Posts Tagged ‘food’

Continuing adventures with beer

Posted 10 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Beer

My established love of beer is fast becoming an obsession, I think – something which has been much encouraged by the existence in Brighton of (a) a truly excellent off license – Trafalgar Wine at the top of the North Laine – and (b) some terrific pubs which are bringing in more and more imported and speciality beers. I’ve recently subscribed to @beerbods, too – a really excellent service which, for the price of £36, provides 12 bottles of excellent beer (one a week for 3 months) that come with all sorts of social media bells and whistles and, most importantly, tasting notes – which is great for a heathen like me.

More on Beer Bods to follow; check out their website here:

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Pasteis de Nata in Belém, Lisbon.

Posted 29 Apr 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

The quite beautiful Fabrica de Pasteis de Belém is justly famous as the most picturesque dining destination in the busy, imperial suburb of Belém, just a few kilometres west of Lisbon. It’s impossible to visit the town – which was the launching post for Vasco de Gama when he made the first sea-voyage from Europe to India back in 1497 – without noticing, amongst the open spaces, modern art galleries and intricate palaces, this ornate, bustling little bakery and cafeteria. But it’s also hard not to wonder if, somewhere down the line, this achingly authentic establishment (which is famous for it’s delicious, sweet pastries) lost its purpose, and began to exclusively serve the tourist community rather than the locals. When we arrived, on a cloudy weekday afternoon in late-April, the queue stretched down the road and spoke in many languages.

Happily, we’d already been tipped off that a visit to the nearby Pasteleria Chique de Belém would be just as fruitful – the Pastel de Nata they sell are not served in such picturesque surroundings, but they’re every bit as fresh and had a determinedly sugar-agnostic diner like me marvelling over the complimentary textures; the warm, sweet custard filling and the incredibly light, flaky crust. Really amazing – if you get the chance to visit Belém, be advised that you’d be stupid not to try some. (Not being me, of course, with my quaint reluctance to eat chocolate, cake, pastries or ice-cream, not trying a Pastel de Nata in the town that invented them, would probably never occur to you. Anyway.)

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Pasteleria Chique de Belém, Rua Junqueira 524, Belém. (Right by the Belém tram stop – get the 15 Tram from central Libson)

Food politics

Posted 08 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

This is a fascinating and troubling insight into the government’s Change 4 Life campaign, which is supposed to promote healthy eating and living.

In reality, the advice offered by their literature is uninspiring at best and borderline unethical on the other. As Matt Fort, on his Fort on Food blog, points out, a thin veil is drawn over the government’s partners, but it doesn’t take long to spot the involvement of Bernard Matthews, Danone, Dole, Mars, McCains, Spar and Tesco. Indeed, the Food 4 Change website links directly to another website called www.mysupermarket.co.uk, which in turn delivers consumers directly to the online stores of Sainsbury’s, Asda, Tesco, Boots, Superdrug, Waitrose, Ocado, Virgin Wines and Majestic. Marvellous. Here’s Matt: 

In other words, the Change 4 Life, both directly and indirectly, serves as a portal to, and therefore as a marketing arm of, major corporations. There is a tacit endorsement of what they sell and how they sell it, thus undermining the principles they’re supposed to be upholding. This seems at best bizarre, at worst cynical and corrupt.

This is not the first Government to have found easy accommodation with the supermarkets. Successive ministers have found it easier and more rewarding to guard the interests of large corporations than those of the electorate. Change 4 Life fits neatly into that pattern.

It would be entirely reasonable, I think, to expect much better from the government on this type of thing.

[edit: I still don't much like look of this campaign; but one of the comments below the line is well worth reading, and it makes a lot of sense. Here it is reproduced:

“Serious Bollocks” reads like many blogs; the author assumes that everyone has the same access to the Internet as them. Quote: “It’s almost impossible to believe that whoever designed and approved this actually lives in the digital age.” What about the 23% of UK households without Internet access who represent a significant proportion of the target demographic of this campaign? The website isn’t important – it’s just there to appease sponsors who pay for the leaflets.

Thanks for that useful comment, internet stranger.]

Garlic peeling in 10 seconds

Posted 29 Sep 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Daft

One of those life-changing videos. I actually was pretty proud of my garlic peeling technique, thinking I’d pretty much got it down to the minimum amount of time. I’m a thorough but efficient garlic peeler.

