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Posts posted by britcook

  1. :wacko: I think that I am going to have to sit down and watch this programme, although it doesn't sound apealing, but everyone has such sharp views on it, I have to see for myself now!!

    Your decision to find out what it's all about for yourself is excellent but your timing is less so. The last show of the series was Tuesday.

    The fact that it is one of very few (none?) shows on terrestrial TV that attempts to get serious about food is in its favour but it still doesn't seem to have found an identity and there's the feeling that it's a half-hour show given an hour to fill. Mind you Top Gear is going that way too.

  2. Darling thinks that the 4-digit codes on the fruit labels tell the fruit variety.  I think he's mistaken, but we've each taken notes and arrived at opposite conclusions. 

    The PLU# tells that supermarket what to charge for that product at that time, it is usually (as the computer jargon would have it) non-meaningful, i.e. there is no inherent meaning in the code, so right now a 4131 might be a Fuji apple, in 6 months time a could be some kind of celery. You could go to a different supermarket and a Fuji apple right now could be a 6539. UPC# on the other hand usually contains a reference which allows you to determine what it is (because they are used by the suppliers who will supply the same product to several markets) and contains within it references to the supplier.

    On the freestone thing most (but not all) fruit sold retail is freestone, cling is used mainly for fruit that is processed.

  3. Anybody else watching the new series (BBC2, Wednesday)? After the train wreck of the last series this one is significantly better, still feels like there's too much padding but more real content. And any show that has Heston Blumenthal as a regular can't be all bad.

  4. The Laroche Chablis may be a little bit too good to "waste" on a Kir (named after a former mayor of Dijon), as Katie Loeb so rightly says the original Kir is made with a wine with high acidity, in this case a balanced wine may not be the best. Whatever you use the trick is to add the right amount of cassis to the wine, my advice is to remove 4 tablespoons of wine from the bottle and replace them with the same amount of cassis. Most people add too much cassis which totally overwhelms the wine.

  5. Does anyone know if there are there any nice, simple hotels or B&Bs near le CS?  I'm thinking of taking Mr Poppy for his birthday in November

    You could try the Willoughby in Suffolk Square, if nothing else it is an easy stroll to the CS. Staying there was how I found CS in the first place. Not been since the ownership changed but it was always an elegant place and it looks like it has been seriously refurbished.

    Edit to point at the correct web site.

  6. This is more of a question...I'm from California and have been in London for 2 years and haven't been able to find anyplace that sells a good selection of California wines.  As I live in Canary Wharf, don't know the UK internet wine sites, and don't have a car, I'm looking for places in London where I can find a good selection easily.  Many thanks in advance for your responses.

    There may be the odd place that has a slightly larger selection but I don't think you are not going to find a specialist with a good selection. What we have over here is the big names from the major internationals, things like Gallo, Masson, etc., practically nothing of any real interest. The problem is probably historical, when the California industry first started exporting to the UK in any quantity, in the late 70's and early 80's the weak pound and strong dollar made them horrendously expensive for unknown wines so you tended to ship the stuff that could be sold in bulk, and even then the values were not great. The Australians pitched in with well made wines at better price points and latterly the South Americans are muscling into the market. Plus for the US the UK is a relatively small market, probably not worth the marketing effort unless you'r talking big numbers.

    The only thing I can suggest is to ring the Wine Institute of California in London (020 7630 9101), it's a trade body but they might point you at an importer or, even better, specialist retailers.

  7. I have always been a fan but after the Soul Food episode Ramsay is THE man, he got into the vibe so well, making food that even Mama thought was sooooo gooood (well she was American!). The Soul in a Bowl concept was just so inspired from a man that you would think wouldn't have a clue about it. Respeck!

  8. North Essex is much under-rated, some lovely villages and decent pubs, a world away from the Thames estuary. But it is a bit of a gastronomic desert, lots of stuff that's OK but nothing special. On that front the Dickens Brasserie in Wethersfield, near Braintree, tends to be better than most. Mabey's Brasserie just over the border in Sudbury also used to be good but not sure what it is like now he has moved his main operation to Aldburgh.

