good. And then the main business, the nabe. A good dashi filled out with the flavour of the foods lightly cooked therein. This, plus good Japanese rice, did a fine job of filling us out. Dessert was a little sherbert of mango with some apricot jam. Just enough to refresh us and prepare us for the road. It wasn’t a bad meal, by any means, and my friend – cheerful and crimson faced – was in an excellent mood. But the draw here had been the whale and horse, and to find the one withdrawn, and the other in hiding had been a blow. My friend had work the next day. How he’d survive it was another matter, but we hadn’t had that much to drink (by my standards). We said our farewells back by the Phrom Phong station, and I took in the damp streets and the smell of fresh fruits and flowers from Villa33, and was content. It’s good to be where you should be.
  10. April 2 - Expect the unexpected I stopped off at the local quick-e-mart on soi 24, and grabbed a few cold beers for the room. And there was something that I thought was a new beer. Siam Sato. Poured in a glass, it didn't really look like beer. It didn't smell like beer. And it sure didn't taste like beer. This almost tasted like makkeoli. A few days from now I'll have lunch with my friend CL, and mention this to her. Her response was (will be) interesting. "I thought they only sold that out of buckets beside the road." It's interesting. I had it cold, which probably lost some of the flavour. It was relatively crisp on the intake, but there was a definite aftertaste, which I wouldn't necessarily recommend. Poking about, it isn't that far off of makkeoli. Glutinous rice steamed and then broken down by a mold into sugars, and worked into alcohol by the local yeast. Clearer than makkeoli (filtered for this version?), and not quite as full in the mouth. It tasted like mash, if anything. I suppose I'll have to keep my eyes open for roadside buckets, now.
  11. April 2 - Taking Care of Business So, having gone through the trauma of waking up, I’d been back down at Lao Airways (when did they change the name from Lao Aviation?) trying to get flights for my friends. Obviously, if I was down on Silom, I had needs. Like ribs. Work not quite done, I headed back up to Suriwongse to the Roadhouse for some ribs. First, however, was a bowl of chili and a cold beer. Good chili. Thick roux, crackers, and a bite that crept up on you sneaky like, as a Korean. Yeah, I know, this isn’t what a Bangkok trip is supposed to be about, but this is what I felt like eating. C’mon, it’s been twenty plus years over here. The ribs were very good. As expected, the meat just sucked away from the bone. I don’t hold with the falling off attitude, I think that there does need to be an element of causality in nature. But that’s just me. The corn was just there. Most of the world, outside of the Americas, believes that corn is food for the animals, but I’ve had good corn. This was just there. But the asparagus was really good. And the meat, as I said, was fine. Dana was in, so we had some time to talk about food and wine in the city. The “problems” as they are, had bitten into trade to the extent of about 30%. That hurts, but it isn’t necessarily fatal. Mind you, we’re talking here about a place that makes it’s living off of the local trade, not the tourists. Still, it’s a good mark of the restaurant business. That said, there have been a bunch of new places opening. Places that are working off of word of mouth and the neighborhood trade. We’ll be looking into these. Next – The Unexpected
  12. April 1 – A Touch of Burgundy Les Nympheas Mediterranean Restaurant The Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel Maison Joseph Drouhin - Burgundy This was one of those highly opportune invites. There was a little bit of confusion, as expected, as I bullied my way onto the invite list, but this is something I have some experience at in Thailand. Actually, getting in wasn’t a problem. Thailand was, and still is, suffering. The repeated broadsides of coups, demonstrations (with more to come), high oil costs raising airline fares, and then a world-wide economic collapse, have left the heavily tourist-driven Thai economy listless in the water. Under such conditions, who is likely to spring for a wine dinner? I put my tie somewhere, I know……damn, I didn’t pack the tuxedo. The venue was to be Les Nympheas (the Water Lilies) at the Imperial Queens Park. This is just across the way, and easily reached by cutting through the park, with their gated back entrance leading off of the greenery, a far nicer walk than the mean streets of Sukhumvit (which would be a great name for a novel). The Imperial group is interesting. They’re a Thai group that goes back a ways, having started with the old, original Imperial, and moved on to open places across the county. One of my fond memories (at my age you have a lot of these….if you’re lucky. Otherwise you blame Altzheimers) is, after having overnighted at a Chinese flophouse in Mae Sariang due to the road conditions back in 1991, finally rounding that corner to see the brand new