Or I thought I was.

Wrong.

Here’s how it’s done. Amazing.

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from SAVEUR.com on Vimeo.

On Charlie Adam

Posted 08 Jul 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, General

In a deal illustrative of Liverpool’s slightly confusing transfer policy (which seems to be to overpay for players with Premiership experience, even if they’re as yet unproven at higher levels), they have just signed Blackpool’s impressive (but not world-beating) central midfielder Charlie Adam, for about £7.5m. Charlie Adam is a pretty decent player, in the box-to-box midfielder style, and is surely the latest in a long line of okayish players who get overhyped and overpaid because they make people nostalgic for a certain type of British player we see less and less of (cf. Lee Bowyer, Danny Murphy, Kevin Nolan, Scott Parker). Anyway, like I said, I don’t know much about him, so it’s possible I’m underrating him. But at least Liverpool have placed some handy facts about him on their website, for those of us trying to keep up. This is my favourite by some distance:

3. Adam then returned to Ibrox in the summer of 2006 and was handed his opportunity to shine by gaffer Paul Le Guen. He admits to changing his diet on the advice of the Frenchman. “I’d never really thought of eating salads before,” he said during an interview in 2010.

Lovely stuff.

meat after moral certainty

Posted 28 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Observations

Sitting having breakfast in Billie’s Cafe in Brighton this morning, Alba, Lyndsey, Dan, and I discussed foods that we can’t – or rather, won’t, eat. I was a horribly fussy eater as a child, forcing my poor mother to serve me up all sorts of deeply indulgent dinners as a way of encouraging me to eat. Like a lot of kids, the number of foodstuffs I rolled my eyes at was embarrassingly great – eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes etc. The one constant component of my diet was always meat, although I’m proud to say that I have eliminated practically all of my food-phobias in adulthood. There’s pretty much nothing I won’t eat now, with the exception of grapefruit (I know, weird). I like just about everything, including things I would have had a cheerful tantrum over when I was a kid – brussel sprouts, frog’s legs, olives, avocados. I still eat an awful lot of meat though – too much to make ever becoming a vegetarian absolutely unthinkable.

Still – this article, by Neel Mukherjee, is pretty much beyond reproach. He’s absolutely right to say that the intellectual and moral argument over the eating of meat is settled, and that vegetarians are on the right side of the debate. That I can admit this and at the same time admit that I’m still not tempted to abandon meat is evidence, I guess, of a certain moral cowardice. But it’s tempered by the suspicion that attempting to live one’s life by virtue of rational, intellectual moral arguments alone is ultimately fruitless; a never-ending quest. There will be many painful decisions still to be made once animal welfare issues are resolved.

And anyway, I’m much too thin as it is, so I need the sustenance. So there.

Back to the article – it’s hardly an in-depth study of the subject, but I like Neel’s candour, and his own admission of inadequacy at the end. Worth reading.

“To understand intellectually is one thing, to put it into practice quite another, a whole untraversable territory away. I still haven’t been able to stop eating meat. In any restaurant, my eyes alight first, as if by an atavistic pull, on the meat dishes on the menu. In any dinner party I throw, I think of the non-vegetarian dish as central. I view this as a combination of weakness, greed and moral failure. Someone please help.”

No need to help me – but I’m roasting a chicken tomorrow, so let me know if you fancy lunch.

breakfast in back bay

Posted 04 Apr 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Had a cracking breakfast at Trident Booksellers Cafe in Boston this morning. It’s a lovely, crowded independent bookshop in the Back Bay district. The cafe occupies more than half the space, and had developed by eleven o’clock today a decent queue, which is always a good sign. Luckily because I was on my own I managed to jump it and grab a seat at the bar, where I grabbed a menu and logged on to the free wi-fi with my phone. I’d actually bought a guide to Boston just before-hand, but taking it out and reading it at the counter seemed somehow appallingly touristy, so I grabbed a paper instead and sat reading and sipping the sharpest Lemonade I’d ever ordered in my life.

I’ve had enough breakfasts in America to be unsurprised when something the size of a European main course turns up, but I was still pleased to see my order was comfortably obscene. I had plumped for their South-Western breakfast burrito, which consisted of a huge serving of scrambled eggs, tomato, a liberal serving of jalepeno pepper, as well as refried beans, tortilla chips, onions & cheddar cheese, all crammed into a flour tortilla with a side of salsa and a slice of orange. It was immense. I decided to take my time and, taking regular breaths, devoured the whole thing over about forty minutes. It was delicious, and about as much as I normally eat in a day.

