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  1. I'm off to Paris for a couple of days in late March, en route to meeting friends for a long weekend in Reims. I'd love to get some recommendations for restaurants for a solo woman diner, preferably in/near/easily accesible from the Marais. I've never had a problem being alone, but undoubtedly some places make you feel more comfortable than others. Price is (relatively speaking) unimportant, quality of food, wine & ambience is. And as an aside, if anyone has any recommendations for the Champagne region that would be great too!
  2. It's nearly two years since I moved from Hertfordshire, but the Bean Tree in Harpenden used to be a good bet - and handy for Tea Green.
  3. Well, I completed on my house purchase today at long last and am now a Faversham resident - so seriously looking forward to my first trip, hopefully first of many . The previous owner of my house raved about it - and apparently I can walk there in 90 minutes! Anyone have other tips for the area? Reads, I guess, Age & Sons in Ramsgate I have read about, anywhere else I should put on my list? Helen
  4. I'm about to move to Faversham in Kent - fractionally more than an hour from London by train but will be about an hour when the high speed link comes in later this year. Market three times a week, two butchers (one of which is reportedly best in Kent), fishmonger, what looks like a great farm shop and Shepherd Neame brewery. As far as eating out is concerned Reads in the town has a star, about ten minutes from the Sportsman at Seasalter and fifteen from Whitstable. Also easy access to the channel ports. So I can't say it is absolutely the best place, but I'm certainly looking forward to it. Anyone know a decent wine merchant in the area? Helen Ps and avoid Northampton - a culinary desert. There are places within driving distance, but lots of other better bases!
  5. Had lunch there one Saturday at the beginning of September. The dining room was almost entirely empty, which was a shame - though the waiter did say they got packed for dinner. To start with a slightly (well, very) bizarre breadstick made with squid ink - and therefore jet black - served sticking up in a glass of dry red lentils. It was fine, but odd presentation. A freebie (or included, depending on how you look at it) veloute of broad beans with truffle oil which was a bit heavy on the truffle but beautiful texture. Then on to what I ordered - felt like fish that day so started with tuna with haricot beans, trompettes des morts, soya and sesame oil, which was a great combination, let down slightly by the beans being ever so slightly crunchy. And after that a really good bouillabaise which involved plaice, sea bass, squid and mussels. I didn't write down what I had for pudding, I do remember enjoying it. And I also remember that I ordered a glass of Chateau Suduirat with it as I have some at home I haven't tried yet and was curious, but that the waiter failed to mention that they didn't actually have it in stock until I challenged him as he was pouring a different and somewhat less interesting sauternes. Reading this back, I'm not sure I'm quite doing it justice, being a bit nit-picky. It was a lovely meal and a great view over the Channel. Might be a bit chilly at Christmas? Helen
  6. This is a variation on the theme of 'how many cookbooks do you own?'. My mother and I each have around 40' of bookshelf space dedicated to food, and only have about 30 books in common - so between us we cover quite a spectrum. We were recently asked which 12 books we'd narrow our collections down to if we had to - she's still thinking about it, this is my list as of today (in no particular order, and it could change tomorrow): Stephanie Alexander - The Cook's Companion Elizabeth David - French Provincial Cooking Nigella Lawson - How to Eat (NOT any of the tv spin-offs) Nigel Slater - Appetite Madhur Jaffery - Indian Cooking Fuchsia Dunlop - Sichuan Cookery Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - the River Cottage Cookbook Claudia Roden - Book of Jewish Food Sam & Sam Clark - Moro (the original one) Maggie Beer - Maggie's Harvest Jane Grigson - English Food MFK Fisher - The Art of eating (ok I know not strictly a cookbook) I'd love to hear other's desert island lists? Helen
  7. Funnily enough I was just about to post an update.... Have now made two visits to the island and been shortlisted for the job! So I am also back this weekend. On my first visit I had lunch at the Blue Crab, on the high street in Yarmouth. Very simple, I had a crab salad with a crab almost bigger than I could eat. It was very friendly, and if I understood the conversation I overhead correctly owned by the girl doing the waitressing, with her mother serving at the fresh fish counter and helping out with the serving. Second visit was a flying one for the first interview - tea and a (very nice) sticky bun at Quay Arts in Newport. This time the interview process begins with dinner with other candidates and 'key stakeholders' on the Friday night at the Bembridge Sailing Club. I have no view on that at all and suspect the food will be the last thing on my mind.... Free for the weekend then the interview proper all day Monday. I'm staying at the Priory Bay Hotel for the weekend which is at the opposite end of the island to Yarmouth but claims 'the ultimate summer dining experience' in its Oyster Bar & Grill. It also has a restaurant, head chef Alexis Gauthier, of Roussillon. Can't comment on the quality personally yet though I will next week! I'm also following up on the previous recommendation, couldn't get into the Hambrough the first weekend I went over so have booked lunch this time - again though that's the other end of the island in Ventnor. Wish me luck..... Helen