Imperial Tara Mae Hong Sorn sitting on the left of the road. We were the only clients that weekend, and they shuttled the piano players up to the dining room to play for us every night. Unfortunately (it’s the age thing again) I had the times wrong, and I arrived a good half an hour in advance of everyone else. This is good, and bad. Bad, in that I could have spent more time writing up Korea back at the apartment, but good in that it gave me time to contemplate my surroundings, gazing out of the luxury of Les Nymphaes onto the mould ridden walls of the soi 22 tenements. And have a glass of wine. And some appetizers. The wine was a sparkling thing of some sort. Undistinguished, but it was cold and I needed chilling. Just the short walk had me in a perspiratorial mood (hey! If Shakespeare can make up words, why can’t I?). The appetizers were a mixed bag. The wrap of cream cheese about dried fruit was very pleasant with the wine, and the fruit based shooter had great promise, but it met with the common problem of viscosity that attaches itself to such ideas. Basically, that means that it doesn’t drain well. If something’s in a shot glass, it really needs to “shoot” out when you tip the cup, and if there’s any stickiness to it, then you’re defeating the purpose. Still, that’s a minor matter. These things are basically spoils laid out to satiate the hordes like me that show up early. The good news was, at this time, that I could join my friends of the press at their table for the dinner, rather than me dining and scribbling on my own, like Rorschach out for an evening. We were invited to the tables, and given a short introduction to the vintners – Maison Joseph Drouhin. The speaker was Christophe Thomas, the house’s representative, and, as we’ll see later, a very good spokesperson for Burgundy. In his introductory remarks he said the usual things that should be said. The house’s “elegance and perfection”. And how they look for a purity of taste, enjoying the wines while they are young and fruity, while still looking for the benefits of aging. The house is one of the oldest in Burgundy, but they’re also, interestingly enough, a long standing investor in Oregon, as state (along with Washington) whom I’ve admired for a long time. They’ve been producing Pinot Noir from the ash rich soil here for some time. (I really have to go south of the border on one of these trips back to Vancouver). As a philosophy, they avoid oak in their wines . Christophe, warming quickly to the audience, likened a wine with too much oak as to a “woman with too much make up”. This line opened things up, and he spoke more directly of Burgundy, which was very refreshing (and, as I’m generally ignorant of most things, educational). There are 36 villages in Burgundy, and the character varies dramatically from one ville to another. The area is one of the wellsprings of French culture (which means wine), and has given birth to much of the wealth of France. As with Michel Chapoutier the other year Joseph Drouhin highlights the use of “biodynamics” in their vineyards. It’s a fair argument, that any use of fertilizers or other intrusives will leach into the wines. This in turn will affect the taste of the product from the vines. The Burgundians are called the most “terroir conscious” of the French, and Joseph Drouhin works extremely hard at extracting that terroir and delivering it through their wines. Eggplant and avocado tartare, lumpfish eggs, braised endives, grilled sea scallop Flat parsley and coriander salad, fry shrimps 2007 Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran Our first wine, the Saint-Veran, is from the south of Burgundy. A wine with the taste of “leaves on grass”, notably textured with a slight bite of minerals, and a good match for the quartet of food items in front of us. Put in other words (which I steal liberally from the table about me) “this is a very French white. Dry. Crisp.” For the food, the braised endive fell apart elegantly in shreds, the bitterness of the endives mellowed out slightly in the cooking and contrasting the firm flesh of the scallop. The antennae sprouting from the endive are shreds of lemon grass, lending a wonderful nose to the dish. The lumpfish (why not proper caviar?) was crunchy and appealing enough, and went well with the corner of boiled egg tucked on the edge, but that small salad of greens and balsamic was, perhaps, the perfect foil for the wine. Okay, you’re going to have to forgive me for a bit, but I’ve been on a pretty solid diet of Korean food for the last couple of weeks. This was heaven for me. I don’t mean that I don’t like Korean food, but absence makes the heart grow fonder (and the belly distend) Broccoli cappuccino, boletus powder 2006 Joseph Drouhin Meursault[/i ] Our soup, a cappuccino, was smooth and rich, creamy like a panacotta, but it wasn’t set enough. There was a fascinating flavour running through it, which must have been the boletus, a powder of a particular mushromm that has pores instead of gills. The broccoli carried its green strength well, and the boletus gave it almost