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yvonne johnson

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  1. Yes, and more specifically it was from Lecce. To continue the story, I took my unopened bottle of Brindisi back to Union Square Wines, and Katherine was quite helpful. She said if I'd not thrown the contents of the other bottles away she would have smelled the contents, not necessarily tried it. She said she'd keep a note of what I'd said, but she hadn't tasted this one yet. In exchange she gave a Sicilia Colosi 2000. She said it was similar to the brindisi, but being younger it will be lighter. So we'll try that tonight. Nina, your notes made me chuckle given the contast with ous. We wrote: "1 (probably lucky to get a 1) out of 5, sour, vegetal" as I was writing I was thinking "quite revolting".
  2. Thanks for that link, Fat Guy and your comments. The Pinotage was in fact from Malan Winery http://www.southernstarz.com/Malan_Bio.htm I'm inclined to think there was something very wrong with both kinds of wine bought at 2 different stores. Luck of the draw I guess.
  3. We bought a few bottles of: 1. Brindisi, Agricole Vallone, 1997. 2. Pinotage, Stellenbosch, 1999 Both wines we found undrinkable. They were not corked, just incredibly sour and the first was the most vegetal tasting wine I've ever tasted and the Pinotage was very vegetal but less so that the Brindisi. Is this what they are supposed to taste like? We opened 2 bottles of the first, thinking the first was damaged in some way, but he second bottle tasted the same. I spoke to the wine shop (I won't name names as I've had no problems with them up to now), and they were not really informative in terms of how this wine should taste. The person at the shop simply suggested that my palate didn't like it and that was that. The shop did offer to exchange the third bottle of Brindisi that we have un-opened. Any thoughts from those who know a lot more about wine than I do?
  4. At last, an Indian restaurant that serves curries that are British-tasting. Brick Lane seems a propos after having just seen the movie "24 Hour Party People", which I heartily recommend. Started with Salia Kababs: minced chicken sausages basically. Light in texture, with hint of mint. Mains: Husband had lamb vindaloo which tasted mutton-y, the rich juices had a spicyiness that caught up with you. I had chicken jalfrezie ( onions and peppers were the main vegs); maybe not the best I've ever had, sauce was a little on the thin side and it appeared to be all chicken breast, no darker meats, but still very good. Breads were excellent. Wholewheat chapati and the plain naan was one of the best I've tatsed in NY. No trace of sweetness (horrid, which you find at Banjara). As mentioned in previous posts, the service left a lot to be desired. This is a tiny place (around 23 covers in main dining area with a couple of tables by the bar). The wait staff were many and were almost falling over themselves in chaos. We did not wait long for our food, but there's an air of craziness in the ordering, serving and getting the bill. One sign of being overwhelmed is making no eye contact with the customers (for fear another request will be made)which of course just compounds the difficulties. Also they should throw out the black, round appetizer plates: if you cut into food that isn't dead on center of the plate, the plate tips over. Ditto the tomatoes they serve as granish with starters: the tomatoes have been cut into shapes of baskets compete with handles, and are filled with dipping sauce. Just plain twee. A plus: the decor is bright, plain I see the chef is Goan and called Eric McCarthy, and the waitress told me he has never in lived in England, but he cooks as though he has, nonetheless. Can hardly wait to go back.
  5. I was thinking the same, tommy. Here's where we were http://www.le-bernardin.com/
  6. A stellar meal, I thought. And as tommy and Wilfrid say, the decoration, atmosphere and service much less stuffy (not too attentive. I think they scraped the table cloth only once with the razor clam shell-like instrument--about right, ) than they were a few years back. The waiters seemed to be smiling (then again that might have been a pained expression having to deal with us lot). I agree the amuse--silky, sweet shrimp with ginger and soy butter--was fantastic. As were the sourdough rolls and butter. The prix fixe menu is arranged in three sections and you choose one dish from each: 1. ALMOST RAW, 2. BARELY TOUCHED, and 3. LIGHTLY COOKED which doesn't make a lot of sense (bouillabaisse is barely touched?). 