Wednesday, 27 June 2012

How to Blag Your Way into a Foodie Conversation

Talk about these foods extensively. They're SO now.
Pulled pork (You didn't even know what it was ten minutes ago. But it just sounds so... hip)
Fried chicken (EVERYON'E'S doing it. It's so like, simple it's like, genius. I can't believe no-one thought it it before. Well, except KFC)
Lobster (It's the new smoked salmon)
Fennel (It's a real novelty not to see it on a menu)
Negroni (Yes, you're very cool, along with half of the rest of London. Well done)

Use these phrases liberally:
'I had that in Sicily / Ardennes  / New York (delete as applicable). It was better there.' (people are always impressed by both travel and snobbery)
'Oh, didn't you go to the soft launch? Yeh, I did. Oh, it was in 1986? I just er, look really good for my age.' (you may need to keep your phone handy for important research).
'Can I make a few changes to my dish?' (you're so good at food, you know more than the chefs. They won't be annoyed you're undermining their judgement. If they get visibly arsey, pretend you have allergies).

Adopt at last two quirks you can pull out regularly:
Carry a pair of chopsticks around with you at all times
Have regular meetings with your 'mixologist'
Abbreviate everything when you can - 'dogs, 'slaw, mac'n'cheese...
Carry round around your cooking bible and read everywhere.
Every meal you have will have a running commentary.
The more you can make your descriptions like a porno, the better.
Post photographs on facebook of you in farmers' markets, whole foods and check in EVERYWHERE you eat with a pre-determined in-joke with the restaurateur (having met them is not necessary).

Oh, and you MUST have at least half-an-hour's spiel prepared on no-bookings policy, your ten favourite burgers in London (in order of when they each opened) and know the full names of at LEAST twenty restaurant owners.

Finally, from @rob_hyde:

Disagree with whatever is being said about a place, it means you have something different to say, at the very least. If your friend said they loved it, sadly recount an occasion when you went and the chef came out and beat someone to death with his bare hands in front of you all (and the soup was, sadly, cold) If they hated it: well, when you were in recently (admittedly it was a preview night where they were doing Swedish food) a few people openly cried while they were eating, so transcendental was the experience.

A point of contention makes your experience (and ultimately you) more interesting.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Luxury Food and Drink Facts

When you're sitting at the dinner table, there's always a know-all with loads of facts about what you're eating. Here are some of my facts about the most expensive foods and drinks in the world.

Sturgeon (which produce caviar), prawns and lobster are all bottom feeders – an appetising thought. That is, they feed off the debris at the bottom of the ocean. 

It's not moway!
Moët in 'Moët & Chandon is pronounced 'mow-ette', not 'mow-ay', as is widely believed (because of the dieresis over the 'e'. Most people don't know this, including the band Queen, as demonstrated in the song 'Killer Queen'. I got laughed at by a sommelier for my mispronunciation.

Kobe beef? Not if you're outside Japan, it's not?
Kobe beef is not allowed out of Japan because is under strict government regulations as it is so rare, so if you’re eating Kobe beef in the UK, well, it’s not actually Kobe but a fake. Waygu beef is available from several different destinations and is not illegal to export.

Know your grapes?
Black grapes can make white wine. the juice in most black grapes is actually clear - so don't assume that your white wine is always made from green grapes.

Saffron on the world's rich list...Saffron is the 16th most expensive substance in the world, only just behind gold. It is available in very small quantities and is usually a striking yellowy-red colour.

With oysters, size does matter, sorry guys
Pearls from edible oysters have no or little value - in pearls, size is everything and the bigger it is, the more valuable it is, and edible oysters produce very small pearls.

Italians prefer dogs when it comes to truffle hunting
You may know that in France, pigs are used to sniff out truffles. In Italy, and now more frequently some parts of France, dogs are used as they have a stronger sense of smell and don't try to eat the truffles, like pigs do.

Caught a sturgeon? Call the Palace!
If you catch a sturgeon in British waters, by law you have to contact Buckingham Palace and ask for permission from the queen to use it as you wish - sturgeon can be sold for thousands of pounds.

Oysters used to be fast food - one of the most cheapest and readily available foods to the working classes. That is, until they were over-fished and are now considered a delicacy.

High pressure!
The pressure in a bottle of champagne is 90 pounds per square inch, about three times that in an automobile tyre.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Annoying Foodie Words

After the 'country supper' comments yesterday, I was inspired to write a list of all the foodie terms that the world could do without.