a truffled background. (I should buy some of this). The Meursault was a very stylish chardonnay, with “notes of black currant, blackberry, anis, pepper, and an earthiness” in there. (Yeah, I lifted that from my table-mates) Backlit by candles, it had a wonderful gold to it. Gold goes well with rich, and this also boasted a good nose. Too often chardonnays are non-descript (‘industrial’ is a word often used) with no real character. This wine puts the lie to that. There is plenty of opportunity in this grape. There’s no grand cru in this appellation, but this wine competes well in that class. As I’d said, Christophe spoke well. He’s one of those expansive Gallic types that you just like. He really does like these wines. He likes how they last, with the higher temperatures giving a longer finish. Many of these wines will age well over the decades. And he likes how they change in the glass, evolving. Salmon mille feuille, tomato concassee, crushed potato with olive oil 2006 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet The salmon was Norwegian, but I’ll forgive them that. It had been some time since I’d had my salmon cooked. The potato holding up the leaves of fish was very nice, carrying the olive oil and the herbs. The wine, Chassagne-Montrachet, was a wonderful thing to find. The vineyards here produce some of the most “long-lived” white wines you can find. A good nose, and again, a very full flavour, with citrus, vanilla, grilled almonds, and butter in your mouth. That hint of fat there to smooth things out. This goes very well with the salmon and the oil in the fish and the potatoes. Christophe would recommend it also with lobster, or any oil rich seafood. Apple sherbert scented with Calvados Lingering over the wine (which is my way of saying I was having them top things up so I could enjoy them longer, and to observe the “evolution”), it came time to cleanse the palate. To this end they had a very clean sherbert, full of crisp green apples and then woken up further with calvados. I must try this at home. Grilled beef fillet, minced lamb skewer, oxtail sauce, vegetables 2004 Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru Next was a straight forward meat dish. The lamb kofta and the beef were really just a backdrop for the wine, a very pleasing pinot noir. This wine needs aging, and at five years, it’s coming into its own. It will easily keep well for another 5 to 10 yers. It has that typical funky Pinot Noir nose, with the barnyard back in there. The taste is crème de cacao, dried fruit, and driven by cherries. There’s pepper in there, and the overall impression at the table is “lean and mean” in comparison to the butteriness of the earlier chardonnays. This goes well with the meats. Christophe had been here with Burgundies before, back in 2007, but not specifically as a rep for Joseph Drouhin. Then he had a 1994 Beaune 1er Cru, and he’d been sweating bullets when they brought it out, as it had a reputation as being “the crappiest vintage” (that being, obviously, a Burgundian technical term). But when they poured it and let it open up, “the wine was superb”. After this, from what he’d found of Joseph Drouhin’s crops, he joined the firm. The 2004 we’re drinking here, and the 2005 and 2002, were very good years for this wine, so we’re drinking “a classic”. I had them pour another glass before the next wine could start confusing things. 2002 Joseph Drouhin Morey-Saint-Denis On the left is the Beaune, and on the right the Morey-Saint-Denis. In comparison the 2002 makes the 2004 appear to be “a teen-ager, nearly a man.” Christophe considers the wine a perfect match with cheese, and excellent company for wild boar, venison, pheasant, or any game. Luckily, I still had the last tastes of lamb in my mouth (I ate it after the beef) and so would agree that the stronger flavour of the lamb was helped by the Morey. And then there was cheese. Mesclum, brie and walnut I was too focused on my wines to get a snap of the cheese plate. The brie was fine, and he was right, it did go well with the wine, too. The mesclum, a mix of greens, distracted me somewhat from my drinking, so I put it aside and concentrated more on the cheese with the two reds. Fruits minestrone passion fruit sherbet Saint-Foy Bordeaux ‘Vieilles Vignes’ 1999 Dessert was a tangy thing of fruits topped with a passion fruit sherbert in a moat of sweet passion fruit syrup (the minestrone?), and a partial wall of crisp sugar. Not having a dessert wine per se, Christophe had a Vieilles Vignes from Bordeaux, giving some space for “the other wine growing area”. At this point, with more than a little wine under our belts, things became more fun. As I’d said, Christophe was a good speaker, and had a personality that could hold a room. The opportunity to take aim at his more Westerly counterparts was too good to pass up. “Bordeaux, it’s a different country. In Burgundy, we’re performers. They’re brokers.” “In Bordeaux, you don’t have good food. You may do some good wine, maybe….but in Burgundy you have both good food and good wine.” “’In Bordeaux’, they’ll say, ‘we don’t have good restaurants, we cook at home.” At this point, Christophe used another technical Burgundian term to describe what he thought of this argument. I told you he was a good spokesperson for Burgundy. Café and Mignardises With those comments, the cheerfulness of the room had moved up about four notches. I eschewed the coffee, and nibbled at the cookies while working cheerfully through the wines. An excellent meal, and I’m once again thankful for the circle of friends who are willing to go out of their way to alert me to these things. We parted well, and I cheerfully stumbled back to soi 24 to catch some sleep. There was work to be done the next day.
