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Everything posted by Stigand

  1. Nothing to add to the thread, I'm afraid, but thanks to everyone who gave suggestions. I had a lot of Long Trail Ale and Otter Creek, which I enjoyed. And I can't think of a more beautiful place to drink it.
  2. I think a few things are at work here. 1. SLOW-cooked, rather than OVER-cooked, food is certainly "homier" than seared/flash-fried etc. There are practical reasons for this. How many casseroles, braises, etc were invented to turn tougher or cheaper meats into oozing wonderfulness? How much easier is it for a multi-tasking home cook to put something into the oven than to stand over a frying pan? Whereas non-homey, restaurant-y food needs to be made quickly, and the chefs who cook it typically have access to large ranges and lots of direct heat. 2. Perhaps affluence plays a role in explaining how SLOW cooking couldevolve into OVER-cooking at home. Long/slow cooking methods developed by great-grandma to accommodate tough joints of meat could end up being applied by mom to more delicate cuts that became affordable as incomes rose and meat became more abundant. 3. "Restaurant food" culture (including a greater emphasis on quick-cooked, 'fresh-tasting' food) is a big influence on the way people today cook in their homes (we could easily have a separate thread on this). So it's not surprising that cooking that rejects this culture should be seen as traditional and homey.
  3. Home House does an addictive cheeseburger with smoked cheddar, and serves abundant Twiglets with cocktails. Whether this justifies the membership fees is another question.
  4. Stigand

    Alcoholic Ginger Beer

    Around 1997 or 1998, the Turf tavern in Oxford used to serve 'Ginger Tom', a great copper-coloured beer with a strong ginger kick, about 3.5-4% ABV. I liked it a lot. A bit of Googling suggests it was brewed by the Barnsley Brewing Company in England - which unfortunately went out of business about 5 years ago. Perhaps the recipe is still around somewhere. For want of a better place to start, you could drop an email to the Campaign for Real Ale in the UK.
  5. When I was at college, our local student-y cafe (Cafe Coco - looks like it's still there) used to serve "Elderflower Cocktails" - elderflower syrup, gin or vodka, soda water and mint. Not complex, but wonderful. We felt very sophisticated. I haven't done a side-by-sde comparison, but when I tried St Germain recently it tasted identical to the Elderflower syrup they sell in UK supermarkets except for the alcohol, so if the IKEA product is the same, I'm sure you could substitute.
  6. A couple more: At table A warning sign: what follows will be a dreary, paternalistic lecture about how our culinary culture used to be better in the olden days. The word 'foodways' will not be far off. Accurately As in 'accurately cooked' or - God forbid - 'accurately sauced'. Smug and knowing in a Mr Creosote-ish way (subtext: 'of course we all know exactly how turbot should be prepared, and you will be pleased to know the cretins at Chez X managed it'), yet completely uninformative (does it mean any more than 'I think they cooked it right'?). I remember seeing this quite frequently on eG's UK board back in 2002/03, but a Google search turns up nothing. Perhaps it's been purged - if so, well done Language Police. I would have added to fry off - but I realise Tim beat me to it in his pant-wettingly funny website.
  7. Decadent Is your dessert really symptomatic of cultural and moral decline, or do you actually mean "chocolatey"?
  8. We know there are good places to eat in and bad ones. But can you turn a culinary wasteland into a gastro-paradise? And if so, how? In most cases great eating neighbourhoods, towns or regions evolve organically over years or decades. They require a lot of factors to be aligned. It’s hard to have a great restaurant without good suppliers. But there’s little incentive to grow great produce if consumers care more about price than quality (q.v. this discussion on the ‘rubber tomato’ phenomenon on the website of the economist Brad De Long). Equally, if diners don’t care much about good food, setting up a great restaurant is going to be an unrewarding business (see herefor Paul Krugman using this logic to explain why British restaurants have historically been so bad). I’m curious about whether you can deliberately improve things, and if so how. I can think of a few cases where this has worked, but in each case, it’s worked differently. Marylebone in London is a great example of central planning. This district changed from an ho-hum stretch of central London into a foodie heaven because of a long-term campaign by the De Walden estate, which owned many of the leases. They encouraged a farmer’s market, great vendors (the butcher the Ginger Pig, cheese overlords La Fromagerie, the cookshop Divertimenti) and restaurants (Providores, Orrery) to open up with attractive rents, and have both created a cluster and made themselves rich in the process (the value of their real estate has skyrocketed). In Berkeley in California, by contrast, a lot seems to have been driven by the singular energy of Alice Waters, who transformed not just the restaurant scene but also her supply chain and her customers’ expectations. And this is one of the things that Slow Food seems geared to doing. So my question is – has anyone had experience of an area making a rapid and intentional transition from culinary mediocrity to excellence? If so, what made it work? And can it be replicated?
