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Everything posted by Helen

  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
  16. I'd be fascinated to see if anyone comes up with anything. My mother & I had a Friday night in Dover about 3 years ago, before an early start day trip to France. Having walked round the (dead) town centre for some time, in desperation we went into an off licence and asked the bloke behind the counter for ANYWHERE to go - ended up in a chinese restaurant run by italians (the moonflower?). It was actually surprisingly palatable, but not I think what you are looking for as 'truly delicious'. There is supposed to be a good french restaurant in a hotel along the coast - I want to say in Sandgate? Anyone know if I have got that right? Helen
  17. Are you driving? There's a Loch Fyne in Elton, just across the A1 from Peterborough. I rather think it was the first one opened apart from the original - but that doesn't make any difference to the menu, it's usually a safe bet.
  18. Apologies, it's a long time since I posted this - didn't get the Lincs job but got a different one in Bedfordshire which I am really enjoying, so maybe it's as well... Herts recommendations - well, I live in Harpenden, so they're focused around there and St Albans. Most Saturdays I go to Codicote Butchers, funnily enough in the village of Codicote, which is between Welwyn and Hitchin. Fabulous beef, good bacon, own made sausages, nice lamb & pork, game in season, very obliging. Their chicken isn't free range though. Also in Codicote and a regular Saturday shop is Gemini the fishmonger, briefly famous for selling only in imperial - though I think as you tend to ask for fish by the trout (or whatever species) it really doesn't matter if it's weighed in pounds, kilos or grains. They often have oddities like samphire too. Wheathampstead has a Real Meat Company, and next door to that a little sort of restaurant/bakery/cafe thing called Le Moulin (address Mill Walk...) - they do lunch all week (I think), private dinners Monday - Thursday and open on Friday nights with a set menu. Tiny - I'd be amazed if they can fit more than 15 covers in - but perfectly formed. No credit cards though (fortunately there is a cash point just up the road...). Carpenters Nursery in Sandridge has a greengrocers which often sells their own produce - four varieties of courgette this Saturday, various salad leaves, soft fruit, plus all the usual stuff bought in. St Albans and Harpenden are both heaving with perfectly ok places to eat and shop but surprisingly few of which stand out. In St Albans, there's the Waffle House at Kingsbury Water Mill, St Michael's St - self explanatory really, wide range of sweet & savoury waffles served inside & outside an old watermill, now a museum. Friendly, often busy especially in nice weather. Cheap! Unlike St Michael's Manor just along the road which is a very swish family owned hotel & restaurant, much better in my opinion than the more widely known Sopwell House. The same family own Darcy's in the town centre, which does a really good value lunch/early evening menu, but is generally good anyway especially for special occasions, seems very child friendly (I haven't got any, I just observe - and approve). St Albans Market (Wed & Sat) is really excellent, wide range of fruit & veg, two fish stalls, good french bread stall, cheese, olives, plus lots of non food items. Farmers market 2nd Sunday of the month (same stalls in Harpenden on the 4th Sunday). Regular Italian & French markets too. There's a little Italian deli on Lattimore Road quite near the station - Buongiorno Italia - can't be more than 10-12 ft square and all packed full of stuff - for some reaon some Polish produce too. For wine, Cellar Door Wines on London Road - independent wine merchant, stocks wines which are just that bit different and aimed at all pockets. They do a good range of tastings too - the last one I went to was a Spanish wine/language class, v entertaining. I believe lots of the pubs in St Albans are worth a visit too - CAMRA is based there - but wine is more my thing. In Harpenden, I really rate the Bean Tree on Leyton Road. Delicious and beautifully presented food, extensive wine list (though can be overpriced, you have to pick & choose a bit), excellent service. Lovely courtyard for the summer, when you can sit under the eponymous tree. I had the best pudding I think I've ever had there, an orange souffle which was like eating a heavenly flavoured cloud. One birthday I had dinner there on Saturday and lunch at Brocket Hall when it was still Novelli's on the Sunday - Bean Tree was better. Speaking of Novelli, of course he has a gastropub in Harpenden - having read extremely mixed reviews of it I haven't tried it. There is also a good (but quite expensive) deli in Harpenden - the Silver Palate. Extensive range of cheeses, also olives, antipasti etc, ready prepared dishes, and their wine is provided by the