1. I went for the geoduck ("thinly sliced geoduck clam marinated with wasabi-lime dressing") which I'd never had before. Somewhat chewy and it had a lovely sea-side smell (in the best possible way). 2. Next I had a fantastic bouillabaisse ("aioli crabcake melting in a rich saffron lobster broth; poached shrimp and croutons"). What a lovely orange to red color 3. I also went for the surf and turf ("oven roasted monkfish loin on silky mashed potatoes and braised oxtail-stuffed cabbage in a rich red wine reduction""). The fish, which has a meaty texture in the first place, went terrifically well with the oxtail. Husband liked his Gamberoni shrimp ("broiled...flanmbeed in lemon Bacardi rum; basil, garlic and parsely") but found the accompanying "saffron basmati rice" too fishy. I thought it was wonderous, and I polished off the entire bowl, and maybe someone else's as well. 4. For once, I didn't feel like a cheese course and instead went for the cherries. Cherries that were deep red, lightly poached, I think, and very cherry tasting--what more can one ask for? The menu covers as Wilfrid noted are a little disconcerting. I never went to Butlins holiday camp, but the pictures of the sea and sunsets brought to mind a cafeteria at a cheap resort. But that's the only negative thing I can come up with. I hope g. will add his thoughts as his opinion is that Le B was better 10 years ago. Le Bernardin gets top marks from me which it did not before.
  7. I was wondering, Leslie, (and sorry if this is already covered in your book) how you went about preparing for your behind the scenes stay at Daniel--not so much getting the approval, but the nuts and bolts in collecting the information you needed for your book. I imagine it was a bit like a research project. How did you collect and formulate your observations? Note-taking on the spot or later, tape-recording? Video? Did you plan in detail how you were going to observe? Did you hope to remain a fly on the wall, or did you partcipate in things as you observed? Did you formally interview staff, or just glean information as it happened. Lastly, what was the most awkward moment in your role as an observer that you didn't antcipate?
  8. Leslie, I've not read your book yet, but in a review of it (http://query.nytimes.com/search/full-page?res=9E07E7DA143CF930A15755C0A9649C8B63) I read that the m'd Bruno Jamais accepts generous tips from customers and will offer them tables at the prime times in return, and that the left-over tables will be given to "Very Unimportant Persons, whom he characterizes with a well-known Yiddish obscenity". Do you think this practice affects the reputation of the restaurant in any way?
  9. Sam: Soon after we were seated at 8PM, I feared that the dinner might be rushed as I'd heard about table-turning. Indeed the table next to us had 2 seatings while we were there. However, the pace for us slowed after the first couple of courses, and, secondly, I think it would very hard to turn a table whose diners were having the seven courser. This leads me to think that if everyone dining at GR on one night opted for the tasting menu, the restaurant might not be able to cope. Gavin: The most memorable meals I've had in London over the last few years have been at an array of places of various price ranges and included The Square, Sugar Club, Frith Street (no more). Overall, I rate the dinner at GR as the best high-end meal I've had in London in recent years. (I thought Le Gavroche was supberb, but it's too many years ago to make a meaningful comparison.) That's not to say I didn't enjoy the meal at St John the next night just as much--it was just different. Que? The M'd came over to the table and gave the number to all of us. For obvious reasons the m'd chose a moment to tell us when you were away from your seat.
  10. Dinner at Gordon Ramsay's (68 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HP, 020 7352 4441) last week-end was excellent and I think GR fully deserves the 3 Michelin stars. I think his skill surpasses Raymond Blanc's, so this time Michelin and I are in full agreement! Very generous canapes were: Chips, resembling game chips in thickness--no doubt a homage to his roots--with eggplant caviar in one little pot and in another creme fraiche with truffle oil for dipping. A terrine of foie gras and toasts. There was ample, if anything maybe a little too much, for 4 people Menu Prestige I. Bouillon of poule with spring vegetables (asparagus and green beans). Simple and delish II. Mosaique of foie gras with confit and smoked goose. Within