And now. Now I’m going out for lunch.

tips for travelling

Posted 16 Sep 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Travellers, I am about to dispense to you – for absolutely no charge at all – the two most useful tips you will ever be given about the art of exploring cities anew. They won’t let you down. By all means do your other research first – I spent an eight hour flight over the Atlantic learning about New York City’s boutiques, record shops and drinking dens – but attend to these basic, essential tasks, too.

When you look up places to go, look up some really dull things too. Look up supermarkets.

In my first four hours in NY I had a really, genuinely wonderful time drifting through Greenwich Village – of which more later – and quite marvelled at the fact that I was walking through an area which has captured my imagination for most of my life; even if my mental image of the area was utterly misleading. Once there, of course, I simply couldn’t tear myself away from the area until I reached absolute dropping point, at which point only two clear priorities for the evening remained: getting to the subway, and picking up a bottle of beer and some groceries to see me through the evening. So I boarded the subway – a deliciously exciting experience, sorry – and travelled up to 73rd and Broadway, where my apartment is, and, drawing on the last remnants of my energy, strolled around looking for a supermarket where I could grab some food.

Cue an hour of directionless, listless, indecisive walking. Conclusion one: there are no supermarkets in the Upper West Side. Conclusion two: there almost certainly are, but I walked down all the wrong streets. After a while, a kind of grim, determined pessimism set in and I started actively walking past potential vendors simply because I had kind of accepted the idea that I was destined to spend the night walking and yearning. And the sad truth is that this happens to me every time I stay somewhere new.

Lesson two is related to lesson one. It is that early on, inevitably, during your search for a supermarket, you will pass a burrito house and briefly consider going in. No matter what happens that evening, no matter how long it takes, you will – equally inevitably, with absolute certainty – end up going back an hour later and ordering the meal you earlier rejected.

So just get it the first time, seriously.

Here, after all that, is my first meal in New York. It may not look like much, but it tasted fucking unbelievable.

fish and africa

Posted 03 Sep 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Work trip or not, it would be pretty hard not to enjoy the food here in Southern Spain, where I’m spending a few days for a work conference. Last night we ate in a beach-fronted restaurant just outside Marbella, which offered a curious, delicately spiced combination of Spanish fish dishes and, oddly, Japanese cuisine. Most important of all – apart from the fact that the Rioja was excellent – we had a panoramic view of the Mediterranean, with Gibraltar clearly visible before us, a long, high rock like a stepping stone. Some way behind it was a faint but mysterious coastline, sat further back, nestling in the mist; the North Coast of Africa. And propped delicately above it was a pencil thin sliver of moon, dyed orange from the reflection of coastal lights. It was, as I hope the above implies, very beautiful indeed. The urge to escape the confines of work and take a boat to Morocco is impossibly strong.

nice dinner

Posted 20 Aug 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Photos

I don’t normally blog about food, much less home-cooked fare, but tonight’s dinner – compensation for last night’s neighbour fiasco – was genuinely lovely; so here’s a photo.

It consisted of portabello mushrooms stuffed with pesto, olives, parmesan, onion and garlic, cumberland sausage chipolatas, pink fir apple potatoes with a mint and parsley salsa, and green beans with basil butter. And best of all, there’s enough left over for lunch tomorrow.

waste not want not

Posted 08 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

Oh, I wish I wasn’t as guilty of inefficient shopping as I am, but sadly I’m useless, always misjudging food quantities and either running out of stock almost immediately, or else opening my fridge and finding food which has passed its sell by date.

With Gordon Brown asking the nation to consider cutting back, the Guardian spend some time thinking about food wastage. Laura Barton writes:

“There is something slightly irritating about the prime minister’s insistence that it is down to us consumers to cut our food waste. Less than half of the food thrown away each year comes from households. To suggest that the average householder is to blame for our colossal national wastage is to ignore the way that the food industry has been allowed to develop in this country, from the relentless rise of the supermarket to the flourishing of the fast-food outlet, the decline in farming and the death of the local shop. All of these affect why we buy the wrong things, and why we buy so much of what we do not need”.

