Venice isn’t Local , but…

 

So, this is not a local food review, but having recently returned from an anniversary trip to Venice, here are some food photos to enjoy…

Exotically dressed pasta, in Italian, rather than English sized portions:

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Pasta at the Guggenheim

Every guide book told us to go to the fish market early in the day as the boats came in to get the real fish market experience. Whatever. We reached there at 10am. It was stunning, although we were laughed at for taking pictures.

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Delights at the Fish Market

…And Cafe Florian on St Mark’s Square is apparently the oldest coffee house in Venice, and is full of beautiful (if kinda gaudy) interiors. The catch is, there are too many people in there to see anything but the ceiling. And you have to eat quickly to avoid being herded out by a door man.

The tea, affogato and (not very Italian) sacher torte were however delicious.

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Sacher Torte and other Treats at Cafe Florian

“Shopping ain’t my bag” A Review of L’orchidea

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“Shopping ain’t my bag” A Review of L’orchidea by blackheathcoffeeshops A Review of L’Orchidee in Westfield Shopping ain’t my bag, so you will not be shocked to learn that I have only just visited Westfield in Stratford despite its proximity … Continue reading

What I hoped to find in Masala Mart I did find in Masala Mart

Screwfix, Plumbase, Masala Mart. They sound like they are all from one conglomerate, don’t they? They certainly all sit in the trading estate in Ramac Lane Charlton. But there is one name in that which doesn’t make me feel like I am in boredom land (unless re-furbing the house which is hardly a regular occurrence). Can you spot it? No? Er, this is a food blog, and you can’t eat pipes…?

I have been planning to go to Masala Mart for a while. I thought I would pop in while my husband was buying something really useful from Screwfix. But the Wholesale part of the title was putting me off. Eventually my husband offered to make reconnaissance mission and just asked them if they were a supermarket too. They said that they were and they seemed to think this was a daft question, but at least we got the answer.

Now what I hoped to find in Masala Mart was exactly what I did find in Masala Mart, a treasure trove of spices in proper sized packets at considerable better value than Ocado was prepared to offer. 10g of something 1.79 for 10g at Ocado, but 100g is 1.39 at Masala Mart. I’m always looking for flavour. I’m always looking for something different. I knew there was a pretty good chance I’d find it here.

It’s a quirky old place, like stepping back into the supermarkets of the 80’s, with sellotape for closing plastic bags, and little dips in the counter for the wire basket, which was weighing us down by the time we reached the tills.

And there are some things that Ocado just don’t stock, like multipurpose seasoning which has been invaluable in my cooking of stews. It makes the most ‘really shouldn’t have tried that in the slow cooker recipe’ taste good. (although I will admit that I since saw msg on the label which has put be off a bit). And I was thrilled to get gnarled ugly black cardomon pods, in addition to the green. The experimental purchase was of the Indian sweets which I have had only a couple of times in my life. They very obliging offered a ‘mixed pack’, leaving us to eat the very rich, tablet-like sweets over a very long period of time.

The challenge now is finding decent sized spice jars, I need one that can hold 400g of cinnamon sticks that only cost… Recommendations welcom

Clash of Clans Online Hack and Cheat

A steamed bun is hard to come by

La-Mian & Dim Sum of Greenwich market, you have a fight on your hands, nestled there to close to Jamaican jerk chicken, Mexican food, and churros (oh, those churros). But I have to say a steamed bun is hard to come by, and in my experience, rather hard to re-create at home (Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals offer a valiant attempt!) so I can see that you are holding your own…

I don’t know why steamed buns are not more famous at LMDSGM (I am going for an acronym here, as I can see that Dim Sum is a food, but not speaking Chinese I can’t see how to shorten the name any other way). It is such a great combination, the slight sweetish white dough around chicken things mushroom and spices. On the day I tried it, it would have been a slightly less dry combination had I remembered to pick up some plum sauce.

It is rewarding experience to see the food cooked in front of you in the space of a square yard, although I think I made this man a little shy when I took the photo.

We ate the steamed buns on the steps in front of the Cutty Sark and followed it up with roast duck on a bed of sticky rice. This was great duck and great rice, but over all a bit dry. It had been coated with sauce that failed to slip under the duck to the rice, and there was a delicious chutney in one corner which wasn’t nearly enough for the whole dish. Some more veg than two halves of a pak choi would also helped a bit.watch movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 2016 now

Service was hard to comment on. We ordered, they cooked straight away, they said “here we are”. The only thing that slowed us down was our impatience to tuck in.

Life is best lived by ending a meal with your favorite bite.