  9. While we're on this very important subject, might I suggest that the bizarre British habit of cooling toast is utterly mad? Can someone from across the pond explain this to me?

    Those of us who live here find it slightly bizarre too, the use of the toast rack which seems expressly designed to cool the toast as rapidly as possible. I believe, with no evidence to back it up, that the breakfast toast was served early in the meal so that you could have it with your bacon and eggs if you so wished. The toast rack is just a result of form over function, looks nice but useless.

    On a general level it depends if you like your butter to melt into the toast, giving that slightly soggy, supersaturated effect or you prefer to retain the basic crunch and therefore apply butter when it is cooler. When eating breakfast out I just wish we had a choice - as you say it's always cold.

  10. The only problem with showing off is that it creates some pressure to perform every year, or even to outdo your prior efforts.  When it comes to functions at my firm where we have a potluck, there's often a buzz regarding what "Dean made this year."  Yeah, I try to impress, but I really want to share.  Sometimes, the snob that I am, I just want to educate folks how good homemade food can really be.

    I'm with that attitude. And add that I cook "impressive" stuff to push my boundaries, to present excellent food that I want to eat, but only get the chance when there are enough people to make the effort worthwhile. Let's face it you're not going to bother with a 10 course meal for yourself are you?

  11. 2- Wine

    - Customers who try the wine and nod with a smile to the sommelier.

    4- Menu

    - Amuse-gueules renamed Amuse-bouches

    5- Customers

    - Customers who cannot pronounce foreign words and insist on scorching the language.

    - Customers who are clueless in front of a foreign menu and need the services of the waiter as translator.

    - Ladies who swirl a cocktail stick to kill the bubbles in a Champagne glass.

    8- L'addition SVP

    - Silly PIN number machine in a first class restaurant.

    Pretty comprehensive list and I'm with you for most of it, except those listed above. When you try the wine, to check that it is as ordered and has no faults, a simple nod is all that is needed, a smile is just being polite. What else would you expect the customer to do?

    If you know the difference between Amuse-gueules and Amuse-bouches you're in a very small minority, I wouldn't mind finding out what the difference is.

    On foreign language menus the customer is there to eat, not display linguistic skills, the restaurant should provide a translation, or would you expect them to be at home with a menu in say Greek or Finnish?

    Swirling the bubbles (to reduce, not remove them) is acceptable up to a point, even to the Champenois who used to make Cremant Champagne with a less vigorous mousse.

    PIN machines (number is tautological) are probably part of the deal with the card company, if you don't like them (and I don't) use cash or check.

  12. There is another Thistle Hotel on the Hagley Road that I think the poster is referring to:

    Thistle Birmingham Edgbaston

    225 Hagley Road

    Birmingham, England B16 9RY

    Its 3 stars and very close to Jessica's

    Yes, that's the one.


    My mistake, I was talking about the Thistle Birmingham City

  13. From the map, I think the Thistle Hotel is pretty much next door to Jessica's, on the Hagley Road. 

    The Thistle is at the back of Snow Hill station on St Chads Queensway, a fair distance from Hagley Road, rates itself as a 4 star it clearly isn't, the rooms are small, the area is not good and only worth staying there if you get an extremely good rate. Best place to stay is probably the Marriot if you get a deal on it, tends to be my default when staying there. It's also within easy reach of Simpsons which is definitely worth a visit, stayed there a couple of weeks ago, food is excellent and reasonably priced, the menu degustation is thoroughly recommended. Rooms are pricey though, but the quality matches, probably one of the best rooms I've ever stayed in but also probably the most I've ever paid (and that includes some fancy 5 stars).

  14. The French would be furious if you mis-spellt their regions so here goes:

    It's COONAWARRA, BARROSA, MCLAREN VALE (yeah, even I screwed up and I call myself an Australian :raz:)

    Yep, that would be Barossa.