All of which is undoubtedly true – but the fact remains that a lot of people (including, for the most part, me) could do with developing stategies for efficient food consumption. So the article’s tips, put together by Ms. Barton and John Henley, make sound advice and a surprisingly good read. I’ll certainly be trying to think this stuff through more.

A few of their best tips:

Don’t be afraid of an empty fridge

“I think that goes back to the rise of the big American fridge,” notes Blythman. “It’s an aspirational thing.” You do not, therefore, need to buy acres of food each week to keep it chock-full.

Learn how to use leftovers

The lovefoodhatewaste.com site has a huge array of recipes contributed by celebrity chefs, nutritionists and members of the public, including a large number dubbed “rescue recipes” – in other words, how to put that bit of leftover chicken or half courgette to delicious use. There are also websites out there (leftoverchef.com and kitchen-scraps.com, to name but two) that, one you’ve typed in the primary and secondary ingredients you have spare, will go away and search their databases for recipes to use them up. Bit of fish left over, and some broccoli? Try, for example, Chinese steamed fish. And a couple of books may help: Second Time Around: Ideas and Recipes for Leftovers by Pamela Le Bailly, and The Use It Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook, by Catherine Kitcho.


Take sell-by dates with a pinch of salt

As a general rule, only “use by” is worth taking seriously; “sell-by” and “display-until” dates are merely stock-control devices for food retailers, and “best before” is simply the producer’s estimate of when the food will stop tasting good, which is fairly subjective anyway. Rather than slavishly observing these date labels, we’d be far better off understanding the kinds of foods that could actually be harmful if they go off, such as ready meals (including sandwiches), soft cheeses, pates and cooked, processed meats and seafood. Eggs with a Lion Quality stamp can be kept for weeks in the fridge; chicken, raw meats and fish will all look and smell unpleasant long before they’re actively unsafe (as long as you cook it thoroughly, chicken, for example, is good for at least a week past its sell-by date). Apples last for months; potatoes are fine as long as you chop the green shoots off before cooking; tins and jars will last decades if not centuries; hard cheese is indestructible; and dry foods will last for years too. “Ignore sell-by dates,” insists Swannell. “They’re not relevant. And best before is just what it says on the tin; it doesn’t mean the food is toxic the day after that date.”

Elsewhere, over at B4L, Andrew asks an interesting question:

“Would the Government have been brave enough to suggest that people might save money by using less petrol, or that by borrowing less they might insulate themselves from rising interest rates? People inevitably realise this and adapt accordingly, but the reaction to a politician stating it would be furious.”

gordon ramsey and the fish and anchor

Posted 05 Dec 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Another week goes by and once again I find myself unable to resist writing about Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares; it is the best programme on TV right now by such a distance and it just gets better and better. And writing about it is incredibly easy as all one really needs to do is cast one’s mind back and quote a few choice swearwords and staple them to a narrative which cruelly pinpoints some of the episode’s moments of pure idiocy.

This week, like me, Gordon is in Cardiff, and he’s having fun with the welsh language, finding ways to mangle native words so that they can be cheerfully pronounced ‘queer’ and ‘cunt-a’. At the Fish and Anchor, meanwhile, Mike and Carol might just be the most colourful characters in the show’s history – which is obviously saying something. Mike may not be English, but he’s the archetypal British Bulldog – a squat, small-eyed skinhead softened by rolls of fat. Gordon fancies himself as a bit of a hardman too, as we know, so he makes a point of utilising his winning way with an introduction. “You’re Mike”, he says. “I didn’t know you’d be so short”.

Mike runs the Fish and Anchor with his wife, Carol, and swiftly explains that he’s not messing around; he’s after a Michelin star and has a method that surely can’t fail – he only cooks from famous chef’s recipes, proudly showing off a three feet high pile of cookery books. Not that he can’t cook himself; he quickly informs the camera that a friend of his ate at Claridges recently and said the food he cooks is better than Gordon’s. Not just that, in his internet guise as Michael Jones, he’s been telling the world the same thing

How best to illustrate the short-fall in his self-mythologising? Well, the food he cooks is shit and his twist on a Madhur Jeffrey curry utilises Uncle Ben’s stir-in sauce. Oh dear. The real entertainment, for once, is not in watching Gordon filling him on his failings, but rather in the way Mike interacts with Carol. Their hosting method is, frankly, amazingly original; not only do they get stressed and angry, they actually scream and yell at each other, completely forgetting there are customers present. When the customers do complain, they react furiously, instructing them to “fuck off and don’t come back”. The customers, completely astonished, are too outraged to fight back. Unbelievable.

