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Everything posted by balex

  1. That takes me back. I did my doctorate at the Univeristy of Sussex just outside Brighton, and this place was a regular haunt. Is there still the Black Chapati? Great blog too Andy. Nice to see it on this side of the pond.
  2. As far as I know even the health benefits of a completely organic diet have not been established with any reliability. If anyone has a pointer to some solid evidence one way or the other, I'd be interested to see it? As for the taste difference, in my experience freshness is a much more important factor for things like eggs, salad vegetables and so on than whether it is organic or not.
  3. Citrus fruits tend to go moldy very quickly.
  4. balex

    Capon Fear

    Aren't they just castrated? You know, chicken eunuchs? ← Yes, but not a physical castration: a massive hormone shot goes into the neck. ← How widespread is this chemical castration rather than physical? I has 'label rouge' capon from France for Christmas which was excellent. I am curious whether it was physically or chemically done. I googled a bit but only found references to physical castration.
  5. The Thai place on Chepstow road W2, just by Westbourne Grove has a prepared food section that is really excellent. They are selling mostly to Thais from the look of it, and they have this nam prik kapi (spicy shrimp past dip) that is so good that just describing it gives me a strong urge to drive their RIGHT NOW and buy some. Bye.
  6. If you want a bisque -- then try the creme veloute aux champignons from Mastering the Art. Basically, roux, some onions, mushrooms simmered in stock; sieved, thickened with egg yolk and cream, granished with slices of the caps tossed in butter and lemon juice. Very good in a rich old-=fashioned way. fabulous texture.
  7. Way OT, but that is a respectable view. That is why Glenn Gould retired from performing in public because he felt that the repetition made it very stale. Of course that was probably just to cover up his own neuroses about performance, but it isn't intrinsically unreasonable. I think in this case he opposite effect holds -- repetition leads to perfection. And I don't think you should think of "craft" as being an insult. Sure, in the west it has lower prestige than "fine art". But cooking is a craft, and not fine art. This is just what the words mean. Craft is concerned with producing something "useful" -- edible in this context. Obviously it has an artistic dimension, just as all crafts do. But it isn't fine art. One might want to express the extreme pleasure that you get from a great bit of food by comparing it to high prestige fine artists, but that is just rhetorical overshoot. People should compare them to high prestige craftsmen -- furniture makers potters , etc.
  8. Lots of interesting comments. Flip it around -- what are the things that can you can do better at home than at a four-star restaurant? First off -- 3-mac restaurants (I havent' eaten at any of the current 4-star restaurants in NY, though I have done a fair bit of high end European scoffing) compose their menus almost entirely of luxury ingredients; and/or very elaborate preparations. (Lots of honourable exceptions of course) So anything that is a) very simple or b) doesn't cost very much, and c) very delicious, you can probably do better at home. I have had truly excellent meals at the homes of semi-pro cooks. And with wine several notches higher than I would pay for in a restaurant, I can see the reason why people might want to try to do very high-end cooking at home, but it's a peculiar way to spend your time. Every once in a while I try something elaborate, and it's fun, but the simpler things are often more culinarily satsifying, as several people have remarked already.
  9. Excellent call. Bragging rights to Signore Grant.
  10. Let me just say on behalf of all Python fans, "blessed are the cheesemakers" Looking forward to this blog.
  11. I know that when you are in a hole you should stop digging but several people have disagreed with what I said above which I repeat here So to explain -- in England (and in a lot of america I think) the branch of law that governs employment is called "master and servant" law. The word servant obviously sounds a bit old-fashioned, but that is what any employee is. I am a servant in my job, and my boss has the right to order me around. In that relationship I am not her equal. When I go to a restaurant I have a relationship with the waiter. (no dirty jokes please). But that is not a symmetric relationship. The waiter serves me, defers to me, should be polite etc. That's all I meant. It doesn't mean that being a waiter is a bad job, or that waiters are inferior, or that they are low class. Also note that the waiter is not my servant; he or she is the servant of the restaurant. In languages which express hiererarchical social relationships directly you can see by the forms of address that this is the case -- in Japan or Thailand or even in Italy ( lei gradisce qualcosa etc."). They use the sort of language that one uses to people who are their superiors. Again this doesn't mean "better" -- it is just a neutral sociological description of a particular phenomenon. Anyway, I know this sort of stuff annoys Americans a llot because there is no clas/social hierarchy in America but those of us that don't live in the US have to understand it. And I don't mean to offend anyone, especially not waiters who have brought me some of the happiest moments of my life. Long live them!
  12. This is the only one I disagree with, Waitstaff are servants -- not my personal servants, but they are there to serve me. They are servants of the restaurant (in the technical legal sense) and they are my social inferiors in that context . Obviously you shouldn't speak rudely to them, but treating servants rudely has always been one of the most loathsome things I have seen (I lead a sheltered life).
  13. There are two different fruit from different species that have similar names 1) Mespilus germanica. This is "medlar" in English and grows in England. This produces a fruit that is very astringent unless left to rot slightly "Blett". This is called nespole in Italian, but I have never seen it in Italy. 2).Eriobotrya japonica. This is called Japanese medlar in English, and is also loquat. It does not grow in England. This produces a soft sweet orange/yellow fruit which often has spotty black patrches on th outside. This is called nespole in Italian as well. There are some links below.
  14. One of the things that is most striking about Italian cooking, and the general restaurant culture, to an outsider like myself is how extraordinarily conservative everything is. Do you think this is a weakness or a strength? It helps preserve some of the culinary infrastructure of markets and suppliers and so on, but it does seem to stifle innovation.
  15. Yeah, could be medlar -- which are nespole in Italian. picture here edit -- here is a better picture here. (edited again -- not to be confused with the soft yellow fruit from spain, often with black spots that is called nespole as well which is a loquat or Japanese medlar)
  16. IS the size-related difference in price just because there is less wastage (i.e. the ratio of inside to surafce is better) or do people think the flavour of the bigger ones is better?
  17. And Harrods. I actually saw some young Italian guy turn up with a tupperware container full of them, and start trying to flog them to the person behind the counter. 2K/ kilo is a good price too.
  18. Think about the following pasta sauces cacio pepe --- pecorino and black pepper alla gricia --- pecorino black pepper and pancetta carbonara ---- ' ditto plus egg alfredo --- parmesan plus cream and butter burro e parmigiano -- parmesan and butter and so on. Clearly pretty much any combination of these ingredients can and is eaten. And most ofthese will be pretty good. It is just a question of giving the right name to things. Now I agree with the food police element here that carbonara has a particular taste and texture. It shouldn't be very smooth and creamy. Smooth and creamy pasta sauces can be nice, but they aren't carbonara. It's not really a question of ingredients but rather of the result.
  19. balex