  13. I still want to see this cookbook! (Someone forward this to Sam.......Godspeed!)
  14. Outstanding! You've given me a number of excellent reasons to go back. The hot dogs deep fried in fish cake along have got me a salivating! My apologies for not getting to this sooner. July was probably too introspective a month!
  15. Our edit time is getting shorter and shorter. I just noticed that Flying Rat's grilled corn soup photo looks way too much like an octopus salad. Here it is. Heck, I only have so much storage space. Might as well get the right shots up.
  16. April 1 - A Continuum, of sorts Finally I was back home. Bangkok has many names. The Big Mango (with nods to Jake Needham); Venice of the East; The 'Kok; City of Angels; and the one that goes on for two pages and you have to buy Asani and Wiharn's Pak Tong album in order to memorize it to verse. Oh, yeah, and my favourite, from a magazine interview more than a decade ago, with a young hotelier in town at the time...... "If you had to describe Bangkok in one word, what would that be?" "Sodom." But, beyond the apocalyptic, if I had to give Bangkok a name (and naming is important) it would be the Devourer of Time. Honestly, to try and get a simple task done in this town is going to take a day. You can't get around it. The art is in avoiding the Devourer, as I've learned from my friends. But I'm a slow learner. Exhausted from the simple task of getting flight info on Lao Airlines (whatever happened to Lao Aviation), and a slight interlude in an internet cafe (they used to be everywhere), I found myself in the late afternoon back at the apartment with a couple of old friends. This is a question that always comes up, what to drink with Thai food. I argue about this wine, or that cocktail, or some beers, but, in the final analysis, does anything work quite as well as a set up of Thai "whisky", coke, (preferably some soda, but I couldn't find any at the nearby 7-11), and some ice? Maekhong is my preference. But a preference that is probably built upon loyalty to first impressions. Some of my Thai friends much prefer Regency and soda. (It took me a while to get used to them bringing their own bottles to bars, but I got over that. Now they bring champagne....but so do I). Don't get me going on the wine situation in Thailand. I've complained about this before. Wine is taxed to the point where you're better off buying a bottle of the Walking Man. This, allegedly, to preserve the health of the working Thai man. Yes, I can see Somchai and Somkid, after a hard day in the paddies. "What do you think? A Napa chardonnay from 1999? Or perhaps something funky, like a NZ pinot noir?" Unfortunately, the alcohol problem in Thailand is generally driven by bootleg distillation, which isn't taxed at all (which is why there is such a thing in Thailand). It's a strange topic, and, as a tourist you wouldn't think of it, but there's a strong teetolatarianism movement in Thailand. Groups funded from the taxes on alcohol advise on higher taxes (okay, think about this...if you get a cut of the tax, is it better for that to be a big amount, or a small amount? Finished thinking?) advise to keep the tax, making the country more and more expensive for vacations, and giving an incentive for smuggling of wines to get to almost...well...Canadian standards. The latest case, and something I'd like to hear from others on, is the rallying against the listing of Thai Beverages on the Thai stock exchange (The SET). Led by monks, it was declared that this was improper. But, it's Thailand, and we foreigners will never peel all the layers away. Pity (especially as I was ready to buy in). Whatever you bring, I find there's something, just, well, pleasant about the service. A beer is a beer. And (sadly) the Thai are still learning wine. But if you have a bottle of spirits out there, your glass will never go empty. It will be poured, mixed, and stirred, and presented to you with the appropriate level of service that you deserve. Lacking such service (and the soda), I'd just poured myself my first proper drink of the trip (remember, I've been drinking soju for two weeks), and then the machine started telling me I had mail. There was a wine dinner tonight. Could I make it? Could I? Next - You Know The Answer
  17. All right! I'm hitting up the Korean supermarket next time I get to Houston. (I've got a feeling that it'll be harder to find in Canada.)