  8. Looks great! I'm trying to get down for a visit to suss the island out properly before finally applying, so I'll see if I can get there while I'm over. Of course, doing all the research guarantees I won't get the job, but a good meal is never wasted.... Helen
  9. I'm contemplating applying for a job on the Isle of Wight, which would require me to move to the island. Lots of things look attractive (about the job and the island), but I was wondering if anyone had any idea what the culinary scene there is like? I'm thinking about places to eat out, but also what the shopping for raw ingredients is like - are you reliant on trips to the mainland? It won't influence my decision to apply, but it'll help me prepare! Look forward to hearing from anyone, Helen
  10. "A bit closer to home and just down the M1 is the rather nice little town of Harpenden, where we nearly moved to. I think that Novelli chap has a pub nearby- but that is by no means a recommendation!" I have eaten at the Novelli pub (the White Horse) and was not deeply impressed. Nothing exactly wrong with it, but it certainly wasn't particularly good value for money, and definitely trading on the name. His second is in Steppingley, which is in Bedfordshire, between jns 12 and 13 of the M1 - the French Horn. Used to be a very nice place, haven't been since he had it. Much better in Harpenden (in my view) is the Bean Tree, a little further into the town centre - especially in the summer as it has a lovely courtyard in the shade of said tree: www.thebeantree.com Or if you want a pub, slightly out of the town centre (but happily for me 5 mins from my house) is the Amble Inn: www.ambleinn.co.uk On a Thursday when they do tapas they get very busy. It isn't exactly what you'd get in Spain, I admit, but tasty and good value. (sorry can't seem to get these to work as hyperlinks) But going back to your original request, I ate at the Crooked Billet in Newton Longueville a couple of weeks ago and would recommend it - have faith, it is on the edge of a very ordinary housing estate and so looks unlikely. But food and wine both interesting - I've only had lunch there though. Enjoy! Helen
  11. I've booked a couple of nights in Madrid at the end of January, staying very centrally (nearest metro Atocha) and planning to wander round the galleries and do a little light shopping during the days. My query is this - where, as a woman on my own, should I try eating in the evenings? I love food at all levels - so I'd quite like something at the higher end one night - or would I be better going somewhere like that for lunch? And more casual the other night. I do love tapas, but I'm not terribly comfortable with tapas bars on my own - perhaps I should be more adventurous? I'd love to try cocido - any recommendations? Helen
  12. Helen

    Poached egg on toast.

    English muffins, definitely. But what eggs do you use? I go for Cotswold Legbar or Burford Browns myself - they're usually the freshest, going by the date-stamp, and they have the tastiest yolks I've found. But perhaps there are better which I haven't tried?
  13. Allow me to speculate: <-- me straining my brain When you have dissolved minerals in water, it lowers the freezing point. For instance, when you dissolve salt in water, the it freezes (and thaws) at a lower temp, which is why salt melts ice. So, I'm assuming that the moisture inside the shrimp is actually water with various other things dissolved in it. As the temperature of the frozen shrimp begins to rise, the water on the inside will thaw faster, even though it's the same temperature as the outside, which is presumably "purer" water with a normal freeze/thaw point. Again... just speculation... __Jason ←
  14. Two things which have long intrigued me: When you roast red peppers in order to peel them, they retain heat for an amazingly long time - fingers get burnt well after the peppers are out of the grill/oven/bbq/whatever. How? Other foods, eg onions, seem to cool down much more quickly. When you defrost prawns (shrimp) they seem to do so from the inside out - so a perfectly defrosted prawn will still have a thin coating of ice. Again, how? Neither question is of earth-shattering importance, I'd just really like to know!
  15. Palm sugar, lime and chilli glaze recipe brought back from last year's Christmas in New Zealand. Can't find the recipe on the web (it is in one of Julie Biuso's books), but if there is interest I will post it when I get up to my mother's - she has it. As above, cook the ham first, glaze afterwards. Helen
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