Poor old Gordon, for once, similarly can’t keep up – sure, he contributes his usual volleys of “come on big boy” and “fuuuuck me”, but he can’t really complete with Carol’s language, which is peppered with phrases like “I’ve had a titful”, and “I don’t give two shiny shites”. He’s frankly flabbergasted, but, in fairness to her, recognises her televisual potential and makes sure he picks a fight at the first opportunity, amping it up so that her reaction is as extreme as possible. All the same, her response is predictably entertaining. There’s a wonderful moment when she stalks back into the restaurant hissing “fuck off” repeatedly at her husband. Moments later she is trying to justify her sudden rage. “I just don’t like being told to ‘fuck off’”, she says. Wow.

Like all good reality TV, however, the success of the show depends whether the horror can be tempered by some real progress, and in this case Mike, at least, tries his hardest. He’s not the brightest of lads, but he seems to be aware of this. “I’m going to listen to Gordon”, he says, “and absorb it like a sponge, as much of it as I can”. I fear that he won’t be absorbing that much.

Except that he does, revealing that he has Italian heritage and responding well to Gordon’s suggestions. He reinvents himself and the restaurant accordingly. He even stops arguing with Carol. And his enthusiasm is really heartening – “I’m just going to cook what’s in myself”, he says, tapping his torso with a podgy finger. Gordon must have quietly dissuaded him of this, however, as his subsequent cooking doesn’t seem to contain either lager or lard.

My favourite moment of the show was the scene when Gordon exploded in frustration, dressing down his hosts with a typical display of invective. As Charlie Brooker pointed out in the last episode of his recent series of Screenwipe, reality TV shows are always carefully edited to ramp up the tension in every scene, no matter how ludicrous they invariably are. At this moment, however, with Gordon in full flow, the cameraman allows the shot to track to the right, and there we find two teenage waitresses collapsing in silent hysterics.

Ironically it’s one of the waitresses who rescues the show, too. Having tried to teach his charges an awful lot in a short period of time, the first night threatens to completely fall apart until a waitress does exactly that – she slips and falls and is badly hurt. Food goes off the menu and filming stops. The urgency of the show naturally takes a hit and it’s a while before everyone gets back on board – in fact, it’s a month later, and by then it seems that Gordon’s words have sunk in a little. The restaurant is transformed, no longer a battleground and a veritable success. Despite describing Carol as a dragon, it’s clear that Ramsey likes them and seems genuinely pleased that it’s not just the restaurant that’s been fixed up, but also the couple’s relationship. As an hour long documentary, and as a piece of entertainment, it’s another success.

Great stuff. Keep an eye out for the repeats.

ramsey back in brighton

Posted 02 Nov 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Reviews

I’m a big fan of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares; the sweary scot is fantastically good entertainment but more important by far is that when he puts his time and energy into helping ailing businesses he does so with generosity and enthusiasm, even if it’s all obscured beneath a fizzing layer of invective.

The first episode of his new series aired this week, and found him back in Brighton, which has provided him with rich televisual pickings in the past, having done his bit in helping transform the South Lanes’ Momma Cherie’s into a workable business. This time he was in the heart of Kemptown, helping out former actor Allan Love’s fast-sinking fish restaurant, which was beautifully placed and yet run with a kind of keen stupidity which would have you tearing out your hair if you knew the man – not least because he swiftly revealed himself to be a man incapable of taking criticism or advice. Which makes you wonder why on earth he had volunteered to take on Ramsey.

I rather suspect that watching reality TV is a bit like watching The Weakest Link; the second you tune in you instinctively know all the answers. Real-life is a lot more complicated, of course, and the likes of Allan Love never seem to understand the kind of things which you just know Ramsey is going to say, which can be broadly summarised thus:

- Use local produce if you can.
- If it’s not local, at least make sure it’s fresh
- Simplify your menu and keep the prices down
- Redecorate so that the place looks either dead modern or dead old-fashioned.
- Stop serving stale and possibly life-threatening molluscs.

Oh, and to that you could probably append:

- If your chefs are arrogant, lazy, care-free good-for-nothings, sack ‘em.

