Saturday, 22 November 2014
Today was the first time we'd visited the allotment in about a month. Happily it's still there and looking much the same as the last time we were down. If you're going to neglect your patch of ground, this is a good time of year to do it, as the shortening days and plunging temperatures put everything into stasis. We've defo made the right choice in downsizing our commitment to the plot; as much as we love doing this veg thing, there are too many other bits of life that take up significant chucks of time as well.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
I tell you, it's not as easy as you might think to find somewhere for a fancy lunch in London on a Monday ( I know, isn't life hard sometimes?) A lot of the places on my "next time we're down there" list were closed; I suppose the quieter days are the weekend of the catering world, and fair enough. After a bit of a scout around we settled on The Square for what, with the arrival of some good news, was to be a bit of a celebratory meal. Possessed of a pair of étoilés Michelin, and sister restaurant of the completely wonderful The Ledbury, The Square is a long-time mainstay of francophile cuisine in the heart of Mayfair. Chef and co-owner Phil Howard has been on the telly a bit recently, and comes across as a very thoughtful and considered character, and a chef focused on a quite classical brand of excellence, rather than being in thrall to any particular fad. After a busy weekend of catching up with various London-based comrades we were ready and primed for a top feed.
Monday, 3 November 2014
It's amazing what, lacking actual experience, you can convince yourself of; things that haven't happened yet are unsullied by the weight of their own reality. We are ever-hopeful creatures, seemingly hard-wired for optimism. Nothing else, for example, can explain the way I look forward to the start of a new football season. Who is is to say that the few players signed over the summer won't turn out to be world beaters? No-one, not yet at least. I vaguely remember promising myself after some grim experience or other that I would never again eat in the Metrocentre, but I broke that personal covenant recently. We were there for a film, it was a school night, and - what was this? - a Japanese place I'd never heard of. And therein lied it's attraction; in a sea of Waga this and Pizza that, Ikuze had all the promise of the untried.
Sunday, 26 October 2014
With some foods, a little context and a bit of understanding can go a long way to aid enjoyment. The first time I ate Bigos, I'd not long been going out with Kasia, and we were in a Polish restaurant. Noting from the menu that it is a hunter's stew, and not realising that two different types of cabbage go into the stuff, I ordered a side portion of pickled cabbage. I decided there and then that Polish food was just irredeemably cabbagey, and not for me. Since then I've had my fair share of Bigos at countless meals at Kasia's parent's and on a trip to Poland, not to mention chez nous, and I've gotten to love it. It's a hearty one-pot wonder of a stew, a sweet/sour umami-bomb of autumnal satisfaction. We used our own cabbage and carrots, only hours out of the ground, which probably did no harm. But fret thee not if yours aren't quite as fresh, for the key ingredient in this dish is time. Lots and lots of time.
This and last weekends have seen the customary autumnal tidy-up work proceed in earnest. Except, there hasn't been a great deal of work going on, which is the bit I like about this time of year. Weeds are only growing at a shuffling pace and the veg being harvested is hardy enough that if you don't get it today it'll be fine in a week. The weather has been fine too, sporting that fine combo of warm sun and cool air, making the plot a nice spot to just sit and be.
Friday, 17 October 2014
You're not short of interesting lunch options in Manchester these days which is a good job bearing in mind the fanny-on we had before settling on a venue for this one. Aiden Byrne's Manchester House was the first choice, but we left it too late. No table for us. The Aumbry in Prestwich seemed a solid back-up suggestion and I was looking forward to seeing how much of Mary-Ellen McTague's fun-looking cooking from GBM would make it onto the lunch menu. Not to be; I got a call a week ahead saying they were closing the place for a refurb. And so finally to the rather fancy city-centre Midland Hotel, and Simon Rogan's Mr Cooper's House and Gardens.
Monday, 6 October 2014
There's some fine eating to be had around the Quayside these days, much of it bearing the imprimatur of Terry Laybourne. Cafe 21, Caffe Vivo and The Broad Chare are all within the lob of an olive pip's distance from each other. Must be handy if the ice machine breaks down, or you get shafted on a cheese delivery. The last man to hold a Michelin star in this fair city, these days Laybourne's places are more about good food at a reasonable price. The Broad Chare was just awarded a Bib Gourmand for doing that exact thing. On a rare weekday sans travail, we had a very enjoyable shuffle round the river (The Daniel Buren thing at Baltic is great, especially when the sun shines- you've got until 12th October before it packs up) before, after much indecision and the toss of a coin, we headed for Cafe Vivo.
Sunday, 5 October 2014
A couple of weekends away, like the ones we've had recently, are all it takes for things to get unruly in allotment land. We spent a few hours down there today harvesting bits and bobs and having a well-needed tidy. There is an extra impetus to get all our veg out of one side of the allotment as we've decided, after some deliberation, that having the whole plot is a bit of a stretch and so we've offered it up for newcomers. Better to do half a plot well than constantly be chasing our tail, or planting great swathes of minimum-effort veg; that's the thinking anyway.