this small rectangular slab were thin slices of duck sitting vertically--very pretty, with a nice texture. III. Ravioli of lobster and langoustine with lemon grass and ginger volute (spooned on at the table). The ravioli were tightly packed, and the lobster was sweet. There were no strong notes that sometimes lobster has. IV. Fillet of turbot with asparagus and five spice vinaigrette. This was the most pungent dish of the evening, and added variety. Quite filling though as the sauce was heavy and a little treacley in texture. V. Fillet of Aberdeen Angus with braised vegetables (very good tasting carrots) and an oyster and a very fine red wine sauce. By this time, I was wishing I hadn't dug in so enthusiastically to the canapes, and I don't think I could give it a good shot. (Alternative was: Roasted cannon of new season lamb with confit shoulder, baby onions, spinach and rosemary jus.) At this point I had a medicinal brandy to clear the way for more VI. We all went for the cheese (alternative was poached strawberries with strawberry granite and natural yoghurt). The trolly had a very large selection--probably over 25. We went for very good Epoisses and a selection of blues. VII. Cinnamon creme brulee with granny smith apple three ways. It doesn't sound like much on paper, but this was wonderful. The cb was the lightest I've ever tasted. Stuck into the cb was a fan of wafer thin slices of crisply baked (I guess) apple, underneath was a tiny bed of stewed little cubes of apple, and around the plate a light green apple juice. The restaurant is small (see here http://www.gordonramsay.com/restaurant.html yet the tables are nicely spaced out. We were there nearly 4 hours, and the chair are very comfortable. Service was very good on the whole. On giving our name we received a warm welcome, "Ah, yes, good evening Mr T (to our friend--who had not been there before), your table is ready, come this way". No consulting reservation book. Two downs: the service is on the over-attentive side. After every course was cleared the waiters would scrape the table cloth with one of those things that look like razor clam shells. One one occasion, our friend got this treatment twice within a minute by 2 different waiters. Second, our first course arrived a couple of minutes before our wine. Menu was 80 pounds per head, wines chosen by our chum very good, but I don't have names at hand. The m'd gave us the private number for reservations which I am happy to share but only for a very hefty fee. I'll go back asap.
  11. Silly me. As I was writing the above, I was having fantasies about Gordon Ramsay, and I put the order of some of the dishes in keeping with GR. 4 should be 3 and 3 should be 4, and 5 came after 6--as it was not a palate cleanser, rather an amuse dessert. I'm glad all that's cleared up Matthew, I'm glad I'm not the only one who goes for rich sauces. The lamb really cried out for more. I forgot to mention, Blanc was definitely present. We spotted him in his whites.
  12. Last week we stayed one night and had light lunch and dinner at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons (nr Oxford). Raymond Blanc has been receiving accolades for around 16 years at Le M and I was eager to stay there. Le M has 2 Michelin stars. I'll begin with the dinner. We chose the menu gourmand (95 pounds per person). We were seated at a table like the one here in the conservatory part of the restaurant http://www.manoir.com/ --click on Le M...then click on restaurant. To get to this part one walks though another dining room which felt stuffy and hot (that week the temperatures reached 90F), and we were glad to be in the cooler of the two rooms. 1. To start was a little cup of gaspacho soup, one of the highlights of the meal for me. It was chunkless, and very smooth, and glistened with an oil (though I don't think truffle) on the surface. 2. Salmon, at room temperature, sitting on some mouli (sp?--a big Japanese radish I was told) surrounded by dill and cucumber salad. Husband thought this was the tenderest salmon he'd ever tasted, and he guessed it had been slow baked. I found it a little bland--having neither the texture of raw salmon nor the flavor that I associate with this fish when cooked. 3. Sea bream with a crispy skin on top of very soft squid. Nice contrast in textures. 4. One ravioli inside of which was a quail egg at center surrounded by spinach. On top was wafer of parmesan and truffle flavor was very much throughout the dish. Mushrooms were scattered around the outside of the plate. Husband went ga-ga over this. I found it very, very salty. 