But a consequence of Ramsey’s charisma, however, is that he can swiftly remedy the above ills and rescue dismal restaurants without even having to dispense with (too many) employees. He turns the most sullen or saturnine of staff into compliant kittens. And even when the proprietor is as maddening as Love, who spent most of this week’s episode ordering Ramsey off the premises, it’s genuinely touching when things start to work out.

Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares is a good advert for reality TV; engaging, transformative and dead amusing – nine times out of ten by the time he leaves the restaurants he tackles you end up thinking ‘I’d like to eat there’. Unfortunately there remain many joyless eateries in this country; you almost wish he’d give up the rest of his commitments and go full-time.

fussy eating

Posted 20 Aug 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Travel

Meanwhile, in his latest despatch from China, Sam reveals that he is learning new things about himself all the time:

“I didn’t think I was a fussy eater. I was deluding myself. It turns out I am extremely picky. I won’t eat insects, bones, elbows or knees (of mammals and birds), dogs, cats, most amphibians and reptiles, most land-dwelling invertebrates, eyes (of any species) eggs (fertilised), spinal cords (or other major nerves, when served plain), feet or heads, or endangered species. This can be limiting.”

No precise details on where he is at the moment – but a few days ago he said he was heading for Jinan, which is located up on the upper east coast of China.

Mascara, Brighton

Posted 07 Jun 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Reviews

On Tuesday night my friend Dan celebrated his 29th birthday, and to mark the occasion he decided on a meal out at one of Brighton’s several North African restaurants. Mascara, on Western Road, is at first glance a voguish, pricey-looking joint, but it’s extremely comfortable inside, run by friendly staff and set to a loop of gentle, evocative Arabic music. The menu, too, is surprisingly reasonable, offering an excellent two course menu for a ludicrous 12.00 and a three course for 15.

I started with king prawns, which were rich tasting, satisfyingly crunchy and immersed in a delicious tomato, garlic and parsley sauce. Most people opted for the pigeon pastilla, which I think no-one could quite visualise ‘til it arrived, and then were surprised to see the pigeon shredded and encased in a crisp pastry parcel. Reaching greedily over to Morgan’s plate, it wasn’t the strongest tasting bird, rather delicate and nutty, and edging slightly over to bland, but it was beautifully presented and a good size, with delicately conflicting sweet and sour flavours. To my right, Dan opted for a plate of spiced chorizo sausages which, for depth of flavour, won the day – dark and strong, and very nice indeed.

The list of mains was incredibly tempting, but I opted for oven-roasted sea bass with celeriac mash. All around me beautiful ceramic tagine dishes were descending in front of my friends, and I began to regret my decision. Yet the fish was very good indeed, subtle and light, with the mash full of flavour and an ideal counterpoint. But the highlight was certainly the tagines. Dan opted for a lamb stew which had been slow cooked for six hours and you could tell – it was inordinately succulent, collapsing off the bone with only the slightest instruction, and bathed in a sweet sauce comprising of prunes, pears and apricots. Over at the other side of the table, Dave and Sam opted for the one more expensive dish, a lamb shoulder for two with a less sweet percolation of flavours, heavy on cumin, cardamom and nutmeg. Again, the meat was tender to the point of evaporation, and the sauce delicious. Victoria opted for a chicken dish which was really good too.

Drinks wise, we just had a few bottles of French wine (this was an Algerian restaurant, after all) but I interrupted proceedings at one point to try some Casablanca, a fresh but not very singular lager brewed in Morocco – maybe slightly more fruity than a standard lager but nothing special. For afters I opted out, not having much of a sweet tooth, but judging from the cooing and sighing around me their dessert selection was good too. All the food finished, we finished with a round of mint tea and Sam ordered a couple of mixed fruit scented Shishas, gently enveloping the table in a fug of sweet smelling fog. When the smoking ban comes in, that sort of thing won’t be allowed, I guess – what a shame.

We poured ourselves back onto the balmy street, remembering it was a school night.

no ban on foie gras

Posted 06 Jun 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

Ages ago I signed a petition on the Downing Street website urging the British government to ban foie gras. I’ve just had an email from them explaining that they’re not going to do it.

Apparently “a unilateral ban on welfare grounds would not be legal. World trade rules prevent a ban on imports simply on the grounds of welfare standards in producer countries. Similarly, the rules governing the of the European Union require member states to allow the free circulation of goods. Any unilateral ban would lead to proceedings before the European Court”.