  9. The words 'gourmet' and 'vegan' inexorably make me think of the funniest McSweeney's article ever: Comments overheard at a brainstorming meeting between Ted Nugent and the editors of Gourmet magazine where they were discussing the upcoming book "Gourmet Magazine's Vegan Cooking with Ted Nugent" Enjoy...
  10. Thanks for these recommendations - I'm especially excited about the cheese. The Cheese Council site seemed to have tons of interesting-looking small cheesemakers. Are there any you'd particularly recommend?
  11. I've heard that received industry wisdom is that the white meat/dark meat ratio is about 1:2.
  12. This phenomenon is known in the trade as 'Carcass Imbalance'. I've always thought this would be a good name for a death metal band.
  13. I'll be spending some time in Vermont this fall - later this October. Is there anything distinctively local I should look out for, either in terms of dishes or ingredients? I've found the VT restaurant recommendations here very useful, but what I'm looking for now is particular don't-miss recipes or produce. Thanks for your help.
  14. I'm travelling through Vermont this fall, and would love to try some great, distinctive local beers and hard ciders while I'm there. What would you recommend? Names I've heard (from this forum and elsewhere) are Otter Creek, Magic Hat (although some people think they've jumped the shark), McNeill's and Wolaver's. Beyond the world of malt and hops, Woodchuck Cider. But what else should be on my list? And a few other questions: is most good beer in Vermont bottled? Or should I be looking for cask-conditioned beers? If so, are any bars/pubs especially worth checking out? Thanks for your help.
  15. Although Voss is Norwegian, I've rarely seen it on offer in Norway. The go-to water is called Farris, which is bottled in pretty non-descript plastic bottles. Farris bottles
  16. Short descriptions are best. With a few exceptions: 1. If a dish has a really genuinely special ingredient (e.g., new season's X), it makes sense to highlight it 2. If you have a non-traditional ingredient in a well-known dish. (My bugbear is restaurants that offer 'Club Sandwich' or 'Caesar Salad' on their menu, and bring it to the table with unannounced hard-boiled eggs in it. I LOATHE hard-boiled eggs. Long descriptions generally fall into one of two traps: 'trying too hard', or 'no class'. a) Trying too hard: If a restaurant lists the name of every ingredient in the name of each dish, it comes across like they're a bit too eager to show how creative they are; if they list the provenance of every bloody clove of garlic it's equally tiresome. If a restaurant wants to stress its sourcing policy, it's classier to do this in a footnote ("beef from XXX; vegetables from YYY, etc"); if it wants to list the ingredients in each dish this looks better underneath each dish, rather than in the dish's "title". b) "No class": Pizza Express, a respectable chain of thin-crust pizza restaurants in the UK went down this route when they rewrote their menus a couple of years ago. Their pizzas used to have a name, followed by a simple list of ingredients: "La Reine; mushrooms, ham, olives" - classy. Now, they read: "La Reine: Prosiutto cotto ham, olives and mushrooms, a royal combination that once made the Italian Queen's favourite pizza". Ugh - if I want a menu that looks like it's been written for morons by a used-car salesman, I'll ask for one.
