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Everything posted by balex

  1. I read an article that said it would be good: article I am off to Italy on Wednesday so I have my fingers crossed.
  2. That is a good time to visit Rome. The Christmas season sort of starts at Chistmas and goes up until Bephana -- Twelfth Night -- so it is still the Christams season. It is very different from the English and American way which ends on Christmas Day and starts sometime about now. Piazza Navona has a good Christmas market which sells a lot of crib artefacts which make good gifts, and (this is eGullet) sells good porchetta (whole roast pig stuffed withe herbs). This is normally porchetta from Ariccia rather than the Tuscan style. Generally Christmas is on the end of th white truffle season, but this year is apparently very good for truffles so you should be ok. For food markets, Ponte Milvio is good, but not terribly convenient to get to. Try Campo dei Fiori -- which has a good salami shops that will vacuum pack stuff, and often a few other good shops for portable food -- small honey producers, olive oil etc. Rome has few exceptional restaurants, but it is difficult to have a bad meal there IF YOU AVOID THE MAIN TOURIST AREAS. (sorry for shouting). Are you into wine?
  3. I had a very expensive and extremely disappointing meal at Tom Aikens last night. There were some things that were very nice --we had some delicious wine for example, and the service was excellent -- I didn't get frisked for spoons on the way out. Part of my objection to the evening might have been a general disenchantment with elaborate haute cuisine, but a lot of it was that some of the culinary ideas were in my view massively misguided. The execution was generally excellent, and there was some impressive technique on display, as well as some really beautiful presentations. I had the £70 tasting menu, which seemed good value since the carte was £60. I won't give a detailed blow by blow account, but some of the low points were: Dish number 2: roasted scallops. A large scallop, beautfully cooked and cut in two. The scallop itself was great but it came on a plate with -- an orange foam, carrots, pickled chicory, an overpowering sweet sauce, a pickled raisin. Discordant, overwhelming, completely pointless garnishes that trashed the beautiful scallop. Dish number 4 or 5: squid pork belly and fish. This was a dish with some fritters of brandade, squid with some pork belly. This sounded like a great take on a trad chinese dish. The fritters were really well done -- the best fried food I have had outside of a Japanese restaurant (or a Belgian chip shop), and had that lovely lacey tempura crispness. There was also a bit of deep fried salami? Why? The overall effect was just of noise; the delicate flavous of some of the ingredients were mugged by the harshness of the others. The guy can clearly cook -- but he doesn't seem to know how to compose a dish. The only really impressive part of the meal was the visual. There were some truly harmonious presentations -- he has a way of smearing purees or thick sauces on the plates that is like impasto on a painting; and the colours are beautiful. £450 for two with a couple of glasses of champagne, a very nice bottle of burgundy, and a half bottle of Hungarian Tokay.
  4. I had dinner here las night and it was a lot better than it had been a year ago. I was not wildly impressed but it was good food, with friendly service, and it's not too busy so you don't need to plan a month in advance. The food: starters were a warm salad with bits of black potato and two sorts of prawns. Nice fresh and tasty. A fish soup that was a bit too tomatoey and didn't have the right consistency. And the croutons were too thin. Main courses were grouse -- good but slightly overcooked, on a bed of breadcrums, good bread sauce and gravy, and a generaous bit of halibut with lentils that disappeared pretty rapidly. The obvious comparison is to Racine -- and it stacks up pretty well. I think I would probably choose Racine first, but BSQ comes an honourable second. £120 for 2.5 people.
  5. You are right that this is a shocking lacuna in England. I can recommend Le Palais des Thes in Paris for mail order. THey also have a good shop.
  6. Isn't the thing about this cut (Korean-style) that it should be cut thinly crosswise -- so you have a lot of thin slices each of which has several bits of bone in it? Does it work with the bigger pieces of bone or do you have to bone them? Seems like it might be too chewy.
  7. "Good" butchers are often a problem as they tend to only sell expensive bits of meat -- this is also a problem in other countries. Try an ethnic butcher who often have windows fillled with wierd bits of offal and so on, and you might have good luck. If the window is filled with organic chicken breasts marinated in thai spices then the odds are bad. If it has a couple of pigs trotters and some beef kidney then you might have more luck.
  8. My brother had a party at La Tante Claire years ago, and everybody got a pigs trotter - since it was a long meal Koffman did the front trotter rather than the rear which is what they normally do, since it is a fair bit smaller. The skin is still quite thick and gelatinous (this was a long time ago and there was some good wine so my recollections might be faulty).
  9. I just read the Jan Moir review and .. well .. Jura wines are meant to be oxidized, so it's a bit unfair on that point. I haven't read her stuff before -- does she know anything about food or wine in general?
  10. I think you are right that the way it is reared is a more important factor than the breed. Often they are confounded though -- e.g. with Poulet de Bresse which has a very rigorous set of requirements on how they are reared as well as the breed restriction. But there must be a reason that farmers moved away from what are now 'rare breeds' and that is probably either that they were prone to disease (no effect on flavour), difficult to breed (ditto) or perhaps were slow to put on weight (aha!). I think this last could be the factor that accounts for the superiority of flavour that some perceive, Though this is the opposite of the American grain finished beef taste which is all about stuffing them with grain really quickly.
  11. balex