Le Bouchon

Both of my favorite meals in France were eaten in rustic restaurants, with people drinking wine from elegant carafes, and Le Bouchon absolutely aims to channel this image in it’s bijoux location opposite the Mary Evan’s picture library. It’s pretty successful in doing this actually, especially on a Sunday evening where a singer and a guitarist strum whimsical French and English tune and the sun streams through the windows. We had not eaten before arriving and we knew that we would have to order food to accompany any drinking that needed to be done.

We anticipated cheese and ham platters, but what was a delight to find was that Le Bouchon offered a choice on every element of the platter. You could pick your own cheese and deli meat, each detailed on the menu and you could have as much or as little as you liked. We both ordered tapenade, which arrived with the equivalent of a small loaf of bread each, with dark rich olive dip that was hard to put down. Next came the cheese (with strawberry jam) we’d chosen Comte*, mature goats’s cheese, with a creamy depth that went well with the jam, and the best: a spongy and richly flavoured Ardechois bichonne, encased in mould. The meats were duck saucisson and Bresi (cured beef, smoked for 8 weeks), both curling on the edges with dryness and herbs.

 

 Now, since childhood, my mother has wisely ingrained in me the truth that life is best lived by finishing any meal with your favorite bite. This presents challenges when there is too much food, like in cream teas when you don’t actually have room for the spectacular looking cake at the top of the cake tray, after your sandwiches and scone with clotted cream. But Le Bouchon presented a different challenge…. It was not possible to decide which bite to end on. In fact, I relegated the Comte as ‘first finisher’, but I regretted it… with its extra dryness and maturity reminding me that this was not just any old version of one of my favorite cheeses. Having assigned Ardechois bichonee as the cheese finalist, the whole assessment had to be reconsidered in the light of the saucisson. My husband suggested that the Bresi was the best of the two, I committed to believe him and not think about it anymore at risk of frying my brain with the decision, and totally forgetting about the tapenade.

We ate all of this with a Bordeaux, and my husband had a St Chinian, Languedoc. Now, I have to remind you this is not a wine blog, but we both found the Bordeaux to be great alone, and less good with food, and the opposite with the wine from Languedoc. Yes, we sipped from each other’s glasses in order to know this. Every other table had a carafe, which looked temptingly romantic, but we just don’t drink enough to justify it. This didn’t cause the slightest of problems for the bar who opened fresh bottles for each of our glasses, and then resealing them immediately with a resealing machine.

The only flummoxing thing about Le Bouchon was the existence of ‘cake of the day’ on the menu. Cake is not the first thing I think of to complement wine (although, now I come to think of it, an olive oil polenta lemon and thyme cake might just do the trick) but my brain is hardwired to default cake as the most desirable item on any menu. But there was no further cake information to be found. There was no cake on the tables around us, or in a display stand or written on the blackboard behind me. It’s rare, but I looked around for a sign of cakeness for a few seconds, and then forgot all about cake amongst the wine and the deli.

*Sorry, I do not know how to add French accents on my keyboard. French accents abounded at Le Bouchon, though. Adding to the authenticity.

The Top is the Best Bit of Any Pie

The British Oak’s social media image has been raising an inviting image for some time, but errr, well, I’ve not been too sure how much of a lack of multiculturism to read into its name. In fact it took the closure of The Royal Standard (which, now I come to think of it, is a also a very imposing name – and it’s easy to mix up the two), for my friend to finally arrange drinks there. The kitchen normally closes at 9:30 and we were to be a 9:45 arrival, but the pub promised to stay open to serve us pie. The welcome turned out to be continued well beyond the electronic and telephone level, despite having staff training.

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The bar is inexplicably divided into what seems to be more of an eating area, and a drinking area. Ok, a split would be normal, but in the Royal Oak you can’t go from one to the other without leaving the pub. We started in the bar area, and rushed around to the eating area just in case our friend might be in there without us. She wasn’t, she was just taking a sociable time about arriving. Even had she been there she would have been perfectly content, the whole atmosphere of the eating area was happy and chilled. No lack of multiculturism seemed in evidence at all. There were even brummies present (myself included).

The Royal Oak sources pies from ‘Pieminister’. It would be nice to believe that the British Oak made the pie themselves on site themselves, but it didn’t really seem to detract from the combined, real ale, wood panelling, friendly pie eating experience.

I can’t claim credit for the excellent pie choice, as I insisted that I couldn’t eat a thing. There was a supposedly healthy pie option, called topless, but I have issue with the topless pie concept. I am after all a dieter, you know. But the top is the best bit of any pie, browned and crispy, while the base of the pie is frequently soggy and made up of the dreaded ‘waste of calories’ the fear of which dominates many lives. Please listen award winning Pieminister… Bottomless pies are the way forwards. You can put it all in tin foil to stop the contents falling out.