  17. Sandwiches should always be eaten fresh? What craziness is this? Some of the greatest sandwich recipes are ones in which the ingredients are well-chosen to benefit from sitting around. Eating them 'fresh' would be as foolish as eating a stew or a casserole before it's ready. Take the provencal pan bagnat. Freshly made, it would just be a strange mixture of crunchy vegetables and anchovies. With the benefit of time, it turns into a wonderful mixture. In the words of Elizabeth David, Sure, if you see a sandwich as just a convenient delivery vehicle for different types of food, and want to be able to fuss and fret about what type of ham and cheese and dressing goes on it - by all means insist on freshly-prepared. But otherwise, be flexible. (And like other posters, I'd rather take a good sandwich made a couple of hours ago than a bad or average one made to order. Which in London is usually the choice, since Pret a Manger sandwiches are pretty good and places like Subway (and sad, to say, many independent sandwich shops) aren't.)
  18. Or mozzarella in carozza, with added pizza sauce on the inside.
  19. Controversially, I'm going to stand up for toasted sandwiches made with really low-quality ingredients. For example, I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich on rubbishy white sliced bread in a hospital cafe recently that was... well, pretty good considering - and much better than it would have been cold. To put it another way, if I've got to eat a sandwich made from uninspiring stuff (and what with work etc, I often do), toasting it really helps.
  20. But when a sandwich is toasted, it should be done wholeheartedly. I'm fed up with so-called panini that are really just lightly warmed under a sandwich grill. If you're going to toast a sandwich, it should be flattened, crisped, a little charred, and the interior should be seriously melted. This half-baked panini thing could just be a UK flaw though - the panini I've had in Italy tend to be properly cooked.
  21. My heresy: I disagree that fresh tuna is best served rare. Don't get me wrong: I like tuna sashimi. But I can't stand the knee-jerk tendency to serve all tuna 'seared' - i.e., raw inside. I don't think it does any favours for the flavours of most tuna; and it's certainly not any more 'authentic' than the alternative. Here's Rowley Leigh, the Financial Times' excellent cookery correspondent And here's Simon Courtauld in the Spectator, quoting Matthew Fort's excellent Eating Up Italy:
  22. They would do - were it not for the fact that they're run by the same people. Many airport, railway and service station food concessions are owned and operated by a company called SSP, until recently owned by Compass, the catering company. (There will normally be a little brass plate on the wall of the concession by the cash register telling you the owner, if you're curious.) SSP operate M&S Simply Food stores at Airports, Railways and Service Stations under a franchising agreement with M&S. I agree - M&S Simply Food is great. From SSP's website:
  23. I agree. Lecturing a customer is never a great idea. Some time ago, I was buying cheese at an excellent and well-known artisanal cheese shop in London. I was entertaining guests, one of whom was pregnant, and so had been asked to buy only pasteurised cheeses. I asked the counterman (in fact the manager) if he could recommend me some particular types of cheese and stated (apologetically) that this time I had to steer clear of the raw milk stuff. He asked me why; when I told him, he embarked on a long and embarrassing lecture about why high-quality unpasteurised cheese (esp hard cheese) was safe for pregnant women - certainly safer than plenty of permissible foods, like bagged salads, pasteurised soft cheeses etc. The irony is that I actually agree with him - I'm a huge fan of unpasteurised cheese, I would hate Britain to descend into the kind of clean-freak cheese-phobia that Americans must endure; and I'm at least agnostic over the prohibition on raw-milk cheese during pregnancy - it doesn't seem to apply in France or most of Continental Europe, for example. But the incident was still hugely embarrassing and out of line - and of course it achieved nothing: I was a host and choice wasn't really mine to make.
  24. I dropped in here for a late-lunch/afternoon snack in late summer. I had some sort of potted meat with piccalilli - I think it might also have been the duck - and found it OK but really under-salted (not a big deal since I could add my own, but why not get it right?). Service was friendly but a bit lackadaisical, although this might have been because it was an odd time, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. But I liked the look of the menu, and the space was great: a really nice place to be - I'd certainly go back and give them another chance.
  25. What's the story with Wyndham House? I've occasionally bought things from their shop at Borough Market, and then recently noticed they had a branch tucked away behind the Tachbrook Street Market in Pimlico, where I got some good lamb neck and bacon. Then I saw they had a shop on the Fulham Road near Chelsea & Westminster hospital. How many branches do they have nowadays? Are these recent openings? Has this affected their quality?
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