    Ciao tutti

    Many thanks -- I have learnt a lot from your recommendations and advice.
  12. They are in the bin. They are local I assume -- (I am in England) and they were pretty frisky so they weren't ill. I'll ask about them next time I go to the shop which is generally pretty reliable. My own fault for not living in Louisiana, Thanks
  13. I bought some live freshwater crayfish and after parboiling them about half have long white threads -- which I guess are some sort of parasitic worm inside -- they have up to a dozen and they are several inches long in the head and down the intestinal tract. Should I throw everything away? Ok for soup? or just pick them out, and serve the crayfish? Or eat the worms? Help!
  14. I scored half a case of Latour 61 when I was an undergraduate (from Peterhouse , but I was at Trinity). That was nice.
  15. It's quite possible that the usage of 'skirt' is less specific than the French terms that refer to the same bits. But this thing was much more like onglet (which in North America is called 'hangar' steak, I think?) than bavette (which is 'skirt'?)
  16. I think there are the poire the araignee and also the 'merlan' but I have no clue where they all are. Worth searching it out though. I guess we could use the latin terms for those cuts that follow natural anatomical divisions -- it's a bit geeky but hey -- this is eGullet so we are geeks.
  17. I had a very nice bit of beef at a Lyonnais restaurant in Geneva which was called "araignee" which was described as like onglet but better. Does anyone know what this is in English? Literal translation 'spider'. Very good flavour, slightly chewy, and an unusual shape. Served and cooked in the same way as bavette or onglet but thicker.
  18. I was in Cortona this year on the day of the "sagra della bistecca" but we had eaten a huge pranzo di ferragosto and the idea of a huge steak did not appeal. I guess I will have my eGullet merit badges ceremonially snipped off now. But you could see the cloud of smoke from a long way away. And plain beans are one of the key accompaniments "fagiloi in fiiasco". And no cheese.
  19. My favourite cook book title is "I'm glad I ate when I did, because I'm not hungry now' which I think is very deep
  20. They do actually -- many people have a little cake at about 4pm. They eat lunch quite early and dinner quite late so you need something. But apart from that, they don't snack!
  21. About a year ago, I think. The service was really bad too, and it came just after a meal at Racine that was much better. But I will try it again if there is a new chef.
  22. I think Brasserie St Qunetin is not so good anymore and Racine you need to book for.
  23. Le Manoir is grand. The last but one time I went there, the Queen mum (gawd bless 'er) was at the next table.
  24. Just round the corner is one of the best cups of coffee in London. Orsini on the Brompton Road has an old Italian guy (Neapolitan) who knows what he is doing. Cappucini are the usual London crap, but the espresso is very solid, or as the Italians would say 'valido'
  25. I think this is the opposite of the case. The English population do have bad taste as a whole, but are very open to new experiences -- chicken tikka masala being one of them. Compare to Italy, where your average taxi driver can talk for half an hour about the difference between riso alla crema di scampi and risotto alla pescatora. And where they are completely paralysed by a pervasive culinary conservatism. And I know where I eat better. London has a few good restaurants at the high end, and a bunch of good 'ethnic' restaurants, but a dearth of good solid middle range conservative restaurants churning out the same old excellent stuff all the time.
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