  15. A few words of encouragement. Several wine enthusiasts have passed comment on things like two buck chuck which doesn't meet their standards, but don't despair, because what it lacks may be exactly what you are looking for. It may sound like heresy but what the enthusiast is looking for is complexity, length, style, character but you probably don't need any of those things, some of them could be a positive disadvantage. What you need is something inoffensive, bland almost, that anybody can drink, will not clash with any of the foods you are serving, is not high in alcohol (or tannins) and is reasonably well made, i.e. does not have any obvious faults. That sort of wine will satisfy the people who do not drink wine regularly and will not upset the aficionados, who after all are at your wedding, not a wine tasting.

    At my son's wedding last year we tasted several wines to decide which to use, then tried them with samples of the food we were going to serve. In the end, to cover the greatest number of bases we had a Jacob's Creek Semillon Chardonnay and a Hardy's Merlot (we can get Australian wine at good prices here). Neither of them great wines, and not my choice for personal drinking, but they were basic honest wines, went down well (nobody complained) and came in at a modest price. Result.

  16. Just reading Party! by Lorna Wing, which is about catering for large events. For a 3 hour event she recommends 4 cases of wine, 1/3 red, 2/3 white. So assuming your event is planned for this long think 10 cases, plus soft and other drinks. For a 2 hour event 2 1/2 cases for 60 guests so you are looking at 6 or 7 cases, minimum. Personal experience says this could be on the low side, especially if people are dancing.

    Don't even think of trying to serve different wines to "deserving and undeserving" guests, it won't work. Two buck chuck is beginning to look like the only available option.

    Final thing is try and get something with reasonable alcohol levels, 11% would be good, steer clear of 14% monsters.

    Good luck.

  17. BTW:  I'm not making really weird things.  Tonight we had black bean cakes with mango salsa or sour cream, basmatic rice, and steamed broccoli.  What's not to love?

    What's not to love? Well in my case black beans, sour cream and steamed broccoli. Because I've been brought up "properly" I'd probably eat them but they don't push my happy buttons.

  18. Why does the US have the highest tipping rates in the world? An interesting question and I think part of the answer is that it fulfils two-deep seated desires in the American psyche, the desire to get it (anything!) as cheap as possible and the desire to be able to do something to make yourself feel good. Tipping fulfils both. If the going rate is 20% then a $100 meal is going to cost you $120 and you're prepared for that but the ticket is only $100 and you know you could pay that and walk out (possibly pursued by irate staff, but thats a whole other thing). But you've had reasonable service so you feel generous and drop the waiter 20 bucks, makes you feel good, hey I didn't have to but I've given this person $20 just because I'm a great guy. Result. And if you're in a diner and you give $15 for a $10 tab, whoo man, aren't you just the piece!

    And let's not forget this stupidity starts at the top. Keller at the French Laundry slaps you with 18% service. Why? At that level surely he pays he staff well. Instead of $150 plus service why not just say $180 fully inclusive, same damn difference. It's not as if his restaurant is price sensitive, actually giving the real price upfront is not going to reduce his take by one cent.

  19. I've said it before but what the heck, I'll say it again. If I go out for a meal with my wife we would reckon to drop around $100+ for 2, and the average restaurant stay is around 2 hours. At 20% that gives the waitron $10/hour. But said waitron is serving a section of at least 4 tables, probably more, so even tables of two gives forty bucks an hour. So who the f**k is getting all this money if waitstaff are complaining about low incomes. As for restaurants charging 18% service, why can't they just put it in their prices and say service included. Period.

  20. I think the other respondents may have been a little harsh, Martin is not suggesting making a vanilla wine, nor trying to save an irredeemably bad wine. There is a huge amount of "jug" wine out there which is well made, in the sense that it has no faults, but it lacks complexity or depth. The judicious addition of a drop or two of vanilla, enough to have an effect but not enough to affect the taste may actually work, say like adding a grind or two of pepper to strawberries, you can't taste the pepper but it does improve the taste. I don't think there's any question of trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but those vanilla molecules may just affect the taste buds just enough to give a noticeable improvement.

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