aforementioned Cellar Door Wines. The Three Horseshoes on East Common describes itself as a gastropub but is really to my mind a restaurant which used to be a pub, can't imagine just going in for a drink. Their food is good but it's a bit out of the way - drive or cab. The Silver Cup, on Harpenden Common, describes itself as 'Harpenden's gastropub' - well, it's ok but the earth didn't move... I do like the Elephant & Castle in Amwell, a tiny village between Harpenden & Wheathampstead. The menu is limited and the food not that special, but it is homemade, it's consistent and it has a nice feel about the place, definitely a local - nice garden too. And they have a well in the middle of the bar floor. Back in Harpenden the Cross Keys has a great whisky selection. Now that I'm working in Luton again I have been gently investigating its culinary delights, but I haven't found much yet... the indoor market good for asian and caribbean ingredients, and there's a Chinese supermarket on Union Street, but that's as far as it goes I think. Hope this is enough to be going on with - if not strictly relevant to Lincolnshire! Helen
  19. My mother and I ate at the Zetter on Sunday - we go about twice a year when we visit the open studios of the Clerkenwell Green Association - definitely worth a visit if you're into more interesting jewellery (mainly that's what they have as their studios are too small for much more flamboyant arts and crafts). We always like it for italian based food with a slight twist - this time we both had the shrimp and pea risotto with coriander, chilli and lobster oil - really good balance of flavours and textures. Interesting puddings too - and the only restaurant I've been to with a grappa list. So, we spent as much on lunch as I did on jewellery - £120 for two including service, three courses, prosecco based aperitifs, reasonably cheap bottle of rose and a grappa and double espresso each, and had a very pleasant time. Sunday is a good time to go as they always seem to have plenty of space and they also do a very good brunch menu. The only moan I would have is that the service can be a bit perfunctory - this time the waiter took our orders for aperitifs and would have walked off with the wine list if I hadn't stopped him - then when we ordered food he left the table before we'd had a chance to add a salad to the main course order. The other place around there really worth a visit is Flaneur on the Farringdon Road - deli/traiteur/restaurant, more french style. I've always eaten well and had good service there, though the deli is on the expensive side. Helen
  20. Many thanks for all these tips - no, I wasn't necessarily expecting to get bargains, but I remember from my last trip 3 years ago, and know from reading Cuisine, that there are really really drinkable wines in NZ which simply aren't produced in sufficient quantities to be shipped here commercially. I am planning to use my duty free allowance (miserably small) to bring back kiwi pudding wines, only one of which (Forrest Estate) I've ever seen over here. Only 9 days to go now! Helen
  21. I'm off to New Zealand for Christmas and New Year in 10 days time. I'll be staying most of the time in Auckland with family, but we're all off to Hawkes Bay for a week in early January. No doubt there will be many visits to wineries! Planning ahead, I thought I would investigate how I might ship back wine, should I find some (or many) things I liked not usually found over here - the wine reviews in Cuisine regularly leaving me quite frustrated... But I can't find information on how I would do that as an individual, shipping in wine for my personal consumption rather than for retail - everything I have found on the web is aimed at businesses. Does anyone have any ideas, experience or knowledge of doing this? Recommendations for wineries welcome too! Helen
  22. You sure did. My bad. I'm only in London for a week so I don't have time to get a delivery from Kai Kitchen. I had no idea that verjuice came in red, but why wouldn't it. If nothing else, I'm getting an education on verjus/verjuice. - Kim ←
  23. I responded to the same question a few posts back on the same thread! http://www.kaikitchen.co.uk/erol.html Excellent website for new zealand produce, including both red and white verjuice. And I think you can spell it either way. Helen
  24. I have just applied for a job in Lincolnshire, never having visited the county. Early days yet - I don't even know if I've got an interview - but I'm researching the place in hope. Does anyone know if there are good places for food and drink in and around Lincoln and its environs? I'm thinking of places to buy ingredients as much as restaurants, eg good butcher/fishmonger/grocer/deli/market. Though restaurant suggestions always handy as well. In return I can tell you about a few places in Hertfordshire! Look forward in hope to some recommendations.... Helen
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