I was under the impression that it had already been outlawed in Poland, Denmark, Germany and Norway, so don’t really understand that, unless it’s just the case that it’s been made illegal to produce it in those countries.

Anyway, my favourite bit in the email is the following bit of really constructive advice.

“The most effective action for individuals who dislike the way foie gras is produced, of course, is not to buy it which is a position taken by many people in this country. “

Why didn’t I think of that?

still eating

Posted 07 May 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

Some updates on food and drink; I’m stuffed, basically.

Last night I met up with a friend, Zoe, and a bunch of her chums and we ate at a really nice restaurant somewhere in the city (I lost track of where); it was a nice Italian-skewed seafood place with a lovely outdoor seating area and lovely food. I had a very tasty Polenta and Dungeness Crab for my starter (and tried, and liked, Zoe’s chilled marinated asparagus with shrimp) followed by a rich, tender pork chop, and a few glasses of red wine. It worked out at about thirty quid for a couple of courses and a share in the three bottles of wine – not bad.

Afterwards, we headed into Mission and met up with some more people and trailed round a few bars – I switched to Anchor Steam, then lager, and drank a shot of something which miraculously appeared in front of me at some point. Zoe is the daughter of a couple of my parents’ friends, who relocated to the States thirty years ago, and I met up with them this morning for brunch. Knowing that we were going out last night, she was told that it was her job to ensure that I was fresh and bright for meeting them this morning and responsible for ensuring I was not too hungover. She did, it must be said, a spectacularly bad job of this, but her and all of her friends did an ace job of making a newcomer to the city feel like part of things, so I had a great night.

This morning, after standing open-mouthed and blinking in the shower for about an hour, I freshened up sufficiently to enjoy a great brunch and a champagne cocktail at the lovely Absinthe brasserie, in Hayes. I had a lovely American breakfast – Canadian bacon, eggs over easy, potatoes and bread. It was nice to be able to trade gossip about my parents and get some more insider information on what to do and see in my final couple of days in the city.

Finally, no dinner tonight, because I ended up having another lunch a bit later, having done more ludicrous walking and built up a second appetite. Nothing flashy this time, but the grilled ham and cheese sandwich, below, was as good as any other I’ve had.

An ice cold glass of beer, on the side, helped a lot.

foie gras and trident

Posted 13 Mar 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Politics

The brutal procedure by which foie gras is produced is, frankly, too disgusting for me to want to outline on my blog, so I’ll spare you the bullet points and youtube video; but suffice it to say it’s viciously disgusting and – apologies to friends of mine who have eaten it – one of those useful signifiers you learn about someone. (oh, you stamp on spiders? oh, you pull the wings off butterflies? oh, you believe in hitting children? oh, you eat foie gras?).

If you can stomach it, watch the videos here and tell me it ain’t so – utterly vile.

Click here to petition the prime minister to ban foie gras; it’s already been outlawed in Poland, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Israel, and it’s time we did the same. (hat tip to Andrew Brown for directing me to this)

While you’re at it, you might want to petition the prime minister to stand up for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the same time, by not signing up to renewing Trident. Alternatively, just check this list of MPs who have signed the early day motion asking for more time to debate the matter. If your MP’s name is not on it, make sure you vote for someone else in the next election.

food in the land of chavez

Posted 28 Feb 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

I’m a really big fan of BBC4′s excellent Cooking In The Danger Zone, which is perhaps the best programme on TV at the moment. I really like Stefan Gates’ passion for food, eagerly devouring rotten uncooked walrus and poached testicles. I like the way he occasionally gets carried away with his descriptions, although I was a bit disturbed just now when he pointed to a large hog-sized rodent in Venezuela, exclaiming; “unfortunately we’re not allowed to eat them, because they’re very rare – but apparently they taste very good. Sort of a like a big guinea-pig”.

He’s eaten guinea-pigs?

Suddenly I feel a bit sad.

disgusting food

Posted 23 Sep 2005 — by Jonathan
Category Uncategorized

Ug, does anyone out there still eat McDonalds after watching Super Size Me? My days of dining at fast food eateries are pretty much behind me, but I just made the mistake of grabbing a quarter pounder with cheese meal from the McDonalds in Chichester for my lunch. I know, but I just fancied it. Mistake. The feeling of lethargy and queasiness one acquires after eating their grub is truly deadening, a quite unmistakeable sensation. Bleurgh.