It's all very well to describe food, but can people try and think of some new words that don't induce shivers and sweats? Thanks.


YUMMY - It's like reading a child's words.

AMAZING - I am the worst culprit for this. Yesterday I saw it four times in the same sentence. 

TASTY - Just so bloody trite. It's one of the most meaningless words that could be used when writing about food.


TOOTHSOME – This is on about the same scale as 'tasty', if not worse.

SUCCULENT – This is a real 'Nigella' word. That whole 'cooking like you're in a porno' is tired now. Not that it stops Lorraine Pascal.

-NESS – As in "My cellulite loaded thighs wobbled enthusiastically as my teeth sank into its sticky porky goodness"

LUSH – Are you a 14-year-old girl (Or Welsh, as has been pointed out to me several times)? No? Then you are not allowed to use this word.

DELECTABLE – Smacks of swallowing your thesaurus in your English Lit GCSE exam.

PUNGENT – Conjures up all sorts of lovely images.

RUSTIC – Stick it on a wooden board and in an old tin and suddenly it's rustic.

When eating out, my heart sinks if I see any of these words on a menu.


SLAW, DOGS, SHAKES, MAC N CHEESE – Why the need to abbreviate EVERYTHING American?

HOME-MADE – I wouldn't expect anything less. Though I'd be surprised if you did make it in your own home.

ARTISAN – Stick 'artisan' before any food stuff and add £2 to its price. Yes I'm sure you like to cultivate the image of dedication to tradition, home made, your well worn hands nurturing every last crumb of sourdough. What it really means is 'we haven't yet done well enough to get bought out by anyone yet'

DECONSTRUCTED – It's a fucking cheesecake, alright, taking it apart doesn't necessarily make it better. When paying for food, I generally like it all ready put together thanks.

HAND-CUT – It's not really such a great claim, is it?

MICRO – A cunning way of dressing up something small as a good thing.

FRESH - Well, that's really reassuring. What state are your other unlabelled ingredients in?

BURGER – Bored. Of. Burgers.

GOURMET – Gourmet burgers, gourmet anything – it has lost all meaning.

Like fingernails scraping down the blackboard, these words and phrases are ones I'd rather not hear.


NOM – Was this word invented by Twitter? Just never acceptable. Makes anyone sound like a complete moron.

COOKED TO PERFECTION – Trite and lazy.

STREET FOOD – You are not a street vendor from Patpong Bangkok. You are a 24 yr old university graduate called Tristan with a restored Citroen H van, a mate who's a graphic designer and loan from your dad. Anyway, since when did it stop being called 'takeaway food'?


FOOD PORN – Since when had porn become an interchangeable term for something that looks good? It doesn't even make any sense.

BREATH OF FRESH AIR – Another lazy journalistic phrase, for when good words really fail them.

SUPPER - Unless you are a crumbling aristocrat of at least 90 years wearing mustard cords and tweeds flanked by two equally ancient labradors, and you are referring to a small evening meal where full dinner dress is not required, please do not use this term as you sound monumentally aspirational.

CHOWING DOWN – The only place where this is acceptable to be used is in a teen magazine.

TUCK INTO - It doesn't make any sense and sounds again like you are scraping the barrel.

-O'CLOCK – Gin O'clock, Pimms O'Clock, anything O'Clock. It makes you sound like a wanker who thinks like, drinking is really cool and random. And it's always getting retweeted into my timeline from the sodding “Queen”.

YES CHEF – People who fawn over chefs and punctuate every sentence with 'yes chef'. It's not funny and it's not clever. Stop elevating them to ridiculous levels. Do they call you by your job title? Didn't think so.

FOODIE – I use this one myself so GUILTY AS CHARGED! Can I change it please?

HIT THE SPOT - Did it? How nice your appetite has been perfectly fulfilled and you've found such a chirpy off the cuff remark to describe it.

DIRTY/FILTHY – Masking your guilt of your ever expanding waistband and enthusiasm for junk food by describing your abundant love of a burger with derogatory terms. This is now considered a GOOD thing.

THE DISH EATS... - The dish doesn't eat. We eat it!

EATERIE – Just call it a restaurant, please.

Thanks to @greedygirlblog, @mcmoop, @jameslewisland, @tomcavill, @arbaggs, @gi_nav, @jensenbull, @rob_hyde, @marketcamden, @elizabethonfood, @londonned, @bangersmashchat and @dave_c_harvey

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Zucca Review

Bermondsey is one of those up-and-coming areas in London, and this is the first time I'd been - from what I saw, it was mostly roadworks and the Shard but I hear there are nicer bits. Bermondsey Street, where everything foodie in Bermondsey is, apparently, is home of Jose Pizzaro's two places, Jose and Pizzaro, amongst other cool restaurants. It is also home of Zucca, an Italian which has been open for a couple of years now.