Saturday, 4 October 2014
I'd watched, and hugely enjoyed, the first 4 or 5 episodes of Netflix's House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Directed by David Fincher, when I read an article about why the online streamer had been confident enough to throw $100m at the project in the first place. Basically, they'd noticed from their data that a shit-load of subscribers watched the entirety of Fincher's stuff on their service; ditto Spacey's back catalogue. Meanwhile, the original BBC version of the political thriller had garnered a surprisingly high number of streams. x+y+z= SURE FIRE HIT! All of a sudden I felt slightly used, if not outright soiled. The programme that I had thought I'd stumbled upon serendipitously turned out to have been custom bloody designed for People Like Me; they'd sussed out what I liked, fed it straight back to me, and guess what? I'd lapped that shit right up. I gorged on the rest of the thing, enjoyed it plenty, but with a newly jaundiced hint of quease.
Wednesday, 1 October 2014
Since Eldon Square has been getting redeveloped I've seen the odd poster in there claiming that some sort of premium food options are in the pipeline. This is surely well needed as, unless I'm just not noticing them, there are very few decent spots to grab something tasty on those occasions when, for whatever reason, you just have to venture in there. Every time I walk past Spud-U-Like and it's offer of a potato, beans and cheese for £4.49 - now there's some mark-up! - I'm struck by the dearth of imagination invested in Eldon Square's eateries. In which desert, St Sushi sticks out as a verdant oasis.
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
How much is your integrity worth? I had cause to find out the value of my own recently when I received a nice email from from a company called Beer52. Eight bottles of beer, that's my price. In my defence I should say that since I started flinging these gobbets of screed into the electro-ether I have not exactly been inundated with offers of free stuff, and those that have arrived have been easy to turn down on account of falling into either the "weird" or "crap" categories. The offer of 8 actual bottles of booze in exchange for a few words seemed more than fair, although I did wonder how I'd live with myself if the beer wasn't up to snuff. What a relief all round then, as I can in fact report that Beer52 are doing a cracking job, both in terms of the service they provide and the beers they dish up. Plus, I've got a money-off code for you to have a bash at, of which more later.
Monday, 15 September 2014
September has provided some us some serious gluts as well a couple of useful lessons, all set to a soundtrack of ominous, if not outright grim, undertones. More on that last bit later, but first here's some of what we've hauled in and been otherwise up to as the days shorten and cool.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
According to no less an authority than Beardy McPirate, we have reached "peak burger". Burgers are on less menus in the UK than they were a year ago, although you'd be hard pressed to tell that from a quick mooch round recently opened restaurants in these parts; that down n' dirty menu vibe just keeps on trucking. If however at some point in the not-too-distant we see a move away from Americana to whatever's trendy in London three years prior (something that looks like the Clove Club please), some of our less brilliant burgeries may be in trouble.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
In these times of ferment and flux, it's comforting to find something that hasn't really changed in years. Not in the interests of nostalgia, but actually to negate the need for it; when you find something, years later, just as you left it then there's no need to pine for the past. Which brings us to a seriously decent brunch in Heaton.
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
With friends visiting from darn sarf, we spent an excellent day and night at Kasia's folks caravan in Northumberland recently. Being right on the beach it's perfect for strolls along the sand which can often be beautifully and eerily lonesome affairs, as tourists eschew this particular stretch in favour of the better known destinations such as Bamburgh and Seahouses. Fine by us. A hard day's paddling demands the cadence of a decent feed, one which we hoped to find at Hooked in the ever-pretty village of Alnmouth.
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
A couple of hours were wrested from a busy bank holiday on Sunday morning and spent among the crops and weeds. After a storming July, August has been decidedly nippy, with wild talk of frosts in those sheltered rural areas that seem so inclined to it. It was therefore very nice to feel the the heat of the sun chase away the last of the dew as we worked.
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
There was a story on the news tonight about how homo sapiens are now thought to have spent a good few thousand years alongside our neanderthal cousins before the latter bit the dust, trading, exchanging and even mating with them. Well, we saw some powerful evidence for the existence of unevolved barbarian DNA in the gene pool when we went down to the allotments last night. After a period of relative and very enjoyable calm, the marauding turds that have taken it upon themselves to vandalise the water supply in the past have had another go.
Sunday, 17 August 2014
...I knew him, Horatio. Although thinking about it, people usually give inanimate things the female gender, don't they? And you're almost certainly not called Horatio, so what the hell am I on about? Oh well, at least I didn't get the quote wrong like everyone always does. Never mind Shakey Bill, the big news I'm trying to communicate here is that our polytunnel is shafted. Again.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
About halfway through our meal at Fatoush I realised, in a rare moment of clarity, why it is that I like Lebanese food so much. It's basically a big old barbecue! There's a whole bunch of salads, dips and breads to get things going before the main event - great wodges of meat grilled over flames of varying intensity - demands everyone's attention. It's a convivial way of eating which lends itself to sharing. Civility and deliciousness all at once, what else could a person want? Saying that, it's still perfectly possible to mess up this kind of stuff, resulting in neither of those fine outcomes. Thankfully that was not the case at Fatoush, a newish joint up the top of Westgate road where we recently enjoyed a cracking rendition of Lebanese favourites.
Sunday, 3 August 2014
Just in case you think it's not actually us that does the work on our plot - I noticed the other day that all the pics on here are of veg, without any evidence of who's toil produced it - here's me digging up some onions. In a couple of hours at the plot we managed to get on with some harvesting and weeding, and sowed some green manure which will be a first for us if it germinates.