  18. April 1 – A Simple Lunch – Butler’s I met up with FlyingRat for lunch at Butler’s. After the liquid nature of the previous evening (Londoner) the idea of a simple foie gras BLT appealed immensely. It was early of a Wednesday morning at Gayson, and the two of us were able to beat the lunchtime trade by a good half hour or more. Unfortunately, having come early, Tim and Pete weren’t around, but they’ve set the kitchen up to run well, and so we settled down to see what was new on the menu (I was still going to have my BLT, but I like to look). FR started with the grilled corn soup – basil, clams, panacotta, fresh cream, and paprika powder. Poured out from a teapot of clinical white. It’s good to have some action on the table, shaking me out of my torpor. The soup itself was very, very good. She described the flavour as “powdered essence of awesome.” She does have a way with words. My eye was caught be the idea of a warm salad of marinated octopus, with capers, greens, and fennel, and a shaving of parmesan. We split a pasta dish between us (well, I’d missed breakfast) – orecchiette (“little ears”) with razor clams (which I’d just seen up North two days before) and sun dried tomatoes. Thick, chewable pasta. Just the thing to give my mouth some exercise this morning. For a main, FR ordered the pink snapper, served atop a potato and leek confit. This fish – either from Oz or New Zealand – is a good eating fish. I haven’t seen it around much. And then there was my sandwich. Lunch calls for a sandwich. A seared slab of foie gras, crispy backon, tomatoes, lettuce, and a bit of balsamic. There’s got to be some squeeze bottle action around somewhere. The mangosteens that were dotted in before have now evolved to a jam, which makes the eating a bit simpler. I passed on the dessert (I know, I know, Tim’s fame is in his desserts), but FR had to have the Thai tea. It is a nice flavour. Throughout this we’d been catching up on the last couple of week’s news, and getting our plans in place for the upcoming Water Fest in Luang Prabang. I needed to try and sort out some plane flights for some of the folks joining us, and, as usual, there was other business in town. But, as we were leaving, I was kicking myself silly for not having made room for some sweets. A black truffle ice cream sundae. T88 in Shanghai taught me that truffles and ice cream are a great match, and if I’d paid attention, I could have indulged again. Oh, well. Next time.
  19. Danhole, Please let us know how things worked out with the Capitol. It'd be a shame to be left hanging. I've had some good steaks there, and some...challenging meals. But I think it's fair to the restaurant to clear up how they've responded. cheers, Peter
  20. Peter Green

    Your top spices

    I was thinking this, too. I keep the peppercorns I have carefully horded in multiple ziplocs in the freezer. They lose their potency very quickly. But, if you're using this setup for day-to-day items, then it makes good sense.
  21. Rats with wings It's not that bad pulling buckshot out of birds. The last set of wild duck I bought from Selfridges had to have the pellets taken out. Okay, you're going to cook these things to death. I consider eating a pigeon akin to eating a rat, which means high temperatures to kill off any diseases. That said, what's a little more heavy metal? The pigeons are living in the same environment we are.