So being unable to eat a thing, I waited for my husband to order and then ate half of his pie. This was the ‘free ranger’, free range British chicken & ham hock pie with leek & thyme. Man, it was gorgeous and the gravy was even more gorgeous, so were the crispy shallots and the mushy peas were a seriously good upgrade from the chippy…. Mushy peas with bite.

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There wasn’t a thing to dislike about the British Oak, with charming staff and flowers on the tables and food and atmosphere. There really is something for everyone, and I think it may well be the best pub in SE3. I can’t remember what worried me about the name now… I have loads of oak in my kitchen and my home office and use both frequently (the kitchen more than the office).

Who told me that the food was bad in Iceland?

Who told me that the food was bad in Iceland (the country)? I mean, I am pretty sure that everyone told me that the food was bad in Iceland. They were misinformed. I journeyed out to Iceland thinking I would have to eat hot dogs every day as a penalty for being able to see the Northern Lights. In reality there was too much food to choose from.

We’d missed the tour of Reykjavik due a late night arrival and so battled into the city along amidst the snow storm that had prevented our next tour from even going ahead. Then we battled to the conference centre that was not just funky looking, but it was the nearest shelter we could see, spent as long as humanly possible looking in the souvenir shop, while we plotted how we would make the ten minute walk to the harbour side, and what we would do if there was nowhere to warm back up there.

We were rewarded for risking that 10 minute walk in the snow, in which we conjectured that the divorce rate must be high in Iceland. It is impossible to hear anything when you are wrapped up in hoods, hats, high snoods: “Did you remember to turn the lights off?” “Did you hear me?” “Did you remember to turn the lights off?…?!…?”. It took about half an hour in the end, because we found ourselves debating which of the 3 rather good looking cafes and restaurants we would risk. We settled on the fishy looking Hofnin. Here is a quick flash of the menu:      Do you see that pizza marina thing going on in the left of the menu? Pizza express eat your heart out! Didn’t have that, though. And that traditional all Icelandic fish stew… Nope, didn’t have that either. Even the waiter seemed confused when I asked for a recommendation. In the end, he said that fish broth is the reason everyone comes here. So I ordered that, sadly forfeiting all other options (well, what else could I do? Order the whole menu? Even I have my limits).   My broth arrived in a teapot, and I poured it over a reserved amount of fish food, including a sensitively cooked scallop. And once I had done that, there were flavours bouncing around all over the place. How can there be so many good flavours in a uniformly coloured broth? I wonder if I missed out on some incendiary new ingredient that will do nasty things to my insides in later life to make up for the experience.  The broth was rich and lightened by bubbles of cream dispersing into it.

My husband’s main course was salted cod with lamb fat and rye bread.    The lamb complemented the cod, this apparently being a very traditional combination for the Iceland. But what you really wanted to do with the lamb fat was dip into it with the Icelandic Rye bread. The very sweet rye was close to being Jamaican ginger cake. Seriously this could have been dessert. I wish I could have taken it home with me. The only flaw of this dish was that these flavours eclipsed an otherwise perfectly nice brown butter sauce

Some of the local rye breads are cooked in the volcanic ground. This led to a rather stomach busting experience at a spa that offered bread on a buffet later in our holiday. They were foolish to put this in a buffet, with all those tourists knowing that they had one week only to make the most of this bread. Butter is often serverd whipped with other flavours like beer and lavender.

Those main courses were not quite lived up to by the regimental parade of desserts.   Much effort seemed to be put into the staid appearance, but little into flavour, despite the menu sounding a little more promising. I am not sure they really understood dessert. But frankly, after that main course, they didn’t really have to. I recommend someone invents sugared rye bread and lamb fat. I jest not.


It gently snowed as we sat over looking the harbour with our coffees. Well it’s always gentle when you’re watching from indoors The coffee was good.  They certainly seem to understand coffee around here. There is something quite perverse that the further you get from a place that you can grow coffee, the more you ritualise it.   Exciting meals did not stop at Hofnin, however my notes have fallen away as my stomach enlarged. I feel kind of guilty about this, because I cannot name these exotic combinations served by ‘The Fish Restaurant’s’ guest chef Adam Dahlberg during the Reykjavic Food festive. You will not guess at the ingredients without the menu, but please enjoy the pictures:

  

  

  

I very much recommend Iceland as a place to go to just for the good food, at a good price. There is something very intelligent about the Icelandic approach to tourism. they do not miss a single trick to make money, but none of it is arch, pushy and all done with impeccable politeness. you tend not to find, for example, that you have been tricked into unneceessary expenditure. 

No, I mean Iceland the country, not the supermarket, and you are about the 57th person to make that joke. it’s not funny anymore.