5. A soup of peaches poached in champagne. The skins were left on the sliced fruit yet no stringiness evident and the juice was cold and a little sour. This was delicious. 6. Lamb chop (neatly trimmed) with peas (some pureed a little, some left whole), garlic cloves in their jackets and potato cake with a smattering of jus. Chop was delicate though not very lamb-y. The potato was way over-salted, and I thought there was little that united the dish. To me it felt like a bit of this and bit of that. The dish would have been a lot stronger if there had been more reduction to act as liaison. 7. Hot chocolate fondant with pistachio ice-cream. Chocolate desserts I'm not a great fan of and I found this combination very ordinary. The wine waiter suggested that we share a granache rose (I liked it, a little like a light port) and saussignac (a bit heavy for the chocolate I thought, but it would make a good match for a fruit tart). 8. Coffee and petit fours (I didn't have room for either). Wines: 1/2 bottle Corton Renarde, and 1bottle Meursault Meix Chavaux, together around 130 pounds. Sommelier was helpful, and the service at the table, especially that of our wine waiter, was excellent. There was one oddity about the tables. On every table, propped up against the flowers were postcards of le M and on the back were descriptions of up-coming events. A few minutes after looking at the post card of Le M while dining at Le M, I couldn't take it much longer and put the post card in my bag. I though the post cards hinted of tackiness. And now that I've mentioned a low note, here's another. We went for pre-dinner drinks in the bar, a small room with around eight seats. We were the only people there, however the barman was obviously busy making drinks for others in the other lounges. He said he'd be with in a minute, but we must have waited for 10. During our wait a m'd offered us the menus to look at and noticed we didn't have drinks. She took our order which she relayed to the barman. We waited some more while he finished up other orders. Then came my dry martini with olives and my husband's glass of house champagne. Mine was the smallest (came just past the half way up the glass), warmest, least gin-y martini I've ever had in my life. I should have sent it back no two ways about it. Light lunch on same day, a selection of sandwiches (smoked salmon, egg, cheese and tomato, ham) on the terrace was pleasant if you ignored the army of flies (several of the pools in the garden are at present stagnant, something the staff apologized for via a placard in the garden)as was a walk round the grounds and flower and vegetable gardens. Accommodation was in the main house, and I see even though we asked a standard room, we were given a superior one for the same price. A little fussy decor-wise, and a little warm--for some reason the central heating was on and could not be turned off--but our room had the biggest, regular, that is non-jacuzzi, bath I've ever seen. Overall, staying at the Altnaharrie Inn (no longer) was much more pleasurable, and dinner at Gordon Ramsay (Royal Hospital Road) a few days later was superior--more later.
  13. Champagne works pretty well. Followed by more champers, sauteed calf's liver with bacon and a side of fries. Nothing like it.
  14. What a fine night. I think St J is superb. But to start, The Wenlock is just as Simon has described it, a local pub with a mix of people that accepts even those who've fallen throuugh the care-in-the-community net. That's the place for me. Excellent cider on tap. The martinis at Match were very good and beat the cocktails I'd had earlier in the week. I had the warmest, smallest dry martini I've ever had at le Manoir aux Quat' Saison--more later. Back to St J. I enjoyed the pig's snout, though the portion was large. Simon, we also ordered some tender spleen for the table, which was rolled up (with some veg and cream cheese?) and sliced. My main course, tongue, had a nice slightly chewy density and the green beans with it had a hint of mint. Ozzy went for the kidneys--reportedly good. The puddings were fantastic. Ginger sticky pudding, eccles cake with cheese, a chocolate tart (I think) and rum and raison ice cream--by this time things are beginning to fade. For 3 courses, wine & brandies, I thought the dinner was very fairly priced. I like the sparse look of the place, the service was good, and the waiter had very fine teeth. Is that a first? Simon, thanks for arranging, and it was a pleasure to meet for the first time Sam & Scott F, and Miss J & partner.
  15. yvonne johnson

