Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Two whole years of Essex Eating!
Happy New Year to all (three) of my readers, and Happy Birthday to Essex Eating. That’s right, the blog I started in January 2009 (The only New Year’s Eve resolution I’ve ever actually kept!) is two years old today. Tres exciting!
And what a momentous year 2010 has been eh?
I started it off living in Essex, working in London, employed in I.T… and ended the year living and working in Bristol and employed in cheese mongering. (I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how exactly that happened).
Along the way I started a supper club with ‘E’, ‘The Montpelier Basement’ which has been doing pretty well…. I cooked some lovely food (and some rubbish food), I met loads of nice people, and I ate in some amazing restaurants (and also some that weren’t so good).
So here it is – my best and worst of 2010…
Best Food Blog event I attended in 2010
Without a doubt the best event for food bloggers I attended in 2010 was vodka tasting at Bob Bob Ricard. To sit in the private room, eating excellent food all matched with vodka ranging from reasonably priced to eye wateringly expensive with the charming and debonair ‘Bob’ & ‘Ricard’ themselves, was a real treat. Despite ending the evening thoroughly drunk, I left learning a few things about vodka and with a real appreciation for BBR. I’ve since been back a few times at it never ceases to charm and amaze me. It remains one of my favourite restaurants in London.
Best meal I ate in 2010
Tough one, I ate out loads in 2010. But I finally made it to The Ledbury in December for my birthday (‘E’s treat) and it was amazing (I’ve yet to write it up here on the blog, but it’s coming). The food was exquisite, beautifully put together, incredible to look at and exciting to eat. The tasting menu at Cinq Sentits in Barcelona was equally jaw dropping, so much so, that to be honest – I’d find it hard to pick one over the other. Although saying that, I had an amazing boozy lunch at the new Hawksmoor in seven dials with ‘E’ and Niamh from ‘Eat like a girl’ which for me was a really memorable meal for completely different reasons. Although it’s not quite in the same Michelin starred bracket as the previously mentioned restaurants, it was a hell of a lot of fun, the Kimchi burger was awesome, and the cocktails left me practically crawling out of the place on my hands and knees.
Best Dish I cooked at home 2010
loads of home cooking this past year (Although I don’t seem to write about is much as I did last year). I think Stevie Parle’s Chana Masala from ‘My Kitchen – Real food from near and far’ was certainly a revelation when it comes to simple, home cooked food. The book was left on the shelf for so long, but when I finally had a read and cooked this dish from it…its bloody amazing and dirt-cheap too. It’s become a firm favourite.
But I’m probably most proud of some of the dishes we’ve cooked for The Montpelier Basement, not just because they were nice, but also because to cook and serve up pretty good food on a fairly large scale whilst under pressure feels like such an achievement. I particularly liked the Baked Cornish haddock with pumpkin crust, leeks and white wine sauce; it was perfectly cooked, tasted incredible and looked so neat and professional. On the other hand bavette with triple cooked chips and béarnaise for 17 was cracking as it involved so much last minute work to produce and obviously béarnaise is notorious for splitting, if you just look at it the wrong way, but it all came out really well. (No photo of this I'm afraid, was just too damn busy at the time to get one!)
I’m really proud of so much of the food we’ve cooked.
Worst Dish I cooked at home 2010
I was struggling to remember, perhaps it’s been a vintage year with regards to home cooking this past 12 months, and then suddenly it hit me. Barbecued sweetcorn with anchovy butter. It was bloody awful – truly foul. OK, it was a mistake. We forgot that the ‘herb’ butter leftover in the fridge had anchovy in it. But nevertheless, bleugh! (I think the bullet point here is – anchovy and sweetcorn = No).
It’s all coming flooding back now, ‘poached cherries with almond cream’ from the Moro cookbook failed entirely. I think I put too much liquid in whilst making the almond cream, and instead of just binning it and starting again (the ingredients cost money right? AND I was making dinner to impress ‘E’) I tried to save it with all the culinary cunning that I possess. Needless to say it remained a grainy inedible ‘soup’ and I ended up throwing it all away.
Best Booze I drank in 2010
Sadly, I often don’t remember what I drink whilst eating out. I think it’s something I should pay more attention to. I’ll try and remedy that on the blog in 2011. Nevertheless, the whole wine list at The Gurnards Head in Cornwall stands out as being memorable for the fact that it’s so good combined with being awesomely cheap (their lack of any real marking up is to be applauded). A bottle of Picpoul De Pinet we had at Source Food Café matched with crab was bloody good. Oh, and the whole cocktail list at Hawksmoor is bloody awesome, beautifully researched and interesting. Finally, in December a bottle of Rodenbach beer matched with excellent Pheasant at The Draft House Tower Bridge was certainly a surprising booze combination that worked beautifully
Worst Dish I ate out 2010
It pains me to say it, as I love, love, love The Ginger Pig and The Ginger Fox, but back in June their Brighton based newly opened, red-headed stepbrother The Ginger Dog provided one of the worst dishes I ate in 2010. Un-set freezing cold potted rabbit which I described at the time as “Meaty chunks of rabbit and vegetables swam past grimly, like survivors from a shipwreck as I plunged my spoon into in a sea of freezing cold, barely gelatinous fluid.” And “This wasn’t just a solitary errant miss, my dining companion “Mr Graphic Foodie” had ordered the same dish, and his rabbit was equally awash within a sea of arctic, jizzmesque liquid slipperyness.”