 I went there on Bermondsey Street this week with a Twitter acquaintance, @pepper_tree, with mixed trepidation. It had praise heaped on it by some when I mentioned I was going, but when I tweeted about it the night before going, it was slammed, with many saying that it had 'gone downhill'. I tried to keep a neutral mindset.

As we walked in, I was instantly struck by how noisy it was. When we sat down, I noticed the decor. It was weird. My companion remarked that it was like the reception area of a huge office, which was apt - it was a decent-sized room (which included an open kitchen) with some orange blocks on the walls. For its size, it had fairly high ceilings. That's probably why it's so noisy, but perhaps that's just the lack of insulation. It was almost communal dining, with the next table placed about two feet away, maybe less. It was a strange juxtaposition with the formality of the starched white tablecloths and napkin-folding, but as many as they can cram in, eh?

Onto the food: We were served good bread and (Zucca brand, which you can buy if you so wish) olive oil and a selection of ctudites (including humorously oversized strips of cucumber and more fennel than we knew what to do with). Onto the starter, which was a pile of deep-fried vegetables, mostly sweet potato and a couple of bits of courgette, which contrasted well with the salty batter. 

Onto main course, we had the infamous veal chop, served with spinach and lemon, which amply fed both of us - tender, salty, and so juicy. It was the definite highlight, and I can see why it is raved about. Thing is, even for one person, it's very er, meat-focussed. I mean, I need a little something more with a main course for £16, and unless you're on the dukan diet, you probably will too. It's a bit of a swizz, declaring something to be a 'main' and then charging extra for a side of pasta or vegetables. Luckily this main course got away with it for being so good. The pasta (chitarra, clams, peas & tomato), was a bit weird. The spaghetti wasn't al dente, it was crunchy, and the peas had that once-frozen pucker. The clams, however, were cooked and seasoned well. The side order of broccoli was cooked really well and the chilli speckled through the dish was a welcome accompaniment.

Pudding for @pepper_tree was salted caramel ice cream, which was not, as it seems to be more times than, lacking that salty kick. I had the affogato - vanilla ice cream drowned in espresso - and I couldn't help thinking that it would work better with one scoop, as by the second scoop, I was flagging from too much cold coffee. The first scoop, however, it was lovely.

It was an enjoyable meal: good company and some high points (That. Veal.), but overall, I was a little underwhelmed by Zucca. Perhaps it's better in a big group, so you can contribute more to the noise factor.


Zucca on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dabbous Review

Dabbous was predictably, brilliant. I'm not going to harp on about the food too much because you've all read a million blogs and newspaper reviews, but if you do want to read a blow-by-blow account, it is very easy to find one.

dabbous bread bag, dabbous bread
Because you need to see another
picture of the bag of bread
The Service
Service is one of my favourite topics - because I have been to so many restaurants and because I have worked in so many restaurants, I have devoted a lot of time to thinking about it. What I noticed from the second I walked in (well, more dripped, because it was very rainy) was how welcome I was made to feel. And not the standard, soo lovely to see you, insincere spiel, but genuine smiles and even some mild 'banter' (for want of a better word). From being shown down to the bar and being brought cocktail menus by one of the bar staff to the table, it struck me what a good balance they had.

They weren't overly nice, they weren't overly stiff and formal and yet for what you pay, it's service of a standard that you would expect in a restaurant that charges much more. It's something that's accessible and really lovely. I suppose that is why they are so popular - you experience a really special meal for a fraction of the price that you would pay anywhere else - even somewhere not half as special.