  22. March 31 – Exotic Dining Lunch this day was an affair of pleasure and business. I’d talked with the good Mr. Spurrier, and there was a break in his shooting schedule which would afford us the chance for a bit of lunch. He’d wanted to try a place down soi 21 that had a very good reputation, and an excellently valued lunch. “Have you heard of Beaulieu?” It had been some time since I’d eaten there. During the last coup, to be exact. I’d admired the food then, and saw no reason to gainsay Paul. Everything was much the same as when I’d left it, except, of course, now it was crowded. It is a nice room, and I very much admire the wine nook tucked away upstairs, but for now, we were here to enjoy a budget lunch. Herve did a very nice meal for lunch. The value on lunch offerings in Bangkok is, at least to me, excellent, with choices of two menus – at 450 baht or 750 baht – the ingredients, rather than the number of courses, driving the cost differential. Paul, for his part, started with a salad of endives and marinated Tasmanian salmon. His choice was excellent, and my photography horrible (so you get no picture), but if I describe the affair from the blur I have up on Aperture, I have a mond of endives, rocket, bisected cherry tomatoes, and wide, gypsum-like shavings of parmesan – embraced gently by curved layers of deep red smoked salmon, a slight dotting of fresh chopped green about the place, topped with a sprig of coriander. For myself, a bouillabaisse. I love the thickness of a good soup, be it this, or a Spanish suquet, or any number of the more solid Thai soups. There’s a feeling of low tide about these broths that takes me back to my youth, wandering the flats of Lacarno. As Hemingway would say “The soup was good. It was a good soup.” And he made money writing. Next was a braised Australian lamb shank, with fettucine and chervil. It had been a month or more since I’d had lamb (Korea is not a big lamb country, and Yoonhi objects to it at home, unless I hide the aroma), and I enjoyed this. The pull of the meat away from the bone, the smell of the fat inside beign exposed, the taste of marrow in the sauce. Next I’ll start singing “these are just some of my favourite things.” A lesson learned in life is that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and, after so long on a very good, but monochrome Korean diet, I was in love again with the thrill of forgotten flavours. Paul, for his part, had an excellent main of a casserole of wagyu, with celeriac puree, parsley, and Brussel sprouts – the little cabbages so dear to my heart. Herve’s background was that of a sauciere, and these two dishes showed how he could work up a background to the main attractions of the meat, particularly with the celeriac puree in the sauce for the wagyu. I whispered, “Look, it’s Elvis!” , and snagged some meat and a Brussel sprout from his plate. As I’d noted last time, Herve uses Khun Nuntiya and Khun Patcharin, who now have their own company, Gourmet One. Those two are just naturals at finding the best ingredients out there. In North America or Europe, you might toss this off, but having had some direct experience in Korea, and having lived with it for some time in Thailand, having a reliable source is a very good thing. Paul and I caught up on business, and relaxed over the luxury of good French food. Herve is a very good chef, and it was pleasant that he would recognize me after these couple of years. For dessert, we were torn. Paul had a very pleasant apple pie, with vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries. Honestly, it was the raspberries that caught our eye. For myself, I craved congealed mammary fluids. Something blue, something hard, and something firm. Ask me what they were, and I could lie to you, but in my time in Korea, it was only at Star Chef that we ever had any cheese. Hey, I’m Canadian. I need cheese. We settled the bill, returned the wais of the staff (appropriately at a lower level) and headed out into that wonderful hot towel of Bangkok. We still had things to discuss.
  23. Good point. I like squid tempura, but I find that almost goes buttery, while I prefer my octopus grilled or simmered if not as sashimi, and mongae/hoya shares that same crunchy cartiliginous (which sounds like a lawyer) character. But the flavour of mongae/hoya I find much more....distracting would probably be the best word - in comparison to octopus. I really liked the look of this one. Is that seaweed that they've fried in with it, the green parts?
  24. That's it! Sea squirt had been the name, with sea pineapple as the "aka". Sorry for that. When you get old like me, the memory is the third thing that goes. I wonder how that would work as tempura? The meat is very firm on those things, and fairly strong in flavour.
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