Here’s hoping this was just a 'bad night' and things have improved since then.
Another contender would have to be a fried quail with peaches starter I ate at the Gordon Ramsay Gastro-Pub, The Warrington (So Kentucky fried quail yeah?). It was bloody awful, thickly coated in breadcrumbs with the delicate meat completely lost within, it just didn't work at all, it ate like deep deep fried bones basically...and from memory it was something like twelve frigging quid!! God knows why I chose it.
Best Dish I ate out in 2010
This is really hard, but The Restaurant at ‘St Pauls’ certainly served up the best dessert I ate in the shape of their stonkingly good ‘Regents Park Honey Ice and Gingerbread Sandwich’ Although saying that, on the dessert front the incredibly moist ‘Rhubarb and ginger Bakewell’ I was served at St Werburghs City Farm in Bristol was almost equally as good. A starter of ‘Lyme Bay scallops with garlic and white port roasted in the shell over the charcoal fire’ I ate at The Seahorse in Dartmouth back in March was frankly amazing too and the Raviolo of Beef Short Rib with Cep consommé, Truffle and Parmesan I ate at The Ledbury in December has to be up there. But, wracking my minuscule brain it’s the simpler pleasure of a beautifully cooked pheasant with all the trimmings, eaten with thick snow visible on the ground outside whilst in the warm at The Draft House Tower Bridge in London that stands out as the best thing I ate last year. It truly was sublime, even the accompanying sprouts were awesome.
Weirdest Google searches that have led to my Blog 2010
Car Sick South Cornwall
Hiring a bodyguard in buenos aires
How do i cook pock cheak
Places in essex that sell fernet branca
Scotch egg heat supermarket
Small petite porn tube
Best Recipe book 2010
I guess the cookbook I’ve most enjoyed this year has been Stevie Parle’s ‘My Kitchen – Real food from near and far’ Most of the more exotic dishes have been new to me, the book is quite a fresh exciting mish-mash of this and that. And the recipes have produced excellent results.
On a different note – despite featuring many, many…many photos of a disturbingly hobbit’esque Tom Kitchin relaxing in various states of outdoor garb, holding dead animals and trying to look sincere, but instead looking smug (there’s even a picture of him in a frigging diving suit for crissakes!) His book ‘From nature to plate’ is cracking, I’ve cooked a few recipes from it and they’ve turned out really well.
Oh, and despite knocking out some bloody awful formulaic, bandwagon jumping recipe books in the last couple of years, Gordon Ramsay’s 'Great British Pub food' is a surprisingly brilliant one featuring loads of useful recipes for cheap meat cuts such as ox and pork cheek. I highly recommend it.
Strangest things I ate in 2010
Basically a whole years worth of strangeness in one meal at Chilli Cool (Intestines, ears, tendons to name but a few body parts on the menu) and Duck Hearts (again) at Southville Supper club in Bristol (although not so strange I guess the second time around, and once again – bloody tasty) and finally, jellied pigs head at St Johns Tavern in Archway.
Must visit restaurants 2010
This is last years list, and I’ve only really crossed one off (The Ledbury) apart from that I’ve drank at Terroirs, Hix & Rules (All on numerous occasions but no food). Eaten the famously good Scotch Egg at The Harwood Arms (but nothing else) and the rest of the list has been errrr….pretty much bypassed entirely.
Anchor and Hope
The Bull and Last
The Sportsman - Whitstable
The Kitchin - Edinburgh
The King is dead, long live the king!
My new, sexy updated must visit restaurant list for 2011 reads like this….
Anchor and Hope - London
Racine - London
The Sportsman - Whitstable
The Kitchin - Edinburgh
Magdalen Arms – Oxford
Brawn – London
Casamia – Bristol
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – London
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road – London
So that’s it, my second year here at Essex Eating.
Here’s to an exciting third year in 2011. ‘The Montpelier Basement’ should feature heavily as ‘E’ and I move on with that. We’ve had some very interesting offers, and we’ll see where it all leads. I of course will continue to eat out as much as I can afford. And talking of money, (after being made redundant in 2010) I guess I should find a real job – hopefully something involving food.
All offers gratefully considered!
So, stay tuned in 2011 for more of the same.
PS Don’t forget to comment. I love a comment me, doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It’s the thought that counts…. or something.