    Chicken Breasts

    Do a thai style stir fry with chilli and lots of basil. Chop them coarsely; stir fry over medium high, chillis a bit of garlic, some sugar and fish sauce, thin soy, and a handfull of basil.
  20. A few points: No onion. Very little garlic flavour. A little bit of chilli and quite a lot of black pepper gives a nice balanced spiciness. A spoonful (no more) of cream improves the sauce and shouldn't really be detectable. But really go easy -- say 1 teaspoon per egg. And a non-standard modification is to saute a couple of bay leaves in the oil at the beginning. Personally I find pancetta often too salty; I actually prefer it with thickly cut bacon. You want quite thick pieces. And be sure not to cook them too much; this is a common error in Italy too. You want them to still be a biot juicy with a bit of unrendered fat in, but still a bit crispy round the edges. But this is just my personal preference.
  21. balex, do you have any experience with Trimani? I have a few friends who swear it's the best place in Rome. Last time and only time I was there, years ago following the suggestion of a good friend, I was surprised, positively by the choice, extremely negatively by the prices. ← No, I have never been there. Maybe I'll pop in, in the interests of research next time.
  22. These are the places I buy wine in Rome. It's worth trying a few different places; at some of them you can have a glass of wine and maybe a little salad, or some bread and cheese and salami. Enoteca del Parlamento, (expensive, a lot of big name stuff) Buccone (via di Ripetta) Bleve (via di santa maria del pianto) Ghetto Casa Bleve (via del teatro valle) (+food) Also Roscioli -- via dei giubbonari. (near Campo dei Fiori), this is also a cheese shop and a restaurant, but I haven't eaten there.
  23. Thanks for the explanation. During Aikens demo at the recent Restaurant show, he said something like "I don't have any method when it comes to plating, I just chuck it all on." Who could have guessed? ← Goes to show that people are rarely the best critics of their own work. I though that deep frying salami was grotesque, but deep-frying foie gras? Yikes. I agree it is not really avant-garde; there are a few foams about, but foams have now gone straight from avant-garde to cliche, from what I read here.
  24. I just got back from Rome where I had them twice. Both times were of good quality. I asked the provenance at one place and they said they were from Tuscany/ Umbria. I know some people are rude about Tuscan truffles ('they are just potatoes'), but these seemed excellent to me, Retail price was 3.5 k per kg in the centre which is expensive. (A couple of years ago it used to be 1.5 to 2K) but I think the hike in price is probably permanent,
  25. The Italians are really insular -- so no non-Italian food in Italy is interesting, IMO. The areas to avoid are: directly around the spanish steps; near the Vatican museums; in the bmain piazzas (Navona, Pantheon etc.). There is still good food there but your chances drop from about 95% to about 25%. Very good cost no object restaurants .. difficult. Personally I like la Rosetta. A lot of other places start to lose the plot and the food gets too elaborate, and starts getting a bit, well, French. Agata e Romeo is good too, but a bit on the fancy side. For wine, Casa Bleve is an offshoot of the famous wine shop in the ghetto.
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