I've never been to a restaurant that was so cool there was a 3-month waiting list (well, that was when I booked - now you can't even get lunch 'til 2013), and that was so relatively new. What's great is that I was excited to go, as opposed what I normally do - just decide a week or even a night or two before, because it's all casual now. What's not so great is that the anticipation is so high that you sit there, and sort of think, 'I should be enjoying myself MORE.' I was very aware of the amount of time for which I had waited for the table, and how much I was taking in the ambience, the food, the endless charm...

dabbous meal, iberico pork, dabbous
Iberico pork: Absolute stand-out
What I liked:
  • The complimentary olives, which were a far cry from pimento-stuffed Crespo olives.
  • The iberico pork main course - cooked so well, and so barbequey without any trace of gloopy 'bbq' sauce.
  • Ok, so like everyone else, the coddled hen's egg. So much flavour, well executed, the smell of the hay in which it was nestled...
  • The service (I'll say it again, it was very good).
  • The room. It's industrial and cool, but it's warm and inviting simultaneously, somehow, and the bar is a weird but cool room (I resisted the urge to pretend I didn't know my dining companion as she kept saying 'it's a great space' in a knowing, architecty way. She's not an architect).
  • The chocolate ganache. Decadent and so chocolatey, without being too chocolatey.
What I didn't like:
  • The loos. Couldn't see a thing. Which is a small point, but if I were on a date, I'd like to be able to check up on my face.
  • The bread in a bag. It's a nice touch having the date on it, but as far as I'm concerned, bread in a bag is an unnecessary quirk.
  • Iced lovage. It was always going to have a mixed reception and I did kind of enjoy it, but my tastebuds were constantly confused eating it, because it was a bit like celery but sweeter and I'm not sure I liked it.
  • That age-old problem - they left us to enjoy our wine without trying to rush us away, BUT when it came to asking to the bill, they were a little too hard to catch without standing up and making a fanfare.
However, these are small points and for the most part, I had a truly great meal and the food, staff and ambience were of a standard that far surpassed the prices.

Dabbous on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sticks'n'Sushi Review

I have been aware of Sticks'n'Sushi since it opened its first UK branch in Wimbledon, and I thought of going there, but didn't get round to going. When they invited me to come there, there didn't really seem to be a reason not to go.

Cucumber garnish
I arrived early, alone, to a virtually empty restaurant. It was a large, brown, all-encasing hall, with the kitchens at the other end and coats being spirited away behind huge curtains to be hung, as not to spoil the line of the room, I suppose. With a lot of the seating being quite communal, I was glad I was seated on an individual table. After being led to my table, I was left alone for ten minutes, at which point, I was left wondering if it was a self-service kind of joint. Luckily, when I started to look around confusedly, a waiter appeared and asked me if I'd like a drink. I had their version of a Japanese whisky sour, which was infused with some yuzu and was milky-looking and pleasantly sharp and kick-y. Other cocktails we had included their version of a raspberry mojito (slightly alcoholic liquid raspberries, pretty standard), and  cucumbery-minty one (pleasantly refreshing, pictured). Eventually, my friend arrived in a flurry of apologies and the waiter explained the menu, but not in a patronising way like Wagamama ('Have you been here before? Can you read the menu?').

I eat quite a bit of sushi around Soho and what struck me about this one is not only the wide variety but the ease of understanding and ordering. There are clear pictures and the wait staff are willing to explain anything on there. But what I generally find is that upon presented with an a la carte menu with so many small dishes is that I don't know what to order - and the price will creep up easily because I won't keep track, and I'm overwhelmed. So I'll just end up ordering a platter. Which we did.

Sushi Platter for 2
We chose the Table for 2 Sushi (£35), which consisted of assorted nigiri, maki and a couple of tempura. The whole thing was delicious. The ebi tempura were delicious, the inside-out rolls were uniformly good and all had unique flavours. My only complaint, as an intermediate wielder of chopsticks, was that the nigiris kept falling apart and more than once I dropped them in the soy sauce, meaning I couldn't taste my tuna nigiri. A small qualm, but one that affects it quite a lot.

We also had a side of rice paper rolls with soft-shell crab (£8.50, on the left-hand side of the picture), which were, to be fair to them, tasty, but in a very batter-y way. I felt a little cheated as the tempura batter overwhelmed the crab and avocado.

I was then sweet-talked by the charming, attentive waiter into half a marcel chocolate cake with raspberry foam and vanilla ice cream which was perfectly good but I had to force it down (on account of the copious amounts of rice and fish we'd just eaten), and some ricey tea, which tasted like, not unpleasantly, semolina.

Overall, a really good meal. Once they realised I was there, brilliant, friendly service and once the restaurant had filled up, a nice, buzzy atmosphere. Food was of  a great standard, and only a couple of niggles. It is expensive because all of the little extras do add up, but the platter itself was actually very good value, plus a very far cry from the likes of Yo! Sushi, and whilst both are expensive, the value and worth of Sticks'n'Sushi exc


I was invited to Sticks'n'Sushi and partially compensated.

Sticks N Sushi on Urbanspoon


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards