Tuesday, 12 January 2010

One whole year of Essex Eating

It's one year ago to the day that I took the momentous decision to begin writing this blog.....It was a New Years Resolution (And unusually, it's one of the only ones I've actually ever stuck to). Looking back at my first ever post, I made this declaration....

"So, I'll be writing about eating and drinking in Leigh-on-Sea and London, the restaurants I go to, the bars I drink in (and pour myself back out of!) The food I cook at home, the triumphs, the disasters and the food poisoning - basically, whatever interests me (and hopefully you.)".

I think I've fulfilled that statement of intent pretty well I guess. There hasn't been so much about Leigh-on-Sea (The Blog is fairly Londoncentric - but I try) or the drinking (its a given), but there's been no food poisoning....thank God.

Yes, I'm pretty happy with the way things have gone.

This past year, I've met some fantastic people, from all walks of life, luckily even a few who I now consider to have become firm friends. I've attended some incredible events, I've eaten excellent and unusual food, drank amazing booze....and I've learnt loads...... it's been a real adventure that's for sure. I can honestly say, it's changed my life.

So, enough gushing - some highlights-

Best Food Blog event I attended in 2009
Toughy, but it's going to have to be the Coco book launch - an incredible evening, three excellent restaurants in one night and meeting the chefs as well! hard to beat.
A close second would be the Paul A Young chocolate tasting - fascinating, eye opening and Paul is hilarious....oh and his chocolates are bloody amazing.

Best meal I ate in 2009
I ate out a lot in the past year, in so many good places, but it's going to have to be Pierre Koffmann on the roof of Selfridges. There was such a buzz about it, and it was such a magical night....I'll never forget it, or look at a Pigs Trotter in quite the same way again. Other memorable meals were the always excellent Tayyabs (a few visits in the past year), Great Queen Street, Hawksmoor for the incredible burger, The Ginger Pig and Chilli Pickle in Brighton (Thanks Fran)....the whole "Coco experience" of Maze, Theo Randall and Launceston Place in one evening and the Fitzwalter Arms in Kent for such an excellent overall English countryside vibe.

Best Dish I cooked at home 2009
I cook A LOT. Every night in fact, and the best thing I cooked at home in 2009 without a doubt, is something that's quick, simple, hearty and cheap.....has to be the Brindisa Chickpea and Chorizo stew. I seriously love it with some rice and a dash of white pepper. I've probably cooked it more than any other dish this year. Runner up on the 'one off' front has to be the Moroccan leg of Lamb spiced with the Ras-el-Hanout that I brought back from Marrakesh.

Worst Dish I cooked at home 2009
Couple of contenders here....I've tried to block them out, but I seem to remember making a particularly awful courgette based Gordon Ramsay recipe which was seriously disgusting. I also cooked a Moro pilav recipe with broad beans, which just didn't work either.....but the grand daddy of all worst dishes of 2009 was the infamous Orange-Lemon tart......(Another Ramsay I'm looking at you moment).....abject dinner party disaster....it just didn't set at all.
I still seethe about it.

Best Booze I drank in 2009
Without a doubt, had to be a snifter of the £2000 a bottle Courvoisier L'essence Cognac at the Towards a Fluid State event. Nothing else to add....I love Cognac.....it was lovely. Oh, just remembered the dessert wine at Launceston place Jurancon ‘Syphonie de Novembre’ Domaine Cauhape 2004 was seriously good as well.

Worst Dish I ate out 2009
Overall the standard was pretty high, I rarely came across anything that was THAT bad....but one dish lives with me from last year as the worst I've ever encountered in a restaurant ever.....it was a local place *cough*SS9*cough* and it was "Pork Belly"......except this pork belly was a rubberised, dildoesque lump of gristle with zero crackling and zero nutritional value.... it was like chewing on a strip of fat.... I wouldn't have fed it to a dog. Without a doubt the most rubbish thing I've seen come out of a kitchen ever. I didn't blog it at the time, but I've never been back.

Best Dish I ate out in 2009
So hard.
But has to be the 'Monkfish with prosciutto, artichokes, capers, parsley and Charlotte potatoes'. at Theo Randall. It was bloody delicious, so simple, but the ingredients...... so, so nice. Other dishes I also really enjoyed, The famous Hawksmoor Burger, and an unusual dessert of peanut butter parfait, with marshmallow and praline at the Ginger Pig in Brighton. Parmesan custard with anchovy toast at Le Cafe Anglais was pretty special (haven't blogged that yet)....oh, the chicken liver and polenta dish at Pizza East was damn nice too.

Weirdest Google searches that have led to my Blog 2009

Pentagon shape of Hawksmoor in lud heat
my rioja tastes like butter
Why does my head hurt when I eat lemon pepper (My Fave)
Where is the pub in Essex that was used for the Orgy
Stomach makes grumbling noises after taking Bile salts

Best Recipe book 2009
Has to be The Eagle Cookbook. Although it's a bit older than last year, it was out of print and re-released to much fanfare in 2009....I've cooked from this more than any other. I love the whole ethos behind it and the rough and ready recipes. It's a Fantastic book

Strangest things I ate in 2009

Now this is one of the benefits of writing my blog, I'll eat things now that a year ago I wouldn't even consider trying....so this year...

Pigs Trotter at Pierre Koffmann
Duck Hearts at the Coach and Horses
Monkfish Liver at Aki

Must visit restaurants 2010

So many to choose from, and I tend to favour gastropubs over more formal dining....the list changes fairly regularly but if I get to visit a few of these this year, I'll be happy....

Anchor and Hope
The Ledbury
The Bull and Last
The Sportsman - Whitstable
The Kitchin - Edinburgh
Harwood Arms
Theo Randall

So there you have my take on the past year. I hope 'you', my readers have been entertained. I love reading your comments, so make sure to vent your spleen often.....I appreciate everything you have to say. (well.... almost everything).
Here's to another year of Essex Eating stay tuned for more thrills, spills, bigger portions, heavier hangovers, excitement, death defying madness.......errr....... basically more of the same, just bigger and better.

Mwah - Mwah
- Dan -Essex Eating


Food Urchin said...

Well done mate, here's to another year of eating, drinking, thrills and spills, tough work but someone has got to do it eh?

Greedy Diva said...

What a great year you've had, Dan! Has been great to meet you - look forward to seeing you out on the eating tracks soon!

Gourmet Chick said...

Congratulations on one year - I agree with your call on cookbook of the year as well - it's been fun to hang out this year

The Ample Cook said...

Well done Dan. Have enjoyed your blog immensely. I love your cooking and even more, love your reviews.

Dan said...

Dan - Thanks mate....yes it is hard work, but we are the people to deal with it. Agreed.

Carly - great to meet you too, it has been a great year, and likewise...look forward to seeing you out and about.

Kara - Thanks a lot. It has been fun, really nice to see you at various events in 2009. Here's to a great 2010 :)

Jan - Thanks a lot for your comment :) I really appreciate you saying that. See you on the 30th!!!!

Kavey said...

A fantastic year!!!
Congrats on your blogiversary or whatever the term is!

I'm so chuffed to note that I've shared many of your highlights, sometimes right there with you (at Paul A Young and at Aki) and sometimes visiting on other dates (Hawksmoor, Pierre Koffman, Tayaabs).

So, in Google Analytics I can see keyword searches but not entire phrases like that! How do I find those?!!!

Graphic Foodie said...

Nice one Dan. I've really enjoyed your blog this year - It's the style of food I love and it's always entertaining! And wow, it kinda makes me a proud Brightonian that two of our cities restaurants are in your "Best meal I ate in 2009" category.

Happy B-day!

Neil Davey said...

Congratulations, mate. A fine post and a fine "proper" blog, about "proper" food, written with enthusiasm. Here's to many more years.

Gareth said...

Congratulations, Dan. Here's too many meals and many more posts in the years to come. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Dan! Keep up the good work, etc. Please do post the rotten stuff as well the highs - just as interesting, and often easier to write about truly terrible experiences!


Lizzie said...

A year, woo hoo!

A fine list of 'must visits' too. You know how I feel about the Sportsman, and most of the others are also on my list.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

I've heard good things about The Sportsman. I love your list of stuff people googled to get to your blog; my weirdest one yet is "my husband is slim but now he looks pregnant"

Well done on a year of blogging. I celebrate my blogoversary on July 1st so six months to go!

Dan said...

Kavey - Thanks very much, yep we've been to a lot of the same things :) Google Analytics - I cant rememember off the top of my head....I'll have a look and drop you an email.

Fran - Thanks and likewise, love your blog loads. As for Brighton, I love that too....some cracking places to eat there.

Neil - Thank you sir!

Gareth - Thanks mate, I appreciate it. (also a Koffmann trotter eater I seem to remember).

Gary - Thanks dude. Yeah, I should have written that truly awful experience up...I normally would, In fact I would relish it....but something obviously distracted me, I forget what now.

Lizzie - Thanks very much. List is very gastropub heavy, but Ive come to the conclusion this year, that's what I like. Fine dining can be so stuffy.

Kate said...

What a great year! It's been a pleasure to read and include your reviews on london-eating. Your home-cooking posts are among my favourites - it's wonderful to follow the culinary development of someone so passionate about good food. Shame about the tart, though glad you handled it with such good humour!

Kavey said...

Thanky, much appreciated! x x

Laissez Fare said...

Congrats dude - love the list of high & low lights. I have had some very odd search terms linking to my blog too...but just like the song goes, 'people are strange...'. Was great meeting you on the Coco tour, and hope to see more of you this year! Maybe I can venture out the wild lands and waters of Essex... ;-)

gastrogeek said...

What a round up! Am so glad the coco thing was on your list, here's to many more jaunts this year :)

Laissez Fare said...

Following up on my previous comment, today for example, we have the following search terms that landed someone on my site:

- "crappers toulets"
- "1.50 square dining table"
- "the fat duck booking 10 am sharp" (if someone already knew that maybe they should call at '10am sharp' to book a Heston treat, why did they google it)?!

Boo said...

Happy blog birthday Dan, I've really enjoyed reading your posts, keep up the good work!

Patrick Carpenter said...

Good blog Dan. I'll never forget my first meal at The Eagle (nearly 20 years ago? is that possible?!). I've looked out for places like that ever since (and tried to open one of my own on the way). I like your must try list; add Great Queen St if you haven't been. My best meals of 2008 were at The Kitchin (though wine list not interesting and sommelier VERY French).

Dan said...

Sarah - Thanks :) its amazing some of the searches that turn up your blog eh?

Kate - Thanks for including my reviews on London-Eating, and glad you enjoy my posts.....the tart? GAH!!! hahaha

Laissez Fare - Thanks Dude. I really appreciate you saying that. Agreed, was great to meet you on the Coco evening. Hopefully we'll run into each other more often this year. Yes, get over to Essex and check it out!
Again, as for the search terms that turn up your blog....utterly bizzzare I really like crappers toulets?!!! what??

Reginald - Thanks :) For the Coco thing,.. and being a good laugh. Yes - here's to many more jaunts this year!

Boo - Thank you - likewise with your blog :)

Patrick - Thank you. 20 years ago - wow, that is hard to believe isn't it.
Great Queen Street - aha - yes I have been and loved it (It rates a mention in the best meal 2009 section, you must have missed it). I got Tom Kitchin's recipe book for Christmas, and I'm kicking myself I didn't visit the last time I was in Edinburgh....this year hopefully.

goodshoeday said...

Great round up Dan. Keep it coming especially the home cooking stuff. Its my first blogiversary very soon too amazing how so many wonderful things happen so close together ;0

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary Dan, what a wonderful year for you! Coco was definitely a great culinary experience and I hope that you will find the food at Rules as good as their cocktails ;-)

Anonymous said...

Cracking round-up Dan, and glad to see the old chicken livers get a mention. They'd certainly be in top 5 of my 2009.

I'm moving to North London at the end of the month and would be very keen on a trip to the Bull and Last, let me know when you're going.


PS strangest Google search I got? 'Emptied Ballsack'.

neil said...

Helen just said every restaurant with a nine in the name is crap. I can't argue with her, she may be on to something.

Good post.

Dan said...

Linda - Thanks very much....it is amazing how these wonderful things happen so closely, agreed :)

Mathilde - Thanks a lot, it's been a pleasure to go out eating and drinking with you this year. I have high hopes for a meal at Rules as well....like you say, if it lives upto the cocktails - then all will be well.

James - Thanks! I only tried the chicken livers as you were so enthusiastic about them on your blog (BTW linked back to you in my Pizza East post), what a cracking choice. Moving to North London - Bull and Last well, let's arrange something soon then.
"Emptied Ballsack" - now I'm wishing someone had found my blog with that search!!! hahaha

Neil - Mate Thanks, "every restaurant with a 9 in the name is crap"...there may be something in that then, because the Pork Belly was seriously bloody horrendous.

TheFastestIndian said...

Happy anniversary! Loving your work- a great insight into heaps of places and books I might not have come across otherwise. Ixx

Dan said...

TheFastestIndian - Thank you! so glad you've found my blog useful :)

Mike said...

Congratulations Dan, its still a favourite blog of mine and its what got me into blogging myself!

Keep up the good work.


Eating across the North South Divide

Helen said...

"Why does my head hurt when I eat lemon pepper"

What a classic. Erm, are you sure you've not been snorting it?

Dan said...

Really enjoy reading this blog. Thanks for all the postings. Your list for 2010 looks suspiciously like mine! Bull & Last is epic. Enjoy.

meemalee said...

Happy Bloggaversary Dan!

If it hadn't been for your blog, I would never have met you, and if I had never met you, I would have had one less person to tease and that wouldn't do :)

Seriously, here's to many more x

Dan said...

Mike - thanks very much for saying so :)

Helen - yeah I know bizzare, but I like it. The stranger, the better.

Dan - Thank you. The list, Hah, great minds (and fantastically named blokes) think alike?

Meemalee - Thanks a lot, not so much for the teasing hahaha but, seriously was lovely to meet you last year. I consider you a friend....an evil one who picks on me perhaps, but a friend all the same.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dan,

It was great to meet you yesterday. Congrats on keeping up with your blog, it is quite an achievement to actually stick to a new year's resolution! The Coco event sounds amazing, you aver VERY lucky! Also, I LOVE the google search list, very funny! But can I suggest you add one more restaurant to your 2010 list?


If you do get a chance to come in let me know, I'd love to say hello, and have a glass of wine that I don't spit out!


Dan said...

Caitlin - Likewise, was great to meet you too at the Bibendum grand tasting yesterday. Thanks for the congratulations on my blog birthday! :)

Yep, slight oversight on my part... I've wanted to try Vinoteca for quite a while. I will make sure to visit soon, and would love to have a glass of wine with you when I do.