    Dinner! 2002

    I agree Bushey. Simpler the better--I like spaghetti with just olive oil and garlic. I like to taste the spaghetti. It does have a taste afterall, and often rich sauces overpower.
  16. yvonne johnson

    Dinner! 2002

    A couple of nights ago I made a very simple pasta dish. For 2 Soak around 8-10 sun-dried toms in enough hot water to cover them. Let sit to 20 mins or so Sautee 2 cloves finely chopped garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil Cut tomatoes in thin strips and add, along with their water, to garlic. Some parsley can be added too. Meanwhile cook spaghetti Mix the lot together, season, adding a little more olive oil if needed, and top with generous amt grated parmesan. Surprisingly tasty.
  17. I recommend the restaurant in the Tate Modern. We had a nice, light lunch there. A salad, chicken tarragon, and I remember the wine as very decent . Good brown bread too. We could've gone for heavier dishes if we'd wanted. At the next table I saw some good-looking desserts also. It's a very large room, with lots of windows. If you're visiting the TM--a magnificent building--I can see no reason to go elsewhere.
  18. Fat Guy: I've not been to Le B in several years, but my take was similar to yours. The sauce overwhelmed the fish. I'm going back soon and look forward to it, though. I have a couple of questions: 1. Do you think, in general, people have less to say about fish than they do about meat? I imagine people feel more excited about meat. And does this affect views on Le B? 2. Does the formal, some might say stuffy, service at Le B dampen the palate? Excitement is not a word that springs to mind when I think of Le B.
  19. Jordyn, Thanks for raising the bar. A couple of thoughts on points raised so far. Can you make a review more objective by trying to imagine how others would view the same meal? I wonder if there's a lack of symmetry between reviewer and reader in terms of empathy--can't think of a better word. When I read Grimes, say, I don't expect him to imagine how the meal would be for others. I want his opinion on his meal. As a reader, though, I'm placing myself in his shoes, but, again, I don't want him to be so presumptuous and guess how I or many other readers would react to the meal. Slightly different point. Can I assess a dish I never care for? (Different than ordering something one usually likes, say, chicken, and meat is off). Say you hate egg whites--a friend of mine does (he loves the yolks, but cannot abide the texture of the whites)--can you assess the Mexican dish "peppers with fried eggs"? Probably not, right? Or can one make an imaginative leap? Jinmyo has mentioned cooking dishes she doesn't care for, and I remember the fuss about Keller (possibly) presenting oysters & pearls without ever tasting the dish, but being sure the dish worked. Maybe you might be able to imagine how a dish would taste to someone who'd care for it--but how far does this get you? Back to Grimes whom I like overall. But sometimes I'm unsure if he liked some dishes. He'll give a long description of the visual appeal, say, and then you're left hanging. Come on Grimes, did it taste nice or not?
  20. A person offers a balanced assessment of the limitations of a book that happened to sell well = Person doesn't understand the book or resents its commerical success Utter tosh This resentful argument is already wearing very thin.
  21. yvonne johnson

    Dinner! 2002

    I think tommy might be getting his jars and mugs--there's a whole host of rich ingedients in the latter--very muddled up.
  22. About the omission of discussion of health-related problems in "Salt." I was at a Kurlansky book reading a few months ago, and someone asked him specifically about this and he was almost unwilling to broach the subject. What I remember him saying was that he was not a health expert and he'd prefer to leave that topic to others. He also suggested that the medical picture wasn't clear. As for errors, K. maybe overextends his thesis that salt is everywhere to be found in language. For instance he argues the salacious comes from "salt" as at one time salt was a fertility symbol, but this may be incorrect etymologically. As for Cod, I enjoyed it very much as his own experience of working on trawlers comes through, and I valued the history on the Basques.
  23. Couldn't agree more. I just mentioned Kurlansky's "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World" on another thread. It's now out in paperback. I've just dipped into his "Salt: A World History", but it loooks good too.
  24. yvonne johnson

    Dinner! 2002

    Last night consort made strip steak with potato and bacon cake and red wine butter a la Portale. A very fine dish. A bottle of Australian (Rosemount) shiraz to go with it.
  25. That may depend on whether the prose was deemed (by the expert in all things literary, of course) as silky as cashmere or as rough as Shetland wool. I'm no expert--due to my nationality and up-bringing, you understand-- but I detect a certain coarseness. Lack of refinement, perhaps.
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